How to Protect Yourself from Peripheral Artery Disease

 

For the last six months or so, I have been having problems with my hips and legs cramping when I walk, although they feel better once I stop. I thought it was just because I am getting older, until my friend told me about a leg disease called Peripheral Artery Disease. I am concerned that I may have it. What can you tell me about this condition?

Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) is a health condition that affects up to 12 million Americans. It develops when the arteries that carry blood to the legs and feet become narrowed or clogged over the years with fatty deposits or plaque, causing poor circulation.

You need to be aware that PAD is a systemic disease. As such, people who have PAD are also much more likely to have clogged arteries in other areas of the body like the heart, neck or brain, which greatly increase the risks of heart attack or stroke.

Few Symptoms


Unfortunately, PAD goes undiagnosed and untreated far too often because most people who have it experience few, if any, symptoms. The most common symptom is similar to what you are experiencing, which is pain and cramping in the hip, thigh or calf muscles. The pain often intensifies when walking or exercising, but usually subsides after resting for a few minutes.

Another reason PAD is under-diagnosed is because many people assume that aches and pains go along with aging and simply live with it instead of reporting it to their doctors.

Other possible symptoms to be aware of include leg numbness or weakness, coldness or changes in skin color in the lower legs and feet and ulcers or sores on the legs or feet that do not heal.

Are You at Risk?


Like many health conditions, the risk of developing PAD increases with age. Those most vulnerable are people over the age of 50 with a history of smoking, high cholesterol, high blood pressure or diabetes. Also at risk, are those who are overweight or have a family history of PAD, heart attack or stroke. African Americans are twice as likely to be diagnosed with PAD.

If you are experiencing any symptoms or if you are at increased risk of developing PAD, you should be tested by your doctor or vascular specialist. He or she may perform a quick and painless ankle-brachial index test, which is done by measuring the blood pressure in your ankle and your arm and comparing the two numbers.

With early detection, many cases of PAD can be treated with lifestyle modifications including an improved diet, increased physical activity and smoking cessation.

If lifestyle changes are not enough, your doctor may also prescribe medicine to prevent blood clots, lower blood pressure and cholesterol and control pain and other symptoms. For severe PAD, the treatment options are angioplasty (inflating and then removing a tiny balloon in the artery to restore blood flow), the insertion of a stent to reopen the artery or a graft bypass to reroute blood around the blockage.

To learn more about PAD, visit the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute at www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/pad.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living” book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization’s official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

 

Published November 3, 2017

Getting a Handle on Prescription Medications

 

I'm concerned that my 80-year-old mother is taking too many medications. She currently takes 10 different drugs prescribed by three different doctors. I think this may be causing some problems. She also struggles to keep up with all the drug costs. Any suggestions?

There is no doubt that older Americans are taking more prescription medications than ever before. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, around 40% of seniors, age 65 and older, take five or more medications. The more medications one takes, the higher the risk of drug-related problems and the more likely the individual is taking a medication that he or she does not need.

Brown Bag Review


To help you get a better handle on the medications your mom is taking, gather all of her pill bottles and put them in a bag to take to her primary doctor or pharmacist for a thorough drug checkup. You will want to include all prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, minerals and herbal supplements. This "brown bag review" will give you a chance to ask questions, check for duplicate meds, excessive doses and dangerous interactions.

Medicare Part B covers free yearly medication reviews with a doctor through its annual wellness visits. Additionally, many Medicare Part D plans cover medication reviews with a pharmacist, as well.

During your mom's review, you will want to make sure that you go over the basics for each medication or supplement so that you understand what the prescription is for, how long she should take it, what it costs and if there are any side effects or potential interactions. Also, ask if there are any meds that your mom can stop taking, if there are any nonprescription options that might be safer and whether she can switch to a lower dose.

To help your mom avoid future medication problems, make sure her primary doctor is aware of all the medications, over-the-counter drugs and supplements she takes. You should also keep an updated list of everything she takes and share it with every doctor she sees. Be sure that your mom fills all of her prescriptions at the same pharmacy and informs her pharmacist of any over-the counter, herbal or mail-order prescriptions she is taking so that there is complete oversight of her medications.

How To Save


To help cut your mom's medication costs, there are a number of cost-saving ideas you can consider. Find out if there are any generic alternatives. Switching to generic medications can save anywhere between 20 and 90%.

You should ask your mom's prescribing doctors if any of the pills she takes could be cut in half. Pill splitting would allow her to receive two months' worth of medicine for the price of one month. Also, for the drugs she takes long-term, ask for a three-month prescription, which is usually cheaper than buying month-to-month.

Because drug prices can vary depending on where you buy them, another way to save is by shopping around (GoodRX.com will help you compare drug prices at U.S. pharmacies). You may also want to find out if your mom's drug insurance plan offers better prices through preferred pharmacies or mail-order services.

Finally, if your mom's income is limited, she may be eligible to get help through medication assistance programs offered through pharmaceutical companies, government agencies and charitable organizations. To find these types of programs use BenefitsCheckUp.org.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living” book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization’s official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

How to Search for Forgotten 401(k) Money

 

How do I find an old 401(k) that I think I contributed money to at a former employer?

If you think you may have lost track of a 401(k) retirement account, you are not alone. As Americans jump from job to job, many leave portions of their company sponsored 401(k) plans behind, believing they will deal with it later but forget about it as time passes. To help you look for an old 401(k), here are some suggestions and some free resources that can help you in your search.

Contact Employer


The first way to locate a previous 401(k) account is to contact the prior employer's human resources department. Ask them to check their plan records to see if you ever participated in their 401(k) plan and, if so, how much the plan is worth. You will need to provide your Social Security number and your dates of employment.

Your prior employer should be able to either give you the necessary forms to roll over your retirement money to a different 401(k) or to an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) or provide you with contact information for the outside financial institution overseeing the plan on your employer's behalf. By following the appropriate instructions, you should be able to move your retirement money where you want.

If you do not have contact information for your previous employer, check your records to see if you kept an old 401(k) statement. Statements will typically have the information you need to get in contact with either your prior employer or a plan administrator.

If you need help tracking down your former employer because it may have moved, changed owners or merged with another company, free help is available from sources like the Labor Department (AskEBSA.dol.gov, 866-444-3272), the Pension Action Center and the Pension Rights Center (PensionRights.org/find-help).

These services can tap into public databases that list incorporations and bankruptcies and may be able to help you dig up a plan's most recently filed Form 5500, the annual report that must be filed with the IRS, Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) and the Labor Department. The results contain the plan's contact information and the employer's identification number, which can be used to locate any plan that inherited the assets in a merger, acquisition or sale.

You can also find recently filed 5500s yourself at websites like FreeERISA.com.

Search Tools


Finding a lost 401(k) account can be trickier if it is worth less than $5,000, because your former employer can transfer the money to a default IRA without consent. Your cash may go into an interest-bearing, federally insured bank account or to your state's unclaimed property fund.

To search for a lost plan, use the National Registry of Unclaimed Retirement Benefits at UnclaimedRetirementBenefits.com. This website matches former employers with past employees who have unclaimed retirement funds. This is a secure and free service, but you will need to provide your Social Security number to search.

It can also be challenging to track down a lost 401(k) account if your former employer goes bankrupt or abandons the plan. In this case, use the U.S. Department of Labor's Abandoned Plan Database at AskEBSA.dol.gov/abandonedplansearch.

Starting in 2018, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC.gov) will start accepting transfers of missing participants' accounts from terminating 401(k) plans. When the participants are found, PBGC will pay the participants their money plus interest. The agency also plans to launch a registry of terminated 401(k) plans that sent money elsewhere so that missing participants can more easily find their accounts.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living" book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization's official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

 

Published October 20, 2017

Donors Help Washington County Community Foundation Award Over $26K in Grants

Thanks to our generous donors and the Foundation’s Touch Tomorrow Funds, Washington County nonprofits will be receiving over $26,000 in grants.

Junior Achievement of Kentuckiana is the recipient of $2,500.00 for Junior Achievement Programs in Washington County School Systems.  The programming utilizes education focusing on economic and financial literacy.

A grant of $5,000.00 will be issued to the Washington County Senior Citizen Housing to replace apartment building roofs in MeadowDell Senior Housing Village.

CARE Pregnancy Center will be the recipient of a $1,050.00 grant to assist with the “I Decide for Me” program in East Washington and West Washington school systems.

A $7,262.00 grant from the Donnie Brough Fund and the Foundation’s Touch Tomorrow Funds will be granted to the Washington County Historical Society for the preservation of the Carriage House on the JHC Complex.

Dare to Care will receive a $6,000.00 grant for their Backpack Buddy Program.  The program ensures children receive proper nutrition on weekends.

The Northwest Washington Fire Department will be able to purchase new personal protective equipment for their volunteer firefighters with a $5,078.00 grant. 

Washington County Community Foundation is a nonprofit public charity established in 1993 to serve donors, award grants, and provide leadership to improve Washington County forever

 

Foundation Announces Mahuron Education Fund Grant Recipients

 

The Mahuron Education Fund was established at the Washington County Community Foundation to encourage educators and staff to teach in innovative ways.  This year, the fund has awarded several teachers in the county school corporations over $3400.00. 

Rosie Morehouse will be purchasing materials to utilize in group counseling sessions to prepare participants with an environment for positive learning at West Washington Jr/Sr High School.

Flexible seating will be a new addition next semester to Lesle Leis’ 3rd grade Bradie Shrum Elementary classroom.  The new seating allows students to be more focused and as a result become better learners.

New seating will also be a new addition to Miranda Bowling’s 4th grade classroom at Bradie Shrum Elementary to aid her students focus on their academic work.

Students in Lorie Campbell’s 3rd grade Bradie Shrum Elementary classroom will be learning Language Arts with a new LA Student Center.  The center provides students an opportunity to engage while learning during small group rotations to verbalize thinking in a group.

Brenda Boling’s 5th grade West Washington Elementary classroom will be learning “Why Do I Need to Learn That?” while they engage in activities that will improve their small motor skills and attention to detail with precision, practice, purpose, partners, and procedures.

3D Sculptures in Wool will be the focus of Michelle Chastain’s West Washington Jr/Sr High School art classes.  Students will demonstrate knowledge of anatomical form and use natural fibers to create an original fiber sculpture while learning how to make felts as well as dye and card wool.

Lesia Ellis’ 2nd grade East Washington Elementary School class will also be seeing a change in their seating style.  Ellis received a grant to provide students a flexible seating/presentation option in the classroom with “nugget” seating.

Students in Amy Rogers’ 4th grade East Washington Elementary School will be banging a drum.  A deep carved Djembe Bongo drum will create a culture of praise and positivity and help students focus and tune in to the lesson being delivered.

Tammy Clemons will be facilitating a musical production for 4th graders at East Washington Elementary.  She has received a grant to engage students in performing on-stage with the purchase of musical script, costumes, set design, and props.

Elementary school students at East Washington Elementary School will see Kate Jones promoting college and career education with a variety of different career costumes to introduce students to colleges and careers.

Erin Moore’s 3rd grade Bradie Shrum Elementary classroom will seeing what hatches as they monitor an egg incubator and explore the process for a group of chicks from egg to life.  Students will observe and record data for the project.

East Washington Elementary School might have the next “American Ninja Warrior” contestant thanks to a grant to Leah Starrett that will allow students to participate in monthly obstacle courses to work on balance, strength, flexibility, and coordination.

Washington County Community Foundation is a nonprofit public charity established in 1993 to serve donors, award grants, and provide leadership to improve Washington County forever

 

County Educators Promote STEM Education through Out-of-School Learning Opportunities

 

Regional Opportunity Initiatives (ROI) awarded Washington County Community Foundation a $25,000 grant for Out-of-School STEM Learning.  The purpose of the program is to partner with our local schools and organizations to create inspiring STEM learning environments for our youth. 

Dennis Tankersley, teacher at West Washington Jr/Sr High School, is the recipient of a $3,200.00 grant for the Skills USA After-School STEM Program.  The 12-student group will create two teams of six for the RoboRescue Challenge.  The robotics materials will be reused for future competitions and by integrating them into the Principles of Engineering class at West Washington Jr/Sr High School.  Tankersley will also receive  $300.00 for competition fees.

Anna Endris has received a $3,358.88 grant for a Coding Club at East Washington Middle School.  Students will participate in coding activities through Code.org, Scratch, and Sphero EDU while collaborating with peers as they work on project designed to challenge their minds and grow their interest in STEM fields.

Emily Johnson and Crystal Mikels will be expanding their STEM Club to include a BSE Circuit Breakers Robotics Club at Bradie Shrum Elementary School thanks to a grant of $7,559.40.  The new club is available to 3rd and 4th grade students and will be used as a stepping stone for STEM learning and to enhance a long love of STEM learning.  Johnson and Mikels will all receive  $300.00 to travel to competitions for the robotics club.

Greg McCurdy’s may add teacher at the “School of Rock” to his resume.  McCurdy’s Salem High School Guitar Club will be purchasing guitar building kits for members to use to build guitars.  The project borrows some of the procedures and knowledge included in STEM introduction and Advanced Manufacturing.  The $4,500.00 grant will allow each student to successfully finish and assemble an electric guitar.

John Calhoun, Salem High School Chemistry and Physics teacher, has been awarded a $4,500.00 grant for the creation of a MakerSpace at Salem High School.  He plans to transform an unused classroom into a MakerSpace and purchase equipment such as a 3D printer, among other items, for use in the space.

Each school corporation in Washington County will receive $430.00 to send educators to the HASTI conference for Science teachers.

Washington County Community Foundation is a nonprofit public charity established in 1993 to serve donors, award grants, and provide leadership to improve Washington County forever

End

Flu Shots for Seniors

 

What can you tell me about the flu shots for seniors? I became ill last winter after getting a standard flu shot and am wondering if there is a flu vaccine for older adults that would provide better protection this year.

There are actually two different types of flu shots designed specifically for people age 65 and older: the Fluzone High Dose and FLUAD. 

These FDA approved vaccines are designed to offer extra protection beyond a standard flu shot. This is important for older adults who have weaker immune defenses and greater risk of developing flu complications. 

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that the flu puts more than 200,000 people in the hospital each year and kills approximately 24,000 people. Eighty percent of those who die from flu complications are seniors. 

While these senior-specific flu shots cannot guarantee that you may avoid the flu this season, they will lower your risk. Here is more information about these two vaccines:

Fluzone High-Dose: Approved for U.S. use in 2009, the Fluzone High-Dose (see Fluzone.com) is a high-potency vaccine that contains four times the amount of antigen as a regular flu shot, which creates a stronger immune response for better protection. This vaccine, according to a 2013 clinical trial, was 24% more effective than the regular-dose shot at preventing flu in seniors.

FLUAD: Available in the U.S. since 2016, the FLUAD vaccine (FLUAD.com) contains an added ingredient called Adjuvant MF59 that also helps create a stronger immune response. In a 2012 Canadian observational study, FLUAD was 63% more effective than a regular flu shot.

The CDC, however, does not recommend one vaccination over the other and, to date, there have not been any studies that have compared the two vaccines.

You should also know that both the Fluzone High-Dose and FLUAD can increase the mild side effects that can occur with a standard-dose flu shot, such as pain or tenderness at the injection site, muscle aches, headache or fatigue. Neither vaccine is recommended for seniors who are allergic to chicken eggs or those who have had severe reactions to flu vaccines in the past. 

Both vaccines are covered 100% by Medicare Part B, as long as your doctor, health clinic or pharmacy agrees not to charge you more than Medicare pays. 

Pneumonia Vaccines


The other vaccinations the CDC recommends to seniors, especially this time of year, are the pneumococcal vaccines for pneumonia. Around 1 million Americans are hospitalized with pneumonia each year and about 50,000 people die from it.

The CDC is recommending that all seniors, age 65 or older, get two vaccinations: Prevnar 13 and Pneumovax 23. Both vaccines, which are administered at different times, work in different ways to provide maximum protection. Medicare Part B covers both shots if they are taken at least one year apart.

If you have not received any pneumococcal vaccine you should get the Prevnar 13 first, followed by Pneumovax 23 six to 12 months later. However, if you have already received the Pneumovax 23 vaccine, wait at least one year before getting the Prevnar 13. 

To locate a vaccination site that offers any of these shots, visit Vaccines.gov and type in your ZIP code.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living" book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization's official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

 

Published October 13, 2017

Solo Travel Savings Tips

 

Can you recommend some travel companies that offer good deals for single travelers? I've taken a couple trips since I retired a few years ago, but the single supplement fee really cuts into my budget.

Solo traveling is a growing trend among baby boomers and retirees. According to a recent Visa Global Intentions Study, nearly one-in-four individuals who travel today are traveling solo. Unfortunately, one of the biggest drawbacks among solo travelers is the single supplement fee, which is an extra fee charged to single travelers who stay in a double occupancy room alone.

To help you avoid this extra charge, more and more travel companies and cruise lines are making adjustments to accommodate the growing solo-traveler market. Here are several to check into.

Singles Travel


There are a variety of travel companies today that specialize in vacations for solo travelers, including Singles Travel International (SinglesTravelIntl.com) and Singles Travel Getaways (SinglesTravelGetaways.com). Both companies offer tours, cruises and adventures in the U.S. and overseas. These companies will match you with a roommate so that you are able to avoid the single supplement fee or will ensure that you will not be charged if a roommate cannot be found.

General Tour Operators


Large tour companies in this category that have many solo travelers include Intrepid Travel (IntrepidTravel.com) and G Adventures (Gadventures.com). Intrepid Travel handles more than 100,000 travelers each year, sending them to more than 100 countries. G Adventures has more than 700 tours around the globe and offers a variety of travel styles. Both of these companies can pair you with a roommate and some tours offer your own room option for an additional fee.

For higher-end luxury travel check out Abercrombie & Kent (AbercrombieKent.com), which offers a 50% single supplement discount on their select small group solo travel trips and cruises. You can also look into Tauck (Tauck.com), which has no single supplement on its European river cruises.

50-Plus Travel


If you're interested in trips designed for adults ages 50 and older, consider ElderTreks (ElderTreks.com), Road Scholar (RoadScholar.org) and Overseas Adventure Travel (OATtravel.com).

ElderTreks specializes in exotic adventures worldwide and will match single travelers with roommates on most of its trips. The company does not charge if a match cannot be arranged.

Road Scholar offers worldwide learning adventures and has designated trips that offer the same price for solo travelers as for those traveling in pairs.

Overseas Adventure Travel operates in Asia, Africa, Europe, South America, the Middle East, Cuba, Australia and New Zealand and has free single supplements on all its land tours. It also offers either free or low-cost single supplements on its small-ship adventures.

Cruise Lines


If you enjoy cruising, there are a number of cruise lines that have some ships with single-occupancy cabins, including Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL.com), Royal Caribbean (RoyalCaribbean.com) and Vantage Deluxe World Travel's river ships (VantageTravel.com).

You can also consider booking a cruise at SinglesCruise.com, which searches a variety of different cruise lines for their single customers and provides roommate matching.

Solo Women


For solo women travelers, there are a host of tour companies and clubs like GutsyWomenTravel.com, Women-Traveling.com, SerenDipityTraveler.com, TheWomensTravelGroup.com and Womens-Travel-Club.com. These companies will either match you up with a roommate or reduce the single supplement fee.

Travel Partner


If you would rather find a suitable travel partner before you book your next trip, there are a number of free websites that you can check out. See Travbuddy.com, TravelFriend.us and TravelersMeeting.com. To find a cruise buddy try CruiseMates.com, which has a message board where users can post roommate requests.

For more information on solo travel, check out SoloTravelerWorld.com, which offers solo travel tips, destinations and stories, and also publishes a monthly list of solo travel deals.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living” book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization’s official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

 

Published October 6, 2017

How to Find and Hire a Good Home Care Worker

 

What's the best way to find a good in-home caregiver for my elderly mother?

Finding a good in-home caregiver that is dependable, likeable, trustworthy and affordable can be challenging. Here are some tips and resources that can help.

Know Your Needs


Before you start the task of looking for a caregiver, your first step is to determine the level of care your mom needs. If, for example, she only needs help with daily living activities like preparing meals, doing laundry, bathing or dressing, then a "personal care aide" will do.

However, if she needs health care services, there are "home health aides" who can provide the same support as personal aides but who also have training in administering medications, changing wound dressings and other medically-related duties. Home health aides often work under a nurse's supervision.

Once you settle on a level of care, you then need to decide how many hours of assistance she will need. For example, does your mom need someone to come in just a few mornings a week to help her cook, clean, run errands or bathe? Or, does she need more continuous care that requires daily visits or a full-time aide?

After you determine her needs, there are two ways in which you can go about hiring someone. You can either hire through a home health agency or you can hire someone directly on your own.

Home Health Agencies


Hiring a certified home health agency to supply and manage your mom's care is the easiest but most expensive option of the two. Costs run anywhere from $12 to $40 an hour depending on where you live and the qualification of the aide. This is usually a better choice if your mom requires a lot of in-home health care.

The agency will handle everything, including an assessment of your mom's needs, assigning appropriately trained and pre-screened staff to care for her and finding a fill-in staff member on days her aide is unavailable.

However, there can be a few drawbacks. You may not be able to provide much input into the selection of the caregiver and the caregivers may change or alternate, which can cause a disruption in care and confusion.

You also need to know that Medicare does cover some in-home health care services if it is ordered by a doctor, but it will not cover personal care services, such as bathing and dressing. However, if your mom is low-income and qualifies for Medicaid, some personal care services are covered.

To locate and compare Medicare-approved home health agencies visit www.medicare.gov/hhcompare or call 800-633-4227 and request a free copy of the "Medicare and Home Health Care" (Publication #10969), which explains coverage and how to choose an agency.

Hiring Directly


Hiring an independent caregiver on your own is the other option. It is less expensive with costs typically ranging between $10 and $20 per hour. Hiring directly also gives you more control over who you hire so you can choose someone who you feel is right for your mom.

But, be aware that if you do hire someone on your own, you become the employer. Therefore, there is no agency support to fall back on if a problem occurs or if the aide does not show up. You would also responsible for paying payroll taxes and compensating any work-related injuries. If you choose this option make sure you check the aide's references thoroughly and conduct a criminal background check.

To find someone, you can ask for referrals through friends, doctor's offices or hospital discharge planners. You can also check online job boards like craigslist.org, carelinx.com or carescout.com. Some states offer registries (phinational.org) to help you locate quality caregivers.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living” book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization’s official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

 

Published September 29, 2017

Check-in Services for Seniors Who Live Alone

 

Are there any services you know of that check in on elderly seniors who live alone? My 84-year-old father won't wear a lifeline help button and I worry about him falling or having a medical emergency and not being able to get to the phone to call for help.

Depending on where your dad lives, there are check-in call services, volunteer visiting programs and a variety of technology options you can turn to that can help you keep tabs on him. Here are several to check into.

Daily Check-in Calls


To make sure your dad is okay every day, consider signing him up for a daily check-in call service program. These are telephone reassurance programs run by police or sheriff's departments in hundreds of counties across the country and are often provided free of charge.

Here's how it would work. A computer automated phone system would call your dad at a designated time each day to check-in. If he answers, the system would assume everything is fine. But if he doesn't pick up, or if the call goes to voicemail after repeated calls, you (or whoever his designee is) would get a notification call. If you are not reachable, calls are then made to backup designees who have also agreed to check on your dad if necessary. If no one can be reached, the police or other emergency services personnel will be dispatched to his home.

To find out if this service is available in your dad's community, call his local police department's non-emergency number. If the police or sheriff's department in your dad's community does not provide a daily check-in call program, there are a number of companies you can turn to that offer similar services directly to consumers for under $15 per month. A few programs to check into include the CARE senior calling program (Call-Reassurance.com), CareCheckers (CareCheckers.com) and IAmFine (Iamfine.com).

Volunteer Visiting Programs


Another option you may also want to consider is finding a volunteer visiting program. These are usually run by churches, community groups or social service agencies.

These programs provide volunteers who will visit older adults in their homes usually for an hour or two once a week. The volunteers provide companionship as well as the reassurance that someone is checking in on a regular basis. They can also alert you if they notice your dad's health or living conditions start to decline.

To find out if these services are available, check with local churches or call the Eldercare Locator at 800-677-1116 to find groups or agencies near your dad.

Technology Solutions


There are a number of different technologies that will help keep your dad safe at home and help you keep an eye on him from afar. For example, for safety and peace of mind there are medical alert systems, which provide a wearable "help button" that would allow your dad to call for help anytime he needed it. Some of these systems also offer wall-mounted buttons that can be placed near the floor in high-risk fall areas, like the bathroom or kitchen, if he will not wear a help button.

If you want to keep daily tabs on your dad, there are wireless sensor-monitoring systems that he can put in his home that will notify you if something out of the ordinary is happening. There are also video monitoring cameras that have built-in motion and sound detection to let you know when something is detected and two-way audio that will let you talk and listen to him.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living” book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization’s official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

 

Published September 22, 2017

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