How to Improve Your Balance

I have always been a walker, but after I fell last month, my doctor suggested I start doing some balance exercises. Is this really something I need to practice?

Most people do not think much about practicing their balance, but it is a good idea to do so. The same way that you walk to strengthen your heart, lungs and overall health, you should practice maintaining your balance. 

As we age, our balance declines, which can increase the risk of falling. More than one in three individuals age 65 years or older falls each year. This risk only increases with age. A simple fall can cause a serious fracture of the hip, pelvis, spine, arm, hand or ankle, which can lead to hospitalization, disability, loss of independence and even death. 

How Balance Works


Balance is the ability to distribute your weight in a way that enables you to hold a steady position or move at will without falling. It is determined by a complex combination of muscle strength, visual inputs, the inner ear and the work of specialized receptors in the nerves of your joints, muscles, ligaments and tendons that orient you in relation to other objects. All of these factors are sorted out in the sensory cortex of your brain, which takes in all of this information and gives you balance. Aging dulls these neurological pathways and causes individuals to gradually become less stable on their feet. 

Poor balance can also lead to a vicious cycle of inactivity. For some individuals, if they feel a little unsteady, they end up curtailing certain activities. If they are inactive, they are not challenging their balance systems or using their muscles. As a result, both balance and strength decline. Simple acts, like strolling through a grocery store or getting up from a chair, become trickier. This can shake their confidence and cause them to become even less active.

Balance Exercises


If you have a balance problem that is not tied to illness, medication or some other specific cause, simple exercises may help preserve and improve your balance. Some basic exercises you can do anytime include:
  • One-legged stands: Stand on one foot for 30 seconds or longer, then switch to the other foot. You can do this while brushing your teeth or even while waiting in line somewhere. In the beginning, you might want to have a wall or chair to hold on to.
  • Heel rises: While standing, rise up on your toes, lifting your heel as high as you can. Then drop back to the starting position and repeat the process 10 to 20 times. You can make this more difficult by holding light hand weights.
  • Heel-toe walk: Take 20 steps and, with every step, touch your heel to your toe on your opposite foot. Keep your focus straight ahead instead of looking down at your feet.
  • Sit-to-stand: Without using your hands, get up from a straight-backed chair and sit back down 10 to 20 times. This improves balance and leg strength.
For additional balance exercises visit go4life.nia.nih.gov, a resource created by the National Institute on Aging that offers free booklets that provide illustrated examples of many appropriate exercises. You can order your free copy online or by calling 800-222-2225. 

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 March 23, 2018
 

Putting Together Your Will — A Few Considerations

Though it may seem hard to believe, at age 65, I have never gotten around to making a will, but I'd like to now. My question is: Do I need to hire a lawyer to write my will, or can I draft it myself? I want to get my affairs in order, but I'd hate to pay an attorney fee if I didn't have to.

It's not hard to believe at all. Fewer than half of American adults have a will, mainly because they either haven't thought about it or haven't gotten around to it, or they have put it off because they don't want to think about dying.

Having a will is important because it ensures that your money and property are distributed to the people you want to receive it after your death. If you die without a will, your estate will be settled in accordance with state law. Details vary by state, but assets typically are distributed using a hierarchy of survivors. Assets go first to a spouse, then to children, then your siblings and so on.

You also need to be aware that certain accounts take precedence over a will. If you jointly own a home or a bank account, for example, the house and the funds in the account will go to the surviving owner, even if your will directs otherwise. Similarly, retirement accounts and life insurance policies are distributed to the beneficiaries you designate, so it is important to keep them up to date too.

Do You Need a Lawyer?


There are do-it-yourself software programs which allow users to set up a simple will. This may be acceptable in some cases, particularly if you're single and have a modest bank account.

It is best to seek professional advice, especially if you have significant financial assets or a complex family situation, like a blended family or a child with special needs. An experienced lawyer can make sure you cover all your bases, which can help avoid family confusion and squabbles after you are gone.

The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA.org) and the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel (ACTEC.org) websites are good resources. These websites have directories to help you find someone in your area.

Costs will vary depending on your location and the complexity of your situation, but you can expect to pay somewhere between $200 and $1,500 on the drafting of your will. To help you save, shop around and get price quotes from several different firms. Before you meet with an attorney, make a detailed list of your assets and accounts to help make your visit more efficient.

If money is tight, check with your state's bar association (see www.FindLegalHelp.org) to find low-cost legal help in your area. You may also call the Eldercare Locater at 800-677-1116 for a referral.

If you do create your own will, it is wise to have a lawyer review it to make sure it covers all the important bases.

Where to Store It?


Once your will is written, the best place to keep it is in a fireproof safe, a file cabinet at home or in a safe deposit box in your bank. Make sure your executor knows where it is and has access to it. If a professional prepares your will, keep the original document at your lawyer's office. Also, be sure to update your will if your family or financial circumstances change or if you move to a different state.

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 March 30, 2018
 

WCCF offering $40,000.00 in Spring Grant Cycle

Grants are issued from the Washington County Community Foundation’s Touch Tomorrow funds.  The total amount available for this grant cycle is $40,000.00.

Grant applications for the spring grant cycle are available at the WCCF office located on Shelby Street in the Learning Center complex. The Washington County Community Foundation is currently accepting applications. The application deadline will be 3:30pm, April 15, 2018. For more information, you may call Judy Johnson or Lindsey Wade-Swift at the Foundation office. The number is 883-7334.

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

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WCCF Celebrating County Firefighters and Law Enforcement

On April 24, 2018, WCCF will be celebrating our local firefighters and law enforcement personnel that keep us safe.   Words are inadequate, so how about a reception? Please join us at the Senior Citizen Center at 6:00 to honor these brave men and women. We will be awarding $1,000.00 grants to each department and small gifts for the first 75 people to arrive. So, come out and support your favorite department or law enforcement department. The top three departments in attendance will win an additional $1,000.00 grant. We hope to see you there.

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

WCCF is Offering Scholarships to Non-Traditional Students

The Washington County Community Foundation is now offering scholarships to non-traditional students through its Education Matters initiative.

Education Matters is a regional undertaking organized by the community foundations that serve Washington, Scott, Harrison, Clark and Floyd counties to try to increase the number of working adults in our region who started but never completed some form of post-secondary education – education that extends beyond high school.

You might be surprised to learn that in Southeast Indiana, only 25% of our workforce has an associate’s, bachelors or professional degree, compared to 38% nationally. Yet one in four of our community’s adult workers has earned some college credits! That’s over 3,100 people in Washington County!  For whatever reason, they started but never completed their post-secondary education. This represents a tremendous amount of untapped potential in our community.

The community foundations that created Education Matters have elected to concentrate on a small sliver of the overall issue, those one in four of our adult workers who have some post-secondary credits but did not complete their degrees or certifications. This population of people who started but didn’t finish their education is where the Washington County Community Foundation sees opportunity to implement immediate changes that can drive our educational attainment numbers up, ultimately having real impact on our community.

The following criteria have been established for the scholarships:

  1. Annual awards will not exceed $3,000 the first twelve months and $5,000 per person in any subsequent twelve month period.
  2. Scholarship applicants must be a minimum of 28 years old as of the date of application.
  3. Only individuals who can demonstrate continuing legal residence in Washington County for at least the past five years are eligible. Documentation such as tax forms, housing receipts, or utility bills will be used to verify residency and/or household income.
  4. Scholarship awards may be used for tuition, course-related fees, or books only. Checks will only be written to an educational institution or certified training provider.
  5. The application deadline is 3:30 on April 20, 2018. No exceptions. Applications can be found on the Foundation website at www.wccf.biz or by requesting an application from our office.
  6. Adult scholarship awards may not be used to pay for college debt.
  7. Subsequent awards will only be considered for students maintaining at least a 2.5 GPA.

Call the Washington County Community Foundation office at 883-7334 or email program.officer@wccf.biz to request an application or for more information.

The mission of the Washington County Community Foundation is to engage people, build resources and strengthen our community.

How to Choose a Memory Care Unit

My mom has Alzheimer's disease and has gotten to the point that she cannot live at home any longer. I need to find a good memory care residential unit for her but could use some help. Any suggestions?

Choosing a good memory care residential unit for a loved one with Alzheimer's disease is a very important decision that requires careful evaluation and some homework. 

Most memory care units, sometimes called special care units, are housed within assisted living or nursing home facilities. At their best, they offer staff who are extensively trained in caring for people with dementia, individualized care that minimizes the use of dangerous psychotropic drugs, a home-like environment and activities that improve residents quality of life. At their worst, they can offer little more than a locked door. Here are some steps that can help you find a good facility. 

Make a list: To identify some quality memory care residential units in your area, ask your mother's doctor for a referral. In addition, use the Alzheimer's Association online tool at CommunityResourceFinder.org. Make sure the facilities on your list are close to family members and friends who can visit often, because residents with frequent visitors usually receive better care.

Research your options: Once you have made a list, contact your local long-term care ombudsman (see LTCombudsman.org). This is a government official who investigates assisted living and nursing home complaints and can tell you which facilities have had problems in the past. 

If you are looking at a memory care unit within a nursing home facility, use Medicare's nursing home compare tool (Medicare.gov/nursinghomecompare). This tool provides a five-star rating system. 

Call the facilities: Once you have identified a few facilities, call them to find out if they have any vacancies, if they provide the types of services your mother needs, what they charge and if they accept Medicaid. 

Tour your top choices: During your tour, notice the cleanness and smell of the facility. Is it homey and inviting? Does the staff seem responsive and kind to its residents? Also be sure to taste the food and talk to the current residents' family members, if available. 

Find out about staff screening and training procedures, their turnover rate and the staff-to-resident ratio. The facility should have at least one staff member for every five residents. 

Make sure the facility offers quality activities that can keep your mom engaged, even at night when she may be awake. Ask how they respond to residents who may wander or become aggressive. If the answer is locked doors and antipsychotic drugs, that might be a red flag.

Because transitions can be unsettling for dementia suffers, make sure that your mother will be able to remain at the facility for the foreseeable future. Find out what, if any, health conditions might require your mother to leave the facility or move to a higher and more expansive level of care. 

It is also a good idea to make multiple visits to the facility, including an unscheduled visit at night or on weekends when the staff is more likely to be stretched thin. 

To help you evaluate your visit, the Alzheimer's Association offers a checklist that you can access at ALZ.org/residentialfacilities

Paying for care: The national average costs for memory care within an assisted living facility is over $5,000 per month or over $7,500/month with nursing home care, but costs can vary widely depending on your location. Since Medicare does not cover long-term care, most residents pay for care from either personal savings, a long-term care insurance policy or through Medicaid (if available) once their savings are depleted. 

To help you research your financial options, visit the National Clearinghouse for Long-Term Care Information website at LongTermCare.gov.

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 March 16, 2018

All Are Welcome To Volunteer at the Wall

Volunteers are needed for several areas of The Wall That Heals including assisting in the Mobile Education Center, assisting visitors with finding names, and assistance at The Wall. Please email stephanierockeythewall@gmail.com and a link will be sent to you to sign up. We encourage you to sign up for multiple shifts and multiple days. If you have difficulty signing up, please call Stephanie at 502-291-7360. Volunteers are requested to sign-up to volunteer by April 15, 2018.

The Wall That Heals, a scaled replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, along with a mobile Education Center, is scheduled to visit Washington County May 17-May 20, 2018 at the YMCA/Community Learning Center/Senior Citizen Center complex in Salem.

The exhibit includes The Wall replica and a mobile Education Center that comprises digital displays of photos of service members whose names are on The Wall; letters and memorabilia left at The Wall by visitors; a map of Vietnam; and a chronological overview of the Vietnam War. It tells the story of the Vietnam War, The Wall, and the era surrounding the conflict, and are designed to place American experiences in Vietnam in an historical and cultural context.

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

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Youth Foundation Now Recruiting

The Washington County Youth Foundation is now recruiting new members for the 2018-2019 school year. The Youth Foundation is a group of students from Washington County committed to making our community a better place to live. The board has members who are sophomores, juniors and seniors in any area high school or are home schooled.

The Youth Foundation averages one meeting a month. Times and location will vary; however, most meetings occur on Sunday afternoons. During the school year the Washington County Youth Foundation will offer one grant cycle, several community service activities and one peer community awareness/asset development event. Also, Washington County Youth Foundation members will be expected to be volunteers in the Happily Ever After Project. All members make financial contributions to support the service activities of the Youth Foundation.  

Application, permission slip and more information can be downloaded from the Washington County Community Foundation’s website at www.wccf.biz. Additionally, informational flyers can be obtained from current Washington County Youth Foundation members or by calling the Foundation office at 883-7334.   Applications are due by 4:00 pm on April 15, 2018.

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

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Night Owls Needed to Volunteer at The Wall That Heals

The Wall That Heals is open 24 hours and that means that volunteers are needed day and night. “All shifts require volunteers, but right now we are in need of those willing to cover the late night and early morning shifts,” requested Stephanie Rockey, Volunteer Coordinator. Please email stephanierockeythewall@gmail.com and a link will be sent to you to sign up. We encourage you to sign up for multiple shifts and multiple days. If you have difficulty signing up, please call Stephanie at 502-291-7360. Volunteers are requested to sign-up to volunteer by April 15, 2018.

The Wall That Heals, a scaled replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, along with a mobile Education Center, is scheduled to visit Washington County May 17-May 20, 2018 at the YMCA/Community Learning Center/Senior Citizen Center complex in Salem.

The exhibit includes The Wall replica and a mobile Education Center that comprises digital displays of photos of service members whose names are on The Wall; letters and memorabilia left at The Wall by visitors; a map of Vietnam; and a chronological overview of the Vietnam War. It tells the story of the Vietnam War, The Wall, and the era surrounding the conflict, and are designed to place American experiences in Vietnam in an historical and cultural context.

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

How to Receive Cash for Your Life Insurance Policy

I have a life insurance policy that I have been making payments on for years. I really do not need the policy anymore and I have been thinking about letting it lapse, but recently heard that I can sell it for a lump sum. What can you tell me about this?

Selling a life insurance policy- a transaction known as a "life settlement"-has become a popular option in recent years among retirees who no longer want or need the policy or who are looking for some extra cash.

A life settlement is the sale of an existing life insurance policy to a third party company for cash. Life settlements are typically best suited for people over age 65 who own a policy with a face value of $100,000 or more or someone younger who has experienced a significant change in health.

Historically, if an owner of a life insurance policy decided the policy was no longer needed, he or she would either let the policy lapse or turn it in for a meager cash surrender value. But now, with the life settlement option, life insurance owners can actually sell the policy for more than the cash surrender value, but less than its net death benefit. Once the policy is sold, the life settlement company then becomes the new owner of the policy, pays the future premiums and collects the death benefit.

The amount of money you can expect to receive will depend on your age, health, life expectancy, the type of insurance policy, the premium costs and the cash value of your policy. You may be able to receive four to eight times more than the policy cash surrender value.

If you are interested in a life settlement here are some things you should know:

Shop around: To ensure you get the best price for your policy, obtain quotes from several companies. Also, find out how much you will have to pay for broker and transaction fees.

To search for providers or brokers, the Life Insurance Settlement Association provides a directory at LISA.org.

Be prudent: Life settlements are regulated in most states. Check with your state insurance commissioner to see if the life settlement company you are interested in is properly licensed (see NAIC.org for contact information).

Protect your privacy: When you sell your life insurance policy, you will have to sign a waiver authorizing the release of medical and other personal information so that the buyer can determine how much to offer for your policy. Before accepting any offer, make sure that the company has procedures in place to protect the confidentiality of your information.

Understand the tax implications: The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act recently updated the tax treatment of a life settlement. It is now treated the same as the surrender of a policy back to the insurance company. This can be complicated, so be sure to consult a tax advisor.

Other Options


If you want to keep your life insurance policy but could use some extra cash, you may have some other options. For example, some life settlement companies may allow you to keep part of the policy's death benefit while eliminating your premium obligations. You can also ask your life insurer if you can borrow against your policy. If you are in poor health, see if you are eligible for accelerated death benefits. You should also find out if you are able to convert the cash value of your policy into an immediate annuity (through a 1035 Exchange). This option would provide you with fixed payments for a set number of years or for the rest of your life.

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 March 9, 2018

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