Over 1,000 Pre-K Students Receive the Gift of Reading

 

Dolly Parton said, “I remain totally convinced that if we can do one more simple thing to help kids and adults to learn more, it is to inspire them to read more.”  With the support of our sponsors and community, Washington County’s children are definitely inspired.

Over 1,000 Washington County preschool students are enrolled or have graduated from the Dolly Parton Imagination Library program operated by the Washington County Community Foundation.  Washington County preschoolers will receive over 12,000 books in their mailboxes this year thanks to the generous sponsors of the program:  Duke Energy, First Harrison Bank, First Savings Bank, Jason Wade State Farm Insurance, GKN Sinter Metals, Jean’s Extrusions, Telemedia Solutions, Kimball Office Team Members, Wal-Mart and many individual sponsors.

The free service is open to all Washington County residents age five or younger.  Once the child is enrolled, they will receive an age appropriate book every month in the mail.  Families can register their child at any of our sponsors’ location.  It only takes a couple of minutes to enroll.  Children can enroll at any time, as long as they have not reached their fifth birthday. 

For more information about becoming a sponsor and giving the gift of reading to a child in our county, contact the Washington County Community Foundation at 812-883-7334 or email them at info@wccf.biz.

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

Financial Caregiving: How to Help Relatives with their Finances

Can you offer any tips on helping an elderly parent with their finances? My dad always handled the money when he was alive but since he passed away last year, my mom has struggled to keep up. Millions of adult children today serve as financial caregivers to their ill or elderly parents or other loved ones. Being a financial caregiver involves providing services like paying bills, handling deposits and investments, filing insurance claims, preparing taxes and more. Here are some tips and resources that can help.

Have the Talk


The first step in helping your mom is to have a thoughtful talk with her, expressing your concerns and offering your help in simplifying her financial life. If you're uncomfortable starting the conversation, then feel free to use this column as a prompter. It's also a good idea to get your siblings or other family members on board to help make your case. This can help you head off possible hard feelings. In addition, if others are involved in the conversation, your mom will know everyone is concerned, not just you.

Get Organized


If your mom is willing to let you help manage her financial affairs, your first order of business is to get organized by making a list of all her financial accounts and make copies of her important documents. This will help you understand her overall financial situation and let you know if any important documents are missing. Your list should include her:
  • Monthly bills: Phone, cable, water, trash, gas, electric, credit-card accounts, etc.
  • Bank accounts: Checking, savings and safe-deposit boxes.
  • Retirement accounts: Social Security, pensions, IRAs and 401(k)s.
  • Brokerage accounts and investments.
  • Insurance policies: Life, home, auto, long-term care, Medicare, etc.
  • Important documents: Will, advanced medical directive (which includes a living will and health care proxy) and durable power of attorney (which gives one or more people the legal authority to handle her finances if she becomes incapacitated). Make sure these documents are prepared.
  • Taxes: Copies of your parents' income tax returns over the past few years.
  • Contact list: Names and phone numbers of key contacts, including insurance agents, financial advisor, tax preparer, family attorney, etc.

Simplify


The easiest ways to simplify your mom's monthly financial chores is to set up automatic payments for her utilities and other routine bills and arrange for direct deposits (see godirect.org) of her Social Security, pensions and other income sources. You can also make arrangements to have her bank and bill statements mailed directly to you so you can monitor what's coming in and going out each month. Another option to consider is online bill paying through your mom's bank, if available.

Meet With a Pro


Depending on the amount and complexity of your mom's assets, both of you should sit down with your family financial advisor to review her investments and financial situation. If you don't have one, find a reputable, fee-only financial planner who can help you put a smart plan in place. Fee-only planners don't make commissions by selling you financial products and typically charge a flat or hourly fee, which can be around $200 to $300 an hour. To locate one, see napfa.org.

Hire a Money Manager


If you need some help or live far away from your mom, you may want to consider hiring a daily money manager. This is a trained professional who can come in once or twice a month to pay bills, make deposits, decipher health insurance statements and balance her checkbook. Costs range between $25 and $100 per hour. To locate one in your area, visit aadmm.com.Savvy Tip: If your mom is having a hard time meeting her monthly expenses, go to benefitscheckup.org to find out if she can qualify for assistance programs.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 May 26, 2017

Jinny Scifres Scholarship Recipients Named

Jessica Jackson and Andrea Brough are the 2017 recipients of the Jinny Scifres Memorial Scholarship.

 After starting a family, Jinny made the tough decision to return to school and study nursing.  After graduation, she began her nursing career at Washington County Memorial Hospital as an Emergency Room Nurse.  Jinny’s love of nursing eventually lead her to several promotions and back to school once again.  She eventually became the Director of Patient Care Services.

Jinny died in the fall of 2000, after bravely battling bone cancer.  Her family and many friends established this scholarship fund in her memory, to assist others who, like Jinny, return to school to study nursing after starting a family or career.  

Jackson is a student at Ivy Tech Community College and is in the LPN to RN Bridge Nursing Program.  Brough is currently studying in the LPN program at Ivy Tech Community College and plans to transition to the LPN to RN Bridge Nursing Program as well. 

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

Donors to the Washington County Community Foundation Award over $30K

 

Grants totaling over $30,000.00 were awarded to several Washington County organizations by donors of the Washington County Community Foundation for the Spring 2017 grant cycle.  Grants are awarded from the Foundation’s Touch Tomorrow funds.

The newly organized Salem Mounted Search and Patrol will be receiving a $2,795.42 grant to purchase a break-away splint stretcher and one set of low angle rescue ropes and equipment. 

Hoosier Hills PACT is the recipients of a $2,402.00 grant from the Women’s Fund.  PACT plans to improve their playground area, landscape the buildings, and beautify the exterior of the domestic violence shelter.

A $9,000.00 dollar for dollar challenge grant has been awarded to the Town of Campbellsburg for a community play park.  The Town of Campbellsburg would like to utilize funds to for the installation of updated, safe playground equipment in the town area.

Patrons of the Salem Senior Citizens Center might feel safer due to a grant of $1,657.00 for an AED and medical storage cabinet to be kept at the center.

Blue River Services’ Jackson Court Apartments will see improved resident amenities with the addition of a senior fitness zone that will give residents of the complex, including those with disabilities, on-site access to exercise equipment thanks to a $3,250.00 grant.

The Washington County Food Bank has the opportunity for a $10,000.00 grant to assist with the purchase of their new building and upgrades.

A $3,250.00 grant has been awarded to the Salem Municipal Airport Board of Aviation Commissioners to assist in relocating the existing fuel farm from its current location to the new facility.

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

Health Coverage Options for Pre-Medicare-Age Spouses

My wife, who is 62, is on my health insurance plan through my employer. When I retire in a few months at 65, and go on Medicare, what are my wife's options? Is there some kind of Medicare coverage for dependent spouses, or do we have to purchase on Healthcare.com?
Medicare, unfortunately, does not offer family coverage to younger spouses or dependent children when you qualify for Medicare. Nobody can obtain Medicare benefits before age 65, unless eligible at a younger age because of disability. With that said, here are some coverage options, including Obamacare, to consider for your wife.
Keep working: If possible, consider working past age 65. This would allow your wife to continue coverage under your employer health insurance until she becomes eligible for Medicare.
Employer options: If your employer provides retiree health benefits, check with your benefits administrator to find out if they offer any options that would allow your wife to continue coverage under their plan. Or, if your wife works, see if she can she switch to health insurance provided by her own employer.
COBRA: If you work for a company that has 20 or more employees, once you make the switch to Medicare, your wife could stay with your company insurance plan for at least 18 months (but could last up to 36 months) under a federal law called COBRA. You'll need to sign her up within 60 days after her last day of coverage. But be aware that COBRA isn't cheap. You'll pay the full monthly premium yourself, plus a 2% administrative fee. To learn more, see DOL.gov/ebsa/publications/cobraemployee.html or call 866-444-3272.
If, however, the company you work for has fewer than 20 employees, you may still be able to get continued coverage through your company if your state has "mini-COBRA." Contact your state insurance department to see if this is available where you live.
Individual insurance: Buy your wife an individual health insurance policy through the Health Insurance Marketplace until she turns 65. The Marketplace, as it stands now, offers comprehensive health coverage and they can't deny her coverage or charge extra for preexisting health conditions.
Additionally, if your income falls below the 400% poverty level – anything below $47,520 for an individual or $64,080 for a couple in 2017 – you may be eligible for a tax credit that will reduce the amount you'll have to pay for a policy. To see how much you can save, see the subsidy calculator on the Kaiser Family Foundation website at KFF.org/interactive/subsidy-calculator.
To shop for marketplace plans in your state, visit Healthcare.gov or call their toll-free helpline at 800-318-2596.
If your wife isn't eligible for the government subsidy, or you want additional policy options to what the Marketplace offers, you can also buy health coverage outside the government marketplaces directly through a private insurance company, an online insurance seller, or an agent or broker. This option is not available if you live in Washington D.C. or Vermont.
These policies do not offer the federal tax credits, but they are required to offer the same menu of essential benefits as Marketplace policies do and they can't deny coverage or charge extra for preexisting health conditions. You might even find slightly lower premiums on outside policies, assuming that you don't qualify for the tax credits.
To find a local broker or agent who sells insurance plans, check the National Association of Health Underwriters website (NAHU.org), which has an online directory. Keep in mind that agents won't necessarily show you all available policies, just the ones from insurers they work with.
You can also look for these plans at insurance shopping sites like eHealthInsurance.com or GoHealth.com, which lists plans and providers that may not be listed on Healthcare.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 May 19, 2017

Hearing Loss Help

 

Can you direct me to some resources for my hearing impaired mother? She doesn't realize her hearing has gotten as bad as it has, so I'm looking for some affordable ways to help. Any suggestions?

There are more 31.5 million Americans today that have hearing loss (two-thirds of which are over age 55) but less than half ever seek treatment. Here are some tips that may help.

Hearing Loss


Being aware of hearing loss as you grow older is important because impaired hearing can have a negative impact on your quality of life. In fact, studies show that older people with hearing impairment often withdraw, become depressed and may even die before their time. Because hearing loss usually develops over years, many people aren't aware of the extent of their loss until family or friends bring it to their attention. Here's a simple test to help your mom see where she stands:
  • Does she have trouble hearing over the telephone?
  • Does she listen to TV at a high volume level?
  • Does she frequently have to ask others to repeat themselves?
  • Does she have difficulty understanding people in groups or noisy situations?
  • Does she have difficulty understanding women or young children?
  • Does she have trouble knowing where sounds are coming from?
  • Is she unable to understand when someone talks to her from another room?
  • Does she avoid family meetings or social situations because she "can't understand"?
If she answered yes to three or more of these questions she may have a hearing problem and should see an otolaryngologist, a doctor who specializes in ear, nose and throat disorders (see www.entnet.org to locate one in your area), or an audiologist (www.audiology.org) for a hearing evaluation.

Hearing Solutions


Depending on her hearing problem there are various devices or treatments that can help. Some possible solutions include:
  • Hearing Aids: Recent advances in design and technology have dramatically improved hearing aids over the past few years. She should work with an audiologist to find the right kind. Also, ask about having a trial period so she can try out several different aids. Costs typically range between $800 and $3,000 per ear. Medicare doesn't cover hearing aids nor do most health insurers. For more information on the different kinds of hearing aids, models and new technology visit www.hearingloss.org and order the "Consumer's Guide to Hearing Aids."
  • Assistive Devices: These are products that can help with less than perfect hearing, such as telephone amplifying devices, TV and radio listening systems, assistive listening devices or alert products like flashing light door bells, smoke detectors, etc. A good place to locate these types of products is at www.abledata.com.
  • Cochlear implants: If hearing loss is severe, cochlear implant surgery may provide a possible solution. Ask her doctor about this option.

Discount Hearing Aids


For the millions of Americans that need hearing aids but can't afford them, there's a great program that can help called "Audient." It is a relatively new non-profit service that helps people purchase new hearing aids at greatly discounted prices. To be eligible, your income must be no higher than two-and-a-half times the national poverty level - $24,500 for an individual, plus $8,500 for each additional family member. No asset test is required and financing plans are also available. If eligible, you'll receive an examination by a hearing health professional (within their nationwide network), and then be fitted with new digital, behind-the-ear hearing aids. Routine follow-up visits are also provided. Discounts range between 30% and 75%. To learn more visit www.audientalliance.org or call 877-283-4368.

Savvy Tips: Many states have a telecommunications equipment distribution program that provides free telephone equipment to assist people with their hearing problem. Check with your local telephone company or visit www.tedpa.org to find what's available in your state. And a great resource for hearing loss information is the Better Hearing Institute, which also offers a free booklet titled "Your Guide to Better Hearing." To get a copy, visit www.betterhearing.org or call 800-327-9355.

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 April 28, 2017

How Medicare Covers Therapy Services

 

Can you explain how Medicare covers physical therapy services? I'm a new beneficiary and would like to get some treatments for my back.
Medicare covers a variety of outpatient therapy services, including physical, occupational and speech therapy. In order to receive coverage, you must meet certain criteria. Here's how it works.

Medicare Coverage

In order for Medicare (Part B) to help cover your physical therapy, the therapy must be considered medically reasonable and necessary and will need to be ordered or prescribed by your doctor.
Medicare will cover services that are performed at outpatient facilities, including doctors' offices, therapists' offices, rehabilitation facilities, medical clinics and hospital outpatient departments.
You also need to know that Medicare limits the amount of coverage that it will provide for outpatient therapy services in one calendar year. These limits are called "therapy cap limits." In 2017, Medicare will cover up to $1,980 for physical and speech therapy combined and another $1,980 for occupational therapy.
Be aware that just like other Medicare covered services, Medicare will pay 80% (up to $1,584) of your therapy costs after you meet your $183 Part B deductible. You, or your Medicare supplemental plan (if you have one), will be responsible for the remaining 20% until the cap limits are reached. After that, you'll have to pay the full cost for the services.

Extra Therapy

If, however, you reach your cap limits and your doctor or therapist recommends that you continue with the treatment, you can ask your therapist to provide documentation so that you can receive an exception that will enable Medicare to continue to pay for your therapy. The therapist must provide documentation indicating that these services are medically necessary for you to continue. If Medicare denies the claim, you can appeal through the Medicare appeals process (see Medicare.gov/claims-and-appeals).
If approved, Medicare has an exception threshold of $3,700 for physical and speech therapy combined and $3,700 for occupational therapy. If your therapy cost exceeds these thresholds, Medicare will audit your case, which could lead to denial of further services.

No Coverage

If you choose to receive physical therapy that's not considered medically necessary or prescribed by your doctor, your therapist is required to give you a written document called an "Advance Beneficiary Notice of Noncoverage" (ABN). Medicare Part B will not pay for these services.

Therapy at Home

You should also know that Medicare covers home therapy services too. In order to receive these services, you must be homebound and eligible to receive home health care from a Medicare-approved home healthcare agency. To learn more about this option, see the "Medicare and Home Health Care" online booklet at Medicare.gov/pubs/pdf/10969.pdf.

Medicare Advantage

If you are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan (like an HMO or PPO), these plans must cover everything that's included in original Medicare Part A and Part B coverage. Sometimes these plans cover more, with extra services or an expanded amount of coverage. To find out whether your plan provides extra coverage or requires different co-payments for physical therapy, you'll need to contact the plan directly.

More Information

If you have other questions, call Medicare at 800-633-4227 or contact your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP), which provides free Medicare counseling in person or over the phone. To find a local SHIP counselor visit Shiptacenter.org, or call the eldercare locator at 800-677-1116.
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 April 21, 2017

Coping with Ringing in Your Ears

 

Are there any new treatments you know of that can help with constant ear ringing syndrome known as tinnitus? I've had it for years but it has gotten worse the older I get.
Tinnitus is a common condition that affects around 45 million Americans, but it is usually more prevalent in the 60-and-older age group. Here's what you should know along with some tips and treatments that may help.

What is Tinnitus?

Tinnitus (pronounced tin-NIGHT-us or TIN-a-tus) is the sensation of hearing a ringing, buzzing, roaring, hissing or whistling sound in one or both ears when no external sound is present. The sounds, which can vary in pitch and loudness, are usually worse when background noise is low, so you may be more aware of it at night when you're trying to fall asleep in a quiet room. For most people, tinnitus is merely annoying, but for many others it can be extremely disturbing.
Tinnitus itself is not a disease, but rather a symptom of some other underlying health condition. The best way to find out what's causing your tinnitus is to see an audiologist, or an otolaryngologist – a doctor who specializes in ear, nose and throat diseases (commonly called and ENT). The various things that can cause tinnitus are:
  • Age-related and noise-induced hearing loss – this is most common cause.
  • Middle ear obstructions, which are usually caused by a build-up of earwax deep in the ear canal.
  • The side effects of many different prescription and nonprescription medicines like aspirin, ibuprofen, certain blood pressure medicines and diuretics, some antidepressants, cancer medicines and antibiotics.
  • Various medical conditions such as high blood pressure, vascular disease, diabetes, allergies, thyroid problems, ear or sinus infections, Meniere's disease, Lyme disease, fibromyalgia, otosclerosis, temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder, a tumor, an injury to the head or neck, traumatic brain injury, depression, stress and more.

Treating the Causes

While there's currently no cure for tinnitus, there are some ways to treat it depending on the cause. For example, if your tinnitus is caused by a wax build-up in your ears or a medical condition (high blood pressure, thyroid problem, etc.), treating the problem may reduce or eliminate the noise. Or, if you think a medication you're taking may be causing the problem, switching to a different drug, or lowering the dosage, may provide some relief.

Other Treatments

Another treatment option for tinnitus that can help suppress or mask the sound so it's less bothersome is "sound therapy." This can be as simple as a fan or a white noise machine or something more sophisticated like a modified-sound or notched-music device like Neuromonics (neuromonics.com) or the Levo System (otoharmonics.com). These devices actually train your brain not to hear the tinnitus.
If you have hearing loss, hearing aids can help mask your tinnitus by improving your ability to hear actual sounds. There are even hearing aids today that come with integrated sound generation technology that delivers white noise or customized sounds to the patient on an ongoing basis. Your audiologist or ENT can help you with these options.
There are also certain medications that may help. While currently there's no FDA approved drugs specifically designed to treat tinnitus, some antianxiety drugs and antidepressants have been effective in reliving symptoms. Behavioral therapies, counseling and support groups can also be helpful.
Another thing you can do to help quiet the noise is to avoid things that can aggravate the problem like salt, artificial sweeteners, sugar, alcohol, tonic water, tobacco and caffeine. It is also a good idea to protect yourself from loud noises by wearing earplugs.
For more information on tinnitus treatment options, visit the American Tinnitus Association at ata.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.
Published April 14, 2017

How Working during Retirement Can Affect Your Social Security Benefits

I'm considering retiring later this year and starting my Social Security benefits, but I would also like to work part time. Will this affect my benefits and, if so, how much?


You can collect Social Security retirement benefits and work at the same time, but depending on how old you are and how much you earn, some or all of your benefits could be temporarily withheld. Here's what you should know.

Working Rules


If you're under your full retirement age and are collecting benefits, then you can earn up to $16,920 in 2017 without jeopardizing any of your Social Security if you don't reach your full retirement age this year. But, if you earn more than the $16,920 limit, you'll lose $1 in benefits for every $2 over that amount. Note that if you were born between 1943 and 1954, then your full retirement age is 66. If you were born in 1955 or later, then your full retirement age is 66 and two months.

In the year you reach your full retirement age, a less stringent rule applies. If you reach your full retirement age in 2017, you can earn up to $44,880 from January to the month of your birthday with no penalty. But if you earn more than $44,880 during that time, you'll lose $1 in benefits for every $3 over that limit. And, once your birthday passes, you can earn any amount by working without your benefits being reduced at all.

Wages, bonuses, commissions and vacation pay all count toward the income limits, but pensions, annuities, investment earnings, interest, capital gains and government or military retirement benefits do not. To figure out how much your specific earnings will affect your benefits, see the Social Security Retirement Earnings Test Calculator at SSA.gov/OACT/COLA/RTeffect.html.

It's also important to know that if you do lose some or all of your Social Security benefits because of the earning limits, the benefits will not be lost forever. When you reach full retirement age, your benefits will be recalculated to a higher amount to make up for what was withheld. For details and examples of how this is calculated, see SSA.gov/planners/retire/whileworking2.html.

For more information on how working can affect your Social Security benefits see SSA.gov/planners/retire/whileworking.html, or call the Social Security Administration at 410-965-2039 and ask to receive a free copy of publication number 05-10069, "How Work Affects Your Benefits."

Tax Factor


In addition to the Social Security rules, you need to factor in Uncle Sam too. Because working increases your income, it might make your Social Security benefits taxable.

Here's how it works. If the sum of your adjusted gross income, nontaxable interest and half of your Social Security benefits is between $25,000 and $34,000 for individuals ($32,000 and $44,000 for couples), you have to pay tax on up to 50% of your benefits. If the sum is above $34,000 ($44,000 for couples), then you could pay tax on up to 85% of your benefits, which is the highest portion of Social Security that is taxable. About a third of all people who get Social Security have to pay income taxes on their benefits.

For information, call the IRS at 800-829-3676 and ask them to mail you a free copy of Publication 915, "Social Security and Equivalent Railroad Retirement Benefits." Alternatively, you can access it online at IRS.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p915.pdf.

In addition to the federal government, 13 states - Colorado, Connecticut, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont and West Virginia - tax Social Security benefits to some extent too. If you live in one of these states, you'll need to check with your state tax agency for details.

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 April 7, 2017
 

How to Pick a Medical Alert System

How to Pick a Medical Alert System

I would like to get my 82-year-old mother, who lives alone, a home medical alert system with a panic button that she can push in case she falls or needs help. Can you recommend some good options to help me choose?
A good medical alert system is an affordable and effective tool that can help keep your mother safe, but with all the choices available today, choosing one can be quite confusing. Here are some tips that can help.

How They Work

Medical alert systems, which have been around for about 40 years, are popular products for seniors who live alone. Leased for about $1 a day, these basic systems provide a wearable help button - usually in the form of a neck pendant or wristband - and a base station that connects to the home phone line or to a cellular network if no landline is present.
At the press of a button, your mom could call and talk to a trained operator through the system's base station receiver, which works like a powerful speakerphone. The operator will find out what's wrong and notify family members, friends, neighbors or emergency services as needed.
In addition to the basic home systems, many companies today (for an additional fee) are also offering motion sensitive pendants that can detect a fall and automatically call for help if your mom is unable to push the button. Some companies also offer mobile medical alerts that work when your mom is away from home. These mobile alerts work like cell phones with GPS tracking capabilities. They allow your mom to talk and listen to the operator directly through the pendant button and, because of the GPS, her general location would be known in order for help to be sent.

What to Consider

When shopping for a home medical alert system, here are some things to look for to help you choose a quality system:
  • Extra help buttons: Most companies offer waterproof neck pendant and wristband help buttons, but some also offer wall-mounted buttons that can be placed near the floor in high fall risk areas like the bathroom or kitchen, in case your mom isn't wearing her pendant.
  • Range: The base station should have a range of at least 400 feet so it can be activated from anywhere on your mom's property - even in the yard.
  • Backup: Make sure the system has a battery backup in case of a power failure.
  • Monitoring: Make sure the response center is staffed with trained emergency operators located in the U.S., available on a 24-hour basis and responds to calls promptly.
  • Contacts: Choose a company that provides multiple contact choices - from emergency services to a friend or family member who lives nearby - that they can contact if your mom needs help.
  • Certification: Find out if the monitoring center has been certified by Underwriters Laboratories, a nonprofit safety and consulting company.

Available Companies

While there are dozens of companies that offer medical alert systems, here are some options that offer both home and mobile alerts. Fees usually start at about $30 per month. Bay Alarm Medical, bayalarmmedical.com, Life Station, lifestation.com, Medical Alert, medicalalert.com and MobileHelp, mobilehelpnow.com.
Most of these companies offer discounts if you pay three to twelve months in advance.
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 31, 2017

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