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Get ready for Open Enrollment!

It’s almost time once again for the annual Open Enrollment Period (Oct. 15-Dec. 7) during which Medicare beneficiaries can make changes to their Part D and Medicare Advantage coverage. They can use the OEP to enroll in a drug plan, or change how they get their Medicare benefits such as going from Medicare Advantage to Original Medicare, or vice versa. Any changes your clients make related to the OEP take effect on January 1, 2018.

Here’s everything you need to have to get ready to counsel clients during this year’s OEP.

Cost information for 2018

Counseling tools and checklists

Enrollment & disenrollment basics

Marketing rules

Other resources

Source: NCOA.org

Pill-Swallowing Methods for Simplifying Medication Administration

About 40 percent of American adults have trouble swallowing pills, according to a Harris Interactive poll. Commonly cited issues include gagging, a lingering aftertaste from an incomplete swallow, and having a pill become lodged in the throat. These problems can be even more prevalent in seniors with conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, and stroke, all of which can affect the ability to swallow.

A group of researchers from the University of Heidelberg has unlocked the secret to taking oral medications, even for those with dysphagia (difficulty swallowing). Scientists tested two techniques for taking pills on more than 150 men and women. Some of the participants had preexisting problems with swallowing and some did not.

“Both techniques were remarkably effective in participants with and without reported difficulties swallowing pills and should be recommended regularly,” study authors say.

Tips for Swallowing Pills

According to the researchers, different techniques work best for different pills.

The Pop-Bottle Method for Tablets

  1. Take a plastic water bottle that is flexible enough to squeeze in when you drink from it and fill it with water.
  2. Place the tablet on your tongue and close your lips tightly around the mouth of the bottle.
  3. Drink from the bottle by pursing your lips and sucking in water. Keep the mouth of the bottle entirely covered by your lips and refrain from allowing air to get into it. You should see the bottle begin to bend inward as you drink.
  4. Immediately swallow the pill along with the water.

Why it works: Sucking on a water bottle helps engage your swallowing reflex, enabling you to overcome the gag reflex that kicks in when trying to down a large tablet.

The Lean-Forward Method for Capsules

  1. Fill a glass, cup or bottle with water.
  2. Place the capsule on your tongue.
  3. Take a medium drink of water, but refrain from swallowing.
  4. Close your mouth and tilt your chin down towards your chest.
  5. Keeping your chin and head down, swallow both the water and the capsule.

Why it works: Most capsules float on water, making them difficult to swallow in the traditional way with your head in a neutral position or leaned backwards. Tilting your head forward while you have water in your mouth just before you swallow helps position the floating capsule at the back of your mouth so it slides more easily down your throat.

Still Have Trouble Swallowing Pills?

Nearly 97 percent of people who tried the lean-forward technique for capsules said the strategy was helpful, while 88 percent of people who used the pop-bottle technique with tablets said the same. These two methods were highly effective for many people, but there is no one-size-fits-all approach to making medications easier to take, especially for older adults with swallowing issues.

Some pills can be cut into smaller, more manageable pieces or crushed and added to food or drinks. Others can even be prescribed in a liquid form that eliminates the problem altogether. Doctors and pharmacists are key sources of information about medications. Always consult one of these professionals before trying anything new with a prescription or over-the-counter medicine.

Source: AgingCare.com

Can this eye scan detect Alzheimer’s years in advance?

Can this eye scan detect Alzheimer's years in advance?Researchers say early indicators of Alzheimer’s disease exist within our eyes, meaning a non-invasive eye scan could tip us off to Alzheimer’s years before symptoms occur.

It turns out the disease affects the retina — the back of the eye — similarly to how it affects the brain, notes neuroscience investigators at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in California. Through a high-definition eye scan, the researchers found they could see buildup of toxic proteins, which are indicative of Alzheimer’s.

“The findings suggest that the retina may serve as a reliable source for Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis,” said Cedars-Sinai associate professor Maya Koronyo-Hamaoui, lead author of the study, which published Thursday in the journal JCI Insight. “One of the major advantages of analyzing the retina is the repeatability, which allows us to monitor patients and potentially the progression of their disease.”

The Alzheimer’s Association reports about 5 million Americans live with the disease, a number expected to increase to 16 million by 2050. Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States.

Cedars-Sinai called the finding, “a major advancement” in sniffing out the disease earlier. Expensive and invasive brain scans have been the norm in recent years and for decades diagnosis came only by looking at a brain after a person died.

“Our hope is that eventually the investigational eye scan will be used as a screening device to detect the disease early enough to intervene and change the course of the disorder with medications and lifestyle changes,” said Keith L. Black, co-leader of the study and chair of the Cedars-Sinai Department of Neurosurgery.

In another find, the study uncovered plaques in unchecked regions of the retina, said research associate Yosef Koronyo. The amount of plaque in the retine matched the plaque in certain parts of the brain.

“Now we know exactly where to look to find the signs of Alzheimer’s disease as early as possible,” he said.

Source: USA Today

The Difference Between Physical, Speech and Occupational Therapy

The Difference Between Physical, Speech and Occupational TherapyBy understanding what rehabilitation services have to offer, you can make well-informed choices.

What is physical therapy?

Physical therapy (sometimes called PT) can help enhance mobility and quality of life by improving strength, balance, endurance, flexibility and posture. Physical therapy can maximize your loved one’s ability to get around at home and community, as well as participate in favorite recreational activities.

Where can I get physical therapy, and what happens during the sessions?

Physical therapy services are available in multiple settings including the hospital, rehabilitation centernursing home, outpatient clinic, adult medical day care, and at home.

In the hospital, rehab hospital or long-term care facility, most treatment sessions take place either in a hospital room or “therapy gym.” The goal of physical therapy in these settings is typically to improve function so that the patient is safe to return home with assistance. Your loved one may perform exercises lying down in bed or on a padded mat table to improve ability to get in and out of bed. Doing exercises with weights while sitting increases one’s strength and ability to get out of a chair, while exercises with weights while standing improve strength, balance and ability to walk. Very often “parallel bars” are available to provide support for both hands as the patient practices walking.

Physical therapy in an outpatient facility is usually for people who aren’t homebound and are able to tolerate a much higher level of activity. It often includes a variety of exercise equipment and machines to improve strength and balance. You may see stationary bicycles, treadmills, arm bikes as well as machines like the leg press. Don’t worry – the physical therapist will explain exactly how to use the machines properly and safely at the appropriate amount of weight and resistance for your relative.

Physical therapy in the home may be for those who are unable to leave home due to their medical status. It may also be for people who can get out and about, but logistical issues such as lack of transportation make it difficult to get to an outpatient facility consistently. The goal for PT at home is to maximize function at home and community to improve quality of life. Your loved one may do strengthening exercises lying on the bed, sitting in a chair or standing at the kitchen counter with weights or exercise resistance bands. Balance exercises may also be part of the mix. Your relative may practice going up and down your stairs, getting in and out of the car and walking in the neighborhood.

Speech language pathology

Speech-language pathology services (SLP) boost a person’s ability to communicate and to swallow.

In our society, it’s a common comfort to sit down and have a great conversation with family and friends over a great meal. That requires two essential skills: the ability to eat and swallow safely, and the ability to communicate. Both are absolutely critical to a good overall quality of life.

Nearly all activities of daily life require us to communicate, interact, and process information. Communication skills are necessary not only to convey wants and needs, but to socialize and connect with others.

What conditions can benefit from Speech-language pathology?

SLP addresses the declines associated with the aging process, such as neurological difficulties, age-related illness, and deterioration of the swallowing mechanism.

SLP may be able to help your loved one with declines due to brain injury, stroke, cancer, infection, or physical abnormality. It’s used to treat breathing problems due to lung diseases or tracheotomy.

Speech therapists also provide treatment of cognitive-linguistic impairments. This treatment focuses on restoring memory, sequencing, problem solving, safety awareness, attention, and their effects on the function of ADLs. Exercises may include breaking down a complicated task, like making a grocery list, to small simple steps. In this case, the steps include identifying what items you need (problem solving), finding a pen and paper, remembering the words for the items you want (memory), and writing the list (communication).

Does your loved one have trouble speaking, articulating words, or using expressive language? SLP can help in these instances, too, for conditions such as dysarthria or apraxia (motor speech disorders); hoarse or harsh vocal quality; complete or partial loss of voice; or aphasia(a language disorder).

Your parent may be taught specific exercises to strengthen the muscles of the face, mouth and throat such as blowing out, sipping in through a straw and making specific sounds like “pa” and “ma”.

Finally, speech-language pathology plays a critical role in the treatment of dysphagia, or swallowing disorder. The treatment of dysphagia is essential in maintaining healthy lungs and avoiding pneumonia. Beyond that, a therapist may be able to help your loved one enjoy a less restrictive diet with a wider variety of foods.

PT, OT, and SLP are typically available to patients via a referral from their physicians. At my practice, Fox Rehabilitation, we have seen all three of these therapies restore and rehabilitate the lives of thousands of seniors. If you believe your loved one might benefit from PT, OT or SLP, I encourage you to research practitioners in your area and talk with your family doctor. In a few months, you may see your loved one recover abilities once believed to be gone, and rejuvenate in a way you might never have thought possible.

Occupational therapy

Occupational therapy (also known as OT) focuses on your ability to fulfill your “occupations.” So for your parent, the roles could include mother, spouse, homemaker, grandparent, caregiver, or bridge player. Generally, OT assists with the ability to perform Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) such as getting dressed, toileting and bathing as well as Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs) such as driving, shopping, cooking and recreational activities.

What happens during occupational therapy?

Occupational therapy services are available in many of the same settings as physical therapy. The goal of OT in a hospital, rehab hospital or long-term care facility is often to improve function so that your loved one is safe to return home with assistance.

Treatment sessions, either in the hospital room or therapy gym, may focus on your parent’s posture and use of her arms to improve her ability to eat, dress, bathe and perform other ADLs. Exercises may include stretching and strengthening to make sure she has enough flexibility and strength to perform ADLs. A large part of OT is practicing, developing new strategies and using adaptive equipment to perform activities such as eating, dressing and bathing.

OT in an outpatient facility is not as common as outpatient physical therapy. When it’s offered, outpatient OT is usually for injuries to the hand or arm to maximize function in ADLs, IADLs and recreational activities. Patients may use the arm bike, arm exercises with weights, or special “silly putty” to improve hand strength and dexterity.

OT in the home offers the same benefits as PT at home. The goal is to maximize your parent’s function in his home and community to improve his quality of life. OT at home can include training in doing laundry, light meal preparation, grocery shopping and driving.

Source: AgingCare.com by MIMI JACOBS

Maple Syrup Fights Alzheimer’s

Maple syrup isn’t just delicious, it also could cure Alzheimer’s disease

It’s a sweet new health discovery: Maple syrup could cure Alzheimer’s disease.Maple Syrup Alzheimer's

The delicious pancake topping may soon find its way into granny’s pill bottle because it stops brain cell damage that causes the disease, scientists revealed Monday.

The tasty treat may prevent the clumping and “misfolding” of brain cell proteins — which build up and cause plaques that trigger the devastating disease, researchers at the American Chemical Society said.

An extract of the sticky stuff stopped the dangerous “folding” in two types of brain proteins, researchers from the Krembil Research Institute of the University of Toronto said.

“Natural food products such as green tea, red wine, berries, curcumin and pomegranates continue to be studied for their potential benefits in combating Alzheimer’s disease,” said symposium director Dr. Navindra Seeram.

“And now, in preliminary laboratory-based Alzheimer’s disease studies, phenolic-enriched extracts of maple syrup from Canada showed neuroprotective effects, similar to resveratrol, a compound found in red wine,” she said.

Researchers plan to study whether a maple syrup extract can be effective as a cure for degenerative brain disease.

The syrup protects two brain proteins — beta amyloid and tau peptide, researchers said.

Researchers from the American Chemical Society discussed the discovery at an annual symposium, which is being held March 13-17 in San Diego.

Dr. Donald Weaver of the Krembil Research Institute revealed the discovery.

 

Source: New York Post, March 17, 2016

Abuse and Neglect

Abuse and neglect of a senior or vulnerable adult happens much more often than most of us have any idea.  Approximately 9.5% of the US population over the age of 65 experiences some type of abuse, neglect and/or exploitation. We like to think that it won’t happen in our families.  Unfortunately, it can and very well may.Abuse and Neglect Women

Females are abused more frequently than males, and the older the individual is, the more likely they are to be abused.   The vast majority of abusers are family members (approximately 90%); most abusers are adult children, spouses, or partners. Family members who abuse drugs or alcohol, who have a mental/emotional illness, and those who feel burdened by their caregiving responsibilities abuse at higher rates than those who do not.

Abuse comes in many forms, neglect being the most frequent, followed by physical abuse, financial exploitation, and emotional abuse.  Neglect is the refusal to provide an elderly person with life necessities such as food, water, clothing, shelter, personal hygiene, medicine, comfort, and personal safety.  Physical abuse is a physical force that causes or is likely to cause injury, pain or impairment to an elder. Financial abuse or exploitation is the illegal or improper use of an elder’s funds, property or assets.

The elder is often reluctant to acknowledge or report abuse themselves because of fear of retaliation, fear of abandonment, lack of physical and/or cognitive ability to report, or because they don’t want to get the abuser, often a family member, in trouble.

We must be willing to stand up to protect our elders.  If you have concerns, or suspect abuse, do your part – talk to someone, call Adult Protective Services (APS).  APS provides services in each state to insure the safety and well-being of elders and adults with disabilities who are in danger of being mistreated or neglected, are unable to take care of themselves or protect themselves from harm, and have no one to assist them. A staff member will make contact with the elder to assess their current risk factors.  With the help of the elder, the APS worker will develop a plan to assist them. Those who have the capability to understand their circumstances have the right to refuse services, regardless of the level of risk. If you suspect abuse, call 208-334-3833.

Written by: Dee Childers, Life Changes Elder Care Consulting, LLC

Being a Healthy Caregiver

Caregiver

As a caregiver, you may find yourself with so many responsibilities that you neglect taking good care of yourself. But the best thing you can do for the person you are caring for is stay physically and emotionally strong. Here’s how:

See the doctor

Be sure to visit your physician regularly (at least annually), and listen to what your body is telling you. Any exhaustion, stress, sleeplessness, or changes in appetite or behavior should be taken seriously. Ignoring these symptoms can cause your physical and mental health to decline.

If you are caring for someone in the late-stages of Alzheimer’s, talk to your health care provider about the seasonal flu shot. Being vaccinated protects both you and the person you are caring for.

Get moving

No doubt you know that exercise is an important part of staying healthy — it can help relieve stress, prevent disease and make you feel good. But finding the time to exercise is another story.

Use these tips:

  • Take friends and family members up on their offers to help.
    You can get in a good workout in a short amount of time — even a 30 minute break. Use our Care Team Calendar to help coordinate a schedule where you have breaks to exercise and take care of your health.
  • Start small.
    While it is recommended that you get 30 minutes of physical activity at least five days a week, even 10 minutes a day can help. Fit in what you can, and work toward a goal.
  • Exercise at home.
    When the person with dementia naps, pull out a yoga mat and stretch, set up a stationary bike, or try exercise tapes.
  • Find something you love.
    If you enjoy the activity, it will be easier to make it a habit.

There also are many ways you can be active with the person with dementia. Here are a few ideas:

  • Take a walk together outside to enjoy the fresh air
  • Go to the mall and take a stroll indoors
  • Do seated exercises at home
  • Dance together to favorite music
  • Garden or do other routine activities that you both enjoy

Eat well

Heart-healthy eating patterns, such as the Mediterranean diet, are good for overall health and may help protect the brain. A Mediterranean diet includes relatively little red meat and emphasizes whole grains, fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts, olive oil and other healthy fats. Try new recipes and involve the person with dementia.

Need ideas on how to go healthy?
Try these resources:

Five tips to help you cope

  • Manage your level of stress.
    Consider how stress affects your body (stomach aches, high blood pressure) — and your emotions (overeating, irritability). Find ways to relax.
  • Be realistic.
    The care you give does make a difference, but many behaviors can’t be controlled. Grieve the losses, focus on positive times as they arise, and enjoy good memories.
  • Give yourself credit, not guilt.
    It’s normal to lose patience or feel like your care may fall short sometimes. You’re doing the best you can. For support and encouragement, join ALZConnected, our online caregiver community.
  • Take a break.
    It’s normal to need a break from caregiving duties. No one can do it all by themselves. Look into respite care to allow time to take care of yourself.
  • Accept changes.
    Eventually your loved one will need more intensive kinds of care. Research care options now so you are ready for the changes as they occur.

 

Source: Alz.org

Why Does Alzheimer’s Disease Affect More Women Than Men?

Women are disproportionately affected by Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Nearly two-thirds of the more than 5 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s are women and two-thirds of the more than 15 million Americans providing care and support for someone with Alzheimer’s disease are women. This devastating disease places an unbalanced burden on women at work and at home, forcing them to make difficult choices about their careers, their relationships and  their futures.

As real a concern as breast cancer is to women’s health, women in their 60s are about twice as likely to develop AD over the rest of their lives as they are to develop breast cancer.

So why does this disease seem to affect more women than men? At first glance, the answer may be that women generally live longer than men, making them more likely to reach the ages of greater risk. However, there is emerging evidence that suggests there may be unique biological reasons for these differences beyond longevity alone. These biological underpinnings may contribute to the underlying brain changes, progression and symptom manifestation in Alzheimer’s disease.

There is evidence that biological sex differences may affect mortality in men differently than women, but how that affects Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia incidence is not clear. Do hormones play a role? What about our genes? Do lifestyle components such as sleep patterns, stress and depression influence sex differences in Alzheimer’s disease?

To tackle many of these questions head on, the Alzheimer’s Association convened top experts in the field of biological sex and Alzheimer’s disease to explore these issues in depth. The “Gender Vulnerability Related to Alzheimer’s Disease” think tank identified gaps in our knowledge and next steps in research needed to advance our understanding. During the think tank, three main topics were discussed: underlying biological mechanisms, the role of hormonal factors and the impact of lifestyle factors.

As a direct result of this think tank, the Alzheimer’s Association announced the new Sex and Gender in Alzheimer’s (SAGA) grant funding program, aimed at supporting scientific investigation that addresses the gaps in our understanding of the role biological sex and related genetic, biological, lifestyle and societal factors may play in increasing vulnerability for Alzheimer’s. Additionally, projects funded through SAGA will help meet a need to incorporate learnings from the developing biology fields to merge the expanding field of sex biology research with Alzheimer’s pathophysiological studies.mariacarrillo

As with all of our grants, applications for SAGA funding will undergo the Alzheimer’s Association’s rigorous peer-review process. I look forward to sharing more about these grants when they are awarded later this year.

 

About the Author: Maria Carrillo, Ph.D., is Chief Science Officer, Medical and Scientific Relations, at the Alzheimer’s Association.

SAGA was made possible from the generous support of the Women’s Alzheimer’s Research Initiative (WARI), a campaign that supports research grants specific to sex-biology and gender issues in Alzheimer’s and other dementias. To date, the Alzheimer’s Association has raised $1.6 million for the initiative, including a generous $1 million in support from the Sigma Kappa Foundation.

 

Source: Blog.alz.org, Feb 11, 2016

How Giving Thanks Can Improve Your Health

As we enter the season of thanksgiving (including The Day itself), we are told repeatedly to count our blessings and practice gratitude. Many of us stop to consider all we have to be thankful for only for a moment on the fourth Thursday of November. But does the act of giving thanks provide benefits beyond a momentary acknowledgement of the good in our lives? Can a daily practice of gratitude actually improve our health?

Many experts think so. One of the main scientists exploring the phenomenon of giving thanks is Robert Emmons, who has studied the topic extensively. His book, Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier, chronicles the studies he’s done that have convinced him that gratitude “is literally one of the few things that can measurably change people’s lives.”

Emmons is far from alone in his enthusiasm for gratitude. Dr. Lawrence Rosen, an integrative pediatrician and founder of the Whole Child Center, is also an advocate. According to Rosen, there are at least five benefits of gratitude that have scientific studies to back them up.

  • Gratitude reduces depression.
  • Gratitude engenders a feeling of peace.
  • Gratitude aids in restful sleep.
  • Gratitude improves heart health.
  • Gratitude strengthens memory.

So, how does one practice the art of gratitude?

One of the practices that Mr. Emmons extols is the gratitude journal. Oprah Winfrey has been talking about her personal experiences with a gratitude journal for years. The goal here is to set aside some time every day and write down several things you’re grateful for. According to Emmons, the act of writing “allows you to see the meaning of events going on around you and create meaning in your own life.”

Here are some other tips to keep you on the road of practicing gratitude:

Create visual cues

The toils of daily life can make us quickly forget all we have to be grateful for. So, remind yourself every day with visual reminders. This could be a photograph, a physical token of a feel-good moment (such as a souvenir from a wonderful vacation), or even just a Post-It note listing something for which you’re grateful.

Get support

Surround yourself with people who practice gratitude on a daily basis. Hearing someone share what they’re thankful for (especially if they’re facing a challenge) will remind you of all the blessings in your own life.

Give freely of yourself

Be conscious of the “emotional wake” you leave in the word. Smile at strangers and notice their reaction. Being conscious of how your actions affect others will naturally lead to others being grateful for you, which is the one of the greatest gifts of all.

Gratitude is like any other discipline – it takes practice! It starts with being awake and aware of the world around you and the beauty that is available for all us to share.

 

Senior Volunteers Give from the Heart Wordfind

Serving as a volunteer is a way more and more older adults are giving back to their community and their nation. And volunteering offers many health benefits!

Give your brain a workout with this month’s puzzle, which contains 20 words all having to do with locating volunteer opportunities that are a great fit for your skills and interests. Click here to download and print the puzzle.

Need a little help? Click here for the solution to the puzzle.

Copyright © IlluminAge AgeWise, 2015