The Benefits of Having a Pet

There are many benefits to owning a pet as you get older. When you live alone you may become depressed or anxious. Pets can help lower blood pressure, reduce stress, and increase your physical activity and social interaction. One of the best parts about pets is that they can help lessen loneliness.

Some of the benefits of owning a pet are:

  • Companionship – For those who have lost spouses, live far away from family, or have become isolated due to health challenges, loneliness is prevalent. Having a pet can provide a daily companion who loves to see you every morning and evening and is with you throughout the day.
  • Purpose – Having a pet gives you a reason to get up in the morning when you are having a hard time getting out of bed. They rely on you to give them food, water, and exercise. This makes it fun for you to plan your day around your pet and support its routine, especially if you live alone.
  • Fitness – Taking care of a pet is an active job. I’m not saying running and jumping all over the place, but they keep you active. Getting up to feed them, letting them out, cleaning a cat box, and even taking them on walks.
  • Ice Breakers – Bumping into other pet owners gives you common ground. Making conversation about your pets is easy and can help with being more social. This also helps with loneliness.
  • Joy – Have you ever noticed how much a dog or cat video makes you smile? It is because they bring us joy. They are fun to watch play, goof around, be clumsy, and even sleep. Having one of your own that you can watch every day will bring a smile to your face knowing that you have a friend for life.
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Medicare and turning 65.

Almost 65? Find out what you should know about Medicare.

Fun fact: 10,000 baby boomers a day will turn 65 between now and 2030. Chances are you are one of them. You generally become eligible for Medicare at age 65 and delaying your enrollment can result in penalties. It’s best for you to learn more as soon as possible.

There are four major parts of Medicare.

  • Part A covers hospital stays
  • Part B covers physician fees
  • Part C also called Medicare Advantage and that is offered by private insurance companies and combines the benefits of Parts A and B and usually D
  • Part D covers prescription medications

Medicare Supplements (also known as Medigap) offer additional coverage to individuals enrolled in Parts A and B.

When am I eligible for Medicare? The Enrollment in Medicare begins three months before your 65th birthday and ends 3 months after your birthday month. You will automatically be enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B if you are currently receiving Social Security benefits the month you turn 65. If you are not currently receiving Social Security Benefits, you will need to sign up for Medicare by going to the Social Security website by clicking here or calling 800-772-1213.

What if I’m still working and have a group insurance plan? You might not need to sign up for Medicare Part B right away. Ask your employer whether the employer’s plan is the primary insurer. If Medicare ends up being the primary insurance instead of your employer’s insurance, you will still need to sign up for Part B to avoid a potential late enrollment penalty. If you are not going to sign up for Part B, you should still enroll in Part A. This may help pay for some of the costs that might not be covered by your group health plan.

During your initial enrollment period, it is extremely important that you sign up for Medicare Part B especially if you do not currently have an employer or group insurance plan. You can, however, delay Part B without penalty if you have other coverage. Please make note

If you do not sign up for Medicare Part B right away, you’ll likely be subject to a penalty. The premium will go up 10 percent for every 12-month period that you were eligible for part B and not enrolled, unless you were enrolled in other creditable coverage in that time. You must wait for the next general enrollment period to enroll, which runs between January 1 and March 31 of each year.

What are Medicare Supplements? Under Medicare you are still responsible for 20% of most costs, plus copayments and coinsurance for things like hospital stays. Most of what is not covered by Medicare can be covered by purchasing a Medicare Supplement insurance policy from a private insurer.  If this is something you are interested in you can search online for a Medigap policy in your area at Medicare.gov by . Or if you would like a free quote for a personalized plan in your area click here to visit our free Medigap Quote engine.

What is Medicare Advantage? Medicare Advantage, also known as Part C, is offered by private insurers. You must be enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B to be able to join a Medicare Advantage plan. If you join a Medicare Advantage plan, the plan will provide all your Part A and Part B coverage, and most will also provide prescription drug coverage. Medicare Advantage could also possibly provide additional coverage, such as dental, hearing, vision, and/or health and wellness programs. These plans typically require you to get all your care through that plan and may have specific networks of doctors you must use or other limitations.

What is Part D?  Part D offers prescription drug coverage through plans offered by private insurers who are contracted with Medicare. If you’re enrolling in a Medicare Supplement or just keeping Original Medicare, you will likely want to enroll in a stand-alone Part D plan to cover your prescriptions. If you don’t enroll during your initial enrollment period and you don’t have other creditable coverage, you may be subject to a penalty for each month you were without coverage. Every month you delay enrollment past the initial enrollment period, your Medicare part D premium will increase at least 1 percent. If you had drug coverage through another source, like an employer or retiree group plan that is at least as good as Medicare’s, you may be exempt from these penalties. If you need a prescription drug plan you should visit the Medicare.gov website by clicking here.

Here are some other links that you might find helpful:

The Official U.S. Government Site for Medicare

The Medicare Rights Center

National Council on Aging – My Medicare Matters

Free Medigap Quote Engine

 

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Senior Technology Checklist

Here is a list of 5 technological items you should have and learn to use.

  1. Tablets and iPads

There are so many things that you can do with these items. Having a tablet can connect you to family pictures, reading books, listening to music, learning about new countries and languages! They are lightweight and have adjustable font size making it easier to read. There are also apps that can help track fitness along with games that promote brain fitness.

  1. Skype

Sometimes we get lonely, and Skype is a way to make sure we can stay connected with family and friends we might not be able to see every day. It’s available for smartphones, tablets, and regular computers. Real-time video communication with those we love is a snap thanks to Skype.

  1. Health Tracking Software

If you have a computer or mobile device, you should know how to set up a health tracker on your phone. There is a wealth of opportunity out there. Most of these apps have the ability to track your medications, your nutritional needs, keep track of your exercise and weight. These things can help you be more independent and take control of your wellness.

  1. GPS

As silly as it sounds, we tend to get more forgetful as we get older. This makes getting lost a strong possibility. Using an app on your smartphone or even using a GPS tracker that can attach to your wrist or clothing can greatly improve your chance of getting home safely in case you become forgetful or lost.

  1. Home assistive devices

The items listed here are things that will help you remain independent and safe. Besides the GPS there are other devices such as stove shut off systems, wireless home monitoring, LED lighting, medication dispensing applications, and photo-enhanced phone dialers. These can all help you with mild cognitive and motor impairment.

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Love Yourself, Love Your Heart

Did you know that heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States? Do not become a statistic.

Schedule an appointment with your doctor to discuss whether or not you are at risk for heart disease.

In addition to speaking with your doctor there are a few things you can do to show your heart you care.

  • Eat Healthy
    • Portion control, more fruits and veggies, less sugar and fats
  • Physical Activity
    • The American Heart Association recommends walking for 30 minutes a day
  • Weight Management
    • Eating better, working out/exercising
  • Stress Management
    • Get enough sleep, talk with friends and family, get organized
  • Quit Smoking
    • Try to kick the habit

Want more information? Visit the American Heart Association webpage for detailed information on leading a healthier lifestyle for you and your heart.

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6 Healthy Food Tips for Seniors

Here are 6 tips to help fit your dietary needs as you get older for both your body and your budget.

  1. Important Nutrients

Eating a variety of foods helps you get all the nutrients you need. Making your plate look as colorful as possible is always the best choice. Healthy meals should include:

  • Lean protein (lean meats, fish, egg whites, legumes)
  • Fruits and veggies (green, red, orange, and purple)
  • Whole grains (whole wheat bread and pasta, brown rice)
  • Low-fat dairy (milk and its alternatives)

Choose foods that are high in fiber and low in sodium. Finding foods with extra Vitamin D is a great addition as it is an important mineral as we age.

  1. What does a healthy plate look like?

When we were younger it seemed all we saw about healthy eating was the food pyramid. Luckily for us, the USDA unveiled an easier way to help us see what we should be eating each day. This simple graphic below is called MyPlate. Follow this link to see your recommended serving. It shows us exactly how the five food groups should be laid out on our plates. Easy way to keep track of a healthy diet.

  1. Stay hydrated

Drinking small amounts of fluids throughout the day will help keep you from being dehydrated. Water is best, but if you must drink other items keep the salt and sugar at a minimum, unless your doctor has stated otherwise.

 

  1. Read the label

The best and healthiest foods are whole foods. (Meaning not processed or packaged.) If you must eat packaged foods, make sure to read the Nutrition Facts on the label. Stay away from the foods that are high in fats, sugar, and sodium.

 

  1. Recommended servings

As we get older we need to work on maintaining our weight and eating the right amount of food for our age and body. Lucky for us, the American Heart Association provides recommended daily servings for adults aged 60+.

 

  1. Stretching your food budget

Have you ever heard of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistant Program (SNAP)? It is a program that helps those in need to afford healthy food for when they need it. There are over 4 million older Americans that use SNAP to buy food, and the average senior receives  $113 a month. Click BenefitsCheckUp.org/getSNAP to see if the program can help you.

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Sometimes it’s okay to quit

I know that trying to quit smoking is extremely difficult. I’ve been there myself, recently in fact. I am proud to say that after 20+ years smoking, I am now a non-smoker going on 5 months. I am not going to lie, it was a hard road, but not impossible. I would like to share with you the tips and tricks that got me where I am today. Hopefully these tips can help you in your journey of kicking the habit.

  1. Deep Breathing

When you get the urge to light a cigarette, take in a deep breath and let it out slowly. I am sure you know by now that stress is a strong trigger for your nicotine cravings. Breathing slowly will help relax and calm you down. The extra oxygen you’re breathing in can help with your headaches and/or the feelings of dizziness/lightheadedness. I searched YouTube for videos that taught deep breathing exercises since I wasn’t very good at doing it on my own. One of my favorites can be found HERE.

  1. Drink Lots of Water

Did you know that drinking water can actually speed up the nicotine detox? What this means is that your cravings will go away quicker as the nicotine leaves your body. Drinking water will also help by breaking up the mucus in your lungs making it easier to cough. Another benefit of drinking plenty of water is it will help combat your increased appetite without changing your eating habits. (Increased appetite is one of the side effects that I did not particularly care for while I was quitting smoking. Drinking water did help me battle my new cravings for food to satisfy my nicotine void.)

  1. Meditation

Although I already covered deep breathing, meditation is a great way to handle some of the psychological aspects of going through nicotine withdrawal. Learning how to meditate can help ease your stress which in turn helps curb that want/need for nicotine. There are several different ways to meditate. A few examples are repeating specific mantras, deep breathing, and envisioning special thoughts or pictures. Learning simple meditation techniques can help you find out what might be triggering your cravings. Once you figure out what these triggers are, you can learn to avoid them.

  1. Limiting Your Caffeine Intake

Coffee is a stimulant that increases your heartrate which makes dealing with stress more difficult. Oddly enough, nicotine suppresses the effects of caffeine, so once you quit, your normal 2-3 cups of coffee will have a stronger effect on you. You can only imagine what these effects are doing to your overall well-being.

  1. Find Yourself a Fidget Toy

Getting into the habit of finding healthier ways to relieve stress can improve your health. Something as simple as using your hands to keep yourself busy can be extremely beneficial in keeping yourself relaxed and calm without the use of nicotine. One of my favorite things to play with is kinetic sand. I also have a stress ball and silly putty. These may not be enough for you, but they might put you in the right direction to keep you from grabbing a cigarette instead.

  1. Snack Light, Snack Healthy

As I mentioned previously, your appetite is going to increase. Having healthy snacks on hand will help with keeping your weight down. It can also help satisfy your need to bring your hand to your mouth for that repetitive motion that your hands are used to doing while smoking. If you’re craving a cigarette, grab a carrot or celery stick instead. I found that the crunchier the snack the more it relieved my stress and kept the cigarette craving away.

  1. Start Up a New Hobby

I know that it isn’t easy to keep your mind off of smoking, especially if it was part of your usual routine for several years if not decades. Finding a hobby to help with this will benefit you in the long run. You might find that you had a hidden talent all along. Learn to paint, quilt, sew, crochet, or even cook. That was my hidden talent. I found out that I am quite the chef and I didn’t even know it. After I quit, I noticed that my sense of smell and taste had come back to me. Everything just tasted and smelled better. Knowing how delicious everything is that I cook was enough for me to not pick up another cigarette. I never wanted my senses to be denied again.

  1. Exercise

Sometimes exercising can help when you try to quit smoking. When you exercise, dopamine is released Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that you also get when you smoke cigarettes. By replacing a cigarette with exercise, you may be able to get the same dopamine your body is used to in a much healthier way. Staying active and working out frequently can help speed up the repair process your body is going through in order to fix some of the damage that the nicotine did.

  1. Get Rid of the Stuff that Reminds You of Smoking

Throw away those lighters and ashtrays. Seeing those things around the house and outside will only remind you of the times you had smoking and will make you think that you need “just one more”. Parting with these items shows your brain who is in control and that you are truly ready to give up the nasty habit. When you leave these things it is much easier to get back into the habit. If they are gone, you would have to go out of your way to replace them which makes it more difficult for you dive back in.

  1. Clean Everything

Take your car to get detailed, have someone come steam clean your carpets, do a Spring Cleaning in the middle of February. Getting rid of the stale smoke smell will keep you from reminiscing all the times you and your cigarettes had together. This means doing laundry, changing all bedding, wiping everything down. Even if you don’t smoke in your house and car, you were in both and your smell was left behind. When this smell is gone the less likely you will want that smell on you again. Trust me, you smell much better without the smell of cigarette smoke hanging around you like a dirt cloud. You will appreciate it and so will those around .

Once you have decided it is time for you to quit smoking, follow these simple tips to keep yourself on track and kick your smoking habit.

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Ahh-Chooo! Oh no, it’s the flu.

It’s flu season. The sneezing, coughing, and body aches that keep us in bed days at a time. Living off of whatever home cooked food gives you comfort and possibly watching TV for hours on end. Here are five simple ways to try and have yourself feeling better in no time.

Drink plenty of fluids.

This sounds like something you might hear from your doctor all the time, and for good reason. Drinking fluids will help break up that nasty mucus, making it easier for you to breathe. Believe it or not, chicken noodle soup is considered a fluid, along with other broth based soups. So keep drinking your fluids and eating your soup!

Keep your flu at home.

No one wants to get sick, and you don’t want to be Patient X. Everyone around you will know you are the reason they feel miserable as well. Stay at home and give your poor body some much needed rest so you can feel better sooner. Read a book, or curl up on the couch and watch your favorite series. This might help you feel a little better and ease those aches and pains brought on by this nasty virus.

Steam yourself

Filling your bathroom sink with hot water and holding your head over the steam might give you a little relief and help break up some of the gunk in your chest and nose. Sometimes people will add a teaspoon of over-the-counter menthol rub or eucalyptus oils for a soothing effect. Another way to get some extra steam is to sit in the bathroom with the door closed. Let the showers hot water run until the room is full of steam. Please make sure to sit away from the water so you can avoid getting burned. It is possible that these might make you feel better, but unfortunately there is no proof that they will really help with your symptoms.

Humidify

Sometimes the air in our house can be dry and this can cause us to feel even more miserable. Running a humidifier or vaporizer might help ease congestion and coughs. When using any device like this, please make sure to follow the instruction manual, and keep it clean by using their required method printed for the device. Failing to follow the directions can promote the growth of bacteria and molds.

The flu shot.

You might be saying “Why should I get a flu shot? I just got one last year.” Unfortunately, the flu virus is sneaky and can change from year to year. This is why it is important to get the flu shot every flu season. According to the Medicare the flu shot is “free for people with Medicare, once per flu season when you get it by doctors or other health care providers (like senior centers and pharmacies) that take Medicare.” Visit the site listed above to learn more about what Medicare can do for you.

Please make sure to take care of yourself and stop the flu before it stops you!

 

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