Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Seniors Blue Book

Contributed by Deanna Page


One of the biggest requests that we receive from family caregivers is for information on local, state, and national resources and programs that can help them and their aging loved ones. There’s a plethora of resources and information available out there, but how do they hear about what’s available to them?


Well one of the biggest resources that can assist family caregivers and older adults with the question of “Where do I start?” in terms of finding resources is the Seniors Blue Book! The Seniors Blue Book is “a comprehensive source of services, senior housing options, resources and information”. The Seniors Blue Book and can help connect you to local community resources and services to assist with the aging process and decision-making needs.


In the Pittsburgh area, the Seniors Blue Book can be found at hundreds of locations throughout the greater Pittsburgh area, including local hospitals, physician offices, senior centers, libraries, home health agencies, senior housing and retirement communities, health fairs, Kuhn’s Markets and most gathering places for seniors.  There are over 70 categories of information included in the Book, and they include listings for all available services in the Pittsburgh area, not just paid advertisers, so that they can offer the most complete guide to the community. The Seniors Blue Book is also a great guide for professionals working with caregivers and older adults, including social workers, physicians, nurses, physical therapists, counselors, etc.


To order a free copy for yourself or your company, you can visit their website at and click the link to order FREE copies! You can also access the same resources available in the Book at their website and can learn about local upcoming events and find helpful articles too. Don’t miss out on accessing this helpful resource for caregivers and older adults in the Pittsburgh area!

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

10 Simple Stress Busting Methods You Can Use Right Now

By Chloe Pearson

Stress is something goes along with the role of caregiver, but it doesn’t have to take control of your life. Here are 10 tricks to tank stress right now:


1. Stretch. Something wonderful happens to your body when you take a moment stretch your arms and legs. It activates your body’s relaxation response and, according to Plexus, when combined with deep breathing can help you fight stress.


2. Take a whiff. If you’ve ever walked into the kitchen as cookies were coming fresh out of the oven, you know how powerful and soothing scent can be. You can harness your olfactory senses to squash stress in seconds. Scents such as lavender, rosemary and cinnamon can put your mind in a meditative mood; peppermint can help you focus.


3. Count. You’ve no doubt heard that you should count to 10 before saying something in anger. There’s a reason for this. Counting gives you a moment to stop and assess the situation, whether it’s stress, fear, or irritation. Psychology Today explains further that you can use numbers, especially counting games, to effectively change your thought processes during a stressful situation, so you can switch your focus to something more pleasant.


4. Walk away. While you may not be able to stray too far from your loved one, if you’re feeling stressed out, take a moment to walk around the room. If they are napping, you may be able to sneak in a five-minute break to take a walk around the perimeter of your home or to the mailbox. Giving yourself a change of scenery can help you approach stressful caregiver situations with a fresh perspective.


5. Focus on your body. The way we perceive stress starts with the mind but can have serious consequences on the body. Entrepreneur explains that if you focus on your body and the physical sensations you’re feeling, you may be able to reduce the emotional toll of the day.


6. Look at pictures. Science says that looking at certain types of images can bring about an instant sense of calmness. This can be photos of nature, pictures of your loved ones, or a photo album from your last family vacation. You can also look at photos with the person to whom you are providing care to stir up a few pleasant memories.


7. Read a funny story. They say laughter is the best medicine, and the U.S. National Library of Medicine seemingly agrees. It’s been shown that laughter can have a positive effect on postpartum fatigue and stress. Even if you’re caring for an aging relative, the effects are similar. Take a few moments to read a funny story or watch a funny video. When you laugh, your body releases dopamine, which goes to work beating cortisol – the stress hormone – back from whence it came.


8. Grab a drink. We’re not talking about alcohol, but grabbing a quick drink of water when you’re feeling stressed out can help you wash away your worries. Mild dehydration can elevate your cortisol levels and drinking plain old water is the best way to rehydrate.


9. Go outside. There is an undeniable link between stress relief and spending time outdoors. Even if you can’t break away to go outside, open a window with a view. Even the act of just looking at nature will calm your nerves.


10. Chew gum. Sometimes, you just need an outlet for your nervous energy. Chewing gum can provide that outlet with the added benefit of giving you fresh breath. Make sure to choose a sugar-free variety so your stress-chewing habit doesn’t turn into cavities.


While there is no way to avoid some of the stress that goes along with putting yourself second, there are ways to beat stress and the above self-care habits are simple, easy to remember, and won’t interfere with your caregiver obligations.

Image via Pixabay

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

A New Support Group for Coping with Grief

by Emily Anderson

You may have heard of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross's "Five Stages of Grief:" Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. In real life, grief is often complicated, rising and falling like waves, and refusing to follow a neat progression through stages. Everyone grieves differently, and having support in your grief process can be critical to finding a place of peace again.

The JFCS is launching a new program that runs from April 16th to June 26th this year that has a unique approach to dealing with grief. Meeting every other Tuesday from 3pm-5pm, the six-session group will focus on telling the stories of deceased loved ones to recognize and redefine our relationships with them. All participants will have a chance to share their stories, as well as participate in discussions and journaling exercises.

If you have lost someone--recently or not--consider contacting Kelli McElhinny at 412-422-7200 to participate in this one-of-a-kind experience.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Look Out for Tax Scams!

by Emily Anderson

Tax season is a boom time...for identity thieves and scammers looking to skim money from unsuspecting taxpayers. You and your loved one might be especially vulnerable to scammers. Your loved one might have a touch of memory loss, for example, making it easier for a stranger to deceive them. You might be overwhelmed by medical bills and daily chores and in the rush, give out personal information to a "phishing" scam. For other people, the unfamiliar landscape of the internet makes it more difficult to tell who is honest and who is dirty.

The AARP lists these scams as some of the "Dirty Classic Scams:"

  1. Phishing: You should watch for potential fake emails or websites seeking personal information. The IRS will never send you an email about a bill or tax refund. Don’t click on a message claiming to be from the IRS.
  2. Phone Scams: Scammers who impersonate IRS agents are an ongoing threat. Some con artists who use this ploy have threatened taxpayers with deportation, arrest and revocation of their licenses if they fail to follow the scammers' instructions.
  3. Identity Theft: You should guard against possible identity theft. While the IRS has worked to better detect tax-return related identity theft, it reminds taxpayers that they can help in preventing this crime by protecting their personal data.
  4. Tax-Return Preparer Fraud: Watch out for unscrupulous tax-return preparers. The vast majority of tax professionals are honest. But some dishonest preparers scam clients, perpetuating refund fraud, identity theft and other scams that hurt taxpayers.
  5. Fake Charities: Groups posing as charitable organizations solicit donations. Some of these groups use names similar to nationally known organizations to deceive consumers. The status of charities can be checked using tools found at
  6. Inflated Refund Claims: Taxpayers should be wary of anyone promising inflated refunds. If a tax preparer asks you to sign a blank return, promises you a big refund before looking at your records, or charges fees based on a percentage of your refund, they are probably up to no good.

What You Can Do

A little information can go a long way towards protecting yourself and your loved one from fraud. First, keep in mind that the IRS usually contacts people by mail, and never calls to demand payments over the phone. The IRS will not ask you to give out debit information over the phone, nor will they threaten to call the police and have you arrested if you don't make an immediate payment. Be aware that scam artists may have some of your information already, but that doesn't mean they are the real deal. If have any doubts, it is always ok to hang up and call the IRS directly yourself at 800-829-1040.

General fraud protection practices include shredding important documents, filing your tax returns as early as possible, and developing a personal relationship with your tax preparer. If your loved one has cognitive issues, you may want to peek at their mail or their checkbook from time to time to see if anyone is taking advantage of them financially.

For more information and to get alerts about new scams, check out the AARP Fraud Watch Network.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Get Smart: Spring 2018

by Emily Anderson

Spring has sprung! Time to get some of these excellent and informative events on your calendar!

National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day is 
April 29, 2017, 10am - 2pm
This nationwide event helps you safely remove dangerous expired or unused prescription drugs from your homes. In Allegheny county, call (412) 459-5000 to schedule a pickup with the sheriff's office, or Click here to find a take-back location near you

The APPRISE Lunch & Learn Medicare Series
All are held at the Human Services building, 1 Smithfield St, Downtown Pittsburgh
Contact Bill McKendree to sign up at 412-661-1670 x645 or

Medicare Basics--April 19, 2018
A review of the Medicare system, including its design, function, vocabulary, and how the parts coordinate to cover services and medications.

The Medicare Appeals Process--June 21, 2018
Exploring the problems with accessing health care services and prescription drugs under your specific plan, including the issue of "In Patient" versus "Observation" status for hospital services.

Community HealthChoices (CHC)--July 19, 2018
We'll review the current status of the CHC initiative in Allegheny County and discuss the application process for Waiver programs and other home care benefits for seniors.

Retirement Planning--August 23, 2018
This presentation will look at issues around enrollment into the Medicare and Social Security retirement benefits.

Medicare Coverage for People with End Stage Renal Disease--September 13, 2018
Medicare eligibility requirements and benefit coverage options for people diagnosed with end stage renal disease.

New Developments in Medicare for 2019--October 11, 2018
Review the Medicare Part C and Part D plan changes for the 2018 Annual Enrollment Period (for the 2019 calendar year). Talk with representatives from the insurance companies that provide Medigaps, Part C Advantage plans, and Part D prescription drug plans (for Allegheny County) to discuss the changes for 2019. We will also examine the Medicare insurance products that are specifically available for dual eligible (Medicare and Medicaid) individuals, and how these plans will be impacted by the Community HealthChoices (CHC) initiative.

Powerful Tools for Caregivers
Offered by the Allegheny County AAA
A class series held once a week for six sessions, this program helps family caregivers reduce stress, improve self-confidence, communicate effectively, balance their lives, and increase their ability to make tough decisions. Classes are free, but registration is required, so call or email Brenda Slagle at or 412-350-4996  See below for dates and locations of this series.

Dates: Fridays, May 4 through June 8, 2018           
Time: 1:00 – 3:00 pm           
Location: Elizabeth Seton Center                          
1900 Pioneer Avenue    
 Pittsburgh, PA 15226 

Dates: Fridays, June 22 through July 27, 2018                                                              
Time: 1:00 – 3:00 pm           
Location: Plum Senior Center                                          
499 Center New Texas Rd. 
Pittsburgh, PA 15239 

Dates: Fridays, October 5 through November 9, 2018                                                 
Time: 1:00 – 3:00 pm      
Location: Mon Valley Senior Center/LifeSpan        
4313 Walnut Street, Ste. 370    
 McKeesport, PA 15132

If you know of other programs going on in the area, please let us know! Happy learning!

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

How to Stay Safe from Black Boxed Drugs

By Cal Cook
What Are Black Boxed Warnings?

Most people don’t read the labels on their prescription drugs, so they’re unfamiliar with the term black box warning. On most prescription drugs, there’s a list of adverse interactions, side effects, and more information about the drug. On a select number of drugs, there is an additional warning within a black box, or outline. This warning may be highlighted in bold font. It’s aptly named a “black box warning” and it indicates a serious level of risk associated with the drug. Whether due to its addictive tendencies, increased risk of death, serious side effects, or other reasons, a black box warning explains the potentially grave side effects of the drug. This labelling is actually mandated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States.

What Common Medications are These Warnings Found On?

Thankfully, since these warnings indicate a significant amount of risk, they aren’t common. But there are a handful of relatively popular medications with black boxed warnings.

Vicodin is probably the most popular medication with a black boxed warning. Its overprescription by unscrupulous doctors is actually one of the causes of the current opioid crisis in the US. Vicodin is a pain relief medication that’s black boxed for its (unsurprisingly) highly addictive nature as an opioid.
Xarelto is one of the most widely used anticoagulants, meaning that its mechanism of action is to prevent the effects of clotting enzymes in the blood. It’s black boxed for its propensity to lead to patients bleeding to death. The scary thing about this drug is that there is no known antidote, so if you have internal bleeding as a result of taking it (even as prescribed), there is very little hope of positive medical intervention.
Zoloft is an antidepressant that’s one of the more common SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors). It keeps serotonin, one of the neurotransmitters associated with positive emotions, at an artificially high level in the brain. The downside of this drug, which is why it’s black boxed, involves the increased suicide risk associated with its intake, especially amongst adolescent populations.

How Can I Report Adverse Side Effects?

  1. Talk with your doctor or pharmacist who prescribed you the drug. They will have information for next steps based on your unique health profile.
  2. Report the incident to the FDA through their Medwatch portal. This step is crucial to helping inform future patients.
  3. Consider calling 1-800-FDA-1088 to directly notify the FDA of the incident.

What Should I Talk With My Doctor or Pharmacist About?

     Are there alternatives to this drug without the black boxed warning?
     How does this drug interact with other medications/supplements I’m taking, or food that’s a regular part of my diet?
     Why was I prescribed this drug over alternate options?

What’s clear from this information is that while you can be as cautious as possible, there’s still significant risk associated with taking black boxed drugs. Do your best to minimize the risk by educating yourself using the resources provided, but you should shoot for tapering off the black boxed drugs under the care of your physician. With the help of a qualified medical professional and significant lifestyle changes, most people can avoid these drugs being a daily necessity.
Cal Cook investigates and writes about consumer-focused topics including finance, scams and safety. His passion lies in exposing fraud across all industries to protect consumers.