Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Hearing Loss and the Evolution of Hearing Aids

Contributed by Angela Bells

Hearing aids have come a long way over the centuries and advances in technology like connectivity and other innovations will also impact audio assistance devices. Hearing aids started out as rather large, cumbersome implementations. At least eighty percent of those living with hearing loss have reported they have troubles understanding others because they do not rely on a hearing aid to help them. Ear trumpets were used in the 17th and 18th centuries for those who had hearing loss. These were custom made for specific patients.

In 1898 the first electric hearing aid was invented. It was called the Akoulathon. It used a carbon transmitter to convert weak audio signals into stronger ones. The 1920s saw the vacuum tube hearing aid develop. This telephone transmitter turned speech into electric signals.
Major advances were made in 1948 when the transistor hearing aid was created. The device used transistors rather than vacuum tubes. It was in the 1970s that a hybrid analog-digital hearing aid came on the scene. It relied on a microprocessor. The mid-1990s saw the development of the digital hearing aid. These devices have become smaller and more powerful in the 21st century.

The following infographic provides information on the evolution of hearing aid solutions.


Although just one in six people with hearing troubles use a hearing aid to help them, at least 90 percent of cases can be improved through such devices. Looking back, the wearing of hearing aids has become less and less troublesome as technological and electronic advancements have made a positive impact on its development.

Hearing aids first began as ear trumpets in the 17th and 18th centuries. It wasn’t until 1898 that the very first hearing aid that used electricity was developed. The Akoulathon used a carbon transmitter to change weak audio signals into stronger ones that were easier to hear.
However, things really changed for those with hearing loss when the vacuum tube hearing aid was invented in the 1920s. This device was able to turn speech into electric signals.
The vacuum tube hearing aid was later modified to a transistor hearing aid, replacing the hot vacuum tubes with transistors. Since the 1970s digital hearing aids have been the most common device, becoming more compact and powerful in the 21st century. Thanks to changes in technology, hearing aids have become smaller and even more powerful nowadays! So if you know an older adult who could benefit from using a hearing aid, please share this information with them and encourage them explore hearing aid options!

Angela Bells is the community coordinator for small businesses across Canada. She loves writing blogs and enjoys riding her bike around town and otherwise spending far too much time at the computer!

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Making Sense of Medicare and Health Care Coverages for Seniors

Contributed by Jim Vogel
You know that Medicare should be part of your retirement plan, but do you know how? Understanding Medicare, and all of the various parts and supplements plans, can be downright confusing. However, you need to sort through the chaos if you want to have the best health care coverage during retirement. So, to help you make some sense of the murky Medicare system, here are a few tips and resources you need to know about.


Decoding All of Medicare’s Parts


When you are planning for your future, Medicare can seem like a blessing. In fact, Medicare coverage can be invaluable for seniors in America, but you have to know how to get the right level of coverage. That means wading through all the various Medicare parts and options available to you. You can use an online Medicare plan guide to help determine what combination will fit your healthcare needs and figure out whether you need additional help from an insurance agent. This will give you a better idea of how the basic Medicare parts cover your healthcare needs and help you figure out the differences between Medicare and Medicare Advantage plans. Medicare Advantage plans can offer added benefits and you may even be able to secure prescription drug coverage.


Understanding Medicare vs. Medicaid


If you are unfamiliar with government health care plans, then you may not know the differences between Medicare and Medicaid coverage. Medicare and Medicaid are both federally funded health care benefits, but the major differences are the eligibility requirements. Most adults over the age of 65 are able to sign up for Medicare coverage, whereas Medicaid is available to those who meet certain income requirements, regardless of age. However, some seniors are eligible for coverage under both health care plans. This dual eligibility depends not only on your income, but it can also hinge on the state in which you live. If you do qualify for dual coverage, Medicaid may help fill in some of the gaps left by your Medicare coverage, and it may help you reduce the amount you pay out of pocket for expenses.


Determining How Medicare Will Help You


Dual eligibility can be a plus for seniors, but neither Medicaid nor Medicare will fully cover your healthcare expenses as you age. On average, adults over the age of 65 will still shell out over $200,000 in healthcare costs from their own pockets. That’s a hefty price for many to pay, especially if you are no longer working. But you can prevent those rising healthcare costs from putting a damper on your retirement with financial planning. Factor that $200,000 price tag into your overall retirement investment planning, or open up a Health Savings Account to tuck away funds for retirement healthcare costs. By opting for an HSA, you can also avoid having your health savings taxed, which can add up during your retirement years.


Figuring Out How to Fill Medicare Coverage Gaps


Whether you choose basic Medicare or opt for a Medicare Advantage plan, you are still likely to have gaps in your coverages. Some seniors choose to fill those spaces by opting for Medigap supplemental insurance. As the name implies, Medigap policies help to bridge some of the financial gaps of your Medicare plan, but you still need to pay premiums and deductibles. Like Medicare Advantage plans, Medigap policies are offered by private insurance companies, so policy details and coverages will vary depending on your provider. Even with supplemental Medicare coverage, you still need to find alternative means for covering long-term care costs, as these expenses are not covered by Medicare. So, look into separate long-term care insurance or a long-term care financial plan that best fits your retirement needs.


Health care planning during retirement does not have to be as confusing as it seems. With the resources and helpful tips above, you should have all you need to have a basic understanding of Medicare, as well as other healthcare options. So, figure out which plan will work best for you and how Medicare will fit into your retirement plans.


When Jim Vogel became a caregiver for his aging parents, he was inspired to promote senior health and information. His goal is to highlight ways in which people can give seniors support to thrive throughout their golden years


Photo Credit: Pexels

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.