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.


Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Tips on How to Welcome Your Elderly Loved One Into Your Home

By Chloe Pearson

Life is full of transitions, and as we age, moving to get the care we need is one transition that is often inevitable. If you and your elderly loved one have decided that having them move into your home is best, this transition will impact several generations of your family. This change isn’t always easy, but by planning ahead and getting help, you can ease the transition for everyone.


Getting Your Home Ready

If your older loved one has limited mobility, you will probably need to make some home modifications so that he or she can live with you comfortably. The two primary issues to consider are accessibility and functionality. AARP recommends you start by getting guidance from a professional, such as an occupational therapist or geriatric care manager, who can help you determine which modifications you need. These needs will vary depending on your loved one’s abilities, but these are a few of the most common modifications to consider:

     Trip and slip-resistant surfaces - Fall hazards are the greatest risk to your loved one’s safety, so you might want to replace flooring with surfaces that are trip and slip-resistant.

     Bathroom accessibility - The bathroom is one room in the house that is an absolute necessity, and it also poses the greatest safety risks. According to CNBC, many people install “curbless” showers that your loved one can enter without having to step over anything and allow wheelchair access. Grab bars and raised toilet seats are two other must-haves for many people with limited mobility.

     Kitchen accessibility and functionality - If your loved one still cooks or needs the ability to help themselves in the kitchen independently, you may want to think about changes that will make the kitchen more functional for them. This can be anything from a kitchen remodel to lower counter heights and widen walkways to simple changes like moving certain items to a shelf or cabinet that is easier to reach.


Making the Move

Helping your loved one pack up and move from their home to yours can be a daunting task, and there will be a mix of emotions for everyone involved. To reduce stress as much as possible, allow plenty of time for going through their current home and deciding which items to keep and which ones to let go. Rushing this process could make it harder for your loved one to come to terms with their feelings about this big change. Planning ahead also allows you to budget for moving costs.


When it comes to moving day, consider hiring movers to help with packing, moving, and unpacking. Getting professional help will reduce the risk of injury to both yourself and your loved one and will free you up to focus on your loved one’s needs. This will also help lower moving day stress and make it easier for you to start getting your loved one settled in your home.


Easing the Transition

Having your elderly or disabled loved one move in with you naturally means there will be some changes to each of your roles in the family. To ease the transition, maintain open communication with your loved one about their needs and their feelings throughout the process. They may feel some loss of independence, so communicate with them about how you can make changes in your home so that they can be as self-reliant as possible. To help you manage your role as a caregiver without becoming overwhelmed, don’t be afraid to ask for help, whether from other family members or a home health aide.


More seniors are choosing to age in their own home these days and when that’s no longer a good option, moving in with a family member is often the best choice. Even when it’s the right choice, that doesn’t mean it’s always easy. As a caregiver, don’t hesitate to reach out for help, from making home modifications to moving and caregiving, so that you can ease the transition for your loved one while also taking care of your own needs.


Photo credit: Pixabay

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

The Importance of the Living Will and Healthcare Power of Attorney

By Deanna Leyh Page

Even though it can be an uncomfortable and awkward thing to think about as we get older, it's important to start thinking about your end-of-life wishes. Even at as early an age of 18 but especially later in life age 65 and older, thinking about your wishes if something was to happen to you is crucial to making sure that you will get the end-of-life care that you want. A living will is a set of written, legal instructions regarding your preferences for medical care if you are unable to make decisions for yourself at some point, for example if you develop dementia or go into a coma.

It's helpful to think about this throughout your life, because as you enter different stages of life or certain health conditions change or arise, your thoughts on what you want or don't want may change too. It is especially important for those diagnosed with dementia to make sure that they complete their living will so that their caregiver or family knows what kind of care the individual would want when they are no longer able to reasonably make those decisions themselves. Without this document, it can be tough for family members or caregivers to make sure that they are following your wishes and there can sometimes be disagreement between family members with differing opinions. To avoid placing the burden of deciding on others and to avoid disagreements, completing your living will can make it easier for others to follow your wishes and can ensure that your instructions for medical care are carried out. Also, make sure in the document that you designate a healthcare agent or power of attorney to follow your instructions. Be sure to pick someone that you trust and that you believe will adhere to your instructions or wishes.

The living will ask you questions about severe brain damage, aggressive medical treatment, organ donation, tube feedings, chemotherapy, radiation, antibiotics, CPR, breathing treatment, surgery, etc. It also gives you the opportunity to write down specific, detailed instructions for your healthcare agent to follow. The document also allows you to designate the healthcare power of attorney or agent to follow your wishes, and it allows you to specify if you want the agent to follow your instructions exactly or if you want them to use your instructions as guidance and possibly override your wishes. You will need two witnesses to sign your living will/power of attorney form, and you can get it notarized, although it is not Pennsylvania state law to have it notarized.

Remember that you can update your living will/healthcare power of attorney form as your wishes change, and you should review it every so many years. Many people think that just telling family members will suffice, but actually having a written, legal document of your end-of-life instructions makes it easier for family and loved ones to make decisions and to follow your wishes.

For the PA Living Will/Healthcare Power of Attorney form to complete, you can download a free copy at the following website:

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Addressing Care Facility Concerns

by Emily Anderson

About 1 in 8 older adults live in a some type of supported living facility, such as a nursing home. Many more use other types of living assistance, such as adult day care or in home care. Tragically, sometimes those facilities and the people working in them do not do their job, resulting in violations of your loved one's rights. If you suspect that the rights, health, safety, or welfare of your loved one has been jeopardized, there are services that can help.

Know Your Rights

First, it's important to know the rights you and your family are entitled to no matter what type of institution you are interacting with. These rights entitle you to:
  • Have safe and competent treatment
  • Services that are delivered in a timely manner
  • Care that is appropriate to the severity of  your needs
  • Privacy in treatment
  • Complain without fear of retribution
  • Get information about health conditions and be involved in decisions about your care
  • Refuse treatment or choose alternative strategies
  • Know the names of the people providing care and how to contact their supervisor
  • Understand the cost of services

The Ombudsman

The ombudsman is not a single person, it is a county service that represents consumers within the long-term care system. They receive complaints about services and can help you work towards a solution. They can help you advocate for your loved one to receive the best possible care. If you have a concern about the quality of care your loved one is getting, for example, the ombudsman can help mediate with the provider to improve care. If you think your loved one is being transferred or discharged from services too soon, the ombudsman can help you appeal the change. If you are billed for services you don't understand or don't think you received, the ombudsman can help you figure it out.

All ombudsman services are confidential and free. In Allegheny County, you can contact the ombudsman by calling the Senior Line at 412-350-5460. If you live outside of the Pittsburgh area, find your local ombudsman by calling your Area Agency on Aging.

Adult Protective Services

Some rights violations rise to the level of abuse or neglect in long-term care settings. Examples include your loved on not receiving the medications, being forced to sit in excrement without assistance, being treated roughly by staff, or being denied food or physical assistance. If you suspect that your loved one is being abused or neglected, call Adult Protective Services. In Allegheny County, the phone number for Adult Protective Services is 412-350-6905. If you live outside of Allegheny County, find your protective services contact here.

There is no cost for either of these services, and no penalty for reporting your suspicions even if there is no proof. Older adults are often unable or too afraid to speak up when they are being treated poorly. Though we hope you never have to deal with poor treatment, as a caregiver, the responsibility might fall to you to advocate for your loved one. But you're not alone--there are services and people that can help support you in your care of you loved one.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Protecting Seniors from Online Scams

Information brought to you by ATT Internet Services at

A challenge for senior citizens who embrace the computer age is knowing how to avoid online fraud. Although people of all ages are at risk, statistics show that when it comes to online safety, seniors are more vulnerable. In fact, according to the Department of Homeland Security, “seniors are defrauded at twice the rate of the rest of the population.” Yes, there are swindlers out there — based in another country or maybe even in your neighborhood — who want to steal from you or your loved ones. But there are also reliable ways to spot a scam and steer clear of fraud. Here, we explain common scam types and show you how to safeguard your valuables, savings and online information.

Why are seniors targeted?
They’re savers: Fraudsters assume seniors have lots of money sitting in their accounts.
It’s a low-risk crime: Scams on seniors often go unreported or can be difficult to prosecute.

What Are Those Most Common Online Scams?

Grandparent Scam

Grandparents are targeted because they’re protective and want to help those they love, when they are in a crisis. A grandparent scam could look like this:
  1. A con artist emails you, posing as distressed relative in distress
  2. They tell a variation of a “Grandma, it’s me” story
  3. They describe their dire problem (car crash, arrest, need a lawyer, etc.)
  4. The senior is asked to send money for expenses to get out of trouble
The con artist then says "don't tell anyone!"
What to watch for: Never pay anything in this situation. A strong sign of fraud is being asked to pay with a card such as an iTunes or MoneyPak card, which don’t offer the protection of a credit card.
What to do: Don’t respond to the email. Delete it. Call your family and check that they’re ok. Report it to the proper governmental authorities including the Internet Crime Complaint Center ( or the Federal Trade Commission (

Tech Support Scam

When using the computer, it can be difficult to tell the difference between a real warning and a fake one. A computer warning scam can happen like this:
  1. You’re using the internet and a window pops up out of nowhere
  2. It looks like a “computer hack” or “virus” warning
  3. It uses the name of a computer company such as Apple or Microsoft
  4. It says you need to download something to “fix” a computer issue
  5. It’s a virus or program designed to steal your information
  6. You punch in your account information and your savings get drained
What to watch for: Computer companies don’t usually approach consumers to offer support — it’s us who go to them.
What to do: Close the pop-up window — do not open it and absolutely do not enter your bank account details. If you notice further similar windows, have a family member or trusted computer repair store run a check or install virus protection.

Remote Control Scam

Phonies offer a free security check over the phone to get you to give them remote access to your computer for a supposed diagnosis and fix. They gain access, add software and steal from your accounts.

Lottery Scam

 Who wouldn’t be excited to hear they’ve won the lottery? Scammers recognize the lure of a lottery win, and turn it into online scams.

How Do Lottery Scammers
Target Seniors Online?

  1. You receive an email telling you you're a winner. Yay!
  2. They ask you to enter your credit card number, or write a check to cover "administrative fees."
  3. The winnings may actually turn up in your account...
  4. Only to be removed when the "winning" check is found to be fake.
What to watch out for: This is a common scam. Be wary of any email that mentions a lottery win. These scams often claim you have won a foreign lottery.
What to do:
Remember, the odds of winning the lottery are tiny. Delete the email in question. Report it to the proper governmental authorities including the Internet Crime Complaint Center or the Federal Trade Commission.

Bogus Charities

Seniors are often targeted because of their generosity and kind-heartedness. That’s what makes scammers pose as a charity — to target elderly people online. Here is how they often attempt to carry out such an act:
  1. A natural disaster happens
  2. Fake charities send out emails to you, asking for a donation
  3. They pose as a legitimate charity, or make up their own identity
  4. They play on your emotions — perhaps saying children need your help
  5. There is no apparent identification or authorization
  6. You pay using your credit card, but your bank account is then drained

Real Charities Contact Via Email

Once you have donated to a nonprofit, it is likely that they will contact you through email to ask for continued support. Avoid any charity or fundraiser that refuses to provide detailed information about its identity, mission, costs, and how the donation will be used.
Here’s how to avoid a charity scam:
  • Beware of any charity that asks you to send money overseas
  • Delete emails with attachments — they probably are not real
  • Investigate groups that make pleas over social media
  • Criminals wait for disasters such as Hurricane Harvey and other natural devastations to set up websites asking for money. Only use authorized sites if you choose to donate.

General Rules For Avoiding Online Scams

  • Don't send money or give out personal information in response to an unexpected online request
  • Do online searches for potential scams, such as "IRS scam"
  • Don't pay anything (fees, admin costs) upfront when someone promises something
  • Government offices and trustworthy companies don't ask you to pay with a reloadable card
  • Be skeptical about free trials
  • Sign up for free scam alerts. Click here to sign up!
  • When possible, purchase through a HTTPS site, as opposed to HTTP. The "S" stands for "secure"
Please visit ATT Internet Service's Guide for more information at 

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

A Guide to Talking with your Doctor

By Deanna Leyh Page

Everyone knows that it’s tough to navigate the medical system. From dealing with the insurance companies to being in the hospital, it’s not easy figuring out how to handle medical issues while trying to get the best care possible for you or your loved one. One thing that shouldn’t be hard is talking with your doctor, right? Well it shouldn’t be, but for so many people, having a good appointment with your doctor is more difficult than it ought to be. There are some things that you can do to prepare for your appointments and while talking with your doctor to ensure that you are getting the most out of your appointment, your doctor is really hearing you, and you are getting the best care possible!

1)      Choosing the Right Doctor: First decide what you’re looking for in a doctor. Think about questions like, “Is the age, sex, experience of my doctor important to me?” or “How far am I willing to travel to see this doctor?” Make a list of several possible doctors that fit the criteria of what you’re looking for, especially for specialists. Be sure to call their office and check if they take your insurance, including Medicare or Medicaid. Consult online resources and look at ratings and reviews of doctors that you’re interested in, and ask friends and family for reviews or opinions as well. You can even call the office staff to see if they have a doctor that they would highly recommend in the practice. At this point, make a choice, but don’t be afraid to “shop around” if you go to them and don’t like them after your appointment.


2)      Preparing for the Appointment: Once you’ve made the appointment, start to make a list of concerns, and take that information with you. Write down a list of your current medications (including the dose), past medical history, family medical history, current lifestyle habits and activities, other doctors that your currently see and their information, etc. Consider bringing a friend or family member with you, and also remember to bring a pen and paper to take notes during the appointment. It’s so easy to forget what the doctor told you by the time you walk out of their office, so it’s a good idea to write things down.


3)      Involving Others: Having a family member or family come with you can be helpful during a doctor’s visit because they can remind you of things you wanted to tell the doctor, as well as help you remember what the doctor said during the appointment. Caregivers or loved ones can also be your healthcare advocate and make sure you’re getting the best care possible. If you have a caregiver, it can be good to bring them along so that they can bring up concerns of their own, such as what to expect in the future, sources of information/support, community services, and ways to maintain their own well-being.


4)      Giving Information: When first talking with your doctor, share your symptoms—be clear and concise when describing these. Be prepared to answer questions about when symptoms started, what time of day they occur, how long they last, frequency, if getting worse or better, and how they impede your functioning. Remember to give information about your medications, including prescribed and over-the-counter meds, vitamins, and herbal remedies. It’s also good to make the doctor aware of your allergies or bring up any concerns about drug interactions. Also, be honest with them! Be truthful when you tell them about your habits, including drinking/smoking, sleeping, eating, sex, daily activities, etc. Voice other concerns too—provide information about major changes or stresses that could influence your health, i.e. “my sister recently passed away” or “I’ve sold my home recently”.


5)      Getting Information: When the doctor is talking to you and describing your diagnosis or plan of treatment, be sure to ask them questions! So many people keep quiet and don’t ask the doctor questions that they have, which doesn’t help them understand their diagnosis or treatment. So ask your doctor to explain why a test or medication is important, what the test will show, what you need to do to prepare for it, dangers/side effects, what it will cost, how/when you’ll get results, etc. Discuss your diagnosis and what you can expect, what may have caused the diagnosis, if its permanent/temporary, how is it treated/managed, long-term effects on your functioning, how to learn more about it, etc. Find out about your medications from your doctor including side effects, when the medicine will start to work, what happens if you miss a dose, if you take it with meals or not, if you need to avoid foods/drugs/activities while on it, refills, how long you’ll be on it, interactions with other meds, etc.

REMEMBER **If you don’t ask questions, your doctor may assume you already know the answer or that you don’t need more information…Ask questions!

6)      Discussing Sensitive Subjects: Don’t hesitate to discuss sensitive subjects with your doctor, such as memory, driving, depression, sexual function, incontinence, grief, falls, or problems with family members. Brochures or booklets can be a useful too to introduce topics you may feel awkward discussing. You can ask to talk with your doctor alone if you’re uncomfortable to talk about these issues in front of family members, caregivers, or friends. However, if you feel the doctor doesn’t take your concerns seriously, it might be time to think about changing doctors.


7)      Making Decisions with your Doctor: Your doctor will most likely recommend some kind of treatment or medication to help you, and you should be a part of this decision! Ask about different treatments and have a discussion about your choices and options, risks and benefits to each, side effects, length of treatment, how successful the treatment would be, your own values and circumstances, and cost of each option/if insurance covers it. You can also see if there is a way to prevent a condition that runs in your family, if there are ways to prevent it from getting worse, any risks in making change, and community services/supports to help. Talk about if the doctor’s recommendation is something that you will actually follow or implement…if not, find another solution. Don’t leave the office knowing you’re not going to do what the doctor is recommending…then it’s a waste of money and time! If you know you’re not happy with his recommendation, ask the doctor is there is another option that you’re more comfortable with and that you will actually follow.


8)      What if the appointment goes south? Remember to tell the doctor about your feelings, i.e. if you feel rushed, worried, or uncomfortable. First try to voice your feelings in a positive way, such as “I know you have a lot of patients today, but I’m very concerned about this. I’d really like to discuss this in more detail.” If a doctor is brushing off your questions or symptoms as simply a part of aging, or you’re not satisfied with their response, think about looking for another doctor. Remember that you are paying the doctor to do a service! If you’re not satisfied with them, you should look into finding someone who will address your concerns and be respectful.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Books to Snuggle Up With on a Cold Winter's Day...Helpful Caregiving Reads

By Deanna Leyh Page's cold outside! What's better on a cold winter's day when it's snowy and dark out than curling up under a blanket with a good book? When the weather is bad and you can't get outside, it's nice to catch up on some reading. There are a plethora of helpful and interesting reads on caregiving--below we've highlighted some good books specific on caregiving, dementia, and age-related issues. Be sure to check out your local bookstore or library and explore some of these titles!

There’s No Place Like (Nursing) Home – Stories of Dementia, Dying, and Peeing on the Christmas Tree by Paul Tedesco

"I have an Nh.D...Doctorate in Nursing Homes. I got it at the University of Experience. One day my mother moved into a nursing home. On another she died there. What happened in between changed my life. This is a book for my 'friends', almost all of whom I haven’t met. There are over millions of them across the country. They, like me, are getting older. So are their parents. Many are or will end up in nursing homes. Most who do will die there. Whether my friends learn to smile in between can change their lives too. The book is a short folksy memoir, a compendium of stories about what I saw, learned, and felt, and how I learned to smile again, then and now. Three-part dementia-inspired operas will do that. So will an old man trying to pee on a Christmas tree. I found laughter amidst my tears. In the midst of the tempest, I also found serenity for a troubled soul. So can my friends."

Still Alice by Lisa Genova

"Still Alice is a 2007 novel by Lisa Genova. The novel is about a woman who suffers early-onset Alzheimer's disease. Alice Howland, a 50-year-old woman, is a cognitive psychology professor at Harvard and a world-renowned linguistics expert. She is married to an equally successful husband, and they have three grown children. The disease takes hold swiftly, and it changes Alice’s relationship with her family and the world. It was Genova's first novel."

The 36-Hour Day: A Family Guide to Caring for People Who Have Alzheimer Disease, Related Dementias, and Memory Loss by Nancy L. Mace and Peter V. Rabins

"When someone in your family suffers from Alzheimer's disease or other related memory loss diseases, both you and your loved one face immense challenges. For over thirty years, this book has been the trusted bible for families affected by dementia disorders. Now completely revised and updated, this guide features the latest information on the causes of dementia, managing the early stages of dementia, the prevention of dementia, and finding appropriate living arrangements for the person who has dementia when home care is no longer an option. You'll learn:
  • The basic facts about dementia
  • How to deal with problems arising in daily care-meals, exercise, personal hygiene, and safety
  • How to cope with an impaired person's false ideas, suspicion, anger, and other mood problems
  • How to get outside help from support groups, friends, and agencies
  • Financial and legal issues you must address."

Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast

"Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? is a graphic memoir of American cartoonist and author Rosalind "Roz" Chast. The book is about Chast's parents in their final years. Her father, George, died at the age of 95 and her mother, Elizabeth, who worked as an assistant elementary school principal, died at the age of 97.[1] The author derived the book's title from her parents' refusal to discuss their advancing years and infirmities.[2] Chast's cartoons have appeared in The New Yorker magazine since 1978.[1] The book was appreciated for showcasing Chast's talent as cartoonist and storyteller. It received several awards and was a number 1 New York Times Bestseller."

The Emotional Survival Guide for Caregivers: Looking After Yourself and Your Family While Helping an Aging Parent by Barry J. Jacobs

"Caring for a parent whose health is in decline turns the world upside down. The emotional fallout can be devastating, but it doesn't have to be that way. Empathic guidance from an expert who's been there can help. Through an account of two sisters and their ailing mother--interwoven with no-nonsense advice--The Emotional Survival Guide for Caregivers helps family members navigate tough decisions and make the most of their time together as they care for an aging parent. The author urges readers to be honest about the level of commitment they're able to make and emphasizes the need for clear communication within the family. While acknowledging their guilt, stress, and fatigue, he helps caregivers reaffirm emotional connections worn thin by the routine of daily care. This compassionate book will help families everywhere avoid burnout and preserve bonds during one of life's most difficult passages."

Creating Moments of Joy by Jolene Brackey
"Jolene Brackey has a vision. A vision that will soon look beyond the challenges of Alzheimer's disease and focus more of our energy on creating moments of joy. When a person has short-term memory loss, his life is made up of moments. But if you think about it, our memory is made up of moments, too. We are not able to create a perfectly wonderful day with someone who has dementia, but it is absolutely attainable to create a perfectly wonderful moment; a moment that puts a smile on their face, a twinkle in their eye, or triggers a memory. Five minutes later, they won't remember what you did or said, but the feeling you left them with will linger."
When the Time Comes: Families with Aging Parents Share Their Struggles and Solutions by Paula Span
"What will you do when you get the call that a loved one has had a heart attack or a stroke? Or when you realize that a family member is too frail to live alone, but too healthy for a nursing home?

Journalist Paula Span shares the resonant narratives of several families who faced these questions. Each family contemplates the alternatives in elder care (from assisted living to multigenerational living to home care, nursing care, and at the end, hospice care) and chooses the right path for its needs. Span writes about the families' emotional challenges, their practical discoveries, and the good news that some of them find a situation that has worked for them and their loved ones. And many find joy in the duty of caring for an older loved one.

There are 45 million Americans caring for family members currently, and as the 77 million boomers continue to age, this number will only go up. Paula Span's stories are revealing and informative. They give a sense of all the emotional and practical factors that go into the major decisions about caregiving, so that readers will be better able to figure out what to do when the time comes for them and their loved ones."

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Suicide in Older Adults

By Deanna Leyh Page

Suicide among older adults is a large issue, especially because attempts made by older adults are more lethal, or likely to result in death, than younger people. Men ages 85 and older have the highest rate of suicide than any other group in the country. As caregivers of older adults and people who work with this population, it is important to be aware of suicide and depression in the aging population. It's particularly important to assess for suicide in older adults because they tend to use more deadly methods and they are less likely to recover from an attempt because of physical frailty.

There are many warning signs to be aware of when working with older adults to assess for suicide. There are some warning signs listed below, which may indicate that a person is in danger and could use urgent help. If you notice any of these signs, please
1) Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself;
2) Looking for a way to kill oneself;
3) Talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose;
4) Talking about feeling trapped or being in unbearable pain;
5) Talking about being a burden to others;
6) Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs;
7) Acting anxious, agitated, or reckless;
8) Sleeping too little or too much;
9) Withdrawing or feeling isolated;
10) Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge; and
11) Displaying extreme mood swings.
If you or someone you know is experiencing any of these warning signs or you suspect they might be feeling suicidal, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or the Re:Solve Crisis Center at 1-888-7-YOU-CAN (796-8226).
To learn more about suicide in older adults, there is also an upcoming program offered through the Pitt School of Social Work and School of Nursing called the Assessment, Intervention, and Prevention of Suicide in Older Adults: An Inter-Professional Approach that is being offered on Friday, March 2nd from 9am-12pm in Room 2017 at the Cathedral of Learning. This program will offer CEUs and will cost $75.00. This learning activity will provide attendees an understanding of risk factors of suicide in older adults, screening for suicide, intervention strategies, how to implement prevention strategies across settings with older adults, and professionals' roles in preventing and intervening with older adults. To learn more information or to register online, please click here.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Understanding Dementia

By Deanna Leyh Page

Many people are diagnosed with dementia or a specific type of dementia every year. They get the diagnosis from their doctor, and more often than not, they end up leaving the doctor’s office with more questions than they came in with. They have questions like, “What’s the difference between dementia and Alzheimer’s?” and “So this means mom is just losing her memory?”  There’s a lot to understand about a dementia diagnosis, so below is a bit of starter information to help you and your loved ones get some answers to your questions about dementia.

Dementia is not a specific disease, but it is an umbrella term that describes a wide range of symptoms associated with a decline in memory or other thinking skills that is severe enough to reduce a person’s ability to perform everyday tasks or activities. There are many types of dementia that fall under the dementia umbrella, and Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type. Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60-80% of all dementia cases. There are also other types of dementia, including vascular dementia, frontotemporal dementia, dementia with Lewy Bodies, and mixed dementia. Typically when people hear the word dementia, they think of memory loss or forgetfulness. However, dementia symptoms do not just include memory loss, but also confusion, challenges in planning or problem solving, difficulty understanding visual images and spatial relationships, decreased or poor judgment, and changes in mood, personality, and behaviors. Dementia usually occurs in later life, when people are 65 and older, but it can occur in those in their 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s.

On average, people live dementia 4-8 years, but many people can live with it for up to 20 years or longer. There are three main stages of dementia: early-stage, middle-stage, and late-stage. In early stage, people can still function independently, but they may start to have memory lapses where friends and family start to notice difficulties. People can also have trouble coming up with the right word, challenges performing tasks in social situations, and trouble with planning or organizing. Middle stage is the longest stage and can last for many years. Symptoms will become more noticeable, and can include forgetfulness of one’s own personal history, feeling moody and withdrawn, confusion about where they are or the day, needing more helps for their activities of daily living, changes in sleeping and eating patterns, personality and behavioral changes, and trouble controlling their bowels or bladder. In the late stage, people lose the ability to respond to their environment, carry on a conversation, and to control movement. They often have extensive personality changes and need much more help with their ADLs. It is in late stage that people have changes in their physical abilities that can lead to death, like losing the ability to walk, sit, swallow, and even breathe on their own.

At this time, there is no treatment to cure, delay, or stop the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. There are some FDA drugs to temporarily slow the progression of the disease for a short period (6-12 months) if given in earlier stages of the disease, such as Aricept, Namenda, and Exelon. Exercise and physical activity has been shown to help slow the onset or slow the progression in some people with dementia.