Home Hazards for Central Ohio Seniors

Dear Kara:

My 82-year-old mother-in-law lives alone in a house she has owned for over 30 years. While we live near her in the Columbus area, my husband and my work schedules and our kids’ many extracurricular activities make it difficult to check in on her more than a few times a week. She is very determined to remain independent in her own home.

My husband and I decided one thing we really need to do is evaluate her home for safety risks. It is an older house and it wasn’t built with seniors in mind. What are issues we should look for and be concerned about when assessing her home?


Dear Justine:

Older homes can indeed be a challenge when it comes to keeping a senior safe. From outdated bathrooms to numerous sets of stairs, they can increase the risk of injury.

Here are a few hazards to look for in your mother-in-law’s home:

  • Do all stairways inside and outside have strong banisters or handrails?
  • Are treads on stairs secure and have a non-skid surface?
  • Can lighting be turned on from the top and bottom of stairways?
  • Can she easily access her shower without risk of falling?
  • Are grab bars installed near the shower, toilet, and at the bedside? (Also, make sure towel bars that might be improperly used as grab bars are removed and replaced.)
  • Does she have nightlights to illuminate the pathways frequently used at night in her house, such as the bedroom to the bathroom or the bedroom to the kitchen?
  • Are working smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors installed?
  • Does her stovetop have knobs on the front or does she have to reach over burners to turn the stovetop on and off? (Consider replacing it if she has to make that dangerous reach.)
  • Is good lighting in place indoors and outdoors?
  • Does she have an easy-to-use fire extinguisher?
  • Are throw rugs used throughout the house? These should be packed up to prevent falls.

Also pay attention to her nutrition. Can she safely prepare healthy meals? If she no longer drives, does she have a way to go to the grocery store frequently enough? Healthy eating can be more challenging as we grow older and struggle with both of these issues.

Also be aware that older adults who live alone are at higher risk for hoarding, and the health and safety problems that condition presents. Keeping clutter under control can help prevent a small issue from becoming a big one.

My final tip is to talk with your mother-in-law’s primary care physician if she will allow you to. He or she may be able to order a home evaluation by a physical or occupational therapist.

I hope this information is helpful to you and your family, Justine! Please call one of our Columbus-area skilled rehab centers if you need more information.

Kara Beamish, Director of Rehab


Online Safety for Seniors

Dear Jana:

My husband and I recently bought my mom an iPad. Our children helped her set up an account on Facebook and showed her how to search for people she knows. We all thought it would be a great way for her to find old friends and to stay in touch with family.

She’s been lonely since my father passed away last year and we are hoping social media will help her feel more connected. We hope it will be especially good for her during the long central Ohio winters when the weather often makes it hard for her to safely get around town.

I am concerned about keeping her safe, though. I’ve read that seniors are a common target for online fraud and scams. What steps can we take to protect her while still allowing her to enjoy herself online?


Dear Vickie:

The iPad combined with an account on such a popular social media channel is a great way to help your mom stay connected! Tablets are senior-friendly because they are easy to log on to and can be used while relaxing in their favorite spot on the couch.

Unfortunately, you are right about seniors being targeted by fraudsters both online and offline. But there are steps you can take to help your mother stay safe:

  1. Caution your mother to be careful about what information she shares by email or on social channels. Warn her never to publicize the times when she will be away from home for a few hours or on vacation.
  2. Also advise her not to accept “friend” requests from anyone she doesn’t personally know. Scam artists deliberately search for seniors online. Once they connect, they work on obtaining personal information or hacking in to their computers.
  3. If she already has an email address, don’t allow Facebook to search her online address book for friends. These types of searches return everyone she has ever emailed and not all of those people may be her friends.
  4. Remind your mother not to open email or click on links from people she doesn’t know. These are a common source of computer viruses.
  5. Our final tip is to help her create secure passwords. While it might be necessary for her to write them down, find a safe place away from her iPad or computer to store them.

I hope these tips help keep your Mom safe online, Vickie!

Jana Duff

P.S. Are you considering a rehabilitation center for Mom or Dad, but aren’t sure what to consider when choosing the right one? Download our FREE white paper today to discover what you should always consider when choosing a skilled rehabilitation center for your loved one!


Importance of Good Oral Hygiene

Dear Amy:
I’ve noticed more and more commercials for oral hygiene products making the claim that poor oral care can lead to health problems. They especially seem to be saying it is linked to heart disease.

We have a long history of cardiac illnesses in my family and I’m trying hard to prevent that from happening to me. Can you tell me if these claims are true and, if so, what really constitutes good oral hygiene?

Brad in Central Ohio

Dear Brad:

It is always a good idea to be a little skeptical of products that make big claims. According to the American Heart Association, there is no conclusive evidence that links periodontitis (gum disease) to cardiac illnesses. But periodontitis and heart disease do have some of the same risk factors including smoking, age and diabetes. Many researchers believe these shared risk factors may be the real reason why cardiac disease and oral health problems seem to occur at the same time.

With that said, there still are scientists out there who are convinced a link between the two illnesses exists, and they are working hard to find it. Since it sounds like you are trying to be proactive in avoiding the cardiac illnesses that run in your family, it can’t hurt to make oral hygiene a priority.

Here are a few ways you can do that:

  • Brush your teeth twice a day and floss once daily.
  • Make sure you get enough calcium either in your daily diet or with the help of supplements.
  • Avoid smoking and smokeless tobacco products since both are bad for your teeth and also increase the risk for oral cancers.
  • If you can’t resist candy, opt for kinds that quickly dissolve in your mouth instead of hard, sugary candies that stay in your mouth longer.
  • Don’t chomp on ice. The cold temperature can cause fractures in your teeth.
  • See your dentist at least once a year or more often if your dentist recommends it.

I hope this information helps, Brad! Thank you for your question.

Amy Dziewintka


Applying for Medicaid for a Central Ohio Senior

Dear Tracy:

We know that the world of Medicaid can be very confusing, so we figured we should be asking questions about the things that aren’t clear. Our question is simple: what IS Medicaid, and why should our parents apply for it? Also, what tips do you have?

Thank you so much!

-The Everett Family (Grove City)

Hello, Everett Family!

You’re right, there are a surprising number of myths that surround the Medicaid process for older adults in need. Some seniors in the Columbus area who would benefit from additional services and support don’t apply because they mistakenly believe they will lose their home if they do. Other older adults are simply overwhelmed trying to understand how to make an application.

Most people find themselves asking “What is Medicaid and why should my senior loved one apply?” Put simply, Medicaid is a healthcare program that is jointly funded by the federal government and the state of Ohio. Applicants must meet financial thresholds to qualify for assistance. If a senior meets the financial requirements, Medicaid may be able to help with long-term care expenses, assisted living, transportation, adult day services and more.

MyCare Ohio is a newer program designed to help make care delivery easier for older adults who receive both Medicare and Medicaid. It provides seniors with a single point of contact for accessing care.

Tips to Make Applying for Medicaid Easier

If you or an older family member in your life will be applying for Medicaid, here are a few tips to make the process go more smoothly:

  • Assemble a binder that contains all of the information Medicaid is asking for and copies of the items you have sent.

  • Create a list of which documents you sent to Medicaid and the date you sent them. This includes information you send electronically as well.

  • Ask for help if you need it. If your senior loved one is undergoing therapy at a Columbus area short-term rehab center, the social worker can be a good resource for support. The state has also set up the Ohio Medicaid Consumer Hotline that you can call for assistance. The number is: (800) 324-8680. They are open Monday through Friday from 7 am to 8 pm and Saturdays from 8 am to 5 pm.

  • Meet all deadlines. Make sure you mark them on your calendar and give yourself plenty of time to complete each task before the deadline.

If you have any other questions on Medicaid, please don’t hesitate to ask.

-Tracy Woods
Patient Financial Services Representative
Monterey Rehabilitation Center, Skilled Nursing and Memory Care


Addressing Concerns Seniors Have About Moving

If you or an older adult you love will be moving to a senior living community this spring, you may be more than a little fearful about it. Giving up a house you have lived in for many years is never easy. It can be especially difficult if it is the home where you raised a family. We developed this list of the most common concerns we hear from seniors preparing for a move to help address those worries.

Q: How do I downsize all of my belongings?

A: This is often one reason older adults put off moving. Just the idea of downsizing a lifetime of belongings can be overwhelming. Fortunately, there are professionals that can help. The National Association of Senior Move Managers maintains a database of professionals to make it easier to find one near you. They also have tips to help you hire a move manager and explain what to expect once you do.

Q: How will I ever learn my way around this new place?

A: We hear this question a lot! Fortunately, you won’t be on your own. Staff and residents of most senior living communities are happy to help new residents orient themselves to new surroundings. At Whetstone Gardens, we also encourage you to join us for activities and life enrichment programs before you move. That will help you begin to get acquainted with fellow residents and the community.

Q: I’m having a hard time getting excited about moving

A: It is easy to understand why this transition can be emotionally difficult. It is important to allow yourself the opportunity to grieve the losses you are experiencing with this transition. At the same time, it is also important to give yourself permission to be excited about this new chapter in your life. With this move, you will have the opportunity to participate in a variety of life enrichment programs and make new friends.

Q: How can I stay connected to family and friends after moving

A: There are a variety of ways you can enjoy your new life while still staying connected with family and old friends. You are welcome to invite guests to join you for meals or a game of cards, and to encourage them to attend any of our scheduled activities and programs. We also have transportation services available should you need assistance getting to and from events you would like to attend in the community. And don’t overlook the role technology can play! You can keep in touch using video chat services such as Skype and share photos from your new life with friends on social media.

We hope by providing answers to some of seniors’ most common concerns, we can help to relieve the anxiety a late life move creates and make the transition go more smoothly.

Looking for a senior living community for your loved one? We have multiple locations to fit your senior loved one’s wants and needs. Contact us at 614.345.9500 to find out which community is the best fit for your senior!


Importance of Maintaining Regular Physician Visits

Most of us would rather not go to the doctor. For central Ohio seniors who have been hospitalized and completed therapy at an inpatient rehab center, this may be especially true. Once you are finally back on your feet and feeling better, it can be easy to think that keeping your physician appointment really isn’t necessary.

Maintaining a relationship with your primary care physician, however, is the best way to prevent another illness or to intervene early when health problems do arise. Most importantly, it can help you avoid ending up back in the hospital.

Why Columbus Area Seniors Need to See the Doctor Regularly

Having a relationship with your physician when you are healthy, allows them to better care for you when you are sick. The physician is able to establish a baseline for your personal health and recognize when something isn’t right.

There are a variety of additional reasons to make and keep your routine physician visits. They include:

  • Medication monitoring
  • Health screenings such as blood pressure, diabetes and cholesterol
  • Vaccinations including flu, pneumonia and shingles
  • Prostate screening
  • Mammograms
  • Bone mass measurements
  • Assess the risk for depression
  • Conduct a simple vision exam
  • Evaluate body mass index and make recommendations for nutrition and exercise

The Medicare Wellness Visit

As part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), seniors who receive Medicare are entitled to a yearly Wellness Visit at no cost or co-pay. If you have had Medicare for more than 12 months, you are eligible. The Medicare Part B deductible does not apply to the Medicare Wellness Visit.

Do you have further questions about how to get your senior to keep up with maintaining doctors visits? Give us a call at 614.345.9500 and we would be happy to talk!


Top 5 Most Frequently Asked Questions about MyCare Ohio

We know older adults in the Columbus area have questions about the new MyCare Ohio program. Designed to help coordinate benefits for seniors who are eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid, it officially launched in January of this year. To help provide seniors with the answers we know they are looking for, we recently spoke with Adam Zimmerman, LNHA on some of the most commonly asked questions in regards to MyCare Ohio.

Q: What exactly is MyCare Ohio?

A: The program is a state consolidation of care and insurance into one program. People who have both Medicare and Medicaid are automatically enrolled into MyCare Ohio.

Q: How does the program work?

A: If you meet the qualifications, you will automatically be enrolled in the program. Then you will receive a notice with a deadline for accepting. You typically have between 60 and 90 days to decide if you want to join.

Q: What benefits does MyCare Ohio offer to residents?

A: The primary benefit the program offers is a consolidation and coordination of care. It combines traditional Medicare and Medicaid benefits into one, making it easier and simpler to manage. Enrollees are also assigned a community care person (essentially a case manager) to handle their care management issues.

Q: Why should someone choose MyCare Ohio?

A: We encourage seniors to accept the program because it helps ease the difficulties that come with having multiple insurance companies to try to navigate. It also helps with cost control. And having a case manager to help you manage your health care needs is a big plus.

Q: How does a senior pay for MyCare Ohio?

A: The program is funded through Medicaid. Insurance typically covers 100% of health care costs, though there is sometimes a co-pay.

The Ohio Department of Medicaid has additional helpful information and resources. To learn more visit My Care Ohio, Connecting Medicare and Medicaid.

Have further questions about the stipulations of MyCare Ohio? Feel free to give us a call at (614) 345-9500. We would be happy to help answer your questions!


Financial Conversations with a Senior Loved One

Adult children often struggle to begin a conversation about finances with an aging loved one. For many families, financial matters were never discussed in front of “the children.” As a senior loved one gets older or begins to experience health problems, however, these conversations become increasingly more important.

In the event of a crisis, would you know what bills your aging parent has that need to be paid or if they have crucial documents like a health care power of attorney in place? Sometimes a senior’s health problems are gradual and families have time to prepare. Other times they come without warning. If something happens to your older family member, would you be prepared?

Financial Questions to Ask an Aging Parent

To help you get started, we developed a list of basic questions to review with your aging loved one before a crisis occurs:

  • Where do they keep their Medicare and/or health insurance card?

  • Do they have gap insurance or any secondary insurance?

  • What is their social security number and where do they keep their card? (Remind them not to keep the card in their purse or wallet. It should be locked in a safe place to help them avoid becoming the victim of identity theft).

  • Do they have documents such as a health care and/or financial power of attorney? Living Will? Who has copies? Where are the originals?

  • Do they have a will? Who is their attorney of record? Who is the executor?

  • Do they have any life insurance or long-term care insurance policies? Where are those documents?

  • Do they have a safe deposit box? Where is it located? Do they have a list of what they store in it? Where is the key kept?

  • Where is their original birth certificate?

  • What bank do they use to pay bills? Are the accounts online? Does any family member have authority to use it?

  • Do they have a list of bills that are due each month and how are they paid?

  • Do they owe money on their home? What bank is that through? If not, where is the deed to the house?

  • Is their car paid in full? Where is the title?

  • Do they have a comprehensive list of their stocks, bonds and other assets? Where is that kept?

While it may be an uncomfortable conversation to start, it is all very important information to have. If a crisis occurs, you want to be able to make sure their bills are paid on time and their wishes for health care and other decisions are honored.

Do you think your senior needs more help with their finances? Call us today at 614.457.1100 and we will be happy to help!


Helping a Senior with Medicare Open Enrollment

Every fall we receive questions about Medicare open enrollment from adult children in the Columbus area. Because many of them are not yet eligible for Medicare, they need advice on how to help their aging parent navigate through the yearly open enrollment process.

What is Medicare Open Enrollment?

For those unfamiliar with the open enrollment period, it extends from October 15 through December 7 each year. During that time, people with Medicare can change their health plan and prescription drug coverage. If you opt to make any changes, they will go into effect January 1.

To help seniors get unbiased advice and guidance, each state offers help through the State Health Insurance Program (SHIP). If you feel you need more assistance in tackling this process with an aging loved one, schedule an appointment with one of these experts. You can find contacts in your area by visiting the official Medicare site. In Ohio, the hotline number is 1-800-686-1578. One word of advice is not to delay making the appointment. If you wait until the end of the open enrollment period, you may run out of time.

5 Ways to Help a Senior Loved One Navigate Medicare Open Enrollment

If you will be helping your aging parent or loved one review their plan and possibly make changes, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

1. Begin by reviewing the variety of different health plan information sheets that come in the mail on an almost daily basis during this time. The Medicare Plan Finder is an easy way to sift through the various offerings online. Waiting until close to the end of the enrollment period can make this part of the process overwhelming. Depending on where your senior loved one lives, there are a lot of options out there. Try to make time every day or two to review and make notes on any new plan information that arrives.

2.The National Council on Aging (NCOA) suggests seniors and their family caregivers review what they refer to as the four “Cs” of Medicare coverage: cost, coverage, convenience, and customer service. Use last year’s out-of-pocket expenses and your loved one’s feelings about their current providers’ customer service to determine where adjustments might need to be made. Many centers offer Medicare workshops you may attend with your parent.

3. Ohio’s state insurance department offers information and help.

4. Medicare advises consumers to consider costs, coverage, your non-Medicare coverage, prescription drugs, doctor and hospital choice, quality of care, and travel when choosing a plan. If you need special care, such as rehab or skilled nursing, will your plan cover it? Which is best for you—traditional Medicare or Medicare Advantage?

5. If your senior loved one has a tight budget, they may qualify for assistance. Medicare Part D Low Income Subsidy, known as Extra Help, and Medicare Savings are two options to explore.

Prepare for Open Enrollment

If you are helping your senior loved one, make sure they have all their documents in order. They should have the information for their current plan, as well as all the identifying data they’ll need to change their plan if they want to.

For more information about topics of interest to older adults and the people who love them, read our blogs. If you’d like to learn how MacIntosh can help your senior loved one live a happier, healthier life, call us at (614) 345-9500 or contact us online.


11 Tips for Keeping Seniors Safe This Summer

If you are the caregiver of an aging loved one, be aware that summer can produce just as many safety risks as winter in Central Ohio does. Heat and humidity can be especially dangerous for older adults. Mosquitoes, pollen, and ticks can also be problematic.

We’ve pulled together a list of the most common health hazards to be mindful of when caring for a senior this summer.

Here’s 11 Tips for Keeping Central Ohio Seniors Safe this Summer:

1.  Remind older loved ones to avoid being outdoors between noon and 4:30 pm. Those are typically the hottest hours of the day. Taking your daily walk together in the early morning or late evening hours is best. The same goes for yard work and gardening.

2.  Monitor both the pollen count and air quality index. An elevated pollen count and poor air quality can further aggravate pulmonary and coronary problems. Sites such as weather.com allow you to sign up to receive alerts when either of these reaches dangerous levels.

3.  Maintaining hydration is extra important during the hazy days of summer. Especially if your family will be spending time outdoors. 8-10 glasses of water per day is the recommendation. Senior loved ones can also improve hydration by eating fruits and vegetables with a high water content. Popular ones include watermelon, cantaloupe, salad greens, cucumber, tomatoes, grapefruit, and berries.

4.  Just as important as knowing which foods improve hydration, also know which foods contribute to dehydration. Some of the more popular ones to avoid include sodas, energy drinks, sugary kids’ drinks, and alcohol.

5.  Double up on the sunscreen. Dermatologists recommend applying the equivalent of a shot glass (about two tablespoons) of sunscreen with an SPF of 30 every two hours.

6.  Encourage your aging loved one to protect their vision by wearing sunglasses. A good pair of sunglasses can help prevent macular degeneration.  How to Pick Good Sunglasses from WebMD can help you sort out which sunglasses are little more than a fashion statement and which ones offer real protection.

7.  Wear a light-weight long sleeve top and hat when you are outdoors. They can protect you from both the harmful UVA and UVB rays of the summer sun and from ticks and mosquitoes.

8.  Mosquitoes can carry diseases like the West Nile Virus. For older adults who often have weaker immune systems, the virus can be especially deadly. Be sure to use insect spray when outdoors. If you will be sitting outside, having a fan blowing can help repel mosquitoes as can citronella candles.

9.  Be aware of medication side effects. Seniors take an average of five medications per day. Many more common ones increase sun sensitivity. That means they can experience sun burn and sun poisoning faster. Be sure to compare your aging loved ones medication with this Sun Sensitivity list from AARP.

10.  Conduct a tick patrol every time you or an aging loved one comes back in to the house after spending time outdoors. Make sure to look through their hair, skin and clothing. Don’t forget to check the family pets, too!

11 Finally, be aware of summertime stings. Bees, wasps, and other insects can cause potentially dangerous allergic reactions. While most people won’t experience more than pain and itchiness, if an older adult is stung be on the lookout for swelling, dizziness, and hives. These symptoms need to be checked out immediately by a physician.

We hope these tips help you keep the senior adult you love safe in the sun this summer!

Do you have any tips that you would add to this list? Let us know below!