National Immunization Awareness Month

August is National Immunization Month. As we age our immune system can weaken creating circumstances that make us more susceptible to illnesses. There are a number of ways to help keep our immune systems safe, one strategy is immunization.

Influenza

The flu is a contagious respiratory illness that can be severe and life-threatening.

The flu shot is not just for frail older adults. Healthy people age 65 and over experience a weakening of the immune system and are more susceptible to getting the flu. If you are managing a chronic illness such as diabetes or heart disease, battling the flu can be even more dangerous as complications can arise. Flu combined with Pneumonia, which is a common acute condition among the aging population, is one of the top 10 leading causes of death for people aged 65 and over.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) the flu vaccine is the best way to prevent the flu.

It is best to get the flu shot annually and as early in the season as possible. You can get a flu shot at your doctor’s office, at a clinic, or many of the pharmacies offer them as well.

Shingles Vaccine

Shingles is a painful skin rash caused by the same virus as chicken pox. Shingles can only be passed on to others prior to scabs forming from the blisters. Pain from shingles can linger long after the rash disappears.

The chicken pox virus lives dormant in the immune system and the weakening of the immune system can awaken the virus. One in three adults contracts shingles at some point in their life, most are 60 years or older. Shingles has serious side effects, like fever, exhaustion and loss of appetite. If you’ve had the chicken pox, or are unsure, you should talk with your doctor about getting vaccinated.

In October 2017, the FDA approved Shingrix, a new shingles vaccine. In January, the CDC officially recommended that adults 50 and over get the new vaccine to prevent shingles. Healthy adults 50 years and older should get two doses of Shingrix, separated by 2 to 6 months. You should get Shingrix even if in the past you

  • had shingles
  • received Zostavax
  • are not sure if you had chickenpox
  • Vaccine for Those 50 Years and Older

There is no maximum age for getting Shingrix.

If you had shingles in the past, you can get Shingrix to help prevent future occurrences of the disease. There is no specific length of time that you need to wait after having shingles before you can receive Shingrix, but generally you should make sure the shingles rash has gone away before getting vaccinated.

If you had Zostavax in the recent past, you should wait at least eight weeks before getting Shingrix. Talk to your doctor to determine the best time to get Shingrix.

Pneumococcal

Pneumococcal disease causes severe infections throughout the bloodstream and/or key organs. The conditions that result from pneumococcal are more commonly known, such as pneumonia, meningitis and bacteremia. More than 18,000 people age 65 and over die each year from pneumococcal.

The vaccine is given in two shots usually a year apart. Check with your doctor as to when you should get this vaccine.

Tetanus

Tetanus is an infection caused by bacteria called Clostridium tetani. When the bacteria invade the body, they produce a poison (toxin) that causes painful muscle contractions. Another name for tetanus is “lockjaw”. It often causes a person’s neck and jaw muscles to lock, making it hard to open the mouth or swallow. CDC recommends vaccines for infants, children, teens, and adults to prevent tetanus.  Adults should get a tetanus shot every 10 years.

Whooping Cough (Pertussis)

Whooping cough (pertussis) is a bacterial infection that causes violent coughing.  It can be extremely dangerous for infants and small children.  For adults, the coughing can cause vomiting, loss of bladder control, or cracked or broken ribs.

The pertussis vaccine is combined with tetanus vaccine. Adults can opt for the combined pertussis/tetanus vaccine (Tdap) one time when they are receiving their tetanus booster. If you are not due for a tetanus booster, you can get the dose of Tdap earlier than the 10-year mark. Being up-to-date with one dose of Tdap is especially important for adults who are around babies.

These are just a few of the vaccines available.  If you have concerns about immunization, you should discuss these concerns with your doctor.

World Elder Abuse Awareness Month

June is World Elder Abuse Awareness Month and June 15, 2018, is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. SeniorCare Inc. and several non-profit and civic organizations are holding special events throughout the North Shore to increase awareness of this growing issue in our society.

10,000 people turn 65 in the US every day. That trend is going to continue for the next 20 years. Our demographics are shifting, and we will soon have more elder people in the US than ever before. At the same time that the population is growing, we know that a startling number of elders face abusive situations. Every year an estimated 5 million, or 1 in 10, older Americans are victims of elder abuse, neglect, or exploitation. And that’s only part of the picture: Experts believe that for every case of elder abuse or neglect reported, as many as 23.5 cases go unreported.

Elder abuse and neglect and take on various forms. It can be physical, emotional/verbal, sexual, financial, neglect by a caregiver, or self-neglect. Elder abuse can occur anywhere – in the home, in nursing homes, or other institutions. It affects seniors across all socioeconomic groups, cultures, and races. In Massachusetts, an elder is anyone 60 or older.

If you suspect abuse or self-neglect, don’t assume that someone has already reported it. In cases of immediate danger call 911. Otherwise, you can call the Massachusetts Elder Abuse Hotline at 800-922-2275.

SeniorCare is participating in five rallies to increase awareness of Elder Abuse this year. The first rally will take place in Gloucester on Thursday, June 7, from 11:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Attendees are encouraged to meet at the flagpole in front of the Gloucester Police Station on Main Street at 11:00 a.m. The rally will march down Main Street, continuing along Rogers Street to the Fitz Henry Lane parking lot (across from Walgreens on the corner of Rogers Street and Harbor Loop). Following the march, there will be a cookout in the Fitz Henry Lane lot. Gloucester’s event is supported by the Gloucester Police Department, HAWC, the Gloucester Council on Aging, and SeniorCare.

Ipswich will hold a rally on Thursday, June 14, from 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at Five Corners (the intersection of Central and Market Streets). Following the rally, refreshments will be served at the Ipswich Council on Aging at 25 Green Street. This event is supported by the Ipswich Police Department, the Essex County Sheriff’s Department, the Ipswich Council on Aging and SeniorCare.

Rockport’s “Show You Care” rally will be held on Thursday, June 14, from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. at Five Corners (the intersection of Broadway, Railroad Avenue, and Main Street). This event is supported by the Rockport Police Department, the Rockport Council on Aging and SeniorCare.

Beverly will hold a rally in front of Beverly City Hall on Friday, June 15, from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Beverly’s event is supported by the Beverly Police Department, HAWC, SeniorCare and the Beverly Council on Aging.

There will be a rally in Manchester by the Sea on the Village Green in front of Town Hall on Tuesday, June 19, from 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Manchester’s event is supported by the Manchester’s Police Department, SeniorCare and the Manchester Council on Aging.

Concerned citizens are invited to participate in any or all of these events. Join SeniorCare and our local safety agencies in bringing light to the horrendous crime of elder abuse. Please stop by to show your support!

SeniorCare is committed to identifying and stopping Elder Abuse!

Protect Yourself- Protect Your New Medicare Card

New Medicare cards are being mailed between April 2018 and April 2019.

You asked and Medicare listened. Your Social Security number will be removed from your Medicare card to protect your identity. You’ll get a new Medicare card with a number that’s unique to you and this number can only be used for your Medicare coverage.

There will be no changes to your benefits.

Beware of anyone who contacts you about your new Medicare card. Medicare and the Social Security Administration will not call you for your personal
information. Do not give any personal information to anyone you DO NOT know.

The only thing you need to do to get your new Medicare card is to make sure your mailing address is up to date. If your address needs to be corrected, contact Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 or visit SSA.Gov/MyAccount. TTY users can call 1-800-325-0778.

Mailing everyone a new card will take time. Your card might arrive at a different time than your friend’s, neighbor’s or even your spouse.

If you have questions about your Medicare benefits or about the new Medicare card, free private counseling sessions with a SHINE adviser are available at SeniorCare. Call 978-281-1750 to make an appointment. 

Mass Home Care Hires New Executive Director

Mass Home Care announced today that Lisa Gurgone has been appointed as its new Executive Director. Mass Home Care is the lead advocacy organization for the Aging Services Access Points in Massachusetts. Its 30 member agencies provide home and community based care for the elderly and disabled throughout every part of the commonwealth.

A seasoned public policy advocate, Gurgone will be leaving her current position at the Home Care Aide Council where she lead three successful campaigns to secure state budget amendments which provided wage increases, of almost $2.00 an hour, to frontline home care workers caring for those enrolled in the state’s Elder Home Care Program. Gurgone also currently serves as an appointee to the Massachusetts Health Care Workforce Transformation Fund Advisory Board and the Massachusetts LGBT Aging Commission.

“After a thorough search process, we are thrilled to welcome Lisa Gurgone as Executive Director, a person who brings a strong leadership reputation, an expert knowledge of the home care industry and a passion for advocating for underserved and vulnerable populations,” said Paula Shiner, president of the Mass Home Care Association and chief executive officer of Coastline Elderly Services, the Aging Services Access Point (ASAP) representing the New Bedford region. “I look forward to working with Lisa to continue our work of helping the elderly and disabled live in their communities with dignity and independence.”

“For over 40 years, Mass Home Care has led the way in designing and managing the robust and unique system of community-based services available to older adults throughout our Commonwealth,” said Lisa Gurgone, Mass Home Care’s new executive director. “I look forward to continuing Mass Home Care’s mission; working with its member agencies to advocate, with a strong and collective voice, for programs and services for the elderly and disabled; and to expand the organization’s role in developing and growing partnerships within new and existing models of care.”

Prior to joining the Council, Gurgone worked as a Legislative Aide within the Massachusetts Legislature, served as a Health Research Assistant for the Massachusetts Division of Health Care Finance and Policy, and was a Mediator and Internship Coordinator for the Office of Massachusetts Attorney General Scott Harshbarger. She completed her graduate studies at UMASS Boston, earning both a graduate certificate in Women in Politics and Public Policy in 2000 and a Master of Science in Public Affairs in 2002. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Human Services from Lesley University in 1996.

About Mass Home Care

Mass Home Care is the lead advocacy organization for the Aging Services Access Points in Massachusetts its 30 member agencies provide home and community based care for the elderly and disabled throughout every part of the state. For more information, or to see a list of member organizations, please visit www.masshomecare.info.

Starting Small and Making It Big

As a recipient of a $100K for 100 grant from Cummings Foundation, our organization has benefited not only from substantial financial resources but also from the publicity and enhanced standing that comes with Cummings Foundation’s support. This grant for $100,000 confirms for potential donors and volunteers that we are making a positive impact in the local community.

Knowing that all proceeds from Bill Cummings’ new memoir, “Starting Small and Making It Big,” go to Cummings Foundation, we could not be more proud to recommend this book. By purchasing “Starting Small,” for yourself or as a gift, you are actually giving back in a charitable way — and you will likely be inspired by what you read.

We are pleased to share a book review below. More information about Starting Small is available online.

Today’s corporate temperament prizes decisions made on the basis of a simple opportunistic edict: do what will produce the greatest revenue while consuming the fewest resources. There’s nothing wrong with that thinking, per se, but there’s a vital piece missing from those broad strokes: doing what’s right.

This value system (not to mention our current political discourse) has clouded the confluence between opportunity and opportunism, promoting thinking in which the latter is the province of the prosperous and the former describes a concept that people feel has escaped them. What remains is a society in which too many believe they’re helpless to effect change, compelling children to march for their lives in Washington in the face of public apathy, and allowing the civic void to be filled by those who mask intolerance and ignorance by calling it innovation.

In his new memoir, “Starting Small and Making It Big: An Entrepreneur’s Journey to Billion-Dollar Philanthropist,” Bill Cummings offers a welcome rejoinder to this diminished thinking, showing us not only that hard work and diligence can lead to success but also that success can foment fundamental justice and genuine structural change along the way.

When Cummings first went into business for himself, negotiating a good deal to purchase a hundred-year-old beverage enterprise in 1964, his dad gave him some advice about opportunity that stuck with him: “The most important thing about being lucky,” he said, “is recognizing good luck when it comes along, and then taking advantage of it. Life is mostly what we make of the opportunities that come our way.”

“Starting Small” details Cummings’ story of how, with a practical sensibility and belief in himself and others, along with an eye for making his own luck, he worked his way from conventional working-class beginnings to founding a real estate company with a portfolio of more than 11 million square feet of debt-free space in his totally unleveraged style.

What makes Cummings’ self-made-man narrative unique, and worthy of attention, though, is the rest of the story. With the kind of detailed guidance that budding entrepreneurs will earmark for reference, and the charming conversational tone of a man who enjoys telling a tale, Cummings’ book describes not only the life he and his wife, Joyce, have created by making the most of the opportunities that have come their way, but also how they have become philanthropists on a scale few accomplish, having already given more than a billion dollars to charitable causes.

Members of the Giving Pledge, established by Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates, Cummings attributes his and Joyce’s extraordinary dedication to giving back to their community-to institutions large and, mostly, small-to what he describes as their “belief in the goodness of all humanity.”

That strong-held belief, Cummings illustrates from the beginning of “Starting Small,” comes from his and Joyce’s strong family backgrounds, and life-long association with like-minded people who shared their values and supported their endeavors, but it’s also clear that Cummings genuinely likes people and has the gift to recognize their best qualities.

“At Cummings Properties, one of our major goals is to find out what good employees do best and then keep them busy doing it,” Cummings writes. In “Starting Small,” Cummings paints convivial portraits of his colleagues, many of whom have long tenures with his company, the average length of service for the 360-person firm being more than 11 years.

On the occasion of one colleague’s 40th anniversary of service with the company, Cummings describes how equipment operator George Holland received not only an engraved rocking chair celebrating the milestone, but was shocked to be handed the keys to the company’s first brand-new backhoe, which had his name painted prominently on the door.

Other stories are tender, and at the heart of the book is a tragedy, when Cummings’ protégé, 41-year-old Jamie McKeown, was stricken by a fatal heart attack. Cummings’ account of his more than 17 years spent mentoring Jamie, and his profound pleasure in having cultivated a person who cared as much about improving his community as he did about growing a company, explains how the loss served as a sort of turning point for Cummings’ altruistic views.

In describing Jamie at his funeral service, Cummings said “no man I have ever met cared more about doing the right thing,” and that Jamie “led by example.” Cummings writes, “Although Joyce and I had formed Cummings Foundation 10 years before Jamie died, his death was a stark reminder to me that if she and I were to do meaningful good things, together with the foundation, we really needed to get started.”

Doing the right thing, leading by example, and incorporating charitable giving into every aspect of his immensely successful business is how Bill Cummings has honored Jamie and others who have impacted his and Joyce’s thinking, some on a grand scale, and many, many others on a small, local level. In some ways, “Starting Small” is a textbook on how-and why-to give, as individuals, and, importantly, as an integral part of the corporate culture.

New Medicare Cards Coming Soon

New Medicare cards are coming soon. Here’s what you need to know about your new card. Plus, how to avoid related scams.

Starting in April 2018, Medicare will begin mailing new cards to everyone who gets Medicare benefits. Why? To help protect your identity, Medicare is removing Social Security numbers from Medicare cards. Instead, the new cards will have a unique Medicare Number. This will happen automatically. You don’t need to do anything or pay anyone to get your new card.

Medicare will mail your card, at no cost, to the address you have on file with the Social Security Administration. If you need to update your official mailing address, visit your online Social Security account or call 1-800-772-1213. When you get your new card, your Medicare coverage and benefits will stay the same.

If your sister who lives in another state gets her card before you, don’t fret. The cards will be mailed in waves, to various parts of the country, from April 2018 until April 2019. So, your card may arrive at a different time than hers. You can check the rollout schedule to get a better idea when you may be receiving yours. (As of 3/8/2018, Massachusetts is expected to start receiving new cards after June 2018)

When you get your new card, be sure to destroy your old card. Don’t just toss it in the trash. Shred it. If you have a separate Medicare Advantage card, keep that because you’ll still need it for treatment.

As the new Medicare cards start being mailed, be on the lookout for Medicare scams. Here are some tips:

  • Don’t pay for your new card. It’s yours for free. If anyone calls and says you need to pay for it, that’s a scam.
  • Don’t give personal information to get your card. If someone calls claiming to be from Medicare, asking for your Social Security number or bank information, that’s a scam. Hang up. Medicare will never ask you to give personal information to get your new number and card.
  • Guard your card. When you get your new card, safeguard it like you would any other health insurance or credit card. While removing the Social Security number cuts down on many types of identity theft, you’ll still want to protect your new card because identity thieves could use it to get medical services.

For more information about changes to your Medicare card go to go.medicare.gov/newcard. And if you’re a victim of a scam, report it to the FTC.

Additional information about possible scams related to new Medicare cards

March 6, 2018. by Lisa Weintraub Schifferle, Attorney, FTC, Division of Consumer and Business Education

Scammers Prepare to Target Seniors as Government Readies New Medicare Cards

From the office of: Congressman Seth Moulton
 
I wanted to flag something that the Medicare division of Greater Boston Legal Services informed our office of last week. They are concerned about potential scams as Medicare prepares to send out new Medicare cards to all 57.7 million Medicare recipients, replacing social security numbers on Medicare cards with unique Medicare ID numbers. As I’m sure you already know, this is an important step Medicare is taking to protect enrollees social security numbers. However, there is potential for new scams as Medicare sends out new cards. I’m reaching out to share some information from GBLS on possible scams to look out for (see blog post here and attached document). I hope this information will be helpful to the populations you serve.
 
Please do not hesitate to reach out if you have any questions or concerns.
 

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back
Scammers Prepare to Target Seniors as Government Readies New Medicare Cards
 
​It seemed like a good idea: Congress passed legislation back in 2015 that required the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to stop using Social Security numbers on seniors’ Medicare cards and start using a new, randomly-generated 11-digit number to identify each Medicare participant. The concept was to deter fraud by getting valuable Social Security numbers off Medicare cards and providing new cards and numbers to every single Medicare participant. All 58 million of them.
 
​Unfortunately, ever-creative and flexible scammers will certainly soon start trying to exploit the switchover to new cards. Scammers have an arsenal of traditional weapons at their disposal but they’re most likely to employ one or more of the following:
  • Make telephone calls masquerading as a government official to “inform” seniors of the card switchover and “explain” that they just need to “update” their information in order for the senior to get the new Medicare card. Reality: CMS will mail new Medicare cards to all Medicare participants automatically—participants need not do anything or pay anything in order to receive their new card.
  • Make telephone calls pretending to be staff at your doctor’s office and asking for the new Medicare number “just to update our records” or “ensure correct billing.”
  • Set up desks at local health fairs and offer “freebies” like nutritional supplements in exchange for seniors’ new Medicare numbers and other personal information.
What’s the harm in providing your Medicare number or other personal information? Simple: scammers can exploit your Medicare number to fraudulently bill Medicare for expensive healthcare equipment they never provided (think power wheelchairs or complex braces and splints). Then if you someday need similar equipment, CMS may refuse to supply it on the grounds that you’ve already received it.
 
​How to protect yourself against the scammers? Remember a few fundamental rules:
  • Safeguard your Medicare number! Treat your Medicare card and number (both your current and the forthcoming new one) like you would a credit card. Only give them directly to your healthcare providers!
  • Remember that CMS will contact you only through written, mailed letters. CMS won’t call you, much less ask for your Medicare number or other personal information over the phone!
  • Know that anyone requesting your Medicare number over the telephone is probably a scammer. So just hang up!
Credit: Better Business Bureau Consumer Education Blog

SeniorCare & AARP Provide Free Tax Preparation

Download list of tax preparation locations

SeniorCare Inc.’s RSVP Volunteers of the North Shore are proud to partner with AARP and coordinate the AARP Tax-Aide Program, a vital service for elders, enabling them much needed assistance with their taxes. It is the nation’s largest free, volunteer-run tax assistance and preparation service. Across the nation, there are over 34,000 AARP Tax-Aide volunteers who help more than 2.6 million taxpayers file their federal, state and local tax returns each year. SeniorCare’s group of RSVP Volunteer Tax Aides consists of over 40 certified volunteers who contributed more than 3,000 hours of service assisting over 2,500 elders in 2017!

In 2018, from February through April, AARP and volunteers from SeniorCare RSVP will assist taxpayers 60 & older with middle to low income with their tax preparation and filing, providing free tax assistance at over 30 locations throughout the North Shore.

For information on this program, please contact RSVP Program Assistant Theresa Dickson at 978-281-1750 x-568 or theresa.dickson@seniorcareinc.org.

Download list of tax preparation locations

Senior Circuit Breaker Tax Credit

Senior citizens may be eligible to claim a refundable credit on their personal state income tax return. The Circuit Breaker tax credit is based on the actual real estate taxes paid on the Massachusetts residential property owned/rented and occupied as the principal residence.

The maximum credit amount for 2017 is $1,080. If the credit owed exceeds the amount of the total tax payable for the year, the excess will be refunded to the taxpayer.

Who is eligible?

  • Must be a Massachusetts resident or part-year resident.
  • Must be 65 or older by December 31, 2017.
  • Must file a Massachusetts personal income tax return.
  • Must own or rent residential property in Massachusetts and occupy it as your primary residence.
  • For the tax year, total Massachusetts income doesn’t exceed:
    • $57,000 for a single individual who is not the head of a household.
    • $72,000 for a head of household.
    • $86,000 for married couples filing a joint return.
  • If you are a homeowner, your Massachusetts property tax payments, together with half of your water and sewer expense, must exceed 10% of your total Massachusetts income for the tax year.
  • If you are a renter, 25% of your annual Massachusetts rent must exceed 10% of your total Massachusetts income for the tax year.

More information