Guest Writer: Melissa M. Leedom, CPA, Secure Aging
With the economic and emotional fear from COVD-19 still very real, Americans are more vulnerable to scams that may try to steal their money or personal information. In fact, as of early July, Americans have lost a staggering $78.7 million due to fraud this year, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Much of that is tied to COVID-19 scams.
Additionally, there are more than 100 million “phishing” emails blocked every day by Google—of which 18 million that are specifically related to the coronavirus. Phishing emails are messages that try to obtain a person’s personal information for fraudulent use.
There are also 40,000 domain names online that contain the word coronavirus, making it harder to determine which sites are legitimate.
Although seniors are often a target for scams of any type, just about everyone is vulnerable right now to potential scams. It’s because more people are bored and spending time with their electronic devices. Additionally, people are afraid, and fear is a big motivator used by scammers.
Here are several examples of the types of scams related to COVID-19 right now—followed by a few ways to help protect yourself and your personal information.
7 COVID-19 Related Scam Examples
1. Get blood and saliva from COVID survivors. In an effort to get immunity against the virus, people search online for ideas. There are online marketplaces that claim to have blood or saliva from coronavirus survivors. They claim that if you buy and use these bodily fluids, you’ll help protect your body against COVID. However, it’s a hoax. The scammers take your payment details and never send a product.
2. Stimulus payment scams. There are several examples of stimulus payment scams. For instance, in your email inbox, you get messages with subject lines such as “Pay Advance: Stimulus Improvement.” The email prompts you to provide personal information via a link. Or, you receive phone calls or regular mail supposedly from the IRS, claiming to need your bank account information. Another stimulus payment scam: You receive an email or letter saying that you will get a stimulus payment, but you need to call someone to verify your personal information.
3. Charitable contribution request. You receive a phone call or email from a charity that claims to be a COVID relief fund and that is asking for money. However, the charity is not real.
4. COVID “cures,” home tests, or other products. There are scams related to COVID-19 vaccines (there are none yet), home tests (also none yet) cures, air filters, and other products. The phone call, emails, or texts you receive tout the benefit of what they are selling, but they are not real.
5. Contact tracer scams. In this type of scam, you are contacted by someone who claims that you have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. However, the “contact tracer” goes on to ask you for personal information, such as your birthdate, Social Security number, or banking information. A real contact tracer would not ask you for this information.
6. Social Security benefits. A person contacts you to say that you must provide personal information to continue to receive regular Social Security benefit payments. He or she will say they need this information due to COVID-19.
7. Tech support scams. With more people working from home, it’s no surprise that you may be concerned about tech trouble with your devices. With this type of scam, someone contacts you and says they can help fix your computer problem by accessing it remotely or by getting you to provide personal data to fix your tech problems. (One way to help avoid this: Do not google the phone number for a company’s tech support line, as the options you find may lead to scammers. Instead, go to the company’s website to get the number from their “Contact” section.)
How to Prevent and Fight Against COVID-19 Scams:
About the Author:
Melissa Leedom (941)761-9338 www.secureaging.com
Call Secure Aging to Find Out How We Can Help Seniors With Financial Management. The mission of Secure Aging is to protect and preserve our client’s independence and dignity through careful and thoughtful financial and care management. As our clients age, it is their desire to remain independent and age with dignity. Our services protect our clients from talented con artists looking to exploit and deplete the financial resources of our vulnerable seniors.
Coming off of a weekend celebrating our Independence Day, we felt it was a perfect opportunity to touch on the topic of Veterans Benefits as it relates to offsetting the costs for Assisted Living. VA Aid and Attendance is a tax free benefit that provides monthly payments to qualified Veterans and their spouses.
Currently in 2020, the VA Aid and Attendance monthly rates are:
Single Veteran: $1,911
Married Veteran with Spouse: $2,266
Surviving Spouse: $1,228
There are some basic requirements that will help determine eligibility for these benefits. Note, that these are just an overview and that it’s important to contact your local VA office or VA Accredited Elder Care Lawyer to truly determine if you qualify. (Reach out to us directly so we can recommend one of our vetted resources to get your questions answered.)
Once you apply, it can take time to get approved (up to 12 months currently due to delays because of COVID). It's important to know, all benefits are retroactive to the date you applied. With all that said, this makes future planning even more critical! If you or your loved one plans on accessing Aid and Attendance benefits, contact us TODAY so we can start to discuss community options so you aren’t caught needing the benefits and waiting for them to be approved!
Be sure that anyone who assists you in the preparation of your VA application is ACCREDITED by the Department of Veteran Affairs. You can confirm accreditation by going to www.va.gov/ogc/apps/Accreditation
Thank you to ALL our Veterans, their spouses and loved ones for their selfless service!
1 in 3 adults in the US provide care to another adult as an “informal” Caregiver. In many cases, this Caregiver is also caring for other family members such as a spouse or children and juggling outside responsibilities such as a career. The outcome is often extreme levels of Caregiver stress that then manifests into burnout.
Signs of Caregiver Stress are:
Whether your loved one is living in a Senior Community, or just sheltering-in-place at home, it’s extremely difficult to stay in touch during this COVID era. The Senior population is at the highest risk for Coronavirus, but we’re also seeing that they have been the most negatively effected by the isolation that quarantine brings.
Staying in consistent contact with our loved ones is critical to helping them with their mental and even physical health. Here are some tips on ways to stay in touch during this time:
1. Set a Timer: I think we can all agree that days, and even weeks are a blur right now for everyone. But with that said, checking in regularly with a phone call or video chat boosts their spirits and also allows for you to get a more accurate pulse on their mental and physical status. Whether it be daily, weekly or bi-weekly, set a timer on your phone for a time of day that you are usually free and make a re-occurring reminder to check in!
2. Video Chat: Seeing our loved one is always more impactful than just hearing their voice. This is especially important for Seniors with cognitive decline or dementia. There are video chat options for even the most UN-tech savvy person. Here are some of our faves:
4. Window Visits: Many Senior Communities are creating unique window visiting areas where loved ones can sit and have a conversation or lunch. This also works if you go and visit a Senior at their home. Even if they sit on the porch or screened in lanai while you sit 6-10 feet away, the personalized visit means so much!
5. Care Packages: Putting a care package together allows you to be creative and create a special experience for your loved one. Include a favorite snack or two that remind them of a memory with you, a framed picture of you together, and maybe a fun activity like an adult coloring book or a favorite magazine to give them some variety.
We get asked all of the time, has COVID-19 affected our business? Has it slowed down? Are client's still moving into Assisted Living Communities?
We have to say, it’s a resounding NO to whether we’ve slowed down. If anything, we've been busier as families have started to realize that their loved one needs more care, and with the isolation of quarantine causing rapid deterioration for many Seniors.
Has our business been affected? YES. Almost immediately we had to pivot to change our process to serve the “new normal”. It’s always been important that we’re meeting clients “where they’re at”…but now we mean it literally. All of our meetings went virtual, and so have the community tours. Even though it’s taken some getting used to, we feel so good knowing that we’ve been able to serve our clients throughout this overwhelming time when they need it the most.
If you’re wondering what our typical process looks like during the COVID era, it usually follows these steps:
1. Meet with the family virtually, usually over Zoom or FaceTime, to gather information and get to know the client and family. (If not possible, we do a detailed phone call.) This call is much more than basic discovery about care needs and budget. We dig deep into their personality and dynamics of the situation and figure out what resources along with community options they may need.
2. After the discovery session, we brainstorm options and proactively call communities directly to discuss the client situation to confirm timing and care needs align. We narrow the list down to 3-4 communities that we feel are the best place to start exploring.
3. We have a follow up call/Zoom with the client to discuss feedback on the options and see which communities they have the most interest in.
4. Phone calls are scheduled between the communities and our client/Caregivers, including conducting virtual tours (via FaceTime or a previously taped video).
5. Once the client has decided on the best option, we figure out the updated community move-in protocol, including new COVID-19 steps. Usually this entails 1-2 negative COVID-19 tests, which at this point they are fairly easy to obtain.
6. To secure an apartment, a refundable deposit is made and move-in date is set to take financial responsibility and begin moving in furniture. We always help coordinate details through this stage and refer to vetted services like movers, transportation, Elder Care Lawyers, etc. to ease the transition.
If you have questions about how we may be able to help you or a loved one in this journey, be sure to reach out to us directly. No one should walk it alone!
Guest Author: Sue Vipond
As our world is beginning to open up and you are thinking about your relocation plans, you may often wonder what you can do to get ready to move and how to start the process. The following are some helpful tips from TLC Relocation Services (specializing in seniors) on how to Downsize and “De-stress”!
When Do I Start?
Start early! It’s never too early to begin the downsizing process. You don’t have to wait for a crisis… give yourself 6 months or longer as you have lots to do. You are in the perfect situation because you have the time to get a jumpstart.
Where Do I Start?
Begin by concentrating on typical problem areas, such as the garage, closets, and file cabinets. “Once begun, half done” you will feel like you have accomplished something, then choose and focus on one room at a time.
How Do I Prepare to Sort and Declutter?
Collect an assortment of boxes in different sizes and separate and label them by category. Designate different areas of the room you are sorting and divide the boxes according to the items that you are keeping, passing on, donating, selling, throwing away and recycling. This alleviates confusion as to what your plans are for each piece, and speeds up the process as you can identify what goes where and put it in the appropriate container.
How Do I Determine What to Keep or Get Rid Of?
Ask yourself “What do I need if I am downsizing? Will I be entertaining? Do I have enough space for my books, personal collections, and photo albums? Do I have room to bring my linens, towels, winter items? If I can’t decide now, will it be costly to move it and get rid of it on the other side? Have I worn or used this in the last couple of years?”…if the answer is “No” then you probably don’t need it.
Ask yourself “Why am I keeping this? Do I love it or is it just a fond reminder of someone or something?” Consider hiring a personal historian to write the story behind your treasures and bind them in a book so that you can relive the memories without the actual keepsake.
Consider family members, friends, neighbors, favorite organizations, affiliations and then do an inventory of what you want to give to each of them. Put the names of who is getting what on the appropriate boxes. Remember that your kids probably don’t want much but your grandchildren might!
What Do I do with My Valuables?
There are various ways that you can monetize your move by selling or consigning your collections, but don’t expect to get what you paid for them. Times have changed and the next generation doesn’t seem interested in china, silver, flatware, crystal or linens.
Promotion via estate sales (check to see if allowed in your community) and auction houses (typically for specific high-end items) have become increasingly popular. Used furniture sales and buy-out companies will give you pennies on the dollar and will arrange to pick things up. And if you go the consignment shop route, make sure that you do it in season when there are more buyers in town.
What else will I need?
Lots of boxes, in all sizes, (don’t use liquor store boxes), packing paper (no newspaper), bubble wrap for fragile pieces. Mark shipping labels (use a Sharpie) with room contents and indicate “top load” or “fragile” as necessary.
Ask yourself if this is a job that you can do yourself? Are there family members or friends that you can engage in the process? Moving is not easy, is physically taxing and time consuming. You don’t need to do it alone.
Consider hiring a move expert or relocation specialist like TLC Senior Move Experts to facilitate with all the pieces involved in orchestrating your move. They can help you with developing an overall move plan; sorting and downsizing; packing, unpacking, and setting up your new home; interviewing, scheduling and overseeing both local and long-distance moves; arranging for shipments and storage; coordinating with estate sale, consignment, auction, buy out, donation and final clean-out sources. They can also supply all the necessary packing materials so that you do not have to purchase your own.
Allow for 3-6 months from start to finish and don’t get overwhelmed. This can be an exciting adventure if you take it in pieces and know where to begin.
About the Author: Sue Vipond of TLC Senior Move Experts helps clients from start-to-finish through the downsizing and moving process. TLC specializes in helping Seniors through the transition to their new home or apartment. For more info, reach out directly:
www.tlcseniormoveexperts.com ; (941)554-4746
With many of the Shelter-At-Home orders being lifted and people increasing their time outside the house and comingling with others, its so important that we are ALL proactively boosting our immunity right now. After 2-3 months of isolation, it is the body’s natural response to weaken the immune system because it hasn’t come in contact with any outside bacteria or viruses. Seniors and their Caregivers especially, need to be taking measures daily to strengthening their immunity so that they don’t become sick as they start getting back to some normalcy.
Here are 10 easy ways to boost your immune system naturally:
1. Vitamin D: It’s proven that Vitamin D is necessary for the proper functioning of our immune system and has a critical role in our body’s response to infection. Studies show, however, that over 42% of Americans are deficient and that can handcuff our immune system. To boost your Vitamin D levels, you can take a daily supplement or increase your intake of foods like fatty fish like salmon, egg yolks and mushrooms. Or, follow Tip #2!
2. Get More Sun: When your skin is exposed to sunlight it makes Vitamin D from cholesterol. Sitting in the sun for 15 minutes a day can make a big difference in improving your Vitamin D levels, plus its proven that being outside boosts your mood!
3. Zinc: This mineral is needed for immune cell development and plays important role in our body’s inflammatory response. There are many cases showing positive responses in reducing the duration of COVID, other respiratory tract infections and even the common cold.
4. Vitamin C: This is one of the most common immunity boosters, and for good reason! It’s important for many reasons, including the clearing out old/dead cells to make room for new/healthy ones. You can get Vitamin C by taking a daily supplement or consuming foods like bell peppers, oranges or broccoli often.
5. Laugh: Studies show that laughter decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection fighting antibodies. Call an old friend or put on a funny movie and laugh it out!
6. Probiotics: Everyday we are learning that our immune system is directly affected by our gut health. Taking a daily probiotic promotes production of natural antibodies and positive gut bacteria. You can take a daily probiotic or have a daily serving of foods like yogurt or sauerkraut.
7. Antioxidants: Daily consumption of antioxidant rich foods is proven to boost immunity by destroying free radicals and protecting the integrity of cells and tissues in the body. The best way to get your daily intake of antioxidants is to eat the rainbow: berries, green leafy greens, beans, beets and even dark chocolate!
8. Play In The Dirt: As crazy as it sounds, studies show that the bacteria found in dirt and sand are stronger strains that can survive the digestive track and get to where they need to go to improve gut health and, in turn, improve immunity. Plant a garden, walk around your yard without shoes or take a stroll along the beach!
9. Essential Oils: These have been used for thousands of years to improve wellness, and we can speak from our own experience that they can have an incredible effect on boosting immunity if used proactively. Try diffusing Cinnamon, Lemon or Eucalyptus oil daily. Remember: quality matters!
10. Exercise: Just 15-30 minutes of light exercise such as walking is known to have great effects on our immune system. It causes an increase in antibodies and white blood cells which are critical to fighting disease.
Guest Writer: Kris Chana
It is important to understand these nine signs do not mean someone is definitively suffering from dementia. There are plenty of days that I too suffer from some of the following, however, these are just possible signs of dementia that may be worth exploring more if you are caring for your mom, dad, spouse or loved one.
1. Low Food Supply, Spoiled or Expired Food
Reach out to Meals on Wheels and setup services for your loved one so they receive a nutritional meal at least once per day. These meals are typically delivered directly to the home and can be very inexpensive.
2. Unopened Mail
The USPS has a service which allows you to have your mail scanned and emailed to you. With your loved one's permission, you could have their mail emailed to you so it no longer piles up at their home and you can help ensure mail is not being missed.
3. Unpaid Bills
Try reducing the number of bills your loved one physically pays each month in person or by check. Set up their bills on Auto-Pay and help them easily manage everything online.
4. Medication Mix Up
Use smart devices like Alexa to schedule alarms for medication reminders. Also, try purchasing medications through a local pharmacy that uses blister packs or pill pouches which makes medication reminders much easier.
5. Unfilled Prescriptions
Avoid unfilled prescriptions through direct mail medication services which can be delivered directly to your loved one's home.
6. Piles of Dirt Laundry, Bad Odors & Hoarding Tendencies
Hire a private home care agency to help with laundry, housekeeping, home organization, meal preparation, transportation, incontinence care and assistance with showers. This could be as little as 1 to 3 times per week or more depending on your budget and care needs.
7. Fingerprints on Walls
Use Medicare Home Health for strength and balance training to include physical and occupational therapy. Also, try to have your loved one use a cane, walker or some other safety device which can help prevent a fall.
8. Failure to Maintain the Lawn
Hire a lawn service and get them a table top garden if they like to tending to their plants and being around nature.
9. Unexplained Dents and Scratches on the Car
Depending on your loved one’s cognitive ability you may be able to disconnect the battery and pretend the car needs to be fixed. Look for creative solutions to avoid taking your loved ones car or license away from them.
About the Author:
Kris Chana is passionate about Seniors and their Caregivers! He is CEO at Chelsea Place Senior Care which operates an Assisted Living community, Adult Day Care and Home Care services. His vision is to transform Senior Care…one family at a time.
817.201.3113 | firstname.lastname@example.org | www.chelseaplacecare.com
Researching, choosing and moving a loved one into an Assisted Living community or long term care facility is often times an overwhelming process. We know because we saw Mark’s Mom have to navigate through it after his Grandmother’s stroke. After seeing how stressful it is on Caregivers and family members, we set out to create the service we wish we had so that families had the information, resources and most importantly, SUPPORT, they needed to make the best decision.
It’s extremely helpful to use a placement service to find the right community or facility fit no matter what stage of the process you find yourself in. Why? So glad you asked! Here’s a few great reasons:
1. Its free. Yep, our service is 100% free to families. Placement services get a referral fee from the community if your loved one moves into one they referred you to. Because it’s free to you, there’s no risk to getting insight and information to help you along in your search to finding the right fit.
2. We’re unbiased. Because it’s pretty standard in the industry to use placement services, it allows us to work with almost all communities. We don’t have motives to have you move into one community over another; our goal is just that you find the best match for your loved one.
3. We save you time. There are a lot of options and choices to consider when you’re looking for the right senior housing community, especially in the SunCoast. You don’t want to waste time researching or touring communities that don’t fit your criteria. We help narrow the list down right off the bat to make sure you’re only comparing viable options.
4. You’ll have someone to accompany you on community tours. Heck, we’ll even pick you up and take you! Don’t worry about knowing what to ask or look out for, because having us join you on tours allows us to serve as your advocate to get all questions answered and make sure you have all the info you need to make the best decision.
5. You’ll have one point person. You won’t need to manage communicating with all the different communities separately and keeping all the information straight…we do that for you. This is even more valuable when there are non-local or multiple family members, as we can keep all updated and in the loop.
6. You get inside information from an industry expert. Working with someone who is tapped into the industry and has their ear to the ground about reputation, care and staff is critical to making the right choice.
7. We Project Manage the entire process. Identifying the right community is just the first step. We help you anticipate and complete all steps until move in including scheduling assessments and tracking down all documentation needed, etc. We also can refer you to other vetted resources to help along the journey like Elder Care Lawyers, downsizers, movers, etc.
So, wouldn’t you say it’s a no-brainer?? There’s no reason you should walk this journey alone. Whether you’re at the very early planning and information gathering stage, or need to make an immediate decision, we’re here to hold your hand every step of the way.
Reach out to us today and let us know how we can help!
With all that has been going on recently with COVID19 and Quarantine, we felt it was a great time to revisit the concept of integrating a daily gratitude practice. This can be such a powerful tool, especially for family Caregivers. Even though we all may think, “well yeah, I’m grateful.”, having a daily ritual where you take time to be intentional and pause to focus on only gratitude can truly transform the way you think about your day.
Starting off, the most important thing to remember is that being grateful is not about ignoring negative feelings or realities. Rather it’s about SHIFTING your focus from the negative to the positive. Think about your brain’s focus as a flashlight and there are two piles: one with all the good that’s happened today and one with all the unfortunate, frustrating and upsetting. That “bad” pile isn’t going away…but gratitude helps you shine that light on the pile of good and change your perspective.
Now, when we refer to a “gratitude practice” it’s just a fancy way of saying a daily habit of being grateful. Anytime you make a change, physical or mental, you need to put routines in place to hold yourself to it. Just like going to the gym is a “daily practice” to get fit, a daily practice of being grateful will re-wire the way your brain looks at the world in a more positive way.
Having a daily gratitude practice can help you create the habit of simply noticing good thing that happen in your day-to-day life…both big and small. It also focuses you on the things you DO have and positive things that ARE in your life. This is the beginning of training your brain to become more naturally optimistic.
So now, HOW do we implement this daily gratitude practice? If it was easy, we wouldn’t have to do a blog post on it!...Lets go through some ideas:
1. As soon as you open your eyes in the morning, lay in bed and think of 3 things you’re grateful for. Sounds super simple, right? Well it is the first few days when we go through the ‘ol standbys: kids, roof over your head, a significant other, maybe your health….but its around day 5 or 6 that you will start to have to LOOK for new things to be grateful for. It’s here that the big breakthroughs start and the re-wiring happen. You will begin to start to notice the little things in your day that you can use in your morning gratitude practice. That shift of mindset is what makes this so powerful.
2. Start a Gratitude Journal. This can be as easy as numbering 1, 2, 3 at the bottom of your daily planer or you can start a notebook just designated to your gratitude practice. The same routine above applies, but this takes it up a notch as you are writing it down. This allows you to have a working list of all your blessings. This record can be referenced at any time and will be especially helpful during times of extreme stress and fatigue.
Print out this free Daily Gratitude Worksheet to get started today:
3. Create a Gratitude Jar. This is a great practice to do together with a loved one. You’ll need an empty clear jar, scraps of paper and a pen. Once a day, or whenever the moment hits you, write down on a piece of paper 1 thing you are grateful for. Put it in the jar, and have your partner do the same. You’ll begin to get a visual of all the things you are grateful for because the scraps of paper will accumulate fast! Even better, you can dump out the jar on a day you need a boost or maybe at the end of every month and review with your loved one.
We hope this inspires you to create a gratitude practice of your own. Remember: its so important that you make this ritual your own. The time of day, location and routine will all be unique to you. Let it morph and evolve over time as you become more comfortable with it.
At Sunways, we’re grateful for YOU and our community of Caregivers who are sharing their heart daily with the ones they love.
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Elli is the President of Sunways and loves spending time outside with her family, and is passionate about cooking and holistic health.