Alternative transportation services vary widely by
community, so what’s available to your mom will depend
on where she lives. Here’s what you should know.
Q: Where can I find out about alternative transportation
options for my elderly mother? She needs to give up
driving, but before she does, we need to figure out how
she’ll get around.
For starters it’s important to know that while most
urban areas offer seniors a variety of transportation
services, the options may be few to none for those
living in the suburbs, small towns and rural areas.
Alternative transportation is an essential link in
helping seniors who no longer drive get to their
doctor’s appointments, stores, social activities and
Depending on where your mom lives, here’s a rundown of
possible solutions that can help her get around, along
with some resources to help you locate them.
Family and friends: This is by far the most often used
and favorite option among seniors. So make a list of all
possible candidates your mom can call on, along with
their availability and contact information.
Local transportation programs: These are usually
sponsored by nonprofit organizations that serve seniors.
These services may charge a nominal fee or accept
donations and often operate with the help of volunteer
check out the Independent Transportation Network (itnamerica.org),
which is a national nonprofit that has 27 affiliate
transportation programs in 23 states. With this program,
seniors pay membership dues and fees based on mileage.
And, most programs will let your mom donate her car in
return for credits toward future rides.
Demand response services: Often referred to as
“dial-a-ride” or “elderly and disabled transportation
service,” these are typically government-funded programs
that provide door-to-door transportation services by
appointment and usually charge a small fee or donation
on a per ride basis. Many use vans and offer accessible
services for riders with special needs.
or car service: These private services offer flexible
scheduling but can be expensive, however, they’re
cheaper than owning a car. Some taxi/car services may be
willing to set up accounts that allow other family
members to pay for services and some may offer senior
discounts. Be sure to ask.
Another option to look into is ride-sharing services,
which connects people with cars, with people who need
rides. Uber (uber.com), Lyft (lyft.com) and Sidecar (side.cr)
are three of the largest companies offering services in
dozens of cities across the U.S.
Private program services: Some hospitals, health
clinics, senior centers, adult day centers, malls or
other businesses may offer transportation for program
participants or customers. And some nonmedical home-care
agencies that bill themselves as providing companionship
and running errands or doing chores may also provide
transit: Public transportation (buses, trains, subways,
etc.) where available, can also be an affordable option
and may offer senior reduced rates.
someone: If your mom lives in an area where there are
limited or no transportation services available, another
option to consider is to pay someone in the community to
drive her. Consider hiring a neighbor, retiree, high
school or college student that has a flexible schedule
and wouldn’t mind making a few extra bucks.
To find out what transportation services are available
in your mom’s community, contact the Rides in Sight
national toll-free call center at 855-607-4337 (or see
www.ridesinsight.org), and the Eldercare Locator
800-677-1116, which will direct you to her area agency
on aging for assistance.
contact local senior centers, places of worship and
retirement communities for other possible options. And
check with her state department of transportation at
www.fhwa.dot.gov/webstate.htm, and the American Public
Transportation Association at publictransportation.org.
How to claim the retirement saver’s tax credit
Jan. 13, 2015
A coworker was recently telling me about a tax credit
she got last year for simply contributing to our
company’s 401(k) plan. What can you tell me about this,
and who’s eligible?
It’s called the “retirement saver’s tax credit,” and
it’s a frequently overlooked credit that’s available to
low and moderate-income individuals and families who
make saving for retirement a priority. Here’s how it
your contribute to a traditional or Roth IRA, or an
employer sponsored plan like a 401(k), 457, 403(b), SEP
plan, SIMPLE IRA or other retirement-savings plan, the
retirement saver’s tax credit will allow you to claim
10, 20 or 50 percent of your contribution, depending on
your income, up to a maximum of $1,000 per person or
$2,000 per couple.
qualify, you must also be at least 18 years old and not
a full-time student, and were not claimed as a dependent
on someone else’s tax return. And your adjusted gross
income in 2015 must be $61,000 or less as a married
couple filing jointly, $45,750 or less if filing as head
of household, or $30,500 or less if you’re a single
filer. These income limits are adjusted annually to keep
pace with inflation.
To get the 50 percent credit, you’ll need to have an
income below $18,250 if you’re single, $27,375 if you’re
filing as head of household, and $36,500 for couples in
20 percent credit rate applies to individuals earning
between $18,251 and $19,750; for head of household
filers it’s $27,376 to $29,625; and for couples it’s
$36,501 to $39,500.
the 10 percent rate is for individuals with an adjusted
gross income between $19,751 and $30,500; for head of
household filers 29,626 to $45,750; and couples it’s
between $39,501 and $60,100.
Double tax break
You also need to know that the retirement saver’s tax
credit can be claimed in addition to the tax deduction
you get for contributing to your employer’s retirement
plan or a traditional IRA. Here’s an example of how this
Let’s say you’re married and have an income of $37,000,
and your spouse is not working. If you contribute $1,000
to your company’s 401(k) plan, your adjusted gross
income would be reduced to $36,000 on your tax return.
You would also be able to claim a 50 percent retirement
saver’s credit, which is worth $5,000, for your $1,000
in mind though that this is a tax credit, not a
deduction, so it lowers your income tax dollar for
dollar. It is, however, a nonrefundable tax credit,
which means it cannot reduce the amount of tax owed to
less than zero.
How to claim
To claim the credit, you will need to fill out Form 8880
(see irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f8880.pdf) and attach it to
your 1040, 1040A or 1040NR when you file your tax
return. Don’t use the 1040EZ Form.
you think that you would have qualified for the credit
in previous years but didn’t claim it, you can file an
amended return as far back as 2011 and still get the
credits. A 2011 amended return is due by April 15, 2015.
See IRS Form 1040X (irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/i1040x.pdf) for
instructions on how to file an amended return.
for more information on the retirement saver’s tax
credit, see IRS Publication 590 “Individual Retirement
you don’t have Internet access to see or download these
forms, call the IRS at 800-829-3676 and ask them to mail
them to you.
How to keep tabs on an elderly parent when you can’t be
Jan. 7, 2015
Q: Can you recommend any caregiving devices or
technology products that help families keep an eye on an
elderly parent that lives alone? Over the holidays, my
sister and I noticed that my dad’s health has slipped,
so we would like to find something that helps us keep
closer tabs on him when we’re not around.
There are many different assistive technology products
available today that can help families keep an eye on an
elderly loved one when they can’t be there. Depending on
your dad’s needs and how much you’re willing to spend,
here are some good options to consider.
If you’re primarily worried about your dad falling and
needing help, one of the most commonly used and
affordable products for seniors living alone is a
personal emergency response system (PERS) - also known
as a medical alert device.
about a dollar or two a day, these systems provide a
wearable pendent button - typically in the form of a
necklace pendent or wristband - and a base station that
connects to the home phone line.
the press of a button, your dad could call and talk to a
trained operator through the system’s base station
receiver, which works like a powerful speakerphone. The
operator will find out what’s wrong, and will notify
family members, a neighbor, friend or emergency services
PERS today even offer motion-sensitive pendants that can
detect a fall and automatically call for help. And some
offer GPS mobile-alert pendants that work anywhere. Some
top companies that offer all levels of services include
Philips Lifeline (www.lifelinesys.com, 800-380-3111),
Medical Alert (www.medicalalert.com, 800-800-2537) and
MobileHelp (www.mobilehelpnow.com, 800-992-0616).
If you want to keep closer tabs on your dad than what a
PERS offers, consider a sensor monitoring system. These
systems use small wireless sensors (not cameras) placed
in key areas of your dad’s home that can detect changes
in his activity patterns, and will notify you via text
message or email if something out of the ordinary is
happening. For instance, if he went to the bathroom and
didn’t leave, it could indicate a fall or other
can also check up on his patterns anytime you want
through the system’s website. And for additional
protection, most services also offer PERS call buttons
that can be placed around the house, or worn.
good companies that offer these services are GrandCare
Systems (www.grandcare.com, 262-338-6147), which charges
$300 for their activity sensors, plus a $50 monthly
service fee. And BeClose (www.beclose.com,
866-574-1784), which runs $399 for three sensors, and a
$69 monthly service fee if paid a year in advance.
you’re interested in a more budget-friendly option,
consider Lively (www.mylively.com, 888-757-0711), which
costs only $50 with a $35 monthly service fee. Lively
uses small motion sensors that you attach to movable
objects like a pillbox, refrigerator door, front door,
etc. These sensors will track your dad’s
movement/activity and let you know of any abnormalities
in his routines. For example, if he didn’t pick up his
pillbox to get his medicine, or he didn’t open the front
door to go out and retrieve his morning newspaper, you
would be notified and can check on him. Lively also
offers a PERS “safety watch” in case he falls or needs
to call for help.
Another affordable option to check out is Evermind (www.evermind.us,
855-677-7625), which lets you keep an eye on your dad by
monitoring his frequently used electrical appliances
through small plug-in sensors. So, for example, if your
dad doesn’t turn on the coffee maker in the morning, or
if he’s not watching his favorite television program
before bedtime, you would be notified. Evermind costs
$199 for the three sensors, plus a $29 monthly service
How to appeal when Medicare won’t pay
Jan. 2, 2014
How does one go about appealing Medicare when they won’t
pay for something that has been covered in the past?
If you disagree with a coverage or payment decision made
by Medicare, you can appeal, and you’ll be happy to know
that around half of all appeals are successful, so it’s
definitely worth your time.
before going that route, talk with the doctor, hospital
and Medicare to see if you can spot the problem and
resubmit the claim. Some denials are caused by simple
billing code errors by the doctor’s office or hospital.
If, however, that doesn’t fix the problem, here’s how
Original Medicare appeals
you have original Medicare, start with your quarterly
Medicare Summary Notice. This statement will list all
the services, supplies and equipment billed to Medicare
for your medical treatment, and will tell you why a
claim was denied.
There are five levels of appeals for original Medicare,
although you can initiate a fast-track consideration for
ongoing care, such as rehabilitation. Most people have
to go through several levels to get a denial overturned.
have 120 days after receiving the MSN to request a
“redetermination” by a Medicare contractor, who reviews
the claim. Circle the items you’re disputing on the MSN,
provide an explanation of why you believe the denial
should be reversed, and include any supporting documents
like a letter from the doctor or hospital explaining why
the charge should be covered. Then send it to the
address on the form.
contractor will usually decide within 60 days after
receiving your request. If your request is denied, you
can request for “reconsideration” from a different
claims reviewer and submit additional evidence.
denial at this level ends the matter, unless the charges
in dispute are at least $140. In that case, you can
request a hearing with an administrative law judge. The
hearing is usually held by videoconference or
you have to go to the next level, you can submit the
claim to the appeals council review. Then, for claims of
at least $1,400, the final level of appeals is judicial
review in U.S. district court.
Advantage and Part D
If you’re enrolled in a Medicare Advantage or Part D
prescription drug plan the appeals process is slightly
different. One difference is that you have only 60 days
from the date on the denial notice to file an appeal.
And in both cases, you start by appealing directly to
the plan, rather than to Medicare. Follow the plan’s
instructions on its explanation of benefits.
D has a fast-track appeal of 72 hours if you haven’t
received your medication and waiting would jeopardize
your health. Otherwise, the plan must notify you of its
decision within seven days.
more information, along with step-by-step procedures on
how to make an appeal, visit Medicare.gov and click on
the “Claims & Appeals” tab at the top of the page, or
call Medicare at 800-633-4227 and request a copy of
publication #11525 “Medicare Appeals.” You can also read
it online at medicare.gov/pubs/pdf/11525.pdf.
If you need some help, contact your State Health
Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP), which has
counselors that can help you understand the billing
process and even file your appeal for you for free. To
locate your local SHIP, visit shiptalk.org or call the
Eldercare Locator at 800-677-1116. The Medicare Rights
Center also offers free phone counseling at
What can you tell me about lung cancer screenings? My
husband was a long-time smoker, but quit many years ago,
so I’m wondering if he should be checked out.
Dec. 15, 2014
to recent recommendations from the U.S. Preventive
Services Task Force - an independent panel of medical
experts that advises the government on health policies -
if your husband is between the ages of 55 and 80, is a
current smoker or quit within the last 15 years, and has
a smoking history of at least 30 pack-years, he’s at
high risk for lung cancer and should talk to his doctor
about getting screened.
years are determined by multiplying the number of packs
he smoked daily by the number of years he smoked.
You’ll also be happy to know that lung cancer screenings
- which are recommended annually to those at risk - will
be covered by all private health insurance plans
starting in 2015, and Medicare is expected to begin
coverage this February or March. The Medicare screening,
however, will only cover high-risk beneficiaries through
cancer kills around 160,000 Americans each year making
it the most deadly of all possible cancers. In fact,
more people die of lung cancer than of colon, breast and
prostate cancers combined.
Lung cancer also occurs predominantly in older adults.
About two out of every three people diagnosed with lung
cancer are 65 or older, and the risk of lung cancer
peaks at age 71.
The goal of annual screenings is to detect cancer early
before symptoms appear, so it can be cured. The
five-year survival rate among people with lung cancer
when it’s caught in its earliest stage is 77 percent,
versus only 4 to 25 percent for people whose cancer has
get screened for lung cancer, your husband will need a
low-dose computed tomography (CT) chest scan, which is a
painless, noninvasive test that generates detailed
three-dimensional images of his lungs.
the screening, he will be asked to lie on a table that
slides through the center of a large, doughnut shaped
scanner that rotates around him to take images. Each
scan takes just a few seconds, during which time he’ll
be asked to hold his breath, because movement can
produce blurred images. The entire procedure takes only
a few minutes from start to finish.
also need to be aware that a lung CT screening has its
downsides. First, it exposes you to some radiation -
about the same as a mammography but more that of a chest
CT screenings aren’t foolproof either. They can produce
a high rate of false-positive results, which means they
frequently detect small spots (abnormalities) on the
lungs that are suggestive of cancer but aren’t
cancerous. These false alarms lead to more testing and
sometimes lung biopsies, as well as unnecessary worry
Because smoking causes 80 to 90 percent of all lung
cancer cases, the best way to avoid lung cancer is to
not smoke, and if you do smoke, quit. Even if you’ve
been a smoker for a long time, quitting now still
decreases your risk. Other factors that can increase the
risk of lung cancer include exposure to secondhand
smoke, radon, asbestos and other toxic chemicals or
more information on lung cancer screenings, call the
American Lung Association at 800-586-4872, or use their
online tool (LungCancerScreeningSavesLives.org), which
will help you determine if your husband needs to be
Convenient ways to get help with your Social Security
Dec. 9, 2014
Q: Can you recommend some easier ways that I can get
help with my Social Security questions? When I call
their toll-free help line I get put on hold forever, and
the wait time at my local Social Security office is over
It’s unfortunate, but the past few years the Social
Security Administration has made some major budget and
staff cuts that have greatly increased their phone
service and field office wait times for their customers.
With that said, here’s an alternative option and some
tips that can help make your access to Social Security a
little faster and easier.
the evolution of the Social Security website, the
quickest and most convenient way to work with Social
Security these days is to do it yourself online.
Depending on what you need, most tasks can be done at
SocialSecurity.gov like getting your Social Security
statement, estimating your future benefits, applying for
retirement or disability benefits, signing up for direct
deposit, replacing a Medicare card and much more. See a
complete list of what you can do online at ssa.gov/onlineservices
can also get information and answers to most of your
Social Security questions at faq.ssa.gov if you’re
patient enough to read through the information yourself.
if you need more help than their website offers, you can
always call Social Security’s toll-free service line at
800-772-1213 Monday through Friday between 7 a.m. and 7
p.m. and ask your question over the phone, or make a
scheduled appointment with your local field office. To
reduce your wait time, avoid calling during their rush
hour times, which are the first week of the month, and
daily from about 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.
If you’re seeking advice on when you should start taking
your Social Security benefits, you need to know that
while Social Security employees do provide information
on how the system works under different circumstances,
they aren’t allowed to give case-specific advice on when
you should start drawing your benefits.
you want help with this, you’ll need to turn to some of
the free or fee-based Social Security tools that are
available online through private financial service
companies or AARP.
Depending on the service, these tools take into account
the different rules and claiming strategies that can
affect your benefits, and some of them can crunch
hundreds of calculations to compare your benefits under
various scenarios and different ages to help you figure
out the best time to start claiming.
of the best free tools are AARP’s Social Security
Calculator (aarp.org/socialsecuritybenefits); SSAnalyze
which is offered by Bedrock Capital Management (bedrockcapital.com/ssanalyze);
and Analyze Now (analyzenow.com - click on “Computer
Programs”) which offers a “Free Strategic Social
Security Planner” but requires Microsoft Excel to use
if you don’t mind spending a little money, there are
higher-level services you can use like Maximize My
Social Security (maximizemysocialsecurity.com), which
charges $40 for their report, and takes into account the
thousands of different factors and combinations to help
you maximize your benefits.
Social Security Solutions (socialsecuritysolutions.com,
866-762-7526), which offers several levels of service
(ranging between $20 and $250) including their $125
“Advised” plan that runs multiple calculations and
comparisons, recommends a best course of action in a
detailed report, and gives you a one-on-one session with
a Social Security specialist over the phone to discuss
the report and ask questions.
Personal tech products designed specifically for seniors
Dec. 9, 2014
Q: Can you recommend any tablets, smartphones or
computers that are specifically designed for seniors? I
would like to buy a device for my technology-challenged
grandmother so she can get online and keep up with her
grandkids better, but it needs to be super simplified so
she can use it.
There are actually several new tech products on the
market today that are designed specifically for older
boomers and seniors that are unfamiliar or uncomfortable
These devices come equipped with simplified software,
big, vivid features, less clutter and better customer
support packages, which makes them more appealing and
much easier to use than mainstream devices. Here are
several top senior-friendly options to look into.
If you’re thinking about a smartphone for your
grandmother, check out the new GreatCall Touch3. Made by
Samsung, this Android smartphone has a 4-inch
touchscreen with an organized large icon menu list on
the home screen that provides users simple access to
often-used features like the phone, text messages,
camera, pictures, email and Internet, along with your
contacts and apps.
also has a 5-megapixel camera, a full-size onscreen
keyboard, and offers a variety of health and safety
features like the 5Star app that lets you immediately
speak to a certified agent 24/7 who can identify your
location and get you the help you need. Urgent Care,
which provides access to registered nurses and doctors
for advice and diagnoses. And MedCoach, which sends
Available at greatcall.com or 800-918-8543, the Touch3
sells for $170 with a $20 introductory discount, plus a
one-time activation fee of $35, and no-contract is
required. Monthly service plans that include unlimited
5Star and Urgent Care service start at $25. And their
data plans start at $2.50 per month for 20MB.
If you’re considering a tablet, a top senior-friendly
option is AARP’s new RealPad, which costs $189 at
aarprealpad.org, walmart.com/realpad or Walmart stores.
Produced in partnership with Intel, the RealPad is an
Android tablet with a 7.85-inch touchscreen. It provides
a clutter-free simplified home page with large text
icons to frequently used functions like email, social
networks, weather, news, games, camera and pictures,
Google, the Web, apps and more.
also has a 2-megapixel front camera and 5-megapixel rear
camera, and comes with 24/7 phone support, a bunch of
tutorial videos, and a “Real QuickFix” tool that
connects users to technology support agents over the
Internet who can access the tablet and fix problems.
If you think your grandmother would like a desktop
computer, the Telikin (telikin.com, 800-717-7640), which
has been around for three years now, is an excellent
Ready to go right out of the box, this all-in-one
touch-screen computer displays a big button menu on the
screen at all times, providing simple access to most
functions like the Internet, email, games, video chat,
photo sharing, news and weather, and more.
Available in two sizes - the 18.6-inch “Telikin Touch”
that costs $699, and the 22-inch “Telikin Elite II” for
$1,079 - these computers come with built-in speakers, a
Web camera, microphone, wired keyboard and mouse. They
also offer a “tech buddy” feature so you can access your
grandma’s Telikin computer remotely from your computer
to help her when she needs it.
Running on Linux software instead of the standard
Windows or Mac OS, the Telikin is also virus-resistant,
comes with a 60-day trial period, a one-year warranty
and free tech support.
also worth noting that Telikin has a partnership with
firstSTREET - a senior product direct marketing company
- that is also selling the 22-inch Telikin for $1,079,
but have rebranded it as the “WOW! Computer for
Free and Low-Cost Legal Services that Help Seniors in
Nov. 18, 2014
Q: Where can seniors turn to for free or low-cost legal
help? My husband and I need some professional legal
assistance but don’t have a lot of money to pay a high
priced lawyer. What can you tell us?
There are actually a number of free and low-cost legal
resources available today to help seniors, but what’s
available to you and your husband will depend on where
you live, the type legal assistance you need and your
financial situation. Here are several resources to check
Legal aid: Directed by the Legal Services Corporation,
legal aid offers free legal assistance to low-income
people of all ages. Each community program will differ
slightly in the services they offer and income
qualifications. See lsc.gov/find-legal-aid to locate a
program in your area.
bono programs: Usually sponsored by state or local bar
associations, these programs help low-income people find
volunteer lawyers who are willing to handle their cases
for free. You can look for a pro bono program through
the American Bar Association at findlegalhelp.org, or
Senior legal hotlines: There are a number of states
including the District of Columbia that offer senior
legal hotlines, where all seniors over age 60 have
access to free legal advice over the telephone. To find
the states that offer this service and their toll free
number, visit legalhotlines.org.
Senior legal services: Coordinated by the Administration
on Aging, this service may offer free or low-cost legal
advice, legal assistance or access to legal
representation to people over the age of 60. Your Area
Agency on Aging can tell you what’s available in your
community. Call the Eldercare Locator at 800-677-1116 to
get your local number.
National Disability Rights Network: This is a nonprofit
membership organization that provides legal assistance
to people with disabilities through their Protection and
Advocacy System and Client Assistance Program. If you or
your husband is disabled, visit ndrn.org to find help in
If you can’t get help from one of these programs, or
find that you aren’t eligible, another option is to
contact your state or local bar association, which may
be able to refer you to a low-fee lawyer. Or, you may
want to consider hiring a lawyer for only part of the
legal work and doing other parts yourself. This is known
as unbundled legal services.
bar associations offer public service-oriented lawyer
referral services that will interview clients and help
identify the problems a lawyer could help them with. If
a lawyer can help with your problem, the service will
provide you with a referral to a lawyer. If the problem
does not require a lawyer, the service will provide
information on other organizations in your community
that may be able to help. Most of these lawyer referral
services conduct their interviews and make referrals
over the phone.
contact your state or local bar association, go to
americanbar.org and type in “state and local bar
associations” in the search field to find their
finally, if you are an AARP member, one other discount
resource that may be able to help you is AARP’s Legal
Services Network from Allstate. This service provides
members a free legal consultation (up to 45 minutes)
with an attorney along with 20 percent discounts on
other legal services you may need. To locate a lawyer
near you, call 866-330-0753.
How to improve your balance as you age
Nov. 4, 2014
Q: I’ve always been a walker, but when I fell last month
my doctor suggested I start doing some balance
exercises. Is this really something I need to practice?
What can you tell me?A: Most
people don’t think much about practicing their balance,
but you should, the same way that you walk to strengthen
your heart, lungs and overall health, or you stretch to
keep your body limber.
As we age, our balance declines - if it isn’t practiced
- and can cause falls. Every year more than one in three
people age 65 years or older fall, and the risk
increases with age. A simple fall can cause a serious
fracture of the hip, pelvis, spine, arm, hand or ankle,
which can lead to hospital stays, disability, loss of
independence and even death.
How balance works
Balance is the ability to distribute your weight in a
way that enables you to hold a steady position or move
at will without falling. It’s determined by a complex
combination of muscle strength, visual inputs, the inner
ear and the work of specialized receptors in the nerves
of your joints, muscles, ligaments and tendons that
orient you in relation to other objects.
all sorted out in the sensory cortex of your brain,
which takes in the information from those sources to
give you balance. But aging dulls our balance senses,
and causes most seniors to gradually become less stable
on their feet over time.
balance can also lead to a vicious cycle of inactivity.
You feel a little unsteady, so you curtail certain
activities. If you’re inactive, you’re not challenging
your balance systems or using your muscles. As a result,
both balance and strength suffer. Simple acts like
strolling through a grocery store or getting up from a
chair become trickier. That shakes your confidence, so
you become even less active.
you have a balance problem that is not tied to illness,
medication or some other specific cause, simple
exercises can help preserve and improve your balance.
Some basic exercises you can do anytime include:
One-legged stands: Stand on one foot for 30 seconds, or
longer, then switch to the other foot. You can do this
while brushing your teeth or waiting around somewhere.
In the beginning, you might want to have a wall or chair
to hold on to.
rises: While standing, rise up on your toes as far as
you can. Then drop back to the starting position and
repeat the process 10 to 20 times. You can make this
more difficult by holding light hand weights.
Heel-toe walk: Take 20 steps while looking straight
ahead. Think of a field sobriety test.
Sit-to-stand: Without using your hands, get up from a
straight-backed chair and sit back down 10 to 20 times.
This improves balance and leg strength.
additional balance exercises visit go4life.nia.nih.gov,
a resource created by the National Institute on Aging
that offers free booklets and a DVD that provides
illustrated examples of many appropriate exercises. You
can order your free copies online or by calling
other exercises that can help improve your balance and
flexibility is through tai chi and yoga. To locate a
beginner’s class in your area that teaches either of
these disciplines, call your local senior center, health
club or wellness center, check your yellow pages or try
online directory sites like americantaichi.net and
nothing is available near you, there are DVDs and videos
that offer tai chi and yoga instructions and routines
for seniors that you can do at home. Some good resources
for finding them are amazon.com, collagevideo.com and
iefit.com, or check with your local public library.
to finding affordable dental care
Oct. 28, 2014
Q: I had dental insurance through my work for many years
but lost it when I retired. Where can retirees find
affordable dental care?
Finding affordable dental care can be challenging for
seniors living on a tight budget. Most retirees lose
their dental insurance after leaving the workplace, and
original Medicare does not cover cleaning, fillings or
dentures. While there’s no one solution to affordable
dental care there are a number of options that can help
cut your costs. Here’s where to look.
While original Medicare (Part A and B) and Medicare
supplemental policies do not cover routine dental care,
there are some Medicare Advantage (Part C) plans that
do. Many of these plans, which are sold through private
insurance companies, cover dental care along with eye
care, hearing and prescription drugs, in addition to all
of your hospital and medical insurance. If you’re
eligible for Medicare, see medicare.gov/find-a-plan to
look for Advantage plans in your area that covers dental
Another way you can reduce your dental care expenses is
to join a dental discount network. How this works is you
pay an annual membership fee - around $80 to $200 a year
- in exchange for 10 to 60 percent discounts on service
and treatments from participating dentists. To find a
network, go to DentalPlans.com (or 888-632-5353) where
you can search for plans and participating dentists by
zip code, as well as get a breakdown of the discounts
Another option that’s currently available only in the
southern California area is Brighter.com. They provide
users free access to a network of dentists offering up
to 50 percent discounts on all services.
Dental school clinics offer savings opportunities too.
All 65 accredited dental schools in the U.S. offer
affordable care provided by dental students who are
overseen by their professors. You can expect to pay
about half of what a traditional dentist would charge
and still receive excellent, well-supervised care.
Another option is to check with local colleges that
offer dental hygiene programs. For training purposes,
many programs provide teeth cleanings by their students
for a fraction of what you’d pay at a dentist’s office.
search for nearby dental schools or dental hygiene
programs visit ada.org/dentalschools.
If you’re a veteran enrolled in the VA health care
program, or are a beneficiary of the Civilian Health and
Medical Program (CHAMPVA), the VA is now offering a
dental insurance program that gives you the option to
buy dental insurance through Delta Dental and MetLife at
a reduced cost.
VA also provides free dental care to vets who have
dental problems resulting from service. To learn more
about these options, visit va.gov/dental or call
you’re low income, there are various programs and
clinics that provide dental care at a reduced rate or
for free. To look for options in your area contact your
state dental director (see astdd.org), or your state or
local dental society (ebusiness.ada.org/mystate.aspx).
may also be able to get discounted or free dental care
at one of the federally funded HRSA health centers (findahealthcenter.hrsa.gov,
877-464-4772), or at a privately funded free clinic (nafcclinics.org).
check with the Dental Lifeline Network (dentallifeline.org,
888-471-6334) which provides free dental care for
low-income elderly and disabled; Remote Area Medical (ramusa.org)
which offers free health, eye and dental care to people
in select locations; and Indian Health Service (ihs.gov),
which provides free dental care to American Indians and
Alaska Natives who are members of a federally recognized
see toothwisdom.org, a website created by Oral Health
America that will help you locate low-cost dental care.
How Medicare covers outpatient mental health services
Oct. 21, 2014
Q: Does Medicare cover outpatient counseling or therapy
sessions for seniors? Since retiring, my husband has
really struggled with depression and needs to get some
help. What can you tell us?A: Yes,
Medicare recently upgraded its coverage of outpatient
mental health services to help beneficiaries with
depression and other needs. Here’s how it works.
If you have original Medicare, your Part B coverage will
pay 80 percent (after you’ve met your $147 Part B
deductible) for a variety of counseling and therapy
services that are provided outside a hospital, like
individual and group therapy, family counseling and
more. They also cover services for treatment of
beneficiaries who struggle with inappropriate alcohol
and drug use.
or your supplemental insurance is responsible for the
remaining 20 percent coinsurance.
Medicare also gives your husband the option of getting
treatment through a variety of mental health
professionals such as psychiatrists, psychologists,
clinical social workers and clinical nurse specialists.
also important to understand that if your husband
decides to see a non-medical doctor (such as
psychologists or a clinical social worker), you’ll need
to make sure that he or she is Medicare-certified and
takes assignment, which means they accept Medicare’s
approved amount as full payment. If they don’t, Medicare
will not pay for the services.
Medicare will, however, pay for the services of
Medicare-certified medical doctors (such as
psychiatrists) who do not take assignment, but these
doctors can charge you up to 15 percent above Medicare’s
approved amount in addition to the 20 percent
coinsurance, which you will be responsible for.
locate a mental health care professional in your area
that accepts Medicare assignment, use Medicare’s online
Physician Compare tool. Just go to medicare.gov/physiciancompare
and type in your zip code, or city and state, then type
in the type of profession you want locate, like
“psychiatry” or “clinical psychologist” in the “What are
you searching for?” box. You can also get this
information by calling Medicare at 800-633-4227.
If you and your husband get your Medicare benefits
through a private Medicare Advantage plan, they too must
cover the same services as original Medicare but they
will likely require him to see an in-network provider.
You’ll need to contact your plan directly for the
In addition to the outpatient mental health services,
you should also know that Medicare covers yearly
depression screenings that must be done in a primary
care doctor’s office or primary care clinic that can
assure appropriate diagnosis, treatment and follow-up.
Annual depression screenings are covered 100 percent.
Medicare will also cover almost all medications used to
treat mental health conditions under the Part D
prescription drug benefit. If your husband is prescribed
an antidepressant or some other medication for his
condition, and he has a Part D plan, you should call his
plan to confirm coverage or you can search the plans
formulary (the list of medications they cover) on their
For more detailed information, call Medicare at
800-633-4227 and request a copy of publication #10184
“Medicare & Your Mental Health Benefits,” or you can
read it online at medicare.gov/publications/pubs/pdf/10184.pdf.