Senior Living Blog

2016 Medicare Open Enrollment: October 15 to December 7

Make Needed Changes Now to Medicare Plans 

Now is the time to review and reassess Medicare plans for older adults so that coverage will be adequate and cost-effective for 2016. From October 15 to December 7, 2015, the 2016 Medicare Open Enrollment period is designated for older adults enrolled in Medicare to take these actions:

  • Change their Part D (prescription drug) plan
  • Enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan
  • Change Medigap plans
  • Change Medicare Advantage plans

DailyCaring, an organization that supports families caring for older adults, says that “even though we all wish we could ‘set it and forget it’ with health insurance, Medicare plans change all the time.” To save money, older adult’s plans should be reassessed every year so that necessary changes can be made during the Open Enrollment period.

DailyCaring offers tips for knowing which changes to look for in the paperwork and how they could make a big difference in costs.

How to Find and Evaluate Key Plan Changes

In early October, older adults should have received an annual notice from their health insurance company. The package might be dauntingly thick, but look for the Annual Notice of Change (ANOC), a thinner booklet. The first pages of the ANOC booklet should summarize key plan changes for 2016.

Will the current plan still cover needed services and prescriptions for 2016? You don’t need to take any action or make any changes if:

  • Current plans are still being offered
  • Ongoing medical care and prescription needs for 2016 will be covered
  • New medical care and prescription needs for 2016 will be covered
  • Procedures or tests that may be needed in 2016 will be covered

But if plans are changing and you think switching plans might be a good idea, look into these issues:

  • If the plan premium is increasing 10 percent or more, you might be able to find a better plan.
  • Has the deductible gone up? It used to be zero and now it’s not? Consider switching plans.
  • For prescription drug coverage, figure out changes in drug premiums and tiers, and how these will affect what’s paid out of pocket. This investigation process might take some work, but this is where you can save a lot of money.
  • How much did you spend in co-pays this year? Were some expenses not covered, and might those expenses happen in 2016? If so, consider switching to a Medigap plan with fixed costs.
  • Are you paying for a Medigap plan but your senior doesn’t have many doctor visits (apart from annual checkups and preventive care)? A better option might be Medicare Advantage plans with lower premiums and other benefits like hearing and vision coverage.

For more information on this topic and related topics of interest to caregivers of senior adults, visit the DailyCaring website.

Helping Seniors Enjoy the Holiday Season

The busy holiday season can be challenging for any of us, but older adults can find the added activity to be especially draining. Low mood, confusion, and stress may put a damper on seniors’ holiday merriment.

Below are some tips on how to help seniors find joy, relaxation, and connection during this potentially tough time.

Reminisce. Take out the photo album, listen to old records, watch family movies, tell stories of holidays past. Sharing memories can be powerful and engaging for older adults.

Plan for alone time. Set aside a room or area in which the senior can take a break from the overstimulation of family gatherings.

Include the senior. Make a point to invite your senior to participate in as many family activities as they can handle. Simple tasks include setting out dinnerware, folding napkins, and adding ornaments to the tree. Helping out will give them a sense of purpose and usefulness, helping them feel more involved and needed.

Connect. Loneliness can bring on depression, so it’s important for seniors to connect with others during the holiday season. Go out of your way to visit and talk with older people in your life more frequently than you might have done during the rest of the year.

Happy Thanksgiving!

 ‘Tis the Season of Thanks

We would like to extend a big THANK YOU to all of our wonderful staff, residents and extended family and friends as we give thanks, this Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is one of our favorite holidays, a time when we can reflect and focus on the virtues of everyone who is a part of our life and, of course, enjoy a day centered on good food! We wish we could gather everyone together for what would be a most spectacular of Thanksgiving celebrations. Instead of this, we can give thanks for what the year has meant to us all. There is a saying that feeling appreciation and not expressing it is like wrapping a gift and not giving it. So we want to begin the holiday right and share our appreciation for all of you.

Thanksgiving is more than just being grateful and a day off of work. It is a day for appreciating our good fortune and sharing it with others. Whatever your creed or beliefs on this Thanksgiving Day remember the real reason for the celebration.

Travel safely over the holiday, spend time with your treasured family and friends and enjoy every last morsel of the wonderful feast on this our day of Thanksgiving!

It’s National Family Caregivers Month

This year’s theme is “Respite: Care for Caregivers”

The Caregiver Action Network, the nation’s leading family caregiver organization that advocates for the more than 90 million Americans who care for disabled, sick, or elderly loved ones, cites these facts about family caregiving in the U.S.:

  • About 39 percent of adult Americans are caring for a loved one who is sick, disabled, or living with frailties of old age. That’s up from 30 percent in 2010.
  • Men are now almost as likely to say they are family caregivers as women are (37 percent of men; 40 percent of women). Surprisingly, 36 percent of younger Americans between ages 18 and 29 say they are family caregivers.
  • Family caregivers are the only people who are present with patients in all care settings.Patients may have more than one doctor; nurses change shifts; prescriptions are filled at different pharmacies. But family caregivers are there as full partners with their loved ones through it all.
  • Most families have to tighten their belts at home to pay for out-of-pocket caregiving costs (an average of $5,500 per year). And many more have to make home alterations to ensure safety, security, and cleanliness for their loved ones.

Ways to Help a Caregiver

The theme of this year’s National Family Caregivers Month is “Respite: Care for Caregivers.” Given that caregiving is a demanding, round-the-clock job, what can we do to help and support to caregivers in our families and communities? The Mayo Clinic ( offers tips on how to help caregivers of adults with Alzheimer’s, but their advice applies to caregivers of loved ones with all types of disabilities, diseases, and limitations. 

Be Specific

First, Mayo Clinic staff advise people offering help to be specific. General offers to help can be hard for caregivers to accept, so make concrete offers. Here are examples:

  • “What can I pick up for you at the grocery store?”
  • “I’m free tomorrow afternoon. Can I sit in for you while you take a few hours off?”
  • “I doubled my meatloaf recipe, so I bought enough to last you for several meals.”
  • “Can I help you gather laundry? I’ll take it home and bring it back clean and folded tomorrow.”
  • “Can I come over this weekend and mow your lawn?”

Check in

Sending a card, calling, or texting and emailing can be meaningful ways to show support, but personal visits are even better. Contact with friends and family can lift a caregiver’s spirits—and visits give you the chance to make specific offers to help, or to deliver food and other necessities.

Watch for Caregiver Stress

Often caregivers have difficulty accepting help—they mistakenly believe they should be able to do everything themselves. Overwhelmed caregivers are vulnerable to suffering from irritability, anger, exhaustion, social withdrawal, anxiety, and depression, among other problems. Caregiver stress can be harmful not only to the caregiver, but also to the person receiving care. Be gently persistent in specific offers to help. Let the caregiver know that he or she isn’t in this alone.

Many ISL communities offer Memory Care

The month of November raises our awareness of Alzheimer’s as we celebrate National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness month. Alzheimer’s disease is readily becoming an all to familiar term to millions of Americans. It is estimated that 5.2 million people in this country alone have been diagnosed with the disease, and as the population grows older so to the number of people it will affect. In fact, the number is expected to triple by mid-century. Fortunately when trends such as these are rising so do the resources. Today there is more information and support, providing a better understanding of the disease and how to live with it. One area in particular that is expanding is the development of new residential care programs designed for people afflicted with Alzheimer’s and dementia, called Memory Care.

At ISL, our memory care is something you can feel good about for many different reasons. At our communities that offer memory care, we encourage residents to participate in activities; enhance their joy, sense of accomplishment and satisfaction; and promotes their physical, emotional, social and spiritual well-being.

With specially designed and dedicated Alzheimer’s and memory care accommodations, memory care communities ensure the comfort and security of our residents. Often each resident room has a personal emergency call system that ensures help is just the touch of a button away. And our on-site resident care professionals are there to oversee the administration of medications, as well as other basic care needs.

Our memory care staff are dedicated to caring for each resident as an individual. We take the time to learn about your loved ones past life experiences, favorite activities, and daily routine. This enables us to encourage independence, support the resident’s strengths and capabilities, and assist them with their needs in a loving and dignified manner.

At ISL, we are constantly striving to find new and better ways to make life better for our residents who have Alzheimer’s disease. We look to ourselves to be more creative, compassionate and flexible, giving us the ability to move beyond traditional care and find breakthrough treatments that make a difference in resident’s daily lives. While there is no cure, significant strides have been made to better understand the disease and identify innovative treatments and programs that make a real difference.  We believe wonderful that we dedicate a month to help raise awareness of this disease because with awareness comes action and hopefully eventually a cure.

November Is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month

 Surprising Facts You Might Not Know

Although Alzheimer’s affects approximately 1 in every 2 families in the U.S., and has been extensively covered in the media, there’s still quite a bit of information about Alzheimer’s that you might not be aware of.

Dennis Fortier, president and CEO of Medical Care Corporation, which specializes in helping physicians evaluate patients’ memory and cognitive functions, writes in, an online resource for caregivers of older adults, that there are numerous vital facts about Alzheimer’s that you might not know—and that might surprise you. Here is a summary:

Alzheimer’s is usually detected at the end-stage of the disease. On average, Alzheimer’s follows a 14-year course from the onset symptoms until death. Surprisingly, we usually diagnose Alzheimer’s in years 8-10 of the disease course. We diagnose Alzheimer’s disease far too late to optimize the effects of available treatments.

Memory loss is not a part of normal aging. Many patients with symptoms of early Alzheimer’s disease do not seek treatment—partly because they dismiss those symptoms are being the normal and untreatable effects of aging. A startling number of doctors incorrectly believe that memory loss is inevitable with age. Be aware that memory loss is not a part of normal aging and timely medical intervention is critical. 

Current Alzheimer’s drugs may be more effective than you think. One reason that current treatments are often deemed ineffective is that they are prescribed for patients with end-stage disease and massive brain damage. With earlier intervention, treatment can be given to patients with healthier brains, who will likely respond more vigorously. A great start would be to intervene earlier with the treatments we have.  

Alzheimer’s disease can be treated. With a good diet, physical exercise, social engagement, and certain drugs, many patients (especially those detected at an early stage) can meaningfully alter the course of Alzheimer’s and preserve their quality of life. Be aware that “we have no cure” does not mean “there is no treatment.” 

Better drug treatments for Alzheimer’s are on the way. Some very promising drugs, based on sound theoretical approaches, are in FDA clinical trials right now. It is possible that an effective agent is already in the pipeline.

Taking care of your heart will help your brain stay healthy. Brain health is very closely tied to the health of your body, particularly your heart. Researchers have shown that high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and obesity contribute to greater risk for cognitive decline. Be aware that maintaining good vascular health will help you age with cognitive vitality. 

Managing risk factors may delay or prevent cognitive decline. Well-identified risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease include diabetes, head injuries, smoking, poor diet, lethargy, and isolation. All of these risks are manageable, and publicizing them is one purpose of National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. Be aware that many risk factors for Alzheimer’s can be actively managed to reduce the likelihood of cognitive problems as you age.

It’s Cybersecurity Month

This October enjoy all that fall has to offer. There are the changing leaves, delicious fall recipes and the warmth and comfort of a cozy home.  After all, October is a month when we retrench back into our homes as the days grow shorter, and the temperatures get colder.  While spending more time indoors, many of us will also be spending more time on our computers searching out the latest deals, connecting with friends and family and getting the latest news. And while we like the convenience of doing such activities in the luxury of our favorite chair, there are some precautions to consider to make using our computer is a safe place.

In fact October is Cybersecurity Month.  In order to help make individuals and businesses more informed the National Cyber Security Alliance offers many tips to help us all stay more protected.

Protect Yourself with these STOP. THINK. CONNECT. Tips:

  • Keep a clean machine: Having the latest security software, web browser, and operating system are the best defenses against viruses, malware, and other online threats.
  • Automate software updates: Many software programs will automatically connect and update to defend against known risks. Turn on automatic updates if that’s an available option.
  • Protect all devices that connect to the Internet: Along with computers, smart phones, gaming systems, and other web-enabled devices also need protection from viruses and malware.
  • Plug & scan: “USBs” and other external devices can be infected by viruses and malware. Use your security software to scan them.
  • Protect your $$: When banking and shopping, check to be sure the sites is security enabled. Look for web addresses with “https://” or “shttp://”, which means the site takes extra measures to help secure your information. “Http://” is not secure.
  • Back it up: Protect your valuable work, music, photos, and other digital information by making an electronic copy and storing it safely.

For more great tips and information visit

Flu Season Begins

October marks the month when flu vaccinations become available. The flu can make existing health conditions worse and is especially dangerous for people with chronic health conditions, like heart disease and diabetes, which often affect older adults. Seniors with these conditions are more likely to develop complications from the flu that can result in hospitalization and even death.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the single best way to prevent the flu is to get an annual vaccination, which is recommended for everyone aged six months and older, with rare exception.

CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone 6 months of age and older as the first and most important step in protecting against this serious disease. People should begin getting vaccinated soon after flu vaccine becomes available, if possible by October, to ensure that as many people as possible are protected before flu season begins. However, as long as flu viruses are circulating in the community, it’s not too late to get vaccinated.

We encourage all seniors to consult with their physicians about getting a flu shot this year.

For more information about this year’s flu season visit:

It’s that time of year again—Medicare Sign Ups October 15-December 7, 2015


It’s October which means Fall Open Enrollment begins for Medicare. During the Annual Coordinated Election Period, which runs from October 15th through December 7th, people with Medicare can change their choice of health coverage (whether they receive that coverage through a private Medicare Advantage plan or traditional Medicare), and add, drop or change Medicare Part D drug coverage. It’s very important that Medicare beneficiaries review their drug plan annually.

Why? Because Medicare private drug plans can make changes each year; changes can include which pharmacies are in their networks as well as which drugs are covered and the costs.  Most people can only change their plans during the Fall Open Enrollment Period.

Find out whether medications you are taking will be covered on your plan next year.  If your physician had to submit a prior authorization exception request and you need the same medication  next year, call your plan to find out what you need to do to make sure that your plan continues covering your medication.  Your physician may need to submit a new request and he may be able to do so before the end of the year to ensure that your coverage continues without interruption.

Now is the time to be asking questions! For more information visit

Time to Start Walking

The United States Surgeon General wants to see you walking! Step it Up! The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Promote Walking and Walkable Communities articulates the health benefits of walking and asks individuals to make walking a priority in their lives.

Fewer than half of all U.S. adults get enough physical activity to reduce their risk of chronic disease

The Surgeon General’s report discusses the health benefits of walking and calls on individuals to make walking a priority in their lives.  Fewer than half of all U.S. adults get enough physical activity to reduce their risk of chronic disease, and only a quarter of high school students get the recommended amount.  Physical inactivity contributes to heart and lung disease, diabetes and cancer, which account for 86 percent of our nation’s health care costs.  Building walking into daily life can reduce disease and save money.

According to Dr. Vivek H. Murthy, the 19th U.S. Surgeon General an average of 22 minutes a day of physical activity – such as brisk walking – can significantly reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes. The key is to get started because even a small first effort can make a big difference in improving the personal health of an individual and the public health of the nation.

The advantages of walking are numerous:

  • A low-intensity exercise that is easy on your joints and muscles
  • No equipment necessary
  • Male or female, walking strengthens your heart
  • Walking 90 minutes per week can prevent cognitive decline
  • Improves overall fitness and can prevent physical disability in older persons
  • Relieves stress
  • Lowers blood sugar
  • Builds aerobic fitness (which leads to more heart healthy benefits)
  • Walking is a ‘weight-bearing’ activity, meaning it helps to fight against osteoporosis

To read the Surgeon General’s Call to Action and learn how to promote walking, please visit