Why Elderly Need Google Home

Google Home for your elderly parents? How seniors with mobility or vision issues can benefit from a smart speaker. Control the temperature or call for help with just your voice.

Google Home for elderly
Google Home for Elderly

Google Home Smart Assistant

“Hey Google, call Mom”. Worried about your mother? Ask your smart device to give Mom a call.

Follow this link If you want to know how to set up smart speakers to make phone calls.

You can also search for video instructions. As a visual learner, I find it much easier to follow video instructions.

Nurses Like Smart Devices

What triggered this interest in Google Home for seniors?

A few weeks ago one of my news alerts had this teaser headline, “Why Google Home is Perfect for Seniors“. Up to this point I considered smart speakers to be a novelty. There are a few in my home, split between the Amazon Echo and Google Home.

I haven’t (yet) plugged into the whole “smart home” program. I still turn on the lights with my hands and TV with a remote.

Coffee is made in a French press, so no way to make it smart.

According to Nurse Next Doorone of these technologies is Google Home, a voice-activated daily assistant that can control devices around the house, make calls, provide entertainment, and answer over 100 million unique questions. You can link it to the TV, radio, thermostat and more by installing a compatible device and activating connections on your phone’s Home app. This virtual helper responds to voice commands, which means that someone with limited vision or reduced finger dexterity can easily use it.”

Why Elderly Need Google Home

Google Engineer Helps Dad with Parkinson’s

I also discovered this story about Stephanie Wilson and how she helped her parents live a fuller life with Google Home and Smart Assistant.

Wilson’s parents, Fred and Linda, live in a condo, and Fred uses a wheelchair. About 10 years ago, the University of Toronto philosophy professor was diagnosed with Parkinson’s, a degenerative brain disorder that leads to loss of muscle control.

When Wilson heard her father talking about how hard it was to control the lights, she installed smart bulbs around the condo. Now, her parents control the lights by speaking to Google Home.

Link to Stephanie’s video and very moving story.

Hey Google – How Does Medicare Work?

Word of advice. If you ask Google about Medicare you will most likely hear “Sorry, I don’t know that one”.

If you want solid Medicare advice, ask GA Medicare expert Bob Vineyard. If you just want rates check out GA Medigap Quotes.

#GAMedicareExpert #GoogleHome #SmartDevice #GAMedigapQuotes #GAMedigapRates

Rich Man, Poor Man – a Tale of Two Scanners

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.

Does where you receive medical treatment make a difference? If two different facilities use the same CT scanner shouldn’t the pricing be about the same?

Ben Hayden had a pain in his abdomen . . . so he went to see his doctor. To rule out anything serious, Ben’s doctor sent him to a free standing imaging center for a CT scan.

The radiologist didn’t see anything wrong on the images, and Ardesia didn’t recommend any treatment.

A few weeks later, Hynden, who has a high-deductible health insurance policy with Cigna, got a bill for $268. He paid it and moved on. – KHN

Then 3 months later the pain returned. Ben’s regular doctor was not available so he saw a nurse practitioner. Thinking Ben might have appendicitis, he was told to go to the hospital ER for a scan. Tale of Two Scanners

The results of the scan ruled out appendicitis but this time he had a different problem.


Two Scanners – Two Prices

A word of advice.

If you have a choice between going to the hospital ER for a CT scan, and a free-standing imaging center, choose the center.

“It was the exact same machine. It was the exact same test,” Hayden said.

The results were also the same as the October scan: Hayden was sent home without a definitive diagnosis.

And then the bill came.

Patient: Benjamin Hayden, 29, a adviser in Fort Myers, Fla.

Total Bill: $10,174.75, including $8,897 for a CT scan of the abdomen

Service Provider: Gulf Coast Medical Center, owned by Lee Health, the dominant health care system in southwest Florida

Quite a shock.

This time instead of owing $368 Ben’s share was $3,656, roughly 10x his share for the same scan 3 months earlier.

Click here for the rest of the story . . .


High Deductibles, Networks and More

Ben was only 29 years old and not on Medicare. But the outcome could have been the same under a managed care Medicare plan.

Over half the Advantage plans offered in Georgia are HMO’s. As long as you use a network provider your claims should be paid. But step outside the network and you could owe the entire bill. What happens if the provider who does your scan is not in network?

An exception could be made in the case of a life-threatening emergency.

But who decides if your case is a true emergency?

If the carrier decides against you, the claim is denied. Do you really want to take that chance?





Original Medicare and a Supplement Plan

Original Medicare does not have networks. You can use any doctor, any hospital, anywhere in the country. Never any penalties for using the wrong provider.

Even better, your out of pocket for a scan is limited to 20% of the Medicare approved amount. With a Medicare supplement plan (Medigap) your out of pocket cost could be less than $200.

Which makes more sense to you?

It was the age of wisdom. It was the age of foolishness.

Can Strokes Be Prevented?

Strokes. Can they be prevented? What is a stroke? Am I at risk for a stroke? How can I tell if I am having a stroke? What does Medicare cover?strokes rehab

Anyone at any age can have a stroke but the likelihood of strokes increases with age. Immediate treatment can minimize the long term effects of the attack.


Can Strokes Be Prevented?

The old saw that prevention is the best medicine is good advice. Before we look at what a stroke is and how it should be treated let’s review preventive measures.

Strokes threaten millions of lives — every 40 seconds someone in the U.S. has a stroke. And, on average, one American dies from a stroke every 4 minutes, taking 130,000 lives a year and making it the 5th-leading cause of death in our country. And, too, among survivors, it can cause severe long-term disability and handicap.

The facts are that strokes are largely preventable, treatable and beatable – but action is required. In fact, research shows that 80% of all strokes are preventable by taking action. – Washington Times

An active, healthy lifestyle is the best prevention. If you are heavy, lose weight. Stop smoking. Monitor your blood and cholesterol levels.

Any of these conditions puts you at risk for a stroke.

Many cases of hypertension or hyperlipidemia can be controlled with diet and exercise, but if you need more help your doctor may prescribe medication. Have regular check ups. Monitor your blood pressure at home.


What Is A Stroke?

Strokes are classified in different ways.

  • Ischemic (ih-skee-mik): The artery gets blocked, often by a clot, and this prevents adequate blood flow. It is responsible for 87 percent of all strokes.
  • Hemorrhagic (hem-ur-ajic): An artery leaks or ruptures and the resultant leaked blood puts pressure on the neurons, causing damage. This can result from dangerously high blood pressures that overwhelm the blood vessel walls, chronic high blood pressures that cause wear and tear over time, and/or weakened blood vessels.
  • Mini-stroke:” A temporary blockage caused by a clot. This is also referred to as a transient ischemic attack (TIA). Unlike a stroke, the symptoms resolve and there is no permanent injury to the brain. A TIA is a warning sign for a future stroke and must be taken seriously: more than 30 percent of people who have a TIA end up having a major stroke within 1 year if they do not receive treatment. Recognizing and treating TIAs can reduce the risk of a major stroke. If you have a TIA, your health care team can find the cause and take steps to prevent a major stroke.

The type of stroke you have often determines the treatment as well as long term effects. When the stroke victim is diagnosed and treated quickly the chances of recovery are much improved. Triage in the hospital ER will determine if the patient needs a clot busting injection or surgery.


Am I Having A Stroke?

Most of the time you will know something is wrong but it may take people around you to see the visible signs and call for emergency care. How do you know if you are having a stroke? Think F.A.S.T.

  • FACE: Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
  • ARMS: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
  • SPEECH: Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is their speech slurred or strange?
  • TIME: If you observe any of these signs, call 911 immediately (even if they resolve)

If you are with someone and see any of the above symptoms do not hesitate to call 911.


Does Medicare Cover Treatment for Strokes?

Medicare does in fact include emergency treatment for your stroke. Medicare Part B covers ambulance transport and ER care. Your 2016 Part B calendar year deductible is $166. Once the deductible is satisfied Medicare pays 80% of approved charges and you are responsible for the remaining 20%.

That 20% is not capped. You pay until you are better, run out of money or die.

Medigap plans F and G will pay the 20% remainder after Medicare pays their portion.

ga medigap rates

If you are admitted to the hospital as an inpatient, your stay will be covered under Medicare Part A. Your Medicare per admission Part A deductible for 2016 is $1288. Supplement plans F, G and N pay this deductible for you.

Not all hospital admissions are as an inpatient. If you are admitted for observation the charges are covered under Part B. If you are then discharged to a skilled nursing facility (SNF) or rehab unit, Medicare does NOT pay for this care. In order for SNF or rehab to be covered by Medicare you must have had a 3 day stay as an inpatient.

If your post discharge stay qualifies under Medicare rules but exceeds 60 days you will be responsible for a daily coinsurance of $322 for days 61 – 90. That amount doubles to $644 per day for stays lasting longer than 90 days and up to 180 days.

All Medigap plans cover your Part A coinsurance and extends that coverage up to 365 days lifetime.

Private long term care insurance, short term care insurance and home health care are types of policies that should be explored to supplement your Medicare coverage.

Georgia Medicare Plans specializes in finding  Medigap coverage that fits your needs and budget. Bob Vineyard has more than 40 years experience in the health insurance industry. In addition, he is also a Medicare beneficiary covered by original Medicare and a Medigap plan.

With more than 170 different Medicare supplement plans in Georgia it is impossible to find the right plan without expert guidance. We shop the market for you and show you the best plans based on your needs.

GA Medigap rates

Click the image above for an instant Medigap quote. Compare up to 30 plans side by side. A free report showing all plans in your area will follow by email.


Stroke Aftermath

I have friends who have had strokes. Some have mostly recovered, while others would be considered an invalid requiring round the clock home health care. Medicare only covers a portion of the bills and provides no coverage for care that is not medically necessary.

Without additional insurance you and your family will bear the cost of attending to your activities of daily living.


Additional Resources For Learning About Strokes

Medicare Coverage for Skilled Nursing Facility

Long Term Care – Medicare, Medicaid and More

National Stroke Association – Medicare Basics

Caring – Will Medicare or Medicaid Pay for Long Term Care?



#Stroke #Medicare #LongTermCare #ShortTermCare #HomeHealthCare


Prescription Drug Interactions

Prescription drug interactions kill an estimated 6,000 people per year and most of these could have been prevented. Doctors often fail to check state prescription drug databases before prescribing. Even if your doctor checks the state database you should use a drug checker for the safety of your own health. CDC finds over 100,000 over age 65 end up in the Emergency Room due to drug interactions and accidental overdose.

Retirees on Medicare Part D need to keep a list of all their medications on their smartphone by using iBlueButton.


Prescription drug interactions can be killers.

Roughly 6,000 people die each year as a result of adverse drug interactions.

An estimated 100,000 retirees over age 65 end up in the Emergency Room for something that could have been avoided.

Seniors are more at risk due to a number of factors including, taking multiple medications, mixing prescription medications with over the counter supplements, memory lapses that can lead to missed doses or even over-dosing.

Doctors and pharmacies need access to a prescription drug monitoring database. Georgia has a monitoring program but it only tracks prescriptions for controlled substances such as prescription pain killers.

If a patient is concerned about possible adverse reactions to their medications they need to be proactive and cross-check their med’s against a database.


Opioids and doctor shopping

Many people, including retirees, will seek out unconventional ways to counteract pain. If the medications they are on are not enough to control the pain some will resort to doctor shopping.

medicare doctorSadly, most doctors fail to check the database before prescribing controlled substances.

In a survey of 420 primary care physicians published in the March issue of the journal Health Affairs, the researchers found that 72 percent indicated they were aware of their state’s program, and 53 percent reported they’d used their state’s program. Another 22 percent indicated they had no knowledge of their state’s program.

The databases allow prescribing physicians to identify “doctor shoppers” — people who obtain prescriptions from multiple physicians, either to use or to sell or both — and other potentially illicit or abusive behaviors. Every state but Missouri has a prescription drug-monitoring program in place. – Johns Hopkins

The Georgia database has been available since 2013. At first, only pharmacists were able to register but now doctors can access the database as well.

One pharmacist checked the database for several of his patients who he thought were only using his pharmacy to get their hydrocodone and alprazolam prescriptions filled. To his surprise, he found that all of the patients he checked had been going to multiple other pharmacies, getting the same type prescriptions filled and going to multiple physicians. He decided to stop filling prescriptions for those customers. Another pharmacist checked the database for patients she suspected were doctor shopping. But to her relief, none of those patients were getting prescriptions filled at any other pharmacy than hers. – GPhA

Don’t try and game the system. You will be caught.

Doctor shopping is dangerous. Medicare shopping is simple and fast. With more than 170 different Medicare plans in Georgia, how do you find the right one?

Instant online GA Medigap quotes

Your information is never sold.



Prescription drug checker

All patients should use a prescription drug checker to verify there are no potential adverse reactions among their medications.

Drug interactions occurs when the effect of a particular drug is altered when it is taken with another drug, or with food.

The Drug Interaction Checker explains the mechanism of each drug interaction, the level of significance of the interaction (major, moderate or minor), and in certain cases, can provide the recommended course of action to manage the interaction. The Drug Interaction Checker will also display any interactions between your chosen drug(s) and food. – Drugs

Follow this link to check your medications now.

Other sites also have prescription drug checkers which may be more comprehensive. Here are a few more for consideration.

WebMD interaction checker – precription drugs, OTC and herbal remedies

Rx List interactions checker – crosscheck generic, brand and OTC medications

Medscape – check prescription drugs, OTC medications and herbal supplements

Dangers of opioid pain management medication

Certainly abuse and addiction is at the forefront of concerns regarding prescription pain medication but that is not the only concern.pharmacy

Roughly 70% of those taking prescription pain medication are also taking one or more additional prescription medications.

A drug interaction occurs when two or more substances (drugs, supplements, or even some foods) affect each other in such a way that the metabolism, elimination, effectiveness, and/or toxicity of one or more of the drugs is changed. Simply put, a drug interaction causes one or more of the medications you’re taking not to work as they should. This can have dangerous, even deadly, results. – Health Central

Make sure your doctor is aware of all prescription drug medications and supplements you are taking.

Georgia Medigap plans & Prices

Georgia Medigap plans & Prices

#PrescriptionDrugInteractions #AdverseDrugReaction #GAMedigapQuotes

Top 5 Benefits of Walking

The benefits of walking can be tremendous, especially if you are sedentary. Baby boomers like myself may not be as active as we once were. We can make excuses like a lack of time, the weather is bad, or you just don’t feel like it. walking_way_to_health

The results are the same.

You aren’t moving enough.

You don’t have to join a gym or buy equipment or fancy clothes. When you are 60+ and out walking no one really cares what you are wearing.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, over the past 20 years the number of people who walk on a regular basis has dropped by 42%. During that same time frame obesity has increased by 40%.


Number one benefit of walking

Each of us are motivated by different things, so the number one benefit of walking for me may not be the same for you. For some their motivation is to lose weight. Others may want to reduce the risk of disease like diabetes, cancer or heart ailments. Your desire to walk may be so you can enjoy time with your grandchildren.

Regardless of your reason, pick some area of your life where you want to improve and make that your primary goal.

Healthy people spend less money on medication and trips to the doctor. Some medical conditions like type II diabetes, high cholesterol or high blood pressure can be reversed with regular exercise, including the simple act of walking on a daily basis.

Saving money is always good, especially for those on a fixed income. We save our clients an average of $450 per year in Medigap premiums and another $1,000 in out of pocket drug costs.

That adds up!


My story

I am a baby boomer. Born in 1950. Twenty years ago when our son was pursuing his Eagle Scout award we went hiking and camping a lot.

Frankly, outdoor camping never appealed to me. My idea of roughing it was staying in a Day’s Inn. A meal cooked over a campfire was a hot dog on a stick followed by roasted marshmallows for desert.

walking manOnce he graduated from scouting neither one of us went camping or hiking again.

I gained about 15 pounds since that time.

OK, maybe it was more like 25.

For a 64 year old man I am in reasonably good health. I don’t take any medication. My BP is slightly elevated but my cholesterol is less than 150.

Last year during my annual the doctor measured my waist. Obviously she used a metric tape because my waist has never been that big. My BP was up a bit but not enough to warrant medication.

The killer was when she wrote “obesity” in my chart.

I decided then to change my lifestyle. Kohl’s had a sale on walking (and running) shoes so I bought two pair.

A few months before my physical I had a kidney stone. The ER doc that treated me said I didn’t drink enough water.

So now I am drinking more water daily and walking. My goal is to walk 4 miles a day for 5 days.

Most weeks I do that.

A few months ago I had another physical. My weight was down by 8 pounds and my BP dropped to a more acceptable 128/86.

Walking works.


Walking reduces stress

Having spent 40 years in the health insurance business, I needed to slow down a bit and find something less stressful. Most of my regular health insurance clients had to drop their coverage because they could not afford the higher Obamacare rates. To offset the lost income I migrated toward the Medicare market about 4 years ago. In September of this year when it is my time to join my other boomer’s and go on Medicare I needed to know what to expect. walking 1

What I have found is, most people my age were just as confused as I was and they hadn’t worked in the health insurance market all their life like I had.

Changing my focus to Medicare only has helped, but during the Medicare season known as annual enrollment was almost too much. I was winding down my existing under age 65 client block and helping them one last time while at the same time trying to increase my number of Medicare clients.

Getting out an walking for 75 minutes or so helped my attitude tremendously. Some days I would leave the house at 5:30 AM while others it would be noon. And some days I would begin my walk around 4:00 PM.

Walking that 4 mile loop around my neighborhood not only reduced my stress levels but helped to drop my BP as well.

A recent article published by Everybody Walk has this to say.

  • Put your brain in a meditative state
  • Outdoor activity reduces stress
  • Boost endorphins
  • Socialize while walking
  • Boost energy and reduce fatigue

Hard to argue with any of those.


Reverse medical conditions

Many afflictions are lifestyle related. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, depression, anxiety and type II diabetes are all conditions that may be caused by lifestyle but can also be reversed.

My own drop in BP can be tied to walking and increased water intake.

According to the American Heart Association, walking for 30 minutes a day has this effect

  • Reduce the risk of coronary heart disease
  • Improve blood pressure and blood sugar levels
  • Improve blood lipid profile
  • Maintain body weight and lower the risk of obesity
  • Enhance mental well being
  • Reduce the risk of osteoporosis
  • Reduce the risk of breast and colon cancer
  • Reduce the risk of non-insulin dependent (type 2) diabetes

Maybe you are not at risk for any of the above and that is good news. But that is not a reason to ignore the health benefits of preventing or even reversing the effects of a sedentary lifestyle.

Type II diabetes is a common chronic condition in retirees and is a costly illness to treat, especially if you have complications. I have diabetic clients and some of them are spending $500/month and up on medication. What a tremendous savings they could realize by walking just 30 minutes a day.


Improved sleeping

As we age our body changes and one area that is impacted as much, if not more, is quality sleep time. Walking, especially in the evening before bed can relax your body and help you have a more restful night.

You can also benefit from walking earlier in the day so if night time is not convenient for you go when you can and start sleeping better.


Laundry list of benefits

If you do enough research you can probably come up with 100 or more reasons to walk. The folks at Tesco Living summarized these 10 points.

  • Strengthen your heart
  • Lower risk of disease
  • Weight control
  • Prevent dementia
  • and osteoporosis
  • Tones your body
  • including your arms
  • Boosts vitamin D levels
  • Gives you energy
  • Makes you happy

Who doesn’t want to be happy?


Additional reading

Still not convinced of the benefits of Walking?

Check out these dozen+ articles on Medicinenet


Closing thoughts

Get moving and enjoy your days. Walk outdoors or inside. Many malls open early in the morning for “mall walkers”. It’s a good time to socialize and avoid the crowds.

Senior centers in many areas are available at no charge or reduced rates. Some have walking tracks, swimming pools and exercise classes.

A few Medicare supplement carriers include Silver Sneakers membership as part of their “package”. Georgaetna medicareia carriers that include Silver Sneakers are Blue Cross, Humana and the AARP brand of United Healthcare.

Of course their Medigap rates are usually higher than comparable plans that don’t include Silver Sneakers. We recently added Aetna to our mix of carriers. They have competitive Medigap rates but don’t have Silver Sneakers.

With more than 170 different Medigap plans in Georgia, how do you find the right one? We can help. Shop and compare plans on your own but don’t hesitate to ask for help.

Georgia Medigap plans & Prices

Georgia Medigap plans & Prices


#walking #Medicare #diabetes #highbloodpressure #cholesterol #Aetna