Phone Scams: Social Security, Grandchildren & Donations

by Janet Simpson Benvenuti

While we’re all distracted by the coronavirus, here’s a gentle warning to remind your now housebound parents and grandparents about telephone scams. Recently the National Council on Aging reported the top three telephone scams for elders:

Social Security Spoofing Calls. In this scam, the caller may spoof the SSI hotline so caller ID looks legitimate, and then either threaten the listener or ask for help activating a suspended social security number. During the pandemic, Social Security is continuing to issue checks despite scammers indicating otherwise. Here’s the link from the SSI and guidance from Consumer Reports about what to do if you receive one of these calls.

The Grandparent Scam. In this scam, the caller indicates they’re a grandchild in an accident or legal trouble and ask for cash or gift cards.

Donations following Natural Disasters. This scam takes advantage of donations that follow a natural disaster – or a pandemic – with the caller impersonating charities asking for money or, if the listener is in the area impacted, offering help.

If your family wants to donate to organizations during this time of crisis, use a site like Charity Navigator to check on their validity.

Another scam reported recently is one offering a free coronavirus test kit for Tricare and Medicare beneficiaries. Concerned families should check with their physician for testing.

Many elders already avoid answering their telephones from unknown callers. I asked a class full of tech-savvy business leaders for guidance on how best to block access from telemarketers and spammers. Two companies were mentioned: Ooma, a home phone service that provides multiple ways to block spam calls and Nomorobo although online reviews have been mixed. I’ve attached a useful video from The Verge about robocalls and how to stop them.

Share what works for you and your family.

Family Caregiver Resources Regarding the Coronavirus

by Janet Simpson Benvenuti

The recent outbreak of the coronavirus reminds us how interconnected we are globally and the importance of protecting our most vulnerable family members and friends. We encourage you to follow the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control about hand washing and preventative actions and listen to the news for updates in your local community.

If you are able, reach out to your older neighbors and offer to grocery shop for them. Many elders do not use delivery services like Instacart and may be uncomfortable risking exposure to the virus by shopping.

For updates about the coronavirus globally, healthcare and other professionals find the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security trustworthy. You can register for their daily updates here.

Listen to geriatrician Dr. Leslie Kernisan’s podcast about the coronavirus and how best to protect our aging parents and ourselves.

Read the AARP’s guidance about limiting access to assisted living and skilled nursing homes.

Join the private Facebook group Working Daughter where you’ll find emotional support from thousands of women and men who are supporting their aging parents.

Together, we’ll navigate this journey. You’re not alone.

The Guide to Long-Term Care Insurance

by Tobe Gerard, CLTC, MBA, MLS, LIA

We believe that the best all around consumer guide for long-term care insurance that is not state specific is A Shopper’s Guide to Long-Term Care Insurance. Unfortunately, it is not updated every year so we are extremely excited that it has just been updated for 2019 and is now available. This consumer-friendly guide was written and published by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. We hope that you will find it valuable. Use it as a starting point for the conversation about long-term care and long-term care insurance with your financial planner or insurance agent.

For context, a study of 200,000 claims by PricewaterhouseCoopers found the current average cost of long-term care services is $172,000 for a person who needs assistance with at least two activities of daily living or has some cognitive impairment.

Since 2000, Tobe has committed her professional life to helping people manage the risk of needing long-term care.

Reprinted with permission.

Are you a Working Daughter?


by Janet Simpson Benvenuti

Recently I met for lunch with Liz O’Donnell to discuss her latest book entitled Working Daughter, A Guide to Caring for Your Aging Parents While Making a Living. Liz is a marketing executive who suddenly found herself caring for two parents who were diagnosed with terminal illnesses on the same day. Juggling the demands of a full time job and two young children, Liz turned her experience into a poignant story full of humor, encouragement and practical guidance. Intent to help the readers overcome “insomnia-induced, middle-of-the-night Google searches,” Liz weaves her personal story with clear advice that will help working daughters and sons navigate the practical challenges of supporting aging parents while acknowledging the emotional, and potentially negative, impact on relationships, health, and careers. Among the pages you’ll discover,
1. How to identify the warning signs that there is a problem;
2. Fifty things family caregivers can do to practice self care;
3. Strategies for setting boundaries & communicating with parents, siblings & spouses;
4. Senior living options and how to transition parents to a new home;
5. The Working Daughter Bill of Rights.

To better support women balancing eldercare and career, Liz founded WorkingDaughter.com and oversees a private Facebook group of women and men supporting their aging parents. Order the book and if you, or anyone you know, is juggling work and parents, invite them to join the Facebook group; it’s like being online with 2,500 non-judgmental sisters. You’ll laugh, cry, vent, and get advice on topics ranging from the best underwear for incontinence to how to find decent home care or assisted living communities. You may also enjoy the Working Daughter podcasts.

Author Virginia Morris sums up Working Daughter best. “Women might be able to shoulder both work and motherhood, but throw an elderly parent’s care into the mix, and these mighty women can collapse into a heap of wine, cheese dip, and tissues. Liz gives them guidance on how to accept their fates, manage the mess, and find some joy in the moment.”

Enjoy. And thanks, Liz, for enabling us all to learn from your experience.

Advice from an Experienced Family Caregiver

by Janet Simpson Benvenuti

Recently, I spoke with Elizabeth Barge, Norfolk, VA, to glean her insights about caring for aging parents. Elizabeth has spent the last five years supporting the needs of five elders – her parents, step-father and in-laws – in a family of nine siblings in a blended family of adults, a situation that would overwhelm most of us.

Here are her five insights.

First, focus on doing THE NEXT RIGHT THING. This will keep you from being overwhelmed; doing the next right thing will always result in forward progress.

Second, start laying the foundation BEFORE you have to act on it. For example, she called and asked the director of the assisted living facility where her parents were living if she needed to start looking for Memory Care. The director answered an emphatic YES, so she started looking for Memory Care centers close to her home in May. When her parents needed to move from the assisted living facility in September, she was ready.

Third, be conciliatory toward siblings and step-siblings. Sometimes they just want to know someone heard and maybe considered their point of view.

Fourth, accept that you can only work with what you have, therefore NO GUILT. If parents are too private about their affairs and not willing to allow adult children in as confidants, then when the mind goes, said adult children can only do the best they can with the information they DO have. When you do the best you can with what you have, there is NO GUILT.

Finally, the opinion of the guy/gal who does the hands on care for parents gets the MOST weight. Period. In her case, the other eight siblings and the spouses accepted that and thanked her at her step-father’s funeral for taking such good care of him. “In baseball vernacular,” she said, “I was the closer.”

Elizabeth is what I often call the ‘designated child’, the one who does most of the hands-on care for parents. If you’re that adult child in your family, remember that you’re not alone. I hope that you find Elizabeth’s words of wisdom helpful, that you focus on the next thing, without guilt, and that, in the end, your relationships with your family, spouses, partners and siblings deepen knowing that you did the best you could.

Thank you, Elizabeth, for sharing your insights with us.

Where do I find help for Aging Parents?

by Janet Simpson Benvenuti

The scenarios are all too common. A worried daughter lives in Chicago; her aging parents reside in Florida. A son works on the west coast while his widowed mom lives in Virginia. How do adult children find support for their aging parents when they need assistance? Many families elect to find a local professional care manager to help them and their parents navigate the elder care system.

How do you find a competent professional care manager? In five simple steps.

Step 1. Check with your employee benefits group to see if your Employee Assistance program provides help from professional care managers.

Step 2. Get names from the professionals in your parents’ lives. Specifically, ask their physician, attorney and financial advisor for names of local care managers. For example, many elder law attorneys have relationships with professional care managers.

Step 3. Reach out to your parents’ local Council on Aging. Speak with the director or the nurse or social worker on staff. Ask them to recommend a local professional care manager.

Step 4. Search for professionals using one of three national organizations: the Aging Life Care Association, the National Association of Healthcare Advocacy Consultants and the Alliance of Professional Health Advocates.

Step 5. Interview prospective care managers. Email info@colpartners.com for a copy of our interview guide.

The chemistry between your parents and the person whom you’ve entrusted to support them is key to a successful journey together.

Finding the right care manager can take time, but the benefit is having a professional who can provide care advice and information about available community resources over the duration of time your parents need support.

Post any thoughts or questions below.

Food for Healthy Aging

by Janet Simpson Benvenuti

Earlier this summer, leaders in the food service industry met for their Menus of Change annual summit at the Culinary Institute of America’s Hyde Park campus.

Among their initiatives are to show that “changing menus is a powerful, and previously underappreciated, way to drive improvements in our health” and to make “plant-forward” dining mainstream. Plant-forward is a style of cooking and eating “that emphasizes and celebrates…plant-based foods including fruits and vegetables; whole grains; beans, legumes and soy foods; nuts and seeds; plant oils; and herbs and spices.”

These diets are not only good for our health but also for the health of the planet. So, your mother was right, eat your vegetables and get at least some of your protein from beans and legumes instead of meat. Here is an infographic that makes it easy to create a plant-forward diet Principles for Healthy Meals along with a recipe for lentil soup you may enjoy.

$10 LifeTime Pass to U.S. National Parks

Buy a Pass before August 28, 2017
$10 LifeTime Pass to National Parks

Do you know that anyone 62 and older can get a Life Time Pass to all U.S. National Parks for just $10?

If you, your parents or grand parents love to travel and enjoy the beauty of our National Parks, order a pass before August 28, 2017 when the fee increases to $80.

Here’s a complete list of all American National Parks and Forests.

A Few More Details:
Annual and lifetime Senior Passes provide access to more than 2,000 recreation sites. The passes cover entrance and standard amenity (day-use) recreation fees and provide discounts on some expanded amenity recreation fees. Traveling companions can also enter for free. The Senior Passes admit pass owner/s and up to three adult passengers in a noncommercial vehicle. Children under 16 are always admitted free. Also, at many sites, the Senior Passes provide the pass owner (only) a discount on Expanded Amenity Fees such as camping, swimming, boat launching, and guided tours.

How can I purchase a Senior Pass?
Senior Passes can be purchased at any federal recreation site, including national parks, that charges an entrance or standard amenity (day-use) fee. Proof of age and residency is required. Passes can also be purchased online or through the mail from USGS; an additional $10 processing fee will be added to the price.

Happy Trails!

Got Health? Give.

by Janet Simpson Benvenuti

Our mission at Circle of Life Partners includes supporting the leaders of non-profit organizations that improve the health and well-being of older people and their families. This summer, many of us plan to walk, run, cycle or golf for a cause; there is no better way to improve our own fitness with friends and family while helping others. Below are links to a few of our favorite events. Feel free to post other local or national events in the comments section or on our Facebook page. We want to support your favorite causes, too.

Most families have someone living with heart disease or cancer, respiratory illnesses, arthritis or diabetes. In August, join the annual Pan-Mass Challenge bike-a-thon. Nationally, check out the Team for Cures events for Multiple Mylenoma; join the Fight for Air Climb in skyscrapers across the country to support the American Lung Association; or ride with Tour de Cure for the American Diabetes Association.

Because half of the caregiving dollars in America are spent supporting someone living with cognitive impairment, walk or ride for the Alzheimer’s Association or join local golfers to support the DKJohnson Foundation. Other neurological illnesses such as Parkinson’s, ALS and Multiple Sclerosis also consume caregiving resources and benefit from our engagement. Remember the Ice Bucket Challenge? Funds from that campaign helped scientists identify NEK1, a gene that may cause the disease, so your support to these, and other campaigns, matters.

Mental illness afflicts millions of Americans and NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, is among the organizations that provide ongoing support and guidance to families. Join one of the NAMI Walks and let’s make mental health an equal priority for all.

To your health!

c2017 Circle of Life Partners, LLC. All rights reserved.

Mother to Mother, On Mother’s Day

by Janet Simpson Benvenuti

I am a mother and a motherless child, an aunt to 19, three of whom lost their mother last year. Until my own mother passed away, I never associated Mother’s Day with loss but the holiday raises mixed emotions of joy, sadness, gratitude, and love.

Mothering is defined by Webster as the act of “bringing up a child with care and affection,” but that definition doesn’t begin to capture the ethos of a mother: one who cares for her child, her friend’s child and the community around them. Those of us raised by loving mothers or aunts, older sisters or grandmothers know the quiet touch and backbone of steel that mothering requires. We celebrate each other’s joys, we mourn each other’s losses, we comfort those in need.

Recently I read “From Mother to Mother, Having a Child with Substance Abuse Issues,” a poignant essay in which the author, Cathy Miles, conveys how her daughter’s addiction changed her personal celebration of Mother’s Day. What caught my attention was the phrase “from Mother to Mother,” the code all mothers use to signal honesty, empathy, awareness and action. Cathy is a mother with an ill child who openly shares her fears and depression, dreams lost and life changed; one who shares her story so others may not feel alone in their own child’s journey with addiction. Cathy is the mother of a daughter but she is mothering us as well.

On this Mother’s Day, it’s important to remember that you are not alone. Not alone with a disabled child, an ailing parent, or an aging body. Not alone as a teenage mother, a widowed elder or a mentally ill adult. As long as your world is filled with women and men who embrace mothering, they will notice and support your needs.

A few weeks ago a neighbor and the mother of four visited a homeless shelter. Through a quick email to a gaggle of friends she solicited 850 pair of new underwear without fanfare or fuss, overwhelming the shelter with her generosity and waiving off the gift, as mothers do. Linger a moment on her request. Underwear? Only a mother would think about new underwear and the importance of that gift to a homeless person, a gesture of kindness and a reminder of their value as a human being.

Now, just for a minute, think about the outcome if that email went to a gaggle of men.

Happy Mother’s Day to the mothers among us and to all who enjoy mothering.

c Circle of Life Partners, LLC. All rights reserved.