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Aging Wisely March 2015 - Aging Wisely

Senior Home Safety: Elderly Gun Safety


aging parents with guns at home

Approximately 35% of Americans have a gun in their home. Naturally, some of these gun owners are elders. Gun safety is important for anyone who has a gun in the home, but special issues may arise for elderly gun owners. Here are a few of the considerations regarding gun safety and older adults:

  • Cognitive issues (persons with dementia can become paranoid, may have difficulty with complex thinking, and may eventually lack competency in decision making)
  • Concerns for caregivers and other helpers/agencies coming in to the home
  • Compromised eyesight and hearing (higher chances of inaccurate shooting/accidents)
  • Reduced strength and slower reflexes (could make it more likely an intruder could wrestle the gun away and use it on the owner)
  • Suicide/depression considerations: Older adults make up 12% of the US population, but account for 18% of all suicide deaths. They have high rates of suicide completion because of methodology (guns being primary) and the highest prevalence of double suicides of partners/spouses.

Addressing gun safety with your aging parents can be a complicated issue. The first step is to open up the discussion (some adult children may not even be aware that elderly parents have guns in the home). You can express your concerns about Mom or Dad having a gun at home and talk about options (selling the firearm or storing it offsite, for example). It is important to know the legalities of transferring the gun…it’s not just as simple as moving it to your home. We’ll have a guest post coming up soon from a police expert, with answers to frequently asked gun safety questions!

If your aging parent claims the gun(s) do not need to be removed, it is important to assess the safety issues. Age is not automatically a reason a person can’t have a gun at home. A professional can help you look at the big picture, assessing the areas mentioned above and other factors.

If the assessment confirms safety problems, the evidence should be presented to the elder. Our experts can help guide that discussion. Many times an outside party can be influential and coming to an agreement is better than having to force the issue. Fortunately, we have a lot of experience with these and other safety discussions, as well as how to approach the whole process in a dignified manner and get the elder’s buy-in.

However, much like with senior driving safety, there are times when the person may not agree and additional steps need to be taken to protect the elder and others. Check out our previous EasyLiving gun safety article and stay tuned for our guest expert post for more!

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The Aging Home Safety Questions You Forgot to Ask


aging parents home safety

We write a lot about home safety for seniors here and on our EasyLiving blog. We share checklists that you can use to assess your aging parent’s well-being at home, as well as fall prevention checklists and an array of tips. However, we find that adult children still miss some important considerations when assessing senior home safety. These are often the very important factors that our Care Managers point out when doing a Comprehensive Home Safety Assessment.

Today, we’ll share some of this insight from our experts, on commonly overlooked areas. Don’t miss important warning signs! Contact our team for a full, expert evaluation and recommendations!

      1. Are there guns in the home? Is it safe for them to be there, or are additional safety measures needed?
      2. Are there other hazardous materials or tools? Is my parent likely to take on potentially dangerous tasks, such as trimming trees, doing roof repairs or attic work in the heat?
      3. Is my parent isolated? Are there signs of loneliness and depression?
      4. How well can my parent handle tasks requiring complex thinking? Someone with early stage dementia and minor memory loss may be able to function relatively well, especially if the environment is set up in the right way. However, tasks that require higher level executive function (banking, financial transactions, decision making) may cause trouble and leave your parent vulnerable to exploitation or mounting problems.
      5. What happens if disaster strikes? Everything might be okay under normal circumstances, but can my parent handle a hurricane or other natural disaster? What if the power or water is out at my parent’s home for a few days? Consider smaller, personal “disasters” as well. Dad is a great caregiver for Mom, but what would he do if she fell? How would Mom handle a pipe breaking in the home or manage a major repair? How well would they do if a serious illness struck?
      6. Are there subtle problems building up? What is my parent eating on a day-to-day basis? How accurately is Mom taking her medications? Without a trained eye, it can be easy to miss small problems that can lead to other issues. Aging parents tend to “pull it together” for adult children too, so what you’re seeing may be the best possible scenario.

We’re here to help! Call us at 727-447-5845.

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The Five Steps to Aging Unwisely


top eldercare mistakes

Working with hundreds of elders and families over the years, we have seen the good, the bad and the ugly. And, while we advise on the best ways to plan for and manage the challenges of aging, we have also learned a lot about the worst ways to handle things. So, here’s our slightly tongue-in-cheek list of things you can do if you want to age “unwisely” (and what to do instead).

1. Don’t think about it. What can you do about it anyway?!?  Unfortunately, this is common, as many of us tend to be in denial about getting older and needing help. Our healthcare system has traditionally been set up to be about illness rather than health and prevention. More people are taking steps to be proactive with their health, but too few people invest the time in planning for their elder years. Fortunately, with a little planning, you can have some control over what happens as you get older. No, you can’t control aging, but you can control a lot about your level of dignity and comfort as you age.

2. Avoid the tough discussions. Death and money are probably the two most taboo subjects in our culture, which explains why so few people talk about them, even with their closest friends and family. Unfortunately, in order to age wisely, you have to break through that barrier and have some basic discussions about these topics. Engage the help of a professional if you need it (a geriatric care manager can help guide the conversation and you can do a family meeting with your financial advisor and estate planning attorney–experienced parties know sensitive ways to handle the conversations and can serve as a buffer for the emotions of those so close to the situation).

3. Follow thy neighbor. Neighbors (both physical neighbors and our “neighbors” in our online community) have all sorts of advice. Unfortunately, well-meaning advice isn’t always right. And, it’s especially not always right for you. Check your facts, especially when you get opinions from the internet. It is great to get ideas from neighbors and trusted friends, but make sure to get more information (and possibly professional advice) before making major decisions.

4. Go it alone. People constantly refer to wanting to “stay independent” and remain in their own homes as they age. We offer a different perspective on aging “interdependently”, in order to maintain your options and stay healthy and happy despite perhaps needing a bit of help in a few areas. Isolation and unnecessary decline are often the costs of stubbornly maintaining absolute independence. When you really want to stay in your own home and maintain some control, a little in-home help is likely the best way to make that happen.

5. Leave it all up to the family.  Yes, of course, eldercare is a deeply personal thing and families handle over 80% of the care needed by older loved ones. However, families don’t need to handle everything alone. Having professional advice and occasional help can make a huge difference. One of the most frequent comments we get at Aging Wisely is, “You allowed me to go back to being daughter/son/wife/husband again.” Our EasyLiving caregivers are often handling tasks such as personal care (bathing, shaving, helping in the bathroom) and household duties, which allow adult children and parents to retain a balanced relationship and spend quality time together.

For help with “aging wisely” and “easy living” in your elder years, contact our team today at 727-447-5845 or complete our request form for a free eldercare consultation!

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Professional Spotlight: Dr. Michael O’Neal, Concierge Medicine


Tampa Bay concierge physician

This month we are celebrating our healthcare providers by sharing with you some of the great team members that contribute to our clients’ excellent care. Today, we have the pleasure of talking about Dr. Michael O’Neal, a groundbreaking doctor with a different approach to patient care. He founded Cooperative Med, a concierge medicine practice serving Tampa Bay.

Background: Dr. Michael O’Neal

Dr. O’Neal received his undergraduate degree from the University of South Florida (USF) and attended medical school at the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences. He completed residency training at USF College of Medicine, where he was elected the Chief Resident. Dr. O’Neal has published numerous articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals and received awards for his scholarly achievements, research, and contributions. He was 1 of only 15 national physicians to receive the American Medical Association (AMA) Young Physician Leadership Award.

About Cooperative Med, Concierge Medicine in Tampa Bay

CooperativeMed, founded in 2002 by Dr. Michael O’Neal, is a pioneer in the development of concierge (also known as membership/boutique) medical practices. Dr. O’Neal is credited with developing the first concierge medical practice in the U.S. created from scratch (non-transitioned). Concierge medicine offers a low volume practice setting which allows the physician to devote more time and energy to each patient, individualizing care.

Dr. O’Neal wanted to create a different option for those dissatisfied with today’s high-volume, managed-care health care system, where physicians are compelled to care for upwards of 3,000 patients. In contrast, CooperativeMed limits the number of patient members, providing a higher level of service to fewer patients, while focusing on disease prevention, health maintenance, nutrition, lifestyle changes, patient advocacy, and high-quality care. In order to sustain a practice of only 350 patients, each member pays an annual membership fee.

“As our population continues to age, and the number of patients within traditional practices grows, it will become even more important for medically complex individuals to consider concierge care in order to receive the desired level of service, and arguably the desired level of care,” states Dr. O’Neal.  “One of the greatest values to being a member of a concierge medical practice is that the physician is more capable of being a patient advocate, which becomes even more relevant as we grow older, accumulate medical problems, and need more medical attention and care oversight.”

The Benefits of Working with Dr. O’Neal

The Aging Wisely team appreciates Dr. O’Neal’s collaborative approach to healthcare. Each patient is encouraged to be a proactive participant, targeting health care goals in partnership with the physician and other involved professionals.

Dr. O’Neal prides himself on developing nurturing relationships with patients and fulfilling their previously unmet health care needs. Cooperative Med’s concept blends modern medical technology (micronutrient and genetic testing, sophisticated cholesterol profiling, use of technology to extend care such as virtual visits via your iPad or iPhone) with traditional philosophies (home visits, advocacy, more face time with the physician and less wait time).

We’ve had the pleasure of working with Dr. O’Neal for a number of our Aging Wisely and EasyLiving clients. As Care Manager Julie Scott shares, “I, as well as my clients, feel he goes beyond the scope of medical treatment to remain in tune with the whole patient, which makes the difference between compliance and non-compliance, treatment or no treatment and feeling good about whatever decision is made…”. Julie explains that Dr. O’Neal not only respects patient wishes but takes the time to discuss options with them and weigh pros and cons, not only medically but socially, emotionally and with regards to potential outcomes. By making home visits to elder patients, Dr. O’Neal adds a level of convenience to their lives, but is also better able to assess their situation and get to know them.

The results of the collaborative approach are clear for patients and their families, as Dr. O’Neal shares: “Over the past 13 years, there have been numerous instances where the in-home physician care we provide and advocacy, combined with the services provided by Aging Wisely, were able to keep people safely in their homes. I frequently see examples of the Aging Wisely and CooperativeMed collaboration reducing the emotional burden placed on a family who often assumes the care and decision making for their elderly parents.”

Looking to The Future of Healthcare and Eldercare

As the health care climate changes, CooperativeMed continues to be a leader in the field of concierge medicine. Dr. O’Neal explains some of the recent developments to better meet patients’ holistic needs, “We have recently introduced a novel TeleHealth program that allows for remote patient monitoring and the transfer of diagnostic data to the physician. We have also created a concierge dental program, a TelePsych program, and added private physical therapy for aggressive in-home therapy.”

To learn more, check out Dr. Michael O’Neal and Cooperative Med concierge medicine online or contact us for more information and ways our Aging Wisely team can put the best care team in place for you!

Aging Wisely and EasyLiving, your family’s advocates: ensuring quality of life and supporting you with:

Call us at 727-447-5845 for answers, resources and all the ways we can help!


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Top 10 Scams Against the Elderly


elderly financial scams

Unfortunately, scammers often target seniors because they tend to have significant savings and generally are less “risk” because of hesitancy to report and difficulties with prosecution (though states are working to change that). Seniors are more likely to be home alone during the day and some may be more trusting. Here are 10 common scams targeting elders that you should know about and share with your elderly loved ones.

1. Sweepstakes and lottery scams

In these types of scams, the elder is informed that they have won a lottery or sweepstakes and need to make some sort of payment to receive the prize. Often, seniors will be sent a check that they can deposit in their bank account, because of the time lag in detecting the fake check. During that time, the criminals will quickly collect money for supposed fees or taxes on the prize, which they pocket while the victim has the “prize money” removed from his or her account as soon as the check bounces.

2. Phishing

This entails a call or email from what appears to be a legitimate company or entity asking for the person to give personal information. Always warn your loved ones not to give out personal information when contacted by their bank or a government institution by phone or email. They can tell the caller that they will contact the institution directly to find out if there is a legitimate need or problem.

3. Charity scams

This can be as simple as mail solicitations for fake charities (or even a “legitimate charity” that simply has very poor financial practices and solicits multiple donations under different names or misuses funds) or this may be done via telemarketing. Charity scams are particularly problematic after natural disasters, when people take advantage of the desire to help.

4. Health insurance/Medicare fraud

Often, scammers use Medicare as an “in” to get personal information for identity theft and fraud. It’s easy enough to guess that most seniors are on Medicare and it tends to lend an authoritative air for the scammer. This type of fraud will rise during Medicare open enrollment periods or changes (or related changes, such as was seen recently with Obamacare which was used as an excuse to get seniors’ information). There is also more direct Medicare fraud, in which fake clinics or services are set up to bill Medicare or a senior’s Medicare number is used to bill Medicare for services never rendered.

5. Home repair fraud

This is a popular scam against Florida seniors, involving all types of home repairs which are then either not completed or done poorly (or unnecessary in the first place/overpriced). Over the years, many families came to us after discovering such issues had been happening to Mom or Dad, which made apparent the need for local care management oversight. A person will come by the home typically and build trust (using techniques like identifying commonalities, which are often lies); they might convince the elder that a repair is needed that is not, or quote a drastically high price. The person will either ask for a deposit or the whole sum and then may not complete the work. New roofs (or roof repair) and water filter scams have been two common categories.

6. Investment scams and reverse mortgage fraud

Seniors tend to be targeted due to their significant retirement savings. This can range from pyramid schemes to outright theft or identity theft. It may also be a matter of an investment professional suggesting inappropriate investments which yield large fees for them. This has commonly been done with certain types of annuities in Florida.

The increased popularity of reverse mortgages has also created a new market for fraud, along with a variety of property fraud. One example was a property tax scam in San Diego, where seniors received personalized letters that appeared to be sent on behalf of the County Assessor’s Office. The letter, which contained public information anyone could obtain, would identify the property’s assessed value and offer to arrange for a reassessment of the property’s value and therefore the tax burden associated with it. The scammers collected a fee for this service, which had no real value.

7. Funeral/cemetery scams

This typically involves taking advantage of seniors when planning a funeral or buying a cemetery plot, with exorbitant fees or fake services.

A scam related to funerals is mentioned below, and thieves have also been known to scour the obituaries to choose an opportune time to break into a home.

8. Imposter fraud (faked familiarity)

The person receives and email or call stating that a loved one or friend has been in an accident and needs money to pay hospital fees. This is also used under the ploy that the person is traveling and has had his/her wallet stolen (this one’s been widely circulated). There is also a sinister “grandparent scam” where the person calls and gets the senior to “guess” that the caller is one of his/her grandchildren, thus obtaining a name to use as a way to get in and get money or steal items.

A related scam that was becoming common a few years back in Florida, is people using obituaries to obtain information to “get in the door”. They would find the names of family members in the obituary to use as a way in…such as saying to the widow, “Your daughter Jane Smith asked me to check in and help out with some things…” (along with very “sincere” condolences). The person would then steal from the home or access information for identity theft.

9. Durable Power of Attorney misuse

A durable power of attorney is a useful tool in estate and incapacity planning, but has the risk that it gives the agent immediate power which can be misused. This type of fraud, unfortunately, is often carried out by a family member or friend. It might also be a neighbor or someone who builds a relationship with the senior to convince them to execute a document so they can “help”.

10. Internet fraud

The internet is often just a new method of perpetrating some of the oldest scams, but allows it to be done more easily with automation and from anywhere in the world. There are also new areas of vulnerability via spyware and viruses.

How can you help your elderly loved ones?

1. Educate them about common scams and key tips, such as not giving out personal information to a caller or via email. Set up a plan when it comes to home repairs or solicitations (scheduling things, reviewing the home’s needs together periodically, telling solicitors that a relative helps with those types of decisions, etc.).

2. Read our article Senior Scams and Florida Elder Exploitation for more tips and resources.

3. Contact our Aging Wisely team for resources and assistance. If you are a caregiver living at a distance from your Florida loved one, consider local oversight by a professional care manager. If you are concerned about ongoing exploitation by a trusted person, our care managers can also help you with approaching your loved one about this, mediating and working through solutions.



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Our goal is to enable every individual we work with to live the most fulfilling life possible, with utmost dignity, focusing on their physical, mental, spiritual, family and financial wellbeing.