A Brief Guide to Medicare and Understanding Your Options

By Sharon Wagner, SeniorFriendly.info

Medicare is a blessing to many seniors, but navigating all of your options and deciding on a plan can be extremely overwhelming. How are you supposed to know which plan you need, which insurance companies to trust, and how to enroll? There are many things to consider when choosing your plan and nearly endless options when you look beyond the basic federal program. Hopefully, this guide can clear up a few things and point you in the right direction.

Finding Plans in Your Area

To start, it’s important to know what kinds of Medicare plans are available in your area. The government website Medicare.gov provides a handy search tool for finding Medicare Part C and Part D plans. This can help you narrow down your choices based on certain criteria, such as whether you need drug coverage and which pharmacies you would like included in your plan. Take a look at this useful step-by-step guide for help using the search tool.

Learning About Basic Medicare

Original Medicare, also called Medicare Part A and B, is the most basic coverage provided by the government for seniors 65 and older. Original Medicare covers things like hospital stays and outpatient doctor’s services. Most people will not have to pay anything for Part A, but everyone must pay a monthly premium for Part B. It’s also important to understand that Original Medicare will not pay for 100 percent of the services it covers; you will still have out-of-pocket costs from deductibles and copayments. This is why many people supplement their Medicare plans.

Understanding Medicare Advantage

Medicare Advantage plans are offered by private insurance companies and are similar to health insurance plans you may have signed up for in the past. In addition to everything covered by Medicare Parts A and B, Medicare Advantage plans offer additional coverage for things like hearing, vision, and dental. These plans may also include daily living assistance and lifestyle support, such as transportation or meal delivery services. US News explains the pros and cons of Medicare Advantage based on different criteria you may have.

You’ll notice that many Medicare Advantage plans have no premiums. These can be a good option for people who are healthy and looking to save money while still being protected from large medical expenses. These zero-premium plans typically have high deductibles, meaning you’ll have to pay more for your services before your plan will cover the rest. Choosing a plan with a higher premium may be a better option if you have a chronic condition or some other reason to require regular medical care.

Medicare Part D for Drug Coverage

Medicare Part D, which is also offered by private insurance companies, covers prescription drugs. You can add Part D to your Original Medicare plan. However, the majority of Medicare Advantage plans include Part D. According to Investopedia, the costs associated with Medicare Part D are fairly similar to the premiums, deductibles, and copayments of any standard medical insurance plan. Before picking a plan, it’s important to consider the particular drugs you need to be covered since certain plans cover different drugs. Using the Medicare.gov search tool mentioned above can help you find Part D plans that will cover your prescriptions.

Considering Medigap

Finally, Medigap is yet another option for supplementary coverage offered by private insurance companies. Medigap specifically covers the gaps in Original Medicare. This can be beneficial for people who anticipate future chronic conditions and are worried about expensive healthcare needs. There are several Medigap plans to choose from, so think carefully about the kind of coverage you need most. Some plans have coverage for travel emergencies, whereas others are better for covering the deductibles and copayments from your Original Medicare plan.

Getting the most out of Medicare means taking the time to learn about your plans and coverage options. Continue to do your research and check out some of the resources mentioned here. Although it will take some serious planning to evaluate your choices, consider your criteria, and anticipate your future care needs, this will help you secure your health for the future.


A Story of Recovery Thanks to Your Support

Every patient that Sagepoint works with faces their own unique challenges. We’re here to help them all. What keeps us going is the support of our community, people like you, and the opportunity to play a part in stories like this.

‘He’s Back to Doing Everything’

“I knew Sagepoint was there, but I really didn’t know much about it,” says Barbara Howell, a lifelong resident of La Plata.

That changed in September 2015 when her husband of 43 years, Edward, suffered a massive stroke. After a brief hospital stay and a short time in an out-of-state rehab facility, Ed came to Sagepoint. He spent two months undergoing speech, occupational, and physical therapy.

“Everything improved,” Barbara said. “If I had to do it all over again, he would have come straight to Sagepoint.”

Today Barbara says, “his brain is wonderful,” and at age 81, he’s “back to doing everything.” His grateful wife calls the staff and aides “outstanding.”

“The place is as nice as could be,” she said. “Now that I know about it, it’s certainly a place I would go, too.”

We Need Your Help Once More

Because of the high costs of the care we provide and the limitations of government funding, we’ve set a goal to raise $1 million to enhance and expand care for our patients and residents by 2021. The first phase of this campaign we are calling Forever Grateful and our first goal is to raise $150,00 by the end of 2018. We know that you can’t give to every worthy cause, but as you consider your year-end donations, please consider donating to Sagepoint.

Another Story Made Possible by Your Incredible Support

While most of the care we provide at Sagepoint is for seniors, that’s not always the case. We thought you’d like to hear this story of a young married couple and the medical challenges they are overcoming– thanks in large part to the support of donors like you.

‘A 100% Miracle’

Karen Shifflett remembers her second wedding anniversary all too vividly. She sat at her husband’s beside in a hospital intensive care unit. Driving home from work in February 2013, John’s car was struck by a train in Brandywine, MD.

“After his first week in the hospital, the doctors told me to make arrangements for a nursing home- that he’d be a vegetable for the rest of his life.”

John, age 29, arrived at Sagepoint a month later. From the very beginning, Karen says, “the care was like nothing we had ever experienced. It was phenomenal.”

John arrived still very much in a “vegetative” state. After two months of speech, occupational, and physical therapy, he was eating a soft diet, sitting up, and responding to his family.

Today John continues to improve with the help of a walker and a wheelchair. He attends Sagepoint’s Adult Day Services every Saturday. Karen calls him a “100% miracle” and credits the staff and aides at Sagepoint.

“The time they put in with the therapy… they didn’t give up. They pushed him and they were always so positive. Just to know that he wasn’t alone meant everything to me.”

We Need Your Help Once More

Because of the high costs of the care we provide and the limitations of government funding, we’ve set a goal to raise $1 million to enhance and expand care for our patients and residents by 2021. The first phase of this campaign we are calling Forever Grateful and our first goal is to raise $150,00 by the end of 2018. We know that you can’t give to every worthy cause, but as you consider your year-end donations, please consider donating to Sagepoint.

Your Support Makes Stories Like This Possible

To our friends and supporters of Sagepoint Senior Living, we thought that you’d like to know a little bit about what your donations make possible. This is Miriam Kimball’s story:

A Tale of Two Parents

When Miriam Kimball’s father grew increasingly fragile from Parkinson’s disease, she moved him from a Pittsburgh nursing home to Sagepoint. Her mother, Miriam Donnellon, soon became a fixture there. Her daily visits cultivated close relationships with the staff, so close, in fact, she often invited staff members to her home for tea and cookies.

Years later after her father passed away, her mother needed care for severe dementia. Miriam Kimball again chose Sagepoint.

“Because my mom was in that frightened state, she was desperate for a friend,” Miriam Kimball said. “So many of the aides remembered her from when she cared for my dad. Even though my mother was not very lovable at times, they still provided her with loving care. The aides and nurses are simply outstanding human beings who will listen and help anytime, day or night.”

We Need Your Help Once More

Because of the high costs of the care we provide and the limitations of government funding, we’ve set a goal to raise $1 million to enhance and expand care for our patients and residents by 2021. The first phase of this campaign we are calling Forever Grateful and our first goal is to raise $150,00 by the end of 2018. We know that you can’t give to every worthy cause, but as you consider your year-end donations, please consider donating to Sagepoint.

You’re Not Just ‘Growing Old’ If This Happens To You

Elderly woman sadly looking out the window, a black-and-white ph

When Dr. Christopher Callahan examines older patients, he often hears a similar refrain.

“I’m tired, doctor. It’s hard to get up and about. I’ve been feeling kind of down, but I know I’m getting old and I just have to live with it.”

This fatalistic stance relies on widely-held but mistaken assumptions about what constitutes “normal aging.”

In fact, fatigue, weakness and depression, among several other common concerns, aren’t to-be-expected consequences of growing older, said Callahan, director of the Center for Aging Research at Indiana University’s School of Medicine.

Instead, they’re a signal that something is wrong and a medical evaluation is in order.

“People have a perception, promulgated by our culture, that aging equals decline,” said Dr. Jeanne Wei, a geriatrician who directs the Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

“That’s just wrong,” Wei said. Many older adults remain in good health for a long time and “we’re lucky to live in an age when many remedies are available.”

Of course, peoples’ bodies do change as they get on in years. But this is a gradual process. If you suddenly find your thinking is cloudy and your memory unreliable, if you’re overcome by dizziness and your balance is out of whack, if you find yourself tossing and turning at night and running urgently to the bathroom, don’t chalk it up to normal aging.

Go see your physician. The earlier you identify and deal with these problems, the better. Here are four common concerns that should spark attention — only a partial list of issues that can arise:

Fatigue. You have no energy. You’re tired all the time.

Don’t underestimate the impact: Chronically weary older adults are at risk of losing their independence and becoming socially isolated.

Nearly one-third of adults age 51 and older experience fatigue, according to a 2010 study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.  (Other estimates are lower.) There are plenty of potential culprits. Medications for blood pressure, sleep problems, pain and gastrointestinal reflux can induce fatigue, as can infections, conditions such as arthritis, an underactive thyroid, poor nutrition and alcohol use.

All can be addressed, doctors say. Perhaps most important is ensuring that older adults remain physically active and don’t become sedentary.

“If someone comes into my office walking at a snail’s pace and tells me ‘I’m old; I’m just slowing down,’ I’m like no, that isn’t right,” said Dr. Lee Ann Lindquist, a professor of geriatrics at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.

“You need to start moving around more, get physical therapy or occupational therapy and push yourself to do just a little bit more every day.”

Appetite loss. You don’t feel like eating and you’ve been losing weight.

This puts you at risk of developing nutritional deficiencies and frailty and raises the prospect of an earlier-than-expected death. Between 15 and 30 percent of older adults are believed to have what’s known as the “anorexia of aging.”

Physical changes associated with aging — notably a reduced sense of vision, taste and smell, which make food attractive — can contribute. So can other conditions: decreased saliva production (a medication-induced problem that affects about one-third of older adults); constipation (affecting up to 40 percent of seniors); depression; social isolation (people don’t like to eat alone); dental problems; illnesses and infections; and medications (which can cause nausea or reduced taste and smell).

If you had a pretty good appetite before and that changed, pay attention, said Dr. Lucy Guerra, director of general internal medicine at the University of South Florida.

Treating dental problems and other conditions, adding spices to food, adjusting medications and sharing meals with others can all make a difference.

Depression. You’re sad, apathetic and irritable for weeks or months at a time.

Depression in later life has profound consequences, compounding the effects of chronic illnesses such as heart disease, leading to disability, affecting cognition and, in extreme cases, resulting in suicide.

A half century ago, it was believed “melancholia” was common in later life and that seniors naturally withdrew from the world as they understood their days were limited, Callahan explained. Now, it’s known this isn’t so. Researchers have shown that older adults tend to be happier than other age groups: only 15 percent have major depression or minor variants.

Late-life depression is typically associated with a serious illness such as diabetes, cancer, arthritis or stroke; deteriorating hearing or vision; and life changes such as retirement or the loss of a spouse. While grief is normal, sadness that doesn’t go away and that’s accompanied by apathy, withdrawal from social activities, disturbed sleep and self-neglect is not, Callahan said.

With treatments such as cognitive behavioral therapy and anti-depressants, 50 to 80 percent of seniors can expect to recover.

Weakness. You can’t rise easily from a chair, screw the top off a jar, or lift a can from the pantry shelf.

You may have sarcopenia — a notable loss of muscle mass and strength that affects about 10 percent of adults over the age of 60. If untreated, sarcopenia will affect your balance, mobility and stamina and raise the risk of falling, becoming frail and losing independence.

Age-related muscle atrophy, which begins when people reach their 40s and accelerates when they’re in their 70s, is part of the problem.  Muscle strength declines even more rapidly — slipping about 15 percent per decade, starting at around age 50.

The solution: exercise, including resistance and strength training exercises and good nutrition, including getting adequate amounts of protein. Other causes of weakness can include inflammation, hormonal changes, infections and problems with the nervous system.

Watch for sudden changes. “If you’re not as strong as you were yesterday, that’s not right,” Wei said. Also, watch for weakness only on one side, especially if it’s accompanied by speech or vision changes.

Taking steps to address weakness doesn’t mean you’ll have the same strength and endurance as when you were in your 20s or 30s. But it may mean doctors catch a serious or preventable problem early on and forestall further decline.



When an Elderly Loved One Needs Extra Help

Family members of aging adults typically travel one of two paths to becoming a caregiver: the sudden sprint, or the gradual march.

The sudden sprint towards providing care for a loved one is often set off by an unexpected event—a stroke, a fall, complications from surgery—which acts as a catalyst, escalating your family member’s care needs practically overnight.

The gradual march in the direction of caregiving is less abrupt. You can’t say exactly when it began, but you’ve started noticing little changes in how your family member interacts with the world around them. Perhaps they’re getting lost while driving to the grocery store, maybe they’re having trouble keeping track of their medications, or balancing their checkbook—tasks they’ve performed countless times over the years, without any problems.

If an aging family member is consistently exhibiting these kinds of behaviors, they may soon be in need of extra care.

Here are 22 common signs your loved one may need extra help:


Fluctuating weight
Balance problems
Poor hygiene
Sleeping too much or too little
Unexplained burns and bruises (especially on the legs and arms)

Home Environment

Unkempt yard
Unusual carpet stains
Excessive clutter (several weeks’ worth of newspapers, piles of junk mail)
Unusual odors (urine, garbage)
Not enough food in the house
Failure to turn off stove, or water after use


Mood swings
Abusive behavior (most likely verbal)
Lack of motivation
Uncharacteristically anti-social behavior


Memory loss


Dents and scratches on the car
Unfilled or untaken prescriptions
Unpaid bills

Whether these problems appear suddenly or slowly, they are all warning signs that indicate your loved one is having trouble attending to their own needs.

Being able to identify the presence of these red flags as soon as possible will enable you, your aging loved one, and the rest of your family to come up with a plan that ensures everyone’s needs get met.

Normal Aging, or Alzheimer’s Disease: What’s the Difference?

As a loved one ages, one of the questions that may come up for you and your family is how to tell the difference between the cognitive changes associated with “normal aging,” and those that could signal serious health conditions, such as dementia.

At this time, there’s no definitive way to distinguish between benign memory slips, Alzheimer’s, or other forms of dementia, but it may help to consider this as a general rule of thumb: occasionally misplacing the car keys is normal, while forgetting what to do with them is not.

Here are a few additional indicators that your loved one’s cognitive troubles may be caused by something more serious than the simple advance of age:

  • Bad judgment (poor financial decisions, public outbursts)
  • Movement issues (stiff movements, hunched posture)
  • Loss of inhibition (saying or doing socially inappropriate things)
  • Language problems (can’t form coherent sentences)
  • Hallucinations and delusions (seeing things that aren’t really there)
  • Trouble performing familiar tasks (can’t remember how to get to the doctor’s office)
  • Memory loss that interrupts daily life (regularly forgets recent conversations)

Ultimately, it’s up to you and your family to determine if, and when, a loved one’s cognitive issues warrant investigation by a medical professional.

Provided courtesy of AgingCare.com, the go-to destination for family caregivers. AgingCare.com offers resources and support for those taking care of elderly parents. This article is one of a series of articles included in the eBook, Family Caring for Family. Download your free copy at www.AgingCare.com/ebook.


A Crash Course on Medicare

Has your loved one recently celebrated their 65th birthday? If so, then they now qualify for Medicare. Keep reading for a crash course on a few facts that you need to know about this program.

Medicare Eligibility is not Based on Income

Unlike Medicaid which is made available to individuals whose income falls below a certain income level, eligibility for Medicare does not depend on income. Medicaid is a fully federally funded program, whereas Medicare is paid for partly by Social Security and Medicaid taxes, partly by the premiums that people with Medicare pay, and partly by the federal budget. If you are age 65 or older, under 65 and depend on Social Security Disability Insurance, or have End-Stage Renal Disease, then you are eligible for Medicare.

There Are Four Different Plans

Once you qualify for Medicare, you have a range of plans available to you, and each plan offers different benefits. Original Medicare is comprised of Parts A and B. Once you turn 65, you’ll automatically be enrolled into Part A, which is a free program as long as either you or your spouse paid the Medicare payroll tax for at least a decade. Part B covers doctor visits and outpatient services, and there is an income-based component in determining cost. Part C, also called Medicare Advantage, is a private insurance option that covers the benefits of Parts A and B. Part D is a prescription drug plan that offers coverage for prescription medications.

You May Need Supplemental Insurance…But You May Not

Medicare is a wonderful program, but it doesn’t cover everything. Depending on your loved one’s healthcare needs, they may find themselves overwhelmed with copayments and deductibles. This is where supplemental insurance, or Medigap, comes into play. Medigap policies are sold by private insurance companies and mainly cover Medicare deductibles. Medigap can only be used alongside Parts A and B, so if you’re enrolled in Part C, you’ll need to drop out before your Medigap coverage begins.

Many seniors find that any savings that they get with a Medigap plan are offset by the monthly premiums, which can be several hundred dollars. For that reason, most find that unless they’re making weekly trips to the doctor’s office for expensive tests and lab work, Medicare sufficiently covers their needs.

There Are Several Enrollment Periods

When you turn 65, the government will send out an eligibility notice. If you’re already getting Social Security benefits, you’ll automatically be enrolled; otherwise, you’ll need to send in your application by the due date. If you don’t sign up for Part B during that time, you’ll have an opportunity to during the enrollment period that runs from the first of the year through March 31. However, you’ll pay a 10% penalty for every 12-month period that you delay in signing up for Part B, unless you are still employed.

If you are employed, you’ll have an 8-month period after you retire to apply for Part B without penalty. If you should miss that enrollment period, then you’ll need to wait for the open enrollment period, which runs every year from October 15 through December 7. During this time, you can also enroll in Parts C and D.

Medicare is a wonderful program that ensures that seniors are able to receive quality healthcare after they retire. To learn more about the program and the options available, visit the Medicare website.


Four Areas to Observe When Visiting Senior Loved Ones

As we’re approaching the holiday season, you may have opportunities over the upcoming months to visit family. These reunions often showcase how aging parents and other loved ones have changed over the course of the year. This time together can provide a wonderful chance for you to evaluate their health and quality of life and to recognize if any changes need to be made.

Keep reading to learn how to identify the common issues that your senior loved one may be facing.

General Health

Unfortunately, chronic health problems among seniors are not unusual. While aches and pains are often a part of the aging process, there are things to watch for, such as:

    • Frequent trips to the emergency room
    • Noticeable weight loss
    • Lack of appetite

If you notice any of these signs that your loved one’s general health is declining, then you may want to accompany them on their next visit to their doctor or talk to someone who can help you determine whether changes in your loved one’s care should be made.

Activities of Daily Living

Daily living activities are everyday tasks that must get done, whether we do them ourselves or have someone assist us with them. From basic tasks (bathing and grooming, eating, getting around the home and using the toilet) to more complex tasks (money management, transportation, housekeeping duties and shopping), there are a range of self-care activities that must be taken care of to ensure a high quality of life.

If you have the opportunity to visit a senior loved one over the coming months, try to take a discreet inventory of their food pantry and refrigerator, particularly if they live alone. Keep an ear out for any clues that they are struggling financially or that they have difficulty getting around town.

Mood and Mental Health

Has your loved one’s personality changed drastically since your last visit? Do you detect a hint of depression or anxiety that wasn’t there before, or do they express frustration over memory problems?

Cognitive changes are normal in older adults, and depression often accompanies traumatic events, such as the loss of a spouse or a change in their living arrangements. If your loved one seems disengaged or if their behavior is unusual, then it may be time to have a conversation with their doctor.


Most seniors wish to maintain their privacy and independence for as long as possible; unfortunately, this is often done at the expense of their safety and wellbeing. Here are a few areas of safety to watch for:

    • Are they managing their money well? Do they have the ability to buy what they need, and are you worried about them falling for scams?
    • Do they wander or get lost?
    • Have they had changes in memory or judgement that may jeopardize their safety?
    • Do they manage their medications well (taking the right pills at the right times, properly measuring dosage, etc.)?
    • Have they had car accidents or close calls?
    • Have they had changes in balance or ability? Are they prone to falls, or have they had frequent visits to the ER?
    • Is their home a safe environment with a proper heating and cooling system, grab bars and other accessibility aids?

Oftentimes, simple changes can be made to offset the challenges that come with aging, such as showing your senior loved one how to buy groceries and other necessities online, making their home more accessible or having a caregiver visit a few times a week. By observing your senior loved one this holiday season, you can ensure that they continue to enjoy a high quality of life.


October is National Physical Therapy Month

October is National Physical Therapy Month and the perfect time to focus on the benefits of physical therapy, especially for seniors. Physical therapy provides a fantastic way for seniors to recover from injuries and continue to enjoy optimal health and quality of life. Keep reading to learn more about the many benefits of physical therapy.

Why Do We Need Physical Therapy

From providing relief for chronic pain and arthritis to encouraging healing from injuries and surgeries, physical therapy is an effective way to manage pain without using opioids, which often have unpleasant or even dangerous side effects. However, even if your senior loved one hasn’t experienced chronic pain or a major surgery, physical therapy is still a great way to ensure that they maintain their fitness level as they age, preventing injuries and perhaps even avoiding surgeries. For many seniors, it is an effective way to gain strength and balance, as well as a renewed sense of confidence. Physical therapy can help ensure that your senior loved one can continue to live an independent life. Even seniors that have a low activity level can benefit from a physical therapy regimen.

The aging process has an abundance of normal physical changes, such as bone loss, loss of balance and decreased mobility. Taking on a new exercise program can feel like a daunting – or even unsafe – task for seniors. A physical therapist can design a gentle at-home physical therapy regimen that promotes and builds flexibility, balance and mobility.

Fitness Tips for Seniors

According to the American Physical Therapy Association, working with a physical therapist can help seniors prevent a wide range of concerns and health problems, such as obesity, injuries from over-exercising and loss of balance, muscle mass and flexibility. Getting older doesn’t mean that your senior loved one has to succumb to a sedentary lifestyle, and staying fit should be a normal, intentional part of their daily routine. Here are a few fitness tips for seniors who want to remain active.

    • Pay attention to your body. It’s okay to challenge your body, but you should not exercise at a level that feels overly exerting.
    • Warm up and cool down before exercise. It is important for seniors to prepare their bodies before working out, and it’s necessary to ensure that the heart rate returns to normal after the workout is complete.
    • Drink plenty of water. Make an effort to stay hydrated; even if you don’t feel thirsty, it’s important to drink water during exercise.
    • Pay attention to the weather. Do not exercise outdoors if it is extremely hot or extremely cold.
    • Modify your activities as necessary. Even if you have a good level of overall fitness, you may have to modify your exercise routine as you age. For example, runners may develop knee problems, requiring them to switch to a lower impact form of exercise.
    • Incorporate a variety of exercises. Your exercise routine should include light strength training and promote cardiovascular health, flexibility and balance.

Physical therapy provides a wonderful non-invasive alternative for pain management. Working with a physical therapist can help your senior loved one recover from hospitalizations, enjoy relief from chronic pain and maintain their independence. Interested in learning about Sagepoint Rehabilitation? Click here.


Senior Flu Prevention

No matter your age, getting the flu is no fun. Each year, between 5 and 20 percent of adults are diagnosed with the flu. Flu season is generally considered to be between the months of December and March, but outbreaks can happen as early as October and as late into the year as May. While most healthy adults fare just fine, older adults, especially those with additional health concerns, have an increased likelihood of experiencing complications with the virus. They may have to endure a hospital stay, and for some, the flu can even be fatal. Fortunately, there are several measures that you can take to help both yourself and your senior loved one stay well. As we’re heading into flu season, follow these tips to help protect your senior loved one from viruses.

Get Vaccinated 

They say that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and when it comes to flu prevention, that is certainly true. This year, there will be approximately 180 million flu vaccines available in the country. In addition to being readily available at your doctor’s office, flu vaccines are also commonly available at pharmacies, college health centers, health departments and even some supermarkets and big box stores. Although receiving the flu vaccine doesn’t guarantee that you won’t get sick, it does go a long way in protecting you from the season’s most common strains. Some places even offer a flu vaccine that is formulated specifically for seniors. It contains four times the concentration of the active ingredient, providing a better immune response for those who have weakened immune systems. Each year has a new flu shot to combat that season’s most common strains, so even if you and your senior loved one received last year’s flu vaccine, it’s important to receive this year’s as well.

In addition to getting the flu vaccine, seniors should also receive pneumococcal vaccines. These vaccines provide protection against illnesses and complications that often accompany the flu virus, including pneumonia, meningitis and bloodstream infections.

Practice Good Health Habits

Especially if your senior loved one lives in a community setting, attends an adult day center or volunteers in the community, exposure to the flu virus may be inevitable. By taking the time to practice good health habits, they can stop germs. Avoid close contact with people that you know are sick, and if you get sick, keep your distance from others. The flu virus is spread through droplets, so when coughing or sneezing, cover your nose and mouth with a tissue. Germs can also hang out on door knobs, light switches, remote controls and other commonly handled items, so make a habit of washing your hands often, and avoid touching your face as much as possible.

Seek Medical Help Right Away

If in spite of their best efforts, your senior loved one does contract the flu virus, it’s important that they seek medical help right away. In addition to monitoring their condition, their medical care provider can administer antiviral medications from keeping their illness from worsening.

You may not be able to completely avoid exposure to the flu virus as the cooler months approach, but by taking these simple measures, you can ensure that you and your loved one are as protected as possible from the flu and its complications.