Seniors
How Medicare Can Cover a Mobility Device, Wheelchair | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 21 August 2014 13:30

082114sen1By Jim Miller • Special to the Times

Getting an electric-powered mobility scooter or wheelchair for a senior who is covered by original Medicare starts with a visit to the doctor’s office.

If eligible, Medicare will pay 80 percent of the cost, after you meet your $147 Part B deductible. You will then be responsible for the remaining 20 percent. Here’s a breakdown of how it works.

Make an Appointment

Your first step is to call your doctor and schedule a Medicare-required, face-to-face mobility evaluation, to determine your need for a power wheelchair or scooter. To be eligible, you’ll need to meet all of the following conditions:

• Your health condition makes moving around your home very difficult, even with the help of a cane, walker or manual wheelchair.

• You have significant problems performing activities of daily living like bathing, dressing, getting in or out of a bed or chair, or using the bathroom.

• You are able to safely operate, and get on and off the scooter or wheelchair, or have someone with you who is always available to help you safely use the device.

If eligible, your doctor will determine what kind of mobility equipment you’ll need based on your condition, usability in your home, and the ability to operate it.

It’s also important to know that Medicare coverage is dependent on you needing a scooter or wheelchair in your home. If your claim is based on needing it outside the home, it will be denied as not medically necessary, because the wheelchair or scooter will be considered as a leisure item.

Where to Shop

If the doctor determines that you need a power scooter or wheelchair, they will fill out a written order or certificate of medical necessity (CMN) form for you.

Once you receive that, you’ll need to take it to a Medicare-approved supplier within 45 days. If you happen to live in one of Medicare’s competitive bidding areas, you’ll need to get the device from specific suppliers approved by Medicare. To find approved suppliers and competitive bidding suppliers in your area, visit medicare.gov/supplier or call 800-633-4227.

Once you choose an approved supplier, they will send a representative to assess your home, measuring your doorways, thresholds and overall space to ensure that you get the appropriate mobility device.

Financial Assistance

If you have a Medicare supplemental policy, it may pick up some, or all of the 20 percent cost of the scooter or wheelchair that’s not covered by Medicare. If, however, you don’t have supplemental insurance, and can’t afford the 20 percent, you may be able to get help through Medicare Savings Programs. Call your local Medicaid office for eligibility information.

Or, if you find that you are not eligible for a Medicare covered scooter or wheelchair, and can’t afford to purchase one, renting can be a much cheaper short-term solution. Talk to a supplier about this option.

For more information, call Medicare at 800-633-4227 and request a copy of publication No. 11046 “Medicare’s Wheelchair and Scooter Benefit,” or you can read it online at medicare.gov/publications/pubs/pdf/11046.pdf.

Medicare Advantage

If you happen to have a Medicare Advantage plan (like an HMO or PPO), you’ll need to call your plan to find out the specific steps you need to take to get a wheelchair or scooter. Many Advantage plans may have specific suppliers within the plan’s network they’ll require you to use.

Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org.


 
Senior Safe-Driver Seminar on Sept. 2 | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 21 August 2014 13:29

082114sen2The California Highway Patrol will present a safe-driver seminar for seniors from 1 to 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 2, at the Castro Valley Library. Topics to be covered include compensating for age-related changes, tuning up your driving skills, the rules of the road, safe-driving tips and a confidential self-evaluation. On completion of the seminar, seniors will receive a certificate which usually entitles them to an automobile insurance discount. The program is free, but registration is required. To register, or for more information, call the Library Information Desk at 510-667-7900. The Castro Valley Library is located at 3600 Norbridge Ave. and is wheelchair accessible.

 

 
Keep Active as Time Passes By | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 21 August 2014 13:27

082114sen3For optimal health, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that older adults get a minimum of two hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or one hour and 15 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity every week.

In addition, muscle-strengthening activities should be conducted two or more days a week.

Why Exercise

Exercise can help prevent many physical problems and chronic conditions that come with aging, including weight gain, back pain and heart disease. Plus, it keeps the mind sharp and can help you feel happier, improving symptoms of depression and even dementia.

To gain these benefits, however, you need to find a fitness program that provides the physical results desired and is enjoyable, too, so you’ll stick to it.

How To Exercise

Before you begin any exercise program:

1. See your doctor, especially if you have a chronic condition.

2. Start slowly. Begin by walking, say, for 10 minutes or so a day. As you gain energy and your body builds stamina, increase your activity levels and make it more challenging.

3. Stay motivated. Have realistic short-term goals you can easily meet.

4. Don’t be intimidated. Remember that everyone had to walk in the door for the first time. Don’t let the thought of starting hold you back. You can do it.

Healthways SilverSneakers Fitness Program is available nationwide. It’s free in most cases because it’s covered through many Medicare Advantage, Medicare Supplement and group retiree plans. For more information, visit www.silversneakers.com/info.


 
New Reverse Mortgage Rule Protects Younger Spouse from Foreclosure | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 21 August 2014 13:25

By Gene L. Osofsky, Esq. • Special to the Times

Q: I hear that there is a new reverse mortgage rule that protects younger surviving spouses from being forced out of their home when the older spouse dies. Do you know anything about this?

A: Yes, a new HUD reverse mortgage rule went into effect this month that seeks to protect certain surviving spouses from being forced out of their homes upon the death of their spouse.

Some background is helpful: As you may know, a homeowner has to be age 62 or older in order to qualify for a reverse mortgage loan under the popular Home-Equity Conversion Program (HECM).

In the past, when one spouse was over age 62 and the other was under age 62, the couple could not qualify for a reverse mortgage loan unless the younger spouse was left entirely off the loan. Many couples left younger spouses off the loan in order to qualify, or sometimes to secure a larger loan amount, often not realizing the future implications of this strategy.

Here is what then often happened: When the borrower spouse died, the reverse mortgage lender would require that the loan be repaid and, if the surviving spouse could not do so, would foreclose. This often resulted in a forced sale and the eviction of the younger surviving spouse.

To stop this practice, AARP brought a class-action lawsuit against HUD in a case called Bennett v. Donovan. Last year, the court ruled that this practice violated federal law and directed HUD to modify its regulations to stop this practice. HUD did so, and the new rule is the result.

The new rule permits a couple, where one spouse is under age 62, to take a reverse mortgage and list the under-age spouse as a “Non-Borrowing Spouse” (NBS). When the older spouse dies, the surviving NBS then retains the legal right to remain in the home, providing that certain requirements are met.

One of them is that the NBS must, within 90 days of the older borrower’s death, establish a legal right to remain in the home, such as by establishing legal ownership, an executed lease, court order, or other legal entitlement.

Upon the younger NBS doing so, she retains the legal right to remain in the home, providing that other loan requirements continue to be met, such as the payment of insurance premiums and property taxes.

The new rule does have some down-sides:

(1) The reverse mortgage loan amount will now be less, as it will be based  upon the younger spouse’s age;

(2) upon the death of the borrower spouse, the surviving NBS will not be able to make any further draws against the unused loan balance; and

(3) the new rule protects only NBSs who were married to the borrowing spouse at the time of loan origination; the new rule does not protect new spouses of a later marriage.

Further, the new HUD rule is not retroactive and does not protect NBSs on existing reverse mortgage loans. However, surviving NBSs on older loans might still attempt to seek protection under the umbrella of the court’s ruling in the Bennett v. Donovan case.

In view of the new rule, senior couples who had previously decided against a reverse mortgage because of the risk of foreclosure to the younger surviving spouse, might now wish to reconsider where such a loan otherwise makes sense for them.

Gene L. Osofsky is an elder law and estate planning attorney in Hayward. Visit his website at www.LawyerForSeniors.com.


 
How to Find the Best Reacher Grabber Tool | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 07 August 2014 12:28

080714sen1By Jim Miller • Special to the Times

A good reacher grabber is a very handy tool for anyone with mobility issues.

It works like an extension of your arm allowing you to reach down and pick things up off the ground without bending or stooping over. It can also help with reaching and grabbing things in high overhead places, as well as areas that are difficult to get to.

But with so many different reachers on the market today, finding a good one that works well for you is not always easy. Depending on your needs, here are some top options to consider.

Lightweight reacher: If you want a reacher primarily for picking up small lightweight items around the house, the “Aluminum Reacher with Magnetic Tip” by Duro-Med is multifunctional.

Available in 32 and 26-inch lengths, it has a trigger-style handgrip with a serrated jaw that provides a secure grip when lifting objects. It also has a magnet built into the tip for picking up lightweight metal objects like a paperclip, and a small hook (or horn) that aids in retrieving things like clothes, shoes or keys. But, because of its lightweight design, it doesn’t work as well at retrieving heavier items like canned goods from shelves.

All-purpose reacher: For retrieving small and medium-sized items, the “Ettore Grip’n Grab” can handle most chores. Available in 16, 32 and 50-inch lengths, it has a soft comfortable trigger handgrip and a rubberized jaw that’s strong enough to lift objects up to 5 pounds and up to 4 inches wide, yet sensitive enough to pick up something as small as a dime. The jaw can also swivel 90 degrees to reach things in awkward spaces.

Ergonomic handle reachers: If you have hand or wrist arthritis that makes gripping difficult, the 31-inch “Medline Reacher” has a handgrip that lets you use all five fingers to close the jaw for better gripping power.

Or, consider the new “HealthSmart GripLoc Sliding Reacher,” a 43-inch two-handed reacher with a power slide handle that opens and closes the jaw (no hand squeezing required), and a twist lock that locks the jaw when it’s clinched to secure your item.

Folding reacher: For easier storage or travel, the 32-inch “EZ Reacher Collapsible” has a slip-joint in the arm that allows it to fold in half. It also has stainless steel fingers with silicone suction cup tips that do a nice job of picking up large and small items; and a pistol grip with an optional safety lock that locks the jaw onto items without continuously squeezing the trigger.

Adjustable length reacher: If you need a reacher for various lengths, the “PikStik TelescoPik” has a lockable sliding shaft that adjusts from 30 to 44 inches. It also has a trigger grip and a rotating rubberized jaw that can lift up to 5 pounds.

Outdoor reacher: For outdoor use, the 36-inch “Unger Nifty Nabber” is ideal for heavy-duty jobs. It has a rubber-coated jaw for a strong and reliable grip with a built-in magnet, an aluminum handle and can lift 20 pounds.

You can buy reacher grabbers at many pharmacies, retail, medical equipment and home improvement stores. But, because it’s a specialty item, the selection is very limited. Your best bet is to buy one online at amazon.com, which sells all of the top reachers at prices ranging between $12 and $40. Just type the product name in the search bar to find it.

Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.


 
What Do You Do When Spouse Can’t Sign? | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 07 August 2014 12:26

By Gene L. Osofsky, Esq. • Special to the Times

Q: My husband has dementia and I wonder about my ability to refinance or even sell the home, as he cannot sign. The home is held in a Living Trust. Can you please advise me?

A: The short answer is that it may be easier for you to sell the home than it would be to refinance. Here’s why:

Sale of Home: Your Living Trust probably provides that both of you are co-trustees, but that when one of you dies or becomes incapacitated the other becomes the sole trustee with full power to convey trust assets.

So, assuming that you can document your husband’s incapacity as required by the terms of the trust, the trust terms would then typically permit you, as sole trustee, to convey clear title to the buyers on your signature alone. That authority would then usually allow you to sell the home.

Refinance: However, if your goal were to refinance an existing loan on your home, this could be problematic. Many lenders require that the home be removed from trust during the loan escrow and require that all loan documents be signed by both homeowners as individuals, rather than as trustees.

Once removed from trust, your authority to sign would no longer be governed by the trust instrument. Instead, it would be governed by a Durable Power of Attorney (“DPOA”) if one exists. However, your lender may not accept that DPOA, if, for example, it had been signed long ago, it does not adequately identify your home, or it does not clearly give you authority to encumber the home to secure the loan.

Also, the lender may require that you obtain physicians’ letters certifying both (a) that your husband had full capacity when the DPOA was originally signed years ago, and (b) that he currently is incapacitated. A letter certifying your husband’s capacity years ago could be a problem if, for example, your husband’s then physician is now unavailable.

Even lenders who do not require that the home be first removed from trust, may still require signatures by both the acting trustee and by both home-owners as individuals. This appears especially true with regard to Reverse Mortgages. So, again, even in this situation you may need a DPOA that is acceptable to the lender.

Here are some possible work-a-rounds — suggestions if you wish to refinance and encounter lender resistance:

(A) Shop around: Some lenders, such as credit unions, may have more relaxed standards.  For example, some may not require that you remove the home from trust in order to refinance and may accept your signature, alone, on all loan documents as sole trustee; and/or

(B) Consider a Petition to the Superior Court asking the judge to issue an order which substitutes for your husband’s signature. This procedure is available in California under what is called a Petition for Substituted Judgment, so named because it asks the court to substitute its judgment for that of your husband. Presumably, a lender would accept the resulting court order in lieu of your husband’s signature.

Whether you seek to sell, or refinance, I recommend checking out these issues with one or more title companies and/or lenders early on, before you get too committed to a specific course of action.

Gene L.  Osofsky is an estate planning and elder law attorney in Hayward. Visit his website at www.LawyerForSeniors.com.

 

 
Alternative Lodging Options for Retirees | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 16 July 2014 15:39

071714senBy Jim Miller • Special to the Times

If you’re willing to do a little research and preplanning, there are a number of ways you can lower (or eliminate) your travel-lodging costs and live more like a local when you travel.

Here are some different options to consider and some resources that can help you locate them.

Apartment/House Rentals: There are literally hundreds of thousands of privately owned properties in the United States and abroad that are offered as short-term vacation rentals. This has become a very popular alternative to hotels, for retirees.

Renting a fully furnished apartment or house is usually significantly cheaper than hotel rooms of comparable quality, and they almost always offer more space, a homier feel and a kitchen, which can save you the expense of eating out for every meal.

Short-term rentals are offered through the individual property owners or property-management companies. Some of the best sites for finding them include homeaway.com, airbnb.com, flipkey.com, vrbo.com and wyndhamvacationrentals.com.

Most sites are free to use for travelers. You can also look for rentals at any online search engine by typing in your destination city plus short-term apartment/house rentals (for example “New York short-term apartments for rent”).

B&B Clubs: If you like staying in bed-and-breakfasts and have a spare bedroom yourself, you should consider the Evergreen Club (evergreenclub.com) or the Affordable Travel Club (affordabletravelclub.net). These are B&B clubs for travelers over ages 50 or 40 that offer inexpensive lodging in the spare bedroom of other club members, or they may stay with you when they’re on the road. You pay a modest gratuity of between $15 and $25 per night, with breakfast. And the clubs charge membership fees of $65 to $80 per year.

House Sitting: If you have a flexible schedule and you don’t mind doing a few household chores when you travel, house sitting is another option that offers lodging for free.

How it works is you live in someone else’s home while they’re away for a long weekend or even a few months. And, in exchange for the free accommodations, you take care of certain responsibilities such as their pets, lawn, garden, mail, etc. To find these opportunities, try sites like caretaker.org, housecarers.com, housesittersamerica.com and sabbaticalhomes.com — they all charge a small membership fee.

Home Swapping: Another way to get free accommodations when you travel is by swapping homes with someone who’s interested in visiting the area where you live.

To make a swap, you’ll need to join an online home exchange service where you can list your home, and get access to thousands of other listings. Then, you simply email the owners of houses or apartments you’re interested in — or they email you — and you make arrangements.

Most home-exchange sites like homeexchange.com, homelink.org and intervachomeexchange.com charge membership fees ranging from $39 to $120.

 

 
‘Should I Become a Representative Payee?’ | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 16 July 2014 15:37

By Gene L. Osofsky, Esq. • Special to the Times

Q: Mom recently moved in with us so we can help care for her. When we notified Social Security of this, they asked if I wished to become mom’s representative payee. Is that something I should do?

A: It all depends. In the Social Security system, a representative payee is appointed to receive funds for someone, such as your mom, who is unable to manage her own money or pay her own bills.

If you become her representative payee, you would have the power and the responsibility to manage that money for her benefit. If you assume that responsibility, you will essentially be a fiduciary with four very important duties:

(1) You must act only in your mother’s best interest. You cannot pay yourself for managing her money, and you cannot borrow it or lend it to anyone else;

(2) You must manage her monthly benefit carefully, making sure that her daily needs are met, bills are paid on time and all taxes, if any, are paid when due;

(3) You must keep her money separate from your own, which means that you must keep it in a separate account which clearly identifies your mother as the owner of the funds and you as her representative payee.

For example: If your mother’s name is Mary Jones and you are John Jones, the account should be set up to read: “Mary Jones, by John Jones, Representative Payee;”

(4) You must keep good records of everything you do with her money, keep all receipts and — very important — make an annual report to Social Security showing how you spent or conserved her money. You must also keep Social Security informed about your mother, notifying them of any change in circumstances which might change her benefit amount.

I find that the biggest drawback to serving as a representative payee for a loved one is the requirement that you must keep careful records and submit an annual written account to Social Security showing how you handled the beneficiary’s money.

This requirement often comes as a big surprise at the end of the year and many are unprepared to complete that report. Further, if Social Security feels that you have mishandled the beneficiary’s funds, you might be obliged to make restitution with your own money.

I generally recommend an easier approach: If you can, arrange for your mother’s social security benefit to be electronically deposited into her checking account on which you have signing power as her agent. Then, just pay her bills from that account using your authority as her agent.

This informal arrangement eliminates the need for an annual accounting to Social Security and the corresponding scrutiny.

Assuming that you will be just as diligent in handling her funds in this manner as you would be if you were required to submit an annual report to Social Security, your job will be less burdensome and your mother will be just as well served.

Gene L. Osofsky is an elder law and estate planning attorney in Hayward. Visit his website at www.LawyerForSeniors.com.



 
Our Readers Remember | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 10 July 2014 16:09

071014rr8The Mandolin Club of San Leandro played at a fundraiser for the Cerebral Palsy Foundation in Oakland sometime in the 1960s. The club formed in 1963 and played at many fundraisers, churches and rest homes. This photo from Al Prioetti shows his mother Vi at left, who was a singer with the band, and his father, Ernie, in front of her. Sitting next to Ernie is the band president, Ben Giuliano. Read more stories and see more historical photos in “Our Readers Remember” section below.

PHOTO COURTESY OF AL PRIOETTI


 
Midway Bowlers | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 10 July 2014 16:08

071014rr2

Karl Mallard sent in this photo of Bob Scott, Lanch Cannizzaro, Karl Mallard, Mike Gorman, Dennis Rice and Butch Nesti as they went bowling one day in 1959 at the Midway Bowl at East 14th Street and 160th Avenue in San Leandro.

PHOTO COURTESY OF KARL MALLARD

 
Ernie’s Seafood Opens Shop on East 14th Street in 1953 | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 10 July 2014 16:05

071014rr4Ernie and Vi Proietti opened Ernie’s Seafood Restaurant in 1953 at the corner of East 14th Street and 136th Avenue.

The Proiettis built the landmark restaurant on East 14th by adding onto an old house and they lived on the property, too.

Their son, Al Proietti, remembers growing up at the restaurant, along with his brother Jerry. At the time, San Leandro Boulevard was a big hay field and San Leandro Hospital was an apricot orchard where the boys used to play.

Ernie’s Seafood is still in business today. The restaurant is now run by another family, but the Proietti family still owns the property.

CAPTION: Vi and Ernie Proietti opened their seafood restaurant in 1953, converting an old house into a business.  Their two sons, Al and Jerry, grew up at the restaurant.

PHOTO COURTESY OF AL PROIETTI


 
Childhood Memories Of Memorial Park | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 10 July 2014 15:38

071014rr6By Katherine Murray • Special to the Times

This is a photo of me in 1958 at Memorial Park on Callan Ave.  At the time, my grandparents, Bill and Ruby Gilmore lived at 940 Arbor Drive.

They bought the house in the 1930s, raised two sons, Bill and Bob, and lived there until 1965 when they moved to Castlewood in Pleasanton.

I grew up in San Jose, but we visited my grandparents often and took many walks to Memorial Park.

Memory Brings Couple Back to San Leandro

In 1980 when my husband and I were looking for cities in the East Bay to settle in, my dad reminded me of my grandparents’ neighborhood and because of my early childhood memories, we thought San Leandro might be the right town for us.

We’ve been here ever since.

CAPTION: Katherine Murray plays at Memorial Park in 1958 while visiting her grandparents, Bill and Ruby Gilmore, who lived on Arbor Drive.

PHOTO COURTESY OF KATHERINE MURRAY


 

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