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Adopt-A-Pet • 05-27-2015 | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 27 May 2015 16:21

 

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iBlame: An Overload of Technology And the Effect it Has on Your Brain | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 27 May 2015 15:28

 

By Edie Zusman, M.D., FACS

SPECIAL TO THE FORUM

 

Do you feel like you are becoming more forgetful and distracted? Do you have difficulty focusing? Are you losing touch with family and close friends? Could it be the result of aging or stress?

Or should the blame fall on that iPhone that’s constantly in your hand?

At the end of the day, when we should be relaxing, we often find ourselves sitting in front of the TV, surfing the web and checking Facebook on a laptop, while sending texts on our phones. How much is too much when it comes to technology? And what effect does that information overload have on our brains?

Opportunities for multitasking – and being interrupted – have surged over the last few years. The phone, once mounted on the kitchen wall, is now a constant companion. And it’s not just a phone; it’s a mini-computer offering all manner of technological distractions.

Multitasking can be a wonderful thing. Parents are multitasking geniuses. Knowing how to divide our attention can be a useful skill.

How Distractions Affect Brain Function

The problem arises when you need to focus on a single, essential task. 

Whether you’re a student studying for an important test, or someone engaged in a crucial project at work, constant distractions and interruptions can be detrimental to the task at hand.

__________________

Should the blame fall

on that iPhone that’s

constantly in your hand?

__________________

An e-mail flashes calling for your attention, or a text message “bings” on your cell phone. When you turn your attention away from the main task, two things happen:

• Even if the distraction is only 15 seconds, it may take your brain two to three minutes to fully return your attention to the primary task. Therefore, your study session or project will take even longer than anticipated.

* Many brain specialists also believe that with frequent interruptions, it may be harder for your brain to convert information into intermediate- and long-term memory. In order words, your brain doesn’t retain the information.

Age and Information Overload

Young people growing up with these devices are more adept at multitasking with them. They are surprisingly good at processing incoming information from various sources. However, the practice can still have detrimental effects.

Multitasking during an important period of learning hampers efficiency. It’s fine for socializing, but not an ideal way to learn or to get something important accomplished.

I have not seen hard science on how technology affects the older brain. But in my practice, I know that older people often have a harder time rapidly changing topics. For older people, it’s especially wise to shut off distractions during important work.

Still, technology can be a great tool for providing active stimulation and challenges for the brain. Learning new technologies – such as computers and cell phones, exploring new topics, and staying connected with people – are all good ideas for the aging brain.

When it’s time to focus, however, turn off the distracting devices. Return to them when you are done with your project or schedule specific times to check e-mail or Facebook, for instance, every hour or two. All that information will still be waiting for you.

Dr. Edie Zusman is a neurosurgeon affiliated with Eden Medical Center.


 
Should We Sell Our Mom’s Home to Pay for Her Care? | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 20 May 2015 07:00

 

05202015GeneOsofsky

By Gene L. Osofsky, Esq.

SPECIAL TO THE FORUM

 

Q: Our mother is in assisted living and may need to go into a nursing home soon.  To raise money for her ongoing care, we are thinking of selling her home which is now vacant.  Any thoughts as to whether that makes sense?

A: Yes. Selling mom’s home may undermine her ability to qualify for a government subsidy to help pay for the cost of care, whether now in the Assisted-Living Facility (“ALF”), or later in a nursing home.

The reason: Once she receives the sales proceeds she will then likely be “over resourced” and not eligible for government benefits to ease the cost of care. Instead, by taking steps to preserve her access to government benefits, her own resources will last longer and minimize the risk that she will run out of money.

Background: There are two key government programs designed to subsidize the cost of long-term care: (1) the Veterans Pension Program, which works best for wartime veterans or their spouses receiving care in an ALF setting, and (2) the Medi-Cal Long-Term Care program which is designed to subsidize care in a nursing home.

Both programs have resource ceilings: individuals with countable assets which exceed those ceilings do not qualify.

Were you to sell mom’s home, the sale proceeds would likely cause her to exceed those resource caps. She would then be ineligible for benefits and would then be obliged to rely upon those proceeds to pay the full cost of care.

Over time, those funds would be spent down and, perhaps, exhausted.

A better approach involves selling the home inside a very specially designed irrevocable trust, which I sometimes call a “House Trust.”This trust is designed to preserve home sales proceeds while also preserving eligibility for government long term care benefits. Caution: This House Trust is very different from the more commonly known “Living Trust” with which you might be familiar.

Using this plan, your mother’s home would be transferred into this House Trust, and only then would it be sold. Because the home would then be owned by the trust, the proceeds would go to the trustee rather than to your mother.

If properly designed, this trust would (1) permit the sale of the home as contemplated; (2) preserve her eligibility for a subsidy under either the Veterans Pension Program or the Medi-Cal LTC program; (3) permit indirect access to the home sale proceeds to pay for her care expenses to the extent not subsidized by government benefits, and (4) preserve her eligibility for the $250,000 capital gains exclusion associated with the sale of her personal residence, notwithstanding the transfer of her home to the trust.

By facilitating her eligibility for government benefits, this House Trust would prevent the rapid depletion of her assets by the cost of care.  It would also honor what likely is your mother’s desire to preserve her estate for her children and grandchildren, or perhaps even for her own use should she recover and be able to return home.

In my view there is nothing wrong in planning’s one’s affairs to qualify for government programs, so long as full disclosure is made at the time of application.

To put it another way, public benefits planning on behalf of middle-class folks is akin to sophisticated tax planning in which the wealthy engage.  Both impact the public treasury. To be sure, the impact of tax planning is greater by far.

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


 
How to Find a New Doctor | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 20 May 2015 07:00

 

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There are lots of resources you can use to help you find the best doctor for you.

 

By Jim Miller

SPECIAL TO THE FORUM

 

Thanks to the Internet, finding/ researching doctors is a lot easier than it use to be.

Today, there’s a wide variety of websites you can turn to that provide databases of U.S. doctors, their professional medical histories, and ratings and reviews from past patients on a number of criteria. Here are some of the best sites available, along with a few additional tips that can help you find the right doctors.

Locating Tips

To help you locate some doctors in your area, a good first step, and one that doesn’t require a computer, is to ask for a referral.

Contact some other doctors, nurses, or health care professionals that you know, for some names of doctors or practices that they like and trust.

You should also call your insurance provider, or visit their website directory to get a list of potential candidates.

If you or your parents are Medicare beneficiaries, you can use the Physician Compare tool at medicare.gov/physiciancompare. This will let you find doctors by name, medical specialty or by geographic location that accept original Medicare. You can also get this information by calling Medicare at 800-633-4227.

Once you find a few doctors, you need to call their offices to verify that they still accept your insurance, and if they are accepting new patients.

Research Tools

After you find a few doctors you’re interested in, there are lots of online resources you can turn to, to help you check up on them.

For example, you can find out if a doctor is board certified at the American Board of Medical Specialties at certificationmatters.org or call 866-275-2267. And to learn about malpractice claims and disciplinary actions taken against doctors, you can use your state medical board – see fsmb.org/state-medical-boards/contacts to search your state.

Here are some other good websites that can help you find and/or research doctors in your area for free.

• Healthgrades.com: This comprehensive easy-to-use site provides doctor’s information on education and training, hospital affiliations, board certification, awards and recognitions, professional misconduct, disciplinary action and malpractice records, office locations and insurance plans. It also offers a 5-star ratings scale from past patients on a number of issues like communication and listening skills, wait time, time spent with the patient, office friendliness and more.

• Vitals.com: Provides background information on doctor’s awards, expertise, hospital affiliations, and insurance as well as patient ratings on measures such as bedside manner, follow-up, promptness, accuracy of diagnosis, and average wait time. There’s also a patient comment section.

• RateMDs.com: Provides information on training as well as patient ratings on staff, punctuality, helpfulness and knowledge. Patients can also post questions and answers about doctors, and get doctor’s ratings based on patient reviews.

• Look Up Tool: If you want to find out how many times a doctor did a particular service and what they charge for it, go to data.cms.gov and click on “Medicare Physician and Other Supplier Look-up Tool” at the top of the page.

• AngiesList.com: If you don’t mind spending a little money ($20/per year), Angie’s List is a membership service that provides doctor reviews using an A through F scale.

When reaching a doctor, it’s wise to check out several of these sites so you can get a bigger sampling and a better feel of how previous patients are rating a particular doctor.

Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.


 
Get Your Meyer Lemon Back in Shape | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 20 May 2015 11:11


05202015GYML

 

By Buzz Bertolero

The Dirt Gardener

 

We have a Meyer Lemon that needs pruning badly but it has an abundance of fruit and flowers on it right now. When is the proper time of the year to shape the tree without the danger of killing it?

Lemons, oranges, and another type of citrus are pruned anytime after the danger of frost has past. The time not to prune is during the winter months, November through mid March. In addition, it’s a misconception or myth that incorrect pruning kills plants. Unless of course, you’re cutting the plant(s) off below the soil level.

Poor pruning techniques produce unattractive or ugly plants. Many will respond and grow back quickly such as a Meyer Lemon, while others are permanently scarred.

There is never a perfect time to prune an overgrown Meyer Lemon because they always seem to be in flower and/or fruiting.

In order to get it back in shape, some of the current crop, the next crop or both will have to be sacrificed.

Before you begin pruning, harvest all the mature lemons. Then, you should remove any dead, diseased, injured or broken branches.

Next, reduce the length of the long shoots and shape the plant. It may be also necessary to reduce the sides, besides the top, to get the plant back into its designated area. I’d also raise the skirt of the canopy so it’s 18 to 24 inches off the ground. You don’t want the fruit contaminated from touching or being in close proximity to the soil. This will also allow you easier access to rake up the debris under the plant which is very common during the growing season.

The area under lemons and other citrus is a perfect area for snails to hide, so I would bait it regularly with the organic snail bait, Sluggo.

And, finally, feed the plant with citrus food to encourage the new growth.

Each spring, you should prune to prevent the lemon from getting out of control. When it’s done regularly, you get the best of all worlds: flowers, fruit and an attractive plant.

Buzz Bertolero is Executive Vice President of Navlet’s Garden Centers and a California Certified Nursery Professional. Send questions by email to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or to 360 Civic Drive, Ste. “D,” Pleasant Hill, CA 94523, and on Facebook at Facebook.com/Buzz-Bertolero.


 
Ombudsman Hotline Settles Disputes | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 20 May 2015 10:49

 

Real Estate Reality

GUEST COMMENTARY

 

By Carl Medford, CRS

Special to the Forum

 

In a perfect world, everyone would get along, there would be no disagreements, quarreling or disputes. Unfortunately, the last time I checked, it just ain’t so.

Confusion, misunderstandings, strife and frustration seem to present almost every day in some way or another. If the issue at hand is small, it’s usually not a very big deal.

When it involves a real estate transaction, however, the stakes are much higher and the potential for financial damage is very real.

Enter the California Association of Realtors (C.A.R.) Ombudsman Hotline.

The first time I heard the word “ombudsman” I had no idea what it meant. The word actually has Scandinavian roots, flowing from the Old Norse word umboðsmaðr, meaning “someone authorized to act on another’s behalf.”

Historically, an ombudsman was appointed to protect or safeguard the rights of citizens and to ensure that civil servants and/or judges acted fairly and in accordance with the law.

Currently, “An ombudsman or public advocate is usually appointed by the government or by parliament, but with a significant degree of independence, who is charged with representing the interests of the public by investigating and addressing complaints of maladministration or a violation of rights.”*

According to the C.A.R. website, “The Ombudsman’s role is primarily one of communication and conciliation, not adjudication. Ombudsmen do not determine whether ethics violations have occurred, rather they anticipate, identify, and resolve misunderstandings and disagreements before matters ripen into more significant disputes.”

Further, ombudsmen are not attorneys and cannot give legal advice or answer legal questions.

Initially set up to handle disputes between Realtors, buyers and sellers have discovered that the Ombudsman Hotline can be a resource for them as well in areas where they may have a disagreement with a Realtor.

A seller, trying to cancel a listing, discovered that the Realtor was acting in a seemingly inappropriate manner. A call to the Ombudsman Hotline resulted in a call to the Realtor’s broker, who quickly sorted out the issue in the seller’s favor. A buyer, confused by multiple offer procedures and a seller’s apparent unwillingness to accept offers, called in to get clarification. He was given a strategy of working with his Realtor to come to a resolution.

Got problems? Who you gonna call? The C.A.R. Ombudsman Hotline is a free service. If you wish the assistance of a C.A.R. Ombudsman, you may call 213-739-7227 or email the Ombudsman Hotline at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

*en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ombudsman

Carl Medford is a licensed Realtor with Keller Williams Realty and a licensed general contractor. This article is sponsored by the Central County Marketing Association at www.ccmgtoday.com


 
Home Improvement Assistance Programs Available For Seniors | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 20 May 2015 07:00

 

By Jim Miller

SPECIAL TO THE FORUM

 

There are a number of programs available that can help seniors with home repairs and improvement projects for aging-in-place, but what’s available to your dad will depend on his financial situation and where he lives. Here are some different options to explore.

Medicaid waivers: If your dad is low-income and eligible for Medicaid, most states have Medicaid Home and Community Based Services waivers that provide financial assistance to help seniors avoid nursing homes and remain living at home.

Many of the waivers pay for home modifications to increase a person’s ability to live independently. See medicaid.gov for more information.

State and local programs: Some states and local governments have financial assistance programs, often called “nursing home diversion programs” or “deferred payment loans” that are not funded by Medicaid.

These programs, which may include grants or loans or a combination, helps pay for modifications that enable low to moderate income elderly and disabled to remain living at home.

Modifications covered typically include accessibility improvements like wheelchair ramps, handrails and grab bars. And some may be used for home improvements like roofing, heating and cooling, insulation, weather-stripping and storm windows.

To find out if there’s a program in your dad’s area, contact the city or county housing authority, the local Area Aging Agency (call 800-677-1116 for contact information) or the state housing finance agency – see ncsha.org/housing-help.

Federal programs: The Department of Housing and Urban Development offers HUD Home Improvement Loans, which are HUD insured loans made by private lenders for home improvement and building projects. Contact a HUD approved counseling agency in your area (call 800-569-4287) to learn more.

And the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture has a Rural Development program that provides grants and loans to low-income, elderly or disabled, rural homeowners for home repairs and improvements. Your local USDA service center (see offices.sc.egov.usda.gov) can give you more for information.

Veteran benefits: If your dad is a veteran with a disability, the VA provides grants like the SAH, SHA and HISA grants that will pay for home modifications. See benefits.va.gov/benefits/factsheets/homeloans/sahfactsheet.pdf for details and eligibility requirements.

Another possibility that’s available to veterans enrolled in the Medical Benefits Package is Veterans-Directed Home and Community Based Services.

This program provides veterans who need help with daily living activities with financial assistance to help them remain living in their homes, and provides them with a certain amount of discretion to use those funds. For more see va.gov/geriatrics, or call 800-827-1000.

Non-profit organizations: Depending on where your dad lives, he may also be able to get home repair and modification services through the national, non-profit organization Rebuilding Together (rebuildingtogether.org, 800-473-4229).

They provide services to low-income seniors, veterans and military families, families with children, people living with disabilities and victims of disaster.

You should also check with the Area Aging Agency to see if any other local organizations that offer volunteer home modification help to low-income seniors.

Reverse mortgages: Available to seniors 62 and older who own their own home, or owe only a small balance, and are currently living there, a reverse mortgage (see reversemortgage.org) will let your dad convert part of the equity in his home into cash – which can be used for home improvements – that doesn’t have to be paid back as long as he lives there. But, reverse mortgages are expensive loans, so this should be a last resort.


 
Horoscope • 05-20-2015 | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 20 May 2015 07:00

 

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Adopt-A-Pet • 05-20-2015 | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 20 May 2015 07:00

 

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Adopt-A-Pet • 08-27-2014 | Print |  E-mail
Friday, 16 January 2015 16:35

 

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Adopt-A-Pet • 08-20-2014 | Print |  E-mail
Tuesday, 23 December 2014 11:45

 

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Adopt-A-Pet • 08-13-2014 | Print |  E-mail
Friday, 29 August 2014 15:49

 

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