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Fall 2009


MEDICAL MATTERS
Dance Into A Healthy Old Age
Submitted By Karla Anderson, Publisher of the Triangle Edition

Sylvia Booth Hubbard

The answer to staying healthy and happy as you age may be as close as the nearest dance floor, according to a chorus of studies.

Dancing offers mental, physical, and social benefits, while perhaps reducing the risk of illness and even counteracting the ravages of aging, a study at Queen’s University Belfast found.

“It alleviates social isolation and quite literally helps take away the aches and pains associated with older age,” said researcher Dr. Jonathan Skinner.

Scientists at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine found that ballroom dancing helps prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Another study found that older people who danced had better balance and gait than non-dancers.

In the dementia study, volunteers were studied over a 20-year period. They answered questions on how often they engaged in six hobbies that stimulate the brain, including reading, writing, and doing puzzles. They also detailed how often they participated in 11 physical activities, including bicycling, swimming, team sports, and ballroom dance.

Those who took part in brain-stimulating activities lowered their risk of dementia as much as 47 percent. But the researchers found no reduction in rates of dementia for physical activities — except for ballroom dancing, which lowered the risk by an amazing 76 percent.

“Dancing is a complex activity,” said Dr. Joe Verghese of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University in New York City. There’s an intellectual aspect to dancing. When you dance, you have to remember the steps and how to dance them, you have to move in time with the music and you have to adapt to the actions of your partner. All are mentally demanding.”

© 2009 Newsmax. All rights reserved.






STAYING SHARP
Gaming for seniors!
Shanghai Mahjongg - The popular game with a far east flair!

 
Clear the board of stones by finding all the matching pairs to progress to the next level. You can only remove stones that have no stones to the left or right.





BENEFITS AND LEGAL ISSUES
Identity Theft Scam Uses Medicare to Target Seniors
Submitted by Tracy Willard

Telephone scams targeting older Americans are nothing new, but a recent variety attempts to use seniors’ concerns about their health care coverage under Medicare to trick them into providing personal information.

The scam may unfold like this:

A “representative” calls the senior, claiming to be with the “Medicare Program Unit” or some other official sounding health foundation. The senior is told that they need a new Medicare card because the old one has expired, or another reason that suggests urgency on the part of the senior. Medicare cards do not expire, but many people are unaware of that fact. If the caller is persuasive, the deception gets underway. The scammer may already know the name of the bank, or may guess which bank receives the beneficiary’s Social Security direct deposit. The next step is to convince the senior to reveal the bank account number, often with a series of misleading questions intending to “verify your information so you can keep your health coverage.” With that critical piece of information, the scammer is poised to use the senior’s bank account and other resources for their own gain.

This Medicare coverage scam is actually identity theft.The scams may differ but the results are usually the same.  Phonescamscan be expected to increase during these tough economic times and scammers will use any number of new schemes to obtain personal information from the senior.

Seniors are often targeted for scams because they are likely to have financial savings, own their homes, and have established credit – all of which the con artist will want to tap. Scammers also know it may take weeks or months before the senior realizes the scam has occurred.

This is a common sense reminder: No one should give out personal or financial information over the phone to anyone, even if the caller claims they are calling to help.. Seniors should not assume that an unknown caller who knows a few personal details, such as name, address and phone number has a legitimate reason for calling and asking for more information.

Older Americans need to be aware that scams can happen any time.  The contact may seem legitimate and the caller may sound trustworthy. If there is any suspicion, cut the call short, or ask for a call back number. If the caller hesitates to provide a call-back number, that is a “red flag.” If the caller does provide a call-back number, compare it to the agency’s Web site to see if it’s a real number, not a cell phone or temporary number.

To report suspected healthcare identity theft or Medicare fraud, call the North Carolina SMP Program at the Seniors' Health Insurance Information Program (SHIIP) at 1-800-443-9354 or www.ncshiip.com. The North Carolina SMP Program is funded through a grant from the Administration on Aging to the Seniors' Health Insurance Information Program (SHIIP) at the North Carolina Department of Insurance.


FINANCIAL FORUM
Planning Ahead Is The Best Way To Protect Assets
By A. Frank Johns, JD, LLM, CELA Booth Harrington & Johns of NC, PLLC North Carolina’s first Elder Law Firm

Regardless of the amount of wealth, planning ahead is a must for everyone, especially older Americans. While protection is necessary to assure that those intended actually receive the legacy, the greatest worry and concern for asset protection is the skyrocketing cost of long term care. What with health care reform constantly reminding us just how expensive health care is to everyone, most reform options do not include nursing home care because of the prohibitive expense.

This topic of great worry is as fresh as today’s headlines. A recent USA/TODAY article used the following question for discussion: “Q: My father may be put into a nursing home and would like to protect his investments, including his home and $250,000 in cash and stocks. Is there a way to do this?”

In the answer, reporter Matt Krantz acknowledged how common the question is, but that it is more legal than financial. He strongly suggests that planning ahead would have allowed gifting to children and grandchildren before being diagnosed or getting sick. However, most of the people we see have already been diagnosed or are about to be placed in a nursing home.

So, the follow-up question is “But what about now?” For asset preservation that focuses on long term care, many states, like North Carolina, allow the transfer of the home place valued at $500,000 or less. Such a transfer in North Carolina must be done within complex rules so as not to trigger a sanction or penalty, but it can be done. The need for such a transfer is because of the “payback” provision of the Medicaid rules. If a home is not properly transferred and the Medicaid recipient dies, North Carolina may make a claim against the home's value.

As for other assets, consider trying to protect some assets by using a combination of annuities and gifts. Back to the example above – remembering the father is entering the nursing home and triggers the beginning of the penalty period, let's assume the cost of a nursing home is $5,000 a month and your father's monthly income is $1,000 including Social Security. With the $250,000 cash in the estate, your father might give a gift of $125,000 to a relative. That exceeds the $13,000 annual exclusion for gifts. However, your father could avoid gift tax on the $125,000 by claiming $112,000 of his $1 million lifetime gift tax exclusion, although he would need to file a 709 gift tax return with the IRS.

The $125,000 gift would make your dad ineligible for Medicaid reimbursement for 22 months, Gilfix estimates. So, with the remaining $125,000 in the estate, your father could buy a Medicaid qualifying annuity with a 22-month term so it pays $4,000 a month.

Your father would qualify for Medicaid, since there would be no assets in the estate, and the annuity would cover the cost of the nursing home for 22 months. After that penalty period has passed, your father would qualify for Medicaid and the $125,000 gift would be protected.

That's just one suggestion. If there is a spouse, consider long term care insurance, or a second to die life insurance policy to make up for the private cost of care in the nursing home.

For those with larger estates, consider using a trust as part of a broader asset protection plan. The cost of setting up a trust varies greatly, but is usually a cost benefit. There are also options of family partnerships and limited liability corporations that would assure legacies get to those intended while at the same time avoiding probate, and possibly qualifying for Medicaid. Such options may not completely protect estates when nursing home placement is involved, but the actual cost may be minimal.

Just as important is for family members to have all of their advance directives in order, including the financial powers of attorney, health care powers of attorney and living will declarations.

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