Monday, June 27, 2022

Medication and High Blood Pressure - What You Need to Know

About 75% of people over the age of 60 have high blood pressure, and this increases their risk of having a heart attack or stroke.  If you are one of those people, and you have been trying without success to lower your blood pressure by eating healthy and getting exercise, you may be surprised to discover that the real problem could be some of the medications you are taking, including over-the-counter drugs.  

How can you find out which drugs are most likely to cause your blood pressure problems?  Is there a way to reduce your risk?

Over-the-Counter Medications which Raise Blood Pressure

Two common NSAIDS which can raise your blood pressure, especially when taken in high doses or for a long time, are Ibuprofen and Naproxen.  In addition, they can also reduce the effectiveness of the medications your doctor might prescribe to help you lower your blood pressure.  

Other medications which raise blood pressure are things you might pick up at your local grocery store or pharmacy, including cold and cough medicines, decongestants and certain antacids which are high in sodium. Carefully read the labels to see if any over-the-counter medication you are taking should not be used by someone with high blood pressure.

You should also avoid weight-loss stimulants, as well as some herbal remedies and dietary supplements.

If you take any of these over-the-counter medications, your doctor may not be aware of it.  Make sure he knows exactly what you are taking, how much of it, and for how long.  Make a list of everything you take, including over-the-counter medications, and bring it with you to your doctor appointments. Your physician may be able to help you find a safer option. 

Prescription Drugs Which Can Raise Blood Pressure

If you are struggling with high blood pressure and cannot understand why it is so hard for you to control it, you might also ask your pharmacist or doctor to go through your list of prescription medications with you and see if one of them could be causing your problem.

Antidepressants, including fluoxetine, monoamine oxidase inhibitors, and tricyclic antidepressants, are one category of drugs which could raise your blood pressure.  Even if you successfully took one of these antidepressants for years, you may have to change to a different one as you age and develop new health problems.

Another category of drugs which raise blood pressure are the oral steroids which are often prescribed to treat conditions such as gout, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and other types of inflammation. 

If you have an autoimmune disease or cancer, your doctor might prescribe immunosuppressants, central nervous system stimulants, or other drugs to treat your condition. These drugs can also increase your blood pressure.

How to Protect Yourself from Dangerous Medication Combinations

If you have high blood pressure and other indications that you are developing heart problems, you may want to try reading the highly rated book shown here: "Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease."  (Ad)  It could help you learn how to counteract some of the health issues you have been experiencing, and get you back on the road to feeling better.

In addition, discuss your health treatments with your physician. Obviously, if you are taking a life-saving drug to help you deal with depression, cancer or some other serious illness, that may be more important than a minor increase in blood pressure. However, if your blood pressure becomes seriously high, you may want to talk to your doctor about potential alternatives.

Do not forget that your pharmacist is also a valuable resource. Try to fill all prescriptions at one pharmacy.  Their computer system will automatically alert the pharmacist if you are prescribed a drug which might be inappropriate for you.  Most pharmacists are also willing to spend time discussing your prescriptions with you and may be able to recommend alternatives that your doctor does not know about. If you are regularly taking an over-the-counter medication, or trying to find something to take for a cough, cold or allergies, your pharmacist may be able to make recommendations which will not raise your blood pressure.

Knowledge is power. We all need to be aware of how the things we put in our bodies can affect us, and be willing to take advantage of all the resources available to us.  

Source of facts: AARP Bulletin, October 2021

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Friday, June 17, 2022

Train Your Working Memory to Improve Cognitive Function

UCI Memory Lab Brain Training Helped Me.
In the summer of 2018, I took a brain class from a local community college, which started me on a journey to protect my cognitive ability, to the extent possible.  I was in my late 60s at the time.  During that class, a guest speaker from the University of California - Irvine MIND Program asked us to sign up for their C2C registry, which stands for "Consent to Contact."  They use this registry to find people who are willing to participate in a variety of studies to help them test different programs which might improve the memory of people as they age. I was excited to join their program!  If you have a research university near you, you might be able to enroll in a similar opportunity.

APT Webstudy

The first program UCI directed me to try has been the APT Webstudy, which is available to anyone, anywhere for free over the internet.  You can try it, too.  Since 2019, I have logged on, as instructed, every three months and used their online program to test myself to see if there has been any changes in my working memory.  Working memory could also be thought of as your very short-term memory, or your ability to keep track of things going on right now.

The program consists of doing a self-report on my memory, and then playing four games on the screen to test myself.  The tests consist of looking at a series of playing cards and trying to remember whether I have seen that card earlier in the test.  

The APT Web Study takes me about 20 minutes every three months, which means the time commitment is minimal. So far, my scores have remained remarkably stable, going up and down by only a small amount over the past three years. That is ideal.  The program describes itself as an Alzheimer's Prevention Trial for people over the age of 50.  I don't know that it will prevent Alzheimer's Disease, but it will provide you important clues to watch and discuss with your doctor if your scores begin to change.  If you want to try it out and track your memory yourself, you can find the free program at:  

I have found it very reassuring to be able to test myself every few months and confirm that my working memory continues to operate normally. However, this test does not seem to do anything to improve my memory, as far as I can tell.  It is possible, however, that it is slightly training my working memory, which is a benefit in itself.

Next I Tried tDCS Brain Stimulation

In May of 2022, I also agreed to participate in a more active type of brain training involving the use of tDCS electrical stimulation on my brain, while I simultaneously completed a series of memory activities under the supervision of researchers. This study took place at the UCI Working Memory and Plasticity Lab under the direction of Dr. Susanne Jaeggi, with the help of a number of research assistants.  According to their brochure, they "have developed an intervention on cognitive training and successful aging.  The aim of the intervention is to optimize opportunities for cognitive health and wellbeing in older adults."  Anything that could help me achieve more successful aging sounds like a good program to me!

Over the past decade the researchers at the UCI Memory lab have "developed computerized interventions to improve learning and memory in diverse populations ... focused on working memory."  

They have used their interventions to train several hundred children, young adults, and older adults (like me!).  They have also found that just a couple of weeks of training improved working memory for at least several months, with the hope that the benefits will last much longer.   According to their research "the more you train, the more you improve."  

What Happened During the tDCS Experiment?

The first session began with a series of sixteen words which I was shown briefly. Then I was asked to recall as many as possible.  Afterwards, I was hooked up to the tDCS device, with two electrodes strapped to my head.  The letters stand for Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation. It is described as "a non-invasive, painless brain stimulation treatment that uses direct electrical currents to stimulate specific parts of the brain. A constant, low intensity current is passed through two electrodes placed over the head which modulate neuronal activity."  It has been used for several years as a treatment for depression and now they are doing research to see if it can also improve working memory.  Early research indicates that it may be effective. The idea of trying it sounded exciting to me, and also a little scary.  

While wearing this equipment, I used an iPad to perform a number of memory tests, which were in addition to the word memory test which I had been given at the start of the session.  The computer tests consisted of being shown an object, animal, plant or number and then recalling whether it was the same as the item I had watched scroll by briefly on the computer screen one back, then two back, and eventually three back.  

In other words, I might be shown a lemon, then an orange, then an apple, then a lemon, then a pear, then an apple, and so on.  When I got to the second lemon, I had seen it before "three back," so I clicked on it.  I had to keep on my toes, because I had also seen the apple three back, and I had to click on it.  I confess that at times I got confused about when I had seen an object before. Was it two back, three back, or four back?  However, I plunged ahead and tried my best.

After the tDCS electrodes were removed about 30 minutes later, I was asked to recall the words that I had been asked to remember at the beginning of the session!

Following the brain activities, I was taken to another building where they performed an MRI to see how my brain looked on the first day of the training program.

That was the end of the first session.

For sessions two through six, which took place the following week, I did all the same things, except I did not repeat the MRI that week.  At the beginning of each session I was shown a group of 16 new words, and asked to repeat them from memory.  Then, I was asked to recall all the words I could from earlier in the week. By Friday, I was being asked to recall as many of the 80 words I had been asked to memorize as possible! 

After the word recall, I spent about an hour each day in the lab with the tDCS electrodes strapped to my head, while performing a variety of memory matching tests, striving to improve how far back I could remember the items each time.

The following week, I attended session seven, which was a repeat of session one, including the MRI.  The researchers plan to compare the two MRIs to see if my brain underwent any physical changes as the result of the training.  

During the second MRI, I was given a device with two buttons on it. I was shown a series of words and asked to punch either the "yes" or "no" button to confirm whether or not the word I was shown briefly on a screen was a word I had been asked to memorize during the preceding week. I did this while the MRI machine was making its loud, metallic sounds.  It was very challenging and I know I made a few mistakes during the session.

The UCI Memory Lab plans to do a follow-up set of memory tests, plus an additional MRI, in three months to see if my memory and my brain have maintained their training. I certainly hope I continue to benefit from this training. I have noticed that it seems slightly easier for me to remember names and events since my seven sessions at the memory lab. Is it real improvement or am I just imagining it?  It is hard to know for sure.

Meanwhile, I may try some memory games to continue exercising my brain, even though I will not have the tDCS machine to use while practicing the memory games.  One highly ranked workbook I found was the "Memory Activity Book:  100+ Brain Exercises to Supercharge Your Memory."  (Ad) It is certainly worth a try while I attempt to retain as much of my enhanced memory as possible.  Anyone could use this book, or a similar one, to train their own memory.  UCI emphasizes that we all must "use it or lose it" when it comes to keeping our brains active.

I was also surprised to learn that it is possible to purchase your own tDCS device and, in fact, you can look here at a: wide variety of tDCS devices in various price ranges (Ad) and see if one of them could help give your own memory a boost.  I do not know if one is any better than the others, so you may want to read the reviews and discuss it with your private physician.  

The tDCS device I used at UCI did not have any negative side effects on me. I did not experience pain or any type of sensation, either during or after the procedure. However, your experience could be different.  They did question me frequently about whether it gave me a headache, made my scalp itch, cause any rashes, and things like that.  My conclusion from their questions is that some people do have negative side effects.

Brain Classes and Personal Behavior 

In addition to the studies mentioned above, I have continued to take brain classes and attend programs held by various researchers from the University of California at Irvine.   Here are the basics of the personal behaviors you can adopt in order to protect your brain health and retain your memory as long as possible:

Cognitive Engagement or challenging yourself mentally is an important key to brain health.  This means learning new skills, reading books, playing a musical instrument and things like that.

Social Engagement or spending quality time with family and friends, including making new friends, is beneficial to cognition.  The best "brain game" you can play is to be deeply engaged in an interesting conversation with other people.

Diet and Nutrition, or specifically adhering to a "heart healthy" diet such as the Mediterranean diet, is linked to overall brain health and longevity.  One of the most highly recommended diets for brain health is called the "Mind Diet" (Ad) and it is worthwhile to pick up a copy of the cookbook so you can follow their diet plan more closely.  

Physical Activity, including any type of exercise, can produce "beneficial changes to brain structure and cognitive function.  This means that physical activity can actually change the structure of your brain, and it can be virtually any activity you enjoy ... walking, swimming, dancing, gardening, etc.

Sleep is crucial for brain health.  In fact, every session I had with the tDCS machine started with questions about how I slept the night before.  

If you want to age well and maintain a strong working memory and your cognitive ability well into your retirement years, you may want to to take brain classes in your area, participate in any brain training they offer, and adopt the personal behaviors recommended above.  These actions could make a huge difference in the quality of your life in the future. 

You can find gifts for retirees and others at my Etsy Store, DeborahDianGifts:

To learn more about common medical problems as we age, Medicare, Social Security, financial planning, where to retire and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional helpful articles.

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Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Mandatory Evacuations - What to Take With You


With wildfires, tornadoes, hurricanes, and floods expected to increase in frequency and intensity in the coming decades, millions of people in the U.S. and around the world are likely to face a mandatory evacuation at least once in their lifetimes. In the best case scenario, you might have plenty of time to prepare, such as when a hurricane is predicted to hit your area in a few days.  On the other hand, a mandatory evacuation could happen without warning and you may have only a few minutes to get out.  The warning could even come with a phone call in the middle of the night, when you are groggy and not thinking clearly.  

Whether you have plenty of time to prepare, or you need to leave in a hurry, everyone should have a plan and a list of everything they need to have with them during an evacuation.  One thing you could do is print this article and post it in a prominent place in your home, where you can quickly review it and use it as a checklist when you need to leave in hurry.  Just add your own notes in the margin about where to find things.

If You Have 15 Minutes or Less to Evacuate

Obviously, if a wildfire is roaring up the hillside towards your home in the middle of the night, you may have to rush out the door in your pajamas, jump in your car, and take off, leaving everything behind. Your life is more important than anything in your home.  

However, in most cases, people have at least a a few minutes of warning that they need to evacuate.  In that situation, below are the most important things you need to make sure you have with you.  Clip out this list and put it in several convenient places in your home, such as in the drawer of your nightstand, on the door of your refrigerator, or some other safe place where it will be easy to find. In an emergency, it is easy to get rattled and forget something obvious, such as your wallet or cell phone.  Having a list will help you stay focused on the most important things you need to do. 

Your family - Try to be sure that everyone is accounted for and in the car with you before you worry about anything else.  

Your pets
- If possible, put your pets in a small, portable pet kennel (Ad). They come in a variety of shapes and sizes. It will make it easier to control your animals, especially if they become afraid or excited about what is happening.  Put your pets in the car as soon as you can, so they do not panic and disappear.  However, do not delay your evacuation by spending a lot of time looking for them.  If they hide and cannot be found, you may have to leave them behind.  In the event of a fire, let the firefighters know about any missing pets and they will try their best to rescue them.

Your purse and wallet - If you have your wallet and/or purse with you, it means you will probably have your driver's license, some cash, your bank debit card, and credit cards.  This will enable you to rent a hotel room, or purchase food and other items you may need while you are evacuated. 

Your medications - If you are taking any life saving medications, grab a bag and just sweep them into it.  Do not take the time to sort through them.  Just take everything you think you might need.  Once you get to an evacuation center, they can help you replace any medications which you may have missed.

Important documents
- Ideally, everyone should have a small portable lockbox or fireproof home safe (Ad) that contains your important documents, all in one place.  These documents should include your passports, birth certificates, social security cards and copies of insurance policies, including policies on your home and automobiles. If you store all these papers in one convenient lockbox or safe, it will be easy to grab all the documents you would otherwise not have time to locate.  Later, it will save you time if you do not have to replace your important documents.   You may also want to keep copies of your important documents in a notebook, which you can grab as you rush out the door, even if you have very little time. My husband and I have a notebook which contains copies of our wills, trust, Advanced Directives, I.D.'s, insurance policies, marriage certificates, birth certificates, and other important information we might need in an emergency.

Small electronics - Because most of us have a great deal of important information stored on our phones, tablets, and laptop computers, you want to try to grab these things, along with their chargers, before you take off.  It will make it easier for you to find contact phone numbers of your friends and family, and enable you to let others know you are OK. 

If the items above are the only things you have time to grab, at least you will be leaving with your most essential items.  Hopefully, however, you will have enough evacuation time to toss a few more items in your car.  

IMPORTANT:  If you are fleeing a wildfire, do not spend more than 5 minutes gathering as much as you can before you leave.  Fires can move quickly and you may have less time to get to safety than you think you do.

If You Have an Hour or More to Evacuate

If you have a little extra time to evacuate, you still need to hurry.  This would include situations such as when a fire is in your general area, but has not reached your neighborhood; or when a hurricane has taken an unexpected turn towards you, but is still a few hours away; or when you live in a flood prone area with a major storm headed your way.  In these situations, you might have an extra 30 to 60 minutes to evacuate, or even a little more time, but you still should not linger too long. If you are fortunate enough to have this extra time, what additional items should you take with you?

Make sure you have everything listed above - Do not let yourself get distracted by things you want to take, until you are sure you have loaded everything you need to take. First, double-check that you have everyone in your family, and, if possible, your pets, wallets, medications, small electronics and important documents.  

Secure Your Preschoolers in the car - Strap your youngest children into their car seats, and pack up a few things for them.  Make sure they have a favorite stuffed animal they can cling to.  Things could be very crazy for the next few days, and having their favorite toy will bring them some comfort when they do not understand what is happening.  Make sure you also have diapers, formula, or any other essentials which could be hard to find for a few days.

Let Your School Age Children Grab What they Want -  Give children who are old enough a suitcase or even a couple of trash bags.  Tell them to put some clothing and their toothbrushes in one bag, and a few of their favorite toys in the other.  This could reduce their stress in two ways.  First, you are giving them a task which will distract them from what is happening.  Second, if your home is destroyed, at least your children will have been able to bring a few of their favorite things with them.  Most other things can eventually be replaced. 

Fill a suitcase or a couple of shopping bags with your valuables - Since you have a little extra time, put your jewelry box, small family heirlooms, photo albums, artwork, sterling silver, and similar items in a few shopping bags and put them deep in interior of your car's trunk. These are things you will not need to get out when you stop at a hotel or an evacuation center.  However, it will give you peace of mind to know that they are safely locked in your car.

Fill a suitcase with an armload of clothing - Ideally, you should have a change of clothing, underwear, toiletries and similar items for everyone in your family.  However, this is not the time to pack carefully.  Just grab a few things and stuff them in a suitcase.  You just need enough clothing to last a few days.  If your home is totally lost, local charities or your private insurance will help you replace some of your clothing.

Do a Last Minute Walk-Thru of Your Home - If you have the time, grab a trash bag and your cell phone camera.  Use your cellphone to make a video and quickly document everything you are leaving behind.  It will help with your insurance claims. Meanwhile, fill the trash bag with any last minute things which you would like to bring with you. Suggestions include favorite framed photos, the family Bible, mementos of trips, or a favorite painting still hanging on your wall. Grab anything you can quickly stuff into the bag.  You will cherish these things if you eventually have to replace your home.

Take All Your Cars With You - Although it may seem more convenient to have your whole family in one car, if there is more than one driver in the family, have them each drive one of the cars out of the evacuation area.  You do not want to lose one of your cars, if you can avoid it.  In addition, the extra car will give you more space to take things with you.  If your home is destroyed and you need to stay in temporary housing for a while, it will also be more convenient if everyone has their car with them. 

Below is a list from FEMA which you may also want to print out. It includes some of the additional items you may want to bring with you when you evacuate, if you have time.  It includes items you may want to have if you are uncertain about the conditions where you will be staying after an evacuation.  Below it you will find more emergency evacuation information.

How to "Prepare" to Evacuate

About 20 years ago, there were a number of fires burning in our part of California.   Although our home was not in immediate danger, we were told to "Prepare to Evacuate."  This gave us plenty of time to fill our cars with all the things mentioned in the lists above, as well as do a better job packing a suitcase to take with us.  Fortunately, in that case, the fires did not come close enough to our home to necessitate an evacuation, although many other Southern California homes were destroyed.  By feeling prepared to evacuate, however, I was more comfortable knowing that everything portable that I valued was safely locked in my car, and we could have dropped everything and evacuated with a moment's notice.  

How to Pre-Plan for an Evacuation

Do you live in an area where evacuations are common?  Perhaps you live in an area which gets hit by a hurricane every few years, or occasionally floods.  You might live near a national forest that is prone to wildfires.  If this describes your situation, you may want to pre-plan for a potential evacuation. Here are some of the steps you can take long before you get an evacuation notice:

Fill a back-pack or "get away bag" for each member of the family
- This get-away bag (Ad) should contain a couple of changes of clothes, underwear, a jacket, an old pair of tennis shoes, and basic toiletries such as toothpaste and a toothbrush. Be sure to include a small supply of essential medications. If you have growing children, you should repack the bags at least once a year.

Pack an extra bag with copies of important documents - Make copies of your birth certificates, social security cards, driver's licenses, insurance papers, and other important documents.  Put them in your bag, along with a list of important phone numbers you may need to know in an emergency. You may want to include a small amount of cash, in case local ATM machines are out-of-order during an evacuation.  Keep your original documents in a small fireproof home safe (Ad), and keep an extra set of the safe keys in your get-away bag.  In case you have to evacuate in a hurry, and you have time, you can add your safe, lockbox and small electronics to this backpack and take off quickly.  If you are unable to take the safe with you, there is a good chance it will survive some types of disasters and you can find it after the emergency has passed.

Having get-away bags will also be convenient if you and your family leave your home each morning for school and work.  In an emergency you would not be able to return home to get important belongings. In that event, you can keep the get-away bags in your car.   If there is an emergency evacuation in your neighborhood, you can simply pick up your family members at their jobs or school and go to the evacuation center or a hotel. In a crisis, you would know that you have some basic necessities for each member of the family, as well as copies of important documents. It is likely that if you were away from home during the day, you would also have your cell phones and, possibly, other small electronics with you. It would not be an ideal situation, but it would be better than being caught by surprise without anything you might need.   

After An Evacuation - What Happens?

Fortunately, most of the time you will all be able to return home safely after the emergency is over, and everything will be exactly as you left it.  You can return your belongings to their rightful places, stow away your get-away bags, and relax. You might even decide to update your get-away bags before stowing them away in the trunk of your car. 

However, if your home is no longer habitable after a disaster, you will be glad you were so well-prepared for evacuation.  You will be able to start over and still have at least some of your favorite belongings with you.  If you have either homeowner's insurance or renter's insurance, many of your lost items will be replaced. 

After most major emergencies, FEMA, state agencies, the Red Cross, and local charities will help you fill out the paperwork to file claims, apply for loans, and get other types of assistance.  These organizations may also be able to help you obtain temporary housing and a few items of furniture and clothing.  Despite this generous assistance, you and your family will feel much better if you also have been able to bring some of your own belongings with you. 

While not everything you own can be replaced, it is important to remember is that you were able to save your family. Anything else you save beyond that will just make it easier for you to recover from a disaster.  The most important thing is that you are able to move on with the people you love and cherish.

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Friday, May 27, 2022

The Elderly Homeless Crisis in America

My husband and I have volunteered in a local homeless shelter for about five or six years, and one of the things which has stunned us is how many of the homeless are elderly and/or disabled.  We have seen people with missing limbs who have been picked up in their wheelchairs by younger homeless men, and carried into the shelter.  We have seen people who use walkers struggle up to the food line to get their dinner.  We have been deeply moved when we watch the able-bodied homeless people reach out to help their elderly companions, by filling or carrying their plates for them.  There can be amazing kindness and humanity in a homeless shelter.

Why Does Senior Homelessness Happen in America?

While there are many issues which cause people to fall into homelessness, one of the most common reasons is simply because their income is inadequate to pay rent, and there are not enough affordable apartments available for low income people.

Typically, this happens when an older American loses a job, goes through a divorce, or becomes widowed, and they are suddenly expected to survive on their inadequate retirement or disability income.  When someone loses a spouse, the change from having two incomes to only one income can be devastating for many senior citizens, because they may no longer to able to handle their fixed expenses like rent and utilities.

The decline in their financial situation may happen slowly.  They use up their savings and gradually fall behind in their rent and other bills.  They may try living temporarily with a relative, if they have one who is willing and able to take them in.  If that does not work out, they may decide that they will live "temporarily" in their car, while they try to save enough to rent an apartment.  Meanwhile, rents continue to rise, affordable housing is scarce, Section 8 vouchers require long waits, and homeless continue to live in their cars or, when they can no longer keep their cars running, they end up on the street.  It is more common than you think.

The Number of Homeless Seniors is Expected to Increase

Older Americans make up around one-third of the homeless. According to a caseworker in one of Arizona's largest shelters, "These are not necessarily people who have mental illness or substance abuse problems.  They are people being pushed into the streets by rising rents."

As of 2017, the Annual Homeless Assessment from HUD revealed that the percentage of homeless people over the age of 50 who are in emergency shelters or transitional housing rose from 22.9% in 2007 to 33.8% in 2017.  More recent numbers are not available because HUD now lumps all adults over age 25 together.  This may conceal the problem, but does nothing to solve it.  Personally, I have seen far too many senior citizens struggling to survive in shelters.

Researchers believe that the number of seniors who are homeless will TRIPLE from about 40,000 to 106,000 by 2030, when the last of the Baby Boomers reach age 65.  This will continue to be a growing crisis unless the problem is addressed with a dramatic increase in affordable senior housing.  

Low Income Baby Boomers are Hit the Hardest

Many Baby-Boomers who are in their late 50s or 60s, even those who may still be working, do not have pensions or 401(k) accounts.  About half of men and women between ages 55 and 66 do not have any retirement savings at all.  

Many of those who end up homeless also have very small Social Security checks, because they had jobs which were low paying or "off the books" during most of their working years.  In other cases, they are not old quite old enough for Social Security, but they lost their last job during the pandemic or for other reasons and, because of their age or health, they have not been able to find another one that pays well.  For a while they can receive unemployment benefits but, eventually, those run out.

Some who have very low Social Security benefits may qualify for Supplemental Security Income, which was about $841 a month in 2022.  That may help them with a few expenses, but in most parts of the country it is not enough for them to afford to rent an apartment.

Life is Especially Difficult for Disabled Seniors

Homeless senior citizens create new issues for social workers.  It is more complicated to house people who are older, sicker and may be developing dementia or serious chronic illnesses.  Homeless shelters have to make sure they are compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. (The homeless shelter where I volunteer installed a ramp to the entrance during the pandemic. Prior to that, the disabled residents had to be carried into the shelter by other homeless people.)

You can learn a little about what they go through by reading the book, "Homeless: A Day in the Life - A Homeless Veteran's Tale."  It could give you a deeper understanding of the homeless crisis.

For many disabled seniors, just getting to and from the shelters can be a challenge, since they are often in less desirable parts of cities.  The disabled seniors frequently have to navigate rough neighborhoods using wheelchairs, walkers and canes over cracked sidewalks.  Sometimes they end up becoming the victims of violence because they do not have a safe place to live.

Because many shelters require the occupants to leave during the day, the elderly must move around the streets of their city, looking for protection from bad weather on buses, trains or in libraries. They are often vulnerable to thieves or, even worse, violent attacks.  As the number of elderly homeless people grow, this problem will become increasingly more serious. 

The Solution to the Elderly Homeless Crisis

Housing.  Our country needs more affordable, supportive housing for low-income seniors, as well as for other homeless people with special needs such as the mentally ill or the addiicted.

The ONLY way to solve a homeless crisis is to provide people with supportive housing. That means the elderly will have access to the essential assistance they need ... social workers, help applying for housing, food, and utilities, plus access to transportation, medical care, and similar essentials.  

The provided housing for the elderly does not need to be fancy.  It does not need to be spacious.  However, it needs to be safe and provide some security.  It also does not need to be entirely free.  It is not unreasonable to expect the homeless to pay approximately 30% of their income for rent, whether that income is from Social Security, SSI, disability, or a low paying job.  For someone on SSI who is living on around $900 a month, this means they could pay rent of approximately $270 a month.  This would defray the cost of maintaining the housing, while allowing the homeless person enough money to buy food and pay for their bus fare.

Although younger homeless adults may need different solutions, such as job training, drug rehab, or better mental health treatment, there is only one solution for a senior citizen, especially those in poor health with limited options.  That solution is safe, affordable housing for the most vulnerable people in our society.  

In addition to supportive housing, there are some cases in which they may need to be housed in a nursing home or memory care facility, which may require that someone, such as a Social Worker, can help them complete the necessary paperwork to show that they qualify for VA care, Medicaid and/or Medicare. 

Whatever Americans decide to do to house the poorest of our elderly, it is time to start building the necessary housing and facilities, before it is too late, and tens of thousands more end up on the streets of our cities.

You can find gifts for retirees and others at my Etsy Store, DeborahDianGifts:

To learn more about common medical problems as we age, Medicare, Social Security, financial planning, where to retire and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional helpful articles.

Disclosure: This blog may contain affiliate links. If you decide to make a purchase from an Amazon ad, I'll make a small commission to support this blog, at no extra cost to you.

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Photo credit: Pixabay and Amazon book cover

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Pre-Diabetes can be Reversed - Learn How

According to the Centers for Disease Control, about 88 million American adults (or about one-third) have pre-diabetes. The CDC estimates that approximately 84 percent of them do not even know they have it!. Pre-diabetes is a condition where blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes.  It is a dangerous condition because, in about 70 percent of cases, it develops into Type 2 diabetes, which can damage your blood vessels and lead to other health issues, including heart disease.

Fortunately, pre-diabetes can be thought of as a warning, letting you know that there is danger ahead, so it is time to take precautions.  It is not too late to turn things around.  

How to Reverse Pre-Diabetes

Lose Weight - Losing as little as 7 percent of your current weight (or 14 pounds for a 200 pound person), may be enough to reverse your pre-diabetes and lower your risk of it turning into Type 2 diabetes.  Of course, the best ways to lose weight are to increase your exercise routine and eat healthy, low calorie foods.

Eat Healthy - This is such a general statement that most of us need specific help in learning how to eat in a way that could reverse our prediabetes. For example, a healthy dinner would be one in which no more than one-quarter of your plate consists of starchy vegetables like potatoes, corn and peas.  Half should be made up of non-starchy vegetables such as a salad, broccoli, carrots, and similar items.  The remaining quarter of the plate should be filled with lean protein, including chicken, fish and beans.  However, if you would like to learn some simple, delicious recipes to get you started, try "The 30-Minute Prediabetes Cookbook: 100 Easy Recipes to Improve and Manage Your Health through Diet." (Ad) It will set you on the right path to avoiding Type 2 diabetes, and you will learn how to do it with meals you will actually enjoy eating.

Get Exercise - Simply getting 30 minutes of aerobic exercise a day can make it easier to lose weight and get healthy.  Good choices are walking, swimming, and dancing.  In addition, include some stretching, such as yoga, and strength training a couple of times a week  The more you move, the easier it will be to prevent your prediabetes from becoming diabetes.

Get Adequate Sleep - Ideally, you should sleep between 7 and 8 hours a night.  Less than 5 hours of sleep should concern you.  If you are having trouble sleeping, try to avoid using alcohol, caffeine, and electronics in the evening.  If that doesn't work, consult a doctor.  You may have sleep apnea, which can also cause other health problems. In addition, you do not want to sleep too much. That can be a sign of poor health and make it harder to get the exercise you need.

Do Not Smoke - Smokers are 30 to 40 percent more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes. If you continue to smoke after developing diabetes, your symptoms could be worse than that of non-smokers, and they may be harder to control.

Take Prescribed Medications - If you have been prescribed drugs to treat high cholesterol and/or high blood pressure, make sure you are consistent about taking them. These medications can improve your overall health and could even help you live longer. 

If you are serious about avoiding diabetes, you may also be interesting in reading "Prediabetes: A Complete Guide 2021: Prevent or Reverse Insulin resistance and Prediabetes - Ways to Detox to Reverse Prediabetes."  (Ad) It is available as both a Kindle book and Audiobook. It is a comprehensive guide that explains the nine symptoms of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, causes and treatment of insulin resistance, information about drugs used to treat diabetes, ways to lower the glycemic index of the foods you eat and more. 

If you take these actions, and lose weight, it is very possible that you will be able to reverse your pre-diabetes and prevent it from turning into Type 2 diabetes.  This is life-saving information.

You can find gifts for retirees and others at my Etsy Store, DeborahDianGifts:

Enjoyed this post? Never miss out on future posts by following us.  You will receive a weekly email with the most current post. 

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Photo credits:  Google images - CDC and Amazon book covers

Saturday, May 7, 2022

Romance and Dating Scams - How to Stay Safe and Have a Legitimate Online Romance

The Tender Swindler, Simon Leviev, cheated many women.
You may have heard of the "Tender Swindler," Simon Leviev, an Israeli man who has "borrowed" hundreds of thousands of dollars from a number of women around the world.  He spends weeks romancing women through the dating site, Tender, often meeting them and taking them on incredibly romantic, luxurious dates.  Gradually, he wins their confidence, "borrows" money from them, and disappears, frequently leaving the women broke. He has been interviewed on TV, and insists he feels absolutely no guilt about what he has done.  In fact, he is currently working on a book and movie about his escapades, which means he has found another way to profit off it! Technically, what he is done has not landed him in jail, because the women willingly "gave" him the money, and none of them asked him to sign anything saying he would pay them back. 

While you might not be the next victim of the infamous Tender Swindler, you could still fall for someone on a dating website who makes you feel special and important, only to gradually find yourself sending them money to help them with a little cash shortfall or financial reversal.  Sometimes these people spend months "reeling you in" like a fish.  They might meet you in person, or only be someone you know online. Either way, it is wise to be smart and cautious anytime you meet someone new.

You may also want to read some true books which have been written by victims of romance scams.  These books are fascinating to read, and can help open your eyes about how these scammers work.  A couple of good choices are:  "Unhappily Ever After: A Romance Scam" and "Broken."  (Ad) Both books cost just a few dollars, and are much cheaper than what you might lose to a clever scam. After you read these books, you will realize how even smart people can become a victim of these types of scams.  You might also give one of these books to someone who loves to read, and who you believe might be vulnerable to this type of scam.

With education, we may be able to reduce the number of future victims of romance scams. AARP has also come up with some tips which could help everyone, especially older adults, learn how to identify someone who may try to scam them out of money through a social media or dating site.  While these tips are directed at senior citizens, they actually apply to people of all ages who are looking for romance.

How to Spot a Romance Scam

It can start on any online site.  While we often think of dating sites as the source of these scams, about one-third of the people who lost money in 2021 in a dating scam reported that the initial connection started through social media such as Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.  Many of those good looking people who send you a direct message or try to contact you privately through social media may be trying to trick you into falling for their scams.

The scammers usually do not try to meet in person, although there are exceptions.  Often they explain that they live in another part of the country or they are overseas, but "something about your profile made them want to get to know you better."  Of course, this is not always true. The Tender Swindler met the women he scammed in person and, shockingly, he is still doing it! 

They often move slowly, but contact you regularly.  The scammers want the connection and feeling of trust to build, before they try to get you to send them money, so they may not try to rush you.  Of course, you need to realize that most of them are also messaging several other potential victims at the same time, so there is no reason for them to rush you.  Sooner or later, though, they will sense that you are ready to "help them out of a bad situation."  They look for people who seem kind-hearted and who are always trying to help them.  The nicer you are, the more likely they will choose you as their next victim.

They tell you how much they want to meet you in person, but some emergency always comes up.  This can be the beginning of the money drain. They tell you about their problems, and explain that they need money quickly to solve them.  It could be money to cover a medical bill or a business issue.  They may also suggest that they have plenty of money, but it is tied up in an investment or because of a banking problem.  In those cases, they will assure you that they will pay you back. Whatever problems they describe, the bottom line is that they want you to send them money in a hurry.  

They ask that the money be sent to them in a form that is hard-to-trace. They might ask you to buy gift cards or debit cards and text them the codes on the back of the cards or read them aloud over the phone.  They might also ask for cryptocurrency, or for a bank or wire transfer.  Once they have the numbers off the back of the gift cards, they can use them and the funds are untraceable.  It is virtually impossible to get your money refunded.

They promise to pay you back, but never manage to do it.  After you send them some money to help them out, they come up with reasons for you to send more and more.  Many of them have practiced this for years and have plenty of reasons why they need the money, and even more excuses for why they have not paid you back.

Romance scams can sometimes turn into something even more sinister, such as money laundering or investment in fraudulent cryptocurrency investments.  You may be blindly following the instructions they give you, and have no idea you have crossed the line into even more serious illegal activities.

How to Avoid Putting Yourself in Danger

Do not think you are safe because you made the first contact.  Dating websites, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other sites are full of fake profiles of people who are just waiting for someone to "bite."  I have often seen Twitter profiles that say something like, "Honest, Christian man looking for friendship."  It may sound nice, but you do not know if any of what it says is true!

Do not reveal too much about yourself when you connect with someone online.  The more they know about you, the easier it is for them to manipulate you or try to steal your identity.  Do not tell them details about yourself including your birthdate, where you went to school, your last name, or the names of family members.  Even the name of your pet should be avoided, especially if you have used it in a password or as an identity question.

Do not give them intimate photos.  They could use the photos to blackmail you, which is sometimes called sextortion.  They could also simply sell the photos on the internet and make money that way.  You may not even know that they are profiting off the photos or personal items you have sent them.

Do not send anyone you do not know personally any cash, cryptocurrency, gift cards or reloadable debit cards.  You will never get the money back.  If you want to send money legitimately, for example to a friend or family member, write them a check or use a legitimate money service such as PayPal.  At least if a check gets stolen, you have the opportunity to cancel it. 

Romance Frauds Can Be Financially Devastating

The older you are, the more money you are likely to lose in a romance scam.  While young adults lose an average of about $2,400, someone over the age of 70 loses an average of $9,000.

In the extreme, some people have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars because of romance scams.  Three of the women who fell for the Tender Swindler, Simon Leviev, were among those who have lost that much.  They are intelligent, attractive, successful women who never dreamed they could fall for a scam, but they did.  You can learn more about what he did by watching the Netflix video called "The Tender Swindler."  It is horrifying! 

Warning Signs of Romance Scams

They send you a "too-good-to-be-true" photo which makes them look like a model or a movie star.  Often, these are photos they found of someone else online, and it isn't even them!

The person wants to chat with you privately, off the dating or social media site.  They suggest text messages, emails or phone calls right away.  

They "love bomb" you, or  sweep you away with lots of attention.   They act as if they are obsessed with you, which can feel very flattering, especially if you are lonely.

They tell you about their financial problems until you offer to "loan" them money, OR they suggest "guaranteed investments" which you are supposed to keep secret.  This is how they get you to send them money without telling your family members what you are doing. 

They keep suggesting you meet in person, but find reasons to cancel.  On the other hand, they behave like an obsessed fan and actually do show up at your home.  This can be even more scary and dangerous.   The "Tender Swindler" met women in person, "love bombed" them, told them he was the son of a billionaire, borrowed money he promised to pay back, and then disappeared.

How to Recover from a Romance Scam

Many people are so humiliated by what happened to them, they are afraid to admit it or tell anyone. Elderly men and women have been known to keep it secret from their adult children, because they do not want to be told they are no longer able to handle their own finances.  Young adults are afraid to tell their parents, for fear they will be told they were idiots to fall for the scammer.

Whatever your age, you can recover from a romance scam.  A good place to start is by reading the book, "Love on the Line: How to Recover from Romance Scams Gracefully and Without Victimization Extended."  (Ad) It will help guide you in recovering mentally and emotionally from what happened and, hopefully, prevent it from ever happening again. 

How to Find a Legitimate Romance Online

Of course, many people really do find love and legitimate connections on dating websites, including two of my daughters.  Not everyone you meet online is trying to cheat you.  So, how do you make sure you are only connecting with the right kind of people?

Only communicate through the dating site as long as possible.  

Take things slowly, and ask a lot of questions to make sure they are a good match for you.  Pay attention to their answers and notice any inconsistencies.  They may not be a scammer, but you also want to make sure they are not married or lying to you in other ways.

Discuss the prospective dating matches with your friends and family and see if they notice any problems.  Pay attention to their concerns.

Check out the other person's profile photo using Google's image search.  If you find the same photo with a different name, it is a red flag that the person is not who they say they are.

Do a Google search of phrases from overly flirtatious, romantic emails they send.  Make sure they have not copied their love letters from other websites. This is a good way to spot a romance scam.  They often use the same or similar emails and messages over and over again.

If everything else seems OK and you decide to meet, do NOT tell them where you live.  Meet at a neutral public location, such as a coffee shop or restaurant, that is not in your neighborhood.  Take a friend along, even if they sit at another table to watch out and make sure everything goes OK. 

Let friends and/or family members know where you are going and when you expect to return.  This is true even if you are in your 60s or 70s. You are never too old to practice being cautious!  

Watch your beverages so no one can slip a drug into your drink. Older adults did not worry about being drugged in a public place when we were young, so we may not be accustomed to keeping an eye on our drinks.  However, today it is a serious concern.

Suggest that your first few dates are "group" dates, with both of you bringing friends and/or family along.  This will help you both feel more comfortable before you begin to date one-on-one.  If the other person refuses a group gathering, where you can get to know their friends, that is a huge red flag. 

If everything continues to go well, you may have found a successful match through the dating site.  

If something goes wrong and you believe the person is lying or putting you at risk, notify the dating site about what happened.  This could help protect others from going through the same bad experience.

You can also report a scam to the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center and the FTC.

Have fun and enjoy meeting new people.  Just maintain a healthy degree of caution for a long time. 

You can find gifts for retirees and others at my Etsy Store, DeborahDianGifts:

Enjoyed this post? Never miss out on future posts by following us.  You will receive a weekly email with the most current post.
If you are interested in learning more about retirement, Medicare, Social Security, common medical issues as we age, financial planning, where to retire and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional helpful articles.

Disclosure: This blog may contain affiliate links. If you decide to make a purchase from an Amazon ad, I'll make a small commission to support this blog, at no extra cost to you. Thank you.

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Photo credit: Google Images - LAMag


Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Dangerous Food and Drug Combinations - Be Careful!

When we are prescribed medications, it is rare for doctors to tell us which foods to avoid while we are taking those drugs, and most of us do not take the time to look up that information on our own. While these facts may be found in the information sheet that the pharmacy provides with your medication, how many people read through all those pages of fine print?  Unfortunately, what we don't know can hurt us.  In fact, some combinations can be extremely dangerous.  Even if the combination doesn't kill you, it could render your medication less effective, make it too strong, or cause you to have unnecessary discomfort and side effects while taking it.  

As a result, I was particularly interested in an article I found on WebMD called "Don't Mix Your Meds with These Foods."  If you want even more specific information about the foods to avoid with certain medications, you may want to get this book and keep it on your shelf as a resource:  "Don't Eat This If Your're Taking That."  (Ad) If you take prescription medications and are worried about potential food and drug interactions, this book contains some important information which could save your life.

Below are some basic combinations everyone should know before taking medications.  In addition, if you are starting a new drug for the first time, ask both your doctor and your pharmacist if there is anything you need to know while taking it.  You should not only ask about food interactions, but also if there could be interactions with other medications you are taking.  Also ask if the drug could make you dizzy or drowsy, and whether you should avoid driving a car or using equipment while taking it.  If it does make you drowsy, ask if you could take the medication before going to bed, instead of in the morning.

Common Foods to Avoid While Taking Certain Medications

Grapefruit - Eating grapefruit or drinking its juice can affect over 50 drugs, according to WebMD!  It can make your statin (such as Lipitor) too strong, and it can cause your allergy medication (such as Allegra) to be less effective. 

Milk - The calcium, magnesium and casein in milk can cause antibiotics to be less effective.  Whenever you are taking an antibiotic, you should use an alternative beverage, such as one made from oats, soy, or almonds, on your breakfast cereal, until you have finished the course of antibiotics.

Licorice - Many people do not realize that this popular black candy, which is also sometimes used as a herbal remedy for indigestion, contains a chemical called glycyrrhizin which can weaken the effect of some drugs.  One of those drugs is cyclosporine, which is an antirejection drug for people who have had transplants. Eating licorice could cause you to reject your transplant, thus endangering your life!

Chocolate - This delicious treat is often recommended to people as a "healthy dessert."  However, it is not right for everyone.  The stimulant in it can counteract sleeping medications such as Ambien. It can also boost the power of stimulant drugs, such as Ritalin, which are given to people with ADHD, resulting in a dose which is much too strong.  In addition, if you take an MAO inhibitor to treat depression, chocolate can cause your blood pressure to become dangerously high.  

Iron Supplements - If you take an iron supplement, or a multi-vitamin which contains iron, and you also take Synthroid, a thyroid hormone, at the same time, you need to discuss this interaction with your doctor.  Iron supplements can cause your Synthroid to be less effective.  If you must take both, take them at different times.  Since it is usually recommended that you take your Synthroid immediately upon rising in the morning, it is best to take the iron supplement, or the multi-vitamin, later in the day.

Alcohol - Be extremely careful if you drink while on certain meds.  Alcoholic beverages, including a glass of wine or a beer, can cause some blood pressure, heart and other medications to be less effective. On the other hand, alcohol can cause other medications to be too powerful. Drinking and taking prescription medications can be a lethal combination.

Coffee - While the vast majority of the U.S. population drinks coffee daily, and it may have some health benefits, there are also dangers when combined with certain drugs.  For example, it can weaken antipsychotic drugs such as lithium and clozapine.  On the other hand, it can boost other drugs and cause more side effects.  These drugs include aspirin, epinephrine (for serious allergic reactions) and albuterol (found in inhalers for people with breathing problems).  Coffee can also make it harder for your body to take in and use iron.   

Antihistamines - If you have allergies or catch a cold and take an antihistamine temporarily, talk to your doctor before using the antihistamine in combination with a blood pressure medication.  Antihistamines can reduce the effectiveness of your blood pressure meds, and raise your heart rate.

Anti-Epileptic Drugs - If you have occasional epileptic seizures, you may be taking an AED. However, they can make your birth control pills less effective, resulting in an unplanned pregnancy. They may also make some other drugs stronger, resulting in serious side effects.  

Vitamin K - Vitamin K is found in a many dark green, healthy foods, including broccoli, brussels sprouts, kale, parsley and spinach.  However, if you are also taking the drug warfarin to prevent blood clots, having too much Vitamin K can make a blood thinner like warfarin less effective, resulting in a deadly blood clot. If you eat these foods, you need to eat approximately the same amount each day, so the warfarin levels in your blood do not fluctuate. 

Ginseng - This popular tea can be dangerous when combined with warfarin, heparin, aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen and similar medications.  In the wrong combinations, it can lower the effect of warfarin, or it can cause internal bleeding when combined with the other medications on the list, even common over-the-counter drugs like aspirin, Advil, or Aleve.  If you take MOA inhibitors, ginseng can also cause you to get headaches or have sleep problems, hyperactivity and feel nervous.  

St. John's Wort - This is an herbal medication which some people believe may help with depression, although it has not been proven. What it can do, however, is cause your liver to release enzymes which can weaken medications like lovastatin, Viagra, and digoxin, which is used to treat some heart conditions.  

Ginkgo Biloba - This is another unproven herbal treatment for high blood pressure, dementia, tinnitus, and other problems. While it may not help those conditions, it has been shown to reduce the effectiveness of drugs which control seizures, such as Carbatrol, Equetro, Tegretol, Depakene, Depakote and Stavzor.  

Follow the Instructions of Your Doctor and Pharmacist

Whatever medications you are on, talk to your doctor and pharmacist about how to take them, when to take them, and what other medications, vitamins, herbal treatments, and foods to avoid.  Some combinations can be dangerous.  Be sure to take your medications as prescribed, and try not to skip doses.  Medications work best when patients follow instructions carefully. 

If you have any questions, be sure to read "Don't Eat This If You Are Taking That."  It covers many more potentially dangerous combinations than could be listed in this article.  If you take many medications, this book is an important resource to keep at home. It could save your life. (Ad)

Finally, it is also important that you are honest with your doctor and pharmacist about anything else you may be taking, including the use of medical marijuana or herbal remedies.  While many are harmless, they may become more dangerous when combined with certain medications.

You can find gifts for retirees and others at my Etsy Store, DeborahDianGifts: 

Enjoyed this post? Never miss out on future posts by following us.  You will receive a weekly email with the most current post.  You will never be contacted for any other reason.

To learn more about financial planning, Medicare, Social Security, financial planning, common medical problems as we age, where to retire and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional helpful articles.

Disclosure: This blog may contain affiliate links. If you decide to make a purchase from an Amazon ad, you will be supporting this blog, because I'll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

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Image by Seksak Kerdkanno from Pixabay and Amazon book cover. -