Complicating COVID stress: Technology gaps for seniors

Complicating COVID stress: Technology gaps for seniors

Early on, when COVID vaccine appointments first became available for seniors age 75-plus, the online application asked the user to select their insurance. Most seniors have Medicare and selected that option. Next, they were instructed to upload a copy of their Medicare card.

Calls were coming in to Senior Concerns: “I am trying to make an appointment for a vaccine. Can you tell me what upload means?”

Seniors who used to schedule an in-person appointment to receive no-cost assistance in preparing their tax returns at Cal State Northridge are now being asked to make an appointment on the website, and on the day of their appointment they will receive an email with a private, encrypted link to HIPAA Zoom.

More calls came in: “What is an encrypted HIPPA Zoom?”

Free tax help is available for seniors

Free tax help is available for seniors

Even in a pandemic, the tax season goes on.

Free tax preparation help for seniors goes on, too, albeit with some changes.

The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program offers free tax help to people who make $57,000 or less, people with disabilities and taxpayers who speak limited English and need assistance in preparing their tax returns. The program is not specific to seniors; if you qualify in any of the categories above, you may use the program.

In addition to VITA, the Tax Counseling for the Elderly program offers free tax help, particularly for those who are 60 and older. The program specializes in questions about pensions and retirement-related issues unique to seniors.

Rules for the greater good during COVID times

Rules for the greater good during COVID times

The novel “Little Fires Everywhere” by Celeste Ng keeps swirling in my mind these days because one of its basic themes is the conflict between rule followers and rule breakers that we see playing out in America today.

The story features two main characters, both women.

Elena has followed the rules her entire life and, as a result, has built a comfortable life for herself. She wonders what would have happened had she not been such a rule follower. But she believes “rules exist for a reason; if you followed them you would succeed. If you didn’t, you might burn the world to the ground.”

Mia, on the other hand, does not conform to social norms and lives a life of continuous relocation so that she can escape the consequences of her past actions. Mia never regrets breaking the rules. She sees it as necessary to stay true to her heart.

Whether one follows rules or breaks them is based on

Checking in with ourselves is more important than ever

Checking in with ourselves is more important than ever

I’m not sure anyone could have predicted what the beginning of 2021 would look like, particularly as we ushered out 2020 believing it was one of the most challenging years on record.

And now, as our new year begins, we are seeing an unprecedented surge in COVID deaths, stoking our fears of an elderly loved one contracting the virus. We see that our local hospital’s ICU beds are full and wonder what will happen to us if we become ill.

We see record business closures resulting in the unemployment of friends and family. We see the storming and vandalizing of our Capitol, making us feel unsafe and stirring up emotions of shock and disbelief.

And we’ve missed, for months on end, being able to hold, hug and be with those we love.

If we look back at the past 10 months, it’s no surprise many of us are experiencing chronic stress.

COVID creates tough ethical calls for care

COVID creates tough ethical calls for care

There’s no debating that seniors are most at risk during this pandemic. While COVID-19 deaths have spanned all age groups, the hardest hit has been the 65-and-older population, which accounts for over 80% of the U.S. death toll from the disease.

A friend offered her opinion that this pandemic may just be nature’s way of getting rid of the weak, that seniors had lived a full life and this was their time to go. In other words, she felt that older adults are collateral damage in this global health crisis.

I found this to be shocking. She immediately walked back her words, but it does show that this opinion is out there.

Let’s look at what these older adults may have endured in the course of their lives.

How do you deal with opposing views?

How do you deal with opposing views?

I’ve never enjoyed confrontation. I’m happiest when everyone is getting along and working toward a shared goal. And believe me, that happens a lot—although it’s hard to discern that if you scan the media these days.

So many topics are polarizing. It’s hard to have a conversation without something coming up that causes angst.

I try my best to search out the facts and create what I think are informed opinions. But many times, depending on the source, information that is portrayed as fact really isn’t. Other times, facts are facts but people disagree with them. Sometimes everyone has it wrong and only time will reveal the truth.

I’ve been searching lately for new ways to handle situations where there is a difference of opinion.

What should we expect from our doctors?

What should we expect from our doctors?

What are our expectations when we visit our doctor? Do expectations differ with age? I pondered this question recently after an unsatisfactory visit to see a medical professional.

Two years ago, I had a problem that landed me in the emergency room. A specialist physician was called in to perform an emergency procedure. I spent five days in the hospital and recovered well, but in the process learned I had a treatable autoimmune disease.

After my hospitalization, I continued to see this physician for outpatient checkups. In the past two years, I have had three office visits and an additional procedure.

As part of my treatment, I was prescribed a daily medication. Recently, as I was trying to order a refill, the physician’s office informed me I would need to make an appointment so the doctor could check me before he renewed my prescription.

Suggestions for keeping holidays special at a distance

Suggestions for keeping holidays special at a distance

Many of us will be missing our loved ones this holiday season.

In normal times, with busy schedules and families scattered across the country, holidays may be one of the few times families spend together.

We look forward to these special occasions all year long. These visits help to strengthen our family bonds and keep traditions going.

This holiday season, without COVID-19 under control, many of us are rethinking our get-togethers and already grieving in some ways the loss of this coveted occasion.

I’ve been thinking about my own family and how much I would like to see my mother back east. Because I don’t plan to visit, I’ve been considering things my family could do to share some of our traditions without actually being together.

Assessments offer clarity in uncertain times

Assessments offer clarity in uncertain times

Barbara’s parents, like many seniors in their 80s, are trying to keep from contracting COVID-19 by isolating at home.

To keep fed, they signed up for the governor’s Great Plates program, which delivers two restaurant-quality meals per day; other groceries are ordered online by their daughter.

In normal times, Barbara, who lives two hours away, would visit weekly. Now she uses the phone to connect.

Over the past several months, she has become increasingly worried about her mother’s health and well-being. On a recent phone call, her mother related a story about her arthritis flaring up.

“I just don’t know what I’m going to do,” she said again and again. Barbara must have heard that phrase over 20 times in the span of a few minutes.

Job searching in the age of COVID is a whole new ballgame

Job searching in the age of COVID is a whole new ballgame

As of September 2020, almost 13 million people in the United States were unemployed. Of course, a great deal of the job losses can be attributed to COVID.

I’m sure any one of us, including me, can name multiple people we know who are out of work as a result of the pandemic; half our staff here at Senior Concerns had to be furloughed due to the closure of our Adult Day Program.

In a post-COVID world, many industries will look different, and many jobs as well.

While having nothing to do with the pandemic, my husband lost his job several months ago. This was a bit of a shock. He is the main breadwinner in our family, and the loss of his job could cause quite a disruption in our lives if he were to remain unemployed for a long time.

Looking for a job during the pandemic seemed fraught with challenge.

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