Savvy Senior Columns — October 2020

Savvy Senior – October Columns

  1. Coronavirus Versus Flu: How to Tell the Difference
  2. Helping Seniors Recognize Fake News and Propaganda
  3. How to Create an Online Memorial for a Departed Loved One
  4. How to Find an Online Therapist
  5. How to Recognize and Stop Elder Abuse in the COVID Era

 

Coronavirus Versus Flu: How to Tell the Difference

Dear Savvy Senior,
Can you explain the differences between the coronavirus and seasonal flu? I’m 70-years-old, and usually get a standard flu shot, but would like to find out what else I can do to protect myself this winter.
Worried Senior                                                                                     

Dear Worried,
Great question! Because of the dual danger of Influenza (flu) and COVID-19, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently warned that this fall and winter could be the worst ever for public health. Understanding this, knowing the differences and similarities between the viruses, and knowing what you can do to protect yourself is the best way to stay healthy and safe through this difficult time.

Flu vs COVID
Because many of the symptoms of flu and COVID-19 are similar, it may be hard to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone, so testing may be needed to help confirm a diagnosis. With that said, here are some similarities and differences you should know.

For starters, seasonal flu symptoms come on pretty quickly, whereas COVID-19 develops gradually over a period of a few days and then either fades out or gets worse. Common shared symptoms include fever, sore throat, muscle aches, cough, headache, fatigue and even chest pain. Pinkeye and a dry cough are associated with COVID-19, while it’s now thought that a fever is more likely with the flu, as are diarrhea and nausea.

Many people are having their temperatures taken these days before entering public spaces. But fever occurs in only half of COVID-19 cases. Fever does not rule out COVID-19, but the absence of fever makes flu unlikely.

You’re also unlikely to have a runny or stuffy nose with the flu, but you may with COVID-19. What sometimes happens within the nose with COVID-19 is loss of smell and, often as a consequence, loss of taste, too.

To learn more about the similarities and differences between flu and COVID-19, visit the CDC website ​at CDC.gov/flu/symptoms/flu-vs-covid19.htm.

How to Protect Yourself
While there is currently no vaccine available yet to prevent COVID-19, the best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. So, stay home as much as you can. If you have to go out, wear a mask and keep at least 6 feet away from other people. And every time you come home, wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds.

There’s also evidence that suggests that people who are deficient in vitamin D may be at higher risk of getting COVID-19, than those with sufficient levels. So, make sure you take in around 800 to 1,000 international units (IUs) of vitamin D from food or supplements daily, and get outside as much as you can.

And to help guard against the flu this year, you should consider getting a flu shot that’s specifically designed for people 65 and older. The “Fluzone High Dose Quadrivalent” or the “FLUAD Quadrivalent” are the two options that provide extra protection beyond what a standard flu shot offers. You only need one flu shot, and if you haven’t already gotten it, you should do it now because takes up to two weeks to build immunity after you receive it.

Pneumonia Vaccines
If you haven’t been vaccinated for pneumonia, you should also consider getting the pneumococcal vaccines. Both flu and COVID-19 can lead to pneumonia, which hospitalizes around 250,000 Americans, and kills around 50,000 people each year. But these numbers could be much higher this year.

The CDC recommends that all seniors, 65 or older, get two vaccinations – Prevnar 13 and Pneumovax 23. Both vaccines, which are administered one year apart, protect against different strains of the bacteria to provide maximum protection.

Medicare Part B covers both flu and pneumonia shots.

To locate a vaccination site that offers any of these shots, visit VaccineFinder.org and type in your location.

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.
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Helping Seniors Recognize Fake News and Propaganda

Dear Savvy Senior,
Are there any resources that you know of that can help seniors detect fake news? My 75-year-old mother shares a lot of misinformation with her family and friends that she sees on Facebook. I’ve talked to her about it, but for some reason she has a difficult time deciphering real news from fake news and propaganda.
Frustrated Daughter

Dear Frustrated,
Unfortunately, the digital misinformation problem your mom is experiencing is not uncommon. According to researchers from Princeton and New York University, people aged 65 and older are up to seven times more likely to share fake news and dubious links on social media than their younger counterparts.

Why?
There are several theories. The first is that many seniors started using social media sites like Facebook only within the past five or six years and may lack the digital literacy skills to identify false or misleading content.

Some other possible theories are that most seniors experience some cognitive decline as they age, making them more likely to fall for hoaxes. Many older Americans also suffer from chronic loneliness which can cause them to share misinformation as an attempt to make connections with other people. And studies have shown that older people are generally more trusting than younger generations, which can make them more gullible.

All this is particularly concerning now as we sit in the midst of a global health pandemic and a 2020 election season, both of which are ripe with misinformation, rumors and conspiracy theories. And seniors are prime targets of this false/misleading information because they are much more likely to vote than their younger cohorts and are much more vulnerable to getting sick and dying if they contract COVID-19.

Where to Get Help
To help your mom detect and combat online misinformation there are several great resources she can turn to that offer free courses and tips.

One is MediaWise for Seniors, a project of the Poynter Institute, which offers two free online courses to help seniors detect and combat online misinformation – see Poynter.org/mediawise-for-seniors.

The first four-week course has already filled up, but your mom can still enroll in a self-directed course called “Hands-On Lessons to Separate Fact and Fiction Online.” It is hosted by Christiane Amanpour and Joan Lunden, and is scheduled to begin Sept. 24, but she can take the course anytime.

In addition, Poynter has worked with AARP to produce Fact Tracker interactive videos and a webinar on spotting and filtering misinformation at AARP.org/facttracker.

Some other free course options you should look into include Senior Planet, which is offering a one-hour online course on “How to Spot Fake News” at SeniorPlanet.org.

The News Literacy Project that provides the Checkology virtual classroom, which was initially created for middle and high school students, is now offering an independent learners option that is ideal for older adults – see Get.Checkology.org. Their lessons will help your mom detect the difference between news, opinion and propaganda.

And Coursera, a free world-wide online learning platform, which offers an in-depth six-week course called “Making Sense of the News: News Literacy Lessons for Digital Citizens,” which she can access at Coursera.org/learn/news-literacy.

There are also many good websites, like PolitiFact.com, Snopes.com and FactCheck.org that will let your mom fact check a story to help her identify fact versus fiction. These sites have most likely already fact-checked the latest viral claim to pop up in her news feed.

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.
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How to Create an Online Memorial for a Departed Loved One

Dear Savvy Senior,
My mother passed away last week, and because of COVID we didn’t have a funeral. I would like to create some type of online memorial for her so family and friends can express their condolences and share their stories. What can you tell me about making an online memorial for my mom?
Grieving Daughter

Dear Grieving,
I’m very sorry for your loss. Creating an online memorial for your mom is a great idea and one that’s become increasingly popular in the age of COVID-19. Thousands of families have created them for their departed loved ones, especially those who didn’t have a proper funeral because of the pandemic. Here’s what you should know.

What is an Online Memorial?
An online memorial is a website created for a deceased person that provides a central location where their family and friends can visit to share stories, fond memories, photographs, comfort one another and grieve. The memorial can remain online for life, or a specific period of time, allowing people to visit and contribute any time in the privacy of their own space.

Online memorials started popping up on the Internet in the late 1990s but were created primarily for people who were well known. But now, these sites are for anyone who wants to pay tribute to their departed family member or friend and ensure they will be remembered.

Content typically posted on an online memorial includes a biography, pictures and stories from family and friends, timelines of key events in their life, along with favorite music and even videos.

Another common feature is an online guestbook where visitors sign their names and write tributes to the departed. Online memorials can also direct visitors to the departed person’s favorite charity or cause to make a donation, as an alternative to sending funeral flowers.

Some online memorial sites today even offer virtual funeral/event capabilities as a replacement for an in-person funeral. And they’ll help you get the word out by offering invitations and RSVP tracking.

Top Online Memorials
To make an online memorial there are a wide variety of websites available that make it easier than ever to create a thoughtful, personalized profile for your mom to celebrate and honor her life, and the process of creating it can be very satisfying.

You also need to know that some online memorial sites are completely free to use, while others offer a free and a paid version that provides additional features.

Some of the best sites that offer both free and paid options are MyKeeper.com (free or $75) and iLasting.com (free or $49/year or $99 for a lifetime membership).

Or, if you’re interested in one that’s completely free to use, some top options are GatheringUs.com (they do charge for virtual events), Memories.net, InMemori.com and WeRemember.com.

Memorialize Facebook
If your mom used Facebook, you can also turn her profile into a memorialized account for free when you show proof of death. This option will let your mom’s family and friends share stories, photos or memories to celebrate her life, with the word “Remembering” shown next to her name.

Once her account is memorialized, the content she shared is still visible on Facebook to the audience it was originally shared with, however, her profile will not show up in public spaces such as people she may know, ads or birthday reminders.

In addition, you can also request a Look Back video, which is a short video created by Facebook highlighting your mom’s pictures and most liked status messages.

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.
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How to Find an Online Therapist

Dear Savvy Senior,
What is the best way to find online therapy services for my anxiety and depression? I just turned 63 and have become increasingly hopeless since the COVID pandemic hit and cost me my job. I need to get some professional help, but I’m also high risk for illness and very concerned about leaving the house.
Need Help

Dear Need,
I’m sorry to hear about your job loss and the difficulties you’re going through right now, but you’re not alone. Because of the coronavirus pandemic and resulting economic downturn, fear, anxiety and depression is being reported by 45 percent of Americans, according a Kaiser Family Foundation tracking poll.

To help you through this difficult time there are a variety of therapists, psychologists, and other mental health providers you can turn to. And because of the pandemic, most of them are now offering counsel to their clients online through teletherapy services. This will allow you to interact virtually with a therapist from the comfort of your home using only a smartphone, tablet or computer.

How to Find a Therapist
A good first step to locating a therapist is to ask your primary care provider or family and friends for a referral. You can also look on your insurer’s website for a list of therapists covered under your plan. But be aware that some insurers have limited, or even no coverage for mental health, and many mental healthcare providers don’t participate in insurance plans. (Medicare does cover mental health services.)

Other resources to help you find a good therapist include online finder tools at the American Psychological Association (locator.apa.org) and the American Psychiatric Association (finder.psychiatry.org).

If you want some help, there are also online platforms that can help match you with a licensed mental health provider. For example, Talkspace (talkspace.com) and BetterHelp (betterhelp.com), are virtual services you can access through your phone or computer, that contracts with thousands of licensed and credentialed therapists.

The process starts with a few questions to assess your goals, your condition, and your preferences, and then matches you with some top therapists in your state.

If you don’t have insurance coverage or can’t afford therapy, you can call or text 211 (or go to 211.org) anytime for a referral to a provider who offers support at no cost or on a sliding scale, based on your budget.

You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24/7 and ask for a referral to a local resource or provider or ask to be transferred to their “warm line” for non-emergency calls, where you can talk anonymously to a trained professional at no cost.

Another possible option is Federally Qualified Health Centers, which are community-based health centers, some of which may offer teletherapy services at no-cost. To search for centers in your area visit FindAHealthCenter.hrsa.gov.

There’s also this website called Open Path Collective (openpathcollective.org), where therapists offer low-cost online sessions for between $30 and $60.

Interview Your Therapist
Before you start sessions with a therapist, it’s important to make sure he or she meets your needs. If you’re not comfortable with the person, you’re unlikely to benefit from the therapy. So, schedule a call or a video chat to get a feel for each other, and to ask about the therapist’s training, years in practice, specialties, therapy techniques and fee. Ideally the therapist you choose will be a good personality fit for you and will be within your budget and/or covered by your insurance.

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.
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How to Recognize and Stop Elder Abuse in the COVID Era

Dear Savvy Senior,
Can you write a column on how to recognize elder abuse and what to do if you suspect it?
Concerned Relative

Dear Concerned,
Elder abuse is a big problem in the United States that has escalated during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the National Council on Aging, as many as 5 million seniors are victims of abuse each year, but studies suggest this crime is significantly under-reported. Only 1-in-14 cases of elder abuse ever get reported to the authorities because victims are usually too afraid, too embarrassed, too helpless or too trusting to call for help.

The term “elder abuse” is defined as intentional or negligent acts by a caregiver or trusted individual that causes or can cause harm to a vulnerable senior. Elder abuse also comes in many different forms: emotional, psychological, physical or sexual abuse, abandonment, neglect and self-neglect, and financial exploitation.

Those most vulnerable are seniors that are ill, frail, disabled, socially isolated or mentally impaired due to dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

It’s also important to know that while elder abuse does happen in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, the vast majority of incidents take place at home where the senior lives. And tragically, the abusers are most often their own family members (usually the victim’s adult child or spouse) or caregiver.

How to Recognize Abuse
So, how can you tell if an elderly relative or friend is being abused, and what can you do to help?

A change in general behavior is a universal warning sign that a problem exists. If you notice that your relative or friend has become very depressed, withdrawn or gets upset or agitated easily, you need to start asking questions. Here are some additional warning signs on the different types of elder abuse that can help you spot a possible problem.

  • Physical or sexual abuse: Suspicious bruises or other injuries that can’t be explained. Sudden changes in behavior (upset, withdrawn, fearful). Broken eyeglasses. Caregiver’s refusal to allow visitors to see an elder alone.
  • Neglect or self-neglect: Weight loss, poor hygiene, unattended medical needs, and unsanitary, unsafe living conditions.
  • Emotional or psychological abuse: The senior is extremely upset, agitated, withdrawn, unresponsive, fearful or depressed, or demonstrates some other unusual behavior.
  • Financial exploitation: Missing money or valuables. Unexplained withdrawals from bank accounts, or transfers between accounts. Unauthorized use of credit, debit or ATM card. Unpaid bills despite available funds. Checks written as a loan or gift. Abrupt changes in a will or other documents.

For more tips on how to recognize the warning signs of abuse during the pandemic, see the National Center on Elder Abuse website at NCEA.acl.gov/Resources/COVID-19.aspx.

What to Do
The best ways to help stop elder abuse is to be in touch and keep the lines of communication open. If you suspect any type of abuse or neglect in your relative’s or friend’s home, report it to your local protective services agency.

Adult Protective Services is the government agency responsible for investigating elder abuse cases and providing help and guidance. Call the Eldercare Locator at 800-677-1116 to get the agency contact number in your area or visit NCEA.acl.gov/Resources/State.aspx.

The agency will ask what you observed, who was involved, and who they can contact to learn more. You don’t need to prove that abuse is occurring; it is up to the professional.

Or, to report suspected abuse in a nursing home or assisted living facility, call the local Long-Term Care Ombudsman – see LTCombudsman.org for contact information.

However, if you feel the person is in immediate danger, call 911 or the local police for immediate help.

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.

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