Is UnitedHealthcare Dropping SilverSneakers in 2020?

Last year, UnitedHealthcare (UHC), the largest insurance carrier in the United States, announced that SilverSneakers ® would no longer be a plan benefit in 2019. The change would affect the entire UnitedHealthcare® family of products including the plans endorsed by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP).

What Areas Are Affected?

As of January 1, 2019, UHC no longer offers SilverSneakers® with Medicare Advantage plans in 11 states: 

  • California
  • Connecticut
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Missouri
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • North Carolina 
  • Utah 

Along with Medicare Supplement (Medigap) plans in nine states:

  • Arizona 
  • California
  • Connecticut
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Utah 
  • Wisconsin

Why Did UHC and SilverSneakers® Part Ways?

According to Sam Warner, who leads UHC’s Medicare Advantage product team, the company’s move away from SilverSneakers® is to “reach a broader portion of our membership” with a “wider variety of fitness resources.” Warner noted that “over 90 percent of policyholders who are eligible for SilverSneakers® “never step foot in a gym.” 

Will UnitedHealthcare offer any fitness benefit in 2020?

Fitness Benefit | Medicare Plan Finder
Fitness Benefit | Medicare Plan Finder

Yes. Starting in 2020, UHC will offer new fitness benefits* with some plans. As plans can vary in every zip code, ask your licensed agent whether or not this benefit can apply to you! 

Medicare beneficiaries with certain UHC Medigap plans may feature a fitness benefit that includes gym membership discounts and phone access to wellness coaches along with other health resources.

Medicare Advantage policyholders may be able to join a program called Renew Active™, which will replace SilverSneakers® in January 2020. The Renew Active™ benefit may include access to fitness centers, classes, and group activities along with tools to exercise your brain health.

*Always check with your doctor before starting any fitness program to make sure the program suits your individual needs.

How Does Renew Active™ Work?

The new Renew Active™ program includes a gym membership, an online “brain health program,” and access to local events. You can use the Renew Active™ website to find a facility close to you that participates in the program. Renew Active™ works with popular gym chains and local gyms. It may include some Planet Fitness locations, YMCAs, and more.

At no additional cost, Renew Active™ also comes with a personalized fitness plan. You’ll get an introductory one-on-one personal training session to set your initial goals and then you’ll be able to meet with your trainer at least yearly.

You’ll be able to work on strength, aquatic exercises, cardio, mind & body, and other specialty activities (like self-defense or Zumba®).

Renew Active™ can also coordinate with your Fitbit as well as your AARP® Staying Sharp program.

You can get Renew Active ™ if your UHC/AARP ™ Medicare plan supports it.

When Can I Enroll in a Medicare Advantage or Medicare Supplement Plan?

The Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) is from October 15 – December 7, which is the time of year many Medicare beneficiaries can enroll in new plans or make changes to existing ones. 

Some members qualify for a Special Enrollment Period (SEP). Depending on your eligibility, you may have a lifelong SEP, which allows you to make one change per quarter for the first three quarters of the year — instead of only during AEP. Some people may only be eligible for a temporary SEP due to a life change, like moving to a new service area.

If you have just become eligible for Medicare for the first time, you can enroll in Medicare Advantage during your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP)

When You Can Enroll in Medicare Supplement Plans

You can enroll in a Medicare Supplement plan at any time during the year as long as you meet the requirements for Original Medicare (Part A and Part B).

Note: Don’t wait too long to enroll in Original Medicare because once you’re out of your IEP you may require underwriting, because insurance carriers aren’t required to honor your “Guaranteed Issue Rights”.

Tennessee YMCA Locations Breaks Partnership With SilverSneakers ®

In related news, the Tennessee State Alliance of YMCAs decided to leave the SilverSneakers® network. The change is effective January 1, 2020.

The two organizations parting ways means that you must find different coverage if you want to continue exercising at Tennessee YMCA locations.

Tennessee YMCA locations still accept Silver & Fit®, and you may be able to use Renew Fit.

Other Supplemental Benefits With Medicare Advantage Plans

Along with fitness benefits, some Medicare Advantage plans can offer coverage for vision, dental, and hearing services. Other supplemental benefits include meal delivery, non-emergency medical transportation, and drug coverage (prescription and over-the-counter). 

Find Medicare Plans With a Fitness Benefit

If you want a Medicare plan with a fitness benefit or any other supplemental benefit, one of our licensed agents may be able to help. Our agents are highly trained and they can help you sort through the plans available in your location. To set up a no-cost, no-obligation appointment, call 844-431-1832 or contact us here today!

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This blog was originally published on October 1, 2019. The latest update was on November 26, 2019.

Why Vitamin C is Important for Seniors

Vitamin C is an essential vitamin with several health benefits, but the body does not produce it naturally. As you age, it becomes more and more important to keep up with your diet and make sure you’re getting enough vitamins and nutrients. 

The recommended daily vitamin C intake is 75mg for women and 90mg for men. That might sound like a lot, but one orange can get you at least halfway there. There are several ways to incorporate vitamin C into your diet and to make sure you’re getting enough. No excuses! 

What is Vitamin C?

Vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid) is a water-soluble vitamin, meaning that it dissolves quickly in the body. While animals can “make their own” vitamin C, humans cannot produce it. Since it dissolves so quickly, it’s important to intake vitamin C every single day. 

Vitamin C is necessary for the “biosynthesis of collagen, L-carnitine, and certain neurotransmitters,” and is “involved in protein metabolism,” according to the National Institutes of Health. Biosynthesis is the process of creating complex molecules that are essential for survival.

In layman’s terms, Vitamin C and biosynthesis are necessary for healing and healthy body functions.

vitamin c fruits

Vitamin C Benefits: What is Vitamin C Good For?

Aside from assisting in the body’s natural biosynthesis process, vitamin C is a:

  1. Antioxidant – Vitamin C is a strong antioxidant, meaning it helps defend the body against harmful diseases. It can also improve white blood cell function, making it an all-around fantastic immunity booster.
  2. Blood Pressure Reducer – Studies have shown that Vitamin C can help relax the blood vessels, resulting in reduced blood pressure.
  3. Heart Disease Preventative – Vitamin C has been shown to lower the risk of heart disease, especially when taken naturally as part of a diet instead of through supplements.
  4. Gout Preventative – Vitamin C may reduce uric acid in the blood, helping to prevent gout, a painful form of arthritis.
  5. Iron Absorber – Vitamin C can help the body absorb iron properly, making it extremely useful for vegetarians and those who don’t eat enough red meat or who are anemic. 
  6. Memory Enhancer – Studies have shown that people with dementia had low levels of vitamin C, and low levels have overall been linked to forgetfulness.
  7. Eye & Tooth Booster – The American Optometric Association cites vitamin C as an important vitamin for vision and dental health.
vitamin c foods
Couple enjoying a picnic

Vitamin C Side Effects

It is unlikely that you can have a vitamin C overdose, though it is recommended that you don’t take in more than 2,000mg per day. If you get all your vitamin C from food, it can be very hard to have that much in one day. However, it is possible to have 2,000mg or more in one day if you get your vitamin C from supplements. 

It is unlikely to overdose and experience vitamin C side effects, but it can cause

  1. Diarrhea
  2. Nausea/vomiting
  3. Heartburn
  4. Abdominal cramps
  5. Headaches
  6. Insomnia
  7. Redness/flushing
  8. Lightheadedness

The Dangers of a Vitamin C Deficiency (Scurvy)

Scurvy is the body’s response to a lack of vitamin C. A vitamin C deficiency can cause:

  • Anemia
  • Dry hair and skin
  • Easy bruising, bleeding gums, and nosebleeds
  • Weakened tooth enamel
  • Weight gain
  • Swollen joints
  • Decreased ability to fight infection

Scurvy is a severe form a vitamin C deficiency, and it mostly affects older and malnourished adults.

How to Get The Right Vitamin C Dosage

The easiest and healthiest way to make sure you’re getting enough vitamin C each day is to incorporate it into your diet. Most foods that have good amounts of vitamin C have other important nutrients in them as well. For example, oranges and orange juice are well known for being a good source of vitamin C, but they also have plenty of potassium, folate (vitamin B9), and thiamine (vitamin B1).

vitamin c food
Couple enjoying a healthy breakfast

Vitamin C Foods

Many fruits and vegetables are high in vitamin C, including

  • Guavas
  • Bell peppers
  • Kiwi
  • Strawberries
  • Oranges
  • Papayas
  • Broccoli
  • Tomatoes
  • Kale
  • Snow peas

Vitamin C Drinks

If you prefer, fruit drinks can have a lot of the same value as pieces of fruit. However, be aware that many fruit juices are full of added sugars and may not be a healthy long-term solution. If you have the ability to make your own fresh-squeezed orange juice, that can be a great healthy alternative. An eight-ounce glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice can contain 125mg of vitamin C, more than the recommended daily amount!

Grapefruit juice, cranberry juice, pineapple juice, and prune juice can also provide great vitamin C value.

Vitamin C Supplements

You can find vitamin C supplements in various forms, like serums, powders, tablets, gels, and gummies! 

Vitamin C Tablets, Pills, and Gummies

You can find most any supplement you’re looking for in tablet, pill, or gummy form from your local pharmacy or grocery store. Consider these examples (which can also be purchased from Amazon):

  1. Vitafusion Power C Gummy Vitamins: These gummies can get you to your daily recommended vitamin C dosage
  2. CVS 500mg Immune Health Dietary Supplement: These tables contain 500mg of vitamin C, which is labeled as 833% of your daily value! Be sure to not take too much.
  3. Generics: Many drugstores will have generic versions of these supplements which may be cheaper than their brand-name counterparts (but usually include the same important ingredients).

Vitamin C Serum

Vitamin C serums are usually meant to be used on the skin, so it’s a good idea to consult with your doctor or dermatologist before using a product. This example we found from InstaNatural is designed to be an anti-aging and blemish defense as well as a hydrating serum.

Vitamin C Powder

If you don’t want to take a pill but you need another form of a vitamin C supplement, you might want to try a vitamin C powder. Powders like this one from Nature’s Way are meant to be stirred into an eight ounce glass of water. You can also mix it into a smoothie or juice! This powder contains 500mg of vitamin C and only has 15 calories in it.

Emergen-C has a similar product, but it contains other nutrients as well. This one produces an orange fizzy beverage which includes vitamin C, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate, and vitamin B12.

Emergen-C

We couldn’t go without mentioning the other host of products that Emergen-C offers (and no, they are not sponsoring this post)! Aside from vitamin C and adult  immune health support, Emergen-C also has energizing products, sleep aids, and kids immune support!

Orange juice
Orange Juice

Emergen-C Ingredients

Each Emergen-C product has slightly different ingredients, but we wanted to look at the Emergen-C Probiotics Plus product designed for daily immune health support. This product has an orange flavor and will provide 250mg of vitamin C (less than other products but still more than your daily recommended intake), and 110mg of potassium. It also lists out fructose, citric acid, maltodextrin, and malic acid. 

While those extra ingredients can seem a bit scary, a lot of them are found naturally in the foods we eat. For example, malic acid is what contributes to the sour taste of many fruits. Additionally, nutritionfacts.org said that by weight, citrus fruits are about 10$ citric acid. So, you might be getting these ingredients in your daily diet anyway.

Still, taking supplements does not mean that you can always eat unhealthy foods. These supplements are meant to literally supplement your diet, meaning you should still focus on eating healthy

Emergen-C vs Airborne

Airborne is another great product that advertises a “blast of vitamin C.” Both products contain very similar ingredients but come in different forms and flavors. For example, this product from Airborne has a “Very Berry” flavor and comes in the form of a tablet that will dissolve in a glass of water. 

Yummy Vitamin C-Filled Meal Ideas

If you have a hard time incorporating vitamin C-filled fruit and vegetables into your diet, consider these sneaky tricks:

  1. Add sliced strawberries to your morning cereal or oatmeal
  2. Freeze fresh fruit juices in a popsicle mold for a natural alternative to the sweet treat
  3. Include leafy greens in your sandwiches and burgers
  4. Use berries instead of chocolate chips in your pancakes and muffins
  5. Enjoy a bowl of tomato soup with your sandwich
  6. Add vitamin C powders to your water or juice

When in doubt, always ask your doctor about your diet. If you’re really struggling, your doctor might refer you to a nutritionist who can put together a concrete dietary plan designed just for you. 

Consider joining our 28-day “Healthy Living Challenge” to get yourself started. Good luck!

Healthy Living Challenge | Medicare Plan Finder
Join the challenge!

Healthy Soups for Seniors

There are thousands of unique soup recipes out there on the internet. While soup may only be as healthy as the ingredients inside it, Eatingwell.com reports that soup-eaters have “higher intakes of fiber, vitamin A, magnesium, iron, and potassium, which are all important for a healthy diet, especially for aging seniors! Soups also tend to be relatively low in calories!

Granted, like everything else, you should enjoy soup in moderation. Soups also tend to be high in sodium, which can raise your blood pressure. The potassium content in many soups can even the sodium out, but it’s still not something you want to over-indulge in. 

Healthiest Soups for Seniors

The way you prepare and consume a soup can determine whether or not it’s healthy for you. “Healthy” can also depend on your specific dietary needs.

However, the following soups can be deliciously healthy when prepared correctly!

Healthy Living Challenge | Medicare Plan Finder
Join the 28-Day Healthy Living Challenge!

Broth-based Soups

Broth is made of bones and tissue usually derived from chicken, cows, or even fish. Broth can be rich in vitamins and minerals like calcium, magnesium, and phosphorous. MedicalNewsToday says that broth can strengthen your joints, fight osteoarthritis, reduce inflammation, support weight loss, and even aid sleep.

Osteoarthritis is one of the most common forms of arthritis, affecting millions each year. Arthritis can become a legitimate concern. Arthritis happens when your bones wear down from overuse, which can become more possible as you age.

Tomato-based Soups

Tomatoes are loaded with vitamin C and antioxidants and are sometimes considered a superfood. Uniquely, they also contain lycopene, a plant compound that gives tomatoes their red color and has been linked to prostate cancer prevention. Tomatoes are one of the few sources of lycopene. Tomatoes have also been proven to help maintain blood pressure, support heart health, improve insulin levels in diabetic people, reduce constipation, and improve skin and eye health.

Tomato Soup for Seniors
Tomato Soup for Seniors

Lentil-based Soups

Lentils are high in fiber and nutrients like vitamin B, iron, magnesium, potassium, and zinc. They also contain phytochemicals, which protect against chronic diseases like heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Again, like everything, it’s important to only enjoy lentils in moderation. Uniquely, they contain “antinutrients,” which can reduce your intake of other nutrients. Thankfully, you would have to eat a lot of lentils for this to pose a real problem!

Healthy Canned Soup

In many cases, canned soups are not going to be nearly as healthy as a fresh, home-made batch. However, sometimes, you just don’t have the time or energy to make yourself some fresh soup! Canned soup can be very cheap at your local grocery store (and even online), and it’s not always terrible for you. 

When looking for healthy canned soups, look at the nutrition label and look for low sodium content, less calories, and more vitamins and minerals. Additionally, canned soups tend to have high levels of BPA. Consider looking for soups packaged in “Tetra Pak” or other cardboard/BPA-free solutions.

Here are a few examples we found online: 

  1. Health Valley Organic (No Salt Added) Minestrone: 
    • Only 100mg of sodium in the whole container
    • Only 180 calories in the whole container
    • Only 4g of fat in the whole container
    • A serving is about half of the container. Each serving contains 40% of your daily vitamin A intake, 15% vitamin C, 4% calcium, and 8% iron
  2. Dr. McDougall’s Organic Split Pea Soup
    • Verified non-GMO, gluten-free, and USDA organic
    • Comes in BPA-free packaging
    • Entire container has only 250 calories and only 1g of fat and 1g sugar
    • No cholesterol 
    • Entire container contains 590mg sodium
    • Entire container has 15g of protein 
    • Also includes vitamin D, calcium, iron, and potassium
  3. Pacific Foods Creamy Tomato Soup
    • Verified gluten-free, kosher, vegetarian, and USDA organic
    • BPA-free packaging
    • There is quite a bit of sodium in this one, with 3,000mg in the entire container
    • Entire package contains 8g fat and 400 calories
    • Good source of vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, and iron

Easiest Soups to Make at Home

Each of the healthy canned soup options we listed above can be made at home! We searched the internet and found three great recipes to share.

1. Easy Home-made Minestrone

We found this minestrone recipe from the Food Network!

You might have a lot of these ingredients in your pantry already, and you can use them to make six servings of minestrone!

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large diced onion
  • 4 minced garlic cloves
  • 2 diced celery stalks
  • 1 diced large carrot
  • 1 1/2 cups of trimmed green beans (cut into ½ inch pieces)
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1 28oz can no-salt-added diced tomatoes
  • 1 14oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 (drained & rinsed) 15oz can low-sodium kidney brains
  • 1 cup elbow pasta
  • ⅓ cup finely grated parmesan
  • 2 tbsp chopped basil

Directions: 

  1. Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat
  2. Add onion, cook about four minutes or until translucent
  3. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds
  4. Add celery and carrot and cook until soft, about five minutes
  5. Stir in green beans, dried oregano and basil, ¾ tsp salt, and pepper to taste; cook for three minutes
  6. Add diced and crushed tomatoes and chicken broth; bring to boil
  7. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for ten minutes
  8. Stir in kidney beans and pasta, cook until tender (about ten minutes)
  9. Season with salt
  10. Serve topped with parmesan and chopped basil

Thank you, Food Network, for this recipe! Head over there to print this recipe and to leave a comment about what you think about it!

Free Prescription Discount Card
Free Prescription Drug Card

2. Easy Home-made Split-pea Soup

We found this recipe for split-pea soup that serves six people from Epicurious! You could probably substitute out a different cut of pork (for example, if you have some leftover ham from Thanksgiving, throw that in there)!

Ingredients: 

  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 chopped large onion
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup chopped peeled carrots
  • 1 ½ pounds smoked pork hocks
  • 2 tsp dried leaf marjoram
  • 1 ½ cups green split peas
  • 8 cups water

Directions: 

  1. Melt butter in large pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat
  2. Add onion, celery, and carrots
  3. Saute until vegetables soften (about eight minutes)
  4. Add pork and marjoram; stir for one minute
  5. Add peas, then water; bring to boil
  6. Reduce heat to medium-low and partially cover pot
  7. Simmer until pork and vegetables are tender and peas are falling apart; stir often (about 70 minutes)
  8. Transfer hocks to a bowl
  9. Puree five cups soup in batches in a blender; return to pot
  10. Cut pork off bones, dice and return to soup
  11. Season with salt and pepper, serve warm!

Thank you, Epicurious, for this recipe! Head over there to leave a comment about the recipe.

Grandmother and daughter grocery shopping
Grandmother and her granddaughter bringing home groceries

3. Easy Home-made Tomato Soup

We found this recipe for “Easy Three-Ingredient Tomato Soup” by Adam and Joanne Gallagher at Inspired Taste! It contains half the ingredients (or less) and half the sodium of a canned tomato soup!

Ingredients: 

  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter
  • ½ large onion cut into wedges
  • 1 28oz can peeled or crushed tomatoes (or 10-12 medium fresh tomatoes)
  • 1 ½ cups water, low sodium vegetable stock, or chicken stock
  • ½ tsp sea salt

Directions: 

  • Melt butter in dutch oven or saucepan over medium heat
  • Add onions, water, tomatoes, and ½ tsp salt
  • Bring to simmer and cook uncovered for about 40 minutes
  • Stir occasionally; add salt as needed
  • Pour into a blender and blend to taste (it can be as smooth or as textured as you’d like)
  • Add basil if desired!

A note from Medicare Plan Finder: we love a little parmesan in our tomato soup!

Thank you, Inspired Taste, for this recipe! Head over to their site to watch a video of how this soup is made and to leave a comment with your thoughts on the recipe.

7 Best Teas for Healthy Seniors

The health benefits of tea are seemingly endless. Teas are usually full of antioxidants and important nutrients that can reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke, assist with weight loss, protect your bones, soothe your digestive system, keep you hydrated, and more. 

Different types of tea can provide different benefits. Today, we’ll share the seven teas that you should keep in your pantry to help relieve different symptoms.

#1 – Green Tea: Best Tea for Energy and Focus

Even though green tea has about half the amount of caffeine as a cup of coffee, it has been proven to improve energy and focus as well as improve sleep quality. Plus, a Japanese study proved that L-theanine, which is found in green teas, can improve focus and reduce anxiety.

Aging can bring a natural decrease in energy, and coffee might not be the best way to supplement it. While coffee can provide energy by keeping you alert, green tea can provide a more calming energy and keep you relaxed throughout the day.

Plus, green tea contains about 30% polyphenols, substances that can protect your cells from damage, reducing the risk of certain diseases, and the effects of aging.

Best Green Tea for Energy

While all green teas should be made the same way, some are more processed than others. The best green tea for energy and focus will be natural and fresh. 

It’s also best to use loose leaves instead of tea bags. Even though tea bags may be easier to use, they also typically contain broken, low-quality tea leaves and are more likely to gather dust. 

Lose leaves will often have a stronger, fresher flavor and are less likely to have lost nutrients during production. 

Check your local organic or healthy food store for fresh green tea leaves.

Green Tea for Seniors
Green Tea | Medicare Plan Finder

#2 – Peppermint Tea: Best Tea for a Cold

There’s a reason why cough drops are commonly peppermint flavored, and why you might feel clean and refreshed after enjoying a peppermint candy or gum: menthol. Menthol is an alcohol naturally derived from peppermint or mint oils. It creates a peppermint flavor, but it also is a counterirritant for skin and mucous membranes. 

Menthol also creates a local anesthetic effect. That’s why while enjoying a cough drop (and for the moments after), you might notice that you can’t feel the irritation in the back of your throat anymore. 

Peppermint tea can have a similar effect to a menthol cough drop when you have a cold. It can help break up any mucus in your throat that is causing a cough or itchiness. 

At the same time, peppermint itself has antibacterial properties that can fight off disease and boost your immunity – making peppermint tea a great option for when you’re fighting off a cold.

Peppermint Tea for Caffeine

Like other herbal teas, natural peppermint tea does not contain any caffeine! That means peppermint tea is also a great option for those who are actively trying to avoid caffeine. 

Peppermint Tea for Nausea

Though ginger may be what people more commonly reach for when it comes to nausea and digestion solutions, peppermint tea can work wonders for that as well. Peppermint can relax the stomach muscles and make it easier for bile to break down fats. 

Peppermint Tea for Seniors
Peppermint Tea | Medicare Plan Finder

#3 – Chamomile Tea: Best Herbal Tea for Sore Throats

Chamomile tea has natural anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and astringent properties. Similar to peppermint tea, drinking chamomile tea when you have a cold can help soothe a sore throat! 

The main difference in whether you choose chamomile or peppermint (other than flavor) is what kind of illness you are trying to cure. If you have a lot of phlegm build up in your throat, peppermint tea might do a better job of breaking that up. However, if you have strep throat or another condition that leaves you with an itchy, dry throat, chamomile might be the better option. 

Another great option available at grocery stores is a product called “Throat Coat.” Throat Coat has a distinct licorice taste that some people love, and some people hate. Throat Coat, produced by Traditional Medicinals, is known for being a useful tool for vocalists who have a scratchy throat but have a performance coming up. The product can cause major temporary relief from an itchy or scratchy throat! It includes organic ingredients such as licorice root, slippery elm bark, marshmallow root, and traces of cherry bark, fennel fruit, cinnamon bark, and orange peel.

Cinnamon Tea: Best Tea for Weight Loss

While cinnamon tea has not been directly tied for weight loss, cinnamon itself does have certain properties that can contribute to weight loss. 

For starters, cinnamon is loaded with fiber, which can make you feel full and prevent you from overeating. Additionally, cinnamon has been said to boost your metabolism due to the amount of energy it takes your body to process the spice. 

Similarly, cinnamon can reduce bloating – which doubles as a remedy for indigestion!

Cinnamon Tea for Diabetes

Cinnamon tea is also “said to increase insulin sensitivity and decrease blood sugar,” which can help control type 2 diabetes.

Type 2 is the most common type of diabetes but is also the most preventable and treatable. People with type 2 diabetes frequently begin with “prediabetes.” If you’re prediabetic, that likely means you have high blood sugar and your body is starting to reject insulin. Healthy eating, exercise, and weight loss can help prevent your prediabetes from turning into type 2 diabetes. Cinnamon tea and other cinnamon products may help you keep your blood sugar down (but that doesn’t mean you can eat all the sugary cinnamon rolls you want)!

Cinnamon Tea for Seniors
Cinnamon Tea | Medicare Plan Finder

#5 – Ginger Tea: Best Tea for Nausea

You probably already know that ginger ale can be a fantastic remedy for an upset stomach, but ginger ale products can be loaded with sugar! Ginger tea is a healthier option for curing nausea. 

Healthline.com recommends drinking about four cups of ginger tea to reduce nausea. If you don’t have ginger tea, you can use freshly grated (or store-bought grated) ginger by steeping it in hot water the same way you would tea leaves. Be sure to sip your ginger tea slowly if you already have an upset stomach! 

If your ginger tea is too bitter, try sweetening it with natural honey before turning to granulated sugar.

Ginger Tea Health Benefits

Other than relieving nausea and an upset stomach, ginger tea has other health benefits as well. Ginger is naturally anti-inflammatory, so regular ginger tea drinking can be a home remedy for muscle and joint aches (soaking in ginger can have the same effect).

Ginger can also improve your blood circulation, relieve menstrual discomfort, relieve stress, strengthen your immune system, and fight respiratory problems. 

Ginger Tea Side Effects

Like anything else, ginger is only good in moderation! Some people may experience diarrhea or abdominal discomfort after drinking too much ginger tea or consuming too much ginger. Some people also experience heartburn and lightheadedness. 

If you notice strong side effects or sudden discomfort after drinking ginger tea, stop use, and call your doctor if symptoms worsen. 

#6 – Jasmine Tea: Best Tea for Stress

Jasmine tea is a combination of tea leaves and jasmine blossoms. Jasmine’s aroma has been called a stress reducer for years, with a variety of perfumes, lotions, and candles carrying the jasmine scent. The scent triggers a “parasympathetic” response, which releases chemicals that allow you to relax.

Like everything else, stress can become more dangerous as you age, so it’s important to stay on top of it. Dr. Michelle Dossett from the Institute for Mind Body Medicine says, “Our cells are aging. Heart fitness and lung capacity decline, especially if you’re sedentary.” When your heart fitness and lung capacity decline, your body’s natural stress response can sort of take over more than it did in the past. 

If your stress gets particularly bad, it may be time to speak to a counselor. Make yourself some jasmine tea and find a counselor near you. Stress, anxiety, and depression are nothing to wait on: get help now!

#7 – Lemon Verbena: Best Tea for Inflammation

A lot of different teas have anti-inflammatory properties, but lemon verbena tea has been used for centuries to treat colds, fevers, anxiety, indigestion, spasms, insomnia, immunity, weight loss, etc. Lemon verbena is all around a great tea to keep in your house. 

In regards to inflammation, lemon verbena is a plant with natural anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation is not always obvious. When you think of inflammation, you probably think of your skin turning red, blotchy, or even bumpy, like in the case of an allergic reaction. While that’s certainly one type of inflammation, inflammation can also occur in your muscles and joints. It can be the result of an infection or a physical injury. Inflammation can be the result of a large number of illnesses, so an anti-inflammatory product like lemon verbena tea is certainly multi-use. 

Lemon Verbena Tea for Seniors
Lemon Verbena Tea | Medicare Plan Finder

Electric Tea Kettles for Seniors

Ready to give some of these tea suggestions a try? How will you try them at home?

Whether you have arthritis, weak muscles, or dementia…or you’re just a little bit worried, there are safe tea kettle options out there designed with seniors in mind. When you’re choosing a tea kettle for yourself or a senior relative, you should keep the following six factors in mind:

Weight: Weak or arthritic hands will find a heavy tea kettle cumbersome. Dropping a steaming hot tea kettle can be a disaster! Look for tea kettles that are small to begin with so that they aren’t incredibly heavy when full of water.

Automatic shut-off: Regardless of how old you are, it’s easy to pour your tea but forget to turn off the kettle. Forgetful seniors will benefit from an electric kettle that automatically turns off when the water is boiling. 

Cool handle: Make sure the kettle you purchase has a cool handle, so you don’t have to worry about remembering to wear your oven mitts! The same goes for other heating elements. Sometimes you’ll notice in toasters and other devices that certain elements turn red when they heat up. Those are exposed heating elements and can be a burn hazard. 

BPA-free: Read the packaging to look for BPA-free kettles. BPA is a chemical found in plastic that can be harmful if ingested. 

Cordless: A cordless kettle reduces tripping hazards and is easier to carry.

7 Fad Diets That Work for Seniors

It may seem like you hear about a different celebrity toting a new diet every time you turn the TV on. Some people say that eating lots of protein and cutting carbs is the way to go. Other people say to keep the bread and pasta in your diet and to not eat dietary fat.

The diets on this list may be considered fad diets, however, they are diets that work*. Experts in health and nutrition created and reviewed these diets, and they may offer overall health benefits along with additional support for specific health conditions such as dementia, heart disease, and diabetes.

*Always check with your doctor before starting any diet or exercise program.

1. Mediterranean Diet

According to US News, the Mediterranean Diet is the best diet for overall health, heart health, and diabetes management. The people who live around the Mediterranean Sea “live longer and suffer less than most Americans from cancer and cardiovascular ailments.” 

The diet itself “is more of an eating pattern than a structured diet.” In other words, you’re “on your own to figure out how much to eat to lose or maintain weight.” With the Mediterranean Diet, you focus on fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and nuts.

You should also have fish “at least a couple of times a week,” and eat poultry, eggs, cheese, and yogurt “sparingly.” The diet does not prohibit sweets and red meat, but it does encourage you to eat them only on special occasions.

2. DASH Diet

DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. The diet is promoted by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to stop or prevent high blood pressure. DASH ranks third in the “Best Heart-Healthy Diet” category.

The diet focuses on lean protein, fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy in an attempt to help manage blood pressure, because these foods contain nutrients such as potassium, calcium, fiber, and protein. All of these nutrients have been shown to “deflate blood pressure.”

DASH also recommends limiting sodium to 2300 mgs a day. 

According to US News, the diet works because it’s easy to follow long-term.The DASH diet recommends making small changes such as:

  • Adding one vegetable or fruit serving to each meal
  • Introducing two or more meatless meals per week
  • Using herbs and spices rather than salt to flavor food
  • Snacking on almonds or pecans instead of chips
  • Swapping whole wheat flour for white flour whenever you can
  • Taking a 15-minute walk after lunch or dinner (or both)

DASH, according to US News, can be used as a weight loss diet if you burn more calories than you take in.

3. Flexitarian Diet

Flexitarian” is a combination of two words — flexible and vegetarian. The term basically means that you’re a vegetarian most of the time, but you can eat meat when the urge hits. The diet is based on a book called The Flexitarian Diet: The Mostly Vegetarian Way to Lose Weight, Be Healthier, Prevent Disease and Add Years to Your Life, by Dawn Jackson Blatner, a registered dietician. 

The idea is that if you consume more vegetables than meat, you can lose weight and improve your overall health. The US News panel of experts agree, because the Flexitarian Diet ranks third for the “Best Diets Overall,” “Best Diets for Weight Loss,” “Best Diets for Healthy Eating,” and “Best Weight Loss Diets.”

According to US News, the diet is easy to follow. The diet emphasizes plant-based protein (beans, peas, lentils), eggs, dairy, fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Blatner’s book offers a customizable meal plan that includes two snacks. If you follow the plan, you’ll consume about 1500 calories a day. 

You can adjust your food intake as necessary for weight loss or maintenance. How much you consume depends on your age, weight, height, and activity level.

4. MIND Diet

The MIND Diet is designed to help promote brain health. Note: There is no guaranteed way to prevent Alzheimer’s, but eating leafy greens, nuts, and berries may lower your risk of developing the progressive brain disorder.

MIND stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay, and it’s a mixture of the DASH and Mediterranean diets. The diet was developed by Martha Clare Morris, a nutritional epidemiologist at Rush University Medical Center.

If you follow the MIND Diet, you’ll eat at least three servings of whole grains, a salad, and one more vegetable. You also get a glass of wine, which is good for brain health, according to Morris.

You’ll snack on nuts most days, and every other day you should eat half a cup of beans. You’re supposed to include poultry and blueberries twice a week, and fish once a week. When you cook at home, you should use olive oil instead of other cooking oils.

5. Volumetrics Diet

This diet was created by Barbara Rolls, a nutrition professor at Penn State University. Like the Mediterranean Diet, Volumetrics is an approach to eating, rather than a structured diet. 

Volumetrics groups foods by energy density. Basically, the lower a food’s energy density, the more likely it is to fight off hunger.

For example, non-starchy fruits and vegetables, and broth-based soups have a very low energy density because they’re mostly water. Those foods are in Category One.

Low-density (Category Two) is the next step up. Those foods include starchy fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat meat.

Medium-density (Category Three) foods include meat, cheese, pizza, ice cream, pretzels, and cake.

High-density foods make up Category Four, and they include chips, chocolate candy, cookies, butter, and crackers.

To follow the diet, you’ll use Rolls’ book to categorize your food choices. You’re supposed to focus mainly on Category One and Two foods, keep Category Three portions small, and eat Category Four foods rarely.

Volumetrics can help you lose weight if you stay in a caloric deficit, which may be easy to do if you eat mainly filling, low-calorie foods.

6. Mayo Clinic Diet

The Mayo Clinic Diet is designed to promote “weight loss and a healthy lifestyle.” The diet uses the Mayo Clinic’s “unique food pyramid” that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. 

The diet works on some of the same principles as the Volumetrics Diet by focusing on foods with low energy densities. For example, two cups of broccoli has the same amount of calories as one quarter of a Snickers bar. 

The Mayo Clinic Diet is effective for weight loss. According to the Mayo Clinic, you can lose “6-10 pounds in two weeks, and continue losing 1-2 pounds each week until you hit your goal weight.” You do this by adding a healthy breakfast, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, and at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day. 

7. TLC Diet

In the diet’s case, “TLC” stands for Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes. The National Institute of Health’s National Cholesterol Education Program created the diet with the goal of cutting cholesterol for heart health. It focuses on vegetables, fruits, bread, whole grains, pasta, and lean meat. 

If you want to lower your LDL (bad cholesterol) level, men are supposed to eat 2,500 calories a day, and women are to eat 1,800. If you also want to lose weight, men are to eat 1,600 calories a day, and women are supposed to aim for 1,200 calories a day.*

Then you’re supposed to limit saturated fat to less than seven percent of your daily calories. If you do that and our LDL level hasn’t dropped by 8-10 percent, then add “two grams of plant stanols or sterols and 10-25 grams of soluble fiber every day.” You can find stanols and sterols in vegetable oils. 

Other daily guidelines include: 

  • Keeping meat to a maximum of five ounces per day, and sticking to skinless poultry and fish
  • Eating 2-3 servings of low-fat or nonfat dairy products 
  • Loading up on fruits and vegetables — up to four servings of fruit and 3-5 servings of vegetables daily
  • Eating 11 servings of bread, cereal, rice, pasta, or other grains

*The exact appropriate number of calories to eat may differ for each individual person. Speak to a doctor before beginning a new diet.

Healthy Choices for Your Overall Health

The above diets may be a great starting point for getting or staying healthy. Go to your doctor with specific questions about diet and exercise, and check out our blog for information about Medicare. To learn more about Medicare Advantage and/or Medicare Supplements, call 844-431-1832 or contact us here to arrange a meeting with a licensed agent.

7 Types of Exercises for Seniors (with Pictures!)

Exercising is not just for weight loss. As you get older, it becomes increasingly important to keep your body active in order to keep your strength and stability. However, it also becomes harder to exercise as you age. 

Your exercise routine doesn’t have to be intense. You’re not expected to run marathons at 80 years old (though some have done it), but your doctor might recommend that you spend some time on your feet. Exercise for you can mean something as simple as taking a walk around the block.

The following are seven different types of safe exercises for seniors with pictures included. 

Senior Swimming Workouts

If you have a pool available to you, either at home or at a local fitness center, swimming exercises can be kind to older bodies. Experts especially recommend swimming exercises for those with joint pain or arthritis. 

Some fitness centers may offer swimming classes that you can join. If there aren’t any available, consider taking the time yourself to jog through the water, swim laps, or use the resistance of the water to practice leg lifts. 

In fact, certain private Medicare plans might come with a fitness program benefit. These benefits often include memberships to local fitness centers that can allow you access to free or very low-cost exercise classes. 

Seniors at a swimming class | Senior exercises | Medicare Plan Finder

Simple Yoga for Seniors

Yoga can help improve your balance, stability, and flexibility and can even reduce stress. Yoga poses don’t have to be complicated, either. 

Check out these examples of gentle yoga poses: 

gentle yoga poses | Medicare Plan Finder
gentle yoga poses | Medicare Plan Finder

You also might be able to find yoga classes offered at your local fitness center. Look for beginner-level classes or classes specifically designed for senior groups (unless you think you’re ready for advanced yoga – do what you feel comfortable with!). 

Pilates for the Elderly

Pilates exercises focus on your core strength, which can also improve your balance and stability. Pilates exercises can be easily performed at home. It includes poses like planks and sit-ups.

You can do Pilates from a mat in your local gym, or you can set up on your carpet or on your personal yoga mat at home. It does not require additional equipment!

Senior Man Doing Press Ups In Gym | Medicare Plan Finder

Senior Walking & Biking Exercises

Walking or biking for as little as 30 minutes per day can result in weight loss, improved cardiovascular health, reduced blood pressure, stronger bones, better balance, and more!

If you feel safe walking around your neighborhood, you don’t even have to go anywhere. Otherwise, you can find a pretty park, a school running track, or even a shopping mall to get your steps in. 

You could also get your daily walk in by walking your dog or strolling with your grandkids! 

If you feel comfortable, you can also try running – but don’t push yourself. 

Seniors jogging with their dog outside | Medicare Plan Finder

Chair Exercises for Seniors

Sometimes standing up for long periods of time is NOT healthy. Some people can’t walk or move too much, and that’s ok. There are still ways to exercise and safely keep your body moving.

For example, try the “seated row.” Sit in a dining chair or any chair without arms, and repeat a “rowing” motion with your arms at least 8-10 times. Repeat as many times as you feel comfortable. This repeated motion will work your upper back and chest muscles. 

You could also do knee lifts from a chair. Simply lift your knees one at a time towards your chest. Lift each leg individually at least 8-10 times. As you get stronger, you can increase the number of lifts and work on bringing your legs higher.

Prefer an even more sedentary routine? These yoga poses can be done from your chair: 

chair yoga poses | Medicare Plan Finder
Chair Yoga Poses | Medicare Plan Finder

Stretching Exercises for Seniors

Regular stretches are important as your joints age. As you age, your muscles gradually shorten and lose elasticity. While you can’t necessarily stop the aging process, you can certainly make yourself more comfortable by performing daily stretches. 

“Static” stretching lengthens your muscles and improves your range of motion. Static stretching means holding a position for 10 to 30 seconds (or even longer, if you have the patience). Static stretches can be as simple as sitting down and touching your toes for 30 seconds straight. 

Try to remember to spend a few minutes on static stretching exercises at least three to five times per week. 

Keep in mind that you should feel the stretch a little, but it shouldn’t hurt. If you find yourself in pain after a stretch, you may have pushed yourself too far, or something could be wrong. Always see your doctor if you find yourself in pain.

Happy senior women stretching while out on a run | Medicare Plan Finder

Senior Dance Classes

Not only are dance workouts more fun, but they usually work several different areas of the body. If you feel comfortable with it, finding a local dance class for seniors is a great way to move your body. 

You can join a “Zumba” class, a dance class designed for full-body workouts, or you can join a class that teaches you how to dance, like a salsa class. Even though a salsa class may not be designed as an exercise program, it certainly keeps your body moving and can still result in positive fitness results.

Senior couple dancing | Medicare Plan Finder

Medicare Fitness Coverage

If you’d like to do your workouts in group settings or would prefer to use the equipment at a gym, you might actually be able to get insurance for that. 

That’s right – private Medicare plans (Medicare Advantage) can sometimes include Medicare fitness programs. These programs can pay for your gym membership and can provide unique classes designed just for the Medicare-eligible population.

Some programs even include home fitness products, like workout DVDs and small exercise equipment.

To find out what plans in your area include a Medicare fitness benefit, call Medicare Plan Finder at 844-431-1832 or click here to send us a message. 

We can’t wait to help you!

Medicare Fitness Programs
Medicare Fitness Programs Guide

Home Health Tests Seniors Should Try

We’re all aware we should make an effort to regularly see our physicians. But we also know that life tends to get in the way. 

Especially for seniors, transportation and cost can often prevent routine doctor visits. However, just because you can’t get to your doctor’s office, doesn’t mean you have to stay in the dark about your health. There are quite a number of tests that you can perform without ever leaving home!

Tests You Can Do At Home Today

The range of at-home tests and testing methods varies widely. Some require expensive medical equipment only available through a supplier and with a prescription, while others require only a pen and paper. Here are some tests that you can do today with little to no supplies

SAGE Test for Dementia

The Self-Administered Gerocognitive Exam, or SAGE, was devised by researchers from the Wexner Medical Center at Ohio State University. SAGE can help detect early warning signs of cognitive impairment and memory loss in less than 15 minutes.

The test has several components and several forms, all of which can be viewed and downloaded at the Wexner Medical Center’s website. These include sections on orientation, language, memory and visuospatial awareness.

The most well-known element of the SAGE is known as the clock drawing test. All you need to do is get out a pen and paper and draw a picture of a clock, with the hands reading 3:40. Then compare your drawing to a real clock to see how you scored.

If your circle is closed, give yourself a point. If all twelve numbers are accounted for and in the right place, you get two more points. If your hands are in the correct position as well, you passed with flying colors. A score of any less than three points, however, might be an indication that you should see your physician for further screening. This test is sometimes performed without the rest of the exam, though it is usually recommended to perform the entire SAGE test for dementia detection.

Medicare 101 Course
Free Medicare 101 Course

Window Test for Vision Loss

Our eyes take a lot of abuse these days from the onslaught of screens and artificial lighting. It’s even more severe as we get older and the natural, age-related loss of vision begins to take effect. If you experience some trouble reading, give yourself this informal at-home eye exam to judge whether or not you should seek an eye care professional.

First, sit across the room from a large window or door so that you can see all the lines of the frame around it. Cover one eye and focus on the window or door frame with your open one for 30 seconds. Then repeat with the opposite eye. The horizontal and vertical lines of the frame should be clearly visible with no missing or hazy areas. If the edges of the frame seem distorted or warped, this may indicate macular degeneration, a disease that is currently the leading cause of irreversible vision loss in people over 60.

Cushion Test for Peripheral Arterial Disease

The cushion test can be performed without even getting out of bed! It can help detect blocked arteries in your legs and feet, a condition known as PAD, or peripheral arterial disease. Those with high blood pressure or diabetes, both common among seniors, are especially at-risk for this disease. 

To perform this test, lie on a bed and elevate your legs with pillows or cushions until they are resting at a comfortable 45-degree angle. Keep them there for one minute, then sit up and swing your legs over the side of the bed so that they hang at an angle of 90 degrees. If either or both of your legs turn pale when elevated and take several minutes to return to their normal shade after sitting up, you may need to consult your physician with the results from this peripheral artery disease test.

Phalen’s Maneuver for Carpal Tunnel

We are an increasingly computer-savvy society and people of all ages are typing more than they used to. Extended periods of typing are strongly associated with carpal tunnel syndrome, a painful condition caused by a pinched median nerve in the wrist, but many other activities like driving can bring on these symptoms as well. Furthermore, people over 55 years old are at a much higher risk and those over 65 are more likely to have cases that are severe.

Phalen’s maneuver is a test devised to diagnose carpal tunnel at home and has been shown to be surprisingly effective. To see for yourself, press the tops of your hands together with your fingers pointing toward the floor and your elbows extended. If you can, hold this position for a full minute. If you feel an unpleasant sensation, such as prickling, tingling, or burning, you may likely have carpal tunnel and should consider preventive measures.

Check out this video from Physiotutors on YouTube that explains how to perform the Phalen test:

Testing With Medical Equipment

Some at-home health tests will require special instruments to fully gauge the results. While many of these items can be freely obtained from online and brick-and-mortar retailers, some require ordering through a medical supplier with a doctor’s prescription. Below, we will detail some of the testing you can do at home with the help of specially-designed medical equipment.

Blood Sugar Test

For the 12 million seniors living with diabetes* (about 25% of those over the age of 65), monitoring blood sugar levels is an near-constant concern. Luckily, this is something that can be checked at home or on-the-go using a blood glucose monitor, or glucometer. These can be found online or in pharmacies in the form of kits, which include testing strips, needles (called lancets), and the glucometer itself. 

Read about Medicare coverage for Diabetes!

To test blood sugar at home, you will need to insert a test strip into the electronic monitor and prick the side of your finger with the provided lancet. Gently apply pressure to that finger until you see a drop of blood form, then touch it to the edge of the test strip. In just a few seconds, you will have an accurate metering of your current blood sugar levels, no matter where you are.

Blood Pressure Test

Along with heart rate, breathing rate, and body temperature, blood pressure is one of the four most significant vital signs that our bodies produce. High blood pressure can be caused by countless factors like high cholesterol, stress, and even fear, and affects almost 70% of adults between the ages of 65 to 74. Monitoring blood pressure accurately is vitally important, as symptoms may not manifest until these levels are dangerously high. Doctors maintain accuracy by using large, costly machines but there are ways to test blood pressure at home with minimal equipment.

The quickest and most accurate results will come from automated, electronic blood pressure monitors that come with an upper arm cuff. Many different brands of at-home blood pressure cuff exist and can be found at pharmacies or similar retailers. The directions for use may change from model to model but there are certain rules that apply no matter what brand you use, including placing the cuff directly on the skin, placing the feet flat on the floor, elevating the arm to chest height, and avoiding smoking or drinking for 30 minutes before testing.

At-Home Lab Tests

Another popular method of in-home health testing comes in the form of test kits that can be ordered right to your door. These vary widely, not only in terms of what is being tested, but also in the method of sample collection. Some services will send a team of professionals to administer and retrieve your test, while others will only send instructions and require you to send your samples back in the mail for results. These can be purchased to test for a wide range of conditions, including food sensitivity, hormone testing, DNA testing, and other at-home blood tests.

Medicare DME Coverage

Medical equipment may be needed for certain tests.

Durable medical equipment, or DME, is a designation that Medicare uses to classify coverable medical equipment that can be used in the home. This benefit might be used to cover the cost of equipment to aid in the at-home testing we have already covered. The covered equipment can range from crutches and canes to CPAP devices and hospital beds, though it all must come from a Medicare-approved medical supplier.

Medicare-Approved Glucose Meters

Blood sugar monitors and test strips are usually covered under Medicare Part B as durable medical equipment for home use with a doctor’s prescription. You may be able to rent or buy a glucometer but Medicare will only provide coverage if both your physician and the supplier are both enrolled and participating in Medicare. Be sure to clarify this with your doctor and equipment supplier, as some may be enrolled but not “participating” and may not accept the cost of assignment.

Read more about durable medical equipment Medicare coverage.

Does Medicare Cover Blood Pressure Monitor?

Medicare Part B may cover the cost of a blood pressure monitor or ambulatory blood pressure monitoring (ABPM) device but only under very specific circumstances. Part B will cover a blood pressure monitor and stethoscope for those who receive blood dialysis treatment in their home and will pay for the rental of an ABPM device for patients who have exhibited “white coat hypertension,” a phenomenon where nervousness in clinical settings causes artificially high blood pressure readings. 

For those with Medicare Part C, or Medicare Advantage, all the benefits of Parts A & B will be covered but may also include additional benefits and expanded coverage. Contact your insurance company to find out if your Part C plan covers blood pressure monitors or glucometers.

If you don’t have a Medicare Advantage plan, give us a call at 844-431-1832 or contact us online to speak with a licensed agent and find a plan that can address your healthcare needs!

The 4 Vaccines Seniors Need This Year

Every year when the temperature drops, you begin to hear those dreaded words: flu season. 

Not only does cold weather weaken our immune systems, it can strengthen viruses and make it easier for them to spread. No matter your age, vaccination may be the best safeguard against this bacterial onslaught. But adults over 50 are especially susceptible to the flu virus and many other dangerous infections like pneumonia and tetanus. An estimated 50,000 to 90,000 adults in the United States die from vaccine-preventable diseases every year and the mortality rates increase significantly as we age.

The Most Important Vaccines For Seniors

Luckily, in our current century, vaccinations are widely available for many of these potentially deadly pathogens and the Center for Disease Control recommends a schedule of specific vaccinations for older adults. And for seniors with certain types of Medicare, financial help may even be available to alleviate some of the costs of these immunizations. Here are the four most crucial vaccines for adults over 50.

Influenza (Flu) Shot

Influenza, commonly called the flu, is a viral respiratory infection that can be life-threatening for people of any age. But older adults must be especially cautious, as the normal aging of our immune systems can make it more difficult for our bodies to fight off the infection. It’s even more dangerous for those who live with a chronic condition like heart disease or diabetes, as complications can develop and even lead to hospitalization. In fact, according to the CDC, adults over 65 make up half of all influenza hospitalizations and between 70 to 90% of all flu-related deaths. Be sure to get your flu shot!

Pneumococcal Vaccine

Pneumococcal disease might not be a familiar household name but we have all heard of the conditions that it can lead to: pneumonia and meningitis among others. It is the most common cause of bloodstream infections and can infect the ear and sinuses as well. Like the flu, a weakened immune system and chronic conditions may increase these risks. While these infections can often be mild, pneumonia is actually the 5th most frequent cause of hospitalization in the United States and over half of those are from Americans over 65 years old.

Tetanus (Td) Shot

It’s often referred to simply as a tetanus shot, but the Tdap vaccine also helps our bodies fight off diphtheria and pertussis, or whooping cough. This particular vaccine can usually only be given once but if you never received it as a child, it’s not too late to get yourself immunized. But if those over 65 have already gotten the full Tdap shot, it is recommended that they seek the variety of vaccine called the Td shot every 10 years, which doesn’t include the pertussis component.

Shingles (Zoster) Vaccine

Herpes zoster (or shingles) is a painful skin condition brought on by the same virus that causes chickenpox. It’s common knowledge that individuals who have previously contracted chickenpox have a higher risk of developing shingles, but older people are also more vulnerable than their younger counterparts. Seniors are also more at risk for the complications that can arise from this infection, such as the painful nerve condition called postherpetic neuralgia (PHN). These kinds of complications occur in almost half of older adults who develop shingles.  

When Should Seniors Get Vaccinated?

Though many vaccine-preventable diseases are associated with seasonal changes, most can be contracted at any time of year. To help make sure you are up-to-date with all your immunizations, the CDC keeps the newest recommended vaccine schedule for adults on its website.

Vaccine Schedule For Adults

Experts in this field often suggest vaccination schedules based on age. In some cases, these experts also recommend different varieties of a given vaccine depending on the age of the patient. 

For example, flu vaccines are updated annually to make sure they are effective against the current strains of influenza. Additionally, the immunity provided by the flu shot is short-lived so it is best to get vaccinated every year. Flu vaccines are usually available from September through April depending on supplies. Several different forms of the vaccine exist including two designed specifically for people over 65, namely the “high dose vaccine” and the adjuvanted flu vaccine. 

The shingles vaccine, on the other hand, is not required during a specific season but there are multiple variations available and it may still require a schedule to keep track of. The CDC suggests that healthy adults over 50 get the two-dose version of the vaccine, called the zoster recombinant vaccine (or RZV), as opposed to the single-dose zoster live variant. The two doses are generally spaced out over several months but are roughly 90% effective once they have both been administered.  

Travel Vaccinations

Many seniors take up traveling after retirement has freed up more of their time. Wherever this trekking may take you, it is wise to stay up-to-date on your vaccinations. Certain vaccine-preventable illnesses like measles and seasonal flu are much more prevalent abroad than they are in the States. Check for your destination on the CDC’s website to see what vaccines may be needed where you’re going.

Learn how to get Medicare coverage overseas.

Where Is The Best Place To Get Vaccinated?

Now that you know when to get immunized, you might be wondering where you can get a quick, efficient, and affordable vaccination. This can get somewhat complicated depending on what vaccines you need and what state you live in but most vaccines can be administered at one of the healthcare facilities you visit regularly.

Doctor’s Office 

Doctor explaining Medicare vaccine coverage.

Even though many other options are available, most will likely prefer to get their vaccinations at their regular doctor’s office. Your primary care doctor is a great resource not only for detailed information about what vaccines you or your family may need, but obviously for the administering of the vaccine itself. They can also advise on which variety of a given vaccine is best for you, as well as any side effects that may accompany it. 

Pharmacies & Clinics

For many seniors, the most readily and easily available venue for vaccines is their local pharmacy. These establishments are usually closer to their homes than a doctor’s office or hospital and can provide many of the same vaccinations. It is probably best to call ahead to ensure the pharmacy or clinic is stocked with the vaccine you need as supplies can run low.

Medicare Vaccine Coverage

An often overlooked element of the threat posed by vaccine-preventable diseases is the financial cost. A 2007 study of the seasonal flu found that $87 billion was spent every year on direct and indirect medical costs. It also found that adults over 65 made up about 64% of that cost. Clearly, it is cheaper to get vaccinated than to potentially incur the medical expenses of treating the disease itself but if the cost of immunization still seems daunting, there are options available to help with or completely cover the vaccines.

Does Medicare Pay For Flu Shots?

Flu shots are completely covered by Medicare Part B, as they are categorized as a preventive service. As long as your healthcare provider accepts Medicare, your annual flu shot will be a cost-free benefit. For those who are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, you may need to see an in-network doctor or pharmacy to be totally covered. This complete coverage applies to the pneumococcal vaccine as well!

Does Medicare Pay For Shingles Vaccine?

Medicare Part D plans, which are Medicare Advantage plans that cover prescription drugs, virtually all cover the shingles vaccine. As these are supplemental plans, an out-of-pocket cost is usually associated with these vaccinations. Whether this is in the form of a copayment or coinsurance, it is best to contact your insurance provider directly to discuss the potential out-of-pocket cost, as well as any specific rules they might have for the administering of the vaccine itself.

Turning 65 Checklist
Turning 65 Checklist

Does Medicare Pay For Tetanus Shots?

Like the shingles vaccine, neither Td and Tdap versions of the tetanus shot are covered by Medicare Part B. These vaccines will need to be covered by an insurance plan that includes prescription drug coverage, such as Medicare Part D. These plans are purchased through private insurance companies and supplement the coverage provided by the original components of Medicare. 

Depending on where you live, there could be countless Medicare Advantage plan options available and finding the one that best suits you can be exhausting and outright confusing. Take out some of the guesswork and get in touch with a licensed agent through Medicare Plan Finder today to find the best plan for your needs! Call us at 833-438-3676 or contact us online to get started!  

28-Day Healthy Living Challenge

Welcome to the Medicare Plan Finder Healthy Living Challenge. As you age, it can become easier and easier to form unhealthy habits. We’re here to help you break those habits and live your best life!

In this 28 day health challenge, you can turn your life around and start a new healthy lifestyle. Making healthy choices should not be one-time decisions. Start by making small changes (like following this calendar), then look for other ways to live healthier.

Before you read on, consider downloading this 28 day health challenge. You’ll also receive a printable grocery list and a calendar to follow along with.

The Challenge

Healthy Living Challenge Calendar
28-Day Healthy Living Challenge | Calendar | MedicarePlanFinder.com
  1. Set your health goals 
  2. Cut out a bad habit
  3. Invest in a reusable water bottle
  4. Join a gym or create a workout space in your home
  5. Eat a healthy breakfast
  6. Pick an inspiring book to read
  7. Develop a healthy eating shopping list
  8. Try a new healthy recipe 
  9. Invest in a multivitamin
  10. Schedule your annual wellness visit
  11. Go for a walk
  12. Try something new
  13. Practice good posture
  14. Get screened for genetic health conditions
  15. Work on your morning routine
  16. Get out of the house
  17. Start journaling to reduce stress
  18. Drink only water
  19. Practice deep breathing and meditation
  20. Start cutting out caffeine
  21. Splurge on a spa day or massage
  22. Read the labels on the food in your pantry
  23. Declutter and deep clean your home
  24. Brush your teeth for a full two minutes, and make it a habit
  25. Wash your hands for a full 20 seconds, and make it a habit
  26. Spend time outside, but don’t forget the sunscreen
  27. Schedule your regular dental and vision appointments
  28. Reflect on the Healthy Living Challenge and assess your health goal progress

Day One: Set Realistic Health Goals

Start the Healthy Living Challenge by talking to your doctor or taking the time to sit and think about your health. What can you improve on? What needs to change? Think about your weight, your diet, your blood test results, your daily habits, etc. 

Remember that to start a new healthy lifestyle is to do more than eat your vegetables and exercise – you also have to keep a rounded diet, exercise safely, engage in social activities, reduce stress, drink plenty of water, and more. Set goals like getting your cholesterol back to a healthy level, losing a few pounds, or drinking eight glasses of water per day. 

SMART Goals
S.M.A.R.T stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely.

Day Two: Cut out a bad Habit

On the second day, think about your daily routine, and cut out a bad habit. It can take a full 28 days to break a habit, so it’s a good idea to think about this early.

The habit could be anything from sitting on the couch for too long to overworking yourself. Or, it could be something like eating too much sugar or staying up too late.

Cutting out your bad habit can be one of your S.M.A.R.T health goals. Take day two of this Healthy Living Challenge to really focus in on that one bad habit and think about how you can put an end to it.

Day Three: Buy a Reusable Water Bottle

Find a reusable water bottle that you like, and carry it with you wherever you go. It is recommended that you drink at least eight 8oz glasses of water per day. If you purchase a 32oz reusable water bottle, all you have to do is drink two bottles per day! 

Everyone’s water needs can be different, so be sure to check with your doctor before taking our medical advice. The amount of water you need each day can depend on your individual healthcare needs.

Day Four: Join a gym or Create a Home Exercise Space

Creating a home exercise space can be as simple as buying a yoga mat and a few ten-pound weights, or as complicated as investing in equipment such as a treadmill. Alternatively, join a gym! If you have a Medicare Advantage or Medicare Supplement plan, you may be eligible for a Medicare fitness program, such as SilverSneakers® or Silver and Fit®.

Medicare Fitness Programs

Day Five: Cook a Healthy Breakfast

Too many of us eat unhealthy breakfasts or skip the meal altogether. It’s easy to eat unhealthy, especially in the morning, when you’re tired and rushing to get on with your day. However, sometimes preparing a healthy meal is just as easy as pouring a bowl of sugary cereal. 

Consider focusing on superfoods in the morning, like a handful of blueberries coupled with a kale and tomato omelet. Or, start by making small changes like reaching for less sugary cereals in the grocery aisle and replacing your white bread toast with whole wheat.

Day Six: Pick an Inspiring Book to Read

Sometimes all that you need to take charge and start a new healthy lifestyle is a motivating book. We found the following healthy aging books available on Amazon:

Day Seven: Develop a Reusable Grocery List

Build a grocery list that you can take with you every time you visit the grocery store. This grocery list can help you stay on track and prevent you from grabbing unnecessary items like sugary desserts. Add items like 2% milk instead of whole milk, lean chicken breasts instead of fatty steaks, and wheat bread instead of white bread.

Click to download the list that we’ve started for you. Use the blank spaces to fill in the other items that you need.

Printable Grocery List

Day Eight: Try a new Healthy Recipe

Now that you have a start to your grocery list, take a look at some healthy recipes that you can make with your healthy ingredients (you may need to add a few items to your list). We found these cookbooks on Amazon:

Low Sodium Cookbook: Delicious, Simple, and Healthy Low-Salt Recipes” – by Shasta Press

Healthy Living Challenge

Day Nine: Find the right Multivitamin for you

If you’ve had a blood test recently, talk to your doctor about your results and find out if you lack any crucial vitamins. Then, ask your doctor if you should be taking any supplements or multivitamins. You can usually get multivitamins over the counter at any pharmacy or grocery store. Taking a multivitamin is an easy positive step you can take towards better health.

Day Ten: Schedule Your Annual Wellness Visit

Have you been attending your annual wellness visits with your doctor? Medicare covers an annual wellness visit for all beneficiaries. This visit is your chance to ask your doctor about any possible health concerns you have, and to request tests and screenings for various illnesses that you’re worried about. Remember, it’s always best to get ahead of your health and start healing before your symptoms worsen.

Day Eleven: Go for a Walk

Getting your daily exercise does not necessarily have to mean an intense cardio workout. Especially as you’re getting older, you have to be careful about over-exerting yourself and getting hurt. Today, go for a walk around your neighborhood or at a local park. Even a one-mile leisurely walk can lift your spirits and boost your metabolism. Consider taking your grandkids to the park for even more fun!

Day 11: Go for a walk!

Day Twelve: Try Something new!

Trying something new, no matter what it is, can positively alter your mood and motivate you to make the most of your days. While there is certainly value in having a daily routine, think about new things that you’ve always wanted to try. It can be a physical, mental, emotional, or social task! Consider trying yoga for the first time, taking yourself out to a new restaurant, or taking a painting class.

Day Thirteen: Practice Good Posture Today

You could be hurting your back every day without even knowing it. Pay extra attention today to the way you sit, stand, and bend over to pick things up. Practice always bending with your knees instead of your whole back, and practice straightening your shoulders as you sit and stand.

If you notice pain or discomfort, consider visiting a chiropractor. Medicare covers spinal manipulation when necessary, and some Medicare Advantage plans may cover other chiropractic services.

Day Fourteen: Get Screened for Genetic Health Conditions

If you didn’t already talk to your doctor about this, think about getting some genetic tests for familial health conditions. About one in every three people develop some form of cancer, and some of those cases are hereditary. The best way to beat cancer is to stop it before it develops and spreads.

A genetic test is the first step in determining whether or not you might need to prepare. The new myPath melanoma test is a popular one that your Medicare plan may cover.

Day Fifteen: Work on your Morning Routine

While it may seem small, your morning routine can impact your entire day. If you’re someone who has “bad” morning habits like sleeping in too late or skipping breakfast, use today to come up with a plan to adjust your routine and develop healthy habits. Try things like starting a morning workout regimen or opening the blinds before you go to bed so that the sun gets you out of bed earlier.

Morning Routine | Healthy Living Challenge
Day 15: Work on Your Morning Routine

Day Sixteen: Get out of the House Today – Go Shopping or see a Friend

A lot of adults can get into the habit of getting home from work and sitting on the couch for hours. Retired adults sometimes go a full day or longer without even leaving the house!

If that sounds like you, make an extra effort today to leave your house and do something. Your effort can be as small as going to the grocery store and running errands, or as large as spending all day with a friend. Figure out what works for you and make it happen today.

Day Seventeen: Start Journaling to Reduce Stress

If you’ve been feeling stressed or depressed lately, one great way to lift your spirits is to start journaling regularly. If you don’t have one, buy a journal or a notebook today and jot down notes about how you’re feeling, why you’re feeling that way, and what you’re going to do to try to fix it. Some people find happiness in just writing about what they did throughout the day! 

If journaling is not helping or if you have a more serious mental health issue, please know that you CAN get the care you need. If you have Medicare, many of your treatments and appointments may be covered.

If this is an emergency, please call the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

Journaling | Healthy Living Challenge
Day 17: Start journaling

Day Eighteen: Drink Only Water Today

Did you buy that water bottle on day three? Today, focus not only on drinking at least eight glasses of water but also not drinking anything else. 
That means no juices, no alcoholic beverages, no coffee – none of it.

If you’re worried about cutting out caffeine, you may be surprised to find that the effects of drinking all that water can eliminate your caffeine withdrawal. Sticking to only water can also help you lose weight, reduce your appetite, and even increase your focus.

Day Nineteen: Practice Deep Breathing and Meditation

In this crazy world, it’s easy to get caught up in the stressful moments and forget to sit back and breathe. Spend some time today sitting and reflecting. Turn off your phone and the TV, find a comfortable place in your home, and allow yourself to reflect on whatever is stressing you out.

Practice deep breathing exercises and meditation. If you don’t care for yourself emotionally, you run the risk of your health declining physically.

Day Twenty: Start Cutting out Caffeine

Whether coffee, tea, soda, or something else is your caffeinated guilty pleasure, it might be time to cut back. Coffee and tea are healthy in small doses, but too much can lead to anxiety, insomnia, digestive problems, and high blood pressure.

If you drink more than one cup of a caffeinated beverage per day, or even if you only drink one but want to cut back, make today your first step. Drink one cup instead of two, or switch to decaf in the afternoon.

Healthy Living Challenge | Medicare Plan Finder
Click to download the challenge!

Day Twenty-one: Splurge on a spa day or a Massage

You may have learned from day 13 that posture is incredibly important, and you might not even realize that you hurt your posture. Use day 21 of this Healthy Living Challenge as an excuse to treat yourself to a nice massage or a day at the spa. Alternatively, schedule an appointment with your chiropractor!

Day Twenty-two: Read the Labels on the Food in Your Pantry

Common pantry items like canned soup and vegetables and pastas are often diet staples, but they could be doing more harm than you think. Canned soups are a great example. On the basic level, they are healthy…but they contain more sodium than you could even imagine! Use today to read the labels on the food items in your pantry and recognize what you could be putting into your body. You may decide to think twice the next time you’re shopping for those items!

Day Twenty-three: Declutter and Deep Clean Your Home

Whether you’re too busy, too tired, or just don’t feel like doing it, chances are there is at least one room in your home that could use some tidying. You probably haven’t thought of cleaning as a health-conscious activity, but decluttering and cleaning can prevent trips and falls, can improve the air quality in your home, and might even uncover some items you can sell for extra cash. If you can’t do it yourself, ask family for help or pay a cleaning service to come in and help you out.

Cleaning | Healthy Living Challenge
Day 23: Deep Clean Your Home

Day Twenty-four: Brush your Teeth for a Full two Minutes

Dentists recommend that you brush your teeth for a full two minutes, twice per day. How long do you brush your teeth, and are you reaching every tooth? Some electric toothbrushes come with built-in timers, or you can put a kitchen timer in your bathroom to keep yourself honest. Healthy teeth lead to improved overall health, so this is crucial.

Day Twenty-five: Practice Really Washing your Hands for a Full 20 Seconds

People make the same mistake with hand washing as with teeth brushing. Every time you wash your hands – whether it’s after using the bathroom or before you eat – the CDC recommends that you wash thoroughly for at least 20 seconds. Be sure to lather every part of your hands with antibacterial soap before you rinse.

Hand Washing | Healthy Living Challenge
Day 25: Wash your hands for 20 seconds

Day Twenty-six: Spend Time Outside Today – Don’t forget the Sunscreen!

Spending time outside increases your Vitamin D intake, elevates your mood, improves your concentration, and can even help you sleep at night. However, even if it’s winter and you don’t feel the sun, you are still exposed to it and should wear sunscreen. Wearing sunscreen isn’t only about protection from burns; it also protects you from general sun exposure that leads to wrinkles and discoloration.

Plus, sunburn does more than just make your skin red and itchy – it can lead to skin cancer! Protecting your skin from the sun is more than just a good idea, it’s necessary for your health. Be sure to apply sunscreen every time you expect to be outside for more than a few minutes.

Day Twenty-seven: Schedule your Dental and Vision Appointments

Dental and vision appointments tend to feel less important than general doctor visits, because you may not notice that you are developing cavities or that your eyesight is worsening. Be sure to keep up with your annual (or bi-annual) dental and vision appointments.

Day Twenty-eight: Reflect on the Healthy Living Challenge and Assess your Goal Progress

Congratulations! You’ve made it through our 28-day Healthy Living Challenge. Moving forward, your goal should be to turn everything you did this past month into long-term habits. Drink eight glasses of water every day, get outside as much as possible, go for walks, and eat healthily. Find creative ways to reduce stress, declutter, and socialize with your friends, family, and neighbors. 

For day 28, think about the S.M.A.R.T goals that you started with. Did you meet your goals, or at least make progress? What do you need to do next? If you need to follow up with a doctor, but you don’t have the coverage you need, maybe your next step needs to be reaching out to an insurance agent. 

Do you qualify for Medicare? You can try to get a Medicare plan by yourself, but it doesn’t cost anything to meet with an agent, and there is never any obligation to buy. Your agent can help you assess your needs and pick the plan that works best out of all your available options. Just call 833-438-3676 to schedule your appointment

This is only the beginning. Congrats on starting the path to a healthier you!

Healthy Living Challenge | Medicare Plan Finder
Click to download the challenge!

Mother’s Day Health Tips to Share with Your Senior Mother

Your mother has dedicated her life to caring for you, and as she ages, it’s time for the roles to reverse. The best gift any mother could ask for is for her children to be wonderful, caring adults! As you plan to celebrate this Mother’s Day with your mother, consider giving the gift of your support throughout the rest of her life.

Healthy Ways to Celebrate Mother’s Day

Whether your mom is at home, in a living facility, or a hospital, you can still enjoy a beautiful Mother’s Day with her. If the weather is nice and she is able, take her for a walk! Sunshine strengthens the bones and the immune system and reduces stress while inducing feelings of happiness. You can also take her to a healthy brunch. Skip the sugary, syrupy pancakes and take your mom to a place where she can enjoy some fresh fruit with oatmeal or yogurt or opt for eggs and toast.

Top Women’s Health Concerns

Even if you don’t want to think about your mother’s aging and her health on Mother’s Day, think about selecting a day to discuss these topics with her. The top concerns that aging women face are:

Look for symptoms of these ailments in your mother, and educate her on what to look out for. Certain things, like breast swelling, brittle bones, muscle pain, and memory loss can be easy to spot. Depression is one of the ailments that is hardest to notice, especially when you don’t see a person often. Some people are really good at hiding their depression symptoms. When you don’t see your mother for a few weeks or even months, she might act like her normal self around you and then go home and sleep all day because she’s mentally exhausted. Keep your mother’s spirits up and help her fight depression by ensuring that she is engaging in hobbies and activities, keeping some sort of a social life, and keeping some sort of responsibility, like keeping a garden or a pet, or even just keeping the house clean.

Top Aging Women’s Health Tips

The best things your mother can do (and you, too!) as she ages are:

  • Eat healthy
  • Stay smart about medications
  • Manage existing health conditions
  • Get screened
  • Stay active

Eating healthy is always easier said than done as we are tempted by the snack aisle in the grocery store and the beautiful pastry display at Starbucks. Remind your mother to enjoy everything in moderation and keep superfoods like leafy greens, berries, and avocados in her diet.

Pay close attention to her doctor’s or pharmacist’s instructions regarding medications. Help your mother avoid being one of the statistics for senior opioid abuse. On the same token, make sure your mother is taking her medications and properly managing her preexisting health conditions. Help her out by purchasing vitamins and supplements that she can take, making sure she is comfortable at home, and watching her sugar intake.

Seniors are likely to avoid trips to the doctor because they don’t have an easy way to get there or they simply forget to book their yearly appointment. Some don’t want to pay for it – but guess what? Medicare covers one yearly wellness exam at no cost to the patient. This is a good time for your mother to ask questions and a good time for her doctor to perform or schedule screenings for common ailments. Those screenings are usually covered, too, so there’s no excuse!

Lastly, make sure your mother is regularly taking walks and engaging in household chores to stay active.

Get Support While you Take Care of Mom

Providing care for a loved one is no easy task, but you are not alone. Caregiver support groups throughout the country can answer your questions, give you advice, and allow you to interact with other caregivers just like you. Consider reaching out to the Family Caregiver Alliance, a group that has worked since the late ’70s to support people like you. You can also reach out to the Caregiver Action Network. They are located in D.C. and spend a lot of time advocating for caregiver rights and laws.

We’ve put together information on caregiver networks and some of our own advice for taking care of your loved ones, here. We specialize in Medicare plans, so if your mother or someone else you know needs help finding a plan, don’t hesitate to reach out to Medicare Plan Finder. We work with all of the major plans so there is no bias and you are never obligated to buy. If you are the “Power of Attorney” for your mother, we can speak directly to you about her healthcare plans.

We hope you enjoy a beautiful Mother’s Day this year and we hope to speak with you soon regarding your or your mother’s care.

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