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Health October 2017

Keeping Safe and Healthy for the Holidays

By Teresa Ambord

Don’t hesitate to accept help offered by family members when it comes to caregiving duties or meal preparation. Accepting help can make the holidays better for everyone. If you’re “on duty” 24 hours a day and suddenly your great-niece offers to play cards with Grandpa while you take a nap… do it!

A lot of people, of any age, have mixed feelings about holidays, but it’s often even more true for seniors. While they love to see or at least hear from family and friends, the holidays also remind them of lost loved ones. And inclement weather might cause them to feel more isolated, especially if they can’t travel to celebrate with you. If possible, visit your elderly friends and family more often during the winter, to help ward off depression. If you can’t spend time with them during the holidays, be sure to call them and remind others to call them as well, to keep them from feeling abandoned.

Are you a caregiver for a senior? Don’t hesitate to accept help offered by family members when it comes to caregiving duties or meal preparation. Accepting help can make the holidays better for everyone. If you’re “on duty” 24 hours a day and suddenly your great-niece offers to play cards with Grandpa while you take a nap… do it!

Are you traveling by car to get to a holiday celebration? Build extra time into the travel plan to help reduce stress. Pick a route that’s the most senior-friendly in terms of bathroom stops and appropriate food stops. If someone needs frequent healthy snacks, keep a close eye on him or her and make sure they have what they need as soon as they need it.

In my family, my stepmom did much of the driving after Dad’s health began to fail. I well remember the trips we took together. Even when she drove, she kept a close eye on Dad, who sat in the backseat. She’d nudge me now and then and say with urgency, “Give your dad a cookie, quick!” She’d brought a large supply of somewhat healthy cookies that he loved, and when she’d see his mood start to go south, she’d give him one. Problem solved.

 

Winter Holiday Months Bring Cold Weather Scams

Weather crisscrossing the country has been extreme. As winter holidays get closer and temperatures drop, thieves see an opportunity. It’s called the “shutoff swindle,” and it has utility companies from coast to coast warning customers to be alert. If you or an elderly relative lives alone, especially in a state where it’s likely to get really cold, be sure everyone knows what to watch for.

The scam generally occurs by phone. If thieves use “spoofing software,” your caller ID may make it appear that the call is actually coming from your utility provider, but be skeptical. The caller informs you that you have a past-due bill and your utilities are about to be shut off, unless you pay immediately.

He or she may:

* Try to get you to pay by credit card.

* Suggest you go out and purchase a prepaid card to pay the bill.

* Demand cash, and say a company employee will be sent to your home to pick up the payment. The caller may “helpfully” offer to waive late-payment penalties in exchange for cash payment.

Perhaps even more frightening is a version of the scam that starts when a fake employee showing up at your door to collect an “overdue bill.” And still other utility scams take place online, complete with a fake bill (with an inflated amount) that includes details that make it appear genuine, such as a logo copied from your utility provider.

What should you do?

Be aware that most utility companies will contact you by mail, at least once and possibly several times. If you receive a call claiming that you have a past-due bill and demanding payment, hang up. Then look up the utility company’s phone number yourself and call to make sure. Do not use the phone number provided by the caller, as it’s certain to be part of the scam.

Rest assured, a bona fide utility company will not send someone to your home to collect payment unannounced. And if two people show up at your door unannounced claiming to be there to collect a past-due bill or to check your furnace, chances are they are there to burglarize your home. Obviously, refuse them entry, secure the doors, and immediately alert the police.

 

Teresa Ambord is a former accountant and Enrolled Agent with the IRS. Now she writes full time from her home, mostly for business, and about family when the inspiration strikes.

Meet Teresa