- Top TV Remotes for Elderly Seniors
- Do You Need Life Insurance After You Retire?
- Protecting Your Pets After You’re Gone
- How to Find a Medical Escort After a Procedure
- Three Vaccines Seniors Should Consider Getting This Fall
Savvy Senior: Top TV Remotes for Elderly Seniors
Dear Savvy Senior,
Can you recommend some simplified universal television remotes for seniors? My 88-year-old dad, who lives in a retirement community, has some dementia and gets confused with all the buttons on his remote. As a result, he keeps accidently reprograming his TV set.
- Searching Son
Most modern TV remotes – that come with dozens of unnecessary buttons – can be confusing for anyone to operate but can be especially challenging for elderly seniors. Fortunately, there are several universal TV remotes available that are specifically designed for older adults with vision, memory, or confusion issues, as well as those that are technologically challenged. These remotes have bigger buttons and paired down options that make them much easier to see and use. Here are three top choices to consider.
The two most popular simplified TV remotes on the market today are the “Flipper” and the “EasyMote.” Both of these are infrared (IR) only remotes intended for those who use traditional cable/satellite boxes or their TV’s internal tuner. They are not designed for people who use streaming media devices and will not work with devices that are controlled via Bluetooth or radio frequency (RF).
If you’re not sure how your dad’s TV is controlled, point his remote at the ground in the opposite direction from the device, and then press a button. If the remote still executes the command, then it’s using Bluetooth or Radio Frequency (RF) signals.
The Flipper, which is a top-rated remote, works with all major TVs including cable, satellite and digital TV receiver boxes. Available for $40 at FlipperRemote.com, this lightweight, remote has a tapered design that makes it easy to hold, and for simplicity it has only six large color-coded tactile buttons that are exposed to control the power, mute, volume up/down, and channel up/down.
Flipper also offers an optional “favorite channel” feature that will let you program up to 30 of your dad’s favorite channels and eliminate the useless channels he never watches. And it has a built-in keypad hidden behind a slide-down panel. This will give your dad the ability to directly punch in a desired channel, while keeping the remote simple and uncluttered. The Flipper remote can also be locked to prevent accidental reprograming.
The other popular senior-friendly remote that’s worth a look is the EasyMote (see EasyMote.us), which is available on Amazon.com for $18. This lightweight remote, which controls most TV and cable boxes, also comes with six large easy-to-see buttons (on/off, mute, channel up and down, and volume up and down buttons) that light up when pressed, which is nice feature if your dad watches TV in the dark. It also comes with a handy wrist strap to prevent misplacing the remote but can be removed anytime.
If the Flipper or EasyMote is too basic for your dad’s entertainment system, another simplified remote that offers the ability to control multiple devices is the “GE Big Button 2-Device Universal Remote” – also available at Amazon.com for $9.
This IR remote has an ergonomic design with large buttons that will let him control up to 2 audio/video components such as TV, cable/satellite receiver, Blu-ray/DVD player, Roku box, Apple TV and other streaming media players and sound bars.
In addition to power, volume, channel, mute buttons and number pad, this remote also offers a previous channel, sleep timer and input buttons for convenience.
Savvy Senior: Do you need life insurance after you retire?
Dear Savvy Senior,
Do I still need life insurance after I retire? I’ve been thinking about dropping my policy to escape the premiums. Is this a good idea?
- Approaching Retirement
It depends on your family and financial situation. While many retirees choose to stop paying their life insurance premiums when they no longer have young families to take care of, there are several reasons you may still want to keep your policy. Here are some different factors to help you decide.
Family situation: Life insurance is designed to help protect your spouse and children from poverty in the case of your untimely death. But if your children are grown and are on their own, and you have sufficient financial resources to cover you and your spouse’s retirement costs, then there is little need to continue to have life insurance.
On the other hand, if you had a child late in life or have a relative with special needs who is dependent on you for income, it makes sense to keep paying the premiums on your policy.
You also need to make sure your spouse’s retirement income will not take a significant hit when you die. Check out the conditions of your pension or annuity (if you have them) to see if they stop paying when you die, and factor in your lost Social Security income too. If you find that your spouse will lose a significant portion of income upon your death, you may want to keep the policy to help make up the difference.
Debts: If you are still paying off your mortgage or have other large debts, you should probably keep your policy to help your loved ones pay off these debts when you die. But if your debt payments are a small part of your net worth that poses no risk of financial difficulty, then you may not need it.
Work: Will you need to take another job in retirement to earn income? Since life insurance helps replace lost income to your family when you die, you may want to keep your policy if your spouse or other family members are relying on that income. However, if you have very little income from your retirement job, then there’s probably no need to continue with the policy.
Estate taxes: Life insurance can also be a handy estate-planning tool. If, for example, you own a business that you want to keep in the family and you don’t have enough liquid assets to take care of the estate taxes, you can sometimes use a life insurance policy to help your heirs pay off Uncle Sam when you die.
To help you with this decision, consider talking to an estate-planning expert or a fee-only financial advisor who can help you weigh out the pros and cons.
Sell or Swap Your Policy
If you decide that you don’t need your life insurance policy any longer, you may want to consider selling it in a “life settlement” transaction to a third-party company, which typically pays four to eight times more than the policy cash surrender value. The best candidates are people over age 65 who own a policy with a face value of $100,000 or more.
If you’re interested in this option, get quotes from several life settlement providers or brokers in your state. To find them, the Life Insurance Settlement Association provides a directory at LISA.org.
Another option is to use a tax-free 1035 exchange to swap your policy for a hybrid product that blends life insurance with long-term-care insurance coverage. These products come in various forms, but they often combine a whole or universal life policy with a long-term-care rider. If you don’t use the long-term-care coverage, your heirs get the death benefit.
Savvy Senior: Protecting your pets after you’re gone
Dear Savvy Senior,
What is the best way to ensure my pets are taken care of after I’m gone? I have two dogs and a cat that are my four-legged family, and I want to make sure they’ll be well taken care of after I die.
- Solo Senior
It’s a great question. Every year, approximately 500,000 cats and dogs enter shelters when their pet parents experience an emergency or pass away. Without a proper plan in place for the future care of your pets, they are at risk of ending up in a shelter where they could be euthanized.
To avoid this terrifying scenario and ensure your furry family is cared for both physically and financially after you’re gone, you should consider including them in your estate plan. Talk to your attorney about how to insert them in your will or trust in accordance with your state’s laws. Here’s what you’ll need to do.
If you already have a will or are planning to make one, you could simply add in a trusted caretaker clause for your pets, along with an alternative if your first choice falls through. You should also set aside money in your will for your pet’s care with an explanation of how the funds should be spent.
To determine how much to leave, multiply your pet’s annual food, care and medical costs by their life expectancies. You may want to add a separate document, called a letter of instruction, describing your pet’s routine, food and medication.
But be aware that even with this provision in your will the caretaker is not legally obligated to follow your instructions, spend the money as you intended or send the pet to another caretaker that you’ve named. Once the money is distributed to the caretaker, it’s an honor system.
Another option is to create a pet trust, which provides more legal protections. Depending on your state’s laws (see aspca.org/pet-care/pet-planning/pet-trust-laws), you could set up either a revocable pet trust, which can be changed or canceled during your lifetime, or an irrevocable pet trust that can’t be reversed. A pet trust can be completely separate or part of an existing trust that encompasses your other assets.
Along with appointing a trustee to manage your trust’s finances, you name your pet’s caretaker (who could also serve as the trustee), and any alternative caretakers, as well as an optional trust protector for added oversight of the trustee given that the beneficiary (your pets) can’t defend their own rights. Unlike a will, the caretaker has a fiduciary duty to follow your letter of instruction if you include one.
The cost for a living trust ranges anywhere between $1,000 to $3,000, while a will typically costs between $200 and $1,000. There are also cheaper do-it-yourself resources for making a simple will or trust, like Nolo’s Quicken WillMaker & Trust (Nolo.com, $99) and Trust & Will (TrustandWill.com, $159). Or, if that’s more than you’re willing to pay, you can make your will for free at FreeWill.com or DoYourOwnWill.com.
If you don’t have anyone who would be willing to take care of your pets after you’re gone, you should make arrangements to leave them to an animal retirement home, a rescue, humane society, pet care program or other animal welfare group. Many of these organizations find new homes for pets or offer lifetime care but may require a fee or donation. Talk to your veterinarian about the options available in your area.
Savvy Senior: How to find a medical escort after a procedure
Dear Savvy Senior,
Can you recommend some medical escort services that help seniors get home after a medical procedure? I need to have a colonoscopy, but my doctor’s clinic won’t schedule my appointment unless I supply them with a name and phone number of the person taking me home afterward. I live alone with no family nearby, and my friend doesn’t drive anymore. Any suggestions?
- Need a Lift
Good question! Finding “door-through-door” medical escort services for outpatient screenings and procedures that involve anesthesia can be challenging for older patients without nearby family or friends to rely on.
Door-through-door escorts that most clinics require is a safety measure. With a colonoscopy, for example, patients often receive an anesthetic, like propofol, or a narcotic such as Demerol or fentanyl, combined with anti-anxiety medication like Versed or Valium.
These drugs affect the brain, and they can stay in the system for four to six hours. So, what’s needed is someone to escort you out of the building, take you back home and see you into it.
While there’s no one simple solution to this medical escort problem, there are wide variety of local service providers, nonprofits and home-care companies that may be able to assist you. But what’s available to you will depend on where you live.
A good first step in making medical escort arrangements is to talk to your health care provider that’s doing the procedure to find out if their clinic offers transportation services or if they can refer you to a local medical escort service or person who can help you. If not, see if you can remain in the clinic for an extended period of time, until the drugs wear off, so you can safely drive yourself home or hail an Uber, Lyft or taxi to take you.
If these options aren’t available, here are some sources you should check into.
Area Agency on Aging (AAA): Your local AAA is one of your best resources for locating transportation services and should be able to refer you to medical escorts available in your community. To find your AAA call the Eldercare Locater 800-677-1116 or visit Eldercare.acl.gov.
Local nonprofit groups: The National Volunteer Caregiving Network (NVCNetwork.org) connects about 700 community organizations nationwide, most of which provide door-through-door transportation without charge.
Shepherd’s Centers of America: There are 55 affiliates in 17 states that provide support services for older adults – see ShepherdCenters.org. Most offer escorts to and from medical appointments without charge.
Village to Village Network: There are around 250 local village networks across the country (see VTVNetwork.org) that often help with medical escorts, though there’s an annual fee – usually subsidized for lower-income seniors – to join a village.
Home-care companies: You may also be able to hire a medical escort through a home-care agency, or you can find someone on your own through websites like Care.com or CareLinx.com. Note that Medicare doesn’t cover medical escorts, but in many states Medicaid does. If you choose this option, be sure you give plenty of notice before your appointment.
Savvy Senior: Three vaccines seniors should consider getting this fall
Dear Savvy Senior,
Which vaccines are recommended for Medicare seniors this flu season?
- Just Turned 65
Dear Just Turned,
There are actually three different types of vaccines seniors should consider getting this fall to protect against a repeat of last winter’s “tripledemic” of respiratory illnesses, which included flu, RSV and coronavirus. Here’s a rundown of the different vaccines the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is recommending and how they are covered by Medicare.
Senior-Specific Flu Shots
For people age 65 and older, there are three flu vaccines (you only need one) that the CDC recommends over traditional flu shots.
These FDA-approved vaccines provide extra protection beyond what a standard flu shot does, which is important for older adults who have weaker immune defenses and have a greater risk of developing dangerous flu complications compared with younger, healthy adults. The three senior-specific options include the:
- Fluzone High-Dose Quadrivalent vaccine, which contains four times the amount of antigen as a regular flu shot does, creating a stronger immune response for better protection.
- Fluad Quadrivalent vaccine, which contains an added ingredient called adjuvant MF59 that also helps create a stronger immune response.
- FluBlok Quadrivalent vaccine, is a recombinant protein (egg-free) flu vaccine that contains three times the amount of antigen as compared with a regular flu shot.
There isn’t enough evidence yet to indicate whether one of these three vaccines provides superior protection over the other two for seniors.
As for side effects, you should know that the Fluzone High-Dose and Fluad vaccines can cause more of the mild side effects that can occur with a standard-dose flu shot, like pain or tenderness where you got the shot, muscle aches, headache or fatigue. While the side effects of Flublok tend to be a little less frequent.
All flu vaccines are covered 100 percent by Medicare Part B as long as your doctor, health clinic or pharmacy agrees not to charge you more than Medicare pays.
New RSV Vaccines
Anyone age 60 and older, especially if you have any heart or lung conditions, diabetes, kidney or liver disorders that make you vulnerable to the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) should consider getting one of the new FDA approved RSV vaccines (either Arexvy or Abrysvo).
These vaccines, recommended by the CDC, will help protect older and immunocompromised adults from respiratory illness, which is responsible for 6,000 to 10,000 deaths and at least 60,000 hospitalizations each year in seniors 65 and older.
The new RSV vaccines are covered by Medicare (Part D) prescription drug plans.
Updated Covid Booster
If you haven’t had a Covid-19 booster shot lately, you should consider getting one this fall. Even though the Covid public health emergency has ended and the number of cases has gone way down, it has been surging in recent months causing an increase in hospitalizations, especially among the elderly.
The updated Covid vaccine targets the XBB omicron subvariants that are some of the most dominate coronavirus variants circulating in the U.S. It will also provide protection against the EG.5 variant (Eris), which is closely related to the XBB.
Covid booster shots are covered 100 percent by Medicare Part B.
When and Where
Most health officials agree that it’s safe to receive the flu and Covid booster at the same time. But because the RSV vaccines are new this year, many doctors are recommending a two-week window between an RSV shot and the flu and/or the COVID shots.
You can find all three vaccines at most pharmacies, medical clinics and health departments, or you can do a search at Vaccines.gov.
Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.