Senior Nation: Survey Shows Two-Thirds of Seniors Have Been Scammed Online

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Financial and online fraud against aging adults are now considered the “crimes of the century” by the National Council on Aging. Scammers often target seniors because of perceived accumulated wealth, and feel that seniors are less likely to report crimes due to fear of embarrassment.

In fact, a new survey[i] by Home Instead, Inc., franchisor of the Home Instead Senior Care® network of franchised businesses that provide in-home care services to seniors, found that two-thirds (67 percent) of U.S. seniors have been the victim or target of at least one common online scam or hack. In addition, more than a third (38 percent) report that someone has tried to scam them online, and 28 percent of surveyed seniors have mistakenly downloaded a computer virus.

Michael Kaiser, executive director of the National Cyber Security Alliance, explains that encouraging seniors to protect themselves online can go a long way in protecting sensitive identity and financial information. “Cybersecurity is about risk reduction. It’s difficult to achieve perfect security. But you can help older adults work to make themselves a more difficult target,” Kaiser said.

To help seniors understand their risks online and take steps to protect themselves, the Home Instead Senior Care network collaborated with the National Cyber Security Alliance to launch a new public education program, Protect Seniors Online, available at www.ProtectSeniorsOnline.com. The new program offers free resources and tips to help seniors understand how scammers operate, familiarize themselves with the most common senior scams and provides proactive steps seniors and caregivers can take to protect sensitive information. The resources include the online “Can You Spot an Online Scam?” quiz to test seniors’ cyber security knowledge.

“For seniors, this is a time in their lives when they should be able to trust that their life’s earnings are protected,” said Jennifer Marchi, owner of the Home Instead Senior Care office serving Queen Anne’s, Talbot, Dorchester, Kent and Caroline counties. “Unfortunately, we know there are people who violate this trust. That’s why we are committed to helping seniors understand the ways they are at risk online and how to protect their information to reduce their chances of being scammed.”

Research shows that more and more seniors are going online – and putting themselves at risk. According to Home Instead’s survey, 97 percent of aging adults use the internet at least once a week. They most commonly use the internet for email, with 94 percent of seniors doing so weekly. Seniors also use the internet to manage finances, with 41 percent banking online and over a quarter (26 percent) paying bills online. Seniors are also active on social media, with 51 percent using Facebook or Twitter at least once a week. All that time online – coupled with what scammers view as perceived financial security and a trusting nature – can make seniors a primary target for scammers.

Seniors are encouraged to take the following precautions, compiled from the National Cyber Security Alliance, Stop Think and Connect and the Home Instead Senior Care network, to protect themselves online:

1. Create passwords and make them strong. Lock all internet-enabled devices, including computers, tablets and smartphones, with secure passwords – at least 12 characters long and a mix of letters, numbers and symbols.
2. Secure access to accounts, with two-step verification. Many online services, including apps and websites, offer free options to help protect personal information. Learn more at LockDownYourLogin.com.
3. Think before you act. Emails or messages that create a sense of urgency – like a problem with a bank account or taxes – are likely a scam. Reach out to companies by phone to determine if emails are legitimate.
4. When in doubt, throw it out. If an email looks unusual, delete it. Clicking on links in email is often how scammers access personal information. Turn on spam filters to filter suspicious messages.
5. Share with care. Be aware of what you share publicly on social media and adjust privacy settings to limit who can see your information.
6. Use security software, including updated anti-virus and anti-spyware software.
7. Adjust browser safety settings for optimum security.
8. Use your computer’s default firewall security protection on your computer.
9. Log out. Log out of apps and websites when you’re finished using them. Leaving them open on your computer or smartphone could make you vulnerable to security and privacy risks.
10. Consider support. Seniors who live alone or spend a lot of time by themselves may want to consider a trusted source, such as adult family members, computer-savvy grandchildren, or professional caregivers, to serve as a second set of eyes and ears when conducting activities online.

“Our hope is that by highlighting the ways scammers can gather sensitive information, and providing seniors with cybersecurity strategies they can implement themselves, we can help ensure their personal information, financial security and independence stay protected,” explains Marchi.

Seniors can test their cybersecurity skills at “Can You Spot an Online Scam?” and view other program resources and tips at ProtectSeniorsOnline.com. Or, contact your local Home Instead Senior Care office for additional resources and to learn how their professional CAREGiversSM may be able to assist. Find an office near you by visiting www.homeinstead.com/state/.

Op-Ed: Legislating Death with Dignity needs Debate with Dignity by Michael Collins

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The introduction again of legislation that would allow people with terminal illnesses to obtain lethal doses of drugs with which to kill themselves has reignited the debate about assisted suicide in Maryland.

The attraction of the “Richard E. Israel and Roger “Pip” Moyer Death End-of-Life Option Act,” HB370 and SB354, is understandable. Who has seen people in the last stages of a terminal illness and not thought, “What can we do to ease their suffering?” Whose heart has not gone out to families whose loved ones endure often intense pain as they die?

I’m sure many people have thought, “If I am ever in that condition, I don’t know how long I’d want to hang on.”

These laws’ advocates often use intensely personal tales, such as that of former Annapolis Alderman Dick Israel, who succumbed to Parkinson’s disease, and, Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old California woman with terminal brain cancer, who moved to Oregon to take advantage of that state’s assisted-suicide law.

Yet, that the passage of these laws relies so heavily on their raw emotional appeal should make us pause. We need to ask some hard questions about these issues and think just as hard about their potentially ugly answers.

Have we exhausted all options related to palliative care? If there are laws and regulations that onerously restrict physicians from prescribing the painkillers that can alleviate a terminal patient’s suffering, shouldn’t we change them first?

If enacted, this law will establish the principle that people in Maryland have a right to “death with dignity,” as the legislation was called when first introduced two years ago. With that accomplished, what is there to prevent the law from expanding to allow physician-administered suicide?

Slippery slope

In the Netherlands, where euthanasia has been legal since 2002, physicians are helping people with treatable mental illnesses—like depression—commit suicide. And, numerous doctors have become “angels of death,” euthanizing terminally ill patients without their consent.

A 2012 paper by J. Pereira in Current Oncology, found that despite safeguards built into so-called “death with dignity” laws, most safeguards are ignored.

For example, in 2005, more than 540 people in Holland were euthanized without providing explicit consent. In the Flemish part of Belgium, 208 people were euthanized without consent because they were in a coma.

Pereira’s study concluded that in 30 years, the Netherlands has slowly moved from euthanasia for terminal illnesses to euthanasia for psychological distress. That point was driven home last year in a widely reported case where a woman in her 20s—who did not have a terminal illness—was euthanized in Holland. She had been a victim of sexual trauma and her psychiatrist determined that she had untreatable Posttraumatic Stress Disorder.

Lawsuits

Proponents of so-called “death with dignity” argue a patient should have the right to self-administer a lethal dose of prescription drugs. But what about people with disabilities? Such a law is one lawsuit from being an Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) violation for those who cannot self-administer.

Opponents of capital punishment point to the Hippocratic Oath to keep doctors from assisting in legal executions. They have also attacked drug companies for providing the lethal cocktails for executions. And they have pointed to botched executions as reason to end all executions.

Would doctors who prescribe lethal doses of drugs be violating their Hippocratic Oath? Could they be subject to professional sanctions?
Will drug companies have an incentive to create more powerful poisons so a patient does not have to swallow 100 capsules?
If even medically supervised executions can be botched, what can we assume about patient suicide? If not supervised, what happens? Could a patient be in a permanent vegetative state requiring life support? If supervised, would more active measures be required?
Proponents of such abortion-inducing drugs as Plan-B have sued pharmacists who refuse to dispense abortificients because it violates their conscience. Will pharmacists be liable to lawsuits if they refuse to prescribe life-ending drugs?

Conscience

The introduction of euthanasia will place Maryland’s health-care professionals on a collision course with numerous ethical and moral dilemmas. Anti-capital punishment activists argue that the Hippocratic Oath prohibits doctors from assisting with legal executions. Can it be made to square with euthanasia?

What about those with religious objections? Will a Muslim doctor be able to refuse to write a prescription for lethal drugs based on his religious beliefs? Will a pharmacist who is an evangelical Protestant be able to refuse to fill such a prescription on the same grounds?

Grim efficiency?

In 2008, Barbara Wagner and Randy Stroop were denied further cancer treatments by Oregon’s state-run Medicaid program because their cancers were in advanced stages. They were informed, however, that it would pay for their assisted suicide drugs.

Opponents of Oregon’s assisted suicide have noted potential conflicts of interest between doctors who approve assisted suicide and their employment with health maintenance organizations (HMOs).

Will Maryland’s Medicaid provide suicide drugs? What about insurance policies purchased through Maryland’s health exchange? Will we create a two-tier system where the wealthy with private insurance get their expensive cancer treatment while the poor on Medicaid get offered suicide drugs?

I fear that many of the people now holding out the promise of “death with dignity” are exploiting our compassion, anxieties, and fears in order to move us—incrementally, at first—toward a truly nightmarish future in which human life will be easily and callously disposed of in service to some amorphous “greater good.” Will we soon have ambulatory “dignity” clinics, like the dystopian future presented in the 1970s film “Soylent Green?” Recall how the Edward G. Robinson character “went home,” a euphemism for assisted suicide.

Before we pass the “End-of-Life Option Act” law, we need a debate with dignity, that strips away the euphemisms, asks the hard questions and gets the unvarnished answers.

Michael Collins can be reached at michael.collins.capital@gmail.com.

Senior Nation: Workshop on Legal Challenges of Aging Loved Ones February 18

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Good news: there is no need to fear legal documents for aging loved ones moving into assisted living.

HeartFields Assisted Living at Easton invites you to participate in a free seminar conducted by Mid-Shore attorney Charles Capute. He will walk through a discussion on legal issues one might have in paying for care and protecting elderly parents and themselves both legally and financially. Issues such as powers of attorney, estate planning, and health care powers will be covered followed by a question and answer period.

The Seminar will be held this coming Saturday, February 18th, from 9:00 to 11:00 AM at HeartFields Assisted Living at Easton located at 700 Port Street in Easton, Maryland. Seating is limited, so call 410-820-4400 to reserve your slot.

The lecture and seminar series is part of the HeartFields Lifestyle 360 Programing developed by Five Star Senior Living that centers on the Five Dimensions of Wellness. Heartfields goal is to make life meaningful and fun while giving residents the opportunity to discover new interests and pursuing new friendships. The Five Dimensions support intellect, physical, spiritual, emotional and social growth.

HeartFields Chef Gordon will present a “Five Star” breakfast, using signature items from his daily menus, following the seminar.

For more information of this program please go here