March 2012

March 2, 2012



The 10 Best Places to Retire in 2012

U.S. News & World Report is out with its list of the 10 best places to retire in 2012.  Whether you want to spend your golden years watching the sun set over the water or taking on a second career, the magazine has identified several ideal places to relocate. Click here.

Using data from Onboard Informatics, U.S. News selected 10 key attributes that many people look for in a retirement locale, and a city that excels in meeting each need. Here are 10 great places to retire.

Boone, NC – Affordable mountain town

Traverse City, MI – Water views on a budget

Walnut Creek, CA – Greenest place to retire

Ithaca, NY – College town for retirees

Lincoln, NE – Place to launch a second career

Pittsburgh, PA – Best mix of affordability and amenities

Port Charlotte, FL – Best place for affordable housing

Pittsfield, MA – Best place for single retirees

Santa Fe, NM – Best place for recreation and culture

Flagstaff, AZ – Pleasant year round weather


HHS Releases Administration’s Draft of National Alzheimer’s Plan

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has released its first draft of a plan outlining its intended actions against Alzheimer’s disease. The plan, ordered by the National Alzheimer’s Project Act, aims to develop effective treatment and prevention strategies by 2025, optimize care quality and efficiency, expand supports for people with Alzheimer’s disease and their family, enhance public awareness and engagement, and track progress and drive improvement.

The Obama Administration will immediately make available an additional $50 million for cutting-edge research along with an additional $26 million in caregiver support, provider education, public awareness and improvements in data infrastructure. Further, the 2013 budget will include higher funding for Alzheimer’s research with an additional $80 million.

The draft plan includes some notable changes from the initial framework, including the mention of assisted living.  It includes assisted living in its strategy to assess and address the housing needs of those with Alzheimer’s disease. The plan promises to undertake an analysis of current data to better understand the number of assisted living residents with Alzheimer’s disease and the services assisted living communities provide these residents.

The plan will be submitted to the Advisory Council to Address Alzheimer’ Disease for input and is open to public comment. To read the complete plan, click here.


USA Today Looks at the Best and Worst Nursing Homes

Last month, USA Today released its list of Best Nursing Homes which included an Honor Roll with 39 facilities that had received five-star ratings from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in each category for an entire year. Now, the newspaper is following up with a closer look at the other end of the spectrum: the more than 560 nursing homes that have a one-star federal government rating

Although many of these nursing homes improved significantly in the past three years, they still have that dismal one-star rating, says USA Today.

The federal government contracts with states to inspect nursing homes about once a year. The star ratings combine scores of data points, including information from annual inspections, quality measures and staff time spent with residents.

Nursing Home Compare lists the most recent star ratings but doesn’t provide a history for consumers.  USA Today analyzed the ratings for 15,700 nursing homes for the past three years. Among the findings:

  • Quality improved. The share of nursing homes receiving one or two stars overall fell to 35% in 2011 from 40% in 2009. At the same time, four- and five-star homes increased to 43% from 38% of nursing homes. The share of three-star homes remained steady.
  • Some homes are stuck at the bottom: 564 homes—representing 77,315 beds—received one star in each of seven reporting periods analyzed over three years. But 448 homes received the best overall rating — five stars — during each period.
  • Among the consistently low performers, almost two-thirds were for-profit nursing homes that are owned by chains. That’s a higher share than the 40% of all nursing homes in for-profit chains.

Click here to read the full article and check out the list of one-star facilities.   embed


Increasing Costs Force Some Nursing Homes to Shift to Managed Care

Faced with rapidly growing health care costs and shrinking Medicare and Medicaid financing, nursing home operators are closing some facilities and embracing a new model of care that allows many elderly patients to remain in their homes and still receive the medical and social services available in institutions.

The rapid expansion of this new type of care comes at a time when health care experts argue that for many aged patients, the nursing home model is no longer financially viable or medically justified.

In the newer model, a team of doctors, social workers, physical and occupational therapists and other specialists provides managed care for individual patients at home, at adult day care centers and in visits to specialists. Studies suggest that it can be less expensive than traditional nursing homes while providing better medical outcomes.

It used to be that if you needed some kind of long-term care, the only way you could get that service was in a nursing home, with 24-hour nursing care. That meant institutionalizing a service for people, many of whom didn’t need 24-hour nursing care. If a person can get a service like home health care or Meals on Wheels, they can stay in an apartment and thrive in that environment, and it’s a lower cost to taxpayers.

The recent influx of adult day care centers and other managed care plans for the frail elderly is being driven by financial constraints as President Obama and Congressional leaders seek hundreds of billions of dollars in savings in Medicare and Medicaid. Nursing homes, which tend to rely heavily on Medicare and Medicaid dollars, are facing enormous financial pressure.  The Obama Administration’s proposed budget includes a $56 billion Medicare cut over 10 years achieved by restricting payments to nursing homes and other long-term care providers.  Over the past six years the number of nursing homes has declined by 350, according to the American Health Care Association.

A new approach to help seniors and other who have chronic health needs is the adult day care center known as PACE — Program of all-Inclusive Care for the Elderly.  It provides almost all the services a nursing home might, including periodic examinations by doctors and nurses, daytime social activities like sing-alongs and lectures, physical and occupational therapy and two or three daily meals. All the participants are considered eligible for nursing homes because they cannot perform two or more essential activities on their own like bathing, dressing and going to the toilet. But they get to sleep in their own beds at night, often with a home health care aide or relative nearby.

The nonprofit groups that operate them receive a fixed monthly fee for each participant and manage their entire care, including visits to specialists, hospitalizations, home care and even placement in a nursing home. Because Medicare and Medicaid pay set fees instead of paying for specific procedures, center operators are motivated to provide preventive care to avoid costly hospitalizations or nursing home care.

Some elderly people, however, spurn PACE programs because under managed care, they would have to switch their physicians to those at the PACE center or in its network.  Nevertheless, most elderly people want to live out their lives at home.

For more information on the PACE program, click here.


Calculator Estimates Your Life Expectancy

Recently released information from the U.S. Census Bureau provides clear evidence that people are living longer.  This underscores the fact that they need to broaden their understanding of what makes a complete retirement plan, according to Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company. The company has developed a Lifespan Calculator to demonstrate how long a person might live based on 13 lifestyle factors including diet, drinking, smoking and stress.  It uses the latest information from the National Center for Health Statistics.

“Imagine you stopped working right now, in 2012, and you must go on to support yourself until 2037. How would you meet your needs, your wants and also handle the unexpected through another 25 years of life,” said Rebekah Barsch, Northwestern Mutual vice president – market strategy. “When you retire, this hypothetical question becomes very real, and it is only by developing a holistic retirement plan now, and incrementally and consistently working toward achieving that plan, that you can enter a financially secure retirement.”

The first step in understanding what longevity means for you and how it affects your personal retirement planning is to try the LifeSpan Calculator .


New Book:  How to Survive the Coming Retirement Storm – A Five-Step Process for Success in Volatile Times.

Recent headlines show that a confluence of forces – from four million new retirees each year, massive government debt and unsustainable deficits, a still broken financial system, and a global economic slowdown – power the retirement storm.  Its unknown magnitude and duration will overwhelm the current financial system.  In his book, How to Survive the Coming Retirement Storm, retirement and financial planner Robert Margetic, discusses his five-step process for success in these difficult economic times.

“New retirees are caught in the transition period between the old crumbling system and the yet-to-be-defined system.  This is the retirement storm.  Its full impact is two to five years out but the ominous clouds are on the horizon,” Margetic writes.  “Seventy-five percent of peope planning their retirement state that they are not prepared to manage the 20 to 30 years they will spend in retirement.  Fifty-four percent fear outliving their money.”

The book offers readers a new perspective on the new retirement environment and the tools to guide them to safety.  It discusses how to place a new emphasis on the balance between expense and income, manage personal affairs and investments in a different way, learn new ways to manage and control retirement, and create a dynamic form of retirement planning and management.

The book is available from Amazon in hard cover, paperback, or e-book.  For details, click here.