Product Review: GrandCARE Systems

GrandCare Systems - Connecting Seniors to Family and CareI get really excited about new technologies, systems, and emerging companies.  Especially if they’re built with the goal of making peoples lives more livable.   GrandCARE Systems is one of those companies that’s easy to get behind!  GrandCARE Systems is a communication tool, care management asset and activity-sensor-hub all wrapped up in an easy-to-use touchscreen device.

Connectivity Tools For Seniors

The grandCARE System offers connectivity for seniors.  It keeps them connected to family members, caregivers, and healthcare providers alike.  Family members are able to share photos, videos, and messages through the care portal (which can be accessed through any device with an internet connection).  Caregivers can set up activity reminders and medication prompts.  Medication reminders take on a whole new look with photos of pills and dosing information.

Healthcare providers are able to set up sensors around the home that can detect motion, establish sleep patterns and even send an alert if the refrigerator door has not been opened in the morning.  The system also supports telehealth devices such as blood pressure monitors, scales, pulse oximeters, glucometers, and thermometers.   All of this can be done while monitoring and engaging even the most technology-averse seniors.GrandCare Systems offers connectivity to seniors

GrandCARE allows every person involved with the senior to contribute in their own way.  It allows people to feel more integrated into their loved ones lives. — Daphne Karpan, Home Care RN

Thegrandcare systems communication tool grandCARE touch screen interface is very easy for the front end-user, presumably an older adult that may not be familiar with computers or modern tech.  It’s also easy for family, caregivers and providers who are connected on the back-end.  Monitoring seniors at home can make a great deal of sense.  GrandCARE just makes it easier!  Personally, I can also see this system being a welcome addition to any long distance family member situation.  Family members can easily send photos, videos and personal notes to share.

We reviewed a competitor of grandCARE in the past called Video Care.  Even though Video Care isn’t around anymore, their users have been incorporated into the grandCARE system.

 VideoCare used different hardware than grandCARE but we invested in testing our software to the point we can simply send VideoCare customers a USB drive that installs GrandCare on their current VideoCare touch PC.   It has made a number of people happy and we are proud to almost seamlessly migrate clients and their caregivers from VideoCare to grandCARE with almost no interruption in service. — Jerry Furness, COO of grandCARE

GrandCare Systems MonitorGrandCARE Systems (grandCARE) recently released MediKall, which is a HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) compliant video chat for providers to talk to clients and patients about medical conditions.  HIPPA compliance means your medical and personal information is protected/safe. GrandCARE can be used with a wired or wi-fi internet connection, so it’s a very flexible solution.

Buying a grandCARE System

Cost is $699 for the system and requires a $49 monthly subscription.  There are no additional charges for use of health devices, sensors, or alerts.  Some users are able to access this system through their home care, home health, hospice, or senior care living facility at a reduced cost.  Ask your provider if they have grandCARE connected into their network.  If you’re interested in the grandCARE System for a family member or a friend, by being a member of The Senior List community, you can receive 10% off of the purchase price.  Tell them you read about it here!

Senior Discounts on Prescriptions: Government Programs

Senior Discounts: Government Prescription ProgramsSaving on prescription drug costs is tough to do unless you know the full armamentarium available to you.  If you haven’t read our report on senior discounts and pharmacy discount clubs, you’ll want to check that out right away.  Another opportunity to save on the cost of prescription medications is to examine the many government programs available to seniors, and the public at large.

There are government agencies that offer assistance and advice on lowering prescription drug costs. Answers.USA.Gov offers a great resource for those that need some help with prescription drug costs. Here are some of their ideas to consider:

Senior Discounts From Government Agencies

  • Contact your local State Social Services Agency. These agencies can provide direct assistance to individuals in need and referrals to other service providers.
  • Local Health Centers can serve populations with limited access to healthcare. Annual income and family size determine ones ability to pay, and those guidelines are set to the most recent federal poverty guidelines.
  • If you are a Medicare or Medicaid recipient, you can call the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227). They can provide information about government-run healthcare programs and referrals to state agencies that administer these programs.
  • Consider contacting the company that manufactures your medication. They may supply you with free or discounted medication. You may also get a list of discount programs, by company, through the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA). They offer the Partnership for Prescription Assistance (PPA) program. You may contact the PPA at 1-888-4PPA-NOW (1-888-477-2669).
  • Veterans may with to contact the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The VA offers many programs designed to assist veterans.
  • Seniors can use the Administration on Aging’s (AOA) Eldercare Locator. This free service can help you locate resources and programs designed to help seniors in your area. You can also contact an Eldercare Locator information specialist by calling 1-800-677-1116.

Other articles you might be interested in: 2015 List OF Senior Discounts For Dining Out, 2014’s Big List Of Senior Discounts, List of Pharmacy Discount Clubs

2015 Senior Discounts On Prescriptions

prescription discounts for seniorsReaders asked us to research prescription discounts for seniors, so we sent our Senior-List-Sleuths on a quest to scour the internet (or “series of tubes” if you’re a fan of the late Alaska senator Ted Stevens) to see what we could find.  Here’s a nice list of prescription discounts and discount clubs for seniors to be aware of.

In many cases, these prescription discounts and discount clubs are available to anyone with enrollment in provider programs. Without exception, each of these programs is either free, or available for a nominal fee.  This is great news for boomers and seniors, and it’s great news for folks that need some assistance (especially if they aren’t carrying insurance).

List of Senior Discounts on Prescriptions

AARP:  With the AARP Prescription Discount Card (provided by Catamaran), AARP members and their families can access an average savings of 38% off prescription drugs (regardless of age or health status).  Must be a member of AARP to access benefits.  AARP boasts acceptance by 64,000 pharmacies nationwide.

Rite Aid:  Sign up for the Rite Aid Rx Savings Program.  Save 15% or more on thousands of brand name and generic prescription drugs1 by signing up for the Rite Aid Rx Savings Program. When you sign up, you’ll receive Rx Savings Card that gives you access to special discounts at Rite Aid pharmacy, including:

CVS Pharmacy:  Enroll in the CVS Pharmacy Health Savings Pass program. It’s easy and costs only $15 annually (per person). Whether you have limited prescription insurance or no coverage at all, you can sign up and start saving immediately.  This is not an insurance plan, it’s a prescription savings program. Under this program you can also receive 10% off MinuteClinic services inside select CVS/pharmacy stores.

Walgreens Prescription Savings Club:  Another great option for folks without insurance coverage. Walgreens Prescription Savings Club members get special discounts off the cash price of thousands of brand-name and generic medications as well as other benefits when they use their Prescription Savings Club Card. Additionally, if you don’t save at least the cost of your membership fee in one year, Walgreens will give you the difference.

Kmart:  The Prescription Savings Club at Kmart can be yours for a $10 enrollment fee.  You and the family are then covered  for certain generic drugs (starting at $5 for a 30-day supply and starting at $10 for a 90-day supply) * View Drug List.  In additional you’ll receive savings on non-preferred generics up to 65%, as well as 20% off brand name medications.  20% savings on flu immunizations and 10% savings on all other immunizations (e.g. shingles, whooping cough, hepatitis A&B, etc.).  You can even get discounts on pet medications with a prescription from your vet.

Target:  The Target Prescription Savings Program entitles seniors (and others in the household) savings of 10-50% on prescription medications (off of retail). One membership works for everyone in your household, and you can use your card at any (Target) Pharmacy.  In addition if you sign up for Target’s Pharmacy Rewards, and fill five eligible prescriptions, you’ll get a certificate for 5% off a day of shopping.  (Hey, every penny counts!)

Consumer Reports On Drug Costs

Did you know that Consumer Reports has secret shoppers that visit pharmacies (and other businesses) to investigate business practices?  When it comes to pharmacies, secret shoppers found that simply asking for discounts (like senior discounts, membership programs, or other incentives) tended to yield savings opportunities on prescription meds.  (Note: This is also a strategy we advocate when looking for senior discounts at restaurants.)  Additional prescription savings opportunities identified by Consumer Reports were:

  • Paying Cash – Some consumers report that NOT using their insurance benefit for certain meds has yielded savings.  Larger (big box) chains offer hundreds of popular prescription medications for just $4 per month, or $10 for a 3 month supply.
  • Join discount clubs like we’ve identified above.
  • Filling 90 day prescriptions could save you additional co-pays.
  • Shop around. All pharmacies are NOT created equal. Making a few phone calls could save you some serious money.

Government Help For Prescription Costs

In addition to these corporate prescription drug clubs, there are government agencies that can offer assistance and advice as well.  Answers.USA.Gov offers this advice for those that need some help with prescription drug costs.  Click through to our piece on Government Agencies Available to Help With Prescription Drug Costs.

The biggest lesson here is that consumers need to ask around. Don’t assume that the price is the price. Shop around and ask a lot of questions.  If you have advice for our community, please let us know what you’re doing to save on prescription drug costs in the comments section below!

February is American Heart Month

February is American Heart MonthFebruary is American Heart Month and I just celebrated by taking a brisk walk.  It’s important to show some love to your heart since Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) is the number one killer for men and women in the U.S. and is a leading cause of disability.  CVDs including heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure can be prevented by healthy habits like diet and exercise and not smoking.  The CDC offers some great tips to improving heart health, check out their website for expanded information- remember each step in the right direction is a step closer to a healthy heart!

1. Work with your health care team- make sure you are seeing your doctor at least once a year for regular check-ups.  Even if you are feeling great, they can check for things that may otherwise go unnoticed (like diabetes and high blood pressure).

2. Check your blood pressure and cholesterol- I have to keep reminding my kids that the blood pressure machines at the drug store aren’t toys to play on while we wait!  High blood pressure typically has no symptoms, so check it regularly.  A blood test for cholesterol is recommended every five years.

3. Eat a healthy diet and keep a healthy weight- An apple a day….  Adults should be eating 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day, foods low in fat, cholesterol, and sodium and high in fiber.  If you need help planning meals, selecting the right foods, physical activity ideas and exercise trackers, ChooseMyPlate.gov is a terrific resource.

4. Exercise.  Often.- You don’t have to run out and join a gym.  It’s easy to get your blood moving doing daily activities like taking the stairs, raking the yard, or parking at the far end of the parking lot.  The Surgeon General recommends that adults should have at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week.  That’s less than 25 minutes per day to show some love to your heart.

5. Don’t smoke and limit alcohol-  If you smoke, quit.  Talk to your doctor about strategies and medications that can help you with the addiction.   Alcohol overuse can increase blood pressure.  Men should limit alcohol intake to two drinks per day and women to one.

6. Manage diabetes and take your heart medication- Work closely with your health care team to ensure your diabetes is being managed the best way possible.  If you are taking heart related medications, make sure you are taking the right dose and follow directions for the medication correctly.  If you are having any side-effects or concerns about the medication, bring this to the attention of your health care team right away.

If these recommendations seem overwhelming, take it one step at a time.  Ask friends and family to support you and share your goals with them.   For more inspiration, check out these Hearty Healthy Pins.

Report: Prescription Drugs In Water Supply

prescription drugs in water supplyThe Huffington Post published an article today highlighting a study by the School of Freshwater Sciences (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee).  That study aptly titled “Pharmaceuticals and personal care products found in the Great Lakes above concentrations of environmental concern” reported that PPCP’s (pharmaceutical and personal care products) were evident in much higher concentrations than previously thought. Are reports of prescription drugs in water supply an overreach? Maybe… but maybe not.

In the Huff Post article the authors report that “The environmental risk of PPCPs in large lake systems, such as the Great Lakes, has been questioned due to high dilution; however, the concentrations found in this study, and their corresponding risk quotient, indicate a significant threat by PPCPs to the health of the Great Lakes, particularly near shore organisms.”

Interesting to note that the most commonly detected PPCPs in Lake Michigan were metformin, caffeine, sulfamethoxazole, and triclosan.  The list of other PPCP’s found in the Great Lakes contained many additional pharmaceutical type medications like Acetaminophen, Codeine and Ciprofloxacin.  What can you do today?  Learn how to properly dispose of expired medications in the home.  Think before you flush these drugs down the toilet.  The damage we’re doing is only going to get worse if we don’t take action today.

This study should cause concern AND create awareness for environmental issues that may result from exposure to these chemicals in our water and/or sediment.  It’s high time we start talking about measures to protect our planet folks, it’s the only one we have!

Photo: freedigitalphotos.net

CDC Says Middle Aged Women Overdose Rates Are Way Up

Overdose rates by womenA new study by the CDC indicates that death rates related to prescription drug overdose have skyrocketed 400% among women (compared to 250% among men).  The 11 year CDC study entitled “Vital Signs: Overdoses of Prescription Opioid Pain Relievers and Other Drugs Among Women – United States, 1999-2010″ showed that between 1999 and 2010, the rates of prescription drug overdose has grown precipitously, but especially among the women in the study.

 “Although more men die from drug overdoses than women, the percentage increase in deaths since 1999 is greater among women. More women have died each year from drug overdoses than from motor vehicle–related injuries since 2007.” – CDC Report; “Vital Signs: Overdoses of Prescription Opioid Pain Relievers and Other Drugs Among Women – United States, 1999-2010″

Healthcare providers are more focused than ever on prescription drug monitoring programs to track patients, the scripts themselves AND to monitor physicians that prescribe these drugs.  Nobody doubts the benefits of pain management in (or outside) the home, but the overdose rates are alarming.  In their conclusion, the authors state that “Public health interventions to reduce prescription drug overdose must strike a balance between reducing misuse and abuse and safeguarding legitimate access to treatment.” Easier said than done, but shining a light on this issue is really the first step.  Step 2 is figuring out how to manage the changes necessary to prevent overdoses and death.

 See below for your state’s (age-adjusted) death rates among women during 2009-2010 (courtesy of CDC).

Prescription overdose death rates by state

How To Dispose Of Expired Medications In The Home

Photo of prescription drugsChances are you’re sitting on some old, expired, or never-used medications in your cabinet or drawer.  You know the drawer I’m talking about… It’s the one in the bathroom where all this stuff seems to accumulate.  Every time I open that drawer up I say to myself, “I’ve got to organize this drawer one of these days…” Then I close it up for another 60 days or so, and the cycle repeats itself!

If you’re a responsible adult (and I know you are) you should be aware of the right way to dispose of your old or expired medications in the home.  The FDA has guidelines for this incredible accumulation of beta blockers, ACE Inhibitors, anti-inflammatory meds, ibuprofen, that expire in our drawers or medicine cabinets.

How big of an issue is this you ask?  Well, just know that you’re not alone in your hoarding of expired meds… On April 27th the government sponsored a “National Take-Back Initiative” at 5,829 locations around the country.  During this single event, more than 742,497  pounds (or 371 tons) of prescription medications were recovered and properly disposed of.  We’re talking big-time pill poundage folks!  The DEA has sponsored 5 previous Take-Back Initiatives and all combined, more than 2.8 million pounds (1,409 tons) of medications have been removed as a potential threat to consumers.

Expiration dates do matter when it comes to the medications in your cabinet or drawer.  If your medicine has expired, the chemical composition of that drug may have changed leading to a weaker effect, stronger effect or no effect at all.  The FDA has put together a consumer alert video noting the importance of expiration dates (see below).

There’s been a bit of controversy regarding flushing certain medications down the toilet when disposing of them.  Some environmental organizations note that trace amounts of certain chemical may leach into organic material or appear back into our water supply.  Regardless, if you cannot get rid of your expired drugs at a DEA sponsored Take-Back event, the FDA recommends flushing certain drugs down the toilet (or down the drain).  This list is part of a risk mitigation strategy which balances the risk of (access to) these  drugs in the home, with environmental concerns.  Right or wrong, they’ve concluded that some drugs are flush-worthy (thank you Elaine Benes).

For those drugs that aren’t on the flush-list, the FDA offers these suggestions for drug disposal in the home: “Mix medicines (do NOT crush tablets or capsules) with an unpalatable substance such as kitty litter or used coffee grounds.  Place the mixture in a container such as a sealed plastic bag and throw the container in your household trash.  Before throwing out your empty pill bottle or other empty medicine packaging, remember to scratch out all information on the prescription label to make it unreadable.” 

The best scenario for drug disposal is to take your unused medications to a National Take-Back Initiative event.  You can follow upcoming events by visiting the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s website for information on National Prescription Drug Take-Back Events.