Thursday, January 24, 2013

Sleep Apnea

There is some evidence that sleep disordered breathing may contribute to cognitive impairment among older adults.  If this is the case, treatment of the disorder may be an effective way to prevent cognitive decline for many. 

A significant finding in a recent study shows that obstructive sleep apnea and sleep disordered breathing are increasing in prevalence in the older adult population; the cause is unknown.  Older adults with dementia appear to have a greater rate of sleep disorders than the general older adult population, though it is unclear whether one condition causes the other, or whether both share an underlying cause.

There seem to be a few plausible relationships between sleep disordered breathing and cognitive decline.  It has been thought that the oxygen deficit that can occur from sleep apnea may explain some of the apparent relationship between sleep disordered breathing and cognitive impairment.  Some research suggests that younger adults with sleep apnea are more vulnerable to suffering cognitive effects than are older adults with sleep apnea, while some suggests that sleep apnea may explain some cognitive impairment in older adults.   Some researchers believe that it is through fragmentation and disruption of sleep that sleep disordered breathing can cause cognitive impairment. It is widely believed that individuals with mild cognitive impairment are more vulnerable to the affects of sleep disordered breathing. 

While research is ongoing, it is widely accepted belief that a good nights’ sleep is always healthy.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Credit Card Fraud - Don't be a Victim!

People over the age of 65 make up almost 13% of the United States population, but represent 30% of scam victims. Seniors are especially vulnerable to consumer scams.

There is a scam I want to let you know about.  It’s not just pickpockets who steal your credit cards and money anymore.  Advances in computers and technology have made it possible for thieves to ruin your credit and tarnish your good name – without actually having possession of your credit card. And, the bad guys are already trying to get free stuff by using your credit card, so I hope you read this.

This scam is pretty slick since they provide YOU with all the information, except the one piece they want. Most people have read or been advised not to give their credit card number out over the phone unless you’ve initiated the order and you know you are speaking to a reputable company.  In this scam, the callers do not ask for your card number; they already have it. The information they are looking for is the security code on the back of your card.  This additional security step had been added recently in response to the growing cases of credit card fraud and is suppose to help deter fraud.  Well, the scammers have already found a way to circumvent the security steps set up.

By understanding how the VISA & MasterCard Telephone Credit Card Scam works, you'll be better prepared to protect yourself.

The scam works like this: Person calling says, "This is (name), and I'm calling from the Security and Fraud Department at VISA (or it could be MasterCard).  My badge number is 12460.  Your card has been flagged for an unusual purchase pattern, and I'm calling to verify the transaction.  This would be on your VISA card which was issued by (name of bank).  Did you purchase an Anti-Telemarketing Device for $497.99 from a Marketing company based in Arizona?"  When you say "No", the caller continues with, "Then we will be issuing a credit to your account.  This is a company we have been watching and the charges range from $297 to $497, just under the $500 purchase pattern that flags most cards.  Before your next statement, the credit will be sent to (gives you your address), is that correct?"  You say "yes".  The caller continues - "I will be starting a Fraud investigation.  If you have any questions, you should call the 1- 800 number listed on the back of your card (1-800-VISA) and ask for Security. You will need to refer to this Control Number.  The caller then gives you a 6 digit number.  "Do you need me to read it again?"
Here's the IMPORTANT part on how the scam works.  The caller then says, "I need to verify you are in possession of your card." He'll ask you to "turn your card over and look for some numbers."  There are 7 numbers; the first 4 are part of your card number, the next 3 are the security numbers that verify you are the possessor of the card. These are the numbers you sometimes use to make Internet purchases to prove you have the card.  The caller will ask you to read the 3 numbers to him.  After you tell the caller the 3 numbers, he'll say, "That is correct, I just needed to verify that the card has not been lost or stolen, and that you still have your card.  Do you have any other questions?"  After you say, "No," the caller then thanks you and states, "Don't hesitate to call back if you do", and hangs up.

You actually say very little, and they never ask for or tell you the card number. The REAL VISA security Department verified it was a scam and within 15 minutes a new purchase of $497.99 was charged to the card.

What the scammers want is the 3-digit PIN number on the back of the card.   Don't give it to them.  Instead, tell them you'll call VISA or Master Card directly for verification of their conversation.  VISA will never ask for anything on the card as they already know the information since they issued the card! 

If you give the scammers your 3 Digit PIN Number, you think you're receiving a credit.  However, by the time you get your statement you'll see charges for purchases you didn't make, and by then it's too late.

I urge you to tell everybody about this scam and hopefully it will help prevent someone from being taken advantage of.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Preparing for and Dealing with Utility Outages

In the event of a storm or other interruptions to our utility service, there are precautionary steps that can be taken before and during an outage to help ensure your health and safety.  In addition, you can assist people with special needs who may be at risk during utility outages.

Preparing for an outage:
Keep at least 2 battery operated radios and flashlights on hand, as well as a supply of fresh batteries.

Create a pantry of at least 3 days worth of bottled water, medications and foods that do not require refrigeration or cooking.  Be sure to include a manual can opener.

Have an alternate cooking source such as a camp stove or outdoor grill, and follow appropriate safety rules for its use outside the residence. Do not use indoors.

Fill spare containers with water for washing and cooking.

Have at least one telephone available that will continue to operate even when the household power is out.  Cordless phones and internet based phone service may not work during a power interruption.

If you own a cell phone, keep it fully charged, and consider purchasing a car charger to maintain the charge during an outage.

Have a list of emergency telephone numbers readily available.

Keep your vehicle gas tank at least half full.

Have extra blankets, coats, hats and gloves on hand to keep warm.

Consider buying a generator, and follow the rules for using it outside the residence. Do not use indoors.

During an outage:

Initially, check to see if your neighbors have power.  If they do, first check to see if you have simply blown a fuse or tripped a circuit breaker.  If that in not the cause, call your utility to report the outage.

Check local radio stations for announcements about restoration progress, safety tips and other key information.

Call your local emergency response number for help, if needed.

Prevent damage – turn off major appliances and sensitive electronic equipment to prevent damage from a possible surge when the power comes back on.  Leave a light or radio on so you will know when power has been restored.

Keep your refrigerator and freezer doors shut to keep food from spoiling.  If you use dry ice, handle it with gloves so it does not damage your skin.

During a winter outage, turn on water faucets slightly to avoid frozen or burst pipes.

Take safety precautions:

Do not go near or touch fallen or sagging power lines; treat all wires as live and dangerous. Keep children and pets away from fallen electric wires.  Never touch any lines or any items that are in contact with lines.

Never use a charcoal grill to cook or heat indoors.  This practice can lead to a build-up of carbon monoxide, a poisonous gas.

Do not use a gas oven to heat your home – prolonged use of an open oven in a closed house can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning.

Emergency generators can be dangerous if used improperly: follow the safety guidelines printed in the owner’s manual.  Before connecting a portable generator, turn off the main electric breaker to prevent electricity from traveling from the generator to de-energized power lines outside your house and possibly injuring repair crews.

If your basement or home is in danger of flooding, contact your utility to turn off your electric or natural gas service.  Never enter a flooded basement or home until service has been shut off because electric or natural gas equipment below the water line may be a hazard.

If you smell gas, leave your house immediately and call your local utility once you are outside of the house.

If using candles or storm lanterns, keep them away from drafts, flammable materials, and children.

Watch for health problems:
In cold weather, stay warm by dressing in layers and minimizing your time outdoors.

Know the mental and physical signs of cold stress and how to treat it.  Warning signs include shivering, drowsiness, slurred speech and disorientation.  Wrap the person in warm clothing, move the individual to a warm location and seek medical attention.

Know the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning.  It is a toxic, odorless and colorless gas that occurs in your home when fuel burning appliances are malfunctioning or used improperly.  Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include: headaches, dizziness, nausea and lightheadedness.  If these symptoms occur, get the victim into fresh air and take the person to a hospital emergency room as quickly as possible.

Consider installing a carbon monoxide detector to monitor the carbon monoxide levels in your home.

Help people with special needs:
If someone you know is elderly, blind or disabled, or dependent on life sustaining or health related equipment (such as ventilators, respirators, or oxygen) they may be at risk during an outage.  You can help make sure their needs are met by taking the following actions:

Have them register as special needs customer with their utility so they become a priority customer.

Notify others who could provide help – fire department, neighbors, nearby friends or relatives.

Have a list of emergency numbers readily available for them.

Check on them during an outage.

Have a portable generator or an alternative source of power available.  Be aware of the safety rules for its use.

This information has been provided by New York State Public Service Commission.  In the event of an outage, if you have contacted your utility and still have questions, call the Public Service Commission’s toll free helpline at 1-800-342-3377.