Considering a Reverse Mortgage? Read This First.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau says if you’re considering this type of loan, you should look beyond the advertising.

In a reverse mortgage advertisement, you might see enticing images of youthful retirees on the golf course or enjoying other leisure activities. A reverse mortgage is a special type of loan that allows homeowners aged 62 and older to borrow against the accrued equity in their homes. The loan must be paid back when the borrower dies, moves, or no longer lives in the home.

Ads for reverse mortgages are found on television, radio, in print, and on the internet, and many ads feature celebrity spokespeople discussing the benefits of reverse mortgages without mentioning risks. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) took a look at some of these ads and found incomplete and inaccurate statements used to describe the loans. In addition, most of the important loan requirements were often buried in fine print, if they were even mentioned at all. These advertisements may leave older homeowners with the false impression that reverse mortgage loans are a risk-free solution to financial gaps in retirement.

In conducting their study, the CFPB met with older homeowners in Washington DC, Chicago, and Los Angeles to learn about their thoughts and impressions of reverse mortgage ads. After looking at a variety of ads, many of those homeowners didn’t realize reverse mortgage loans need to be repaid. Instead, some thought they could access their equity interest-free, or that the federal government provided the money as a benefit to seniors. Homeowners told us that the most attractive messages in the ads were “you can live in your home as long as you want,” and that you “still own your home.” Many ads, however, didn’t mention that seniors could lose their homes if they don’t satisfy the loan requirements, such as paying property taxes or homeowners insurance.

Seniors said the ads made reverse mortgages look like a good way to travel and enjoy retirement while they were still young and active. Yet Americans are living longer, more active lives than ever before. Reverse mortgage borrowers can outlive their loan funds by borrowing without careful planning.

Reverse mortgage ads don’t always tell the whole story, so consider these facts when you see advertisements:

  1. A reverse mortgage is a home loan, not a government benefit. Reverse mortgages have fees and compounding interest that must be repaid, just like other home loans. With most reverse mortgages, federal insurance guarantees that borrowers will receive their loan funds if their lender has financial difficulty or if their loan balance exceeds the value of their home. However, borrowers pay for this insurance, and it’s not a government benefit.
  2. You can lose your home with a reverse mortgage. When a reverse mortgage ad says you’ll retain ownership of your home, or that you can live there as long as you want to, don’t take these messages at face value. These statements are true only if you continue to meet all requirements of the reverse mortgage. If you fall behind on your property taxes or homeowners insurance, are absent from your home for longer than six months, or fail to satisfy other requirements, you can trigger a loan default. If you don’t take care of the default in time, the lender can foreclose on your home. Sometimes these requirements are listed in fine print, but not always. If you have a question about reverse mortgage requirements, contact a HUD-approved housing counselor near you.
  3. Without a good plan, you could outlive your loan money. After seeing a reverse mortgage ad, you might think that a reverse mortgage guarantees your financial security no matter how long you live. Americans are living longer today than they were just a generation ago. Make sure you have a financial plan in place that accounts for a long life. That way if you need to tap your home equity, you won’t do it too early and risk running out of retirement resources later in life.

If you have a problem with your reverse mortgage

Check out Ask CFPB to learn more about reverse mortgages. You can also download a printer-friendly version of this information to share with friends or family.

If you’re having a problem with your reverse mortgage or having problems getting through to your mortgage servicer, you can submit a complaint to CFPB online or by calling (855) 411-2372 or TTY/TDD (855) 729- 2372. CFPB will forward your complaint to the company and work to get you a response within 15 days.

For more information about how reverse mortgages work and questions to ask, read CFPB’s guide to reverse mortgages for older consumers and their families. And if you or loved one have a reverse mortgage loan, here are three steps you should take.

Source: The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the government agency that aims to make consumer financial markets work for consumers, responsible providers, and the economy as a whole. Visit the CFPB website to read an in-depth report on reverse mortgage ads.    

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Eggs and Cholesterol

Eggs—good or bad? NPR takes a look at the science. http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2017/03/06/518152471/unscrambling-the-nutrition-science-on-eggs

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Caring for the Emotional Health of Hospice Families

Many families today take advantage of hospice services to provide supportive care when a loved one is near the end of life. Hospices serve many thousands of patients each year, and provide high-quality cost-effective, compassionate care for people with life-limiting illnesses.

The hospice team, which may include the patient’s personal physician, nurses, social workers, physical and occupational therapists, chaplains and home health aides, work closely with the patient and family to keep the patient comfortable and to ensure the best possible quality of life during the last days. Hospice care can be provided in the patient’s home, in a nursing home or other senior living community, or in a dedicated hospice facility.

But new research shows that while we’ve come a long way in supporting patients at the end of life, we sometimes fall short of supporting the most important members of the care team—family caregivers, who do so much for their loved one, yet may not take the time to focus on their own emotional, social and spiritual needs.

University of Missouri School of Medicine researchers recently published a study, “The Prevalence and Risks for Depression and Anxiety in Hospice Caregivers,” in the Journal of Palliative Medicine. Lead researcher Debra Parker-Oliver reported that 25 percent of these caregivers experience moderate or severe depression, and nearly a third suffer from anxiety.

“While some sadness and worry are expected components of caring for a dying family member or loved one, clinical depression and anxiety shouldn’t be,” said Parker-Oliver, who is a professor in the university’s Department of Family and Community Medicine.

Parker-Oliver noted that younger caregivers were at higher risk of depression, and caregivers whose loved ones had Alzheimer’s had a higher level of depression than those who were suffering from cancer. Her team called for expanded depression screening and treatment for family caregivers who are caring for a loved one whose life is near the end.

Parker-Oliver reminds us, “Health providers usually are more focused on the terminally ill patient instead of the entire family. However, in many scenarios, it is a family disease. It’s fair to say they have two patients: the caregiver and the person who is terminally ill.”

Source: IlluminAge AgeWise reporting on a news release from the University of Missouri School of Medicine.

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Better Treatment for Depression

Treating depression isn’t a one-size-fits-all choice and researchers are on the trail of better targeted approaches. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/brain-imaging-identifies-different-types-of-depression

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New Hypertension Awareness Resource

What’s scarier—sharks, walking a tightrope across the Grand Canyon, or hypertension? Check out the “Mind Your Risks” resources from HHS, designed to raise awareness of the dangers of high blood pressure. https://mindyourrisks.nih.gov

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March Is Brain Injury Awareness Month

An estimated 1.7 million traumatic brain injury-related hospitalizations and emergency visits occur each year in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “Sadly, you can’t prevent every brain injury from occurring,” said Dr. Alex Rosenau, former president of the American College of Emergency Physicians. “But the number of patients we treat who are suffering from injuries that were preventable is alarming.”

More than 50,000 people in the United States die each year because of traumatic brain injury, and another 80,000 to 90,000 deal with a long-term disability. The severity of a brain injury can vary from “mild” to “severe.” Nearly 80 percent of people are treated and released from an emergency department, according to the CDC.

Traumatic brain injury can be caused by a number of events. More than 35 percent of these injuries are caused by falls, 21 percent are miscellaneous accidents and more than 17 percent are caused by motor vehicle or traffic crashes.

Traumatic brain injury has been getting a significant amount of attention in recent years because of current and former NFL players who say hard hits to their heads and repeated concussions throughout their playing careers have caused them to have life-altering symptoms of brain injury.

One of the most common brain injuries is a concussion. Most people recover quickly and fully, but for some, it takes longer. Physical symptoms of a concussion may include:

  • Headache
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Blurry vision
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Balance problems
  • Light and noise sensitivity

There are many ways to protect your brain or at least decrease the severity of injury. Some include:

  • Always wear certified safety helmets when biking, motorcycling, snowmobiling, skiing, skating, snowboarding, horseback riding, sledding, rollerblading, skateboarding and many other activities that lead your head vulnerable to hitting hard surfaces.
  • Properly wear a seatbelt at all times in a moving vehicle.
  • Properly install a child’s safety seat, have it inspected, and make sure children are strapped in correctly depending on their specific age.

“Clearly the best thing you can do if you hit your head, and you’re unsure of the severity, is to come to the emergency room to get checked out,” said Dr. Rosenau. “We’d much rather see you and send you home as opposed to seeing you and then admitting you to the hospital for something more serious.”

Source: American College of Emergency Physicians (www.acep.org), the national medical specialty society representing emergency medicine. Adapted by IlluminAge AgeWise.

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March Is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

The American Institute for Cancer Research shares six steps to prevent half of all colorectal cancers.

Colorectal cancer includes cancers that begin in the colon and the rectum. The National Cancer Institutes (www.cancer.gov) says there were 134,490 cases of colorectal cancer in 2016, and almost 50,000 deaths due to the disease.

It’s important to be screened for colorectal cancer as your doctor recommends. Screening is recommended beginning at age 50, and earlier for people with certain risk factors or symptoms. During some types of screening (colonoscopy and sigmoidoscopy), the doctor may remove polyps, abnormal growths in the colon that could turn into cancer. Healthy lifestyle choices also lower the risk of colorectal cancer.

The following information is from American Institute for Cancer Research.

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths and the third most common cancer in the United States. The latest research shows that Americans can prevent tens of thousands of these cancers every year through eating a healthy diet, getting enough physical activity and maintaining a healthy weight, say experts at the American Institute of Cancer Research (AICR).

“Research now suggests that 50 percent of colorectal cancers in the United States are preventable each year through diet, weight, and physical activity,” said Alice Bender, MS, RDN, AICR’s Head of Nutrition Programs. “That’s about 67,200 cases every year.”

For National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, Bender shared six evidence-based steps to reduce your risk. The strategies stem from the AICR’s report, “Food, Nutrition Physical Activity and the Prevention of Colorectal Cancer,” an analysis of the global evidence.

  1. Maintain a healthy weight and watch out for belly fat. Research now shows that excess body fat is linked with an increased risk of colorectal cancer, along with nine other cancers. The report also concluded that carrying excess belly fat—regardless of weight—is a risk factor for colorectal cancer.
    Starting Step: Become portion-size savvy. Choose larger portions of colorful vegetables, but keep servings of calorie-packed foods like meats, cheese and nuts smaller. Limit desserts and sweets to two or three times a week in small portions.
  2. Fit activity into your day. From housecleaning to running, the most recent report finds that moderate physical activity—of all types—reduces the risk of colon cancer. (There was insufficient evidence to make a similar conclusion regarding rectal cancer.)
    Starting Step: Find 10 minutes today to move, whether taking a break at work or while watching TV. Build on that over time by taking more activity breaks or extending the 10 minutes to 30 minutes.
  3. Eat plenty of fiber. Eating a diet with plenty of high-fiber foods lowers the risk of colorectal cancer. For every 10 grams of fiber coming from foods daily—slightly less than a cup of beans—the risk of colorectal cancer is reduced by 10 percent.
    Starting Step: Move to the AICR New American Plate way of eating: fill two-thirds or more of your plate with vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans and nuts and no more than one-third with animal protein such as poultry or lean red meat.
  4. Cut the red meat; avoid the processed. The report found that regularly eating high amounts of red meat and even small amounts of processed meat increases colorectal cancer risk. Ounce for ounce, consuming processed meat increases the risk twice as much as consuming red meat. Processed meats include hot dogs, bacon, sausage and deli meats.
    Starting Step: Limit red meat consumption to 18 ounces per week—roughly the equivalent of five or six small cooked portions of beef, lamb or pork—and avoid processed meat. Try fresh roasted chicken breast, hummus or peanut butter for sandwiches.
  5. Go moderate on the alcohol. The evidence is convincing that drinking alcohol increases colorectal cancer risk in men and it probably increases the risk in women. When it comes to cancer risk, the best advice is: If you don’t drink, don’t start. For people who do drink, AICR recommends limiting alcohol to no more than two standard drinks daily for men; one for women.
    Starting Step: Become aware of how much a standard drink is by measuring the following amounts and pouring it into your glassware: 5 ounces of wine, 12 oz. beer and 1.5 ounces of liquor.
  6. Enjoy plenty of garlic. Evidence suggests that a diet filled with relatively high amounts of garlic reduces the risk of colorectal cancer.
    Starting Step: Add chopped garlic to stews, stir-fries, vegetables and roasted meats. Chop the garlic, then wait 10-15 minutes before cooking in order to activate the health-promoting ingredients.

Source: The American Institute for Cancer Research. The AICR fosters research on the relationship of nutrition, physical activity and weight management to cancer risk, interprets the scientific literature, and educates the public about the results. Visit the AICR website (www.aicr.org) to find delicious, healthful recipes and information. Article adapted by IlluminAge AgeWise.

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Experts Update Recommendations for Treating Lower Back Pain

What’s the best treatment for lower back pain? Drugs? Surgery? Experts say that time and remaining active are the best treatment.  https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/13/health/lower-back-pain-surgery-guidelines.html

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Music and Brain Health

Penn State researchers remind us that while listening to music promotes cognitive health, participating is even better—no matter what our age. https://www.pennmedicine.org/news/news-blog/2017/january/playing-an-instrument-better-for-your-brain-than-just-listening

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When Alzheimer’s Disease Strikes in Middle-Age

Two years ago, actress Julianne Moore received the Best Actress Oscar at the Academy Awards for her portrayal of a Columbia University professor who is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in the movie Still Alice. The poignant film brought some much-needed publicity to the fact that younger people can develop Alzheimer’s, which is usually assumed to be a disease of people older than 65.

While fewer than 5 percent of patients develop the disease at an early age, the Alzheimer’s Association estimates that as many as 200,000 Americans have early-onset Alzheimer’s, most of them in their 40s and 50s. (Early-onset Alzheimer’s is also referred to as “younger-onset Alzheimer’s”). This form of the disease has been described as particularly cruel, as it strikes at a time when patients are often otherwise quite healthy and fit, and are beginning to reap the rewards of working hard and raising a family.

This can be particularly hard on caregivers. Early-onset Alzheimer’s often creates even greater burdens for families than the more common late-onset form of the disease. Trying to care for a spouse with the disease—who most likely can no longer work—while raising a family brings a whole new set of challenges to caregiving. That’s why, often, caregiving duties also fall on the children of these families.

Individuals with early-onset Alzheimer’s and their caregivers face a unique set of challenges. Because no one expects a younger person to have the disease, it may be misdiagnosed, and people may not understand or have sympathy for someone living with it. Employers may think someone is simply “losing it” or a spouse may become irritated that their partner in life seems to be letting important tasks go undone.

One of the first things caregivers may face is the question from people who say “He’s too young to have Alzheimer’s!” That’s why it’s important for caregivers to become educated. They should learn about financial resources, such as Social Security’s Compassionate Allowances. Families should also know that early-onset Alzheimer’s has a genetic component to it, which means that it runs in families. The genetic connection is much stronger in early-onset Alzheimer’s, meaning that if a person’s parent or grandparent is diagnosed with the disease, the person’s chances of developing the condition are much higher compared to those whose family member has later-onset Alzheimer’s.

There is a genetic test that can tell if a person has an increased chance of getting the disease. Getting tested is a very personal decision. Before deciding on whether to get the test, it’s important to speak with a healthcare professional about the options. Getting tested could lead to an accurate diagnosis, allowing patient and family to plan ahead for care, to ensure the family will be taken care of, and to begin treatment as early as possible. Although there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, there are some treatment options available that may help ease its symptoms.

To find more information about early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, visit the websites of the National Institute on Aging and the Alzheimer’s Association.

The information in this article is not intended to take the place of the advice of your doctor. Talk to a healthcare provider if you have questions about Alzheimer’s disease and genetic testing.

Source: IlluminAge AgeWise

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