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Expanded Free And Available Health Services For California Seniors; Long-Term Care Costs Not Addressed

While California enjoys the reputation of a destination state -- outdoor recreation, abundant fresh produce, and often mild weather -- the state was recently ranked 25th in terms of senior health. Even though seniors are typically living longer, more of them are doing so in a state of suboptimal health.

Meanwhile, resources for healthcare have never been more easily available. A number of free or extremely affordable preventive health tests and screenings are now being provided to seniors under the Affordable Care Act. In some cases, these services may require a small co-pay, but many do not, and all are offered without any insurance deductible for seniors.

For example, doctors who participate in Medicare are now offering a free annual wellness exam. Use this opportunity to work with your primary care physician on a 12-month wellness plan. If you have just enrolled in Medicare, you will receive a "Welcome to Medicare" exam at no cost, as well. Physicians are using it as a preventative baseline check to help plan out an ongoing wellness approach with their new patients. Other services provided for free under the Affordable Care Act include smoking cessation services, bone mass measurements, flu shots, Hepatitis B shots, abdominal aortic aneurysm screenings, and medical nutrition therapy services.

Take advantage of these opportunities to keep up with your heath maintenance. That means getting an annual flu shot and staying current on all immunizations. Go in for regular dental cleanings and medical checkups. Keep an eye on your blood pressure and cholesterol levels; the levels may seem like a small part of your overall health, but healthy blood pressure and cholesterol numbers mean a lowered risk for stroke and heart disease.

The Affordable Care Act does not address the cost of long-term care, nor does Medicare pay for skilled nursing facilities ($5,000 - $10,000). To cover such costs, Medi-Cal is the only governmental source of assistance.

What else can seniors do to take charge of their health and enjoy their later years? Numerous studies have shown that keeping an active interest in intellectual pursuits slows the development of dementia or other types of cognitive decline. Take up a new hobby or learn a new skill. Work on puzzles, brain teasers, crossword puzzles. Take music lessons, or learn a new language. Even things as simple as taking an interesting class at a community center or brushing up on math can make a huge difference in brain activity.

Be sure to get regular exercise. It may be walking every day, or biking on the weekends, or taking an exercise class at the gym most mornings. Focus both on leisure activities which are enjoyable and physical activities which get you moving; you do not have to put too much of a strain on your body. Get outside, get active and have fun.

For Medi-Cal planning assistance, talk with a knowledgeable attorney who can guide you through the maze.

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