Tax Guide for Older Adults Helps as Tax Time Looms

Alice Pomidor, MD, MPH, AGSF
Florida State University School of Medicine

Due to an unusual holiday twist, the deadline for filing your 2016 taxes this year is Tuesday, April 18.

According to the Internal Revenue Service, or IRS, “The usual April 15 deadline falls on Saturday this year, which would normally give taxpayers until at least the following Monday. However, Emancipation Day, a Washington, D.C. holiday, is observed on Monday, April 17, giving taxpayers nationwide an additional day to file. By law, D.C. holidays impact tax deadlines for everyone in the same way federal holidays do. Taxpayers requesting an extension will have until Monday, Oct. 16, 2017 to file.”

Welcome news, certainly, for those of us who wait until the last minute to file our taxes. For older adults and their caregivers who have yet to file their taxes, here’s more welcome news:

Recently, U.S. Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, the ranking member on the Senate Special Committee on Aging, wrote a letter to older adults and their caregivers. In the letter, he shared The Guide, a helpful resource that the IRS created for the Committee to help older adults avoid paying more taxes than necessary.

Sen. Casey urges people to share The Guide with friends, neighbors, relatives and colleagues.  It contains valuable information, including:

  • Which tax forms older adults should file, depending on which types of retirement income they receive.
  • How older adults can deduct out-of-pocket spending on medical and dental bills.
  • Specific tax credits older adults might be able to use this year
  • How to contact the IRS if you, or an older adult in your care, needs help with filing.

According to Sen. Casey, helping older adults avoid overpaying their taxes is one of the many steps the Senate Special Committee on Aging is taking to make sure that all older adults and their families can feel financially secure.

You can find the Guide at

What we’re doing in 2016, thanks to your support…

Nancy Lundebjerg casualNancy E. Lundebjerg, MPA
Chief Executive Officer
American Geriatrics Society

“I have never seen myself doing anything other than helping older adults.”
—Christian E. Gausvik, AGS Student Leadership Council Chair, aspiring geriatrician, and medical student at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine

Even if I weren’t the CEO of the American Geriatrics Society (AGS), I would love this statement.

Christian is logging 80-hour weeks and 36-hour shifts as a third-year medical student, but he still found time to organize our student engagement group, and he even launched his own charity event benefitting the Alzheimer’s Association in Cincinnati. Christian represents the future of eldercare in several important ways: he’s not only pursuing a career in geriatrics but he’s also one of several trainees receiving special support and assistance from the AGS’s Health in Aging Foundation.

Many of you are probably familiar with the Foundation because of the tip sheets and resources you’ve found right here at Developing these is a critical part of what we do, but it doesn’t end there. Since 1999, the Foundation has been providing public education about the health and well-being of older adults while also supporting people like Christian who represent the future of geriatrics.

We’ve been hard at work on both of these fronts since 1999, and last year alone we made some pretty impressive progress:

  • We helped 75 health professions students travel to the AGS Annual Scientific Meeting, where they were able to present their own research and learn from other experts and mentors.
  • We developed some important new recommendations about medication safety for older adults, and we created a whole suite of online tools to make that guidance easier to understand for older adults and caregivers.
  • We supported the Surgeon General’s call to action on walking by compiling tips and resources to help older adults, their caregivers, and their healthcare professionals scale physical activity to make it fun and achievable for older individuals.
    We provided nearly 1 million older adults and caregivers with resources and information through

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Medicare Proposes Paying for Advance Care Planning

Have you ever wondered about all those codes you see on a bill or chart at your healthcare provider’s office?  If you’re covered by Medicare—the nation’s largest insurer dedicated exclusively to helping older people with their health expenses—chances are they’re part of a payment system known as the physician fee schedule.  Medicare pays eligible providers for their services based on the codes they use to bill for the patient visit.

Each year, experts from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) review, refine, and tweak the types of services included in the physician fee schedule to make it more responsive to patient needs and professional advice. The proposed schedule for 2016 was just released this week, and it’s got some important new updates that will benefit older Americans.  In particular, CMS is now proposing covering advance care planning (ACP), which would offer patients an important outlet for talking with healthcare providers about their long-term needs and expectations.  Many people have questions about what ACP is and how it works, and the infographic below from the American Geriatrics Society is a helpful guide to the basics when it comes to this important new service.

ACP Infographic_07 06 15

Interested in learning more or taking action?  Consider sharing this post or some of the ACP-related resources posted by the Health in Aging Foundation to Twitter (@HealthinAging) and Facebook (  You can also submit a comment of support to CMS to let them know you value ACP as part of your care.

Celebrating the Medicare #DocFix

Photo credit: David W. Parke II, MD

Photo credit: David W. Parke II, MD

This week, I made a pilgrimage to Washington DC to attend a reception in the White House Rose Garden at the invitation of President Obama. It was a heady moment for this new CEO of the American Geriatrics Society and the Health in Aging Foundation. My 91-year old mother and her friends were quite impressed–going so far as to ask me to put in a good word for older adults. Got that covered, Mom.

Putting aside the excitement of seeing the Rose Garden and shaking President Obama’s hand (I admit shaking a President’s hand is really exciting), why was this moment so important for geriatrics health professionals and the older adults they serve? Congress, in a rare bi-partisan, bicameral moment, had passed The Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act and President Obama signed it into law April 16, 2015.

I won’t go into all the details of the bill here—nor will I try to explain the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR), which may be what you heard a lot about in the news related to this legislation. Suffice it to say, this new legislation finally fixes a huge problem for geriatrics health professionals and the older adults they serve.

Geriatrics health professionals are specially trained to care for older adults (learn more about these professionals here; we can even help you find one here). Having benefited from their expertise as a family caregiver, I know first hand how different it is to partner with someone with this kind of training when caring for my loved ones. They always start the care process by considering what matters to older patients and their families as people, and then work back to how they can help you get there.

Geriatrics healthcare professionals are pretty much wholly paid by Medicare, so a looming cut in payment of more than 20% annually is a big deal when you still have practice expenses to pay (that’s what these health professionals faced under the old SGR system). We don’t often talk about the business of medicine, but if you are in private practice you have expenses just like any other business. These include rent, staff (most geriatrics health professionals work in teams), equipment, supplies; malpractice insurance and your own health insurance. Like any other business, a sharp drop in revenue could endanger your ability to provide services. And that, in a nutshell, was the broader threat of the old SGR formula. With a stroke of the President’s pen, that threat is gone.

President Obama addressing reception attendees.

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Get Involved: Live Happier Longer

Coleman, Jessica 4x6Jessica L. Coleman, DO
Geriatrics Fellow
Summa Health System
Akron, Ohio


We all know that volunteering for local organizations is a great use of free time. But did you also know that it can not only improve your mood, but also help prolong your life and prevent memory loss?

Volunteering has been shown to be one of the most effective ways for older adults to stay active, learn new skills, make new friends, and be healthier.

Getting involved in your community can be as easy as heading to your local library to read to children after school, volunteering at your local hospital,or joining a service league in your area to meet others who also enjoy giving back.

Consider some of the following ways to connect with and contribute to your community:

  •  Foster Grandparent Programs: Connect with local children who need the love and support of an older adult to guide or comfort them. Work with troubled teens, young mothers, or premature infants—everyone can benefit from having an involved and caring grandparent.
  • Retired and Senior Volunteer Programs: Using the skills and talents you have gained over a lifelong career, serve as a volunteer in your community rebuilding homes, tutoring, or organizing neighborhood watch programs.
  • Senior Companions: Help keep a fellow senior independent and in their own home by assisting with daily tasks such as shopping or paying bills. You can provide respite for caregivers, family members, and make valuable friendships. Continue reading