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by Joyia Emard
An older woman worries over bills spread on a table in front of her.Licensed financial and medical professionals can help

We’ve always known certified public accountants and professional fiduciaries can play an important role in our financial health. But a new study shows financial experts like these could also hold a key to clients’ overall health through earlier Alzheimer’s disease diagnoses.

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive neurodegenerative condition primarily affecting older adults. It is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States and, while there is no cure at this time, current treatments can slow the worsening of symptoms and increase quality of life for those affected, making early diagnoses imperative.

As published in JAMA Internal Medicine, Johns Hopkins University public health and medicine researchers noted that, while deteriorating financial and record-keeping capabilities have long been said to be an early symptom of Alzheimer’s-related cognitive decline, there was no formal large-scale study outlining this concern.

To check this issue for themselves, the researchers combed through Medicare health care and demographic data for 81,364 single Medicare beneficiaries, and then compared that data against Federal Reserve Bank of New York/Equifax Consumer Credit Panel statistics. The Johns Hopkins researchers found that, of the Medicare beneficiaries, those whose medical records noted they currently had Alzheimer’s disease were more likely to miss routine bill payments up to six years prior to diagnosis and showed dropping credit scores 2.5 years prior to diagnosis, negatively impacting their finances throughout the progress of the illness.

“If undiagnosed [Alzheimer’s disease] leads to costly financial errors, earlier diagnosis could be valuable even without effective treatments or cures,” the researchers concluded. “Most Americans routinely use credit products, generating real-time information on borrowing and repayment behavior. Early signs of impaired capabilities may manifest as missing payment on routine bills or inappropriate credit use.”

An accountant greets a couple for a financial meeting.If you or someone you love is having trouble with financial responsibilities and needs assistance, contact a professional licensed by the Department of Consumer Affairs’ (DCA) California Board of Accountancy or Professional Fiduciaries Bureau; if you need advice or support regarding Alzheimer’s disease, reach out to one of the many DCA-licensed allied health professionals. To check a California professional’s license, visit https://search.dca.ca.gov.

Related Reading: November Is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month; #AskDCA: My Elderly Neighbor Doesn’t Have Family Nearby and I’m Concerned About His Well-Being

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Get yours and contact a licensed accounting or fiduciary professional for assistance

The title page of a law book says Fair Credit Reporting Act.Your credit can make or break your financial plans for the future. That’s why a federal law—the Fair Credit Reporting Act—now gives consumers the right to request free credit reports every 12 months so you can stay informed and address issues.

WHY DO CREDIT REPORTS MATTER?

When you make a payment on a loan or credit card, the business that gave you the loan or credit records how much and how often you pay, as well as the loan balances and credit limits. These businesses report your loan, credit, and payment history to one or more credit reporting companies, which then combine the information they receive about you into a credit report. Since not all businesses report information to the three major credit-reporting companies, the information on your credit reports may vary.

According to the Federal Reserve, the central bank of the United States, credit reports are important for consumers to receive and understand because others can get and see your report to understand how you manage your financial responsibilities:

  • Lenders may use your credit report information to decide whether you can get a loan and the terms you get for the loan, such as the interest rate they will charge you.
  • Insurance companies may use the information to decide whether you can get insurance and what rates you’ll pay.
  • Employers may use credit reports, if you give them permission to do so, to decide whether to hire you.
  • Phone and utility companies may use information in your credit report to decide whether to provide you with services.
  • Landlords may use information in your credit report to determine whether to rent or lease a home to you.

With these major decisions riding on your credit information, it’s key for consumers to be aware of what their reports reflect.

ORDERING REPORTS, ADDRESSING ISSUES

To order your free annual reports:

  • Visit www.annualcreditreport.com and click on the “Request Yours Now” tab. Be aware of imposters: This highly secure website is the only site authorized by the federal government and the three major credit reporting companies under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
  • Call (877) 322-8228.
  • Complete the Annual Credit Report Request form and mail it to Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281.

Requesting your free reports via this federally required service will not hurt your credit score.

Once you receive your free reports, you will want to check them carefully to make sure they show the most up-to-date and correct information. Make sure that you recognize the information on your credit report, including your personally identifiable information like name, address, Social Security number, accounts, and loans. Then check that the other information on your credit report is accurate and complete.

A smiling couple consults with a financial professional.If you find errors, you should contact the credit reporting company that sent you the report, and the business or company that provided the information (called the “furnisher” of the information). Your credit report will include directions on how to dispute wrong or incomplete information. The U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau offers sample letters to businesses and credit reporting companies you can use to help correct credit report inaccuracies.

And if you need help addressing credit concerns or any other financial issues, consulting a licensed accounting or fiduciary professional is a smart investment. Licensees of the Department of Consumer Affairs’ California Board of Accountancy and Professional Fiduciaries Bureau are trained, educated, and dedicated to helping California consumers make the most of their money; check a professional’s license at https://search.dca.ca.gov.

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Learn about common ingredients and contact a licensed professional for advice

A young woman holds two bottles of shampoo at a store display.Look at the back of your shampoo bottle, and what do you see? A list of ingredients that, more often than not, seems to be in a different language. But what do all the confusing terms mean?

POLYVINYLPYRROLIDONE?

While commercial shampoos typically contain anywhere from 10 to 30 ingredients, most of these substances fall into different categories based on their primary purpose. Major categories are:

  • Detergents or surfactants—These primary ingredients remove dirt, oil, styling products, and skin scales from your hair and scalp. Common ingredients performing this purpose are sodium laureth sulfate and sodium laurel sulfate, TEA lauryl sulfate, ammonium laureth sulfate, ammonium lauryl sulfate, DEA lauryl sulfate, and sodium olefin sulfonate.
  • Conditioners—These substances help hair feel soft and smooth once the detergents have done their job. Common conditioning ingredients include hydrolyzed silk and animal protein, glycerin, dimethicone, simethicone, polyvinylpyrrolidone, propylene glycol, stearal-konium chloride, and trichoptilosis.
  • Thickeners—Thickening agents don’t have any effect on your hair: They’re just there to make the shampoo look and feel better to consumers. Thickeners include glycol distearate, salt (sodium chloride), and PEG-150 distearate (polyethylene glycol).
  • Preservatives—Typical preservatives in shampoos include sodium benzoate, parabens, tetrasodium EDTA (ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid), methylisothiazolinone, or MIT and Quaternium-15. These ingredients help prevent fungal and microbial contamination of the shampoo before and after opening the bottle.
  • Sequestering agents—Sequestering agents like polyphosphates and ethylenediaminetetra-acetic acid are used to remove any of the detergents’ remaining soap scum.

Other shampoo substances include fragrances, opacifiers (which, like thickeners, are just there to make shampoo look more attractive), and specialty additives.

While these chemical-based terms can look intimidating and even a bit concerning, shampoo products are by and large very safe to use. However, be aware that some shampoo ingredients currently are getting another look—or even are being phased out—by many companies, including:

  • Parabens—These preservatives are xenoestrogens, which means that they have a similar composition to hormones found in the human body. Xenoestrogens are thought to disrupt hormones and could even pose a cancer risk.
  • Sulfates—While sulfates are effective detergents, they, like parabens, may carry some hormone-disrupting agents in the form of dioxane, a known carcinogen.
  • Polyethylene glycol—This thickener may interfere with human development and is also known to be contaminated with dioxane, in a manner similar to sulfates.

CONTACT A LICENSED PROFESSIONAL

So what’s a consumer to do to break through the ingredient jargon and ensure shampoos are both safe and effective? You can make your own, or, for expert insight, contact a professional licensed by the Department of Consumer Affairs’ Board of Barbering and Cosmetology to find out what shampoo is right for you; check a professional’s license at https://search.dca.ca.gov.

Related Reading: Dry Shampoo’s Dirty Little Secret; Keep an Eye on Cosmetics’ Shelf Lives

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A diverse group of professionals shown above a banner reading Find Your Way at DCA.
Start the new year with a new job; positions available statewide

Make a difference for yourself and for California consumers by working for the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA).

Our dedicated employees carry out the mission and vision of the Department: to be the premier consumer protection agency through effective enforcement activities and oversight of California’s licensed professionals.

DCA has many career opportunities throughout California for all levels of professional experience, and we’re committed to hiring and retaining quality employees. The Department recognizes and values employee contributions and talent, and fosters leadership development and professional growth of its work force.

DCA’s careers page is a one-stop source for job listings, examinations, and detailed instructions on how to apply for a position. Join the DCA team and be a champion for California consumers!

 

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Old-time activities have cutting-edge benefits

A grandfather smiles as he explains chess pieces to his grandchildren.Old-fashioned board games are getting a new look in 2021: With people staying at home during the pandemic, toy giant Hasbro reports a more than 20% increase in board-game sales this year, and Netflix’s top-rated series “The Queen’s Gambit” is causing once-dusty chess sets to fly off shelves. Board games not only are bringing people together during these challenging times, but also are offering major benefits for players.

A recent exhaustive review of current board-game research published in BioPsychoSocial Medicine noted that, while research on board games’ effects on mental health remains limited, “interesting findings have been obtained in terms of brain function, cognitive effects, and health-related lifestyle modification.” Key board-game study findings include:

  • Measurably lowered dementia development in frequent board-game players compared to non-players.
  • Improved symptoms in individuals who experience panic attacks as well as those with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Significantly reduced depression and anxiety levels in players involved in a six-week stress-management intervention utilizing Shogi games.

While these cited studies centered on adults, Scholastic offers nine reasons why board games make a difference for young people (and the young at heart):

  1. Early learning opportunities—Even simple games help young players identify colors, count spaces, and develop hand-eye coordination and dexterity in moving cards and pieces around the board.
  2. Ongoing brain development—Games are an easy way to encourage ongoing healthy brain development in all ages.
  3. Language skills—Fun board games that include reading, memory, or comprehension tasks are a sneaky way of helping kids work on skills they may be struggling with, and are a great way to spark conversations.
  4. Sharpened focus—Seeing a game through to the end without interruptions can lengthen attention spans.
  5. Teamwork—Board games often allow for teaming up and working together to solve problems.
  6. Time out—Games can be used as an alternative to a child’s time out, allowing a different way to tackle frustrations and practice respectful responses.
  7. Anxiety reduction—Board games’ structure help kids navigate expectations and build interpersonal relationships.
  8. Fair play—Playing by the rules and learning to wait for turns are important lessons that serve players far beyond the kitchen table.
  9. Unplugging—There’s nothing more low-tech than Candy Land or with less blue light than backgammon.

Consider making board games a regular, tech-free, and beneficial activity in your household during 2021—and anytime! For questions on cognitive development or behavioral concerns, contact a licensed California mental-health professional; check a professional’s license at https://search.dca.ca.gov.

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The phrase “The doctor will see you now” has taken on a whole new meaning since the pandemic.

The COVID-19 crisis has forced many Californians to skip in-person healthcare visits with doctors and primary care providers and instead chat with them about anything that ails them via video/online, which is also known as telehealth/telemedicine.

Once considered a futuristic form of healthcare, telemedicine has rapidly evolved and redefined the medical industry. The future is now it seems, and telehealth may be our “new normal.”

According to a recent article in AARP (June 2020 bulletin)  https://www.aarp.org/bulletin/ by medical investigative journalist Jeanne Lenzer,  84% of patients said, “they prefer the convenience of telemedicine access and are likely to select a provider who offers telemedicine over one who doesn’t.”

The AARP article also cites a 2019 study/review by the prestigious Agency for Health Research and Quality (AHRQ) which found that telehealth consultations produced either better outcomes or no differences and that remote intensive care unit consultations likely reduce mortality. In addition, emergency medical services and urgent care telehealth programs reduced death from heart attacks, led to more timely care, and reduced the need for air transfers.

The studies also revealed that remote treatment by video or telephone was especially useful for patients with “limited mobility or difficulty traveling due to agoraphobia and those suffering from anxiety and/or depression.”

Consulting with your doctor via video/online is just one facet of telehealth,” according to AARP. It also includes programs like at-home patient monitoring and physician-to-physician consults such as tele-radiology, where CT scans and MRIs are interpreted by radiologists who can be on a different continent than the patient’s doctor.

Of course, telemedicine can never replace the up-close and personal interaction between doctors and patients and is most effective for non-threatening health issues and concerns.

While there are those who are on the fence and haven’t completely warmed up to the idea of telemedicine, AARP offers a few guidelines to help make the leap less intimidating. They include:

  • PICK A PROVIDER:  If you don’t already have one, choose a licensed healthcare professional. Do research online and ask questions upfront before paying for a visit to a doctor you’re unfamiliar with. To verify the license status of a medical professional licensed by the Department of Consumer Affairs, visit https://search.dca.gov.
  • PREPARE FOR YOUR “VISIT:” Make sure you have a reliable computer, notebook, or tablet with a good internet connection. It’s best to be in a room that’s quiet and has ample lighting. In some cases, you can also do a regular phone interview with your doctor.
  • HAVE YOUR PRESCRIPTIONS WITH YOU:  Although your primary care doctor will have access to the medications you’re taking, it’s always a good idea to keep them handy in case you have any immediate questions or must fill out a questionnaire pertaining to your meds.
  • LISTEN CAREFULLY AND ASK QUESTIONS:  Don’t be afraid to ask questions about anything you don’t understand.  Write down your questions or concerns ahead of time so you won’t forget anything. Go through each one and make sure they are answered to your satisfaction.

More than anything, telemedicine helps patients and medical staff adhere to physical distancing guidelines. It also eases the loads of doctors and nurses and allows them to focus on patients with severe illnesses. However, if you’re experiencing a medical emergency, call 911 for immediate assistance.

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A group of fire ants swarms together.

True or false: Mice love cheese, bedbugs hate light, and having pets means zero pests. Popular TV home-remodeling host Bob Vila takes on eight common pest myths and offers reality checks for homeowners:

  1. Pests mean you have a dirty home—Having a pest problem is inconvenient, but it can also be embarrassing if you fear that the presence of bugs or rodents in your home is a direct reflection on your housekeeping skills. In reality, even the tidiest houses can fall victim to invasion by insects and mice. No amount of cleaning will guarantee that pests won’t find a way inside, so don’t take it personally.
  2. Cheese attracts mice—Cartoons to blame for this one: Cheese has long been thought to be a mouse’s favorite treat, and as a result, it’s often used in traps. However, research shows mice actually prefer sweet foods high in carbohydrates. So smear mouse traps with sugary spread like peanut butter and save the cheese for household humans.
  3. Pet owners don’t have pests—Many people think that cats and dogs serve as natural pest deterrents. But most domesticated pets are unmotivated to hunt and eradicate bugs and rodents because they’re already well nourished by the kibble you feed them. In fact, having pets can actually attract more pests to your home because they can bring in fleas and other unwanted bugs, and those leftover bits in their food bowls can attract hungry critters.
  4. Club soda kills fire ants—Wouldn’t it be great if killing fire ants was as easy as pouring carbonated water on their mound? Unfortunately, despite rumors that the carbon dioxide in club soda will cause them to suffocate, this is not a viable solution. Neither is sprinkling them with instant grits, vinegar, or plaster of paris. A proper insecticide is the most effective way to get rid of fire ants in your home or garden.
  5. Daddy longlegs are poisonous—While daddy longlegs may be some of the creepiest household pests, they’re almost completely harmless. Rumors have persisted for years that these spider cousins (Opeliones or Pholcidae) are poisonous, but their fangs simply aren’t long enough to bite humans.
  6. Bedbugs only come out in the dark—Bedbugs are among the most dreaded pests in part because they’re notoriously difficult to get rid of. One of the common myths surrounding these little bloodsuckers is that they come out only in the dark, so if you keep the lights on, you won’t be bitten. Not true. According to the S. Environmental Protection Agency, bedbugs do prefer darkness, but a bright room won’t stop them from biting you.
  7. Once poisoned, rodents aren’t a problem—Rodent pest solutions aren’t just “set it and forget it.” You can’t simply call it a day after a rodent has been trapped or eaten poison. The poisons used in rodenticides typically take several days to take effect after they have been ingested. This means that the critters are likely to die inside your home, leading to unpleasant smells and possibly attracting even more pests if carrion flies come to feast on the remains.
  8. Ignore them and they’ll go away—If you find traces of pests in your house, they’ve probably settled in for the long haul. While it may be tempting to hope for the best and assume any pests will eventually decide to go away, you should instead take actionas soon as possible when you notice signs of mice, cockroaches, bedbugs, ants, or other concerning creatures to ensure that the problem doesn’t become worse.

Licensees of the Department of Consumer Affairs’ Structural Pest Control Board can help you address pest concerns professionally and safely; check a professional’s license at https://search.dca.ca.gov.

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Happy New Year from the California Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA)! If you rang in 2021 with a New Year’s resolution, we hope you’re sticking to it. But if you need a little inspiration, here are five resolutions DCA and its licensees can help you with:

  1. Notepad showing new year resolutionsSee a doctor regularly. The Medical Board of California, Naturopathic Medicine Committee, and the Osteopathic Medical Board of California are just a few of the many healthcare-related boards operating under DCA that license and regulate California’s health care professionals.
  2. Fix up the house. Don’t hire just anybody to swing a hammer at your home—anyone who contracts for or bids on a job that totals $500 or more (labor and materials) must hold a contractor license from the Contractors State License Board.
  3. Stop procrastinating. Experts recommend breaking down large tasks into a series of smaller ones, but there are times when procrastination may be the symptom of a more serious issue such as depression, anxiety, or attention problems. To be certain, support from a licensed therapist may help. In California, therapists are licensed by the Board of Psychology and the Board of Behavioral Sciences.
  4. Adopt a pet. Are you bringing home a new fur baby in 2021? One of the first steps you should take with a new pet is a trip to the veterinarian, especially if your pet is coming from a rescue or shelter where their medical history is unknown. California vets are licensed by the Veterinary Medical Board.
  5. Make a career change. Thinking about making a big change? On S. News & World Report’s annual list of best jobs, more than two-thirds were professions licensed and regulated by boards and bureaus operating under DCA. Each of these professions were identified as having generally high wages and very low unemployment rates. What are you waiting for?

And remember: All of the professionals in these fields should have a license that can be verified at https://search.dca.ca.gov.

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The diabolical ironclad beetle. (Credit: Jesus Rivera/UC Irvine)

Scientists looking for ways to develop stronger construction materials have found inspiration in an unlikely source: a bug. More precisely, a beetle.

Researchers from the University of California, Irvine, and Purdue University report in a study published in the journal Nature that the diabolical ironclad beetle—its actual name—has a unique exoskeleton that is so indestructible that you can run one over with a car and not phase it. Any other beetle that you would be able to squish between your thumb and forefinger doesn’t match the diabolical ironclad beetle, technically referred to as Phloeodes diabolicus.

“This beetle is so tough that the energy or the force that you can do with your hand, it’s not enough—it’s like a piece of rock,” Pablo D. Zavattieri, a professor of civil engineering at Purdue and one of the study’s authors, told CNN.

The scientists report that the diabolical ironclad beetle can withstand forces a remarkable 39,000 times its body weight. At least in part, the study found that because it is a species of beetle that cannot fly, natural selection has created a structure that not only deters predators but also helps it from getting crushed by enormous weight.

When a ladybug or other beetles able to fly release their outer shell that is split down the middle of their abdomen line (called elytron), it enables them to spread their wings for flight. The diabolical ironclad beetle’s outer shell’s halves, however, have fused together over time. And that fused connection comes together like puzzle pieces, providing unusual resistance to force. Part of that resistance comes with a degree of flexibility, scientists say, which makes the beetle less prone to cracking or collapsing like, say, a typical one-piece shell.

“If you take two pieces of that jigsaw puzzle, and you try to pull them apart once they’re attached, it’s a pretty robust interface,” UC Irvine materials scientist Davis Kisailus, also an author of the study, told Wired.

Study authors believe the microscopic evaluation and research of the beetle can lead to material advances in industries such as aerospace, construction, and architecture. A critical dilemma for engineers is how various types of materials are connected, often with mechanical fasteners that are prone to points of stress and corrosion.

“We have the materials. One of the engineering issues is how to connect them,” Zavattieri said. “This is a good example of how nature uses this connection. Every single time we look at nature, we learn something new.”

The Department of Consumer Affairs licenses construction and architectural professionals statewide who can answer all of your engineering questions and help you work through any home structural issues that may arise. You can check a professional’s license at https://search.dca.ca.gov.

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Barcode, serial number required for controlled substances prescription paper forms

The new year means new requirements for prescription painkillers, narcotics, sedatives, and other controlled substance prescriptions that are written on paper prescription forms. Consumers handing a noncompliant paper prescription form to their pharmacist will find they must first return to their prescriber for a newly compliant form before the pharmacist will fill the prescription.

Prescription pill bottleStarting on January 1, 2021, the only California controlled substance prescription forms that will remain valid and acceptable by pharmacies will be those possessing a 12-character serial number and a corresponding barcode, compliant with the requirements introduced in a new state law, AB 149 (Cooper, Statutes of 2019).

The requirements do not affect prescriptions that are electronically transmitted from the prescriber to the pharmacy, or prescriptions for non-controlled substances such as antibiotics.

Pharmacies have been accepting either the new or old form since the beginning of this year, but time is running out for prescribers to make the switch to the new form. The Department of Consumer Affair is urging consumers to contact their health care providers if they are in possession of a prescription form that does not have a 12-character serial number and barcode. Although there are a few narrow exceptions, pharmacists will not be permitted to fill any new or refill prescriptions submitted on the old noncompliant form beginning January 1.

Information for prescribers: https://oag.ca.gov/sites/all/files/agweb/pdfs/pdmp/ab149-joint-statement.pdf

Click here to read a printer-friendly version of this news release.

 

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