Posts

How to Choose a Medicare Plan During the Open Enrollment Period

How to Choose a Medicare Plan During the Open Enrollment PeriodChoosing a Medicare plan is an important, but difficult decision. This choice could determine your health for years to come and save (or cost) you hundreds of dollars in out-of-pocket costs. However, during the Medicare Open Enrollment Period (OEP)/Annual Election Period (AEP) October 15 through December 7, you can re-evaluate your Medicare Advantage (MA/Part C) and/or Part D coverage to make sure you’re enrolled in the plan that fits your needs best. But with so many options it’s hard to figure out:

  1. If your current plan is best for you, and
  2. How to choose a better plan to fit your needs

Using the 4Cs of Medicare – CoverageCost, Convenience, and Customer Service you can assess the quality of your current plan and if needed, find a new one that better fits your needs. Here’s what you should consider when switching plans during the OEP/AEP.

Coverage

Before you begin comparing Medicare plans, you should start by assessing your health needs. Make a list of how many doctors you have, how often you have appointments, and your prescription drug needs. Then, you can begin assessing your coverage options. If you decide to add or switch Medicare Advantage and/or Part D plans there are few things you should consider about coverage:

  • Has your health status changed within the last year?
  • Are the services you need covered under your current plan (treatments, prescriptions, vision coverage, etc.)? Are there other health-related services that you would like covered? Examples might include alternative treatments, personal health devices, transportation or meal assistance?
  • Does your current plan or the plans you’re considering cover all the drugs you think you will need in 2019?
  • How do the plans rank under the star quality rating system? Are there any 5-star plans?

Cost

When you first enrolled in Medicare, you may have picked a plan based on the recommendation of a friend or just chose a fairly inexpensive plan since the coverage difference between each option seemed nominal. Now as a seasoned Medicare beneficiary there are a few cost considerations you should re-evaluate.

  • Are your financial circumstances the same?
  • What is the total projected annual and monthly cost with the plan you have vs the plan you’re considering? Have these costs gone up for 2019?
  • Was your out-of-pocket cost more expensive than you had planned? Are you visiting the doctor as much as you had anticipated? Or perhaps more frequently than expected, causing more copays and deductibles than you had anticipated? You may want to switch to a more affordable option.
  • Did you enter the Part D Coverage Gap (“donut hole”) in 2018?

Convenience

When deciding on the type of coverage you need you should also think about how accessible your physicians need to be. With Original Medicare, you can choose to see any physician who accepts Medicare. This means that you can access major medical centers nationwide. On the other hand, MA plans are more restricted in terms of the provider networks (doctors, hospitals, or pharmacies) they work with, which means you need to see doctors or visit hospitals that are “in-network” with your MA plan to avoid paying higher medical fees.

Before enrolling in a Medicare Part D plan confirm if your local pharmacy is included in their network. Typically these pharmacies will reduce your out-of-pocket cost for prescription drugs. Here are a few things you should consider before choosing a plan:

  • Do you plan on going a few long trips this year? All plans cover emergency hospital coverage, but if you need routine access to a physician while on vacation you may want to consider a plan that has a flexible network. Will you be able to get your prescriptions easily while away from home?
  • Do you have a preferred pharmacy and is it included in the plans you’re considering? Do the costs of your medications change under the different plans based on that pharmacy?
  • If you prefer to get your prescription in the mail, do the plans offer mail order delivery? Is the price higher or lower than picking it up at a “brick & mortar” pharmacy?

Customer Service

Last, but certainly not least, you should consider the quality of customer service you received with your current plan when thinking about switching.

  • Were you satisfied with the quality of care you desired with your current plan?
  • How responsive was your plan with questions or problems you may have had?
  • How did your plan help you manage your health care needs (access to primary care, specialist, and prescriptions)?

There are a lot of consideration when choosing a Medicare plan, but using the 4Cs helps you focus on the aspects that are most important. The good news is that you don’t have to search for Medicare plans on your own. Our Medicare questionnaire was created to help you figure out your options. You’ll be able to talk to a free licensed benefits advisor to discuss changing Medicare plans and discuss any other questions you may have about Medicare.

Remember that the Medicare Open Enrollment Period (OEP)/Annual Election Period (AEP) is October 15th – December 7th every year, so research your options and get expert advice before you make a final decision.

Source: Medicare Matters, Nationa Council on Agina

Check Your Mail: Changes to the 2018 Medicare Open Enrollment Period Mailings

Changes 2018 Medicare Open Enrollment PeriodIt’s time a year again! Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period (OEP) is almost here, starting October 15th and ending December 7th. If you’re already enrolled in a Medicare plan this is the time of year where you can re-evaluateyour coverage to make sure you are still enrolled in the best plan for your needs.

Over the next few weeks, leading up to and during the Medicare OEP you’ll receive notices from your current Medicare plan, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and advertisements from other Medicare companies claiming to offer the best plans. All this information can be overwhelming and as tempting as it may be to lump is with the junk mail and throw it away, that may not be the best idea. There are a lot of changes occurring with Medicare this year and to stay informed you need to review all the notices provided by your insurance company and CMS.

One of the most immediate changes impacts the Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D plan notification policies. Plans will no longer mail copies of the Evidence of Coverage to beneficiaries. Instead, the Evidence of Coverage will be available online and a hard copy must be requested. Here’s a list of notifications and resources which you should review and/or request as you prepare for Medicare Open Enrollment:

  • The Annual Notice of Change (ANOC), a 10+ page document sent out to people enrolled in a Medicare Advantage and/or Medicare Part D The ANOC is sent by your Medicare plan and includes any changes to your current plans coverage, costs, or service area effective January 2019. Insurance companies can make changes every year that may increase your out-of-pocket cost or decrease your benefits, so it’s important to review this document thoroughly. You should receive this notice by September 30, if not contact your plan directly.
  • The Evidence of Coverage is 140+ page document that contains a detailed overview of what your current plan covers, cost, and more.  Beginning in 2018, Medicare Advantage and/or Medicare Part D plans are no longer required to mail hard copies of the Evidence of Coverage to Medicare plan enrollees.  Instead, Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D plans are required to publish the EOC on their website by October 15.
  • Plans are required to mail a printed notice called the Notification of Electronic Materials to all enrollees explaining how to obtain hard copies of plan materials routinely available on the plan’s website (EOC, provider directories and formularies). The notice must list the plan’s website, the date the documents will be available on the website, and a phone number to request hard copies of the EOC, plan provider directories and/or plan formularies.
  • Medicare & You Handbook is sent by The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in late September. This handbook contains lots of useful information about when Medicare covers certain services, including preventive care, medical equipment and supplies and much more. If you don’t receive one by the second week in October, call 1-800-Medicare to get another copy with your state’s specific plan information, or go to the Medicare site to view the general information online.

Additional Medicare Notifications

  • Notice of Plan Termination/Reassignment Notice. If your Medicare Part D or Extra Help plan will no longer be available in 2019, the CMS will send you this blue notification. You will have the option of selecting a new drug plan for the new year or being reassigned to one by CMS. Your decision must be made before December 31st.
  • The Consistent Poor Performer Notice is sent to individuals enrolled in a Medicare plan that has received an overall star rating of less than 3 stars for at least three years. Plans with less than 3 stars are considered poor quality and it’s recommended that you switch to a 4.5 or 5-star rated plan during the Medicare OEP. If you choose to remain enrolled in your plan during the OEP you can switch any time of the year using a Special Enrollment Period for lower rated plans.

All of these documents should be reviewed thoroughly to help you decide if your current plan still meets your needs for the upcoming year. If you haven’t already done so, consider going paperless this year. You can start by creating a Medicare.gov account to receive all notices via email. Then, call your plan to learn about their paperless options. You can find their customer service phone number on your insurance card.

To get help finding a Medicare plan that fits your needs try taking our Medicare Questionnaire, which can connect you to free professional advice about Medicare from a licensed benefits advisor.

MEDICARE GUIDE

Source: MyMedicareMatters.org  By: The My Medicare Matters Team

Bone mass measurement (bone density)

How often is it covered?

Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance) covers this test once every 24 months for people who meet the criteria below. This test may be covered more often if it’s medically necessary. This test helps to see if you’re at risk for broken bones.

Who’s eligible?

All qualified people with Part B who are at risk for osteoporosis and meet one or more of these conditions:

  • A woman whose doctor determines both of these (based on her medical history and other findings):
    • She’s estrogen deficient
    • She’s at risk for osteoporosis
  • A person whose X-rays show possible osteoporosis, osteopenia, or vertebral fractures
  • A person taking prednisone or steroid-type drugs or is planning to begin this treatment
  • A person who has been diagnosed with primary hyperparathyroidism
  • A person who is being monitored to see if their osteoporosis drug therapy is working

Your costs in Original Medicare

You pay nothing for this test if the doctor or other qualified health care provider accepts assignment.

NOTE:

Your doctor or other health care provider may recommend you get services more often than Medicare covers. Or, they may recommend services that Medicare doesn’t cover. If this happens, you may have to pay some or all of the costs. Ask questions so you understand why your doctor is recommending certain services and whether Medicare will pay for them.

Source: Medicare.gov

New Medicare Cards: 5 Things You Need to Know Before They Arrive

New Medicare Cards: 5 Things You Need to Know Before They ArriveBeginning April 2018, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will be sending new Medicare cards to beneficiaries. The new cards are being sent to decrease Medicare beneficiaries’ vulnerability to identity theft by removing the Social Security-based number from their Medicare identification cards and replacing it with a new unique Medicare Number.

Here’s what you need to know before they arrive.

  1. Medicare cards will be sent between April 2018 and April 2019. Make sure your address is up to date because Medicare will be sending it to the location associated with your Social Security account. To update your address information contact Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 or go online.
  2. Your new card will no longer include your Social Security number. It will include your name, new Medicare number, and the dates your Medicare Part A and Part B coverage started.
  3. Start using your new Medicare card once you receive it. Destroy the old one immediately, since it contains your Social Security number. If you happen to lose or misplace your card you can get a replacement, but you can also can access your new Medicare number on a Medicare Summary Notice or through Medicare.
  4. Keep your Medicare AdvantagePart D prescription, and/or Medigap. Continue using your health or drug plan’s card when you get health care or fill a prescription, but know you will also get the new Original Medicare card.
  5. The Railroad Retirement Board will issue new cards to Railroad Retirement beneficiaries.

These are just a few quick tips to keep in mind as new Medicare cards are issued. You can find additional information on the release of Medicare’s new card on Medicare.gov.

Source:  Medicare Matters – National Council on Aging

Your Complete Guide to Medicare Open Enrollment

Your Complete Guide to Medicare Open EnrollmentWhat is Open Enrollment?

The Medicare Open Enrollment Period is an annual period of time (October 15 through December 7) when current Medicare users can choose to re-evaluatepart of their Medicare coverage (their Medicare Advantage and/or Part D plan) and compare it against all the other plans on the market. After re-evaluating, if you find a plan that is a better fit for your needs, you can then switch to, drop or add a Medicare Advantage or Part D plan. Medicare Advantage is also known as a “Part C” plan.

You cannot use Open Enrollment to enroll in Part A and/or Part B for the first time. For more information on all of the parts of Medicare, and when you can enroll in them, visit our Medicare coverage map.

Still confused about Open Enrollment? Try taking our Medicare Questionnaire assessment, which can connect you to free professional advice about Medicare from a licensed benefits advisor (who abides by our Standards of Excellence).

What you can do during the Open Enrollment Period (OEP):

  • Anyone who has (or is signing up for) Medicare Parts A or B can join or drop a Part D prescription drug plan.
  • Anyone with Original Medicare (Parts A & B) can switch to a Medicare Advantage plan.
  • Anyone with Medicare Advantage can drop it and switch back to just Original Medicare (Parts A & B).
  • Anyone with Medicare Advantage can switch to a new Medicare Advantage plan.
  • Anyone with a Part D prescription drug plan can switch to a new Part D prescription drug plan.

When is Open Enrollment?

Open Enrollment is from October 15th through December 7th every year. If you use the Open Enrollment period to choose a new Medicare Advantage or Part D plan, that new coverage will begin on January 1.

Worried about forgetting when Open Enrollment starts and ends? You can sign up for reminders here, or just add your email into the “Get Reminded” box on this page.

Why should I consider re-evaluating my current Medicare coverage during Open Enrollment?

Unfortunately, choosing health insurance is no longer a one-time decision for most Medicare beneficiaries. Each year, insurance companies can make changes to Medicare plans that can impact how much you pay out-of-pocket—like the monthly premiums, deductibles, drug costs, and provider or pharmacy “networks.” A network is a list of doctors, hospitals, or pharmacies that negotiate prices with insurance companies. They can also make changes to your plan’s “formulary” (list of covered drugs). Given these yearly changes, it is a good idea to re-evaluate your current Medicare plan each year to make sure it still meets your needs. Below are some additional benefits of re-evaluating your coverage during Open Enrollment:

  1. You can switch to better prescription drug coverage. Using Open Enrollment to switch your drug coverage—or add drug coverage for the first time—can make crucial medications that you need less expensive. It can also ensure that your drug plan still covers the drugs you need (as your prescriptions may not be included on your plan’s formulary for next year).
  2. You can save money and keep your doctor in-networkSwitching your Medicare Advantage or Part D plan can potentially save you hundreds of dollars a year—especially if your current plan’s out-of-pocket costs will increase next year. Research shows that the average consumer can save $300 or more annually if they review their Part D coverage. One way to lower your medical costs is to check that your current doctors, hospital, and pharmacy are “in-network” with whatever Medicare Advantage or Part D plan you choose. If your insurance company has changed your plan’s provider or pharmacy network for next year (and your doctor or other resources will no longer be included), you can use Open Enrollment to switch to a plan that will include your current doctors, hospital and/or pharmacy in-network, thereby lowering your medical costs.
  3. You can find a higher quality plan. Finally, check the quality of your plan using the Medicare 5-star ratings system. Plans with a 5-star rating are considered high quality and those with fewer than 3 stars are considered poor quality. If your current plan is ranked as less than a 3, consider using Open Enrollment to switch to a higher rated plan.

Next Steps: How do I re-evaluate my current Medicare coverage during Open Enrollment?

Interested in re-evaluating and/or switching your current Medicare coverage? We recommend one of the three options below:

  1. Take our quick Medicare Questionnaire. It can connect you to free professional counseling from a licensed benefits advisor at Aon Retiree Health Exchange (our trusted partner who abides by the NCOA Standards of Excellence).
  2. Use the plan finder tool on Medicare.gov. This is the official U.S. government site for Medicare.
  3. Contact your local SHIP (State Health Insurance Assistance Program). SHIPs provide federally-funded Medicare counseling through a trained staff member or volunteer.

When you have chosen a plan that’s best for your situation, you’ll need to provide your Medicare number and the date your Part A and/or Part B coverage started. This information is on your Medicare card. In general, you need to be careful about when you give out your personal Medicare information (see “5 Steps for Avoiding Medicare Scams“), but this is a situation when licensed advisors in a trusted setting can help you make a beneficial change.

Questions about Medicare?

Get answers now

Source: My Medicare Matters/National Council on Aging

Get ready for Open Enrollment!

It’s almost time once again for the annual Open Enrollment Period (Oct. 15-Dec. 7) during which Medicare beneficiaries can make changes to their Part D and Medicare Advantage coverage. They can use the OEP to enroll in a drug plan, or change how they get their Medicare benefits such as going from Medicare Advantage to Original Medicare, or vice versa. Any changes your clients make related to the OEP take effect on January 1, 2018.

Here’s everything you need to have to get ready to counsel clients during this year’s OEP.

Cost information for 2018

Counseling tools and checklists

Enrollment & disenrollment basics

Marketing rules

Other resources

Source: NCOA.org

Blindness Due to Age-Related Macular Degeneration Should Not be Considered an Inevitability

The American Academy of Ophthalmology advises that early detection and today’s treatments for common eye disease among seniors can help stop vision loss.

While age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of new cases of blindness in Americans age 65 and older, seniors who develop AMD should not consider blindness in advanced age to be inevitable, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology. The Academy is advising the public that regular eye exams, along with today’s treatments for AMD—if provided early enough—can help seniors avoid unnecessary AMD-related vision loss.

AMD, which affects an estimated 11 million Americans, is the deterioration of the eye’s macula—the light-sensitive tissue lining the back of the eye that is responsible for central vision, the ability to see fine details clearly. AMD has two forms—wet and dry. While dry AMD leads to a gradual loss of vision, wet AMD leads to faster vision loss and is the most advanced form of the disease. Wet AMD is responsible for 80 to 90 percent of all AMD-related blindness. As AMD is not commonly detected in patients until they begin to suffer vision loss, it is critical for seniors to understand the importance of routine eye exams. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends that by age 65, seniors should get eye exams every one to two years, or as recommended by their ophthalmologist.

Years after Joan Nick, an 86-year-old retiree from Carmel, Calif., lost vision in her right eye in her 60s due to glaucoma, she was diagnosed with dry AMD in her left eye. Her ophthalmologist at the time advised her not to worry since the disease typically progresses slowly. But, during a routine eye exam, Nick was shocked to find she could not read an eye chart. Although she hadn’t noticed any changes in her vision, her AMD had progressed from dry to wet. Nick immediately visited a retina specialist who began treatment that restored the vision lost to AMD.

“I am so thankful that this treatment has given me a second chance to enjoy the activities I love, such as reading and cooking,” says Nick.

Rahul N. Khurana, M.D., Nick’s ophthalmologist specializing in retina-related conditions and a clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology, encourages seniors to learn from Nick’s example of taking action to fight the progression of AMD. “Many older people develop AMD and other age-related eye diseases as part of the body’s natural aging process, but seniors should not suffer in silence about their sight loss because they feel it’s inevitable,” said Dr. Khurana. “There is so much that we ophthalmologists can do these days to help seniors prevent, slow and treat AMD. It’s important for seniors to know that people with AMD today have a much better chance of saving their vision than they did 10 years ago.”

For individuals who have been diagnosed with dry AMD, nutrient supplements have been proven beneficial in lowering the risk of developing wet AMD. For those who have the wet form of AMD, treatments are available and include anti-VEGF injections that are administered directly into the eye, thermal laser therapy, or photodynamic therapy which involves a light-activated injected drug in combination with a low-power laser.

Seniors who are worried about AMD or other eye conditions, and have not had a recent eye exam or for whom cost is a concern, may qualify for EyeCare America, a public service program of the Foundation of the American Academy of Ophthalmology that offers eye exams and care at no out-of-pocket cost for eligible seniors age 65 and older. Visit www.eyecareamerica.org to see if you are eligible.

More information about AMD

Symptoms of dry AMD include:

  • Blurry or hazy vision, especially in your central vision
  • Need for increasingly bright light to see up close
  • Colors appear less vivid or bright
  • Difficulty seeing when going from bright light to low light
  • Trouble or inability to recognize people’s faces

Symptoms of wet AMD include:

  • Distorted vision—straight lines will appear bent, crooked or irregular
  • Dark gray spots or blank spots in your vision
  • Size of objects may appear different for each eye
  • Colors lose their brightness or do not look the same for each eye

Learn about AMD risk factors and view an AMD vision simulator [optional link to: http://www.geteyesmart.org/eyesmart/diseases/age-related-macular-degeneration/macular-degeneration-vision-simulator.cfm] to see how this eye disease can affect vision. For more information about AMD and other eye diseases, visit www.geteyesmart.org.

Source: The American Academy of Ophthalmology, the world’s largest association of eye physicians and surgeons. For more information, visit www.aao.org. The Academy’s EyeSmart® program educates the public about the importance of eye health and empowers them to preserve healthy vision. EyeSmart provides the most trusted and medically accurate information about eye diseases, conditions and injuries. OjosSanos™ is the Spanish-language version of the program. Visit www.geteyesmart.org or www.ojossanos.org to learn more.

Copyright © IlluminAge AgeWise, 2015

Could Having a Sense of Purpose Lengthen Our Lives?

Over the last few years, aging experts have been looking at the role played by a sense of purpose—the feeling that our lives have meaning, and that we have a place in the world, that we make a difference. A number of studies have found that having a sense of purpose motivates us to take care of ourselves, reduces stress, and lowers the risk of a host of ailments that become more common as we age.

In November 2014, an article appearing in The Lancet suggested that having a sense of purpose can even add years to our lives. As reported by University College London (UCL), seniors who experienced a certain type of well-being were 30 percent less likely to die over the course of a study that was conducted by researchers from UCL, Princeton University and Stony Brook University. The researchers explained that “eudemonic well-being” is the positive feeling we get when we feel that what we do is worthwhile and that we have a purpose in life.

Explained study leader Professor Andrew Steptoe, Director of the UCL Institute of Epidemiology, “We cannot be sure that higher well-being necessarily causes lower risk of death, since the relationship may not be causal. But the findings raise the intriguing possibility that increasing well-being could help to improve physical health. There are several biological mechanisms that may link well-being to improved health, for example through hormonal changes or reduced blood pressure. Further research is now needed to see if such changes might contribute to the links between well-being and life expectancy in older people.”

The study appeared in the Nov. 6, 2014 issue of The Lancet. [optional link: http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736%2813%2961489-0/fulltext]

Source: AgeWise reporting on news release from University College London.

 

Retirement Communities Encouraged to Promote Muscle-Strengthening Activities

A University of Missouri expert encourages staff and administrators to include a well-rounded fitness program in order to keep residents healthier.

The majority of adults aged 65 and older remain inactive and fail to meet recommended physical activity guidelines, previous research has shown. However, these studies have not represented elders living in retirement communities who may have more access to recreational activities and exercise equipment. Now, researchers at the University of Missouri have found that older adults in retirement communities who reported more exercise experienced less physical decline than their peers who reported less exercise, although many adults—even those who exercised—did not complete muscle-strengthening exercises, which are another defense against physical decline.

“Physical decline is natural in this age group, but we found that people who exercised more declined less,” said Lorraine Phillips, an associate professor in the University of Missouri Sinclair School of Nursing. “The most popular physical activities the residents of the retirement community reported doing were light housework and walking, both of which are easily integrated into individuals’ daily lives, but these exercises are not the best choices for maintaining muscle strength.”

Phillips and her colleagues studied the physical activity of 38 residents at TigerPlace, an independent living community in Columbia, four times in one year. The researchers tested the residents’ walking speed, balance and their ability to stand up after sitting in a chair. Then, researchers compared the results of the tests to the residents’ self-reported participation in exercise. Phillips found that residents who reported doing more exercise had more success maintaining their physical abilities over time.

Phillips says the national recommendations for exercise include muscle strengthening exercises, such as knee extensions and bicep curls. Most of the study participants did not report completing these types of activities despite daily opportunities for recreational activities and access to exercise equipment. Phillips says muscle strength is important to individuals of this age group in order for them to maintain their ability to conduct everyday activities such as opening jars, standing up from chairs and supporting their own body weight.

“For older individuals, walking may represent the most familiar and comfortable type of physical activity,” Phillips said. “Muscle-strengthening exercises should be promoted more aggressively in retirement communities and made more appealing to residents.”

To combat the lack of physical activity among seniors, Phillips says health care providers should discuss exercise programs with their patients and share the possible risks associated with their lack of exercise, such as losing their ability to live independently. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, individuals 65 years of age and older that have no limiting health conditions should do muscle-strengthening activities that work all major muscle groups at least two days a week.

Phillips’ research, “Retirement Community Residents’ Physical Activity, Depressive Symptoms, and Functional Limitations,” was published in Clinical Nursing Researchhttp://cnr.sagepub.com/content/early/2014/02/10/1054773813508133.abstract

Source: University of Missouri News Bureau.

 

Home Care Supports Seniors Who Want to Age in Place

The U.S. Census Bureau reported last year that the percentage of seniors who are living in a nursing home dropped by 20 percent over the last decade. Are seniors just healthier today? The truth is, older adults today need as much care as did previous generations, but more of them are receiving it in assisted living communities, adult day centers and, in growing numbers, in their own homes.
This information comes as little surprise to the 65 million Americans who are already serving as family caregivers for older loved ones who need help managing health conditions and the activities of daily living. Many of these caregivers are members of the baby boom generation, who are reaching the age when they themselves might be expected to need care! From the local to the federal level, government agencies, too, are taking notice of the financial impact resulting from this population shift. The discussion about how to best and most cost-effectively care for our seniors is taking center stage.
The Census study showed that 90 percent of seniors would wish to receive care in their own homes. Is this realistic? Can they be safe and well-cared for even if they are living with age-related illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, or memory loss? Several demographic changes in our society make this more of a challenge than it was in the past:
• A University of Michigan study showed that almost 40 percent of chronically ill older adults in the U.S. live alone, and the majority of those who are married have spouses who are themselves facing health challenges.
• Our lower birthrate equals fewer adult children to help out as parents’ care needs increase.
• Adult children are more likely to live at a distance, having moved to find employment.
• A higher divorce rate means more seniors live alone, and family caregivers’ financial and time resources are stretched when parents live in different households, or even in different parts of the country.
The cost of institutional care continues to grow. For some seniors with medically complex health challenges, nursing homes and other residential health facilities are the best choice. But for many other seniors, home care is a desirable and cost-effective arrangement.
Dr. Soeren Mattke of the RAND Corporation noted, “The aging of the world’s population and the fact that more diseases are treatable will create serious financial and manpower challenges for the world’s healthcare systems.” He added, “Moving more healthcare into the home setting where patients or family members can manage care could be one important solution to these challenges.”
A wide variety of care services can be provided right in a patient’s home:
Skilled healthcare services can be provided at home and are cost-effective. Visiting nurses and rehabilitation professionals provide skilled medical services in the home. Registered nurses (RNs) and licensed practical nurses (LPNs) perform hands-on procedures such as wound care and IV therapy. Rehabilitation professionals include physical, occupational and speech/language therapists.
Nonmedical home care provides companionship and homemaking services that support the senior’s independence, at a much lower cost than nursing care. Caregivers provide supervision, assistance with dressing grooming and other personal care, laundry and housekeeping, meal preparation, transportation, socialization, and respite for family caregivers.
Dementia support is also available. Even when adult children live close to home, dementia complicates the caregiving dynamic. Trained in-home caregivers who understand the challenges of Alzheimer’s disease and similar conditions can help patients remain home longer, even as the need for assistance and supervision grows.
Many experts believe that bringing more care into seniors’ own homes will allow them to take better charge of their own care—and will save seniors and the healthcare system money.
Source: IlluminAge AgeWise, 2015