Tag Archives: Senior life management

2019 Medicare Improvements

Medicare Advantage

Here’s some good news to start the year! In 2019, we’ll see improvements in coverage across the major Medicare plans.

About two-thirds of people on Medicare use “original Medicare.” Patients with original Medicare can go to any health care provider that accepts Medicare. Original Medicare pays for 80% of costs after a yearly deductible. The remaining 20% is paid out of pocket. In addition, your loved one may have a supplemental insurance. Sometimes this is called “Medi-Gap.” Medi-Gap policies pay the deductible and that 20%.

There is also a “Medicare Advantage” plan. If your family member has this coverage, he or she must go to providers who are part of the plan’s network. Medicare Advantage programs usually cost less than a combined original Medicare and Medi-Gap policy.

Starting in 2019

“Donut hole” is closing early

Medicare Part D has been paying roughly 75% of medication costs up to a set amount per year. Patients paid the balance of 25%. If costs were higher, the patient had to pay a greater percentage out of pocket (35-44%). If your relative’s drug costs reached a second threshold, additional medicines were then covered 95% by Medicare, 5% by the patient. In 2019, that “donut hole” gap in coverage is “closing,” meaning it is getting smaller. And a year earlier than planned. This year Medicare will extend coverage of brand name drugs at 75% up to the second threshold. Then 95% coverage will kick in. Generics will have a 63% coverage rate after the first threshold. The following year, generics will be covered at the 75% rate as well.

Nonmedical support services

Some Medicare Advantage Plans have been given permission to expand coverage beyond traditional medical care. With a doctor’s orders, for instance, they have the option to offer policies that provide for things like the installation of grab bars or a wheelchair ramp. Check your loved one’s plan to see if it includes this type of coverage.

Want to switch policies?

Wish your loved one had a different plan? As of 2019, those with an existing Medicare Advantage plan may switch to a different plan within the first three months.

Do you find Medicare confusing?

You aren’t alone! As the Orange County experts in family caregiving, we at Senior Life Management can help you decide if there’s a plan that would be better. Give us a call at 949-716-1266.

 

 

A New Year Reflection

Psychologist Hanson

After the hubbub of the holidays and in the darkest nights at year’s end, nature seems to beckon us to reflect.

Rather than make a resolution about exercise or diet, consider looking at your approach to family caregiving and personal qualities you might nurture to become more resilient in this role.

Psychologist Hanson, PhD, studies resilience. He reports that resilience depends on three key strategies and the use of mental resources that support them. To cultivate greater resilience in yourself, review your past year while gently but candidly considering these questions:

  • How did you manage the challenges you faced? What personal qualities supported a smooth or positive process? Did you listen well? Or perhaps you called upon your courage and persevered. Thinking about it now, were there approaches you took that exacerbated the problem? What might you want to do differently in the future?
  • How did you take care of yourself? Did you say “no” when you reached your limit? Or maybe you didn’t say “no” and had a tougher time as a result.
  • How did you access or cultivate resources? Were you inquisitive? Did you research your loved one’s condition? Perhaps you demonstrated compassion for yourself by reaching out for help. Identify people you can count on. Begin to build your support system. Are there people you’d like to thank or recruit?

Consider making a list of qualities that were helpful, things “done well.” Create another list of “not so skillful.” Everyone will have things they wish they had done differently. This isn’t about beating yourself up. Simply a constructive assessment. Make a symbolic break from the year. Burn, shred, or otherwise destroy the list of actions or qualities you’d like to let go of. Post the remainder—those you want to keep and emphasize—where you will see them often for encouragement in the coming year.

Not much bounce in your “bounce back”?

As the Orange County experts in family caregiving, we at Senior Life Management see this often. There’s so much to juggle, it can get overwhelming. The more resilient you are, however, the better the care for your loved one. We can help you ease your load and make optimal use of resources. Give us a call at 949-716-1266. Let us help you become a more resilient caregiver and put a little more bounce in your step.

Stress or Burnout?

burnout

 

Most of us know it when we’re stressed. We talk about it, and we talk about needing to do something about it…when we have the time.

But we might not be aware when we reach the point of burnout. That’s because going numb is the nature of burnout. To be so worn out that you are beyond caring.

Put simply, burnout is stress that has gone on too long. It is an important distinction to understand. Burnout has more serious, long-term consequences for your physical health and for your emotional well-being.

Take a moment for self-reflection and assess yourself.

If you are stressed, you are

  • constantly on the go, urgently trying to get things done.
  • emotionally brittle, tending toward irritability and anxiety. Your thinking might be a bit scattered.
  • tired and not sleeping well, rushing through leisure activities.

If you are a stressed family caregiver, you are scrambling to keep up with the demands of your role. But you believe that you eventually can get everything under control, and doing so feels important to you. Getting stress relief is a goal.

If you are burned out, you are

  • doing less and less and still feeling exhausted.
  • emotionally dull and hopeless, feeling there’s no point in making an effort at anything because nothing ever changes.
  • frequently physically ill, catching every cold that comes around.
  • withdrawing from friends and activities and often overconsuming food, alcohol, tobacco, etc.

To put this in perspective, consider stress to be a blinking yellow light: Yield. Slow down. Find a way to weave in more breaks. Consider burnout to be a red light: Stop. You have given too much for too long. Change is needed immediately before burnout undermines your health and your ability to provide appropriate care for your loved one.

Do you recognize the signs of burnout?

At Senior Life Management we see dedicated family members who, frankly, are fried! They are beyond stress and are dangerously in the realm of burnout. As the Orange County experts in family caregiving, we know it doesn’t have to be this hard. There are options. Give us a call and let’s start the conversation: 949-716-1266.

Accessible National Parks

national parks service

If the person you care for has trouble getting around, you can still go on a family vacation. Many of our national parks service has special accessibility programs. Our national parks service is our treasures, and park staff is working to ensure that all Americans have access.

To find the accessibility of national parks service, go to the National Park Service website. Select a park of interest. Under the “Plan Your Visit” menu, go to the page for Accessibility.

Here are some of the features you might find:

  • Accessible trails. These trails have a firm and stable surface. In fact, some are wood boardwalks. All are wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair. Not all of them are flat. Look for information about slope to make decisions about difficulty.
  • Accessible camping. A number of national parks offer accessible campsites. These campgrounds may have surfaces that are more groomed and stable. And they also have restrooms with wheelchair access.
  • Accessible opportunities. Some parks offer touchable exhibits for the visually impaired. Others have hearing systems that help amplify the sound of the ranger’s voice on a tour. Some parks have cabins that are built to accommodate wheelchairs.

America the Beautiful Passes

With an America the Beautiful Access Pass, the National Parks Service waives entrance fees for persons with permanent disabilities. The pass covers more than 2000 national parks and national wildlife refuges. To get the pass, applicants must mail in documents to prove their disability. They also need to prove citizenship or residency. A limited number of parks can issue the pass on site.

An Access Pass covers the admission price for a single, noncommercial vehicle. Or, admission for the disabled individual and up to three others for parks that charge a per-person fee. Plus, the pass may provide discounts beyond the entrance fee. For instance, there may be discounts on extra amenities, such as camping, swimming, and boat fees.

Thinking of a family vacation?

At Senior Life Management we have observed that a special family trip builds priceless memories. Don’t let a disability quash the thought! As the Orange County experts in family caregiving, we can help you identify needed support services and find an outing that matches well with your loved one’s abilities. Give us a call at 949-716-1266.

 

Advocating for a Good Night’s Sleep

sleep

Sleep has been under-rated. There is no doubt that miracles occur daily in hospitals. But in the race to vanquish disease, simple things like sleep can get short shrift.

Choosing Wisely, a white paper by the American Academy of Nursing, has listed several common hospital practices that unintentionally get in the way of a solid recovery. Spending too much time in bed—not walking early and often—is one concern. Another problem is interrupted sleep.

Promote a full night’s sleep

Sleep is one of the body’s most healing activities. It has a cyclic pattern that needs to be respected. When your relative is hospitalized, do what you can to advocate for:

  • Medicines being given during waking hours. (If needed three times a day, suggest 10:00 p.m., 6:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.)
  • Lights out, monitors silent, and doors closed to your relative’s room at night.
  • No middle of the night blood draws. Ask that these occur when your loved one is awake in the morning.
  • Vitals checked just before bed and then in the morning. Have blood pressure, pulse, temperature, pain, and respirations been fairly steady? If so, do they really need to be taken at 1:00 a.m. and 4:00 a.m.?
  • Effective and long-lasting pain management applied in the evening. This way pain will not cause your loved one to wake up in the night.

Of course there are reasons a patient may need midnight attention. Maybe the situation is unstable. The illness not yet under control. Perhaps a test is needed to determine the goals of care. Or to make immediate treatment decisions. But if things are generally stable, it’s perfectly appropriate to ask, “What are the real risks of no interruptions between 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m.? Can it wait?” Healing may be a higher priority.

Is advocacy not your thing?

At Senior Life Management, we know how hard it can be to navigate the medical system. Hospital staff mean well, but they are short on time and have many patients to care for. As the Orange County experts in family caregiving, we can advocate for your loved one and help be sure that he or she is supported for genuine healing. Give us a call at 949-716-1266. You don’t have to do this alone!

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