The Golden Touch
well-known speakers on the issue of eldercare, my partner and I are involved in
many vital and meaningful discussions around aging population. What we’ve
discovered is that sometimes the issues around our elderly are vast and complicated
(like Medicare and the Healthcare Reform Act) – and sometimes the issues that
touch the aging most intimately are the simplest things. One of those simple
issues is TOUCH. We hear about touch as a medium for healing in so many arenas
of life – in premature infants, seriously ill and even terminally ill patients.
advocates of for healthy, wonderful resources in eldercare, eCareDiary hopes to
move this conversation to the top of the list for the aging population. As a
society, we may be powerless over many issues facing our aging parents and
grandparents, but this is ONE thing that we can simply and easily bring back
into their lives. It is only a question
Why? The reasons our aging population
grow physically more and more isolated are vast. To begin with, it’s common
that they will have lost those who were closest to them – their spouses, best
friends, siblings – in some cases, even their children. It’s also possible that
we, as care providers, are so conscious of being aware of their frailty, that
we go too far – hardly touching them at all. Even hugging them from an
invisible half-inch boundary becomes our norm.
What to do. There are so many simple ways to
reengage ourselves with the elderly population. For daughters, granddaughters and
female care providers, sometimes the simple act of providing a manicure or
pedicure is a restorative physical connection. For myself, the opportunity to shave
my dad was always a fond intimacy between us – and a way for him to feel good
What are the benefits. According to the Touch Research
Institute, elderly massage is one of the most useful treatments for all levels
of Alzheimer's patients. It’s been shown to facilitate relaxation and even communication. Touch
can also greatly assist in pain management and can also create an increase in
strength and muscle awareness. (And all things being connected, this can help
the elderly population to avoid falls and other injuries, simply because their
bodies grow weaker or less self-aware over time.)
touch can also have a profoundly calming effect – which can help the patient to
deal with medical and lifestyle interventions much more easily and in a way
that is more deeply connected to their loved ones and care providers. In short,
touch can be a bridge that breaks their isolation. This is even more true when
the patient may have lost their verbal abilities for one or more reasons.
patients and loved ones move into their golden – and even their platinum years,
bringing the intimacy and caring of touch back into their lives – and even into
OUR lives – is a strong and powerful connection that we should definitely not
overlook. After all, even the powerful healing of a simple hug can make all the
difference in a person’s day.
Mills, Co-Founder of eCareDiary
eCareDiary.com to save YOUR family and care providing tribe a world of
confusion and difficulty regarding patient care, information and wellness
PS: If you are care provider, please feel free to
reach out to us to get your organization and your patients set up – eCareDiary
is a powerful tool, and we’re here to support you, your patients and their
Caregiver News Roundup Sunday April 25, 2010
Criteria for Choosing a Home Health Aide – Honoring What Won’t Be on a Resume.
As any family with a loved one who is “aging in home” probably knows, finding home health aides who are not only qualified, but also passionate about their work is not easy. There are many, many variables that come into play – after all, this person has access to your home, your family, and your precious parent or grandparent.
To make matters more difficult, your loved one has quite possibly lost their ability to advocate for themselves. So the home health aide you choose MUST be well above board.
I faced these issues over and over again, as we chose – and UNchose – almost a dozen home health aides while caring for my father. Although we finally found a wonderful person to help us, trodding through agencies and aides not only affected our careers and schedules every day – it made it almost impossible to do the basics of life. Even going to work or getting out to buy groceries became a measure in frustration when the home health aide didn’t show up or wasn’t the person we’d planned on.
And that’s not even touching on how confusing it is to the patient themselves. This issue filled our whole family with stress and worry – after all, this was our precious dad. the one who had been there every day of my husband’s life. How could we entrust his care, at the most vulnerable time in his life, to the wrong person?
There are some important criteria to keep in mind when you’re looking for a home health aide and agency. There are certifications and professional trainings that you should be aware of. We have attached a list of 10 criteria and questions to keep in mind at the end of this article.
But the OTHER qualifications – the human side of someone… definitely take the time and be sure that your care provider has the qualities that are most important to you and your family. Sit with everyone in your household and ask them what those are. Remember that the extra time you put into this process at the beginning can save you countless hours of frustration and disappointment down the road.
10 Criteria for Choosing a Home Health Aide
Once you acquire the names of several providers, which you can do on our website under the CARE PROVIDER feature, you will want to learn more about their services and reputations. Here are 10 questions to consider as you make your decision:
How Healthcare Reform Impacts Caregivers
Editors Note: This article was cross posted on Brightstar Healthcare's BrightInsights.
A few weeks ago President Obama signed into law a new healthcare reform bill which will expand health insurance coverage for 32 million people who are currently uninsured. This law will be phased in over the next decade but it offers a lot to help family caregivers both in the short term and the long term.
The benefits of the law fall into two categories – provisions which help the care recipient through Medicare and other public programs and those that help the caregiver through expanded health insurance coverage and better consumer protections. The biggest advantages to care recipients come through better coverage under the Medicare prescription drug program and through expanded health insurance options for pre-Medicare retirees.
Family caregivers will see their biggest benefits come from the fact that health insurance will begin to be de-coupled from employment starting in 2014. Many family caregivers face the difficult choice of whether to stay employed and hire professional caregivers to look after their loved ones or to leave their jobs and care for them full time. This decision is made more difficult by the fact that people who leave their jobs risk losing the health insurance benefits that go with them. By providing new health coverage options and subsidies to help pay for them, family caregivers will have one less thing to worry about when making these difficult choices.
Caregiver News Roundup Sunday March 28, 2010
Health Reform Includes a New Long Term Care Program – The new health reform law includes the CLASS Act, a new long term care insurance program administered by the federal government. The program would be available for working adults to purchase and would cover many traditional long term care services plus respite care, transportation, home remodeling and assistive technologies.
What Is in the Health Reform Bill – The new health reform law will make changes to our current system including expanding coverage to 32 million uninsured Americans, providing new consumer protections for the insured and closing the Medicare prescription drug "donut hole."
Memory Can Fade Quickly Even Before Alzheimer’s Disease – Patients with mild cognitive impairment, the stage before Alzheimer’s disease, lose their memory twice as fast as people not suffering any impairment. Once Alzheimer’s sets in, memory loss increases to four times as fast as people not suffering from the disease.
Study Identifies Which Diseases Are Most Likely to Put Seniors in Medicare "Donut Hole" – A new UCLA study has found that seniors suffering from chronic conditions like diabetes and dementia are the ones most likely to hit the Medicare Prescription Drug "Donut Hole."
Rheumatoid Arthritis Is on Rise in American Women – A new study published in the March issue of Arthritis and Rheumatism has found that rheumatoid arthritis is on the rise with American women, especially white women. The study found that the incidence of rheumatoid arthritis in men had leveled off but was continuing to rise by 2.5% per year with women.
The New Healthcare Law: What It Really Means
Editors Note: This article was originally posted on Women’s Voices for Change.
On Sunday, March 21, 2010, the House of Representatives passed major healthcare reform legislation, passing a bill that will be signed within days by President Obama. This is an historic moment that has eluded numerous Presidents, including Harry Truman, Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton. The legislation will provide health care coverage for an additional 32 million Americans who are currently uninsured, and provide important consumer protections for all Americans.
The struggle to pass healthcare reform has been difficult, at times nasty, and filled with misinformation. Now that it will be law, what exactly does it mean for the average person, and how will it affect our lives?
Women. This bill will help women both in terms of coverage and affordability of health insurance. Currently 19 percent of women are uninsured, for a variety of reasons. A smaller number of women receive health insurance coverage through their employers than men do, with 38 percent of women being insured through their jobs compared to 50 percent of men. Additionally, a larger number of women receive dependent coverage through their spouses’ employers, with 24 percent being covered this way compared to 13 percent of men. Another 6 percent of women receive coverage in the individual insurance market. By providing greatly expanding health care coverage, the number of women who are uninsured should drop dramatically.
Additionally, the bill will help lower the cost of insurance for many women, since insurers now can charge women of childbearing age higher premiums than men in many states. The bill eliminates this discriminatory practice by instituting community rating, a practice in which everyone is charged the same amount, including individuals and small businesses.
Children. Kids already benefit from the Children’s Health Insurance Program, but this bill provides additional benefits—the most important being the elimination of pre-existing condition restrictions for children, and allowing them to remain on their parents’ health insurance to age 26.
Uninsured. The bill provides much broader coverage by expanding health insurance to cover 32 million of the 46 million people who are currently uninsured. It achieves this through a combination of mandates to employers and individuals and expansion of government health insurance programs.
Who’s Left Out. It’s expected that approximately 14 million people will not qualify for coverage under the bill.
2010: What Goes Into Effect This Year
The bill is structured so that parts of the legislation will phase into law starting in 2010 and continue to phase in until 2020. There are many benefits that go into effect this year.
Elimination of Pre-existing Conditions for Children. The bill immediately eliminates the ability of insurers to deny coverage to children on the basis of a pre-existing condition. For adults, the ban on pre-existing conditions goes into effect in 2014. High-risk insurance pools (below) will be available to help them gain coverage in the meantime.
Temporary High-Risk Insurance Pools. The bill creates high-risk health insurance pools for people who have pre-existing conditions and have been denied coverage due to those conditions. To qualify, they have to have been uninsured for at least six months. Monthly costs will be based on those for general health insurance population. Perhaps most important: the monthly fees will not be able to vary more than 4-to-1 based on age. Out-of-pocket costs are capped at $5,950 for an individual and $11,900 for a family. The pools sunset in 2014, when the pre-existing condition ban goes into effect and Health Insurance Exchanges (see below) come online.
Changes to the Medicare Drug Benefit. The bill provides a $250 “bonus” to all who have enrolled in a Medicare Prescription drug program in 2010. It also begins closing the Medicare Prescription Drug “doughnut hole” in 2011.
Coverage of Adult Dependents Up to Age 26. The bill requires that insurers permit dependents to remain on health insurance policies up to age 26, regardless of whether or not they are full-time students. Most insurers currently cover dependents not in school only up to age 19 and those in school up to age 23.
Prohibition from Insurance Rescissions. Insurance rescission is a practice in which insurers retroactively cancel an insurance policy, usually due to an unreported pre-existing condition. The new bill makes this practice illegal.
Tax Credit for Small Businesses to Pay for Insurance. The bill includes $40 billion in tax credits to help small businesses pay for health insurance for their workers. The credits are available to employers with fewer than 50 workers and will cover 35 percent of health insurance premiums in 2010. This figure will rise to 50 percent of premiums in 2014.
Prohibiting Lifetime Benefit Caps. The bill will prohibit lifetime caps on health insurance benefits.
Years to Come: What Gets Phased-In
The bulk of the new benefits and subsidies for health insurance will begin in 2014. The lead time is necessary to accumulate funds to pay for the cost of the new coverage.
Health Insurance Exchanges. These state-based marketplaces start operation in 2014 and are based on the Massachusetts Health Connector system, in which individuals and small businesses are able to purchase health insurance. The goal is to provide individuals and small businesses with transparency in benefits and pricing so they can compare health insurance and purchase the coverage that best fits their needs.
Employer Mandate. Starting in 2014, businesses employing 50 or more people will be required to provide insurance coverage to their employees or pay a $2,000 per worker penalty.
Individual Mandate. Almost all Americans will be required to get insurance coverage or face fines—a system similar to the one that’s already in place in Massachusetts. The fines start small at $95 in 2014, but rise rapidly to $695 in 2016. Low-income individuals are exempted from the mandate but most of them will be eligible for coverage through Medicaid or other subsidies.
Health Insurance Subsidies. In order to help families afford the mandatory insurance premiums, starting in 2014 subsidies will be available on a sliding scale, up to a level of $88,000 per year for a family of four. The amount of the subsidies will also be on a sliding scale, meaning that people with lower incomes will receive larger benefits.
Long Term Care. The bill includes the CLASS Act, which provides a public, voluntary long term care program that working people can purchase. The program would cover home care, respite care, home modifications, transportation, and assistive technologies.
The Bottom Line: How’s It Paid For
The legislation is expected to cost $940 billion over ten years. It’s expected to reduce the federal deficit by approximately $143 billion during this time by slowing the rate of healthcare-cost inflation.
The new healthcare measures are paid for through cost savings in Medicare and other government health programs, estimated at approximately $500 billion over ten years. The cost savings in Medicare are achieved by bringing payments for Medicare Advantage plans in line with the cost of providing care, and by reducing the rate of estimated growth in the program.
Additionally, some new taxes are being instituted. Approximately $100 billion will be raised by fees on prescription drugs, health insurance premiums, and an excise tax on medical devices. The bill also raises the Medicare tax from 1.45% to 2.35% for individuals earning more than $200,000 and families earning more than $250,000 per year.
Finally, starting in 2018, an excise tax of 40% will be applied to “Cadillac” health plans: those costing more than $10,200 per year for an individual and $27,200 for a family. These are health plans for wealthier individuals, since the average cost for family coverage is about $12,000 per year.
While health insurance reform has passed and will be signed by the President within days, the Senate still needs to act on a bill to fix some of the problems in the bill enacted into law. That’s expected to take place this week.
It is unlikely that work on health reform is done. The lesson of other social insurance programs is that they always remain works-in-progress. Social Security and Medicare have been modified and expanded a great deal since they were first enacted. You can expect similar developments to occur with healthcare reform as it moves forward.
Caregiver News Roundup Sunday March 14, 2010
Some Older Patient’s Treated in Emergency Room’s Are Getting Wrong Medications – A new study has found that it is common for patients 65 and older treated in Emergency Rooms to receive incorrect medications.
New Alzheimer’s Test Offers Opportunity for Early Detection – The Computerize Self Test (CST) is a new and simple test for medical professionals to use in identifying Alzheimer’s disease. New research has found that early detection of Alzheimer’s is important in treating the disease so CST raises the possibility of more effective therapies.
Mediators Focus on Elder Issues – Mediators have been used for years to avoid court appearances in divorces and other disputes. Now they are becoming a popular way to deal with family disputes over eldercare.
Numbers of Years a Person Smokes Is Key Factor in Lowering the Risks of Parkinson’s – A number of studies have shown that smokers are less likely to contract Parkinson’s disease. A new study has found that the key factor in lower the risk of Parkinson’s disease is the number of years a person has smoked rather than how much they smoked. An important note – smoking does not eliminate your risk of getting Parkinson’s and has other serious health impacts.
Deciding on the Right Care for Elderly Parents – Finding the correct care solution for parents with declining health is difficult. Finances, the patient’s needs and the person’s personality will all come into play when deciding whether or not to care for the parent at home or move them to a facility.
Stress and Isolation Are Major Problems for Caregivers – A new article in the Atlantic Monthly highlights the stress and isolation people caring for family members/loved ones face and discusses the lack of a strong support infrastructure for caregivers.
Caregiver News Roundup Sunday February 28, 2010
Brain Images Suggest Alzheimer's Drug Is Working – New image technology suggests that Bapineuzumab, a new Alzheimer’s drug, is working. Studies show the drug reduces clumps of plaque in the brain by 25% which is important because plaque is an underlying cause of Alzheimer’s.
Ibuprofen May Reduce Parkinson's Risk – A new study from Harvard University has found that taking Ibuprofen may reduce the risk of Parkinson’s disease. The research showed that people who took three or more Ibuprofen tablets a week had a 40 percent lower risk of contracting the illness than those who didn't take it.
Video Games May Help Battle Depression in Seniors – A new study has found that “exergames,” video games that combine game playing with exercise, can help improving the symptoms of subsyndromal depression (SSD).
Rapid Image Analysis Method Helps Diagnose Alzheimer's Disease – A study from Finland has found that MRIs of the brain can be used to diagnose Alzheimer’s quickly. Up until this study, diagnosis of Alzheimer’s has been done by review of the symptoms without the aide of brain images.
Caregiver News Roundup Sunday February 14, 2010
Study Finds Working Caregivers Are More Likely to Have Health Issues
Being a caregiver is an incredibly stressful experience and a new study by the MetLife Mature Market Institute has some startling conclusions about its impact. The report examined employees serving as caregivers and found that they are more likely to suffer from health problems like diabetes, high blood pressure and depression than their co-workers.
Some of the key findings in the study include:
- Caregivers have health costs which are 8% higher than people who are not caregivers and cost employers $13.4 billion a year.
- Employees serving as caregivers were more likely to report poor health than their co-workers. For example, 17% of female employees ages 50 and older who were caregivers reported fair or poor health compared to 9% of non-caregivers.
- Employed caregivers find it difficult to take care of their own health care needs and are less likely to get preventive care such as mammograms, annual physicals and preventive health screenings.
Caregiver News for Sunday January 31, 2010
Caregiver News Roundup Sunday January 17, 2010
Healthcare Reform Helps Pay for Long Term Care
Assistance to help people pay for the costs of long term care has been included in both the House and Senate healthcare reform packages. This bill, known as the CLASS Act, establishes a voluntary, affordable government long term care insurance program.
The coverage is designed to keep people in their own houses and out of institutions like nursing homes whenever possible. Some of the services covered under the CLASS Act include home care, respite care, home modifications, transportation, and assistive technologies.
The premiums will work in a similar manner to life insurance and will vary based on age at the time of purchase. They are expected to increase periodically with age.
In order to qualify for benefits, an individual is required to be 18 years old or older and have paid monthly premiums for at least 5 years. In order to receive coverage, a person must:
- Be unable to perform two or more activities of daily living (ADL) e.g. eating, bathing, dressing, transferring.
- Have a cognitive disability that requires supervision or hands-on assistance such as Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis or traumatic brain injury.
Caregiver News Roundup Sunday January 3, 2010
Senate Passes Healthcare Reform Bill – The US Senate passed a healthcare reform bill on Christmas Eve. The House of Representatives passed a bill in November. The two bills will be merged and a final vote is expected by late January.
Alzheimer’s May Lessen the Risk of Getting Cancer – A new study found that people who are suffering from Alzheimer’s are 69 percent less likely to get cancer than people not suffering from the disease.
Nursing Shortage Is A Concern for Baby Boomers – The US is expected to face a nursing shortage just as the baby boom generation begins to retire. By 2025, the US will be facing a shortfall of 260,000 nurses.
Healthcare Will Need to Change as the Nation Ages – A report from the Institute of Medicine says US is not prepared for the coming boom of senior citizens. A major concern is a lack of medical professionals, such as geriatricians, to treat aging conditions.
Happy New Year and Best Wishes 2010
Happy New Year! 2009 was a big year for eCare Diary. Since our launch in September, we have seen our daily visitors and registered users increase beyond our expectations and the numbers keep growing each month. We are so pleased at the response and feedback from the eCare Diary community. We appreciate the time people have taken to share their thoughts and suggestions.
We are planning new additions for the site which we will be rolling out over the next few weeks. Before we go live with them, we will seek your valuable input. As always, we welcome comments, thoughts and suggestions from our users. Please share them here.
We hope you have a great 2010!
Why I Support Healthcare Reform
After months of discussion and negotiation, the US Senate has finished its healthcare reform bill and will be voting on it Christmas Eve. The US House of Representatives passed its version of healthcare reform in November which means it is likely that a bill will be on President Obama’s desk in early 2010. This legislation would mark the first major expansion of healthcare coverage in the United States since Medicare and Medicaid were created in 1965.
I worked on the last healthcare reform effort as a member of the Clinton Healthcare Reform Task Force and Legislative Director to Congressman Eliot Engel (D-NY). I believe this legislation is important and will be an improvement over our current healthcare system which does not work and cannot be sustained in its current form.
Helping the Uninsured
There are current 47 million Americans who have no health insurance. The uninsured are both an economic and social problem. They are an economic problem because the uninsured raise the cost of health insurance by over $1,000 per year for every family. Most uninsured people get care through emergency rooms which are required to treat everyone regardless of their ability to pay. These are hidden costs which are passed along to everyone in the form of higher insurance premiums.
Caregiver News Roundup Sunday December 20, 2009
Caregiver News Roundup Sunday December 13, 2009
Healthcare Reform Update
I recently wrote an article outlining what changes were being considered as part of healthcare reform. In recent days a new proposal has been discussed in the United States Senate and I wanted to provide an update on the key parts of it.
- Medicare Buy-in for People Ages 55-65 – The Senate bill will lower the age people can sign up for Medicare from 65 to 55 and allow people between 55 and 65 to buy-in to this program if they do not have other insurance. This would be the largest expansion of Medicare since it began more than 40 years ago.
- Federal Employees Health Program Option – The Senate bill will create a national insurance program mirroring the Federal Employees Health Program where the uninsured could buy health coverage. It would be run by the federal government but would include only private insurance plans. The Federal Employees Health Program covers all federal workers including Congress.
- Public Health Insurance Option “Trigger” – Under the Senate proposal, the public health insurance option would only be established if private insurers do not participate in the Federal Employees Health Program described above.
- Reform of the Insurance Market – The Senate bill will require that insurance companies spend at least 90 cents of every dollar on health care services. Many insurers currently spend 85 cents or less of every dollar on medical care.
The US House of Representatives has already passed a version of healthcare reform and the Senate is expected to vote on its bill before Christmas. Once that occurs, the two bills will need to be reconciled and passed again by both houses of Congress before they can be sent to the President for signature. We will continue to keep the eCare Diary community updated on this important issue as it moves through the legislative process.
Caregiver News Roundup Sunday December 6, 2009
The Impact Caregiving Had on Me
Editors Note: This is the third of a 3 part series on my caregiving experience. It is being cross posted at Caregiving.com and LosingourParents.com.
Being a caregiver has been a life changing experience and a fulfilling one in so many ways. It strengthened the bond between my father and me. It opened my eyes to the confusing and antiquated world of long term care. It gave me an understanding of how difficult it is to watch someone you love deteriorate before your eyes.
Since my father’s death, I have gone from caring for him to being the father of a beautiful, healthy 19 month old daughter, Avery. Being a father made me realize how many sacrifices my parents made for me when I was growing up. I am so grateful I was able to help my father enrich his life during his last years and like to think I repaid him for a few of the sacrifices he made for me.
After my experience as a caregiver was over, I was determined to help others by sharing the lessons I learned and bringing long term care into the 21st century. I have worked in healthcare for almost 25 years but was shocked at how difficult it was to navigate the world of long term care.
It was difficult to find qualified and compatible home healthcare aides for my father. There was no information about the quality of services or reviews from customers about their experiences. We went through numerous aides as we struggled to find the right one for my father.
One of the most frustrating parts about being a caregiver was keeping track of my father’s appointments, especially as his Parkinson’s progressed. He had home care visits, doctor’s appointments and medication dosages every 3-4 hours. There was no centralized place to track all this information.
Obtaining specialty medical supplies like bathroom bars, bed liners and walkers was difficult. Many of these items were not available at the local pharmacy and had to be order via catalogs or the Internet.
I created eCare Diary to make life easier for caregivers. It was developed out of my personal experiences and has grown through the input of other caregivers. eCare Diary is the first centralized website that offers free tools, information and community to address many of the issues I faced. These include an appointment and medication management tool, a search engine of care facilities, a shopping portal and supportive blog communities for caregivers.
One of the major goals of eCare Diary is to be an interactive community where the needs and suggestions of caregivers can be integrated into the site. We have been so gratified by the feedback and suggestions we are getting from visitors. We plan to release eCare Diary 2.0 shortly and this will include a number of additions recommended by users.
Starting a new business has been exciting and scary. I worked for a startup during the dot-com boom but I have spent most of my life working in large organizations. eCare Diary does not currently have investment money so we are operating on a tight budget. It is difficult and takes a lot of hard work, but it has also forced us to be creative. We have found social media to be an excellent way to connect with caregivers and to publicize what we are doing. It was through Facebook that we connected with Denise Brown and learned of the terrific work she is doing here at Caregiving.com.
The most rewarding part of the launch has been the new people we are meeting. Since launching the site in September we have connected with many caregivers locally and online. We have found that many of them have the same thirst for information and feeling of isolation that I had. They are fortunate that there are resources available today that did not exist when I was caring for my father.
Caregiver News Roundup Sunday November 29, 2009
Choosing a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan
Its open enrollment season for Medicare Prescription Drug programs from November 15 to December 31, 2009. If you are covered by Medicare and are 65 or older, now is the time to choose a plan.
The Medicare prescription drug program is 4 years old. Yet there is still confusion about how to choose a plan that best fits the needs of you or your loved ones. I will attempt to clarify some of the questions about this program.
How Do I Get Prescription Drug Coverage through Medicare
Medicare provides coverage for prescription drugs in both the traditional Medicare plan and in the Medicare Advantage program (Medicare HMOs). In the traditional program you can go to any doctor who accepts Medicare but must meet a deductible and pay 20% of the costs. In a Medicare Advantage plan, you pay much lower out of pocket costs but are restricted to doctors who participate in the insurer’s network. (A future blog will offer more detail about Medicare Advantage plans.)
If you are in a traditional Medicare, you must choose a prescription drug program offered by a private insurer. If you are in the Medicare Advantage plan you will receive your prescription drug coverage from the Medicare HMO you choose.
If you are 65 and this is the first year you are eligible for this coverage, it is important that you sign up immediately because there is a 1% penalty for every month penalty that you wait. For example, if you wait a year, you will pay 12% more than the person who signed up immediately.
What are the Prescription Benefits that Medicare Offers
Medicare requires that all plans provide a minimum level of coverage but many offer better benefits. In 2010, Medicare requires that plans provide the following:
Caregiver News Roundup Sunday November 22, 2009
Three Toughest Challenges I Faced As A Caregiver
Editors Note: In honor of National Family Caregivers Month I will be doing a 3 part series on my caregiving experience. It will be cross posted at Caregiving.com and LosingourParents.com.
Becoming a caregiver is an unplanned experience since we never know when or where it will occur. It creates many challenges in terms of day to day care and the emotional needs of the patient and caregiver. When I was caring for my father who suffered from Parkinson’s disease I faced many challenges and will discuss the three toughest ones.
Allowing My Father to Be Independent While Convincing Him He Needed Help
Parkinson’s is a degenerative disease so when my father was initially diagnosed the medications addressed many of the symptoms permitting him to live independently. However, as the disease started to take its toll on his body and the medications were less effective, it became harder and harder for him to live without help. He started to fall, had trouble making meals for himself, dressing himself and bathing himself.
Caregiver News Roundup Sunday November 15, 2009
Medicare Prescription Drug Enrollment Begins - The annual enrollment period for the Medicare Prescription Drug program starts November 15 and ends December 31. Seniors are encouraged to shop around for the coverage that best fits their needs.
Caregiver Crunch Coming – The aging of the baby boomers, fewer family members and the increasing number of children not living near their parents is going to create a shortage of family caregivers in the near future.
New Law Prohibits Genetic Discrimination – A new law will prohibit employers from requesting genetic tests or considering genetic history in hiring, firings or promotions. The law also prevents health insurers from requiring genetic tests as a condition of coverage or to set premiums.
Lupus Drug Submitted to FDA for Approval – Experimental Lupus drug Benlysta has completed its first round of testing and is headed to the FDA for approval. If approved, the medicine could be available by late 2010.
Gene Mutation Is Linked to Parkinson’s Disease – A study in Natural Genetics has found that mutations of the alpha-synuclein gene and microtubule associated protein tau increase the risk of getting Parkinson’s disease.
Caregiver News for Sunday November 8, 2009
Healthcare Reform Passes House of Representatives – A bill to reform the US healthcare system passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 220-215. The bill includes a requirement that all people have health insurance, eliminates denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions, and provides a new regulatory structure for the health insurance industry.
Flu Facts for Patients for Dementia – The Alzheimer Foundation issued a list of tips for patients with dementia and the flu. One of the most important things is to look out for both Swine Flu and regular flu since both viruses will also be of concern this winter.
More Evidence That Alzheimer’s Is Hereditary – A Dutch study has found that about 60% of the risk on contracting the disease is based on genetics. A gene called apolipoprotein E is believed to be the cause. People with a variant called APOE e4 are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s than those without it.
Discovery of New Protein Offers Hope for Parkinson’s Patients – Scientists at Iowa State University have discovered the presence of protein kinase-C, a dopamine killer. In people suffering from Parkinson's Disease the brain cells producing dopamine die. It is hoped that knowing what causes these cells to die will lead to a cure.
It’s National Family Caregivers Month – President Obama has declared November Family Caregivers Month to recognize the extraordinary work of this group of people
How I Felt When I Heard My Father’s Diagnosis with Parkinson’s
Editors Note: In honor of National Family Caregivers Month I will be doing a 3 part series on my caregiving experience. It will be cross posted at Caregiving.com.
My father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in early 2001 and passed away from it 2 years ago at age 83. His diagnosis was a life changing experience which resulted in returning to my hometown of New York City from the West Coast and eventually becoming his caregiver.
My father, Ken, started to have hand tremors in 1996, an early symptom of Parkinson’s and a number of other conditions. He was referred to a neurologist who told him he did not have Parkinson’s but prescribed medication to relieve the trembling. Incorrect diagnoses of this disease are common because there is no test for Parkinson’s. Doctors are left to make decisions based solely on symptoms.
For most of the late 1990s my father lived a full and productive life with few signs that he was suffering from the disease. In retrospect, there were signs my father had Parkinson’s long before it was properly diagnosed. He had always had tons of energy yet he started to feel fatigued. He began to shuffle as he walked and his posture became stooped. These are all symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
Caregiver News Roundup Sunday November 1, 2009
When Grieving for a Loved One, Expect the Unexpected
My father lost his battle with Parkinson’s disease a little over 2 years ago. He wasn’t just my father; he was also one of my best friends, so his death hit me very hard.
We would talk almost every day about sports, politics, the world and what was going on in our lives. To this day, I miss him greatly and think about him daily.
My grieving period was bittersweet because 3 weeks after my father passed away we learned that my wife, Susan, was pregnant with our first child. We had been trying to get pregnant for 22 months, and finding out we were bringing another life into the world was truly a cycle of life moment.
The impending birth of our daughter made the grieving process easier but didn’t make the feelings go away. I went through most of the 5 Stages of Grief - denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. In the literature on grief, these stages are presented in a linear manner where you go from one stage to the next until you accept what has happened.
I found my grief to be circular and that not all the stages applied to me. For example, I was never angry about my father’s death. He lived until age 83 and had been suffering horribly the last year as the Parkinson’s disease ravaged his body. While his death was incredibly sad, in some ways it was blessing. He wasn’t suffering anymore, and he died peacefully with his family surrounding him just as he wished.
Caregiver News Roundup Sunday October 25, 2009
Swine Flu Emergency Declared – President Obama declared a swine flu emergency Saturday. This allows hospitals to move emergency services for swine flu into non-emergency room settings which will help speed treatment and protect non-infected patients.
Swine Flu Hits Children and Young Adults the Hardest – Of the 1,000 people who have died from swine flu, approximately 100 have been children. It is believe that swine flu is hitting this population harder because their immune systems have not been exposed to as many viruses as older people.
Sunday Caregiver News Roundup
eCareDairy.com blog is starting a new feature today which is the Sunday Caregiver News Roundup. We will review important news stories from the previous week with a quick summary of the article and a link to it.
Swine Vaccine Shortage Predicted – The Centers for Disease Control is predicting a shortage of swine flu vaccine. Only 28-30 million doses will be available instead of the 40 million predicted over the summer. The cause is delays from vaccine manufacturers.
Argument About Swine Flu Vaccinations Continues – Concerns about the safety of the swine flu vaccine has fueled debate whether or not people should get a vaccination.
Study Says Surfing the Web Can Help Slow Dementia – A University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) study showed increased brain activity for seniors with dementia who spend at least one hour a day on the Internet. It appears that the old adage of use it or lose it is really true.
What Caregivers Should Know About Swine Flu
It is flu season again and this is a dangerous time for children under 5, people over 65 and those suffering from chronic conditions. The elderly are especially vulnerable to the flu because 60 percent of senior citizens who contract the flu are hospitalized and 90 percent of all flu related deaths occur in people over age 65.
This year is an especially dangerous flu season because of the H1N1 Swine Flu which is a strong and deadly strain. It is normally found in pigs and humans have not developed an immunity to it. Caregivers need to be aware of the symptoms of this flu and what can be done to prevent contracting it.
Symptoms of Swine Flu
The symptoms of swine flu are similar to the regular flu and can range from mild to severe. According to the Centers for Disease Control, you should be looking for the following signs:
You should not take chances with the flu. If the person you are caring for comes down with these symptoms contact your doctor to determine the best course of treatment.
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Body aches
- Vomiting (in some cases)
- Diarrhea (in some cases)
The following symptoms are signs of a potential emergency in a senior citizen and should get immediate attention:
Prevention of Swine Flu
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
- Sudden dizziness
- Confusion Severe or persistent vomiting
Flu viruses are spread through person to person contact. Coughing and sneezing by people with the flu are the most common way to get it. Sometimes people may become infected by touching something with the flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth or nose.
The best way to prevent getting the swine flu virus is to:
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you sneeze or cough. Throw out the tissue after you use it.
- Wash your hands frequently and use a hand sanitizer if you are not in a place where soap and water are readily available.
- Try not to touch you nose and mouth. This is a very common way to spread germs.
- If you are sick or think you are sick, stay home. Sick people coming to work or going to school are one of the most common ways viruses are spread.
The decision to get vaccinated is a personal one and it should be made in consultation with your doctor. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that the following people get vaccinated:
- Children under 6 months
- Healthcare and emergency medical services personnel
- Persons between the ages of 6 months and 24 years old
- People ages of 25 through 64 years of age who are at higher risk for 2009 H1N1 because of chronic health disorders or compromised immune systems.
If you need more information on the H1N1 Swine Flu, below are some useful websites.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention H1N1 Flu
Flu.com, a website that identifies where you can get a flu shot anywhere in the US
World Health Organization H1N1 Swine Flu
This article is informational only. It does not provide medical advice. If you need medical advice contact your doctor or a medical professional.
Healthcare Reform – What’s In It; What’s Not
Healthcare reform is winding its way through Congress and is on the verge of being voted on by the full House of Representatives and Senate. This is an historic event because in the 61 years since President Harry Truman first proposed universal healthcare coverage in 1948, no bill has ever come close to being voted on.
This is a good time to review what’s in the bills, what may be in them, and what’s not in them.
What’s In Healthcare Reform – here are the 6 key items:
- Guaranteed Healthcare Coverage for Everyone – All the bills would provide health insurance to the 46 million Americans who are currently uninsured. It is accomplished through a mandate that individuals purchase insurance and that employers provide it or pay a penalty.
Long Term Care Remains a Forgotten Stepchild in Health Reform
Earlier in the summer I wrote about President Obama’s support of the late Senator Ted Kennedy’s long term care insurance bill as part of health reform. While this proposal is an improvement over current programs, it does not provide the comprehensive solution families need to pay for the cost of long term care.
Caring for an elderly or infirm relative is both time consuming and expensive. According the Department of Health and Human Services, the US spends over $200 billion per year on long term care services. To give you an idea of what this means to a person receiving care, it costs between $18 and $29 per hour for home health care services and an average of $209 per day for a nursing home.
Medicare provides only limited coverage for long term care so the US has a piece meal system to cover these services. The most common ways to pay for care are:
- Long Term Care Insurance – About 10 million Americans have purchased these policies. While they help cover the cost of care, they generally cover less than 50% of the expense of long term care.
- Medicaid – This program that pays for long term care for people who are poor. Many people divest themselves of their assets to become eligible for Medicaid coverage. The rules vary by state. To learn more about each state’s requirements visit the Financing Care page of eCareDiary.com.
Why End of Life Planning Is Important
End of life planning is getting a bad name because of the misinformation being spread about death panels and death books. This is a shame because end of life planning is important and something we should all be thinking about for ourselves and our loved ones.
End of life planning is about ensuring you are in charge of medical decisions if you become mentally incapacitated and are unable to communicate. While many people ask that life support be removed if there is no hope of recovery, a living will can require that all life sustaining procedures to be preformed in order to keep you alive. This is your decision.
I experienced the importance of end of life planning first hand when my father, who had late stage Parkinson’s Disease, suffered a stroke which left him with little brain function. After the stroke, we learned he had advanced cancer which had not been diagnosed. While he was able to breath on his own, he was unable to feed himself, drink or perform any bodily functions without assistance. He was totally dependent on others to sustain life.
Fortunately, my father went through end of life planning after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. He had a Living Will clearly expressing his wishes, designated a Health Care Proxy to speak on his behalf and established a Power of Attorney for his legal and financial affairs. Having all this in place removed any doubt about his wishes and eliminated additional stress on the family.
Obama Supports Long Term Care Coverage in Health Reform
As a caregiver and founder of eCareDiary.com, I am very excited that President Obama has decided to support a long term care benefit in Health Reform. Based on my past experience in Heath Reform, long term care has rarely come to the forefront of the healthcare discussion, so this is a welcome development.
Senator Ted Kennedy has proposed a federal long term care insurance program which is included in the Health Reform bill. The Kennedy proposal would create an affordable long term care insurance policy that working individuals could purchase for as little as $65 per month. This is a low premium considering an average long term care insurance policy for a 55 year old will cost over $100 month and will increase to over $300 for a senior citizen. (For more information, here is the link to the bill)
The long term care insurance program would provide a benefit of $50 per day for home care and nursing home services. While this is a modest amount, it will help many people stay in their homes when they become debilitated with long term illnesses.
Determining That Your Loved One Needs Long Term Care
One of the toughest conversations a caregiver has to hold is telling a loved one they need help caring for themselves. I faced this discussion about 4 years with my father who was suffering from Parkinson’s disease at the time.
The process of determining the long term care needs of your loved one, breaking the news to them that they need help and setting up the services should be deliberate and done with care. It is important that you provide the care recipient with the help they need without breaking their spirit. I have outlined some tips to help you deal with this difficult process.
- Can the Patient Perform Activities of Daily Living (ADLs)? – Activities of Daily Living are the self care actions we perform for ourselves everyday and include bathing, dressing, undressing, cooking, eating, walking, using the toilet and getting in and out of a chair or bed. If you notice that your loved one has a problem performing one or more of these ADLs then he or she needs some form of long term care.
- Begin the Conversation Early– Chances are you will need to have multiple conversations with your loved one before they will agree to receive long term care so begin the conversation as soon as you notice they are having problems. Remember the person you are setting up care for has been caring for themselves for most of their life so the idea of receiving long term care is going to be frustrating, frightening and humiliating. It is important to be sensitive to their needs and feelings as you discuss the situation.