Arlington, VA – It’s that time of year again – Medicare Open Enrollment, which runs Oct. 15 through Dec. 7. Across the country, individuals with Medicare already have been bombarded with paperwork, sales pitches, and reminders – leaving many wondering where to start. This year, the National Council on Aging (NCOA) is offering a handy checklist, email reminders, and more to help people with Medicare evaluate whether their coverage is still meeting their needs.
“There are always questions about how and when to start reviewing options during Medicare Open Enrollment,” said Leslie Fried, Senior Director of the NCOA Center for Benefits Access. “This year, we’re trying to make that process a little easier with a step-by-step checklist. Our Medicare education website, My Medicare Matters, also is providing helpful information through several blog posts and email reminders that are timed to walk people through the process.”
NCOA’s Medicare Open Enrollment Checklist has 5 steps:
Step #1: Watch the mailbox – Before Open Enrollment, beneficiaries should have received their Annual Notice of Change (ANOC)/Evidence of Coverage (EOC). They also should have a Medicare & You handbook. If they put them aside, now is a good time to read them to see how their coverage may be changing this year.
Step #2: Gather personal information – To evaluate whether this year’s plan coverage is still appropriate, beneficiaries should gather their ANOC letter; a list of their prescriptions; a list of their providers; and an estimate of what they spent last year on health care services, fees, and copays.
Step #3: Go shopping – Now it’s time to shop. First, they’ll need to decide the kind of Medicare coverage that is right for them – then find the right policy. In most states, there are at least 25 Medicare Part D plans to choose from, and in some states as many as 40 Medicare Advantage plans are available.
Step #4: Seek expert advice – Beneficiaries don’t have to evaluate their options on their own. Start with a free and confidential Medicare QuickCheck®, which can evaluate their plan needs. Then visit the Medicare Plan Finder to compare policies. If they’d like free, personalized assistance, they should contact their State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP). Make an appointment early because availability can fill up quickly. They have just over seven weeks to do their research and make their decisions.
Step #5: Look ahead – After Open Enrollment ends on Dec. 7, it’s time to look ahead. It’s important to understand when new coverages take effect (even if they don’t change policies, they are likely to see policy changes starting Jan. 1) and to watch for another round of paperwork – this time about 2017 coverage.
“Choosing the right Medicare coverage can be difficult, and it doesn’t pay to wait until the last minute,” said Fried. “It’s important to review your coverage every Open Enrollment period to make sure your current plan still works for you. We’re hoping that with our checklist, you won’t feel alone in the process.”
The National Council on Aging (NCOA) is a respected national leader and trusted partner to help people aged 60+ meet the challenges of aging. Our mission is to improve the lives of millions of older adults, especially those who are struggling. Through innovative community programs and services, online help, and advocacy, NCOA is partnering with nonprofit organizations, government, and business to improve the health and economic security of 10 million older adults by 2020. Learn more at ncoa.org and @NCOAging.
3 APPROACHES TO THE TOUGH CONVERSATION AND THE NECESSARY DOCUMENTS
ASSURING THAT SENIOR LOVED ONES ARE PREPARED
1. ALLOW THEM TO HAVE CONTROL
2. MAKE SURE TO CREATE A NEW TRUST RELATIONSHIP
3. GATHER THE INFORMATION EASILY
NECESSARY DOCUMENTS FOR ELDERCARE READINESS
BEGINNING THE ELDERCARE JOURNEY
The Carrabassett Valley network has a medical aid closet with items that can be loaned out for free. Contact Sugarloaf Christian Ministry for more info at 207-237-2304 or Gerry Baril at 207-235-3782
Here is the most recent list of items available.
Medical Aid Closet Inventory
Non-folding – w/o wheels 3 (1 loaned out)
Fold-up with large wheels 10 (1 loaned out)
Fold-up with small wheels 1
Child’s walker 1
Clip on basket 1
Vinyl storage bag for walker 1
Portable Toilet Chairs 2
Transfer Chairs 2 (1 loaned out)
Hospital Bed (electric) 1
With mattress, cushions, rails
Recliner (electric lift-assist) 1 (loaned out/Orchard Park Assisted Living)
French Cuffs 3
Metal (assorted sizes) 8
Ergo-Cooler & cuff 3
Athletic Knee Brace 2
To donate any gently used and serviceable items or inquire for available use, contact Sugarloaf Christian Ministry at 207-237-2304.
Elderly scams are the most common form of fraud. Sadly, scam artists relentlessly prey on seniors because they are easy targets; they tend to be gullible, live alone and usually do not have someone watching over their finances regularly. Even though senior fraud is more prevalent than ever, most cases are never reported for a multitude of reasons.
Learn more about how senior citizens lose billions, yet are fearful of reporting fraud.
Seniors Are Fearful of Reporting Fraud
Sadly many senior citizens are fearful of reporting fraud, even though they comprise 65% of fraud victims. Fraud can happen to wealthy seniors, and those of limited means; and most of them are embarrassed and don’t feel they have the resources to report the incident or try to get their money back.
In fact, even though an estimated $36 billion worth of financial exploitation a year towards seniors has been reported, according to a recent USA Today article, only one out of every 24 cases is reported. Sandy Markwood, CEO of the National Association of Area of Agencies on Aging says this is due to embarrassment, fear or lack of evidence. She notes,
“Seniors may be fearful that if they report they have been duped, somebody may say, ‘It is time for mom to move out of her house,’ and again, most older adults don’t want to move out of their house.”
Financial exploitation is the most frequently reported form of abuse against adults as one in five has been financially exploited, with the average victim losing $120,303, according to a study by the American Association of Retired Americans Bank Safe Initiative. Studies show con artists are more likely to target senior citizens than other age groups because they believe seniors are more susceptible to such scams.
The FTC reports that fraudulent telemarketers direct from 56-80% of their calls to seniors, making the need for senior fraud prevention greater than ever. There are ways to prevent senior fraud, though. Seniors, their families and their caregivers just need to be cognizant of how to avoid senior fraud.
Senior Fraud Prevention Tips
Education is king when it comes to avoiding fraud. Seniors are often vulnerable to cons and scammers for many reasons, including impaired judgment from cognitive impairment, financial ignorance and loneliness. Being aware of these scams can help you protect your elderly parents so that they do not fall victim to fraud and and can be spared not only heartache, but also financial duress.
Here are four ways seniors, their families and their caregivers can help protect the aging population from fraud:
1. Be aware that you are at risk from both strangers and those close to you.
Often times elder abuse is committed by the senior’s own family members as they are most familiar with their finances and personal information. Most often their adult children, followed by grandchildren, nieces and nephews, among others, according to the National Council on Aging. Tactics include the following:
- Depleting a joint checking account
- Forms of abuse
- Neglect of basic care needs
- Outright theft
- Promising but not delivering care in exchange for money or property
Strangers also prey on seniors because of their vulnerability, so it’s important to be aware of the most common scams targeting seniors.
2. Avoid isolation by staying involved.
Isolation is a huge risk for elder abuse as most family violence occurs behind closed doors. Many seniors withdraw from their communities for a number of reasons, including depression, lack of transportation or a physical disability. Many seniors are simply fearful of leaving the comfort of their own homes. Visit your local senior center to learn about transportation and social services available to seniors, or view the Eldercare Locator to find services that can help your elderly loved one stay active.
3. Be forthright with solicitors.
Always tell solicitors: “I never buy from (or give to) anyone who calls or visits me unannounced. Send me something in writing.” Seeing written material about the fundraiser or charity helps to both validate that it’s legitimate, as well as avoids seniors providing personal banking information from their credit cards or checks to solicitors. Of course neighborhood children you know who are selling Girl Scout cookies or school fundraising forms are different, so just be discerning and help to educate your elderly loved ones.
It’s also a good practice to obtain the following from a salesperson:
- Business identity
- Business license number
- Street address
- Telephone number
4. Shred all receipts with a credit card number.
Identity theft is a huge problem and shredding receipts and mail, such as bank and credit card statements, that have your credit card number is important. Monitor yours and your loved ones’ bank and credit card statements and never give out personal information over the phone to someone who initiates contact or seems suspicious.
5. Sign up for the “Do Not Call” list and remove yourself from mailing lists.
Visit “Do Not Call” to stop telemarketers from contacting you or your elderly loved one. Being careful with mail is also important. Do not let incoming mail sit in the mailbox for a long time, and when sending out sensitive mail, consider dropping it off at the post office. Regularly monitoring crediting ratings and /or incorrect information can also be helpful.
6. Use direct deposit.
Direct deposit is an easy way to ensure checks go directly into accounts and are protected so that you don’t need to worry about scammers or scrupulous loved ones who have been known to steal benefit checks out of mailboxes or even from seniors’ homes.
7. Never give banking, credit card, Medicare, social security or other personal info.
Misuse of Medicare dollars is one of the largest scams involving seniors. Common schemes include billing for services never delivered and selling unneeded devices or services to beneficiaries. Protect your Medicare number as you do your banking and social security numbers and do not allow anyone else to use it. Be wary of salespeople trying to sell you something they claim will be paid for by Medicare.
Review your Medicare statements to be sure you have in fact received the services billed, and report suspicious activities to 1-800-MEDICARE.
Stay Educated on the Latest Scams
Unfortunately, fraud against older Americans is a serious problem affecting thousands every year. Many senior centers are trying to educate the public about the growing problem by discussing signs of financial exploitation and equipping people with resources.
Many seniors grew up during a time when they trusted people. Mark Shea, director of York County Area Agency on Aging notes:
“The world is vastly different today. Scammers often acquire information about their victims by scouting neighborhoods and going through trash. Families should keep an open relationship with their loved ones and watch out for changes or anxiousness as these are all common signs there is a problem.”
If seniors don’t have a family to support them, educating themselves is also key. To stay on top of the very latest scams hitting seniors, sign up for scam alerts from the National Consumer Protection Bureau
Reprinted from A Place for Mom
Cancer Screening Timelines for Seniors
Take Action Against Cancer
“I cannot stress enough the importance of early detection and screening. Unfortunately, there has been a disturbing decline in annual screenings, and people need to by proactive about working with their insurance and Medicare to get the recommended screenings.”
Cancer Screenings for Men Age 65 or Older
Cancer Screenings for Women Age 65 or Older
Dealing with Dementia Behavior
Common Situation #1: Aggressive Speech or Actions
“As my mom’s disease progressed, so did the mood swings. She could be perfectly fine one moment, and the next she was yelling and getting physical. Often, it remained a mystery as to what prompted the outburst. For her caregivers, it was often getting dressed or bathing that provoked aggression.”
Common Situation #2: Confusion About Time or Place
“Often people are trying to go back to a place where they had more control in their lives.”
Common Situation #3: Poor Judgment or Cognitive Problems
“There came a time when I began to suspect my mom was having problems keeping financial records in order. At the time, she was living independently and was very adamant about remaining in her house. Any discussion to the contrary, or really any comment that eluded to the fact that she may be slipping, was met with either rage or tears. It was when she asked me to help with her taxes that I noticed the checking account was a mess.”
Essential Conversations to Have with Your Parents About Estate and Finances
1. Ensure Your Parents Have a Will and Power of Attorney
2. Designate Beneficiaries for Assets
3. Discuss Joint Bank Accounts
4. Consider Gifts to Help Avoid Probate Fees
5. Discuss Joint Tenancy
Paying Tax on Joint Tenancy is Up to the CRA
6. Consider Complexities for Business Owners
7. Read the Fine Print
8. Ensure Funeral Expenses are Covered
The U.S. National Park Service offers a $10.00 America the Beautiful Lifetime Pass for U.S. citizens or permanent residents for seniors age 62 and over. The pass which you can purchase at a federal recreation site ( in Maine, that means Acadia National Park) covers entry into more than 2,000 national sites and will cover the senior pass holder and anyone in a non-commercial vehicle at sites where you pay per carload, or the senior pass holder and three companions at pay-per-person sites. The guests do not have to be seniors. For an additional $10.00 for processing, you can also order your pass online. Go to http://recreation.gov and click on annual pass.
Maine also sells annual park passes, which offer access to most, but not all , state parks. Maine seniors, age 65 and older, do not need individual passes, as day-use park admission is free for them. If, however, a senior would like a vehicle pass, which covers day-use entry at participating parks plus passengers in vehicles that hold up to 17 people, then the cost is $30.00.
If you need/want to purchase a state park pass, then you can visit any participating state park during the in-season months, or you can call the state’s Campground Reservations Call Center at (207) 624-9950. Passes are also available for purchase online or you can buy one by checking a box on your state income tax form and having them deduct from your refund.
20 Warning Signs Your Parent Needs Help at Home
Maybe you’ve noticed that dad’s unopened mail is piling up. Or mom, once meticulous about her appearance, is wearing wrinkled clothes and not doing her hair. Perhaps there are bruises on your aging parent’s arms. When you bring up the subject, you hear, “Everything is fine. There’s no need to worry.”
Admitting they need help would mean they can’t take care of themselves anymore, and no one wants to lose their independence. “Denial is the unrealistic hope that a problem is not really happening and will go away by itself. Admitting they need help and accepting assistance is not easy for people as they age. It represents a loss of independence. Denial plays a major role – and signs get ignored,” says Paul Hogan, Founder and Chairman of Home Instead Senior Care.
The burden often falls on the family to recognize the signs that an aging parent might need help with daily living tasks.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that your loved one has to go to assisted living or a nursing home, but they may need some extra help in their home. If they’re not willing to admit it, how do you know if your elderly parent needs home care?
Signs Your Parent Needs Help at Home:
- Spoiled food that doesn’t get thrown away
- Missing important appointments
- Unexplained bruising
- Trouble getting up from a seated position
- Difficulty with walking, balance and mobility
- Uncertainty and confusion when performing once-familiar tasks
- Unpleasant body odor
- Infrequent showering and bathing
- Strong smell of urine in the house
- Noticeable decline in grooming habits and personal care
- Dirty house, extreme clutter and dirty laundry piling up
- Stacks of unopened mail or an overflowing mailbox
- Late payment notices, bounced checks and calls from bill collectors
- Poor diet or weight loss
- Loss of interest in hobbies and activities
- Changes in mood or extreme mood swings
- Forgetting to take medications – or taking more than the prescribed dosage
- Diagnosis of dementia or early onset Alzheimer’s
- Unexplained dents and scratches on a car
What Services Can Help?
Once you know that there is a problem, how do you know if home care is right for your parent?
Home care is generally defined as non-medical support services delivered at the home of the senior. “The aim of home care is to allow seniors to remain at home longer rather than enter an assisted living community, nursing home or other type of senior care. Home care may be appropriate if a senior prefers to stay at home but needs minor assistance with activities of daily living,” says Sam Almengor, National Accounts Director for Senior Helper, a national company that provides professional in-home assistance services.
“One of the most frightening prospects for seniors is leaving home. Home Instead Senior Care is helping seniors stay in their homes as long as possible,” Hogan says.
What services can your parent get from home care? Home care agencies help with any activities and needs that a person needs throughout the day. Services include:
- Companionship and conversation
- Grocery shopping
- Meal planning and preparation
- Diet monitoring
- Hygiene assistance, including bathing and dressing
- Light housekeeping
- Walking assistance
- Errands and transportation
- Laundry, ironing and vacuuming
- Change linens and bed making
- Help with bills and mail
- Supervise home maintenance and repairs
- Organize closets and pantries
- Medication reminders
- Help with correspondence
- Wash dishes
- Appointment reminders
- Coordinate home services
- Pick-up prescriptions
- General shopping
- Review phone messages
- Watch movies and play games
How to Start the Conversation
If you’ve noticed the warning signs, the time to start talking with senior parents sooner rather than later, when a crisis has occurred. But how do you bring up sensitive subjects related to aging, such as the need for home care? Home Instead recommends some conversation starters that might help overcome the awkwardness.
Approach your parents with a conversation. Discuss what you’ve observed and ask your parents what they think is going on. If your parents acknowledge the situation, ask what they think would be good solutions. If your parents don’t recognize a problem, use concrete examples to support your case.
Remember you are talking to an adult, not a child. Patronizing speech or baby talk will put older adults on the defensive and convey a lack of respect for them. Put yourself in your parents’ shoes and think of how you would want to be addressed in the situation.
How Do You Pay for Home Care?
Home care companies typically bill on an hourly basis for their services – and that rate varies widely depending on where you live. Paying for home care services is one of the most challenging issues for caregivers because most elders and families must pay for services out-of-pocket. Medicare and Medicaid do not pay for home care in most instances. Here are some other options to pay for care:
- Health Insurance
Some health maintenance organizations (HMOs) and some health and insurance plans provide coverage for home health care, so be sure to check benefits statements and policy details.
- Long–term Care Insurance
Long-term care insurance helps cover the cost of care at home or in a nursing facility. It can cover much of the cost of home care, but this can vary from policy to policy.
- Veteran’s Administration
If your loved one served in the U.S. military, financial assistance might be available to provide a veteran with home care.
- State and Local Programs
Call your local Department of Aging or Area Agency on Aging. In many states, there are local- and state-funded programs that offer limited care for seniors who meet certain criteria.
- Life Insurance Settlements
If your loved one has a life insurance policy, there are companies that offer policyholders the option to sell their policies in exchange for a lump sum payment that is greater than the cash surrender value.
- Government Funding
For low-income elders, Medicaid programs in most states support home care services as an alternative to assisted living and nursing home placement.
reprinted from AgingCare.com