Researching nursing homes, assisted living in Mexico, crazy causes for dementia symptoms, and complaining to Medicare

Reading glasses help seniors in hospitals

Finding a nursing home isn’t simple, but lots of research generally pays off.

Would you move to Mexico for assisted living?

Diabetes can cause dementia symptoms if left untreated. Another culprit: hearing loss.

How to complain to Medicare.

Home Health Compare

I must admit that home health isn’t my biggest area of expertise. Although I probably know more about that than the typical consumer, I still had no idea how to go about selecting a home health provider. But, today I stumbled across someone who works in the field. She mentioned a website called Home Health Compare.

Home Health Compare is managed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid and specializes in rating home health agencies. Since most home health is paid for by the government, home health agencies are also rated by the government.  Here’s the website:  http://www.medicare.gov/homehealthcompare

Home Health Compare is pretty easy to use.  First, type in a city or ZIP code.  You can also search by home health agency.

p1

The next page will give you a summary of service providers in your area.  When you click on a provider, it will give you a summary of their services:

p2

You’ll notice that there are three tabs at the top of the page.  Those tabs show you quality scores and patient satisfaction.  For example, clicking on “Quality of Patient Care” will show you this:

p3

You can also click on the “Patient Survey Results” tab to learn more about how patients rated the service.

I personally would not choose a home health agency that hadn’t been rated in both of these areas.  I also wouldn’t choose one that had ratings lower than the state average.  However, you can pick and choose among providers using this service and even compare up to three different companies.

Disabilities, signing up for Medicare, self-neglect, and nontraditional retirement

6193352974_7f7e6ff120_n

Almost everyone will suffer from sort of disability in his/her lifetime, especially late in life.

A Boomer talks about the difficulty of signing up for Medicare.

How do you help people who don’t want help?  Self neglect is a growing problem for seniors living on their own.

Retirement living is expanding beyond traditional retirement communities.

“Human Walking Care” © 2011 Abdulsalam Haykal, Attribution 3.0 Generic http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Retired military & CCRCs, nursing home cost, art & Alzheimer’s, and overcharging Medicare

3726875858_dcd4cae729_n

If you’re retired from the military, you might look into options for military CCRCs.

The average annual private nursing home charge is $90,000 per year.

Art as a cure for Alzheimer’s?  Why not?

Most interesting news item of the week: Nursing homes overcharged Medicare by about $1.5 billion in 2009.  It’s not exactly pocket change.

Photo courtesy of The U.S. Army on Flickr.

 

“Doctor Alexis” answers your questions about Medicare Open Enrollment

Note: This post originally appeared at AlexisAbramson.com. If you’re interested in providing articles for SeniorHousingMove.com, please see our submission guidelines.

Alexis Abramson, PhD

Alexis-photo-copy-203x300

The open enrollment deadline for Medicare is December 7th so I thought I would answer a few of the questions I’m most often asked by adult children and caregivers who don’t know what to do if their loved one isn’t able to update their own Medicare preferences…

Q.  What are the different options to consider when signing up for Medicare or changing your benefits?

Medicare consists of four major programs: Part A covers hospital stays, Part B covers physician fees, Part C permits Medicare beneficiaries to receive their medical care from among a number of delivery options and Part D covers prescription medications.

Q.  What is the open enrollment period for Medicare and when does it begin and end?

Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period allows people who are currently enrolled in Medicare to make certain changes to their plan benefits. The Open Enrollment Period starts on Oct.15 and runs through Dec. 7.

Changes that are made during this period become effective Jan. 1, 2013. This period of time was formerly called the Annual Enrollment Period. Below is a list of changes that can be made during the Open Enrollment Period:

  • Switch from a Medicare Advantage plan back to Medicare Part A and B
  • Switch from one Medicare Advantage Plan to another Medicare Advantage plan
  • Switch from Medicare Parts A and B to a Medicare Advantage Plan (Part C – see below for more information about Medicare Advantage plans).
  • Make changes in your Medicare Prescription drug plan (i.e. start a drug plan, drop coverage or move from one drug plan to another).

Q.  What are some of the new Medicare services being offered in 2013?

The new preventive services available next year include:

  • Alcohol misuse counseling
  • Cardiovascular disease counseling
  • Depression screening
  • Obesity screening and counseling
  • Sexually transmitted infections screening and counseling

Another important area for change in 2013 is if you reach the ‘donut hole’ in your Medicare Part D prescription drug plan, you only have to pay 47.5% for covered brand-name drugs and 79% of the costs for generic drugs until you reach the end of the coverage gap.

Q.  What are the Medicare Advantage Plans and what cutbacks are expected in these plans for 2013 and beyond?

Medicare offers consumers a choice of two insurance plans. One plan is called Original Medicare Part A for hospital insurance and Medicare Part B for medical insurance (mainly for doctor services.) The word “original” is here to explain Parts A and B have been in place since Medicare was started in 1965. The later alternative plan is called Medicare Plan C plan (also know as Medicare Advantage or MA plans). These plans are issued and managed by private insurance companies. They offer largely the same coverage of services under Medicare Plans A and B. These plans must also follow Medicare rules.

Q.  What is Medicare Part D? 

Medicare Part D is a federal program created to subsidize the costs of prescription drugs for Medicare beneficiaries in the United States.  It is a government supported health insurance plan that helps cover prescription drug costs for qualified individuals who are entitled to Medicare Part A and/or B.  This Medicare drug benefit is insurance provided by private companies and available to everyone on Medicare (for a fee). Prescription drug coverage is available as a stand-alone plan (PDP) or as part of a Medicare Advantage plan (MA-PD).

Q.  Can you give us a few resources to email (or call) if our parents and/or aging loved one’s are unable to update their own Medicare preferences?

Absolutely!  Below are few online resources (as well as 800 #’s) you can access for additional help in terms of Medicare – and in particular Medicare Part D….

www.medicare.gov – 1-800-633-4227

www.walmart.com/rxplan  – 1-800-899-0542

www.ssa.gov – 1-800-772-1213

ALEXIS ABRAMSON, Ph.D. is cited as America’s leading, impassioned champion for the dignity and independence of those over 50. Abramson is the author of two
highly acclaimed books — The Caregivers 
Survival Handbook and Home Safety for Seniors.  For more information go to www.alexisabramson.com.

 

Tips to Demystify Medicare Open Enrollment

Note: This post originally appeared at AlexisAbramson.com. If you’re interested in providing articles for SeniorHousingMove.com, please see our submission guidelines.

Alexis Abramson, PhD

Alexis-photo-copy-203x300

Lately I’ve spoken with SO many people who are extremely confused about their Medicare benefits – especially Part D (prescriptions)!  So I thought I would try to provide some information to help you manage your way through the Medicare maze…..

Close to 50 million Americans are enrolled in Medicare, and that number will continue to increase as more baby boomers turn 65.  Healthcare needs and financial situations may change from year to year and now is the time to make sure your coverage is adequate.  Navigating the offerings and coverage rules to find the right plan can be hard, but there are many resources at the federal and local level to help make the right choice.

Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period is when people who are currently enrolled in Medicare can make certain changes to their plan benefits. The Open Enrollment Period started on Oct. 15 and runs through Dec. 7.  Changes that are made during this period become effective Jan. 1, 2013.

Below is a list of changes that can be made during the Open Enrollment Period:

  • Switch from Medicare Parts A and B to a Medicare Advantage Plan (Part C)
  • Switch from a Medicare Advantage plan back to Medicare Part A and B
  • Switch from one Medicare Advantage Plan to another Medicare Advantage plan
  • Make changes in your Medicare Prescription drug plan – Part D (i.e. start a drug plan, drop coverage or move from one drug plan to another)

What are some of the new Medicare services being offered in 2013?

The new preventive services available next year include:

  • Alcohol misuse counseling
  • Cardiovascular disease counseling
  • Depression screening
  • Obesity screening and counseling
  • Sexually transmitted infections screening and counseling

Another important area for change in 2013 is that if you reach the ‘donut hole’ in your Medicare Part D prescription drug plan, you only have to pay 47.5% for covered brand-name drugs and 79% of the costs for generic drugs until you reach the end of the coverage gap.

With so many options based on where you live and what prescriptions you need, selecting a Medicare Part D Plan can be complicated and time consuming. However, every American 65 and older who wishes to enroll must sign up for a 2013 plan no later than Dec. 7, 2012.

Below are five simple tips to guide you through the process of registering for a Medicare Part D Plan for yourself – or a loved one.

1. Sign up for Medicare Part D – no matter what.

Even if you currently don’t take any prescription medications, you should still consider signing up for a Medicare Part D Plan. If you enroll late or when you are in need of drug coverage, you could face a penalty and be forced to pay much higher premiums. The only exceptions to this rule are seniors with equivalent or creditable drug coverage from an employer’s health care plan, a retiree health plan or from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

2. You can get Part D two ways, but PDPs are a more affordable option.

Your first option is to buy Part D coverage as part of a private Prescription Drug Plan (PDP) that is based on the drugs you take. Your second option is to sign up for Medicare Advantage, a Medicare HMO (Health Maintenance Organization) that also includes Medicare Part A and Part B (hospital and medical). According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a majority of Medicare Part D enrollees opt for private PDPs.

3. Plans change annually, so take your time to research.

Assessing all your options isn’t easy. You must weigh short-term savings in monthly premiums against long-term costs from co-payments or limited overall benefits. Consider your developing health concerns and how easily a plan will allow you access to your favorite doctor or specialist and medications you may be taking.

4. Preferred pharmacies matter.

Once you’ve found a plan that fits your budget and medication needs, don’t forget about convenience when filling your prescriptions. A pharmacy accepted as “preferred” by a Medicare Part D Plan is a network pharmacy that offers covered drugs to plan members at lower out-of-pocket costs than what the member would pay at a non-preferred network pharmacy. For example, Walmart is a preferred pharmacy on multiple plans including the Humana Walmart-Preferred Rx Plan. (Incidentally, people who have high blood pressure or who are concerned about heart health should also know that Humana and Walmart just announced that members of the Humana Walmart-Preferred Rx Plan will have access to 10 hypertension drugs for a penny each when filled at one of the 4,400 Walmart or Sam’s Club pharmacy locations). 

5. Medicare plan finders are your friend.

There are so many options out there, so it can be hard to keep them all straight. Try one of the simple online search tools that source the most cost-effective plan for you. You can consult the medicare.gov website for great information and resources at your fingertips.  Walmart.com/RxPlan is also easy to use and compares all available plans for you based on your zip code and the medications you take.

ALEXIS ABRAMSON, Ph.D. is cited as America’s leading, impassioned champion for the dignity and independence of those over 50. Abramson is the author of two
highly acclaimed books — The Caregivers 
Survival Handbook and Home Safety for Seniors.  For more information go to www.alexisabramson.com.

 

Having your license revoked, hospital visits, exercise, and Medicare paying for home care

6191014619_dbb0a036f6_n

Physicians can, and do, rescind drivers licenses if the patient no longer has the ability to drive.

Top 10 items to bring to your hospital visit

Another benefit of exercise: It makes your brain bigger later in life.

Good news: Medicare is going to start paying for more for home care services.

Photo courtesy of khawkins04 on Flickr.

Cranberry juice & urinary infections, discharges from hospital visits, Social Security, and reverse mortgages

305095614_dd169d1ab0_n

You can stop drinking all that cranberry juice.  A new study suggests that cranberry isn’t all that helpful for urinary tract infections. 

Tips for handling discharge day after a long hospital visit: get it in writing, keep a journal of how you feel, and get enough exercise.

Social Security payments have gone up, but Medicare premiums have too.  You can’t win sometimes!

Reverse mortgages can be tricky investments for seniors. (More here.)

Photo courtesy of Half Chinese on Flickr.