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What You Need to Know This Medicare Enrollment Season

People typically have a lot of questions as they research their Medicare options, which primarily include Original Medicare, Medicare Advantage and Medicare Supplement plans, before finding the plan that best fits their needs.

Here are some of the most commonly asked questions that licensed Humana health insurance agents get from consumers during the Medicare Annual Election Period:

* When is the annual enrollment period to choose a Medicare plan for 2019?

The Medicare Advantage and Prescription Drug Plan Annual Election Period takes place from Oct. 15 through Dec. 7, 2018, for coverage that takes effect Jan. 1, 2019.

* How do I find out if my doctors, hospitals and specialists are in my Medicare Advantage provider network?

Most Medicare Advantage plans offer easy-to-use online tools to help you find doctors and hospitals that are in the plan's network. A licensed agent can also help you look up hospitals and doctors to see if they're accepting a plan and taking new patients.

* If I select a Medicare plan for the coming year, and then find that I don't like it, can I drop it and choose another plan?

The plan you select by Dec. 7 will be your Medicare plan for all of 2019, with few exceptions, so it's wise to research your options carefully. If you sign up for a Medicare Advantage plan for 2019, and then find that it's not the right fit, between Jan. 1 and March 31, there will be an Open Enrollment Period during which you can switch from a Medicare Advantage or a Medicare Advantage-Prescription Drug Plan to another Medicare Advantage plan with or without prescription drug coverage. Or you can choose Original Medicare with or without a stand-alone Prescription Drug Plan.

Full information on 2019 Medicare health and prescription drug plans is available on www.medicare.gov.

For Humana plans, visit www.humana.com/Medicare.

You can also call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) (or TTY: 1-877-486-2048) 24 hours a day, seven days a week, or call Humana at 1-877-877-0714 (TTY use 711) 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. local time, seven days a week. 

Humana is a Medicare Advantage HMO, PPO, and PFFS organization, and stand-alone prescription drug plan, with a Medicare contract. Enrollment in any Humana plan depends on plan renewal. 

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Most Seniors Want to Age at Home, but More Are Moving to Make it a Reality

Among those who want to age in a new home, many older adults are searching for improved practicality - with top desired features, including single-floor living and easy or low cost of maintenance. For those who want to stay in their current homes, nearly two-thirds have given thought to age-friendly modifications, such as adding grab bars to bathrooms or other safety measures.

When seniors and loved ones are faced with the question of what features are best for them, it's important to consider effects of aging that could make certain areas of the home hazardous, such as:

* Agility and mobility. Conditions such as arthritis can impair mobility. Stairs that were once easy to navigate might now present a challenge.

* Balance. Neurological disorders such as Parkinson's disease and other chronic conditions increase the risk for balance problems, as well as falls on slippery floors and getting in and out of the bathtub.

* Eyesight. Studies indicate that a 60-year-old needs at least three times more ambient light to see than a 20-year-old. Poor eyesight may make medication management and personal grooming difficult, and can lead to tripping hazards.

* Memory. The effects of memory loss might make it hard for an older adult to stay on a medication plan, remember to turn off stove burners or pay bills on time.

With so much to consider, it's easy to feel overwhelmed navigating the decision of where to age. In fact, just one in four seniors surveyed report having specific plans for where they will live as they become older.

To help seniors make an informed decision on the best place to age, Home Instead is introducing Home Your Own Way, a new collection of free resources for seniors and their loved ones to navigate options and determine what "home" might look like for them.

Whether older adults age in their current home, downsize, move to a senior living community or choose to live with relatives, the goal of Home Your Own Way is to provide seniors and families with the resources they need to make a decision that is right for them.

To learn more about defining home your own way, visit www.HomeYourOwnWay.com or, contact your local Home Instead Senior Care office or www.homeinstead.com.

 

Sharing is Caring: 5 Simple Ways to Help Area Seniors

As this population expands, so does the need for support, with some 40 percent of middle-class Americans at risk of poverty in retirement. Yet, today, only 1 percent of charitable dollars go to efforts that support seniors.

It's time for that to change. There are organizations in every community that provide services to meet basic needs for older adults. And while donations and volunteer hours are always appreciated, caring for older adults in the community can come in many forms. In fact, simple acts of caring can make a big difference in the lives of seniors.

Here are five simple ways to help older adults in your community:

1. Start with hello - Introduce yourself to a senior in your neighborhood or community. A simple conversation can spark a lifetime of friendship.

2. Get out and care - Join Ready to Care, an initiative by Home Instead Senior Care, and sign up to receive weekly care missions.

3. Give to senior-focused organizations - There are plenty of opportunities to give to a senior-focused non-profit. Find one that sparks your interest by visiting give65.org/25years.

4. Get educated - Learn about issues affecting older adults and caregivers at caregiverstress.com.

5. Share your story - Share how caring for a senior impacted your life with family and friends. Encouraging others to take action can create a world of change.

Join Home Instead Senior Care as it marks 25 years of caring for older adults. Why not give your time, learn how you can help, and begin serving seniors in your community today?

Taking Time to Reflect on The Needs of The Family Caregiver

With this in mind, Home Instead encourages caregivers to take a minute to recognize and embrace their own feelings and needs. It can be difficult to watch your aging parent or loved one go through the trials of getting older without it taking a toll on your own health. It's natural to feel anxious, guilty or sad as a family caregiver. In fact, 53 percent of family caregivers admit to feelings of major depression.

That is why it's critical to find a balance between your caregiving responsibilities and your personal needs. When you're on a plane, flight attendants always emphasize that, in the case of an emergency, adults should secure their own oxygen masks before helping children. This is because the adult won't be able to help if they do not have the strength themselves.

Taking care of an older adult is similar: it's not selfish to take care of yourself first so you are well enough to take care of them.

If you or someone you know is feeling the pressure of being a family caregiver, here are some tips from Lakelyn Hogan, Home Instead Senior Care gerontologist and caregiver advocate, to help overcome the feelings that can get in the way of enjoying time spent with family.

* Identify and accept feelings of guilt. Recognize that feelings of guilt are common - so common, in fact, that 85 percent of caregivers have reported such feelings have taken a toll on their mental health.

* Find support. Go to supportive family and friends to talk about your emotions. There are also many types of professional support groups available. Discussing your emotions is not a sign of weakness; it's a sign of self-care and awareness. According to a 2015 study by the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, approximately 34.2 million Americans had provided unpaid care to an adult 50 or older in the last year, making it likely that someone else you know is going through the same things you are.

* Be kind to yourself. Remember that you are doing the best you can and be proud of that. For humans, guilt is a natural emotion that can make it harder to see the bigger picture. Like clouds on a rainy day, the feelings you are experiencing will pass.

* Create an action plan. Take a moment to reflect on why you might be having feelings of guilt. Is caregiving preventing you from doing something you want to do or coming between you and something you value? Create a plan and set a realistic goal for yourself to accomplish these things and relieve yourself of some of your guilt.

* Make time for yourself. While caregiving can be time-consuming, you should never lose sight of what makes you, you. Carve out time to take a long walk, meet with a friend for coffee, or cross off steps in your action plan. In the long run, having just 30 minutes a day to yourself will benefit your physical and mental health.

Remember, you are not in this alone. Try to set aside time for yourself and lean on others for support.

For additional caregiving tips and resources, visit www.caregiverstress.com or, contact your local Home Instead Senior Care office or www.homeinstead.com.

Spotting the Signs: Alzheimer’s Disease

Detecting symptoms of Alzheimer's disease as early as possible can be critical to provide appropriate care and avoid potentially dangerous situations. And family and friends can play a vital role in recognizing and calling attention to these changes in behavior, especially for older adults who live alone.

While celebrating with loved ones this holiday season, Home Instead Senior Care encourages everyone to become more familiar with the symptoms of Alzheimer's, to be more aware so that critical warning signs are not overlooked.

Although many are aware that Alzheimer's disease affects a person's memory, there are several other lesser-known indicators that commonly go unnoticed such as notable changes in mood or personality, difficulty completing familiar tasks, trouble pronouncing words or writing, and increased anxiety.

Lakelyn Hogan, Home Instead Senior Care gerontologist and caregiver advocate, says, "People get wrapped up in the holidays and can miss important signs that a family member needs help - and doesn't even know it." She asks families to be mindful of the following signs that a loved one is struggling:

* Disruption of daily life. Is your loved one easily confused by changes to his or her routine? Are they beginning to forget everyday tasks, such as taking medication, feeding a pet or paying bills?

* Unusual behaviors. Have you noticed they seem unusually agitated or upset? Does it seem like his or her personality has shifted? Do they seem depressed or down?

* Disengaged with family. Is your loved one having a hard time remembering names of familiar family members? Does it look as if his or her mind is going blank during conversations? Are they having trouble keeping up with topics of discussion?

* Impairments in mobility and judgement. Do they seem afraid or unsure when using stairs? Do they hesitate before taking steps or going down ramps? A decline in cognitive ability can also affect the senses, impairing depth perception and hearing.

* Loss of words. Does it seem they are forgetting words for everyday objects, such as toothbrushes, spoons or cups? Are they slow to form sentences or respond to questions?

"It's important that we walk alongside our love ones in the aging process to ensure they are living safe and healthy lives," explains Hogan. "This holiday season, consider the signs that may indicate early-onset or developed Alzheimer's disease and talk to your senior relative or their caregiver about ways to accommodate their symptoms."

For additional tips and resources on spotting the signs of Alzheimer's, go to www.HelpforAlzheimersFamilies.com or, contact your local Home Instead Senior Care office or www.homeinstead.com.

 

NCOA Website Offers a Treasure Trove of COVID-19 Help for Older Adults

Fortunately, the National Council on Aging (NCOA), a trusted nonprofit that has been helping older adults age with dignity and economic security for the last 70 years, is providing valuable information about coronavirus on its website, www.ncoa.org.

NCOA experts are regularly curating and updating resources that are of vital importance to older adults and their caregivers. You will find blogs, links, and videos that address a wide range of issues, including: 

Food 

If you or someone you care for needs meals delivered, NCOA offers links to Meals on Wheels and Feeding America with options to search in your zip code for local services. Feeding America and other food banks are adapting to the situation by setting up social distancing guidelines and smaller community drop-off points. For those who qualify, there is a link to apply for SNAP, formerly known as food stamps, which helps individuals pay for nutritious food. 

Finances 

Many older Americans, especially those living on a fixed income, are concerned that COVID-19 will impact their financial situation now and in the future. In fact, many federal, state, and local benefits programs are available to older adults for help with financial challenges, including utility payments, medication costs, rent, and other expenses.

NCOA's companion website, www.BenefitsCheckUp.org, offers information about eligibility and how to apply for billions of dollars in benefits.

In addition, although older Americans are advised to avoid non-essential travel, older adults can find options for critical transportation for essential medical visits or to pick up food and medication. NCOA provides a link to Eldercare Locator to help find local transportation services, and also offers information about navigating telemedicine visits, which are becoming easier and more commonplace.

Those concerned about Medicare benefits in the COVID-19 health care environment can use NCOA's links to state and government sites for the latest information. 

Feelings 

The stress and isolation of the coronavirus pandemic is taking a toll on everyone's emotions. While NCOA urges older adults to follow physical isolation guidelines to remain physically healthy, it also offers tips for older adults, their caregivers, and families to use technology to stay in touch with loved ones and friends, and remain emotionally healthy as well.

Visit www.ncoa.org for what older adults should know about COVID-19, as well as other information about healthy aging. It's a treasure trove of valuable resources for older adults and their caregivers.

Boost Your Retirement Income with Little-Known Benefits

But Retirement in the United States can be expensive, and even savvy seniors who have budgeted for this phase of their lives may feel squeezed in areas such as housing and health care. COVID-19 has made things even harder for many.

Many older Americans who have worked hard all their lives are unaware that they qualify for a range of public and private benefits to help pay for food, medicine, utilities, and many more essentials that ensure a safe and stable retirement. Every year, $30 billion in benefits go unclaimed because eligible older adults don't know the programs exist or how to apply.

These programs are not scams, and they are not loans. They are legitimate public and private funds designed to help older adults boost their budgets.

The National Council on Aging (NCOA), the nation's oldest and most trusted nonprofit working on behalf of seniors, offers the latest information on benefits programs on its free and confidential website, BenefitsCheckUp.org.

The site includes a simple search tool to help retirees and their caregivers safely and securely identify programs that may help meet their financial needs. There are benefits that help pay for medication and other health care costs (including home care and nursing home care), as well as food, housing, and utilities.

For those living on a fixed income, an extra $200-$300 a month can make a significant difference in their standard of living and quality of life.

Approximately half of all Medicare beneficiaries live on incomes below $26,200 a year. For those who qualify, Medicare's special programs can save them thousands of dollars annually on their premiums, medications, deductibles, and co-pays.

BenefitsCheckUp.org also includes information on employment and volunteer programs, programs for veterans, property tax relief, travel and recreation discounts, and support for families and caregivers.

To raise awareness about these valuable benefits, NCOA is introducing an educational campaign called Boost Your Budget Week: Find Your Benefits to Age Well. Planned for July, the week is a great time for older adults to learn about opportunities to boost their budget with benefits.

Interested older adults can visit ncoa.org/Boost to start their free BenefitsCheckUp. Or they can connect with one of NCOA's local community organizations across the country for in-person assistance. Partners can be found on ncoa.org/Map.

5 Tips to Help Older Adults Stay Apart, Not Alone During COVID-19

With COVID-19, there are added complications, notably physical separation. Some people are supporting older relatives who live far away while others may be close by, but are maintaining a safe distance. The goal is to maintain social closeness while also practicing physical distance.

"As the primary caregiver to my parents, I know well that the ways we support the older adults in our lives have changed," says Ray Spoljaric, CEO and Co-Founder of Aloe Care. "Caregivers are resilient, committed people and will go to any lengths to provide for those they care for. Now more than ever, communication and collaboration are key to providing the highest level of care."

If you're a new caregiver, or concerned about COVID-19 for someone you support, consider these five tips from nationally recognized expert Amy Goyer:

* Establish a Care Circle - Identify the people who can help. It may be a combination of professionals, family members, and/or friends.

Collect names, phone numbers, and email addresses of everyone in your Care Circle. This is also a good place to store elders' information, particularly what you would need in case of an emergency (i.e., medications, pre-existing conditions, home access details).

* Stay Connected - Next, establish regular check-ins.

With new physical distancing guidelines, social connection is more important than ever. Prepare a schedule of remote check-ins by the Care Circle. Consider leveraging technology in a solution like Aloe Care, which facilitates easy check-ins and care collaboration.

* Maintain Medical Care and Support - Telehealth is a rapidly advancing option for safe care. In fact, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services recently expanded coverage and loosened policies and regulations regarding telehealth.

Many pharmacies have mail- order options and are expanding support for caregivers to manage medications.

* Cover the Essentials - Assess the food, household, and personal supplies the elders have at home and what they need to keep in stock.

Many grocery stores now offer contactless delivery or pick-up. A quick online search should reveal the best local option. Additionally, the Area Agency on Aging's Eldercare Locator is a great resource, as is Meals on Wheels.

* Well-Rounded Health - While it may take some creativity during COVID-19, everyone needs stimulation physically, cognitively, and emotionally to maintain their well-being (including you, dear caregiver). Find ways to keep your loved ones and yourself active with technology, puzzles, letter-writing, exercises and more.

For more advice and resources about remote caregiving, please refer to the complete "Apart, Not Alone" guide by Amy Goyer.

 

Help Independent Older Adults Stay Apart, Not Alone During COVID-19

With COVID-19, there are added complications, notably physical separation. Some people are supporting older relatives who live far away while others may be close by, but are maintaining a safe distance. The goal is to maintain social closeness while also practicing physical distance.

"As the primary caregiver to my parents, I know well that the ways we support the older adults in our lives have changed," says Ray Spoljaric, CEO and Co-Founder of Aloe Care. "Caregivers are resilient, committed people and will go to any lengths to provide for those they care for. Now more than ever, communication and collaboration are key to providing the highest level of care."

If you're a new caregiver, or concerned about COVID-19 for someone you support, consider these five tips from nationally recognized expert Amy Goyer:

• Establish a Care Circle - Identify the people who can help. It may be a combination of professionals, family members, and/or friends.

Collect names, phone numbers, and email addresses of everyone in your Care Circle. This is also a good place to store elders' information, particularly what you would need in case of an emergency (i.e., medications, pre-existing conditions, home access details).

• Stay Connected - Next, establish regular check-ins.

With new physical distancing guidelines, social connection is more important than ever. Prepare a schedule of remote check-ins by the Care Circle. Consider leveraging technology in a solution like Aloe Care, which facilitates easy check-ins and care collaboration.

• Maintain Medical Care and Support - Telehealth is a rapidly advancing option for safe care. In fact, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services recently expanded coverage and loosened policies and regulations regarding telehealth.

Many pharmacies have mail- order options and are expanding support for caregivers to manage medications.

• Cover the Essentials - Assess the food, household, and personal supplies the elders have at home and what they need to keep in stock.

Many grocery stores now offer contactless delivery or pick-up. A quick online search should reveal the best local option. Additionally, the Area Agency on Aging's Eldercare Locator is a great resource, as is Meals on Wheels.

• Well-Rounded Health - While it may take some creativity during COVID-19, everyone needs stimulation physically, cognitively, and emotionally to maintain their well-being (including you, dear caregiver). Find ways to keep your loved ones and yourself active with technology, puzzles, letter-writing, exercises and more.

For more advice and resources about remote caregiving, please refer to the complete "Apart, Not Alone" guide by Amy Goyer.

 

Free Online Survey Alerts Older Adults to Risks of Falling, a Major Hazard

Even during the COVID-19 era, falls remain the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries for older adults. Falls can significantly impact an older adult's quality of life. A fall can cause older persons to become socially isolated or fearful of leaving home and can lead to costly medical expenses.

One important first step toward staying safe is learning what aspects of your life can put you at greater risk of falling. The National Council on Aging (NCOA), a trusted national leader working to ensure that every person can age well, has created a free online survey to help you identify your falls risks - and offers practical steps to address them.

It's called the Falls Free CheckUp, and it's being launched as part of NCOA's annual Falls Prevention Awareness Week, Sept. 21-25.

"We want older adults to be their own agents of change in ensuring they age well," says Kathleen Cameron, senior director of NCOA's Center for Healthy Aging. "The Falls Free CheckUp provides an easy-to-use and confidential screen of falls risks as a first step in preventing falls. NCOA also offers practical and proven ways to address those risks."

The Falls Free CheckUp is available in both English and Spanish. It features 12 statements about reasons that are known to increase falls risk. Older adults answer yes or no to each statement and then see an explanation of why that reason matters. For example, "Sometimes I feel unsteady when I am walking," is followed by the statement: "Unsteadiness or needing support while walking are signs of poor balance."

After completing the self-directed survey, older adults receive a personalized risk score, along with practical steps they can take to prevent falls. They can share this information with their caregivers and health care providers to discuss how to reduce their falls risk and take action.

Next steps could include better use of a cane or walker, adjusting medications, getting a hearing or eye checkup, or adding strength and balance exercises with a doctor's approval.

In addition to launching the Falls Free CheckUp, NCOA will be hosting free English (Sept. 23 at 6:30 pm EST) and Spanish (Sept. 24 at 6:30 pm EST) Facebook Live events during Fall Prevention Awareness Week to highlight this important health topic.

For more information, visit www.ncoa.org/FallsWeek.

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