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Family Caregiver Duties: Effective Financial Planning A Guest Post by Samantha Stein

Family Caregiver

Family caregivers are no stranger to financial issues. When you assume the role of your family member’s primary care provider, it includes tackling the costs of their care as well as their expenses and necessities. On top of this, you also have your own finances to contend with. This is why a significant amount of financial planning is necessary to become a successful family caregiver.

To help you get started, ALTCP shares an in-depth look at the issues that caregivers face as well as a comprehensive guide to financial planning.

Who Are the Family Caregivers Now?

According to the Caregiving in the US 2015 Report, the typical caregiver is a 49-year old woman caring for a relative (82%), with 49% caring for a parent or a parent-in-law in their late 60s. Although only one in ten provides care for a spouse, it is the higher-hour caregivers that are four times more likely to be caring for a spouse or partner.

An interesting change that we noted, however, is that the face of the caregiver seems to be changing as the newer generations step up to the plate.

Millennial caregivers or the individuals between the ages 18 and 34 are growing in numbers. Currently, this new generation of caregivers makes up nearly a quarter of the 43.5 million, as stated in The Millennial Caregiver by the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP Public Policy Institute. Unlike their predecessors, these millennial caregivers are equally likely to be male or female. Typically, he or she is 27 years old and caring for a mother or a grandmother with a physical condition. Moreover, this age group works for 34.9 hours a week at their job, but they have not finished a degree. The average income also falls at $42,200, which is below the national median.

Also, millennial caregivers are also more likely to report their loved one’s emotional or mental health condition, which then leads to immediate care.

What Are the Services They Provide?

The demands of caregiving vary in each situation. The scope of the care you are providing is most likely different from that of someone else’s. However, the basic services include:

  • Assist in accomplishing at least two of the Activities of Daily Living (bathing, dressing, grooming, eating, toileting, and moving)
  • Perform house chores
  • Provide or prepare meals
  • Assist in addressing medical needs and reminders
  • Provide companionship

Essentially, family caregivers cater to the emotional, mental, physical, social, and often financial needs of their care recipients. And the length of time that they provide the care varies, as well. According to The State of Caregiving: 2015 Report, 57% of caregivers have been providing care for family members for more than three years. Among the top health concerns that caregivers deal with are Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. In 2016, these conditions cost the nation a total of $236 billion.

The Financial Impact of Caregiving for Family

Although caregiving to a family member has plenty of positive effects, it can also cause significant blows in the different aspects of your life—that is if you are not careful. We all know that the cost of care is high, and it can surely cause a considerable change in your finances.

Let’s take a look at how it can affect your financial standing, and how you can take control of the situation.

Out of Pocket Costs

According to a survey conducted by AARP among caregivers age 18 and above, they were able to identify the financial strains that come with caregiving. Family caregivers spend on average approximately $7,000 a year on caregiving-related expenses. The amount then leaps to a whopping $11,923 for long distance caregivers who have to factor in travel expenses and even outside help.

These individuals spend approximately 20% of their income on caregiving-related costs. These expenses may include home modifications, insurance costs, and other medical expenses.

Effects on Employment

Some situations require not just the caregiver’s full attention but so much of his or her time as well. This becomes a predicament for family caregivers who are also full-time workers.

56% of family caregivers have shared that they have had to make adjustments at work because of caregiving. These include cutting back or adding more hours, working on different shifts, and even taking paid or unpaid time off. Other individuals have had to leave their jobs to become full-time family caregivers.

It is also necessary to highlight that family caregivers who keep their jobs are three times more likely to experience work productivity loss.

Addressing Your Loved One’s Financial Concerns

Part of the job of being a family caregiver is dealing with your family member’s financial concerns. It may feel awkward—like you are somehow overstepping—but it is necessary in most scenarios. After all, care sometimes means keeping them from financial abuse.

Taking Over Their Finances

If you are dealing with your parents’ money, then you and the members of the family should have a sit-down discussion about the current situation. Find solutions as a unit and delegate tasks. This way, every person will be involved.

More importantly, you have to make sure that all the necessary documents are in place. To be able to manage their finances effectively you must have legal authority, which in most cases, is granted through the different types of power of attorney.

Maximize Insurance Policy Benefits

Long term care insurance covers a vast range of services. It can cover the care in a nursing home, an adult day care center, and an assisted living facility. On top of that, these policies could include home care which would allow your loved ones to stay at home longer. For you, this could mean an extra pair of hands in handling all the needs of your loved one.

If your loved one is covered through long term care insurance, make sure to read all the specifics carefully. Some policies even provide compensation for family caregivers.

Medicare and Social Security Benefits

Retirees may be entitled to Social Security retirement benefits, so see if your care recipients are qualified for it. If not, then you may also look into Social Security disability benefits. Provided by a federal insurance program, these benefits allot income to individuals who cannot work because of a severe disability.

Medicare may also be a massive help in dealing with your loved one’s finances. In general, individuals can qualify for a plan once they turn 65 even if they are diagnosed. Just remember to apply during the time allotted (open enrollment period). Also, take into consideration the different supplement plans that can help with the costs. Be sure to consult with a specialist because these plans are quite complicated.

Tackling Your Own Finances

Family caregivers can take small steps to help keep their finances in check. To illustrate, we have found this video by AARP discussing the various financial tips in which caregivers can add a few dollars to their budget:

Let’s discuss further points:

Long Term Care Tax Deductions for the Family Caregiver

Did you know that family caregivers are entitled to long term care deductions? To do so, you must be able to claim that your care recipients are your dependents and that you are shouldering at least half of their expenses.  Refer to www.irs.gov for more information regarding this matter.

Do Not Touch Your Retirement Funds

One of the biggest temptations, when you are going through a rough patch, is to dip into your retirement funds. However, we urge you not to do so yet. These funds are present for your future, and you must find ways to keep it that way.

Being a family caregiver, you may have been given a glimpse of the difficulties that life can throw at retirees. You have a unique perspective on how difficult it can be for individuals in their retirement years, and this is why you need to keep your retirement funds intact.

Maintain a Source of Income

As mentioned above, many have had to let go of their jobs to meet the demands of caregiving.

Be that as it may, this does not mean that you should not explore other opportunities. A regular, 9-5 may not be an option at the moment, but you can look into various opportunities on the Internet. Many online jobs allow workers to work at home, which makes it a perfect setup for family caregivers. This allows them to be within reach to their care recipients, while simultaneously holding down a job that provides income.

Prepare For Long Term Care Now

Family caregivers know firsthand how the long term care needs can easily overtake one’s life.  As illustrated above, the costs involved ought not to be taken lightly.

This is why family caregivers are urged to secure long term care coverage early on. Providing care to loved ones can often lead a caregiver to neglect their own future needs. Often, their own retirement and long term care plans take the backburner in order to fulfill their role. Many assume that they will still have time to save for their own needs.

However, you must remember not to be lulled into a false sense of security. The cost of care in the country is expensive, and it appears to be increasing at a fast rate. Without a proper policy in place, your family members might have to cover most if not all of these costs.

To guide you in finding and selecting a suitable policy, you may request long term care insurance quotes from ALTCP. If you have further questions, please do not hesitate to let us know in the comments section.

Originally featured on Association for Long Term Care Planning

http://www.altcp.org/family-caregiver-financial-planning/

How Proposed Changes to Medicare Could Affect Your Wallet and Your Health Care: AARP Bulletin, January/February 2017 Issue

 

aarp

En español | MEDICARE WORKS WONDERS for millions of American families, providing affordable access to today’s most advanced health care. Poll after poll invariably confirms its popularity. But will Medicare continue to work for us and for the next generations? That’s the question that Congress and the Trump administration will be asking in the coming months.

At AARP, we continue to believe passionately in this program, which has allowed our citizens to age with dignity. In this special report, we detail what the state of Medicare is today and provide what you need to know about the upcoming debate in Washington over the nation’s most important health care program.  — Robert Love, AARP Bulletin editor in chief

A Battle Looms

by Bill Walsh

As Donald Trump was mounting his insurgent candidacy for president, he repeatedly set himself apart from the Republican field by vowing to protect the Social Security and Medicare Americans have come to know.

He assured older voters, who proved to be a decisive voting bloc, that those programs would remain intact and the benefits delivered as promised.

“Every Republican wants to do a big number on Social Security. They want to do it on Medicare. They want to do it on Medicaid. And we can’t do that,” he said at a New Hampshire rally during the primaries. “It’s not fair to the people who have been paying in for years.”

Yet within days of Trump’s historic election, the guaranteed health coverage provided by Medicare was cast in doubt. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) revived his plan to replace it with a fixed-dollar subsidy that beneficiaries would use to buy private health insurance. Meanwhile, Congress is expected to move quickly to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which could have the effect of erasing the consumer-friendly Medicare benefits that the law created.

Stirring Fears and Uncertainty

As news of Ryan’s proposed Medicare overhaul spread, it stirred fears among the 57 million beneficiaries who rely on it to cover prescription drugs, doctor visits and hospitalizations. Democrats lined up to pledge their opposition. It also prompted an outcry from consumer groups, including AARP.

What remains to be seen in January, as Congress reconvenes and the president-elect takes office, is how Trump’s campaign assurances to protect Medicare will hold up against House lawmakers intent on revamping the popular health program.

Trump contributed to the uncertainty by announcing House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price (R-Ga.) as his pick to run the Department of Health and Human Services. Price has been an advocate of Ryan’s Medicare approach, which supporters call “premium support” and critics decry as a “voucher system.” Trump’s website further raised questions about his plans for Medicare. It says he wants to “modernize Medicare,” which is often seen as Washington code for the type of changes Ryan wishes to make.

Since the election, Trump has not made any comments about Medicare. But in an interview with ABC News on Dec. 4, Vice President-elect Mike Pence said Trump “made it very clear in the course of the campaign that we’re going to keep our promises in Social Security and Medicare.”

The Ryan Approach

Ryan’s Medicare overhaul, a version of which passed the GOP-controlled House, would fundamentally change how Medicare works.

Since its creation in 1965, Medicare has been a “defined benefit” program, guaranteeing a certain level of health coverage. It now pays about 80 percent of costs associated with doctor and hospital visits. Beneficiaries are responsible for paying monthly premiums, copayments and annual deductibles.

57 million Americans rely on Medicare to afford health care

Ryan would convert Medicare from a “defined benefit” to a “defined contribution” program. Instead of a guaranteed level of coverage, a dollar amount would be set for Medicare beneficiaries to pay premiums on insurance they would buy from private-sector companies (this is why Ryan calls it “premium support”). Ryan’s plan would also increase the eligibility age from 65 to 67.

A former chairman of the House Budget Committee, Ryan wants to limit how much the government spends on Medicare. In 2015, Medicare accounted for 15 percent of the federal budget, a proportion expected to grow as the number of beneficiaries rises.

“The reforms we’re talking about do not affect the benefits for anyone in or near retirement,” Ryan said last month. “But for those of us in the younger generations, it won’t be there for us if we stay on the current path.”

The Mounting Opposition

Consumer advocates also want to address growing costs in the health care system, including Medicare. But they contend that Ryan’s approach would erode much-needed coverage and shift costs to many who live on fixed incomes and continue to struggle in the shadow of the Great Recession.

While Ryan says the annual subsidy would be greater for low-income people, critics say it is unlikely to keep pace with the rising costs of insurance. The result, they say, is that beneficiaries would shoulder more of the financial burden — or go without needed medical care. Although Ryan also says people would be allowed to stay in traditional Medicare, critics argue his approach is designed to gradually increase out-of-pocket costs in the program and nudge beneficiaries into private plans with no guaranteed level of coverage.

Opponents also say that there are better cost-saving options available. One of the most popular is giving Medicare the authority to negotiate prescription drug prices directly with drug companies. The change would help the federal government control a cost that accounts for $1 out of every $6 Medicare spends. That idea was supported by more than 80 percent of people in a Kaiser Family Foundation poll in 2015. As a candidate, Trump also embraced the idea, another potential point of friction with House Republicans, who generally oppose it, as does the pharmaceutical industry.

The Impact of Obamacare Repeal

What Trump and GOP leaders wholeheartedly agree on is that the first order of business will be repealing the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Republican congressional leaders want a repeal vote in January so that a bill can be on the president’s desk right after he is sworn in.

77 percent of people say Medicare is a “very important” program

Although it has received little attention, a full repeal of Obamacare would eliminate Medicare benefits created by the law. Among other things, it improved Medicare’s financial outlook by slowing the growth of spending and clamped down on fraud, waste and excessive payments. It also enabled tens of millions of Medicare beneficiaries to get free preventive services such as flu shots and screenings for cancer and diabetes. And between 2010 and 2015, nearly 11 million Medicare beneficiaries saved $20.8 billion on prescription drugs—an average of $1,945 per person — because of the gradual closing of the coverage gap known as the doughnut hole.

While Obamacare remains controversial — in part because of its mandate to purchase health insurance and because premiums have increased for some plans—the Medicare provisions have proved popular with beneficiaries.

Medicare’s Enduring Popularity

Even in an era of hostility toward the federal government, support for some programs has remained strong. A Kaiser poll found that 77 percent of people say Medicare is a “very important” program, just below the level of support for Social Security at 83 percent.

Trump’s campaign assurances about protecting Medicare and Social Security undoubtedly played a role in his Election Day victory, especially among older voters. Those 65 and older supported him with 53 percent of the vote, compared with 45 percent for Democrat Hillary Clinton, according to the Pew Research Center. There will be a lot at stake for them when Congress reconvenes.

Also of Interest:

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Senior Care: Balancing Marriage and Caring for a Parent A Guest Post by Samantha Stein

Senior Care

Caregiving can strengthen the bonds of relationships within the family. It can bridge gaps and heal decades-long conflicts through the connections that form during the care. However, it can also cause strains within the family. In marriages and relationships, no one really thinks of their partner caring for an aging parent until it starts happening. And in this day and age, providing senior care can put all kinds of stress that will shake the foundations of for better or for worse.

Marriages and partnerships already go through so many challenges that either strengthen or break the bond. For adult children stepping up to provide care for their aging parents, will the hiccups of senior care toughen up your marriage or cause it to crumble?

Impact of Senior Care in Relationships (Statistics)

Caregiving in relationships can have positive and negative effects. In a survey conducted by Caring.com in honor of Valentine’s Day, 300-plus spouses provided a valuable glimpse of what it is like to make a relationship work amidst the demands of senior care.

According to the study, 80% claimed that providing care to a family member has put a strain in their relationships. One caregiver expressed that strong marriage, including his or her own, can struggle and be tested by the demands of caregiving. He or she further explains by stating that the responsibility of caring for a family member can create an imbalance in a relationship.

Many find themselves “drifting apart.” This may be because of the change in dynamics that providing senior care brings. Couples shared through the survey that the lack of privacy and time to connect with each other often leads to diminished feelings of attachment.

Bear in mind that the effects are not all negative. Yes, the love and commitment that couples have for each other may be tested thoroughly. However, some caregivers and their spouses found that the presence of senior care in their lives has strengthened their bonds. Because of the high demands, some couples have found that this experience has brought them closer together. One caregiver shared that her spouse has become her source of solace and inspiration. Another confided that her spouse tells her that her mother will not be around forever and that she should do what she needs to do.

Key Factors that Cause Strain

Caregivers may be put in a tough spot when the stress of their tasks takes its toll on their relationships and marriages. It may even reach a point where it feels like you have to make a choice between your partner and your aging parent.

Understandably, no one wants to be put in a position such as that. But how can you avoid it? You can start by identifying the roots.

Financial Burden

Various articles, such as these posts by Investopedia and Shaw Family Law PC, cite financial strains and extended families among the top causes of divorce in the United States.

When a parent ends up needing care, adult children often feel obligated to step up and provide the help that they need. It almost feels like second nature to many. After all, why wouldn’t you care for the person who raised you, right?

However, providing senior care, especially when the care recipient does not have long term care coverage, can put a significant dent on any couple’s finances. Care services in the country have become too expensive for many to afford. And if you and your partner are still in the process of saving for your retirement, then adding senior care costs can surely make the situation more challenging.

Frustration and Fatigue

Providing care to an aging loved one can be time-consuming and energy-draining. There will be days when you will feel as if everything is piling up and you will feel overwhelmed. It will feel like nothing is going right or as planned and you feel frustrated and exhausted by it all.  When this happens, it can be too easy to turn to you partner and just release all those negative emotions on him or her.

Frustration and fatigue, if not vented out the right way, can be the foundations of a very unhappy environment. It can cause friction in marriages and can damage relationships.

Lack of Intimacy

Caring for a parent, managing your household, and co-parenting your children can be difficult to manage. Add the senior care to that, and it surely leaves little room for any sort of intimacy. The presence of a new person in a couple’s home, along with his or her care needs, can cause a change in the chemistry. The fatigue that may come with providing senior care can affect the relationship between spouses.

Intimacy is one of the key elements that strengthen relationships and marriages, and the lack of it can cause a severe blow. Individuals have shared that caregiving has had a negative impact on their sexual relationship.

However, bear in mind that intimacy does not always mean sexuality. Sex, though an important factor, does not fully encompass intimacy.

Shifting between Caregiver and Spouse

The perfect balance between being a caregiver and a spouse may be difficult to achieve, but it is doable. And like everything in relationships and marriages, this will require an immense amount of teamwork, understanding, and limitless patience.

Readjusting your lives to add another person into the equation may be difficult. And most times, it may feel like three is definitely a crowd. However, changing your perspective can save your relationship. Working together for better or for worse will be tested, and being reminded of your goals to work together can often save your relationship.

Addressing the Issues which Cause Marital Strain

Like any roadblock, these issues ought to be addressed together. These situations are exactly the right moments when communication between partners will be truly tested. It is important to be honest about concerns, no matter how ridiculous they may seem. It is also necessary to have an open mind when dealing with these instances as they can easily put a damper on your relationship.

Prioritize Your Spouse

This goes both ways. The caregiver and the spouse ought to find ways to show that they prioritize their partners, even if it means leaving them alone for a time. Often, some people need their space to recollect their thoughts and their bearings. Being there for your partner, especially when they are dealing with all that comes with caring for a loved one, could mean providing them with the space that they need to adjust to stresses on their own.

However, time together is also vital. Remember that having time for each other does not necessarily have to be extravagant or expensive. Find enjoyment in the little things. Love does not always have to be shown in big gestures. Sometimes, it is the seemingly insignificant acts of love –the ones that we often take advantage of—are the ones that mean the most. What matters is that you show your appreciation for each other, and that you do activities that help strengthen your bond.

Say Yes to Help

Handing over the reins to your parents’ care, albeit temporarily, may be a difficult decision to make. What if something happens while you are away? What if your parents think you are neglecting them?

So many possibilities can happen while you are taking a break that you end up not taking any for yourself. As tempting as it sounds to say no to anyone who offers help, you have to learn to do the opposite of what your gut tells you.

Validate and Address Emotional and Mental Stress

Emotional and mental stress can come to both the caregiver and the spouse. And often, whoever experiences it feels as if these reactions are selfish.

Bear in mind that having these feelings and going through these struggles do not make you less of a partner or a person. Whatever your role is in the equation, these emotions are real issues that need to be addressed. Talk about it with your partner, and if necessary, seek professional help.

Find Support Online

So many individuals are in the same boat. They face the similar challenges and struggle with the identical issues. Sometimes, these people might even understand you on a level that your significant other might struggle with.

So many caregivers have found support and guidance through online communities, and it would be all right for you to do the same. The communities provide a no-judgment platform where caregivers can share their frustrations and stresses and get the support that they need.

Finding Your Own Long Term Care Coverage

Now that senior care plays a significant role in financial spending, couples where one provides caregiving ought to find coverage for their own care. These costs can easily eat away at anyone’s savings, and would you really be able to say no to a parent in need?

Finding and securing a long term care insurance policy for you and your partner could ensure that your future care needs are covered without feeling like you are withholding help for your parents.  Our advice is this: look into shared care policies. These specific ones are specifically catered to couples—married or not—looking for long term care coverage.

Originally posted by Association for LTC Planningon  http://www.altcp.org/senior-care-marriage-caring-parent/  February 15, 2017

How to Determine if Someone is Having a Stroke A Guest Post by the Health Services Blog for Slidell Memorial Hospital in Louisiana

stroke

 

Were you aware that strokes are a type of disease?

Strokes influence arteries that lead to the brain, as well as those within it.

Another horrifying fact: A stroke can occur in anybody.

Enough with the bad news, here’s some good news: You can learn just how to detect a stroke with the signs below. Knowing these signs can help you save a life—whether it be your own, or that of a loved one.

Defining a Stroke

Strokes occur when blood vessels that transport nutrients and oxygen to the brain either rupture (a hemorrhagic stroke) or its flow is blocked by a clot (an ischemic stroke). Blood and oxygen deprivation can kill off brain cells, and if blood flow is stopped up for long enough, the bodily functions that are associated with the areas that’re obstructed can stop functioning correctly.

Stroke Signs

Understanding what a stroke looks like can really help you save someone’s life. The quicker your reaction time, the more likely the chance of survival for the victim. Gladly, there is a basic acronym to recall that will aid in your memory of the symptoms of stroke: F.A.S.T.

  • Facial droop- Is there numbness in one side of their face? Does it appear uneven? If it is difficult to tell, check by asking the person to smile.
  • Arm weakness- See if the victim can lift up both of their arms. If one falls back down, is too weak, or numb, this is another stroke symptom.
  • Speech trouble- Slurred speech is a major determination of stroke. See if the victim is able to repeat an easy sentence, such as, “The apple is red.” If the victim can’t speak, comprehend what you’re saying, or is slurring, this is another sign.
  • Time to call for help- If someone is presenting with any of these symptoms, call 911, even if the symptoms disappear. Be proactive and do not wait. Jot down the time that you noticed these symptoms, and be sure to tell this to the staff at the hospital.

Although these are not the only symptoms of a stroke, they are the most frequent. Other not commonly known symptoms are difficulty seeing or walking, as well as sudden confusion. The victim may also have a massive headache, experience dizziness, or lose their sense of balance.

The Next Step

If you see anyone exhibiting any of these other symptoms, like the others above, you should not hesitate to dial 911 and bring them to the hospital immediately.

Always keep in mind that the largest problem with treating stroke is your response time. Take note of these signs, and respond swiftly. Report to Slidell Memorial Hospital or the nearest emergency department in your neighborhood to get evaluated.

The Best Medical Alert Systems

mobilehelp

Originally posted on Reviews.com on August 8, 2016 

http://www.reviews.com/medical-alert-systems/

Nearly 90 percent of seniors say they prefer to live in their own homes, and most expect to stay there. It’s called “aging in place” and put simply: no assisted living facilities. Family members want to respect these wishes, but the risks are real. According to the National Council on Aging, one in three adults age 65 and older experience a fall each year, let alone other emergencies. The best medical alert systems address these risks with reliable devices that can connect seniors with help, keeping them safely independent — and giving family members one less thing to worry about. Our top pick, Bay Alarm Medical, goes even further with attentive, personable service. In an emergency, we’d feel comfortable with a loved one in the company’s hands.

LifeCall popularized the personal emergency response system (PERS) with infomercials in the 1980s — “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” — and while the technology has come a long way, their core function hasn’t: Press a button and you’re in touch with someone who can send help.

Our Picks for the Best Medical Alert Systems in 2017

Best Overall

Bay Alarm MedicalBay Alarm Medical is our top pick for its superior customer service and caring bedside manner.

It started with the little things: Web ordering was painless, and its crisp website has video demonstrations, a weekly blog, and clear pricing and terms. When our unit arrived, it came with a pair of spiffy striped socks, and setup was simple: just flip up its antennae and plug it in.

But where Bay Alarm really shines is the human element. When we talked to the monitoring representatives, there was a genuine warmth and calm — it was like calling your fourth-grade teacher. When we told them we were just testing the device, the rep always said some version of “I’m glad to hear that everything is okay.”

We unplugged the Bay Alarm Medical device to test its backup battery and within 20 minutes, Joseph at Central Station called to notify us that there was a loss of power signal. No other provider did this.

Bay Alarm’s cellular base station doesn’t win for its looks. It’s clunky, with just a big red “Help” button. Other cellular base stations we tested have a screen that displays the time, the strength of your cellular signal, and the status of the backup battery. Bay Alarm tells you your cellular signal by calling out “Two bars” or “Three bars,” sometimes when you aren’t expecting it — not particularly helpful, especially since we don’t know Bay Alarm’s maximum number of bars. And on average, it took 60 seconds to connect us to a monitoring center, which was slightly longer than Medical Guardian and MobileHelp.

Bay Alarm Medical’s base station isn’t subtle, but setting it up is easy and their call-center support blew us away.

However, Bay Alarm had exceptionally high backup battery life during our hands-on testing phase (52 hours compared to 30–36 hours for the competitors we tested). And while the design is very basic, it isn’t difficult to set up or operate, and it passed our range tests. Ultimately, it comes down to substance over style: We felt like Bay Alarm would best see us through an emergency.

Best Technology

MobileHelpMobileHelp is at the top of the industry when it comes to the medical devices themselves.

Cross-pollination in the PERS community is common: Three of the four brands we tested used MobileHelp-manufactured technology, while MobileHelp actually uses Acadian On Call’s monitoring services. Because they make their own devices, the company makes it easy to grow with its services as needs change, with upgrade options that include automatic fall detection, blood pressure monitors, and wall-mounted buttons.

MobileHelp was an easy winner in the technology competition: Its base station was shared by three other finalists and its wristwatch device was the only one we considered wearing simply for fashion.

We liked that MobileHelp provides both a necklace pendant and a watch option, and really liked that they were modern and sporty. Seniors prefer PERS devices to be as discreet as possible. “There’s a stigma about them,” says Novak. “Part of that is due to the media portraying individuals who use them as feeble or senile. But as their design improves — they are smaller or look like jewelry — they are becoming a bit more acceptable.” MobileHelp’s watch band is slick (a lot like the Apple Watch) and its pendant is a small, subtle pellet.

(Top) MobileHelp gives users two button options: a standard pendant and a wristband similar in size to an Apple Watch. (Bottom) As with their respective base stations, three of our finalists offered the same style of pendant button, while our top pick, Bay Alarm Medical, went with a different design.

MobileHelp’s only real drawback is that it offers exclusively AT&T cellular service — there are no landline options. If you don’t get good AT&T coverage in your area, MobileHelp isn’t the way to go.

Honorable Mention

Medical GuardianMedical Guardian is definitely a big hitter: it even nabbed The Brady Bunch star Florence Henderson as its spokesperson.

Medical Guardian’s emergency call response times had a respectable 49-second average (and even hit a record-fast 33 seconds on one test call) and we were satisfied by its reps’ bedside manner. Its biggest drawback is that it doesn’t offer a free trial period and locks you into a minimum 90-day commitment.

Medical Guardian is easily the most well-known medical alert company, but its service ultimately didn’t stand out.

Other Medical Alert Systems to Consider

Acadian On Call

Acadian On Call definitely met all of our criteria. It operates its own monitoring centers, which are all Five-Diamond certified by the Central Station Alarm Association (CSAA), a nonprofit organization that trains representatives of central monitoring stations for fire departments, police stations, and private companies like medical alert systems. Additionally, its centers only employ Emergency Medical Dispatch (EMD)-certified EMTs and paramedics. It offers a variety of devices; its pricing is competitive; and when it passed our customer service, equipment, and ease-of-use evaluations, we placed an order. When the system arrived, we were met with a folder of confusing paperwork. One printout, which read “IMMEDIATE ATTENTION,” wanted us to authorize payment even though we’d already paid, and requested a credit card number or voided check to be mailed back. “When authorization is received,” it said, “all previous balances will be drafted to bring account current.” Huh?

If this had arrived at an aged relative’s house, the risk of it being ignored out of sheer complication is huge. And while it could all have been a simple mistake, the hassle stood out in a crowded field of contenders.

Philips Lifeline

Philips Lifeline has a selection of devices that’s downright impressive, with well-designed medication dispensers and an emergency contact iPhone app in addition to traditional base stations. However, it charges fees for installation ($20 for self-installation or $99 for a technician) and cancellation, and offers no free trial period or discounts.

GreatCall Splash

GreatCall Splash gets high marks from customers for its go-anywhere capabilities. It acts just like a cellphone, but with only one phone number: the emergency call center. Monthly fees are affordable, ranging from $20–$35, but you have to purchase its equipment outright ($50), plus pony up an additional $35 activation fee. Another downside is they need to be recharged often, which runs the risk that you’ll be out of battery during an emergency.

Walgreens ReadyResponse

Walgreens ReadyResponse checked almost all the boxes when it came to breadth of equipment and easy setup, but when we dug in further we discovered that they’re simply resellers for Tunstall Americas, a company we’d already cut for its inferior purchasing process and less-accessible customer service reps.

ResponseLINK

ResponseLINK has been in the PERS business since 1998 and acquired Alert1, another popular provider, in 2008. It’s a solid option, but if you want to upgrade your service, it doesn’t offer many add-ons, such as carbon monoxide monitoring, fire detection, or extra wall-mounted buttons.

Best Medical Alert Systems: Summed Up

Did You Know?

These are rentals.

Only a few companies allow you to buy their equipment outright. When you order a medical alert device, you are renting the equipment and paying for access to an emergency call center. PERS providers are strict about making sure every piece they shipped to you is returned in good condition. If not, they can hit you with fees (Acadian On Call, for example, values its equipment at $250).

You’re most likely talking to a trained nurse or EMT.

While there is no regulation that requires medical alert call center representatives to be medical professionals, many are trained nurses and EMTs. If they’re not, most providers (including all our top picks) tout their care representatives as being “UL-Listed,” meaning they’ve been approved by the independent safety science company, and/or Five-Diamond Certified by the CSAA.

Medical alert providers are on the rise (and we don’t expect them to all make it).

According to the United States Census, the population age 60 and older will double between 2012 and 2050. And if 90 percent of these seniors plan on living in their own homes, it should be no surprise that the medical alert industry is getting more and more crowded. “A lot of these companies are new and there is a lot of competition, so not all of them will last,” says Erickson. “I know of several already who weren’t able to make it.”

We love the little guy, but recognize that going with someone new to the game may mean scrambling for another service if it ends up out of business.

The Bottom Line

During at-home emergencies, medical alert devices quickly connect seniors with someone who can help. We recommend Bay Alarm Medical for its straightforward, reliable equipment and call center reps who convinced us they truly cared.

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Best Medical Alert System

Bay Alarm MedicalUltimately, it comes down to substance over style: We felt like Bay Alarm would best see us through an emergency.

Don’t dance around the subject. “Elders aren’t stupid,” Dr. Novak says. “If you think they might be opposed to a medical alert system, let them know that you think it is important because it will make you feel more secure with their safety, not because you feel they are inept or ill.”

Evaluate what type of PERS is appropriate. Dr. Novak recommends medical alert systems for seniors living alone or with a partner or spouse who may not be able to help physically in an emergency. She recommends talking to your loved one about their habits (Do they take walks? Spend most of their time in one particular room?) and their health (Is there a risk of them falling? Do they have memory issues?). This will help determine if add-ons and upgrades like mobile GPS and fall detection are important — and even if a medical alert device is the right way to go. “If they have dementia,” Novak says, “a PERS device might work for a while, but at some point it will not be helpful. Remember, this is not a substitute for home, nursing, or hospice care. If your loved one needs a higher level of care, a PERS device can assist, but cannot act alone.”

Check your mobile coverage. If you plan on getting a cellular or mobile PERS, coverage where you or your loved one lives may be excellent, spotty, or nonexistent. Each medical provider states clearly which mobile provider it uses; check their coverage map to see if your loved one’s home or building gets good phone reception. If it doesn’t, the device may not work.

“Avoiding Falls in the 3 Most Dangerous Rooms of Your House” A Guest Post by Jessica Hegg

preventing-falls

Sometimes, a fall is inevitable for an older loved one. They simply fall off balance, or the toll of the years or past corrective surgeries puts them in a situation they can’t easily escape from.

According to an NCBI study, approximately one-third of adults aged 65 or older fall every year – and only about half of those falls can be attributed to “environmental” factors – something out of place about the environment that directly caused the fall.

However, despite the fact that a fall can sometimes be unavoidable, it’s extremely important that you minimize the risks of your loved one falling. Why?

Simple. While around half of all falls could be attributed to environmental factors for the first fall, this percentage decreases the more your loved one falls. Simply put, If your loved one has fallen more than two or three times within a year, their risk of falling (even without external environmental factors) increases massively.

Therefore, you should do everything in your power to postpone falls – and since environmental factors are the most easily preventable, that’s where we’ll start – by securing your loved one’s environment.

1.  The Bathroom

It’s probably not a shock that the bathroom is the number one place where environmental falls occur – but you may be surprised at the numbers. While the shower and bath is often thought of as the most dangerous area for the elderly, toilet use actually contributes to more falls.

The primary reason for this is frequency of use. Pretty much everyone uses the toilet more than they use the shower – and this is especially true of elderly folks, who often suffer frequent urination problems.

So while shower safety is very important (Grab bars, non-slip mats on the floors inside and outside, easy-to-reach bathroom products, and shower stools are some of the best options to secure your shower) you shouldn’t neglect the rest of the bathroom. Consider a raised toilet seat or toilet grab bars to secure the environment, and make sure toilet paper is available without reaching.

Ensure the entire bathroom is safe, secure, and protected. It will give both you and your loved one peace of mind.

2. The Kitchen

The kitchen isn’t always a problem – if your loved one isn’t using the kitchen anymore, most risks are mitigated completely – but if your loved one still typically cooks and cleans, the kitchen can be a big risk factor.

The biggest risks primarily come from food storage and utensil storage – pantries and cabinets aren’t designed with the elderly in mind, and often require reaching. And for smaller folks, this can mean using a stepstool or other device to elevate themselves, which increases the risk of a fall drastically.

The best thing you can do to here is to reorganize. You want your loved one to maintain their standard of living, so help them by making common food items easy to reach, and moving pots, pans, and other items to easily-accessible areas – no reaching required.

It may take a bit of getting used to, but having a hard time finding your favorite skillet is much better than taking a tumble from a stepstool.

3. The Bedroom

The risk of falling in the bedroom is huge, and almost always related to two factors – weariness and trouble getting in and out of bed.

These two factors complement each other – grogginess is normal in the morning, and weariness is normal when you’re trying to go to bed. Combine this with the sometimes-awkward motion of climbing into a bed (especially one not built for an elderly person) and you’ve got trouble.

This risk is exacerbated by the risk of head injury – beds are typically built out of heavy woods and metals that can have sharp edges and cause traumatic injury if bedposts or the body of a bed frame is hit on the way down.

Beyond purchasing a lower, easier-to-access bed specifically for your loved one (which can be expensive and uncomfortable), you can buy bed rails – highly recommended, if you’re concerned about safety – and bed steps, which often integrate a small railing into their design, and allow your loved one to get closer to a high bed which might be troublesome to get into otherwise.

Prevention is Key!

While falls are a problem that only get worse later in life, it’s entirely possible to avoid them for a very long time – sometimes altogether, with the right safety precautions.

Remember, the risk of falls only gets worse the more your loved one falls. It’s important to secure your environment as soon as possible, giving them the tools they need to stay safe, and maintain autonomy as much as they can. And until next time, happy caregiving.

Message from AARP: We’re Building a Movement to Protect Medicare by John Hishta

aarp

Online and on the ground, people are lining up to fight with us! 

If you’ve been paying attention to politics lately, you’re certainly aware that social media is playing a huge role in our national conversation. Just think about how our new president uses Twitter to get his message directly to the American people. And how a simple Facebook post launched a nationwide women’s march last month.

So I’m not at all surprised to see the way AARP’s social media channels have exploded in the week since we announced our new campaign to protect Medicare. We’re hearing from so many of you on our Twitter account and Facebook page, asking questions and sharing your perspectives. And your bottom-line message is loud and clear: If anyone thinks Americans will be complacent about attacks on Medicare, they’re dead wrong.

Personally, I can tell you we are happy to play that role. We’re proud to fight for you, and are happy to give you a platform to make voices heard. And if you really want to make some noise on social media, join our Thunderclap campaign, asking President Trump to use his coming speech to Congress to tell it to say no to Medicare benefit cuts. Click here to find out how!

AARP Will Battle Proposals to Gut Medicare: by John Hishta Originally Posted by AARP Advocacy January 2017

medicaid

http://www.aarp.org/politics-society/advocacy/info-2017/aarp-battles-proposals-to-gut-medicare-jh.html?intcmp=AE-POL-ADVO-HMC-SL2-JHM17&cmp=SNO-ADV-FB-AO-MAV&socialid=794778664

If you’ve been following the news lately, you know that President Trump has had a busy first week in the White House. As he signed executive orders, appointed high-level staff and hosted meetings in the Oval Office, our 45th president has made it abundantly clear that he’s eager to deliver on the promises he laid out during his campaign.

At AARP, the promise we’re focused on: his pledge to protect Medicare. 

As you probably know, President Trump repeatedly said during his historic campaign that he would not allow changes to this popular program. “I am going to protect and save your Social Security and your Medicare,” he told voters. “You made a deal a long time ago.”

Since his election, his team has reiterated that vow. This month, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus told CBS News that President Trump has no plans to “meddle” with Medicare. “He made a promise during the campaign that that was something he didn’t want to do,” Priebus said.

Still, up on Capitol Hill, House leaders are scrambling to push ahead with their long-simmering proposal to turn Medicare into a so-called “premium support program.” What that means is they want to implement a voucher system — a fixed-dollar subsidy that beneficiaries would use to buy private insurance. Supporters of this scheme can make it all sound perfectly reasonable, but make no mistake about it: This would end the guarantee of health insurance coverage to American seniors and dramatically increase costs for current and future retirees.

AARP agrees with President Trump that Medicare is a deal made with the American people that cannot be broken. That’s why we’re launching an aggressive campaign to tell Congress that we’ve earned our Medicare benefits with every paycheck and that we’re going to fight against any proposal that would increase costs and risk for seniors and today’s workers.

Here’s what we’ll be up to in the weeks and months ahead.

Meeting with government officials. AARP leaders and lobbyists will be visiting high-level people in the White House and in both houses of Congress, letting them know about our overwhelming opposition to any plan that would privatize Medicare. We’ll be reminding them that the same older Americans who were key in voting President Trump into office are now counting on him to protect them.

Launching an ad campaign. Starting next week, AARP will be running a nationwide television advertising campaign affirming our belief that Americans have earned their benefits and that we’re counting on Congress to protect them.

• Mobilizing the troops. Through our state offices, we’ll be recruiting and supporting volunteers who want to fight with us to protect our hard-earned benefits.  These volunteers will be meeting with their elected officials, collecting signatures for petitions and launching letter-writing campaigns to communicate—in no uncertain terms—our support for keeping Medicare safe and strong.  We’ll be collecting stories from AARP members in every state to share with congress to show them how important this program is to them and their families.  Already, we’ve collected more than 300,000 petitions and stories from members in every state.

To join the fight, sign our petition to tell congress to protect Medicare.

• Educating the public. To people outside of the Beltway bubble, a lot of this policy stuff gets confusing and complicated.  Through our publications, our website and our social media channels, we’ll be working to help you better understand what is happening here in Washington and to see exactly how changes to the program will have a direct impact on you and your family. We’re counting on you to join us in this critical fight.

If you want to be part of that grassroots movement, sign up at aarp.org/getinvolved, Like the AARPAdvocates Facebook page, and follow us on Twitter at @AARPAdvocates.

Keeping Social Security Strong: Originally Posted by AARP December 14, 2016

social-security-card-replacement

Social Security is a contract with American workers that must not be broken. AARP will continue its fight to ensure that current and future generations get the benefits they’ve earned. We have always opposed — and always will oppose — turning Social Security into risky private accounts.

These are the principles that will guide us once there is a legislative debate about the future of this vital program.

  • Achieve long-term solvency and adequacy. Social Security should be sufficiently financed to ensure solvency for the long term. Solvency proposals must ensure meaningful benefits for future generations.
  • Reaffirm Social Security’s fundamental character. Social Security should continue to provide a stable foundation for retirement income. It should remain a partnership among individuals, employers and the federal government. It should also maintain its role in providing protection for workers and families affected by death or disability. All covered workers should contribute equitably to the program and receive benefits.
  • Ensure protections for those most in need. Reforms should take into account the needs of those most reliant on Social Security and those who have difficulty postponing retirement.
  • Recognize the value of Social Security’s core elements. Social Security should continue to reward work. The key elements of Social Security’s successful program structure should be preserved: progressive, defined benefits that cannot be outlived; inflation protection; and benefits related to earnings.
  • Make improvements to reflect today’s workforce. An updated Social Security program must address the economic and demographic changes over the last 80 years to be able to respond to the needs of future beneficiaries and their families.
  • Ensure fairness. Changes to the program should be implemented gradually and should protect current beneficiaries and near retirees.

http://www.aarp.org/politics-society/advocacy/info-2016/where-aarp-stands-on-social-security.html?intcmp=AE-RET-SOSC-YSS-SPOT2

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