Hospice: The Gentle Goodbye A Post by Phyllis

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Pair of angel wings on heavenly blue background

Just after dawn on December 11, 2007, my mother went to God. There was a beautiful peacefulness that fell over that bright, winter morning that seemed perfect. Mom had battled several chronic, debilitating diseases that slowly robbed her of her energy and physical function. Her mind was always clear and her determination to live to see her grandchildren grow and to be with her husband of 59 years was intact. Unfortunately, her body had betraying her. Mom and I were very different. Our life’s journey together could best be described as rocky but the journeys end was her last gift to me.

It began one Thursday evening when I went to visit my parents. Mom had just come home from yet another unavoidable hospitalization. She was out of immediate danger but the likelihood of a relapse and perhaps a challenging surgery was weighing heavy on her mind. She looked tired, frail and was having difficulty speaking. I could sense she was in pain although she characteristically denied it. As I sat down next to her, she looked me right in the eye and in a clear voice said, “I’m too weak to live and too strong to die. I want to go to God.” She went on to explain that she was done taking her medications, had seen her last doctor, and had been to the hospital for the last time. If those declarations weren’t enough she asked me, “What are you going to do?” I knew immediately what she meant. She wanted me to take control of this out-of-control situation. She was entrusting me to help her live her last days in comfort and dignity. She wanted me to ensure that her transition from this life would be as gentle on her husband, children, grandchildren, and family as possible. The best solution was to arrange for hospice services.

I was the nurse in the family and I tried my best to collaborate with mom’s private doctor. We spoke so often that we were on a first name basis for many years. Dr. Bob had grown very fond of my parents and their relation. Our common goal was to keep mom comfortable and out of the hospital. Once my mom’s wishes were clear, my role was then to ensure that those wishes were carried out. First, I helped my dad understand and accept her decision. Next, I call Dr. Bob and explained her request. He was very supportive. We both knew that the only treatment he could offer her was palliative. Clearly, in his medical opinion, mom had less than six months to live. He made all the arrangements from his office. Finally, it was now time to call my sister.  The inevitability of losing our mom to death was here. Thankfully, as in all things pertaining to our parents, we would do this together.

The next twelve days were exceptional. Mom was peaceful with her decision. She enjoyed her days with dad, her visits with her grandchildren, and her messages from family and friends. Although she refused to take any more medication, she did allow the hospice nurse to obtain an order for pain meds so she could be truly comfortable. The hospice team arranged for a priest to come to the house. She received the sacraments of Holy Communion and the Anointing of the Sick. Mom prayed her rosary daily and in a few days slipped into a coma.

For twelve days the angels from hospice supported my family through the process of letting go. They immediately responded to phone calls and answered endless questions. Nurses came daily with supplies, understanding, and support. Their presence and professionalism allowed me the opportunity to be a daughter and not a nurse. On the day that mom died, it was the hospice nurse that we called first. She came right away, pronounced her and walked us through the next step.

The Value of Choice

I have been a nurse for 30 years now. For the majority of my career I practiced in critical care and emergency trauma units. I fought death constantly with knowledge, skill, medications, and technology. I had limited success. During the last 10 years however, my focus has shifted from the length of one’s life to a profound appreciation for the quality of one’s life. High tech healthcare has its place when lives need to be saved. However, death does come to us all.

Hospice services allow for the care of loved ones to take place in safe, familiar surroundings with those they love close by. It empowers the patient through their last days, offers them the respect of honoring their choices and the dignity of privacy. Hospice care assists the family during horrific moments of anger, regret, and grief that under less supportive circumstances could seriously challenge the family’s unity.

It’s important to understand that hospice is a philosophy of care rather than a specific place. It is an option for people whose life expectancy is six months or less. Treatment outcomes are based on pain and symptom relief rather than pursuing curative measures. This approach enables the person to live his/her last days with dignity, grace and support. Hospice affirms life and does not hasten or postpone death. Hospice care focuses on all aspects of physical, social, emotional, and spiritual well-being. There is no age restriction. Anyone in the last stages of life is eligible.

Hospice Care Services

  1. The Interdisciplinary Team: Team members include doctors, nurses, social workers, counselors, home health aides, clergy, therapists, and trained volunteers who offer support based on their areas of specialty. The team provides a comprehensive palliative plan of care aimed at relieving symptoms and giving social, emotional, and spiritual support.
  2. Pain Management and Control of Symptoms: The goal of these services is to help the patient to achieve comfort while allowing them to remain alert enough to make important decisions and remain in control.
  3. Spiritual Care: Since people differ in their spiritual needs and religious beliefs, spiritual care is individualized and never forced.
  4. Home Care and In-patient Care: Hospice care is typically centered in the home. However, it may be necessary to admit the patient to a hospital, extended-care facility, or a hospice in-patient facility. The hospice team can then facilitate this transfer and stay involved in the patient’s treatment. The team can also facilitate resuming in-home care when appropriate.
  5. Family Conferences: These conferences are facilitated by the hospice nurse or social worker. They serve to help family members stay informed about the patient’s condition and what to expect. Family conferences also provide an opportunity and safe forum to share fears, feelings, talk about expectations, and learn about the process of dying.
  6. Bereavement Care: Bereavement is the time of mourning following a loss. The hospice team works with surviving family members to help them through the grieving process. The team can refer family members and friends to other professional services if necessary. Bereavement follow-up services are provided for at least a year after the loved one’s death.

Hospice Care Settings

Approximately 80 to 90 percent of hospice services are provided in the home. But, it is important to know that if the patient’s lives in a nursing home, hospice services can be offered there as well. Hospitals that treat seriously ill patients often have a hospice program too. Some hospitals have a dedicated hospice unit, while others have hospice teams who visit patients in any unit. Lastly, many communities have independently owned hospice centers that feature in-patient care as well as home care hospice services. Independent hospice center can benefit individuals who do not have family caregivers.

Who is eligible for Hospice Care?

  1. You are eligible for hospice care if your doctor has certified your prognosis as not longer than six months. This applies to anyone of any age. Should you be blessed with improved health and no longer need hospice care, you will remain eligible to reapply for hospice care if it is necessary in the future.
  2. While the majority of hospice referrals are cancer related, hospice is not exclusively for cancer patients. People with terminal neuromuscular diseases or any end stage disease can also benefit greatly from the services. It is not uncommon for people with Alzheimer’s to be referred to hospice when they are in the final stages of the illness.

Are Hospice Services Expensive?

Hospice care customarily costs less than conventional care in a hospital or nursing home. This is because with home hospice, you pay only for the specific care that you need. In addition, volunteers may often provide many services at little or no cost, such as telephone support, meal preparation and running errands. Most private insurance plans, Medicare and Medicaid cover the services.

While patients usually pay out-of-pocket for any services not covered by insurance, hospice services can be provided without charge if you have limited funds. If you are unable to pay, most hospices will try to provide care using funds raised from community donations and charitable foundations.

Closing Thoughts

Hospice care truly provides for the gentlest of goodbyes. It allowed me the space and time to be able to cherish my last moments with my mom. I look back on those days in peace not pain and I will always be grateful for the last gift my mom gave me, her trust.

References

National Hospice & Palliative Care Organization

http://www.nhpco.org/custom/directory/main.cfm

Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services

http://www.cms.hhs.gov/center/hospice.asp

National Association for Home Care & Hospice

http://www.nahc.org/

Nutrition and Meal Planning For the Hurried Caregiver a Guest Post by Breanne Fleat

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A caregiver has a vital responsibility of safeguarding their recipient, be it a family member, a friend or as part of their job. Diet and nutrition are some of the basic needs for people requiring such care, in an effort to keep the body strong and energetic. However, diet and nutrition isn’t just important for them, it’s important for you, the care provider too. With our current lives full of deadlines and schedules we usually don’t have the time to design a reliable meal plan or even stick to conventional eating patterns.

Looking after your own health is vital. Being in tip top condition will not only help you feel more energised but you will be encouraging your care recipients to wake up, shape up, eat up and try to live their healthiest life possible.

We all know how easy it is to skip meals, grab the first ready meal in the shop or neck back some energy drink because you just don’t have the time or energy. But, the fact is you will either gain excessive weight or completely ruin your metabolism and health from living this way.

Unfortunately, most conventional meals, do, require adequate preparation and cooking times, which may be almost  impossible in your situation. Fortunately, the following tips are here to help you maintain a healthy life, with consideration of your RDI (Recommended Daily Intake):

Nutrition Shortcuts
your aim is to get all the required nutrients in the day, within a tight schedule. This means that your choices have to be easily digestible and assimilated in the body. The issue you have is that foods such as bread, grains and some proteins require the body to be resting, in order to digest suitably and you just don’t have that time.

As much as I recommend eating whole foods where possible, you can get supplement snacks that contain either one or a combination of nutrients. Instead of picking up a chocolate bar and energy drink, why not head to your local health food store and pick up one of these healthier snacks instead? You may even be able to buy them online. Most meal replacement and supplement snacks are filled with nutrients, lots healthier than normal snacks and reduce the need for spending hours in the kitchen, combining meals.

Micro is Important
For a busy caregiver, you rarely have time to rest and recover. Throughout this time your body stands very high chances of catching infections and a strong immune system is needed. This is where micronutrients come in.

Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals which help keep your body ticking along as it should.  Minerals such as Magnesium and iron, and Vitamins E and C help to detoxify the body, reducing the intensity of fatigue and lowering your risk of infections.

Quick Micro Tip: Try replacing your morning coffee or energy drink with a multivitamin tablet, or better yet add spinach to your usual breakfast, for a hit of iron and vitamin c then have almonds as a magnesium and vitamin e filled mid-morning snack.
Smoothies and Juices
you only need a couple of minutes to create a vitamin packed smoothie consisting of bananas, avocados, strawberries or even melons. The best thing about them is that you can carry them around with you during the day.

In addition, one glass of fruit juice or smoothie can contain at least 3 of your 5 a day, making it a reliable source of micro and macro nutrients, which you need for coping with the day’s commitments.

You can even include fruits with exceptional benefits such as thorn melons, to boost your immunity, especially when attending to a person with communicable diseases.

Quick Smoothie Tip: Try adding spinach to your smoothies – it may sound strange at first, but it’s practically tasteless, yet filled with loads of nutritional benefits.

Meal Planning
Planning what to eat, when and why is hectic for anyone, let alone a caregiver. Not only do you have to try and plan what you and your family will be eating, but it’s highly likely you will have to plan something entirely different for your recipient.

However it’s important to remember the phrase “prior planning prevents poor performance” and don’t we know it. Planning helps you to eliminating the decision-making process, which, for me, ends up in opting for empty snacks or fast foods.

Quick Planning Tip: Buying raw foods in advance will create a reasonable timetable to help you organise around. Plan your fresh meals for the days post shopping trip and plan tinned or frozen foods in the run up to your next supermarket trip

Cook for Freeze
No matter how busy you are, there is ALWAY a little free time, whether it’s early in the morning, late in the evening or on the weekends. This is the best time for batch cooking.

Some people advocate for a cook one-freeze three concept, where you cook an excess of a particular meal and freeze the remainders (usually another 3 servings) while others will cook one main ingredient as use it for 2 or 3 different meals.

Quick Freezer Food Tip: Make sure you set a reminder to get food out of the freezer to defrost ready for the next day otherwise you’ll be more tempted by grab and go snacks.

Change how you cook
Just because you’re personal time is sparse, shouldn’t mean you have to give up on the things you love. Food is a necessity but it’s also there to be enjoyed. Just because slow cooking sounds time consuming, doesn’t mean it is.  Using a slow cooker is a great way to ensure your meal is thoroughly flavoured and cooked with minimal time or effort.

Don’t let your lack of time take away from the enjoyable experience of cooking and eating.

Quick slow cooker tip: There’s usually a slow cooker version of most meals – got something you particularly love? Look up how to slow cook, you may find you love it even more after.

 

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BIO: Breanne is a writer, blogger and chief editor, at ProteinPromo.com. She is keen on providing readers with nutrition and wellness hints and tips to ensure readers are living their healthiest possible life.

 

Make These Urgent Lifestyle Changes To Lower Stroke Risk: A Guest Post by Katrina Rice

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A stroke is not a medical mystery that strikes patients randomly. In fact, 90% of strokes are due to factors like high blood pressure, high cholesterol and other medical risks which are all preventable. Even so, you do not have to train like a professional athlete, eat like a beauty queen or live like a monk to avoid this heart condition.

Whether you are a patient, a patient’s caregiver or simply a person concerned with this risk, by simply making modest alterations to your lifestyle and including wise health habits, you can significantly reduce your risk of stroke. Below are some scientifically-based facts about how to improve your self-care and prevent this devastating brain attack:

Quit Being Sedentary

According to Dr. Hugo Aparicio, a neurologist at Boston Medical Center and also an assistant professor at Boston University School of Medicine, it has been established for many decades that using leisure time to insert regular exercises such as going to the gym, taking long walks, or simply playing sports can significantly reduce the likelihood of getting a stroke.

Therefore, exercise should not be considered an activity mainly for the weekends and instead, it has to be an regular activity at least 30 minutes per day.

Lose The Excess Weight

As Dr. Aparicio points out in his “Framingham Heart Study”, the risk factors of a stroke are not isolated and in fact are all interconnected with the rest of your physical condition.. Exercising does not only reduce fat, it also helps increase the body’s sensitivity to insulin thereby creating a more efficient metabolism. A well-oiled metabolism is needed to prevent your blood sugar from soaring high and put you at risk of diabetes, which may lead to coronary diseases.

For morbidly obese patients, there might be a need to consider weight loss surgeries. And for those who can’t perform physical exercises due to mobility issues, a strict and regulated diet can help. Some people claim and stand by the coleus forskohlii benefits as an effective aid for people who need to lose weight quickly. Using supplementation requires a good amount of research so you ought to be cautious about it.

Apart from stroke and diabetes, this lifestyle change can also prevent other metabolic disorders, cancer and delay the onset of dementia among elderly people, and we all will get older, assuming we survive long enough.

Always Regulate Your Blood Pressure

According to Martin O’Donnell, the lead author of the published study in the medical journal “The Lancet”, you can easily stay on top of your blood pressure by using readily available equipment.

In developed countries such as the US, people have easy access to devices that quickly read their blood pressure, whether it be readily available at the supermarket or purchasing an inexpensive BP apparatus for home use. Individuals nowadays can also get a little help from doctors by simply asking for prescription to immediately help lower their blood pressure.

Eat A Healthy and Balanced Diet

Limiting red meat, avoiding processed food and eliminating fried and salty foods works best in preventing stroke. In fact, there are more precise dietary guidelines you can follow if you want to be very keen on preventing this deadly condition. A balanced diet comprised of low-carb vegetables, fruits, and fish – as protein is the most ideal. If much help is needed, seek a nutritionist’s expertise.

Aside from the vitamins and minerals your health receives from such whole foods, fish like tuna, mackerel, salmon and sardines are great sources of omega-3, an essential fatty acid your body needs to prevent heart diseases. However, there are a number of individuals who can’t include fish in their regular diet so taking fish oil capsules as supplements is also an alternative prevention.

Quit Smoking

Smoking does not only affect the lungs and the liver, it also infects your heart. Smoking is one of the culprits of elevated LDL (bad cholesterol). Too much cholesterol in your bloodstream can create arterial obstructions and create blood clots.

These tiny clots – if left untreated, can travel to your brain and cause the stroke you were trying to prevent in the first place. So if you are making a lifestyle change, begin here. You can quit smoking by asking help from your physician. They can offer you alternatives on how you can successfully quit smoking.

Treat Existing Heart Conditions

Stroke and other heart diseases are somehow interrelated. One major risk factor is having atrial fibrillation – a heart rhythm problem that many Americans are affected with. With regular checkups, individuals who have this heart condition can get regular treatments and anti-clotting medications.

According to Dr. Aparicio, you don’t need to do everything all at once. It’s a matter of addressing the top contributors to the risk of stroke – such as high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol levels and smoking. As soon as you can see minor improvements in your health, you can start incorporating exercises and other active physical routines.

There is this unrealistic expectation that you have to have the right body weight, the ideal diet and the life of a monk to prevent a stroke. But as what Dr. O’Donnell says, “The risk factors of stroke are a continuum. So if you can’t apply all the preventative measures, modest changes will reduce your risk of stroke”.

Bio of the Author:

Katrina Rice

Katrina Rice is a mom and a freelance writer. She strongly believes in the concept of holistic wellness through healthy and natural living, travelling and immersing one’s self in new activities. A self-proclaimed health enthusiast, she hopes to inspire more people to do the same.

 

 

 

Talks with Greg; Conversations In Caregiving – Sheila Warnock

 

For more than fifteen years, EmblemHealth has been a leader in the arena of family caregiving. Talks with Greg; Conversations In Caregiving is a video series designed to explore topics with experts involved for many years in caregiving. Every episode will have a new guest from a different facet of the professional caregiving world who has been a longtime partner with EmblemHealth.

OUR FOCUS IS EDUCATION

Caregiving will touch everyone at some point in life yet it often remains in the shadows of the public/media spotlight because it does not make for a picture that melts the heart but rather one to be avoided at all costs. Not so much because people are uncaring but rather frightened and uneducated.

Sometimes, friends disappear when illness strikes because they don’t know “what to do or what to say.”

And often the person needing support and their caregiver hide the fact and carry the entire burden alone rather than admit they could use help.

STC’s focus is on educating caregivers, patients and their concerned friends, neighbors, co-workers and acquaintances about the profound personal benefits to everyone involved through sharing the care.

Because we find that family caregivers often tend to be isolated and therefore less likely to reach out for help, we target professionals, and faith communities. They see caregivers and patients on a daily basis and are best situated to identify those who could benefit from a STC group. We also seek to reach working caregivers through corporations.

https://sharethecare.org/

Tel: 212 991-9688

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

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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.

Answers Your Top Medicare Coverage Questions A Guest by GoHealth

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Whether you’re a first-time Medicare buyer or a long-time enrollee, finding the right Medicare coverage can be confusing.

In an effort to help you find the right combination of plans, we’re answering the top consumer Medicare questions, including what your first step should be, your prescription drug coverage options, and much more.

Top 10 Medicare Coverage Questions

1. If I have Part A, how do I add Part B?

In order to complete your Original Medicare coverage and enroll in Part B, you must contact the Social Security office and actively enroll. Once you have both Parts A & B, you can complete your Medicare coverage with additional options.

2. What is a Medicare guaranteed issue right, and do I have it?

A Medicare guaranteed issue right is your right in certain situations to be granted a Medicare Supplement plan – or Medigap policy – regardless of certain other details concerning your health. In these specific situations, insurance companies must sell you a Medicare Supplement plan, cover all your pre-existing conditions, and not charge you more for a policy because of any health problems. Most commonly, you may have a guaranteed issue right if you lose coverage or your current health coverage changes.

3. If I only have Part A, what other types of Medicare can I get?

If you only have Part A, you are eligible to also get Part B. You cannot move forward with exploring other types of Medicare coverage until you have both Parts A & B.

4. Can I enroll in Part D without having Part B?

Unfortunately, you cannot. In order to move forward with additional Medicare options (including Part D), you must first have both Parts A & B.

5. What are my coverage options when it comes to prescription drugs?

If you need prescription drug coverage, you have a few different options. Once you get Parts A & B, you can choose to switch to Medicare Advantage, which sometimes offers prescription drug coverage. You can also choose to enroll in a Prescription Drug plan – or Part D – which offers different coverage options depending on which drugs you take.

6. How do I find my Medicare claim number?

You can call Social Security, and a representative there can help you locate your Medicare claim number.

7. How do I enroll in Medicaid?

You should call your state’s Medicaid department if you’re interested in Medicaid health insurance coverage.

8. What is the difference between Medicare Supplement and Medicare Advantage plans?

Medicare Supplement – or Medigap – plans help you complete your coverage. They can help you pay for health care costs that may not be covered by Original Medicare, such as copayments, coinsurance, and deductibles. Medicare Advantage is a private health insurance option that is required to cover all the same benefits as Parts A & B, plus additional benefits, such as prescription drug coverage. You cannot have a Medicare Supplement plan and Medicare Advantage at the same time.

9. Why would I enroll in Medicare Advantage instead of Original Medicare? Aren’t they the same thing?

While they are similar, there are also differences between Medicare Advantage and Original Medicare. By law, Medicare Advantage plans are required to cover all the same benefits as Original Medicare, or Parts A & B.

However, there may be some differences in how you pay your out-of-pocket costs with a Medicare Advantage plan, or you may have a smaller or larger deductible. There also may be some differences in the coverage itself. For example, while Original Medicare does not cover prescription drugs, some Medicare Advantage plans do offer that coverage.

10. How do I avoid gaps in my Medicare coverage?

There are many different types of Medicare coverage available to help you avoid any gaps in your coverage. It’s important to explore all of your options and coverage combinations with a licensed agent.

Call 1-877-568-1851 – TTY 711 to speak with one of our licensed sales agents. To enroll in Original Medicare, please contact your local Social Security office.

Medicare has neither reviewed nor endorsed this information.

Related Articles:

GoHealth Answers Your Top Medicare Coverage Questions posted by GoHealth

4 Self-Care Tips for Family Caregivers A Guest Post by Rebecca Kennedy

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Family caregivers who neglect to take care of their own needs can quickly experience burn-out and exhaustion. Here are several important self-care tips for family caregivers to keep in mind.

There are many warnings signs that your senior loved one may be on their way to needing in-home care, such as difficulties in mobility, disorganization in the house, and forgetting to take important medications. As these signs become more and more apparent, family members can be faced with a difficult choice regarding who they will appoint as the primary caregiver of their aging loved one. In many cases, family members themselves may choose to step in as their loved one’s primary caregiver. This is a noble and selfless decision, but family caregivers who neglect to take care of their own needs can quickly experience burn-out and exhaustion.

Here are several important self-care tips for family caregivers to keep in mind.

Continue working in your current job if possible.

It’s easy for caregiving to transition into a full-time position, but many experts strongly urge family caregivers to continue working in their current job position. Not only does this provide a steady stream of income for both you and your senior loved one to live off of, but it also allows you to maintain a part of your identity that is unrelated to caregiving.

This can help prevent burn-out and provide an outlet for family caregivers. If working full-time hours simply isn’t possible in conjunction with your caregiving duties, consider asking your employee if you can cut your hours down to part-time work.

Develop hobbies that help you relieve stress.

Depending on their unique circumstances, family caregivers may feel stressed out, anxious, afraid, lonely, and even resentful. These are all normal and common emotions to experience as a caregiver, but it’s important to find an appropriate outlet that can help you stay on track mentally and emotionally.

Some options include:

  • Yoga, stretching, or meditation
  • Daily walks
  • Gardening
  • Journaling
  • Talking with a close friend

The best outlets are those that can be enjoyed from the comfort of your own home, where you can still keep an eye on your loved one. If you are worried that your negative emotions are beginning to take over your mental health, seek out professional help for yourself.

Don’t forget about your own physical health.

When you spend the majority of your days helping a loved one take care of themselves, it can be easy to start putting their health needs above your own. But if you allow your own health to go unchecked and un-monitored, you may in turn be compromising your abilities to adequately care for your loved one.

The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise, which could be as simple as a 20 minute walk every morning. Doing your best to carve out a small amount of time every day for physical activity can help you stay energized and motivated.

It’s also important to get regular check-ups and receive annual immunizations, which can help you feel your best and alleviate concerns about your own health.

Don’t feel guilty about asking for and accepting help.

When it comes down to it, there are only so many hours in a day and it’s just not realistic to think that you can “do it all.” It’s so important to know what your physical, mental, and emotional limits are, and to not feel guilty when you’re unable to exceed those limits.

Asking for help when you need it isn’t a sign of failure; it’s a sign of strength. If your friend or neighbor asks if there is anything that they can do to help, tell them what you need! If you need someone to stay with your relative while you attend to an appointment, or if you need someone to bring you some groceries while you deal with a mini-emergency at home, don’t be afraid to ask someone you trust.

Perhaps the biggest challenge of all for family caregivers is when the time comes when they need to start seeking out professional help. Depending on your loved one’s health condition and your level of training, it may be inevitable that you will need to bring in hired help. Keep in mind that you’re not “giving up” – you’re simply doing what is in the best interest of your loved one.

What self-care tips do you practice as a family caregiver? What has proved to be the most effective for you?

Four Programs Designed to Give Caregivers a Helping Hand A Guest Post by Max Gottlieb

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Too often we only think of the person receiving care when we think of caregiving. If you do a quick Google search for the word caregiver, you’ll find a vast amount of information on how to hire professional help, or how to best to give care for certain conditions, but only a handful of sites dedicated to providing information about caring for the caregiver. We’d do well to remember that caregiving is a two way street.

As a caregiver, you’re already the type of person who is willing to put someone else’s needs first, but that doesn’t mean you should disregard your own. It’s not selfish to think about yourself and when you take care of you, the positive benefit is transferred to your loved one. While there are many ways to care for yourself, from exercise to meditation, I’m going to focus on a few outside resources available to caregivers. Caregivers are either unfamiliar with these programs or simply overlook them because they do not think the programs apply to their situation. However, these resources are designed to help and should be taken advantage of.

Respite Care:

The first and one of the most commonly used resources is respite care. Respite care comes in two forms, either in-home or out of home services. In-home care allows the person in need of services to remain in their home and it can be provided by volunteers or paid professionals. For short term, non-medical tasks like companionship or recreation, you should be able to find many local organizations and non-profits with volunteers eager to help.

For assistance that is more care intensive or medically necessary, there are agencies that can send staff to the patient’s home. Staff members can stay in the home for short periods of time and will assist with ADLs, homemaker services, and even skilled health care. Depending on medical and financial circumstances, the state may help pay for services so it’s worth looking into. For out of home services, there are adult day care centers or residential programs, which we will discuss next.

Adult Day Care:

The usual adult day care participant uses private funds and lives with their grownup children or spouse. Since day care is generally private pay, this option may not be for everyone, but if applicable, it can offer much needed relief. As a caregiver, you still have personal obligations, job obligations, or maybe you just need a break. If you need personal time, adult day care will provide you with peace of mind in knowing your loved one is in a safe environment.

There are three main types of adult day care: social, health, and memory day care. Social day care supplies meals, recreation, group interactions, and limited health-related services. Adult day health centers provide care for people who need intensive care and supervision. Seniors in adult day health centers usually require a level of care otherwise found in a nursing home. The third type, memory care, is devoted to those with dementia or other forms of memory impairment.

Even though residents must pay per day, it is far less expensive than moving a senior into any type of care home. If the day care is a health or Alzheimer’s facility and the care recipient meets certain financial and medical qualifications, Medicaid may pay for part of the bill. Also, if your loved one has long-term care insurance, the plan may cover adult day care so make sure to call the provider.

Residential Programs:
Residential programs are similar to adult day care in that the senior receives care out of their own home, but residential programs offer around-the-clock care for whatever length of time you need. Nursing homes, group homes, and other specialized facilities provide care, giving caregivers 24-hour relief. There are both emergency and planned services, but many caregivers only use residential programs when there’s an emergency. To avoid making a quick choice based on stressful circumstances, however, it’s better to plan ahead and try care providers before there’s been an emergency. That way, in the event a situation becomes dire, you are comfortable with a care provider and know whom to turn to. Certain long-term care insurance plans and veteran’s programs may help with costs so be sure to look into these options if they’re applicable.

Community Waivers and Medicaid:
Many people know that Medicaid offers long-term care services, but aren’t aware that can include community waivers. HCBS waivers (home and community based services) consist of respite care, home health, homemaker services, adult day health services, personal care, and more. The goal of HCBS is to allow seniors to age in place, longer and more safely. The only downside to Medicaid is that it is not easy to qualify for; applicants must meet stringent medical and financial guidelines. Eligibility varies by state, but see here for a nationwide Medicaid guide. There are unique programs in each state and most states have programs beyond what I just listed. You can call your local Medicaid office or ombudsman to find out what’s available in your area.

Max Gottlieb works with Senior Planning in Phoenix, Arizona. Senior Planning gives free assistance to seniors and their families, helping them find benefits or deciding which type of senior care is most suitable for their situation.