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6 Easy Ways To Stay Organized and Productive as a Caregiver A Guest Post by Maggie Drag

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Being a caregiver is arguably one of the most noble professions out there – but it can also take a serious toll on your personal life. Here are 6 work-life balance tips to help you reduce stress, and ultimately make you the best caregiver for not only your clients, but for yourself, too!

1.) Plan Ahead

If you have multiple clients, or work as a live-in caregiver, keeping track of their favorite foods, interests, and medications may seem like a job in itself. Keeping a daily planner can help! If you’re constantly on your phone, try downloading an app like Fantastical, ReQall and Evernote. They are super easy to use and will allow you to set up alerts and various notifications in case you’d like to be reminded of their doctor appointments, and even your own appointments with your caregiving agency, for example. At the end of the day, keeping on top of your clients’ needs and preferences will save you a lot of stress and in the future.

2.) De-Clutter

From old receipts and grocery lists, you may have trouble remembering which documents belongs to who! Here are some easy ways to help both yourself and your client, and try doing it together and make it fun while you’re at it! First, organize your bills and clients’ bills in a binder for safe-keeping. Next, divide up your coupons into a handy coupon organizer for easy access. Finally, keep track of your own caregiving documents, from contracts, care plans and emergency contacts in a folder. Try organizing each folder by client if you have multiple, and keep a small notepad to jot down any other helpful information.

3.) Think Ahead

As a caregiver, you know that life as you know it may change in a second, whether it be your client’s health, a sudden re-assignment, and not to mention changes in your personal life. First, make sure you have a list of emergency contacts (including your agency) prepared in case you are unable to help your client or need to be relieved at any point. Next, be sure you have a plan set up for a medical emergency based on your client’s health history. Keeping track of their food allergies for one is a simple but critical step to preventing emergencies in the future.

4.) Reconnect with Loved Ones

If you’ve lost touch with a close friend, since you started another assignment, remember this: Caring about your job is one thing, but caring about your relationships is far more important in the long run. Call your distant relative via Facetime – you could even plan a day where you help your client Facetime their grandchildren after you connect with your own family!

You carry a great responsibility as a caregiver, and while your friends and family should understand that you are often very busy, don’t forget to show them some appreciation and keep in touch!

5.) “Me” Time

Being a caregiver takes a lot of work, but it is incredibly rewarding and allows you to build meaningful relationships and touch so many lives. However, as much as you may love your job, don’t forget to carve out some time for yourself each day– even if for only an hour, to do some gardening, watch some old movies, surf the internet, and even go out for a relaxing day at the spa. If you are a live-in caregiver, ask your client if they’d like to join in on the fun! This will help you stay productive and engaged in your assignment in a much more meaningful way.

6.) Take Care of Yourself

As much as you care about your job as a caregiver, don’t forget that the first step to being an amazing caregiver is taking good care of yourself. Keep up with exercise, eat a balanced diet but make sure you’re getting the necessary rest between assignments first and foremost- especially if you work overnight. Sleep allows your body and brain to replenish, not to mention stay alert on important assignments and throughout the day if your client needs extra supervision when taking medications, for example. Losing sleep can ultimately take a serious toll on your health in the long run, so don’t be afraid to ask your agency about rescheduling your assignments or for tips on how to manage your sleep schedule to help you be your best for your clients.

About the author:

Maggie Drag is the owner and founder of a homecare agency located in central Connecticut. With over 27 years of experience in the industry, Maggie shares her knowledge and tips about care at home.  Visit homecare4u.com  to learn more about Maggie Drag.

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.

 

THANK YOU SeeSee. Florence “SeeSee” Rigney, RN is the oldest working nurse…!

 

Florence “SeeSee” Rigney is the oldest working nurse in the United States. Last May, a video of her 90th birthday celebration went viral. The recording captures her in blue scrubs and a bedazzled “happy birthday” tiara holding back tears among her cheering colleagues. For 70 years she’s worked on and off as an operating room nurse at Tacoma General Hospital. When she first started, she got paid $115 a month. These days, she gets a ton of attention for being a high-energy compassionate nurse who still moves down the halls of the surgical unit faster than women a third her age. In 2015, Rigney was on The Dr. Oz Show and nominated for a March of Dimes Nurse of the Year award. Her birthday video was shared by The Huffington Post, The Today Show and BuzzFeed. She admits she feels a bit like a local celebrity even though she’s bashful about all the publicity. “I feel very honored to think that all of this has happened to me just because I turned 90, and I’m still here!”

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

It Is My Pleasure To Introduce You To: Daughters Unite

 

 

Daughters Unite was created for caring daughters by caring daughters who face the challenges of being sandwiched between their spouses, kids and/or careers and the disabled and aging adults in their lives.

Share your story and help a fellow daughter reduce the chaos and craziness in her life! Send a quick “I’m interested” email to Tell My Story. We’ll get back to you within 24 hours with all the details about how to submit.

We love introducing our friends to one another. Daughters Unite meet Daughterhood. Founder, Anne Tumlinson has spent the last two decades working on improving how America cares for its frailest, most vulnerable older adults. Check out – www.daughterhood.org.

THINK ABOUT IT.

What if there was one trusted place where you were heard, where you were understood, where you were validated, where you were supported and where you could immediately get answers to the never ending questions that come up  when caring for an aging parent or other disabled adult loved one?

 

Direct Message Us on FB, Twitter & Instagram

Email us @ info@daughtersunite.com

Twitter: @DaughtersUnite

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

 

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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:

Join AARP Today — Receive Access To Exclusive Information, Benefits and Discounts

The Best Medical Alert Systems

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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.

Take Action

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.

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