Category Archives: Covered Bridge

Getting Older with Grace

Covered Bridge: How Do You Know You’re Getting Older?

When I started working in the Medicare industry 15 years ago, I was ignorant about Medicare and insurance of any kind really. It seemed like a growth industry to me.

15 year later, I have a much more personal interest in the subject, having quite a few family members over 65. This aging thing is not as easy as I thought it would be. Things change.

I’ve made progress in the meantime. I also used to think being online and connected was not that necessary. Now I couldn’t live without it. Please note, the perception that older people don’t like to use technology is false. According to Pew Research Center, 4 in 10 seniors own smartphones, more than double the share that did so in 2013.

I have an almost 8-month-old and an 8-year-old and have “mom brain” most days. I used to take extra time getting ready for a big event or even a regular day. When I was done, I would look in the mirror and say, “You look very well put together.”  Now, when I go through all the same steps, I look in in the mirror and say, “You look clean.”

When did I stop hearing, “You look great,” and start hearing, “You look great for your age”? Probably around the same time folks went from saying, “I like your new glasses,” to “Your new glasses take 5 years off your face.” Ugh.

I’ve learned not to ask anyone how old they are unless they are under the age of 12. Even then, I would think twice about it. If anyone forces you to guess how old they are, make a fair guess, and then subtract 15 years. No one ever complains.

The Population Reference Bureau says that from 2014 to 2060, the number of people age 65 and older in the United States will more than double from 46 million to over 98 million. Surprisingly, people over age 85 are the fastest growing 10-year age group of the older population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Aging is tough. Often, we have to forgo many of the activities of our youth, such as:

  • Driving a car
  • Living independently
  • Eating anything you want
  • Staying up all night
  • Getting a haircut
  • Worrying about the small stuff (Oh wait, that’s a good thing.)

While I still have a way to go before some of these activities are things I have to forgo, I try to remember those family and friends that are maturing and reaching a stage where they may have to give up some of these activities. I try to show as much grace and dignity to them as I hope someone will show to me. Maturing is tough.

 

Morgan Gunder is a community and broker liaison for Reid Health Alliance. Born in the South and raised in the Midwest, she is a wife and mother with a passion for traveling, learning, and technology.

Writing a Letter to Yourself

Covered Bridge: What I Know Now

I have this idea, an idea that once changed how I handle and approach things that has stuck with me to this day. The advice, you ask?  

“I cannot say anything to make you feel any better in this season of life you are in, but I promise you time heals all things.”

While this advice seems so simple and is maybe even heard frequently, when you are 17, it is anything but.

This advice came from my great-aunt. She wrote to me (you know, actually on paper, with a pen, mailed with a stamp she purchased via USPS, and not in a text or email?) A meaningful letter that she took her precious time to send to me personally because I meant something to her. She has since passed, and I still regret not emphasizing just how much it really meant to me even after all these years.

While I know this may not be everyone’s cup of tea and is a little outside my own box, this idea might help change the way my daughters, niece, nephews, or grandkids view or handle a certain situation one day (should I be so lucky).

I was 17 and lost two friends in a vehicle accident, and that letter where she told me about a tragic loss she had is what gave me hope I would eventually make it through.

So here is the idea. Have you ever considered writing a letter to your younger self?  Your title: What I Know Now.

What if this letter could help someone through a tough time? What if this letter is something you leave behind to someone you love or is able to help in their time of need?

This will require you to remember your past while considering the present, written in an encouraging voice with compassion and understanding during a certain stage of your life so that another person can understand the message or theme.

Think about a scenario from when you were a particular age and how you would change that. What advice would you give to your younger self to do things differently? We all have a unique story to tell because we are all unique in our own ways.

Someone somewhere wants to hear all about it.

 

Morgan Gunder is a community and broker liaison for Reid Health Alliance. Born in the South and raised in the Midwest, she is a wife and mother with a passion for traveling, learning, and technology.

Happy Medicare New Year

Steps to a Happy “Medicare” New Year

Winter preparations are done. Winter festivals have ended, and end-of-year holiday celebrations are over. Just when you think you can sit back and relax, there is still one last item you may need to consider.

If you made any Medicare changes during the past Annual Enrollment Period (October 15 to December 7), there are some actions you can take that may help you have a happy Medicare new year.

If you enrolled in a new plan or your plan had changes during the Annual Enrollment Period, you should make sure you’ve received your new member ID card. This card contains the newest info for your 2019 care. Be sure to show your new ID card to the doctor’s office and pharmacist on your first visit of the new year so that they have your newest information on file. It’s also worth mentioning that with the new cards for the new year can come new deductibles (depending on the plan you choose), which start over at the beginning of the year.

If you decided to stay with Original Medicare, you’ll still use your Medicare card for hospital and doctor services. If you have not received the new Medicare card that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services began issuing in April 2018, be on the lookout because they are all scheduled to be mailed by April 2019.

If you joined a Medicare prescription drug plan that works with Original Medicare, then the plan will mail you a card so you can fill your prescriptions. If you joined a Medicare Advantage plan (like an HMO, PPO, or POS), you’ll also get a new card to use for both healthcare visits (doctor and hospital) and for picking up your prescriptions.

If you need medical care or need to fill a prescription before you receive the ID card but after the effective coverage date, you may be able to use other proof of plan membership. Some examples are the welcome letter you got from the plan or even your enrollment confirmation number and the plan name and phone number.

If you elected to have your plan premium withheld from your Social Security check, don’t be alarmed if you don’t see it deducted right away. It may take up to 3 months from the time you made the premium withhold request before you start seeing your premium withheld from your Social Security payment.

The 2019 year is a great time to take advantage of your one-time “Welcome to Medicare” or annual wellness visit your plan offers to you. This benefit is usually no cost to you! It is designed as a preventive measure to help you take charge of your health, be advised of future needed preventive services, and establish a baseline for personalized care. And speaking of preventive measures, many Medicare Advantage plans come with a fitness benefit or provide access to physical fitness activities at no cost to you.

I wish you all a happy and healthy 2019!

Morgan Gunder is a community and broker liaison for Reid Health Alliance. Born in the South and raised in the Midwest, she is a wife and mother with a passion for traveling, learning, and technology.

Family Time for the Holidays

Covered Bridge: If Only Time Stood Still

As a child with a birthday in December (of course shortly followed by Christmas), I can say I always wished the first part of December away. I was so excited about all the festivities to come that I merely wanted the days to pass until the real excitement began.

Even though I share a birthday with my twin sister and some of our presents consisted of sharing, I wanted nothing more than to see what gifts we might receive for our birthday. Fast forward 10 days, and all we wanted to see were the gifts we would receive for Christmas, hoping not to have to share those.

That’s usually the way kids work, right?

Now, as an adult, my daughter’s birthday is 2 days from mine, which means I care less about what I get and more about what we get to do for her. My husband and I rarely get gifts for one another. We find much more joy in giving to others than receiving ourselves.

These days, we look forward to making cakes for birthdays and favorite meals for our kids. We look forward to family coming to town to visit and trying our best to get thoughtful gifts for them that we hope they’ll enjoy.

We enjoy the extra company and chaos that ensues with it. We spend more time sitting around the table chatting with family and less time worrying about the cleanup of a meal we spent most of the day preparing. After all, it will be there tomorrow. Our family may not be.

It’s also important to remember that while some of us think of joy and family during the holiday season, others feel isolation and anxiety, and the shorter, darker days and cold weather don’t help. We often forget about those who may be living alone. I encourage you this holiday season to take an extra moment to make time for the ones who may need it more than you know.

During the holidays, which is oftentimes the only time we get to be with distant family, take the extra time to not worry about what can be put off until tomorrow. Spend it talking, communicating, and interacting. We rush through life as children to get to the next exciting moment, but what if the most exciting moments now are the ones shared over a meal and simple conversations?

Happy Holidays!

Morgan Gunder is a community and broker liaison for Reid Health Alliance. Born in the South and raised in the Midwest, she is a wife and mother with a passion for traveling, learning, and technology.

Honor a Veteran This Veterans Day

Covered Bridge: Honor and Comfort a Veteran

My aunt is a quilter. If you know a quilter or happen to be one yourself, you know that this is more of a way of life than a hobby.

Every important occasion in our family merits a quilt. Getting married? Quilt. Having a baby? Quilt. Everywhere you turn from in town to in the country, you see barn quilts on sheds, and those patterns inspire her.

November is an important month in our country because it’s the month we celebrate Veterans Day. How do you recognize Veterans Day? Of course my aunt would say, “I’ve got a quilt for that!”

The Quilts of Valor Foundation is an organization that seeks out veterans to honor by making and presenting them with a handmade quilt. Its motto is “Quilting to Honor and Comfort.” I like that. Here is a group of people with a passion for sewing something with their own two hands to make someone else feel better. To date, Quilts of Valor has given away more than 193,000 quilts.

Let’s go back to the question, “How do you recognize Veterans Day?” Or better yet, do you recognize a veteran?

We live in a time in our nation’s history when a veteran can look so many different ways. Our nation’s veterans are handsome 90-year-old WWII veterans, hardworking Korean War veterans, proud but quiet Vietnam veterans, or even the 25-year-old grandson or granddaughter of someone you know.

The men and women who serve our country have done so in my name, in your name. How can you recognize them today? How can you say, “I see you and understand what you mean to this country?” We can’t all make quilts. But we can buy cups of coffee. We can shake hands, or if appropriate, give a hug. We can all say thank you.

Here are some organizations that reach out to veterans. See if you can find one in your community and offer whatever special skill you have to their cause. If you bake, bake. If you woodwork, woodwork. Share yourself with a veteran so they know you care. It’s the very least any of us can do to honor and comfort the heroes around us.

Morgan Gunder is a community and broker liaison for Reid Health Alliance. Born in the South and raised in the Midwest, she is a wife and mother with a passion for traveling, learning, and technology.

Changing with the Seasons for AEP

Covered Bridge: It’s That Time Again: AEP

There is a lot of publicity to remind folks to check their smoke detector batteries when daylight saving time is over. It makes sense to tie that chore to something that occurs on a regular basis (why not Valentine’s Day?), but I almost always forget to do it.

It seems there are always other more pressing duties on the to-do list, like finishing up in the yard, switching out those summer clothes, or putting up the storm windows (if you are unlucky enough to still have storm windows).

Another reminder comes along this time of year. Medicare-eligible individuals’ mailboxes are bombarded with mail for the Annual Enrollment Period (AEP). While it can be annoying and overwhelming, it’s incredibly important for them to review their healthcare coverage every year to see if their current plan still meets their needs. The days of one-size-fits-all are over.

If you are a caregiver, a change in your loved one’s situation may indicate the need for different coverage. Have they started traveling more? Less? Have their medication needs changed, like new prescriptions or treatments for a chronic illness? Did their primary care provider retire or relocate? Did their current plan change, and does it still suit their needs? It’s time to explore their options.

We know you are busy, so let’s look at a few resources.

A great one is Medicare.gov. This site is easy to navigate and packed with information. You can check the plan’s Star Rating while you’re at it.

Another great resource is your state’s Department on Aging. It offers impartial counseling services for people who are Medicare-eligible.

Your local Area Agency on Aging is a gold mine. Find one near you at n4a.org.

HealthAllianceMedicare.org is also easy to navigate and gives a nice overview of the options we offer in your county.  

The AEP for 2019 is October 15 through December 7. The sooner you review your needs and gather information, the better equipped you will be to make an informed choice. When you’re done, you can move onto something really important, like cleaning out the junk drawer in the kitchen (like that’s going to happen).

Morgan Gunder is a community and broker liaison for Reid Health Alliance. Born in the South and raised in the Midwest, she is a wife and mother with a passion for traveling, learning, and technology.

Enjoying the Present

Covered Bridge: Waiting for Fall and Enjoying the Present

It’s finally September, which means kids are officially back to school and a return to the routines of a new school year. I often find myself mildly enjoying September. The weather starts to cool, and winter time is right around the corner. But I often want to rush through September to get to October, which is the month I really love.

I love the fall, and the entire month of October is one of my favorite times of year. I love the crispness in the air. I love the changing colors in nature. I love going to the orchards with my family, getting a fresh, hot pumpkin donut, and maybe even taking a hay ride. I love carving pumpkins with my kids. I also love the flavors of fall.

I pretty much love anything and everything fall.

But as I was reflecting to write this piece, a thought came to my mind: enjoy where you’re at. This caused me to pause for a few minutes and to really reflect on what that means. I want to rush to the fall, but maybe I need to enjoy the end of summer.

Maybe I need to take my kids to the local fruit stand and get the end-of-summer harvest of peaches, apples, or watermelon before fall starts and we don’t have that option. Maybe I need to plan a summer picnic or outdoor activity before it gets too cold outside to really be comfortable in the evening. Maybe we need to take one last camping trip or go fishing. Maybe I need to actually enjoy the season or time that I’m in instead of wanting it to be another one.

I think so often we are rushing or waiting for the next event or milestone (or season, for me), that we don’t enjoy where we’re at right now. We are just rushing, trying to get through, and I don’t know if that’s really the best thing to do.

For me, I need to slow down and enjoy the month at hand, and not wish I were in another month, time, or place. Now, I’m actually excited that September is here, that summer is still here, and that I can still take in all the goodness of the summer’s ending with the ones that I love.

And I can still be excited for the coming of fall.

Morgan Gunder is a community and broker liaison for Reid Health Alliance. Born in the South and raised in the Midwest, she is a wife and mother with a passion for traveling, learning, and technology.