Tag Archives: Area Agencies on Aging

Fight Caregiver Fatigue

Long View: Nobody Is an Island – Recognizing and Addressing Caregiver Fatigue

The holidays are supposed to be a time for family gatherings, parties, traveling, and opportunities to laugh and relax with the ones you love. For some, though, the holidays have different associations, like stress, anxiety, and isolation.

Caregivers can often feel stressed during the holiday season. While others are enjoying this time of year, caregivers may feel isolated as they focus on the care of a loved one. Caregivers selflessly provide around-the-clock, unpaid care to seniors and people with disabilities. They are tasked with accompanying their loved one to medical appointments, managing their medications, and handling their financial affairs, all while balancing their own obligations.

Caregivers also often overlook their own mental, emotional, and physical health. As a result, they can feel a sense of isolation, like they’re alone on an island. This feeling is called caregiver fatigue.

Mitchell Forrest, a social worker at Central Illinois Agency on Aging in Peoria, provided insight into caregiver fatigue. “Caregivers who feel a sense of hopelessness, are socially withdrawn, not sleeping, and experiencing illness and weight loss, may be suffering from caregiver fatigue and should seek out supports to help them manage their stress,” he said.

If left untreated, caregiver fatigue can take such a physical and mental toll that they can no longer care for their loved one.

But caregivers can find a network of encouragement through support groups. National organizations, like the Alzheimer’s Association, offer local support groups for caregivers of people with different diagnoses.

Respite services can be another vital resource. For a fee, nursing homes and adult day services offer a safe, supportive environment where the loved one will be in trusted hands for a few hours or longer, so the caregiver can rest. In-home personal aides can also provide additional assistance to the caregiver.

While no resource is a remedy for the anxiety of caring for a sick loved one, caregivers should know that they are not alone. Talking to someone is invaluable, and there are many counselors who specialize in the needs of caregivers.

Area Agencies on Aging offer resources and referrals to support seniors, people with disabilities, and their caregivers. If you feel alone on the island, send a signal and help will find you.

Chris Maxeiner is a community liaison with Health Alliance. His background is in the fields of healthcare and government programs. His favorite superhero is Batman, and he is an avid Chicago sports fan (Bears, Bulls, Blackhawks, and White Sox).

Medicare Advantage Mythbusting

Long View: Medicare Advantage Truths Might Just Change Your Mind

As I travel around the Illinois countryside, I hear the same misinformation about Medicare Advantage over and over. To tackle some of that, here’s a Q and A.

Question: When I join a Medicare Advantage plan do I lose my Medicare coverage?

Answer: No. If you have a Medicare Advantage HMO or PPO plan, a private health insurance company that has a contract with Medicare, like Health Alliance Medicare, provides the services instead of Original Medicare. People who disenroll from Medicare Advantage plans revert to Original Medicare. In either case, no one loses Medicare coverage.

 

Question: Will I be able to stay with my current doctors?

Answer: Probably, especially with Health Alliance Medicare. That’s why it’s important to check any plan’s provider directory to confirm your doctors work with the plan. People who select a Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) plan can use out-of-network providers, but they typically pay more when they receive services.

 

Question: We travel and might need to use the emergency room. Will Medicare Advantage plans only cover me for emergency care when I’m close to home?

Answer: No. Medicare Advantage plans cover out-of-area emergency and urgently needed care.

 

Question: If something serious happens and we need lots of services, could we predict how much we would pay for care?

Answer: Yes. Medicare Advantage plans have an annual Out-of-Pocket Maximum (OOPM), also called a Yearly Limit. When a Medicare Advantage member reaches that limit, the health plan pays 100 percent for Medicare-approved services. This amount doesn’t include the premium and other limited expenses. You can estimate what your expenses would have been last year on the Medicare Advantage plan you are considering.

 

Question: Medicare Advantage sounds good for me, but wouldn’t the premium be too costly for my 88-year-old mom?

Answer: Not at all. One of the best things about Medicare Advantage plans is the premium is the same no matter the member’s age. You and your mom would pay the same monthly premium if you had the same plan, unless either of you could get extra help paying for coverage based on your income.

 

Question: Would I have to deal with all the paperwork I get when I receive services from Original Medicare plus a Medicare Supplement plan?

Answer: No. You would have much less paperwork with a Medicare Advantage plan. In fact, that’s one reason Medicare Advantage plans exist, and I’m all for less paperwork.

 

Remember, the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period, or AEP, runs from October 15 to December 7. That’s the only time most people can change their coverage for the following year.

If you are thinking about a change for yourself or a loved one, you will have to do a bit of research. Trusted resources like Area Agencies on Aging and your local senior center can help.

Please consider Health Alliance Medicare a resource, too.

We all want to make well-informed choices that don’t depend on myths and misinformation.

Moving Day

Long View: Tough Talks Now Can Save Hurt Feelings Later

Did you ever notice how much stuff you have packed in your house? It seems to have a life of its own! There was a point where I thought, “If I bring one more thing home, something will pop out of an upstairs window.” The thought of moving with all these treasures in tow is daunting. Imagine if you had to do so without notice or against your wishes. That would be a nightmare.

Sadly, some of our older friends and family members find themselves in that situation. They need to transition suddenly from independent living to a group or assisted-living facility, whether the move is short-term or permanent.

It seems talking about this tough situation ahead of time could save a lot of pain later.

There are some early signs that it is time to talk about moving options. Trouble getting dressed or not being able to make food are a couple of warnings that a change is in order. Sudden changes in behavior or severe forgetfulness are more alarming, and require fast action to protect your loved one.

Rosanna McLain is the director of the Senior Resource Center at Family Services of Champaign County. She advises, “Get your family member to his or her doctor so the cause of the changes can be determined, and then develop a plan of action. It’s best to talk about their wishes before the need is there.

“It’s tough to bring up sometimes, but our family members should be the drivers of their lives and make their wishes known ahead of time. Remember, you can find caregiver support programs at local senior centers and Area Agencies on Aging. Experienced specialists can help guide you through difficult times like these, so give them a call.”

There you have it. It wouldn’t hurt for all of us to plan for the future. Simplifying our lives and possessions as we go along is probably the best plan. I intend to clean out the junk room this spring. Of course I’ve had the same plan for the last three springs. Wish me luck tackling those treasures.