A Guide Through the Long-Term Care Insurance Maze

Last summer, Sandy’s mother was placed in an assisted living facility’s Memory Care Unit. After years of paying for a long-term care insurance policy, the time had come for her to begin collecting benefits.

Yet Sandy found that the process of accessing the long-term care benefits that had been paid for was extremely complex. And while she had been handling details of her mother’s care for some time, she knew she would need outside help dealing with the assisted living facility and the insurance company.

“I needed someone who had the expertise to be able to present herself on behalf of the family and to be on equal ground, to be able to use the same language as the doctor, the assisted living facility and the insurance company,” Sandy said. Fortunately, she found Nicole Christensen of Care Answered to help navigate the maze of paperwork.

“The LTC insurance company that my mom had spent so much money on for the past few years was giving us push back regarding the terms of coverage,” Sandy explained. “Nicole spent countless hours on the phone with me as well as with the assisted living facility and the insurance company making sure all the paperwork was correct.”

But Nicole’s help didn’t end there. “Nicole has also been the liaison with my mother’s doctors’ offices, who also have to file certain paperwork within certain time limits as per insurance company,” Sandy said. “Nicole has been on top of this process from day one. She continues to monitor all paperwork with all parties in this process.”

The impact on Sandy’s life has been immeasurable.

“Having had Nicole as our liaison now for more than a year has enabled me to be able to actually be a little calmer in regard to sharing the responsibility for paperwork and payments” Sandy said. “Nobody can fully appreciate the service that she provides until they have the need for her help, but nobody should ever even consider navigating through the system without someone like her.”

Today, Sandy wholeheartedly recommends Nicole and Care Answered to anyone dealing with a similar situation.

“I would encourage any family in any long-term care or life-changing situation to immediately contact Nicole to have her mediate for your loved one and be the advocate that you will need,” Sandy stated. “She is a wonderful listener and can put a plan into action to achieve the outcome that the family needs. Nicole is an invaluable asset every family should avail themselves of.

To learn more, give Care Answered a call at 516-584-2007.

Don’t let a chronic illness prevent you from enjoying the holidays

beansLiving with a chronic illness or as a caregiver to a loved one with a serious health issue can be stressful on a day-to-day basis. When additional activities associated with the holidays – shopping, cooking, entertaining, visiting and more – are added, it is easy to feel overwhelmed. However, careful planning and simple strategies can help you avoid exhaustion, flare-ups and stress. Here are a few tips:

  1. Plan ahead. Try to avoid last-minute parties, visits and obligations. Having a clear idea of holiday events well ahead of time can help you plan in advance. Schedule preparation time as well as rest time in order to conserve your energy so that you can be fully present.
  2. Don’t be afraid to say no. Self-awareness and self-care are essential during the busy holiday season. You know what you will be able to accomplish and how much you can handle. Give yourself permission to turn down invitations and avoid situations that will drain your energy.
  3. Remember to prioritize your health. Important routines – medication, therapy, diet, and doctors’ appointments – must be maintained, regardless of your holiday plans. Try as much as possible to maintain those schedules. In addition, be sure that caregivers are taking care of their own health. Only by remaining well can a caregiver continue to be there for their loved ones.
  4. Scale back your expectations. It’s OK to host a smaller holiday gathering, to contribute a store-bought dessert rather than a home-baked treat, or to give gift cards instead of personal gifts this holiday season. Remember that the true meaning of the holidays lies in being with friends and loved ones. Trying to live up to holidays past or your own image of the perfect celebration may not be realistic or even necessary.
  5. Do a little at a time. Whether you are addressing cards, wrapping gifts, or cooking a meal, break the task down into smaller chunks. Start early, and schedule time to rest and unwind between chores.
  6. Ask for help. How often have you heard the words, “Is there anything I can do to help?” People truly do want to lend a hand, but often they don’t know exactly what you need. Don’t hesitate to ask those around you to pitch in. If you are financially able, hire someone to help with chores such as shopping, cooking and cleaning.
  7. Take time for you. Schedule time to do things that provide you with a sense of peace and pleasure. Read a book, watch your favorite TV show, talk to a friend, meditate or just breathe. These mini-breaks will help you to recharge your batteries so that you can keep going!

Forget Politics…Talk About Healthcare Decisions this Holiday Season

Thanksgiving is right around the corner. As you get ready to roast the turkey, bake the pies and gather with loved ones, think about adding one new tradition to your family gatherings. Take politics off the table and instead use the time together to talk about healthcare. Share any important family medical history and discuss the decisions you would like made on your behalf should you become unable to make care decisions for yourself.

A good place to start is to give your loved ones peace of mind by selecting your health care proxy.

What is a Healthcare Proxy?

The New York Health Care Proxy Law allows you to appoint someone you trust — for example, a family member or close friend – to make health care decisions for you if you lose the ability to make decisions yourself. By appointing a health care agent, you can make sure that health care providers follow your wishes. Learn more here.

How do you talk about healthcare decisions?

Once you have selected your proxy, be sure to inform that person about his or her role and let him or her know about your wishes should an illness or injury leave you unable to make your own healthcare decisions.

Sometimes these topics make people uncomfortable. Try to ease the discomfort with these suggested opening lines:

“My faith is important to me and I don’t want to have….”

“I’m allergic to …. Please make sure that I don’t receive that medicine”

Talk about what you value as specifically as you can. You might say:

“I don’t want to ever be sustained by machines,” or “I have to be able to live independently,” or “There are new health findings every day. I would like to be kept alive until they find a cure.”

Points to remember about healthcare decisions

The discussion with your healthcare proxy can and should be ongoing. You cannot imagine every possible scenario but if the person you select as your healthcare proxy understands your values and knows the types of life-sustaining treatments that you would want, as well as those interventions that you would not want, your proxy will feel confident that they are following your wishes rather than having to decide your fate on their own.

This is not a contest of who loves you the most; rather, it’s about who will be able to carry out your wishes.

It is a tremendous burden to expect your loved ones to make these decisions for you if you have not expressly told them your wishes. Help them be your proxy by freely sharing your feelings.

Take time this holiday season to begin your discussion. And fill out your healthcare proxy form. Think of it as a compassionate gift to your loved ones should they ever have to make an important healthcare decision for you.

 

Telemedicine Lets You and Your Doctor Connect Without the Commute

If you’re in need of medical care, just getting out of the house can be a struggle some days. But just as technology is allowing us to connect with friends across the world in new and exciting ways every day, it’s also allowing us to connect with our care providers as well. Telehealth is the use of telecommunication technology to enhance health care in general, and telemedicine is the application of the technologies to improve the quality of health care given. Both are similar in scope, but telehealth is the overall subject name.

Telemedicine covers a wide variety of applications, so it can be used in many different situations. An example of telemedicine would be using video communications such as Skype to meet with your doctor instead of going to his or her office. Another would be if a patient uses a mobile device to take a picture of an injury and sends that to their doctor. Additionally, if two doctors use an application to send patient records between them that would also be considered telemedicine. Telemedicine has a number of different applications to help facilitate the best care possible.

Telemedicine when used properly allows practitioners and patients to connect without the commute. A patient can simply use their mobile device or personal computer to get in touch with their clinician if they have any questions, need reminders, or have a condition that they wish to have checked out but isn’t worth a trip to the office. This is especially helpful for seniors who may struggle to maintain their independence and ability to transport themselves to their care providers on their terms as they get older.

Many commercial insurance providers offer telemedicine as a covered benefit, and more and more doctors are offering some type of telemedicine services to their patients. If you would like to know more about the different ways that telemedicine can make your life easier and your healthcare more personalized, need help finding a doctor, or want to learn more about ensuring that your care is the best it can be for you, contact us at CareAnswered. We’re here to help.

Call a Friend Today – Science Says Social Connections are Good for Your Health

“When ‘I’ is replaced with ‘we,’ even illness becomes wellness[1].”

Human beings have always recognized themselves as social creatures. From an evolutionary standpoint, survival depended on social structure and being part of a group.

But in recent decades, evidence regarding the link between social connections and physical health has been mounting. A 2015 meta-study linked loneliness with a 45% increased risk of dying. By contrast, obesity only accounts for a 20% increase[2]. Unfortunately, society has evolved in such a way that increasing numbers of people describe themselves as socially isolated. As we sacrifice our connections with friends and family, loneliness could become a major public health threat.

Research around this topic goes back decades. Among some of the most intriguing studies are those that have shown that social rejection triggers the same parts of the brain as physical pain[3]. A 1988 study reported that lack of social connections could have more of a negative impact on health than obesity, smoking and high blood pressure[4]. Another study, completed at UCLA in 2010, linked stress brought on by social rejection with increased inflammation in the body[5].

The problem of social isolation appears to be more significant among the elderly who are no longer in the workplace and may not live near family members. Those with dementia report even higher levels of loneliness than their peers[6].

How can you avoid or reverse social isolation and loneliness? By all indications, it is the quality rather than quantity of social connections that matters, so having just one or two friends or family members with whom you socialize can yield positive results. Face-to-face contact is preferable, but if you live apart from friends and family, try at the very least to maintain regular telephone contact.

If you are physically able to get around, consider joining a club or a gym, attend religious services, participate in your favorite hobby to meet like-minded people, volunteer, or join a support group. If you are unable to travel on your own, look for community-based and faith organizations, many of which offer resources such as friendly visitors who check up on the homebound.

The effort to remain connected to others can be challenging. But in the long run, these connections will improve your quality of life and may even help you live longer.

Here are some resources to help you get and stay involved:

www.destinationaccessible.com offers detailed accessibility descriptions of leisure locations.

https://parks.ny.gov/admission/empire-passport/ offers discounted rates to New York state parks.  Also take note that those 62+ can access at NYS parks for free and reduced rates just with their NYS ID.

 

[1] Quote attributed to Malcolm X.
[2] Brene Brown: America’s Crisis of Disconnection Runs Deeper than Politics; Fast Company, September 12, 2017. https://www.fastcompany.com/40465644/brene-brown-americas-crisis-of-disconnection-runs-deeper-than-politics
[3] Social rejection shares somatosensory representations with physical pain; Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences, March 28, 2011. http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2011/03/22/1102693108
[4] Social relationships and health; Science Magazine, July 29, 1988. http://science.sciencemag.org/content/241/4865/540
[5] Neural sensitivity to social rejection is associated with inflammatory responses to social stress; Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences, August 17, 2010. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20679216
[6] Only the Lonely: Dealing with Loneliness and Isolation in Dementia; Unforgettable, https://www.unforgettable.org/blog/only-the-lonely-dealing-with-loneliness-and-isolation-in-dementia/

You Are What You Eat

You Are What You Eat. Choose a Diet That’s Good for Your Health.

What does diet have to do with health? Quite a bit, according to the experts. Generally speaking, it is well documented that lifestyle factors including smoking, exercise and healthy eating contribute significantly to a person’s risk of developing the most serious and common health conditions, including diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Many studies have also linked diet with the delayed onset or prevention of chronic health conditions. March is Nutrition Month, and in recognition, we have summarized some of the recent research around diet and health for you.

Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean Diet emphasizes fish, nuts, fruit and vegetables. A 2013 study found that women who followed the Mediterranean Diet in their 50s had fewer memory problems and fewer chronic illnesses as they aged. 

The DASH Diet

DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. It is an eating plan developed to lower high blood pressure and reduce levels of LDL, the so-called “bad” cholesterol. Recent research has also linked the DASH diet to reduced rates of some kinds of cancer, stroke, heart disease, heart failure, kidney stones, and diabetes. The diet is centered on eating fruits, vegetables, low fat or nonfat dairy, whole grains, lean meats, fish and poultry, nuts and beans.

Preventing Diabetes

Evidence shows that lifestyle changes focusing primarily on diet and exercise can help individuals with pre-diabetes avoid the progression to diabetes. Selecting whole grains over processed grains and lean proteins such as nuts, beans and fish over red meat and processed meats are known to help prevent diabetes. Other dietary habits that can help include avoiding refined carbohydrates – think breads, cakes, white rice, pasta and potatoes – as well as sugary drinks.

The Future: Precision Nutrition

The newest breakthroughs in nutrition research concern precision nutrition. Because individual responses to dietary changes may vary from person to person, precision nutrition is focused on creating specific dietary plans based on an individual’s physical and environmental factors such as DNA, microbiome, metabolism, health history and lifestyle. Current research is exploring the use of precision nutrition in diabetes prevention.

So What Should I Eat?

Every diet wosaladn’t work for every person. Individual food preferences, convenience, access to fresh fruits and vegetables, time to prepare healthy foods, and a multitude of other factors may affect the success of a particular diet plan. If you are looking to improve your health, lose weight or just eat better, experts tend to agree on a few basic dietary guidelines.

  • Reduce your consumption of red meat
  • Eat a wide variety of vegetables and fruit
  • Choose lean protein sources
  • Limit fats, sweets and processed carbohydrates

Generally what’s good for your heart is also good for your brain. A qualified nutritionist or your primary care physician can provide additional guidance on what will constitute a healthy diet for you.

Bon appetit!

The Future Has Arrived…and It is Safer for Seniors

Technology is invading every aspect of our lives. Did you know that there is now a coffee mug that can be temperature controlled using your smart phone? Not only that, but the average new car comes with a futuristic array of technology to help drivers stay in their lane, find their way, adjust the climate, control their speed, and more.

Seniors are among those who are most likely to benefit from advances in technology. Devices hitting the marketplace can provide peace of mind to family members of older adults who wish to maintain their independence for as long as they can.

Remote Monitoring

Do you have a pacemaker, or know someone who does? If so, you are already familiar with the role of technology in monitoring health. Pacemakers and implantable cardiac defibrillators (ICDs) can be remotely monitored. When they are triggered, ICDs record information that can be analyzed by the cardiologist to assist with diagnosis and prevention of future episodes.

Similar technology exists to monitor weight gain in patients with congestive heart failure, blood glucose in diabetics and other vital information for those with chronic conditions. The benefit is that early detection of symptoms can trigger an intervention before a condition becomes serious enough that the patient requires hospitalization.

Aging in Place

Remember the pendant that could be activated if a senior living alone fell down and could not get up? It turns out that was only the beginning. Today, concerned family members can monitor numerous aspects of an elderly loved one’s life, from the number of times they open the refrigerator, to their daily use of the restroom, to their medication compliance.

Here are just a few devices that are helping Americans age in place safely.

MedMinder – a digital pill dispenser that locks and unlocks compartments to prevent patients from taking too many pills. It also monitors whether the dose has been taken at the right time, provides auditory reminders, and contacts a family member if the patient has not complied.

Reminder Rosie – a talking clock that is programmed with a loved one’s voice offering gentle reminders to take medication, eat a meal, or complete any task.

Wellness by Alarm.com – a series of sensors set throughout the home use machine learning to notify a loved one if there is a change in routine including activity levels, bathroom use, sleeping and eating patterns.

Phillips’ Lifeline (and other emergency pendants) – can be triggered during a medical emergency. Some versions are equipped with GPS and may be used outside of the home to summon help during a fall or other medical event.

Nannycams/grannycams- a camera, hidden or exposed, in the home can help loved ones feel confident in the care their family members receive.  Whether your family is trying to determine if a loved one can continue to live alone or ensuring the selected paid caregiver is the right choice, this may be an option.

Whether or not you are a fan of technology, it is clear that the future is now. Embracing at least some of the available advances can be the key to independence, safety and better health for the elderly and the chronically ill.

Want to learn more about whether technology can help your loved one maintain their independence? Contact Care Answered for a consultation about your options.

It’s Flu Season – Take a Shot at Staying Well

Flu Season a Good Time to Make Sure Your Vaccines are Up-to-Date

Each year, it is estimated that between 12,000 and 56,000 Americans will die of the flu. Those numbers are staggering, especially when you consider that the flu is largely preventable. Flu vaccine is safe, effective and available. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends an annual flu shot for all healthy individuals six months and older, including pregnant women.

Older adults are particularly vulnerable to serious side effects from the flu and other vaccine-preventable illnesses. For example, those 60 and over are at increased risk of developing shingles, a painful skin rash caused by the same virus that causes chicken pox in children. Even those who have had chicken pox as a child and those who have had shingles in the past can benefit from receiving the shingles vaccine, which is administered as one single shot and is effective for up to five years.

Adults 65 and over are also encouraged to get a pneumococcal vaccine to prevent infection with the streptococcus pneumoniae bacterium. This infection may cause pneumonia, blood infections, middle ear infections and bacterial meningitis, and the effects can be more severe in older populations. Speak to your healthcare provider about whether you should have a pneumococcal vaccine this year.

Whooping cough was once a deadly illness that declined sharply once children began being routinely vaccinated against it. However, in recent years there has been a resurgence of this serious illness. Experts believe that immunity fades over time. Therefore, the CDC recommends that adults over the age of 19 receive a booster dose of Tdap, which protects against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (whooping cough), with additional booster doses given every ten years thereafter. This is especially important for grandparents and other adults who spend time around babies and young children.

Flu season is the perfect time to check in with your healthcare provider and make sure that you are up-to-date with all recommended vaccines. With a busy holiday season ahead, nobody wants to be laid low with a vaccine-preventable illness.

Stay well!