Category: Caregiving

Caring for a Dying Parent

Caring for a Dying Parent

Caring for a Dying Parent – What I Wish Someone Had Told Me

caring for a dying parent - a how to guide from medicare life health co. by crystal bayliss

My mother used to tell me that there were only two guarantees in life – death and taxes.  And yet, in spite of the fact that everyone eventually dies, I was surprisingly unprepared for caring for a dying parent – specifically, my mom. 

My parents lived near me, so I went home every weekend to spend time with mom and give my dad a break, and I was with her for every hospital stay and her time in hospice. 

In addition, I was one of the first of my friends to lose a parent from a long-term illness, so I had no experience with the subject and no one to ask for advice. 

The Important Aspects of Caring for a Dying Parent

In this article, we will cover the practical and emotional aspects of taking care of a dying parent that I wish someone had told me beforehand including:

The practical aspects of caring for a dying parent:

  • Hospice options: In home vs inpatient
  • The necessary paperwork
  • Funeral and burial planning
  • Intermittent FMLA

The emotional aspects of caring for a dying parent:

  • What to expect
  • Making final memories and conversations
  • Everyone deals with things differently
  • Self-care and asking for help

The Best Advice I Received on Caring for a Dying Parent

Before I tell you what I wish someone had told me, I will tell you what someone did tell me that I am forever thankful for. 

While my mom was dying, I was fortunate to have many supportive friends.  One day a coworker took me to lunch to see how I was doing.  After sharing with him how hard the situation was, he said something that surprised me, “Yeah, but don’t you think this is an honor?” 

I was stunned, and he continued.  “I guess I just figure that my parents took care of me when I was young, and I will take care of them when they are old.  And it is an honor to be able to do so.  I wouldn’t want it any other way.” 

An Honor to Care for My Mom

In that moment he re-framed my thinking from feeling bad for myself, to feeling proud. Now, I was able to take care of the woman who once took care of me.  It was still incredibly difficult, but it was an honor. 

Then, later when my mom was feeling discouraged, embarrassed, and guilty for how her illness was affecting the rest of us, I told her that she had taken care of me and it was an honor to take care of her – I didn’t want to be any place else.  I could see the weight lifted off her shoulders as her eyes filled up with tears.  Those were the hardest months of my life, but I’m so thankful that I could be there for her.

Now, let’s get started with the practical.

The Practical Aspects of Caring for a Dying Parent

First, let’s look at the practical aspects of taking care of a dying parent including hospice options, paperwork, funeral and burial planning and FMLA.

Hospice Options

What Does Medicare Part A Cover

Medicare Part A covers hospice care.  It’s important to note that hospice care typically does not include room and board for full time care.  You can learn more about what hospice is covered here

So, unless your parent is already in a nursing facility and plans to stay there, you’ll have to make a decision about if you want to do in home or in patient hospice care.  There are upsides and downsides to both options, and you’ll need to consider:

  • The financial implications
  • How equipped your family is to do the care-giving
  • What your parent’s wishes are.

In Home:

Most hospice care is provided in home.  This is the option that my mother chose so that everyone would be able to visit her as much as they wanted. 

The in-patient facility that she toured had small rooms that only accommodated a few visitors at a time, and she had a very large family.  My family was relieved when she made this decision because we wanted to be around her all the time, which was easier to do with her at home. 

If one of your parents is still well, and able to help with the caregiving, and your parents want to stay together as long as possible, this may be a good option.  If you or a sibling have a home that can accommodate your parent’s needs and are up for the commitment, then this option might make sense as well.

Hospice Coordination for In Home Care:

Pin for Caring for a Dying Parent by Crystal Bayliss

When hospice started, a hospice coordinator came over to get us set up, and a hospital bed was delivered to my parents’ house.  The hospice coordinator shared with us all the services and support that they provided, but it didn’t really sink in that my family was still going to have to do most of the work. 

The hospice nurse would visit once a day to check in.  She was always on call if we needed anything, but we were responsible for most of the hands-on care – such as keeping Mom comfortable, giving her ice chips, administering the pain medication, etc.  It wasn’t easy. 

Caregiving is stressful and does take a toll on the caregiver.  Medicare Part A does cover occasional in-patient respite hospice care so that caregivers may take a break.

If you are unable to afford inpatient hospice care but feel you need more help than just respite services, you could also consider hiring an in-home health aide to assist you.  This is also an option if you must work during the day and need someone at home with your parent; or if your parent is not living with you but is not able to fully take care of him or herself.

Inpatient:

If you or your parent is financially able to pay for inpatient hospice care, or they have private insurance that will cover in patient hospice care, then this may be a good option to consider.  Medical professionals will handle the difficult aspects of care-giving.  You will know your loved one is in good hands and will not have the stress of providing that care. 

However, there are some drawbacks as well. 

  • First, while hospice homes are typically designed to feel calming and like a home, you are not at home.  You may spend a significant amount of time away from your home, making it difficult to keep up with the day to day responsibilities of normal living. 
  • Next, rooms typically don’t hold many guests, so you will have to take turns visiting your parent.  For larger families, this may mean everyone is spending most of their time in a commons area down the hall from your loved one. 
  • Finally, Your parent will also be away from their home, which may be less comforting to them.  If he or she is married, then it may mean periods of separation from a spouse, which may be difficult for both of them.

The Necessary Paperwork of Caring for a Dying Parent

Next, you’ll want to make sure that your parent has the appropriate paperwork on file including a Will, a Medical Power of Attorney, a Financial Power of Attorney, and a Living Will or Do Not Resuscitate Order.

  • Will: This determines what happens to your parent’s assets after they pass.  Legal requirements vary by state, and it is important to meet these requirements or the will may not be legally enforceable.  Many people, especially those with a lot of assets or complicated situations, will see an attorney to create a will.  However, websites such as LegalZoom, Willing.com, RocketLawyer.com and many others can help someone create a will online that complies with state laws and will give instructions on how to sign it (often requires witnesses and or a public notary).
  • Power of Attorney (Medical and Financial): This will give the person your parent chooses the legal power to make decisions on his or her behalf.  You can learn more about that here.
  • Living Will or Do Not Resuscitate Order:  This will dictate the type of care your loved one will receive when he or she is no longer able to make that decision.  An attorney or legal website can create that document.  When hospice care begins, the hospice coordinator may help your parent set up a Do Not Resuscitate Order.

Funeral and Burial Planning

My family was fortunate that my mom prepared as much as she could to take the burden off her family.  Not everyone has these conversations beforehand.  Moreover, in the midst of the heightened emotions of grieving, planning a funeral and choosing a grave-site can be overwhelming. In addition, it can also lead to conflict within your family.

What to Ask Your Parent

If your parent is still coherent and willing to talk about it, get their input on as much as you can. 

  • Do they want to be buried or cremated? 
  • What kind of funeral service would they like? 
  • Do they want any specific songs played or passages read? 
  • Do they want a wake where stories are shared? 
  • Where would they like to be buried or have their ashes stored? 

Even in a close family, people will have different opinions on what mom or dad would have wanted.  However, if mom or dad gives input ahead of time, then that’s one less thing to worry or argue about. I’m forever thankful that my mom planned all that she did, including planning her entire funeral service, even though it was difficult. 

A Funny Moment

Perhaps the oddest moment of this process was the day that I accompanied my parents to pick out grave-sites.  Mom wanted to be buried at the prettiest but most expensive cemetery in town, and my dad is rather frugal.  They weren’t making any progress on the decision, so Mom asked me to join them to tour the various options. 

The situation resolved itself when we went to the place she liked, and Dad found out that they were having a “buy one get one half off” sale that day.  I was a little disturbed (aren’t BOGO sales supposed to be for shoes and jeans?), but Mom and Dad were very happy with the beautiful plots they picked out, and the money they saved. 

Now, years later people still find comfort visiting mom’s grave under the tree she picked out. It’s not too far from the water spigot, so they can fill up the vase when they put flowers in – she always was practical.  It was hard, and at times uncomfortable, talking about these things with her; but it was very much worth it.  And we created some good memories along the way.

FMLA & Your Job

Now, let’s talk about you. If you are still working, figuring out how to balance your job and taking care of your parent isn’t always easy.  However, FMLA (the Family and Medical Leave Act) does offer protection for those taking care of sick parents as long as you and your employer meet certain criteria. 

You can also take intermittent FMLA instead of continuous FMLA, which will allow you to take time off in staggered periods or take off some time each week.  You can apply for intermittent FMLA and then take it when you need it. 

At the point that you realize your parent is dying and you are going to need to help take care of them, I recommend that you go ahead and complete the paperwork.  When you find yourself having to unexpectedly miss work, you won’t have the added stress of having to make arrangements with your employer.  You can learn more here.

The Emotional Aspects of Caring for a Dying Parent

So now that we’ve covered some of the practical aspects of caring for a dying parent, let’s move on to the equally important emotional aspect. This includes what to expect, making final memories and conversations, how to deal and self-care.

What to Expect

how to care for a dying parent pin

I hadn’t really been around a dying person until my mom was on hospice.  I was shocked to learn about the “active dying” process in which the body has to actively shut itself down.  This phase usually lasts a few days and involves skin color changing, breathing changing, no longer eating or drinking, and the patient becoming semi-comatose. 

Hospice Will Help

The hospice nurse let us know when she thought it had started.  In addition, she told us what to expect in the final few days and gave a pretty accurate estimate of how much time we had left with her.  It was helpful to have the hospice nurse available on call.  She even came to the house at 2 am, in the middle of a thunderstorm, when we needed her. 

Your Duties

You might have hospice duties you will need to preform when taking care of your dying parent. We were fortunate to have two nurses in my family who were often there; but in between, I oversaw administering the pain medication.  It was very stressful.  I kept a notebook to write down the times that I gave her the various medicines and had the schedule memorized, even in my sleep. 

There were difficult things we had to do to take care of her, like helping re-position her in the bed which clearly caused her pain.  The hospice nurses are there to support the caregivers, so reach out to them with questions or to ask for advice or help, even if it’s in the middle of the night.

Making Final Memories and Conversations

With death, there are no do-overs, and I tried to keep this in mind as we went through those difficult last days. 

Making Memories:

If you are still early enough in the process that your parent is feeling well, you may be able to plan some fun experiences. Perhaps you can take your parent to a place that is special to him or her, or go for walks in the park, or go out for ice cream, etc. 

As much as you are able and want to, take advantage of those opportunities. Remember, after he or she passes, all the normal tasks and demands of life that keep you busy will still be there waiting for you.  Unfortunately, your parent will not.

Having Conversations:

This is also an opportunity for you to be intentional about your conversations.  It’s a chance to reflect on the good times you have shared together, ask for advice or wisdom, clear up misunderstands, apologize, forgive, share what you love or appreciate about your parent, etc. 

  • I have some friends who have preserved these conversations in their journals or audio recorded them. 
  • You could also write a letter to your parent and read it to them if you find it difficult to come up with the words on the spot.

One-Sided Conversations:

The final days seemed to drag on forever as people came and went and we sat around the house waiting for the inevitable.  I thought this felt really awkward – all of us sitting around just watching Mom while she was on her journey to leave this world. 

The nurse had told me that she could probably still hear us, and so I started talking – telling her who was there, what people were doing, funny things that had happened, random thoughts.  It made me feel better having that last connection with my mom, and I think it probably helped her too, hearing my voice and knowing what was going on. 

Everyone Deals with Things Differently

Pin on How to care for a dying parent

A friend once told me that in grief, everything is normal.  And when caring for someone with a terminal illness, grieving starts prior to the actual death. 

It was surprising to see how people dealt with losing someone they loved.  There were some who were normally the pillar of strength in difficult circumstances that I noticed were avoiding the situation as much as possible.  There were others who were surprisingly comfortable with death and seemed to know just what to do to help. 

For example, I tended to focus on tasks and keeping things going.  Another family member was comfortable to just sit.  Another withdrew and wanted to be alone.  Each person responded uniquely to the situation. 

Because people are different and everyone is feeling very raw emotions, it is easy to accidentally hurt those you care about.  Do your best to accept that each person has their own unique way of grieving.  Try to not be offended when you don’t understand them or they don’t understand you. 

In addition, try to be honest when you are struggling and apologize when you accidentally hurt someone.  Give others the benefit of the doubt as much as you can.

Self-Care and Asking for Help

Taking care of a dying parent is difficult.  Not only are there the physical demands of care-giving, but you are dealing with your own emotions as you are beginning to grieve the impending loss of your mom or dad.  Additionally, you likely must still manage the demands of your normal life. 

You may feel conflicting emotions – such as wanting to be there for every moment but also being utterly exhausted and just wanting to sleep for days. 

It’s important to remember that you are not alone. 

If you have a friend who has already lost a parent, he or she may be a good source of support as they will understand what you are going through.  And even if you don’t, others will want to be there for you as well.  Other sources of support could include coworkers, in law’s, members of the faith community you are in, as well as the nurses or hospice workers.

A word of caution:

You may have some friends that pull back at this time.  Death is an uncomfortable reality that many choose to avoid thinking about until they absolutely must.  Others just struggle with knowing what to say. 

I remember when my mom passed away, one friend never reached out me, much to my surprise.  Months later she came to visit and tearfully apologized, saying that she had felt so bad for what I was going through but didn’t know what to say, so she just avoided me altogether.  It hurt, but I understood after she apologized, and the friendship was still worth keeping. 

How to Find Help

If your situation is hectic with things happening quickly, you may not know what you need.  It could feel like you are in survival mode, just trying to keep up.  But as you find tasks that are causing undue stress, be sure to reach out for help, whether in person; or, for less personal requests, through social media, including sites like CaringBridge

Maybe you need someone to run an errand you can’t complete, or help transport a child while you are with your parent, or sit with your parent while you handle something.  Or maybe you just need help with meals or mowing the lawn.  Ask for help when you need it.  And if you can afford it, now is a good time to consider outsourcing tasks you don’t need to complete yourself – such as grocery delivery, yard maintenance, or a housecleaning service.

Self-Care is Important

Remember to take care of yourself as well as your parent.  Get rest.  Take a break from the situation.  Get together with a friend.  In order to be a good caregiver, you need to also take care of yourself.  As the flight attendants always say, you should put on your own oxygen mask before assisting someone else.  You can’t take care of your parent well if you are completely burned out.

Conclusions

Taking care of a dying parent is difficult, but it is also an honor and a chance to make wonderful last memories.  By thinking through the practical and emotional aspects of the situation, you can make those final days go as smoothly as possible and allow yourself to make the most of those final days together.

Relevant Articles:

Caring for Elderly Parents - a how to guide from medicare life health co.
Medicare and Medicaid Difference Guide

Medicare and Medicaid Difference Guide

Medicare and Medicaid Difference Guide

medicare and medicaid difference guide

The Medicare and Medicaid Difference Guide helps you understanding both services, so you can make the best decisions for yourself and your loved ones.

The United States has two separate national health care systems: Medicare and Medicaid. The government created the two programs for two different kinds of people. However, they often overlap. Let’s look at both programs, including their similarities and difference. We will also look at who needs or qualifies for each program.

Let’s Start with Medicare vs Medicaid.

What is Medicare?

Medicare is the U.S. national health care program that provides seniors age 65 and older, and some disabled people, with health insurance.

The U.S. government started the program in 1966. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services runs these programs. Medicare also covers people with end stage renal disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

Medicare does not cover all of the costs associated with health care. As a result, people with Medicare will also use a Medicare Supplement Insurance Plan (Medigap Plan) or a Medicare Advantage Insurance Plan to round out their care coverage.

Please read our Ultimate Guide article on “What is Medicare.

https://medicarelifehealth.com/glossary/medicare

What is Medicaid?

Medicaid is the United States National Health Care System that provides health coverage to over 64.7 Million People.

The program was created for people with low-incomes that cannot afford, or do not have access to, private healthcare insurance.

https://medicarelifehealth.com/glossary/medicaid

How are the programs similar?

Medicare vs Medicaid Pin

The programs are both National Health Care Systems. In fact, they are the only two nationalized heath care systems the United States has. Many other countries around the world have much more extensive national coverage for their citizens. The U.S. has a limited program for specific age, income, and health groups, and the rest of the country relies on private health insurance.

In addition, both programs cover specific hospital services, doctor services, and other health care related services.

Medicare has four parts. First, Medicare Part A, also known as “Hospital Insurance,” helps with coverage regarding: inpatient care, home health care, nursing facilities, and hospice.

Second, there is Medicare Part B, also known as “Medical Insurance.” Part B helps with coverage related to doctor and other provider services, including: doctors visits, health care providers, outpatient, prevention services, and medical equipment. Medicare Beneficiaries pay for Part B.

Finally, Medicare has a Prescription Drug Program that is administered by private insurance carriers. Click here to lean more about What Medicare Covers and Medicare Parts A, B, C and D are.

How are the programs different?

One of the biggest differences between the two programs is who runs them. Medicare is run on a national level, by the Federal government. On the other hand, Medicaid is run by each state individually.

Of course, the biggest difference is the the different populations the programs serve:

  • Medicare – For Seniors over age 65, and some disabled people
  • Medicaid – For people with low income and few resources

Medicare and Medicaid Differences in Beneficiaries – Who Gets What Program?

The U.S. government created Medicare and Medicaid to take care of different “vulnerable” populations – the poor, the disabled, and the elderly. Let’s look at each program and population.

Who should get Medicare?

Anyone who is a citizen or qualified resident of the U.S. can enroll in Medicare when they turn 65 years old. There is a seven month window of time starting three months before turning 65, the month of your birthday, and then three months after your birthday month.

How do I Sign-up for Medicare?

First, you may be automatically signed-up if you are already receiving Social Security (SS) or Railroad Retirement (RRB).

Second, if you are not already receiving SS or RRB benefits, you must sign up for it when you turn 65 years old.

Conversely, if you are not ready for Medicare when you turn 65, you must notify the government that you want to delay your benefits. If you do delay, it must be because you have credible coverage in place. An example of this would be an employer plan.

Click here to read more about Medicare, including where to go to enroll.

From Our Article What is Medicare? A Guide to All Medicare Basics

Supplemental Medicare Insurance Options

Medicare picks up about 80% of the health care costs for its beneficiaries. For the other 20%, seniors turn to either Medicare Supplements (aka Medigap Plans) or Medicare Advantage Plans. Click here to read our article on Medicare Advantage vs. Medigap, or see the informational articles below.

What is Medicare Advantage?
What are Medicare Supplements_

Who should get Medicaid?

Medicaid is for people with limited income and resources. Medicaid is run on a state level, not on a federal level. As a result, in order to qualify for Medicaid, you will need to determine what your state defines as a qualifying income level.

How Do You Enroll in Medicaid?

Again, since Medicaid is run by State Governments, you will need to contact your state’s agency to start see if you qualify to enroll.

You can find a list of State Agencies here on the Medicaid.gov website.

Who Can Get Both Medicare and Medicaid?

People of any age who have certain qualified disabilities and people over 65, who are also below their states Medicaid income levels, can qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid.

For example, Henry is a 55 year-old disabled man who is also unemployed and living below the poverty level set by his state. Consequently, he would most likely qualify for both Medicaid (because of his income level) and Medicare (because of his qualified disability).

People that qualify for both programs are called “Dual Eligible.”

Who Can Help?

Navigating one (let alone both) of these systems can be confusing. But there is help available.

  • If you need help enrolling in Medicare, then you can contact CMS and Social Security in the following ways:
  • Finally, if you need help finding a Medicare Supplement or Medicare Insurance Plan, or if you are dual eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid, then please contact an Insurance Agent. An Independent Medicare Insurance Agent will help you explore your options, and help you make the right choice for your unique situation.

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What is Medicare

What is Medicare?

What is Medicare? Medicare is the U.S. national health care program that provides seniors age 65 and older, and some disabled people, with health insurance. The U.S. government started the ...
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How to Prevent Falls: 5 Ways to Protect the Elderly

How to Prevent Falls: 5 Ways to Protect the Elderly

How to Prevent Falls: Top 5 Ways to Protect the Elderly

how to prevent falls, with a quiz and 5 step prevention plan

Falls are the number one cause of injury (both fatal and non-fatal) in people over 65. Yikes! As a result, it is important to learn how to prevent falls – for yourself and for your older loved ones.

When I was taking care of my 85 year old grandparents, it was a major fall that signaled to us all that it was time to move them to an assisted living center. They had reached the point where living in a split-level house with 2 sets of stairs was becoming a safety hazard.

Like with my grandparents, sometimes a fall can signal the need to move or set-up additional care. On the other hand, sometimes it is just a wake-up call to make sure you are doing all you can to make your (or your senior’s) living environment as safe as possible.

One Third of All Seniors Fall

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, one out of every three seniors will fall each year. However, many of these falls are preventable.

Let’s look at how you can set yourself or your senior loved-one up for safety and success – both in and out of the home.

Step 1: The How to Prevent Falls Safety Assessment

According to the National Council on Aging, there are six areas you should assess when considering how to prevent falls: balance and gait, vision, medications, environment, and chronic conditions.

Fall Prevention Quiz

Answer these questions to create the foundation for your Fall Prevention Plan.

  1. How is your balance and coordination? Do you run into things often? How often do you stumble? Are you relying on support for walking (i.e. walls, canes, furniture, walkers)?
  2. How is your vision? Have you had an eye check-up lately? How old are your glasses? Is there a lot of light available in your living spaces?
  3. Do you have any health problems that might cause you to fall?
  4. Are you taking any medications that have side-effects that might contribute to a fall?
  5. Can you see any major safety concerns in your house (i.e. stair, sharp corners)?
  6. Do you have any pets or family members that might contribute to unsafe living conditions?

Once you have the answers to these questions, you can start to address them one-by-one with the steps below.

Step 2: Work on Balance & Coordination

Prevent Falls by Improving Your Balance

If you don’t use it, you loose it, applies directly to balance. We must all keep up on our balance and agility to stay healthy and active. This especially applies to people over the age of 65.

If you, or your loved-one, have significant challenges with walking and balancing, you should seek out the help of a professional physical therapist.

If you are just looking to stay on-top-of your balance and mobility, then it is time to work-out! Being active and participating in fitness activities in general is the first step in keeping your balance.

Yoga, Strength & Balance Exercises

Next, if you want to work directly on improving balance, turn to exercises like yoga and tai chi. These have many different moves and poses that help you challenge your mind and body to focus, strengthen and balance.

We recommend this program as a way to keep mobile or get back into fitness. The Grow Young Fitness Chair Exercises for Seniors is a very popular program for regaining balance and strength.

The DVD Starter Pack includes Cardio, Core work, Balance and gentle Yoga. It is an easy, safe, effective workout DVD for beginning fitness seniors and the elderly. This starter kit is by Grow Young Fitness.

Click here for More of the Best of Senior Fitness

Products to Help You Prevent Falls

If you, or your loved-one, need a little balance support in everyday life, we have a few recommendations that have helped our senior friends over the years.

Our number one recommendation, is having a good cane. Even better – a cane with a portable seat.

Often it is just nice to know you have the freedom to go where you choose and not have to worry about needing support to stand or sit. The Drive Medical Deluxe Folding Cane Seat is our top cane choice for mobility and safety.

We like that the cane is light enough (1.3 lbs) to walk comfortably with and the chair is comfortable enough for short rests and medium waits. The chair can support up to 250 lbs.

It is especially good for travel lovers who swear by this product to keep them feeling safe in new circumstances.

Note, you should always consult your medical professional or physical therapist on the use of walking aids.

Step 3: Make Sure You Can See

Check Your Eye Health

According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), our eyes start to show signs of aging in our mid-40s. Typically, aging eyes start to loose the ability to focus up close first and general deterioration continues as our eyes age.

It makes sense: if you can’t see well, trips and falls are much more likely to happen. As a result, eye-health is an important part of fall prevention for the elderly.

If you (or your loved ones) start to have problems with your eyes, make an appointment right away. The American Optometric Association (AOA) mentions eye problem warning signs to pay close attention to such as:

  • Fluctuating Vision
  • Seeing Floaters / Flashes
  • Loss of Side Vision
  • Seeing Distorted Images.
    If you experience any of these, you should talk with your professional care providers right away.

In addition to normal eye aging, you can find more information on age-related vision problems (including Macular Degeneration, Cataracts, Diabetic Retinopathy, Dry Eye, Glaucoma and Retinal Detachment) here.

Steps to Protect Your Vision

  1. Improve Your Lighting: The AOA mentions that older adults need more light to see as well as they used to. As a result, setting up proper lighting in your home is crucial for senior safety.
    • First, make sure that all of your rooms have plenty of both day-time and night-time lighting in general. Having a variety of light sources that are located in different places and at different heights will help to eliminate shadows and light up all objects in one’s path.
    • In addition, make sure you have plenty of reading light, and glare reduction light to protect from reflecting sources. For example, putting back-lighting on the TV or keeping a lamp on while watching TV can help reduce eye strain and glare.
  2. Keep Prescriptions Up-to-Date: Next, regular eye exams should be on everyone over 65’s calendar. Your eyes are not only your first defense in fall prevention, but also crash prevention. If you (or your senior loved-one) are still driving – make eye health a number one priority and stay on top of your annual check-ups.
  3. Buy Eye-Drops: Finally, eyes get drier as you age. Your tear glands produce less moisture year-after-year. In order to maintain clear eyesight, you may need to use eye drops more often.
  4. Avoid Tint-Changing Lenses: These lenses do not adjust fast enough for aging eyes walking into a dark room from the sunlight. Consequently, these lenses are a major trip hazard.
  5. Watch out for Bifocals on Stairs. The two different lenses might mess-up perception, especially on the stairs.

Step 4: Check Your Health & Medications

Medical Conditions & Medication Concerns

how to prevent falls for the elderly

There are many medical conditions that are associated with fall concerns. Moreover, there are many medications that come with concerning side-effects. Make sure you (or your loved-one) are on top of your health appointments and are aware of any changes in your health that might lead to fall concerns including dizziness or balance issues.

Next, discuss with your doctors what medications you are taking and if any of them have any side-effects that might cause a fall.

Finally, the National Council on Aging also warns against over the counter drugs that contain sleep aids. (Some might be identifiable by having “PM” in their name). Make sure that you are very aware of the effects of these drugs before using them.

Preventative Measures

If you or your loved-one are over the age of 65, and are on Medicare, then you have a covered preventative exam each year. Use this to stay on-top-of your medical concerns and to ask questions about your fall prevention plan. The National Council on Aging has a nice resource here, that shows you what preventative services are covered with Medicare.

Step 5: Make Your Home Safer

Here are the top safety concerns to address in your home:

  • Stairs – the NOA suggests making sure you have plenty of light on your stairs. This is especially important at the top and the bottom of the stairs. Also, make sure your hand rails are sturdy and accessible.
  • Bathrooms – Handrails are useful around toilets, tubs and showers. For additional support, look into shower chairs and aids.
  • Sharp Edges – Take a good look around the home to see where you can remove or secure sharp or hard objects.
  • Pets – dogs, cats and other pets have a way of getting under-foot. Make sure the pet is not a safety hazard.
  • Other People – Alert all other friends and family members to be careful of where they are putting their possessions. Kids especially have been known to leave toys all over and in walkways.

In addition, we recommend this article from the NOA on how to safety proof your house.

Where to Turn When you Need Extra Help Preventing Falls

Even with the best prevention methods, there is always still a chance of a fall. As a result, part of your prevention plan should include what to do in the case of a fall.

Family, friends and neighbors are a good source of support. However, they are not always available. As a result, you may want to consider an outside source of support. There are many options these days for fall monitoring services, and for a good reason – they help save lives.

I believe that fall monitoring services offer peace of mind both seniors and their loved ones. Moreover, this sense of peace can create a less anxious atmosphere and prevent falls just by knowing help is always available. Knowing how common falls are, it is a good idea to keep assessing at what point you might be ready for a fall monitoring service.

Here are our Top Senior Monitoring Picks:

  • MobileHelp – Provides an alert system that works with a “Fall Button” that can automatically detect when a fall occurs. This company gets almost 5/5 stars in most consumer review panels. Learn more here.
  • LifeFone – Is our other top pick for Medical Alert Systems. It also is rated very highly and offers a free trial period. Spouses are also included in their standard pricing, which makes it a good choice for couples.
  • Iamfine – As a different kind of monitoring service, Iamfine is a daily call service that checks in with your loved ones by phone. If they fail to answer after a few attempts, Iamfine will alert your “care circle.” The service has a free 2 week trial period as well.

For More Information on Caring for Elderly Parents & How to Prevent Falls

If you are looking for more information on caring for elderly parents, or if you are making a plan for you older years, please visit this article where we cover:

Caring for Elderly Parents - a how to guide from medicare life health co.
  • Where can my aging parents/grandparents safely live?
  • What services and products can keep them safe and happy?
  • How can I help them with health care and insurance?
  • Who should be in charge of their finances?
  • Where can I go for support?

Conclusions on How to Prevent Falls

In summary, preventing falls in yourself and in your 65+ seniors, is a number one safety concern. As a result, you need to have a plan in place to keep everyone safe and healthy.

These steps will help you create your fall prevention plan.

  1. Take the Fall Prevention Quiz
  2. Work on Balance & Coordination
  3. Make Sure You Can See
  4. Check Your Health & Medications
  5. Make Your Home Safer

Finally, get outside help when needed, and know when you need to turn to a professional safety service. Falls do not have to be inevitable! We can all work together to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe and independent as long as possible.

Renew Active vs Silver Sneakers

Renew Active vs Silver Sneakers

Renew Active vs Silver Sneakers

Renew Active vs Silver Sneakers

Does it sometimes seem like Medicare and Insurance companies are trying to make things as complicated as they possibly can? Just when you think you have Medicare Advantage down, something else comes up! For example: Renew Active vs Silver Sneakers.

Not so very long ago, there was one main senior fitness program when you joined a Medicare Advantage Plan: SilverSneakers®. Then, in January 2019, one carrier dropped SilverSneakers and replaced it with Renew Active™. Many people were concerned when this first happened. However, it now seems like Renew Active is a reasonable replacement.

Who is Affected?

The people affected by the change to Renew Active are those that are a part of a Medicare Advantage Plan that has the program as a benefit. (In addition to those people considering whether or not to join their plan.) The majority of the other Medicare Advantage plans still use Silver Sneakers as their main plan.

How to Make a Decision?

If you are trying to decide on a Medicare Advantage Plan in your area, Renew Active vs Silver Sneakers may play a part in your decision.

Let’s take a quick look at the two programs, how they are similar or different, and whether or not there are advantages to either one.

What is Silver Sneakers?

what is Silver Sneakers Senior Fitness

SilverSneakers® is a fitness and wellness program for seniors age 65 and up. It includes free gym memberships across the country, and it is included with many Medicare Advantage Plans.

Click here to read our article: What is Silver Sneakers?

What does a SilverSneakers Membership Include?

  • LOCAL GYM MEMBERSHIPS: Silver Sneakers has an extensive list of gyms that participate in their program that offers free gym memberships to seniors. Their website boasts having more gym facilities than there are Starbucks locations in the U.S. (at over 16,000).
    • If you are a part of a Medicare Advantage (MA) program that uses Silver Sneakers, then you can access the gyms in their network at no cost. You can use as many of these facilities as you like while you are a part of your MA plan.
  • ONLINE FITNESS CLASSES: If you prefer to workout at home, or do not have a physical location close to you, SilverSneakers offers online fitness classes.
  • APP: They also have an app to help you track your fitness goals and schedule your fitness plans. The app can also help you locate participating locations.

What is Renew Active?

Renew Active™ is another program offered by a carrier with select Medicare Advantage plans. It also offers access to gyms and fitness places across the country.

What does a Renew Active Membership Include?

  • GYM ACCESS: When we looked into all the benefits offered by Renew Active, we found the standard access to local gyms.
  • BRAIN TRAINING: Interestingly, they also offered a unique feature of online brain training. The company partnered with BrainHQ to offer an app to keep your brain sharp with games and tools available on a PC or mobile device.
    • The BrainHQ service is available for purchase from $8-$14 a month, so getting this included with your Renew membership does seem like a good deal.

Renew Active vs Silver Sneakers: How are they Similar?

renew active vs silver sneakers pin

When comparing Renew Active vs Silver Sneakers, you will find they are very similar in their main functions.

  • To start, both programs offer free gym memberships at local fitness facilities.
  • In addition, you can sign-up for multiple fitness locations with both memberships.
  • Both plans offer at-home options for people that are too far away from any participating facilities.
    • For at home options with Renew Active you must call their customer service phone number. Apparently, you can find this on the back of your health plan member ID.
    • You can find SiliverSneakers at home programming information online here.
  • Finally, Medicare Advantage Plans include one of these programs at no additional cost to plan members.
    • (Some Medigap plans in certain states may have access to some sort of fitness benefit, but that is all dependent on the insurance company and the service area. This is not near as common. Mostly fitness plans are an extra benefit of Medicare Advantage plans.)

How They are Different: Renew Active vs Silver Sneakers

renew active vs silver sneakers comparison chart or checklist from medicarelifehealth.com
  • The first difference we see at this time is Silver Sneakers seems to be in more facilities.
    • SilverSneakers boasts over 16,000 locations.
    • At the start of 2019, Renew Active mentioned over 7,000. However, it seems like their program has grown since that mention.
    • Check the location searches for both programs to make sure your gym preference is covered.
  • The second difference is that Renew Active has an online brain training application included, and Silver Sneakers does not (at the time I am writing this article).
    • The BrainHQ app seems to retail at $8-$14 a month if you wanted to buy it separately, so that does suggest added value.
    • We have not tried this app, and could not find a lot of research or reviews on the platform at the moment. Please leave a comment if you find something useful!
  • In our Renew Active vs Silver Sneakers comparison, the third difference we see is that Silver Sneakers has an good list of online classes.

What’s Better About Silver Sneakers?

To start, if you are someone who likes to do workouts at home, and likes to stream different workouts online, Silver Sneakers has more to offer you in this area. Their online “on-demand” workout section boasts hundreds of online workouts available.

Also, Silver Sneakers seems to have the larger network of physical fitness facilities at this time.

Finally, multiple Medicare insurance company plans use SilverSneakers. This means your coverage might not change if you change Medicare plans.

What’s Better About Renew Active?

Renew Active is only associated with one carrier’s Medicare Advantage Plans. It’s major advantage over SilverSneakers seems to be the access to BrainHQ training games. It’s network might be a bit smaller than SilverSneakers, but it is still impressive and very useful.

Should Renew Active vs Silver Sneakers be a Deciding Factor on Your MA Plan?

In my opinion, there are much more important factors to consider when choosing a Medicare Advantage Plan than Renew Active vs Silver Sneakers. Your network access to doctors and medical providers should be your first consideration. Your drug plan and hospital facilities and costs should also be more important.

However, if all your plans seem comparable, your decision might include the convenience of using a local wellness facility, streaming exercises at home, or participating in brain health activities.

In this case, it is a great idea to hop onto the facility location tools and online resources for both Renew Active and Silver Sneakers. You can then make sure the program you choose covers your gym or desired services.

Double Mastectomy: How to Prepare and Recover

Double Mastectomy: How to Prepare and Recover

Double Mastectomy: How to Prepare and Recover Quickly

double mastectomy

Medicare Life Health’s author Crystal gives you first-hand information on having a double mastectomy including preparation and recovery information, helpful lists and tips.

Approximately 1 in 8 women will get breast cancer in her lifetime.  In addition, many of these women will have a mastectomy or bilateral, aka double mastectomy, as part of treatment.  The prospect of this surgery may seem overwhelming but preparing in advance can make the experience much easier.

How to Prepare for a Double Mastectomy

After losing my grandma and then my mom to an aggressive form of breast cancer, my doctor and I decided that we needed to take significant action to reduce my risk.  When I was done having children, I opted for a preventative double mastectomy to reduce my risk.

The process was daunting – I was mostly focused on the statistics, the right screenings, and the surgery itself.  Moreover, a few weeks before surgery, I realized that I had no idea how to get through the actual process.  There was lots of information readily available on the surgery itself.  However, I had no idea how to get through the weeks that followed. For instance, I wondered, what happens after I got home from the hospital?

What I learned was, I needed to prepare not just a list of things to help with surgery, but more importantly, a list of people. You need a support team.

Preparing Your Support Team

how to prepare for a double mastectomyhow to prepare for a double mastectomy

First of all, a single or a double mastectomy is no small procedure.  This is not something that you should do on your own. In fact, you will want the support of friends, family, and the community during this time to assist in your recovery. 

Those who care about you will want to help, so try to determine in advance who you have on your support team, and what needs you anticipate.  I suggest making an actual list of people and how they can help.

To start, here are some places to look for support:

  • Cancer support groups – First, numerous nonprofits exist that help women battling breast cancer.  Your doctor, or an online search, can connect you with one.  These groups provide resources such as support meetings, recovery advice, and pre-surgery gift bags.
  • Online support groups – Second, look for informal Facebook groups. You can find online communities of women there going through cancer treatment.  This can be a great source of support and advice. 

    When I was preparing for my procedures, I appreciated the online dialogue with other women who understood what I was going through. In addition, they could offer advice on various challenges I encountered throughout the process.
  • Friends and family – Finally, put some thought into who wants to help – as well as who is actually helpful. In addition, consider what they are good at. 

    You may have a well-meaning sister who causes you a lot of stress.  She is probably not the person to have with you at the hospital the day of surgery. However, she could be great at stocking your fridge with pre-made meals. 

    Or you may have a brother who would love to help, but you feel awkward having him around in the first few days after such a personal surgery.  Perhaps he could be enlisted to mow the lawn or take you grocery shopping a week after your surgery.

What Your Team Can Help With

Knowing what your team can help with is half the battle! Since you have not been through this before, you probably don’t know exactly what support will be the most helpful. However, I have, and this is what I wish someone would have told me:

  • Transportation Help – First, you will need someone to drive you to the hospital and be there during your surgery.  You will also need someone to drive you home after you are released.
  • Personal Needs Help – Second, you will likely need some assistance with very personal needs in the early days after a double mastectomy. 
    • Your surgery drains will need to be “stripped” several times a day.  While it is possible to do this yourself (I did), it may be challenging, especially if you have had chemotherapy.  If you have a support person to help with this, he or she should come to the hospital to have a nurse show the proper way to strip drains. 
    • Your doctor will tell you how often to change your dressings.  While also possible to do this yourself, it is helpful to have assistance.
    • If you have shower restrictions after surgery, you may wish to wash your hair in the sink.  This is another task that is helpful to have assistance with.
  • Basic Needs Help – In addition, you need to eat, laundry has to be done, trash needs to be taken out, you need to go to follow up doctor’s appointments, etc. Line someone up to do these things for you.
  • Emotional Support Help – Finally, a mastectomy is a very personal and emotional process.  Having a friend to talk with, or to get you out of the house and distract you, is a blessing.  Knowing in advance who can come visit you, accompany you for a walk, take you out for lunch, etc. gives you confidence that you are not alone in this process.

What to Do in Advance

Here is your “To-Do” list of what needs to get done in advance of your surgery.

To Do:

Make your Support List

  • To begin, make a list of all that you think you will need help with for the first 2 – 3 weeks after your surgery.  (Remember that you will have driving restrictions, so don’t forget to include transportation to follow up appointments.) 
  • Then think about what you can do in advance.  Then think about your sources of support who could help with the things that can’t be done in advance.

Plan for Food

  • You can make freezer meals in advance.  A simple online search will show many tasty meals that can be prepared in advance and stored in your freezer, then cooked/heated up when you are ready to eat them.
  • Ask a friend to coordinate a meal delivery service for you if you have friends and family who would like to help in this way.  Meal Train is a free online service that allows you to create an event and email a link to friends.  They can sign up to provide meals on a specific day.  If you are part of a faith community, they may have a group of volunteers who provide meals to those recovering from surgery or illness. 
  • Purchase pre-made meals from a grocery store.

Plan for Personal Assistance

  • Plan to need some assistance on a regular basis for the first few weeks after surgery.  Your needs will be more personal in the first few days, so that is a good time for your closest friends and family to visit.  Keep a calendar with the schedule of who is coming when.  Be sure to have transportation assistance for follow up doctor’s appointments and any errands that you must run.
  • For a fee, Meal Train offers online scheduling for people to come help you.
  • Also, if you know that you won’t want to sit at home alone for weeks on end, proactively plan fun outings with friends or family.  A quick lunch or coffee date could do wonders for your emotional well-being.

Ask for Help

  • When you know your specific needs and who you are comfortable having help, you will have a response ready when people say “Let me know if there is anything I can do to help”. 
  • And don’t forget, restaurant gift cards are a great option for well meaning friends or family who aren’t nearby or who are extremely busy.
  • Additionally, be vulnerable – most people like being needed, don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Get Your House in Order

  • In the days before your surgery, have your cupboards stocked, laundry done, lawn mowed, and any cleaning or tidying complete.  Don’t assume that you will feel up to any of those tasks immediately after surgery.  Enlist the help of a friend if needed.
  • Purchase all items that you will need during your recovery period (see Preparing for a Double Mastectomy – What to Buy for tips).

Pack Your Double Mastectomy Hospital Bag

  • The hospital will provide most of what you need while you are there, but be sure to bring any personal hygiene items that you prefer.
  • Bring a comfy set of clothing to wear home, and a pillow to protect your chest area from the seat-belt on the way home. 
  • Additionally, bring good book or something else to help pass the time. 
  • Oh, and don’t forget your cell phone charger!
  • Then, take a deep breath – even with the best made plans and lots of preparation, something will go wrong or get missed.  It will be ok.  This is a difficult process and there will be hiccups, but you will get through it!

What you Need to Recover from a Double Mastectomy

In the months leading up to the surgery, I was focused on doctors’ appointments, screenings, and applying for FMLA.  But then a few weeks before surgery, I realized that I had no idea how to prepare for recovery. 

Even though I took care of my mom after her surgery, and I had several aunts who had also been through the process, no one had any solid advice on how to make recovery easier.  There was lots of information readily available on the surgery itself.  But I had no idea what to do once I got home from the hospital.

When you make the decision to have a mastectomy, you will want to find out in advance what your doctor recommends for recovery.  You will likely have a brief stay in the hospital, followed by restrictions on lifting, driving, showering/bathing, sleeping positions, how high you can reach, etc. 

Be sure to ask your surgeon about these topics prior to surgery.  If you know this information ahead of time, you can understand what your needs will be and have time to prepare to minimize the discomfort and inconvenience afterward. 

Double Mastectomy Must Have’s

First, let’s start with the basics. Here is your shopping or gathering list of the most important things you need to make your recovery as smooth as possible.

Comfortable Clothing

  • Post surgery you will likely be sent home with a compression bra and surgical drains.  Your arm mobility will somewhat limited, so your normal clothing may not work well during this time.  I recommend loose button up or zip up shirts. 
  • If your surgery is during the cooler months, then zip up fleece jackets work well.  Be sure they are loose so that your drain bags will fit underneath. 
  • The summer months present a different challenge as you may be hot from the extra layers and unable to shower.  Try to find loose, lightweight clothing to get you through the first few weeks. 
  • You needn’t spend a fortune on clothes that aren’t your normal style – your local thrift store may have great options.  It’s fine to wear the same outfit multiple times in those first few weeks. 
  • Also, keep in mind that you will likely have compression stockings to wear initially to reduce your risk of blood clots.  So plan your pants and footwear accordingly.  A pair of nonslip socks for wearing around the house may be a good investment as well.

Drain holders

  • You will have post surgery drains to help with the healing process.  The drains are tubes fastened inside of you with bulbs on the end that will fill with fluid. 
  • You’ll want to keep these protected so that they aren’t caught on anything, and you may feel more comfortable keeping them completely out of sight. 
  • Your doctor may send you home with safety pins to clip them to your clothes, or you may receive complimentary drain holders from a breast cancer group – however those are often plastic and bulky. 
  • Drain holders such as these are soft and comfortable to wear under your clothes.

Reclining Arm Chair or Multiple Pillows

  • Your doctor may recommend that you sleep in an inclined position for a period after your surgery. 
  • If you do not have a reclining chair, consider borrowing one or renting one. 
  • If that is not an option, then plan to have multiple pillows in bed to support you. 
  • Wherever you sleep, have a nightstand next to you that you can store a water bottle and your pain pills on.  When you wake up in pain, you will be glad to have your medicine within an arm’s reach.

Hygiene Products

Your doctor may have restrictions on showering, possibly up to a couple weeks.  While not ideal, you can purchase products to help you get through this time period.

  • Dry shampoo – After my double mastectomy, I washed my hair in the sink every 2 – 3 days.  I sprayed dry shampoo in my hair in the evenings so that my hair would not get greasy in between washes.  This brand worked well for me.
  • Facial wipes – While you will likely be able to wash your face, these are an extremely convenient way to freshen up when you aren’t feeling well.
  • Baby wipes – Use these to clean/freshen up your body when you aren’t able to shower.
  • Large gauze pads – Your doctor will tell you how often to change your dressings, but you will need to buy the gauze pads yourself.  Mastectomy incisions are large and typical gauze pads aren’t big enough.  Many pharmacies do not carry the larger sizes that the hospitals use, but Walmart offers these surgical dressings at a reasonable price. 
  • Small gauze pads – You will need smaller gauze pads for covering the sites where the surgery drains are removed.
  • If you have sensitive skin, be sure to buy tape for sensitive skin.  My personal favorite is this brand, which I found at Target. 

Other Double Mastectomy Helpful Items

In addition, to the “must-have” items above. Here are some of the other very helpful things to consider having on-hand.

  • Slip on walking shoes – Once your doctor approves walking, you’ll want to follow his or her recommendations.  Walking may help with reducing soreness, building strength, and preventing blood clots.  It’s also a good chance to get out of the house.  Slip on shoes are helpful when your mobility is limited after surgery.
  • Large water bottle – Hydration is important in healing.  Keep it full and drink often.  Your hospital may send you home with one as well.
  • Over the counter pain medication – As recommended by your doctor.
  • Ice packs – Your doctor may allow you to use an ice pack to help with pain on the incision site.
  • Heating pad – I found that I had a lot of back soreness due to the physical discomfort, reduced mobility, and reclined sleeping position.  The heating pad was helpful in managing this back soreness.
  • Activities to pass the time – In the early days after a mastectomy, physical activity will be limited and it’s easy to get bored.  Plan to have activities to pass the time, such as books, puzzles, crossword puzzles, adult coloring books, or a streaming service to watch your favorite movies.

Helpful Services

Finally, recovery is much faster if you can truly rest. As much as you can (or can afford), try to enlist professionals or volunteer to do your labor for at least a few weeks.

Cleaning Services

Cleaning your home after a single or double mastectomy will be difficult due to limited mobility, lift restrictions, and fatigue. Consequently, this is a good time to invest in a cleaning service if you can afford it. 

The nonprofit Cleaning for a Reason offers free cleaning services to women with cancer.  You can find out more at here to see if it is offered in your area.

Grocery Delivery Service

Lifting and driving restrictions may make it difficult to shop for groceries the first few weeks after your mastectomy.  Many grocery stores offer delivery service for just a few dollars, or even free if you purchase a certain amount. 

In addition, consider buying pre-made meals during this time.

Mowing Service

Finally, if you do not have someone else to mow your yard and you are having your surgery during the summer months, look for a lawn care service that can help you in the interim. 

Conclusions

Choosing to have a single or a double mastectomy is a big decision. However, the recovery period does not need to be overwhelming.  By preparing in advance, you can make the time go smoothly and more comfortably. 

Furthermore, this is a major life event, and it is important that you set yourself up for a successful recovery.  Remember that recovery is just a season. Eventually you will get back to the way you normally live. 

In the meantime, take care of yourself, follow your doctor’s orders, and follow these tips to make the process easier.

Your Story

What tips, comments or suggestions do you have for others considering a double mastectomy? Would would love to hear your advice, stories or comments.

Also by Crystal Bayliss:

What is Silver Sneakers?

What is Silver Sneakers?

What is Silver Sneakers?

what is Silver Sneakers Senior Fitness

Maybe you just overhead your neighbor talking about his free gym membership, or maybe your doctor asked you if you are a SilverSneakers user. You might then be wondering, just what it Silver Sneakers?

SilverSneakers(r) is a fitness and wellness program for seniors age 65 and up. It includes free gym memberships across the country, and it is included with many Medicare Advantage Plans.

NOTE: If you are a part of AARP’s Unitedhealthcare’s Medicare Advantage Plans, then you will be a part of Renew Active. This is a similar program, but has several differences you can read about here.

Renew Active vs Silver Sneakers

What is Included in a Silver Sneakers Membership?

  • LOCAL GYM MEMBERSHIPS: Silver Sneakers has an extensive list of gyms that participate in their program that offers free gym memberships to seniors. Their website boasts having more gym facilities than there are Starbucks locations in the U.S. (at over 16,000).
    • If you are a part of a Medicare Advantage (MA) program that uses Silver Sneakers, then you can access the gyms in their network at no cost. You can use as many of these facilities as you like while you are a part of your MA plan.
  • ONLINE FITNESS CLASSES: If you prefer to workout at home, or do not have a physical location close to you, SilverSneakers offers online fitness classes.
  • APP: They also have an app to help you track your fitness goals and schedule your fitness plans. The app can also help you locate participating locations.

What you Need to Know About Silver Sneakers

First, there are a few things you need to know to get started. Here is an overview and some frequently asked questions about the program.

How do I know if I am a member of SilverSneakers?

Well, if you are part of a Medicare Advantage Plan, then there is a very good chance you are already a part of the program.

To check on your eligibility, click here.

Where can I find participating gyms and wellness facilities?

As an overview, SilverSneakers tries to be in as many convenient fitness facilities as possible. Moreover, they are doing an excellent job of reaching this goal! Right now, they are in over 16,000 fitness facilities.

Here is the official link to search for a participating fitness facility near you.

What if there are no facilities close to me?

If you are in a smaller town or rural area, there might not be a class or gym close to you. However, even if there is not a Silver Sneakers contracted location close to you, you can still participate. The program features online classes and workout kits.

Do I have to take the Silver Sneakers Classes?

what is silver sneakers?

Often, people will ask me if they have to attend the SilverSneakers branded classes at the gym. The answer is no. The program gives you access to the whole facility. This includes Silver Sneakers classes, but also all the other classes at the gym. You can also just go walk on the treadmill or lift weights.

Caring for Elderly Parents

Caring for Elderly Parents

Caring for Elderly Parents: A How To Guide

Caring for Elderly Parents - a how to guide from medicare life health co.

Welcome to the ultimate guide to caring for elderly parents and/or grandparents. Aging is a natural part of life, and everyone should have a care plan for themselves and their aging loved ones. This guide helps you make the tough decisions to keep your loved ones safe and happy.

I personally know what it is like to live with elderly loved ones and care for them. I lived with my grandparents right before their health declined enough to move them to assisted living. It was the hardest year of my life. However, it was also rewarding to care for them after all of the years they cared for me.

This guide leads you through the decisions you will need to consider to help your elderly parents.

We will cover:

  • Where can my aging parents/grandparents safely live?
  • What services and products can keep them safe and happy?
  • How can I help them with health care and insurance?
  • Who should be in charge of their finances?
  • Where can I go for support?

Where can my loved ones safely live?

Senior Living Options with Medicare Life Health Co. is part of the caring for elderly parents series.

Helping your elderly parents or grandparents decide where they should live can be very emotional. This is true for all the people involved. The options range from staying at home to full-time care, and everything in between.

Senior Living Options

  • Living at Home – Options exist for helping your seniors live at home as long as possible.
    • There are non-medical care-giving services such as Home Instead and Right at Home. They provide help around the house and companionship, but not medical care.
    • The medical alert devices listed in the services in the next section also help give seniors and you peace of mind in regards to their safety. These are good for the home environment, as well as running around town.
  • Retirement Community / Apartment or Condo – Often times seniors will want to move to a retirement community or 55+ apartment or condo building. Seniors like the social aspects of these communities. In addition, there are add conveniences and informal safety networks in place to give everyone peace of mind.
  • Assisted Living – For seniors that need a level of care below the nursing home, assisted living is a great option. However, these homes can be expensive. There are not always spots open for low income or Medicaid beneficiaries.
  • Memory Care Centers – Dementia and Alzheimer’s is a growing disease in America. As a result, we see more centers and homes dedicated to residents with memory issues.
  • Nursing Homes and Long-Term Care – The last stop on the list is the nursing home / long-term care facilities. There are both private and public options in most cities, but it takes a lot of research to make sure you are finding the best fit for your loved one.

What services / products can keep elderly loved ones safe and happy?

Especially if your loved ones are living at home, there are different products and services that can give everyone peace of mind. These include aides to help with daily activities, as well as alert / check-in services.

Products to Keep Your Loved Ones Safe & Happy

Best gifts for seniors

We love products that keep seniors happy, independent and safe. Happily, more creative and innovative options exist that ever to make life easier. We are constantly on the hunt for life-improving and safety-enhancing innovations.

Best Gifts for The Elderly in Nursing Homes

For now, you can start by looking at our senior gift lists.

We love the idea of thoughtful and helpful house warming gifts for seniors that are making a move. Especially if this move was out of necessity. A little love and thought goes a long way with these big transitions.

Services to Keep Your Elderly Parents Safe

We all worry about falls and accidents. The elderly often experience a decline in balance and strength with each passing year. There are a few options out there of companies that will monitor your loved ones and give them the help they need in case of a fall. When we look at companies to refer you to, we look for ones with good customer service, customization options and no long-term contracts.

Here are our Top Senior Monitoring Picks:

  • MobileHelp – Provides an alert system that works with a “Fall Button” that can automatically detect when a fall occurs. This company gets almost 5/5 stars in most consumer review panels. Learn more here.
  • LifeFone – Is our other top pick for Medical Alert Systems. It also is rated very highly and offers a free trial period. Spouses are also included in their standard pricing, which makes it a good choice for couples.
  • Iamfine – As a different kind of monitoring service, Iamfine is a daily call service that checks in with your loved ones by phone. If they fail to answer after a few attempts, Iamfine will alert your “care circle.” The service has a free 2 week trial period as well.

How can I help elderly parents with health care and insurance?

If your loved one is either older than 65 or disabled, they probably qualify for the Medicare program. In addition, if they are living on a very small income, they could also qualify for Medicaid.

From a high level view, your loved one will need to choose if they want their Medicare coverage to be bundled with a Medicare Advantage Plan or to be put together with Original Medicare, a Supplement and a Drug Plan. These are the two paths to choose from.

Let’s back up now, and break down the parts of Medicare. We want you, the caregiver, to feel as comfortable and knowledgeable as possible when helping your seniors make their decisions.

Helpful Medicare Articles for Caregivers

MedicareLifeHealth.com is a great resource for learning about Medicare. We have articles to show you how to set-up your loved one’s health care. We understand it is so important to make sure they get the coverage and care they need.

Here is where to go for more information:

Who can I call or email for help with Medicare/Medicaid/Health Care Insurance?

MedicareLifeHealth is a national community, but health care questions and registrations are often different state to state. So, we have a couple different resources for you to work with.

Carly Cummings, Medicare and Medigap Expert

If you live in Nebraska or Iowa: Your fearless leader of Medicare Life Health Co. (Carly Cummings – that’s me!) is a licensed life/health agent in NE and IA. I would be glad to help you with your questions and enrollment needs.


Please contact me here.

If you live in all other 48 States: We are building our directory of national insurance agents. Find one now:

Insurance Agents Near Me

Who should be in charge of caring for elderly parents’ finances?

There might come a time when you realize your seniors need help with their finances. As a result, you will discover two phases of caring for your elderly parents’ or grandparents’ finances:

  1. Assisting with their decisions.
  2. Taking over the decisions.

This same process translates to Medical decisions, so we will include information on both.

Durable Power of Attorney

When working with seniors to help them in making financial and medical decisions, you will want to set up “Durable” Power of Attorney (POA). This is a document that will give you (or someone else they trust) power to act in their place if they become mentally incapacitated.

The “Durable” part is important. Regular power of attorney documents end when a person becomes mentally incapacitated. Durable powers of attorney contracts do not. With this document, you will be able to help your elderly parent with important decisions when they cannot.

In addition, you will want to have two separate Durable Power of Attorney Documents:

  1. One for Medical
  2. And one for Financial.

Medical Power of Attorney (POA)

Commonly called the durable power of attorney for health care, this document names the person who will be making health care decisions for your elderly parent.

The named person will be able to enroll the elderly parent in medical plans, speak to doctors on their behalf, and represent their wishes in regards to medical care.

caring for a dying parent - a how to guide from medicare life health co. by crystal bayliss

You will also want to make sure your loved ones have a living will and a regular will. Knowing your loved one’s desires for how end of life care and services will go is very important. Please see our full article on “Caring for Dying Parents” here.

Financial Power of Attorney (POA)

Your elderly family member will also need to name someone to carry out their financial wishes when they cannot. This is where a comprehensive durable financial power of attorney is important.

Note, this should be a separate document from the medical POA. The financial POA allows someone take over your elder’s retirement accounts, taxes, and bills. For this reason, it needs to be someone they trust, and should be done as soon as possible to make sure they are represented in the ways they wish.

Working Together

Finally, although these are two separate documents, you certainly can name the same person on both. In fact, having the same person do both will make life much easier and simpler. If you do have different people named on each document, you will want to ensure they communicate well and can work together effectively.

Where can I get support for caring for elderly parents?

I remember pulling over to the side of the road, one very stressful day, because I couldn’t see through my tears to drive. At the time, I was living with my grandparents and trying to care for them while their health continued to decline.

Caring for Elderly Parents Stress Management: A How to Guide Presented by Medicare Life Health Co.

I was overwhelmed by the amount of work it took to keep them safe in their own home (even with the help of a home care company). Consequently, we were reaching the tipping point of needing to move them to assisted living. However, the thoughts about and process of this change were also just sad. It was a lot for me to handle.

Luckily, I had a very strong support system and access to help. You need this too.

Find Someone to Talk to Regularly

The first step is to reach out to someone to talk to and confide in. Care-giving takes a lot out of you. As a result, you need someone to listen to you and give back to you. Whether this is a professional counselor, or just a friend, you need to make “talking it out” a priority. Better yet, make your conversations a habit or a standing date.

Seek Outside Help

The second step is to get outside help. If your parent is still at home, see what is in the budget for hiring a care service. Even if just for a few hours a week. These companies help with daily living activities for seniors wanting to still live by themselves. (This is non-medical help.)

Alternatively, you can see what social network your seniors are a part of that might want to help. My mom was excellent at getting visitors for her elderly parents from not only their friends, church member, etc. but also from her own social network. You would be amazed at how many people are willing to swing by a nursing home and say hello during the week. You just have to ask!

Set-up Self-Care

Care-giving makes you busy, tired and often plain run-down. The only way self-care happens is when you make it a priority. Moreover, you need to set it in your schedule as an important appointment.

First, create and stick to a weekly workout schedule. Then, create a routine for getting healthy meals onto your table. Finally, make sure you keep your hair appointments, massages or other healthy ways to relax and stay on top of your health.

I know it is all easier said than done, but you will be much more efficient and helpful if you are well rested and cared for first.

Action Steps for Caring for Elderly Parents

checklist for aging parents and caring for your elderly parents and grandparents

In summary, caring for elderly parents, grandparent and loved ones is a long, hard journey. However, you are not alone! In addition to all the helpful organizations, services and innovations out there, there are also real people that want to love and support you. You cannot, and should not, do this alone.

Here are a few good steps to get you started or move you forward with your loved one’s journey.

  • First, if you are considering housing options, reach out to a home care service. If a move is a necessity sooner or later, start by touring one assisted living center or nursing home.
  • Second, for seniors living at home or even in assisted living, look into a couple of medical alert systems. Falls are all too common, and you need to be prepared.
  • Third, in regards to health care, reach out to a professional to make sure your loved one has the best coverage in their area. Plans change all the time, so a review is always a good idea.
  • Fourth, legally, make sure you understand what your loved one needs and wants in regards to making financial decisions. Get together all the proper documents needed to secure current or future Power of Attorney options.
  • See in your loved one has any Long-Term Care Insurance in place. Additionally, they could have a life insurance policy with a Long-Term Care Rider or a Critical Illness Rider.
  • Finally, create a plan now for taking care of yourself and start implementing it right away. You deserve it. Thank you for taking care of your elderly parents and loved ones.
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