Wednesday, January 27, 2016

New and Expanded Medicare Programs

Beginning in early 2016, Medicare has announced several new and expanded programs which could benefit millions of Americans.  This information is based on a longer article by Deb Jones, "Changes in Medicare for 2016 Include Expansion of Coordinated Care."  Readers can find links to the full article at the end of this post.

First, however, you will find an introduction to the 2016 changes.  If you need more information, you are encouraged to check out the full article which was originally published in The Daily Voice News.

The first change will be an increase in the number of Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs).  Medicare has been experimenting with this approach for several years and discovered that it has improved outcomes and saves money ... certainly the direction we all want to see Medicare going.  This new type of coordinated care will be expanded to include over 20 percent of all Medicare beneficiaries.

In the second change, Medicare has agreed to pay doctors to discuss Advance Directives with their patients.  This will allow people to have an in-depth discussion with their physician about end-of-life decisions.  In my personal experience, my HMO has classes to help patients go through their Advance Directive so they can decide for themselves what type of care they want at the end of their life, should they not be able to communicate their wishes when they are near death.  Advance Directives take pressure off family members who do not want to be responsible for making these final decisions.  In addition, Advance Directives allow people to think about and convey their wishes long before the time comes.

The third Medicare change would allow more people to receive some types of curative treatments while they are in hospice care.  Currently, patients cannot be in hospice care and undergoing any curative treatments other than palliative care, which is only intended to keep the patient comfortable during the last weeks or months of their life. This trial program is still in an experimental stage and may not be available in all locations.

Finally, Medicare is initiating a trial of a 90-day comprehensive treatment program for people undergoing joint replacement surgeries

Below is the introduction to a more detailed article about these Medicare changes.  For more information about any of the programs mentioned above, click on the title of the article or use the link below the Table of Contents:

"Changes in Medicare for 2016 Include Expansion of Coordinated Care"

As Medicare in the United States begins its 51st year, there are a number of changes of interest regarding Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), counseling regarding end-of-life decisions and trial changes in areas such as hospice care and joint replacements.

1. Coordinated Care Expands to Encompass More than 20 Percent of all Medicare Beneficiaries
2. Medicare to Pay for Annual Voluntary Advance Directive Consultations
3. Medicare Begins Evaluating Hospice Care that Includes Curative Services

4. Medicare to Evaluate Trial of 90-Day Care for Joint Replacement Surgeries
The above intro was re-printed by permission from the author.  Read the full article at:

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Thursday, January 21, 2016

Guide For When Someone Dies

Whether it is a parent, spouse or another close family member, when someone close to you dies it can be a very overwhelming and confusing time for those who are left behind.  Because of that, it can be helpful to have a simple set of checklists that cover most of the things you will need to do to get through the first few days.

While nothing can make it easier to survive the trauma of a death, it can at least be reassuring to have a list of the specific tasks you need to complete.  The information in this post was provided by a local mortuary and, although the list is lengthy, I thought it was worth summarizing here.

Who You Should Notify When Someone Dies (Some Should be Notified Immediately; You Can Wait a Few Days for Others)

If it happens at home, call the deceased's doctor and/or the coroner
Contact the next of kin; try not to leave anyone out
Employer, if they are still working
Landlord, if they are renting
Utility companies
Attorney, accountant, banker
Executor of the estate
Tell Social Security to stop payments
Department of Veteran's Affairs, if appropriate
Insurance agents
Church or place of worship
Clubs and organizations

How to Make Funeral Arrangements

Contact funeral home or mortuary
Choose clothing for the deceased
Select clergy or officiates
Write obituary and submit to newspaper
Plan service - clergy, eulogy, music, etc.
Order death certificates - You will need several

Information Needed for Your Funeral Home Appointment

Birth date and birthplace of deceased
Citizenship status
Religious name (if any)
Social Security Number
Parent's names and birthplaces
Occupation and Title
Marital Status
Veteran's discharge papers or claim number
Recent Photo
Pre-arrangement paperwork
Cemetery Lot information

Other Documents You Will Need

Will and Trust documents
Social Security card or number
Marriage license
Citizenship papers
Disability and pension claims
Veteran's discharge certificate (DD214)
Safe Deposit box information

Check On the Following Possible Benefits Heirs May Receive

Life and casualty insurance
Social Security
Benefits from unions, fraternities, military
Employee benefits including owed vacation pay, death benefits, retirement plans, and final wages
Debt cancellation on credit card balances
Refunds on insurance or cancelled subscriptions and services

Final Expenses to Anticipate

Funeral services
Casket, vault, burial plot, mausoleum or niche; or cremation
Florist, musician, clergy
Transportation for family and relatives to services
Reception food for guests
Debts or final bills of the deceased
Any additional fees

While this is a lengthy list, when the time comes and you are responsible for handling the death of a relative, it is a list you will want to have handy.  You may want to print out a few copies and keep them with your will and other documents.

Source:  This checklist is based on one provided by Fairhaven Memorial Park & Mortuary in Orange County, California and published in the 2015 edition of "Answers," which is published by the Council on Aging.

If you are interested in additional helpful information about funeral planning, financial planning, medical issues, where to retire or changing family relationships, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional articles.

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Wednesday, January 13, 2016

How to Overcome Resistance to Assisted Living and Find a Wonderful Living Arrangement

According to the estimates of experts, approximately 70% of people over the age of 65 will need to live in an assisted living or skilled nursing facility at some time in their life.  Your stay could be just a few weeks while you rehabilitate from an injury, or it could last for the last decade or longer of your life.

Many modern assisted living facilities are wonderful places to call home.  They offer chef prepared meals, usually with a variety of choices available.  They also provide transportation, entertainment, plenty of activities, friendships, and a comfortable, safe place to live.  Many of them offer private apartments or individual rooms which you can furnish with your own things and decorate as you wish. Even when the residents share a room, they can still bring in a few of their own favorite furnishings, photographs and artwork.  Each person receives whatever care they need and they are allowed to be as self-sufficient as they are able to be.

However, despite all the advantages of moving into one of these facilities, large numbers of people resist the idea of moving into assisted living, even when it is obvious to family members that their loved one desperately needs help.  Here are some of the objections often put forth by senior citizens, followed by some ways to get past them, whether you are discussing this issue with a spouse or an aging parent.

Objections to Assisted Living

*  Resistance to moving anywhere new ... away from friends, familiar places, your current doctors, place of worship, etc.

*  Fear that you will have to give up your "bad" habits ... smoking, drinking your favorite alcoholic beverages, sleeping late, gambling, eating candy or whatever else you like to do and don't want to give up.

*  Fear that you will have to give up your pet.

*  Fear of the unknown.

Overcoming the Objections to Assisted Living

*  In most parts of the country you can find assisted living facilities that are either in your current neighborhood or that are near family members who can check on you frequently and take you places.  The sooner you decide to move into one, the more input you will have in helping with the process of finding one that you will like, with the types of nearby activities that interest you.  In some cases, churches can arrange transportation that will make it possible for you to continue to attend their services.  In other situations, the assisted living facility can arrange the transportation to a nearby place of worship.

*  Many assisted living facilities have no problem if you want to have a cocktail, a bottle of beer or a glass of wine with your dinner.  While they may send someone to check on you if you unexpectedly miss a meal, most of them will allow you a lot of personal freedom in your own private room or apartment.  Many of them also plan outings to local casinos, shopping malls, etc., so you will still be able to enjoy many of the same types of treats and activities that you have always enjoyed. These are issues you can work out by asking a lot of questions before you move into one.  If you have a "bad" habit you do not want to give up at this point in your life, ask what the facility's policy is regarding that habit.  I have a friend who likes to drink champagne with her dinner.  The waiter at her assisted living facility opens a bottle for her every evening.  She said she never feels "judged."  Keep searching until you find a place where you feel confident you will be comfortable and happy.  This is one more reason why you want to take an active role in finding your own assisted living facility.  You do not want to wait until you are so ill that someone else has to choose the place for you.

*  While most skilled nursing facilities will not let you bring your pets, there are many assisted living facilities which are pet friendly. That is one difference between skilled nursing facilities and assisted living communities. This fear can be quickly resolved with a few quick phone calls.  Some placement companies like A Place for Mom or Nursing Home Solutions (in California) can help you quickly narrow down your choices.

*  The best way to overcome a fear of the unknown is to take your time visiting a variety of assisted living facilities, long before the need becomes critical.   You or a family member should keep a notebook with details about each location ... the cost, the amenities, whether or not it is pet friendly, whether or not you can enjoy your favorite activities, whether you can get transportation to your church or other important events you wish to attend.  Visiting assisted living facilities is also a wonderful way to discover all the positive things they have to offer ... security, good food, friends and activities.  After seeing a few, you may find the one that is perfect for you!

*  You may also want to consider the risks of living alone, especially as your health fails.  When an elderly person falls, it frequently leads to death, especially if no one is around to get them help quickly.  In addition, people who live alone and eat their meals alone often become depressed and decline in health much more rapidly than people who live in more social settings. 

Learn More About Moving Into Assisted Living:

If you are interested in learning more about aging and retirement, including where to retire, use the tabs at the top of this page.  They contain links to hundreds of additional, helpful articles.

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Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Social Security & Medicare Information

In the past, this blog has linked the articles that pertain to Social Security and Medicare under the Retirement Money or Medical Concerns tabs.  However, making decisions about Social Security and Medicare has become so complicated that it has become apparent they deserve a category of their own.

Many people believe that all they need to do is sign up for Social Security sometime after the age of 62 and Medicare once they turn 65 and there is very little they need to think about in making these decisions.  However, if people want to get the most money possible from Social Security and spend the least amount of money while getting the maximum benefits from their Medicare, they need to do some planning BEFORE they ever sign up for either program.

Below you will find links to a group of articles that you will want to read and think about as you get close to your retirement age.  In addition, I want to mention that the rules regarding these programs, and the costs involved with Medicare, change nearly every year.  It is important to make sure you get the latest information possible before you make any final decisions.

Article Links for Information about Social Security and Medicare

**  Our Medicare Expert Will Answer Your Questions  **

2015 Medicare Changes, Premiums and Deductibles (2015)

2016 Social Security Increase Ridiculously Low

2018 Social Security COLA and Medicare Premium Increases

Annual Medicare Open Enrollment Period 

Common Medicare Mistakes

Confusing Parts of Medicare  

Covid-19 will Lower Social Security Benefits for People Born in 1960 

Electronic Social Security Payments Only Option Since 2013

Guide for When Someone Dies (who to contact) 

How to Access Your Social Security Information Online

How to Collect Social Security and Retire Overseas 

Hopeful News for the Future of Medicare

How to Fix Medicare (read above article, as well)

How to Sign Up for Medicare

Important Medicare Tips for Boomers

Living on Social Security in the U.S. 

Maximize Your Social Security Benefits for an Easier Retirement 

Should You Change Your Medicare Plan?  What to Consider  

Should You Get a Medicare Advantage Plan with Your Medicare? 

Should You Get Medigap Supplemental Insurance with Your Medicare? 

Social Security and Remarriage

Social Security at Age 70 Maximizes Future Income 

Social Security Benefit Changes (2016) 

Social Security Changes in 2019

Social Security Cost of Living Increases Under a Chained CPI

Social Security: Facts Everyone Should Know

Social Security Myths and Misunderstandings 

 Vote to Lower Medicare Prescription Drug Prices 

What Medicare Does NOT Cover

What is the Average Amount of Social Security? 

When to Take Social Security Benefits Early 

Where to Retire in the U.S. on Social Security Alone

Women and Social Security

This article contains links only to articles that pertain to Social Security, Medicare and other assistance programs that are available to support you financially or cover your medical expenses once you reach retirement age.

In addition, you will want to read the additional articles in this blog that discuss where to retire, common medical issues, financial planning, changing family relationships and more.  Use the tabs or pull down menus at the top of this blog to find links to these blog articles.

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