Prepare Elderly Parents for Their New Medicare Cards

If you are an individual who focuses on personal data security, one of the most surprising things you discover when it’s time to offer support to aging parents is that  Social Security numbers appear right on the front of the Medicare card. Americans are told not to carry their Social Security cards around, but once they begin receiving Medicare benefits, their Social Security numbers are printed on a different card.

medicare card

CMS will be mailing new cards between April 2018 and April 2019.

The good news is that the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will be sending updated and more secure cards, issuing them between beginning April 2018 and April 2019. Each new Medicare card will have a unique, randomly assigned identification number that has no connection to a Social Security number. A new Medicare number will cut down on fraud and fight identity theft. CMS will begin mailing about 60 million new cards in April 2018 and will take a year to get them all mailed. No beneficiary needs to do or pay anything for a new card — it will arrive in the mail.     Continue reading

Help People Evaluate Health Media With Trust It or Trash It

The moment a person needs health information, the inclination is to Google it, even though there are much better places to visit — places that offer high-quality and reliable health information. A Google search does not guarantee good quality information — especially when it comes to health information, and due to sponsored advertisements and what I call pseudo health websites, a search may actually send a searcher in a wrong direction. Moreover, these days television ads, infomercials, and online ads seek to grab and hold people’s attention, and it’s difficult to figure out what’s a good source and what’s bad.

Screen Shot 2016-01-06 at 12.16.34 PMThe good health information issue becomes even more critical for aging parents and elders, who often have many health concerns. Each day pharmaceutical advertisements and self-improvement ads bombard older adults with sales info disguised as health support. When they do Google searches, they encounter carefully groomed advertisements that may swoop in and look trustworthy. It can be difficult for a person of any age to tell what information is really useful and what information is just trying to get attention … and money.

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Loneliness as a Health Issue?

Screen Shot 2015-12-03 at 8.13.03 PMCheck out The Atlantic article, How Loneliness Wears on the Body. Written by Jessica Lahey and Tim Lahey, the piece points out loneliness is almost as big a health risk for elder adults as insecure food sources. The authors describe research published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) that identifies a strong connection between loneliness and susceptibility to viral infections and inflammation.

The Atlantic article offers a link to the highly technical PNAS research report and it is freely available. Most of us who we want to learn a bit more than The Atlantic piece may be satisfied with the research abstract.

Any of us who have delivered food to the elderly or sick know from experience that our interactions with the recipients is almost as important as the food itself.

Grandfather First Refused Medicare Because of Scare Tactics and Misinformation

Affordable Care

If the system is too busy or too slow, do exactly what you do with online banking or at other online sites — wait a while and try again.

It’s funny how changes in health care policy seem to generate anxiety, anger, and all sorts of misinformation in the United States. Well, actually it’s not so funny.

How is it that so few people can scare so many others when it comes to keeping many more people healthy? But that describes what has happened with the Affordable Care Act. A small number of fear mongers have frightened many others — often citizens who can benefit from better access to health care.

My husband’s grandfather, a small-town merchant, refused Medicare for years, because of the anxiety, anger, and misinformation associated with the passage of the laws. He would have benefitted if he had signed up in a timely manner for the Medicare coverage that he was entitled to receive. In those days he would have needed to get the forms, probably lengthy ones, fill in the information, mail them, and wait around for several weeks — not like today when, once the IT experts tweak the computer systems, people will be able to sign up in a day or two.

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Elder Parent Caregiving During and After SuperStorm Sandy

When my husband’s mother lived in an excellent assisted living community, we found severe weather to be a challenge. Huge  storms, no matter what the season, made it difficult to stay in touch.

Gail Sheehy’s November 3, 2012 article about elder and medical caregiving during Hurricane/Superstorm Sandy is posted over at Caring.com. It’s a must-read for adult children whose elder parents live in caregiving settings or if a senior parent expects visits from visiting nurses or other home care assistants.

In How Assisted Living and In-Home Care Providers Responded to Superstorm Sandy, Sheehy explains that senior caregivers and visiting nurses went to great lengths to ensure the safety and health of the people in their care. She also describes efforts to remain in touch with adult children and other family members.

Her stories of the Visiting Nurses of New York (VNSNY) are breathtaking. You can also read a report about superstorm caregiving on the VNSNY website.

Up and down the northeast corridor dedicated and caring individuals  continued to provide care during the storm, sometimes even moving in with a patient for the few days so they could be sure no lapse in care occurred. Other nurses and caregivers waded through water, talked themselves through police roadblocks, and found novel ways to charge their portable devices.

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Empowering Through Design: What a Health-Wellness Concept!

We’ve all had experiences trying to accomplish a task that is way too hard — and one reason it’s so difficult is because the environment is not designed to help a person function and work efficiently. Many of us have watched our aging parents grow frustrated, especially in medical settings, where equipment and furniture is overly complex and where even simple things, like light switches, sometimes look like they belong in the complex control panel of an airplane. And it’s not just elders, but patients in general. In the biography by Walter Isaacson, Apple Computer’s Steve Job, then seriously ill and hospitalized, noted that hospital equipment needed dramatic redesigning.

Click on this thumbnail to see a larger picture of the rolling hospital tray mentioned in the Wired article.

To learn more check out Empowering Patients Through Design, a short article at Wired Science reporting on a speech at the Wired Health Conference. The October 15, 2012 article describes Michael Graves’ presentation, explaining how he became a hospital patient and then discovered that he could no longer function efficiently — even in a rehabilitation setting. The medical rooms, equipment, and other materials were poorly designed for people with disabilities.

Graves, a renown architect, found a new calling, combining his professional knowledge with his experience as a patient and becoming a proponent of human centered design. This type of architecture aims to make health care environments, as well as other settings, more comfortable and user-friendly. “I decided that since I was a designer and architect and a patient, I have the credentials to do this,” Graves said at the conference.

In health care human centered design focuses on every part of the patient’s care experience from hospital and patient rooms to floors, light switches, and even signs. Graves and his group have designed hospital furniture that takes the specific needs of patients into consideration.

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