Tag Archives: JuneDuncan

Hospice Care: What To Expect For A Terminally Ill Loved One


Hospice care can be a relief for terminally ill individuals and their families, but there are so many things to consider when you’re getting started. Making sure your loved one is well taken care of is a priority, but you also have to think about keeping them comfortable and happy during their stay, as well as how to pay for the process. For seniors, Medicare covers hospice care, but there are co-payments for prescriptions and respite care. Talking to your loved one about their final wishes is also crucial, but this can be hard for both of you, and the thought of initiating such a conversation when they’re very ill can be difficult.

Creating a plan for your loved one will help to ease both your minds, so think about the best way to start a conversation about their needs and how you can help. Talking about what your loved one wants as far as their final wishes will allow you to plan for the cost while ensuring that they’ll feel as though they are being listened to, so don’t be afraid to bring up the difficult topics.

Read on for some tips on how to get started when your loved one needs hospice care.

Have a conversation about final wishes

Understanding what your loved one wants as far as final arrangements is important and necessary. Not only will it help give them peace of mind, it will allow you to plan for a very difficult time and prepare both financially and emotionally. Start a conversation about whether your loved one has a will and find out how they want to handle their end-of-life arrangements, including the funeral and/or memorial. Since hospice care can be expensive and health insurance doesn’t always cover the cost, you’ll also need to find out whether your loved one has made arrangements for their care in the long-term.

Keep your loved one comfortable

When someone you care about is very sick, it can be extremely difficult to watch them suffer. The pain and discomfort of a terminal illness is very taxing on the body, so it’s crucial to help your loved one find a bit of comfort where they can. Soft blankets, photos of family and friends, and familiar items from home will go a long way toward helping them feel more relaxed and will boost both their mood and their mental health.

Get to know all you can about the doctors

Hospice staff are often well-trained, caring individuals who do all they can to help their patients stay comfortable, but it may help you to get to know the people who are taking care of your loved one. Ask about their training and make an effort to find out all you can about their daily routine; this will help you feel connected and involved in your loved one’s care.

Help your loved one find peace

Mental and emotional comfort is just as important as the physical. Talk to your loved one about their spiritual needs while they’re in hospice care, as this can help them come to terms with their illness in a hopeful way and ease their own grief or sadness. Encourage them to talk about their feelings, either with you or with a counselor or therapist who can help them process the overwhelming feelings that come with being in hospice care.

Hospice care can provide so much for a terminally ill individual, but it’s important to be prepared as much as possible for your loved one’s stay. Knowing what to expect will help you manage the cost, emotional burden, and grief that accompanies a very difficult time.

Author

Ms. Duncan has been a caregiver to her 85-year-old mother for quite some time, and enjoys sharing caregiving tips she has gleaned from her own experience.  You can contact June Duncan via email at june@riseupforcaregivers.org

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How Seniors Can Use Medicare and Self-Care to Manage Diabetes


We welcome back guest writer June Duncan to The Purple Jacket.

Diabetes is extremely prevalent among seniors aged 65 and older, with one in four living with the disease, according to statistics cited by Senior Lifestyle. The most common diabetes among seniors is type 2 diabetes, which is caused by insulin resistance in which your body is unable to use insulin properly. Whether you’ve been living with the disease for some time or were just recently diagnosed, you’ll quickly discover just how expensive it can be. To help offset the cost and manage your diabetes, combine your Medicare coverage with proper self-care so that diabetes doesn’t hold you back from living your best life.

Educate Yourself on the Symptoms

When a sudden health issue crops up, it’s easy to dismiss it, but any sort of change in your body is your body’s way of trying to get your attention. Among seniors, the most common symptoms of type 2 diabetes are lethargy, chronic weakness, urinary tract infections, excessive thirst, numbness/tingling in the hands, arms, legs, and feet, and dental issues such as inflamed gums or mouth sores. Before you start experiencing full-on diabetic symptoms, an elevated blood glucose level is an indicator of prediabetes. Medicare Part B covers two diabetes screenings per year if a doctor notices any risk factors. You are also eligible for the two screenings if two or more of the following apply: you are age 65 and older, have a family history of diabetes or gestational diabetes, or you are overweight.

Diabetes Impacts More Than Just Glucose Levels

You already know that type 2 diabetes means your body doesn’t use insulin properly, so your body is unable to regulate your blood glucose levels. However, high blood sugar levels can cause various health complications. For example, diabetes often causes dry mouth, which can lead to gum disease and cavities. The changes in blood glucose levels can produce blurry vision, and as time passes, you are at greater risk for diabetic eye issues such as diabetic retinopathy, cataracts, and glaucoma. For this reason, it is important that your Medicare coverage is working with you so that you can manage your diabetes and any health issues that may arise. Medicare Advantage plans offer coverage in areas such as dental and vision that regular Medicare doesn’t cover. If you think you could benefit from a Medicare Advantage plan, do some research on the plans available through Aetna to see if one is right for you.

Know What Medicare Covers

When it comes to coverage for diabetes, Medicare Part B and D are what you’ll need. Part B covers blood sugar testing monitors, test strips, lancets/lancet devices, blood sugar control solutions, and special diabetic footwear to help with circulation. In addition, Part B may even cover an insulin pump and insulin since it is considered durable medical equipment (DME), but you will likely have to pay 20 percent of the cost after you’ve met your deductible. Part D covers medical supplies such as syringes, needles, alcohol swabs, gauze, and inhalable insulin devices. It also covers insulin, but not if it is dispensed via an insulin pump; in this case, it could potentially be covered by Part B as DME.

Self-Care for Diabetes Management

In addition to taking your insulin and diabetes medication, diet and exercise should be an important part of your diabetes management routine. A diabetic diet isn’t much different from a regular healthy diet. It should be filled with fruits, vegetables, fiber, lean protein, and healthy carbs and fats. Also, be sure to limit sugar, salt, fat, and cholesterol. As for exercise, opt for aerobic exercise and strength training, as both help your body better use insulin and may increase your insulin sensitivity. Stress can also increase your blood sugar, so find ways to relax, such as breathing exercises, yoga, or journaling.

Managing your diabetes requires that you adopt a new lifestyle. It also requires an investment in supplies and equipment. By taking advantage of your Medicare coverage and incorporating diabetic self-care, managing your diabetes doesn’t have to be stressful or expensive.

June is the co-creator of Rise Up for Caregivers, which offers support for family members and friends who have taken on the responsibility of caring for their loved ones. She is the author of the upcoming book, The Complete Guide to Caregiving: A Daily Companion for New Senior Caregivers.

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Are You Planning for Long-Term Care?


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You’ll probably need long-term care at some point, but are you planning for it? According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, 68 percent of seniors 65 and older will experience a physical or cognitive impairment during their lifetime. For some, it’s a permanent disability that leads to a residence in a senior care facility. For others, it’s a temporary health condition that calls for extra help at home. In either case, an inability to finance care can put a senior’s health at risk.

Will You Need Long-Term Care?

Nearly one-third of seniors won’t need long-term care. If you’re healthy today, it’s possible you won’t need care in the future. However, when assessing the likelihood of long-term care, your current health status doesn’t provide the full picture. Seniors should also consider:

  • Lifestyle: Maintaining a healthy weight, eating a nutritious, varied diet, and exercising daily protects against many lifestyle diseases, some of which are leading causes of death. A healthy lifestyle also protects mobility and functioning for increased independence in old age.

  • Family History: Your genetics may predispose you to certain health conditions, such as diabetes, certain cancers, and heart disease. Your family may also have a history of long lives, which increases your likelihood of needing long-term care.

  • Social Connection: With a strong social network, you may be able to rely on family and friends for help after illness or injury. However, seniors with limited social connections are more likely to require paid care.

  • Home Safety: Falls are a leading cause of injury and disability among elderly adults. According to Aging.com, 30 percent to 50 percent of falls are caused by environmental factors like poor lighting, slippery floors, and uneven surfaces.

If your assessment reveals a high risk of needing long-term care, there are changes you can make today to enable a safer, healthier future. Whether that’s improving diet and exercise to better your health, reaching out your community, or remodeling your home for increased safety, it’s never too late to make changes. However, recognize that while lifestyle changes reduce the possibility and extent of long-term care needs, they don’t guarantee you won’t require care.

How Will You Pay for Long-Term Care?

Many older adults believe Medicare will pay for their long-term care needs. However, Medicare doesn’t cover most types of long-term care. That means seniors must pay for care through private funding. Here are some ways seniors can pay for long-term care:

  • Savings: If you have enough retirement savings, paying for care out-of-pocket is an option. Keep in mind that full-time care costs thousands of dollars per month, even for the most affordable options.

  • Health Savings Accounts: If you funded an HSA while employed, you can use those funds tax-free to pay for long-term care or long-term care insurance. Because HSAs can only be used with High Deductible Health Plans, this option is best utilized when you’re still young and healthy.

  • Long-Term Care Insurance: Long-term care insurance pays for your care in exchange for monthly premium payments. This allows you to spread out the cost of long-term care and reduce out-of-pocket expenses. However, premiums are higher for older buyers; for the lowest costs, purchase a policy before retiring.

When deciding how you’ll pay for long-term care, don’t forget to factor other end-of-life expenses. If you use all your savings for care, your family may be unable to finance a funeral. Ensure you’ve made arrangements for end-of-life expenses as well, whether that’s a final expense insurance policy, a payable on death bank account, or another prepaid option.

It’s unpleasant to think about growing ill or disabled as you age. But planning ahead for late-life disability makes the difference between a high and low quality of life during your final years. Take steps now to improve your health, but don’t neglect to plan for the possibility of long-term care.

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Feeling Good When It’s Your Job To Care: Tips For Caregivers


Taking care of someone is a big job that often requires quite a bit of physical strength and emotional reserve. It can be difficult to manage your own life around someone else’s needs, and sometimes, that job can take a toll on your physical and mental health. For that reason, it’s imperative to make sure you take good care of yourself, learn to cope with stress and anxiety, and find ways to relax and focus on your own needs once in a while.

Fortunately, there are several simple ways you can do this. Managing your stress may seem like a difficult task, but there are things you can do to help yourself learn to cope in a healthy way no matter what is going on in your life. Not only will this allow you to focus on your own needs and boost your mental health, it will also help you find the motivation and energy you need to help your loved one or patient.

Keep reading for some great tips on how to practice self-care when you’re a caregiver.

Get enough rest

Adequate sleep–or a lack of it–can be one of the biggest reasons a person feels unable to cope with stress or anxiety. When you aren’t able to rest, your physical and mental abilities are reduced, making even the simplest of daily tasks difficult. There are several things you can do to help yourself get better rest, but it all starts with a good mattress that addresses your unique sleep needs. If your bedding is more than ten years old, or if you wake up in the morning feeling stiff and unrested, it’s time for a new mattress; be sure to check online for ones with good reviews.

Take a timeout

It can be overwhelming to try to handle everything in your own life when you’re taking care of someone else’s every need, but it’s important to try to take some time for yourself when you can. Whether that means heading out of town for an overnight trip or just sitting with a good book at the end of the day, think of small ways you can reduce stress and have some time to yourself. This isn’t always easy for caregivers to do, so talk to family members or coworkers to see if anyone can help out.

Eat right

Caregivers are more at risk than others for symptoms of depression or anxiety, and it’s common for them to not get enough rest or eat well-balanced meals every day. When you don’t eat right or stay hydrated, your mood and energy level can bottom out, leaving you feeling exhausted and irritable. If your schedule during the day (or night) is hectic, consider packing yourself several small, easy-to-eat snacks that will keep your blood sugar stable and help you get the nutrients you need. Cut-up veggies and hummus, string cheese, whole-wheat crackers, yogurt, and water or 100-percent fruit juice are great starts.

Treat yourself

When you get some time to yourself, make an effort to find a way to treat yourself. Get a massage or pedicure, spend some time doing something you love, or cook yourself a delicious meal. Finding small, healthy ways to make yourself happy will allow you to relax a little and take the weight of your job as a caregiver off your shoulders.

Feeling better when you spend so much time taking care of someone else can be difficult because it can lead to guilt or anxiety. Try to keep in mind that it’s just as important for your patient’s well-being as it is for yours, because you can’t be your best self when you’re tired or stressed out.

To learn more about June and her work visit: June Duncan 💚 june@riseupforcaregivers.org

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Tips on How to Plan and Pay for Long-Term Care


cropped-wp-pj-banner-e1532350609729As the senior population in the United States grows, more and more people will need long-term support and services. Long-term care includes assistance through institutions such as nursing homes, assisted residential care, adult day services and in-home care. The need for long-term support and services depends on the senior’s ability to manage the tasks and responsibilities of daily living safely.

According to AARP:

  • Seniors are the primary demographic needing long-term care because functional disability increases with advancing age.
  • 13 million Americans ages 18 or older needed long-term support and services in 2014; 60 percent of these adults were age 65 or older.
  • An estimated 52 percent of present-day seniors will develop a severe disability that will require long-term care at some point.
  • Women are more likely than men (58 percent vs. 47 percent) to need long-term support and services. Furthermore, women on average need assistance for longer — 2.5 years vs. 1.5 years.
  • More than half of seniors with disabilities rely exclusively on unpaid help. About 75 percent of people who used paid help also relied on family and friends for unpaid care.

Two thirds of seniors today will need long-term care at some point in the future with 20 percent of them needing it for longer than five years. Without an established plan and funding for long-term support and services, the responsibility for cost and care falls on your loved ones. To protect your family and ensure you get the care you want, it’s important to plan for the possibility of needing long-term support and services while securing a way to pay for them.

How Much Does Long-Term Care Cost?

It may not surprise you to find out that people wildly underestimate how much long-term services cost on average. One-third of Americans think home health care expenses are under $417 a month. The actual national median rate for long-term care costs is about nine times that estimate.

Median annual cost of long-term care:

  • Adult day care – $17,680 annually ($1,474/month)
  • Assisted living facility – $43,539 ($3,628/month)
  • Homemaker services – $45,760 ($3,813/month)
  • In-home health aide – $46,332 ($3,861/month)
  • Semi-private room in nursing home – $82,125 ($6,844/month)
  • Private room in nursing home – $92,378 ($7,698/month)

Paying for Long-Term Care

Older adults receive federally funded health insurance through Medicare. While Medicare pays for many health services, it does not pay for long-term care costs. Seniors can look into alternative policies like Humana Medicare Advantage plans, which offer the same coverage as Medicare Parts A and B. Some plans may include additional benefits for prescriptions, dental, vision, fitness services, caregiver support and a 24/7 nursing advice line. Having comprehensive health care prevents serious illness and injury that requires long-term support and services.

Long-term care insurance can cover all costs that Medicare plans do not. These policies protect your family’s savings while giving you more choices when it comes to the services and support you need. The average premiums for a 60-year-old couple are $2,010 a year when combined, but that small investment can end up saving your family hundreds of thousands on your long-term care in the future.

Avoiding Long-Term Care

One-third of Americans never need long-term care in their senior years. These people tend to be proactive when it comes to maintaining their health and avoiding injury. Make positive lifestyle choices such as exercising regularly, eating a well-balanced diet and being social. Research also suggests that habits such as learning new skills, pursuing passions and practicing mindfulness also contribute to longevity, however, genetics have a lot to do with how long you live. Researching family history and possibly undergoing predictive and presymptomatic genetic tests are the best ways to predict how your genes will affect your aging process.

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The majority of seniors in the United States will need long-term care at some point. Healthy lifestyle choices can mitigate your risks, but it’s still important to plan for the extreme costs. Look into long-term insurance plans that cover the out-of-pocket expenses of long-term support and services.

Author: June is the co-creator of Rise Up for Caregivers, which offers support for family members and friends who have taken on the responsibility of caring for their loved ones. She is author of the upcoming book, The Complete Guide to Caregiving: A Daily Companion for New Senior Caregivers.  June Duncan <june@riseupforcaregivers.org>

 

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