Many Elderly Now Bring Companion on Doctor's Visit

About one-third of seniors still living on their own take a companion — usually a spouse or other family member — to their routine doctor's office visits, researchers report. 

And they tend to bring the same companion to each visit, which may present the health care system with another important member of a patient's medical team, the study's authors suggested. 

"This raises some possibilities for quality improvement initiatives for patients and their companions together," said lead study author Jennifer Wolff, an associate professor of health policy and management at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore. 

However, further research is necessary to define the companion's role and figure out how to best support and include the companion in a loved one's health care, she said. 

For the study, the researchers looked at data from a nationally representative Medicare beneficiary study completed in 2006. This survey had information on almost 11,600 community-dwelling adults over 65 years old. The researchers also looked at a subset of more than 7,500 people from this group who had responded in 2005 and 2006 to determine the consistency of companion involvement.

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Medicare and Paying for Prescription Drugs

Medicare implemented prescription drug coverage in 2006 as part of its health insurance for seniors. The coverage, known as Medicaid Part D, is offered through private insurers, either as stand-alone plans or plans affiliated with Medicare Advantage. Today, more than 26 million Americans are enrolled in a Medicare prescription drug plan. 

But the system set up by Medicare to provide prescription drug coverage offers so many choices that picking the best plan can be baffling. Each state has dozens of Medicare prescription plans, ranging from 45 in Alaska to 57 in the Pennsylvania/West Virginia region. 

Some of these plans charge higher premiums, but may cover more of your prescription drugs. Others provide prescription drugs only through specific pharmacies or do not cover certain drugs. It is important for Medicare prescription drug coverage subscribers to do their homework and make sure the plan they get is right for them. 

Using the Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit 

Here are some basic facts about Medicare Part D plans:

  • The average monthly premium for a Medicare prescription drug plan in 2009 was $35.09.
  • Most plans require a co-payment for medications, based on the type of prescription drug you are buying. There are four tiers — generic drugs, preferred brand drugs, non-preferred brand drugs, and specialty drugs — and the price you pay out-of-pocket increases as the drugs become more expensive.
  • Medicare drug plans do not have to cover every single prescription drug on the market. Often, a plan will cover only the generic form of a medication rather than the brand-name item. However, the plans are required to cover medications in all prescribed categories and classes.
  • If the plan refuses to cover a medication you need, you can appeal that decision. Your appeal goes first through your insurer, and then through an independent review body. When choosing an insurer, be sure to ask about their appeal and exception policies.
  • Medicare drug plans may require your doctor to show there is a medical reason for an expensive drug prescribed to treat an illness.

Remodel for Senior Living: Keeping Things Rolling Along

As homeowners grow older, good remodeling design may be the difference between being able to live independently in their own home and having to move to a senior living facility. 

Years ago the home design needs of seniors was not often taken into consideration. Now just about everyone is looking at the way homes are designed and realizing how inappropriate they are for this growing portion of the population. Unless you are planning to move soon, you too should be looking at your home's design and investigating ways to make it safer and more conducive to long-term independence. 

To get the biggest bang for your buck, start early and adopt a long-term approach. Every time you make a change, replacement, or improvement to something around your home, look at the project as an opportunity to make the home a partner in your quest for long-term independence. 

For example, if your front walkway is starting to break up and you are considering replacing it, go a bit further with your planning. Is there any way to eliminate some or all of the steps in front of your home? Many homes have a lovely curving walk that winds from the driveway to the front porch. There it terminates at a couple of steps. What if you were to have the repair firm re-grade the walk slightly? In many cases a gentle slope in the walk will entirely eliminate the need for steps. 

Done as part of a routine improvement or replacement, this new feature is not likely to cost you many, if any, additional dollars. Just as importantly, the new walkway will look like it belongs. It will look like it was meant to be that way, not like the wheelchair ramps that people have to resort to when they haven't planned ahead.

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Refer a Friend

Know someone who can use a hand? We can speak privately with your family or friends about how we can help. We have caregivers all over.

It starts with a complimentary consultation where we meet with the family to see what the greatest needs are and to set goals for daily living. We can meet in your home, your friend's home, or our offices - whatever is most convenient. Senior Helpers makes life easier.

Please call us.
 If you are already our client we will give you $100 credit toward services when your friend has received 40 hours of service from Senior Helpers!

Thanks for taking the time to read and learn!

Senior Helpers team


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