Senior Caregivers: Is Health Insurance a Standard Benefit? Surprisingly, It Usually Is Not

Starbuck's founder, Howard Schultz, was passionate about finding away to provide health insurance for all Starbuck's employees.  Each Starbucks coffee shop employees several people to take the drink orders, make the coffee and take the money.  These positions do not require high level skills but do pay more than minimum wage (the national minimum wage rate is $7.25).

The challenge in providing health insurance for workers, as a corporation, is technically 75% of your staff must participate in the group health insurance plan in order for a group plan to be offered. The employees must also be willing to chip in for the monthly premium.  This usually is no problem for higher income workers.  But a monthly premium of $50 hits harder for an employee being paid  $8 or $9 an hour and usually the premium is higher than $50 a month.

Senior care companies have the additional challenge of high employee turnover (even at nursing homes, the nursing aide turnover is often higher that at a fast-food restaurant due to the emotional and physical toll caregiving takes and the high number of patients each nursing aide must care for during a shift). 

Starbucks succeeded in providing health insurance for all employees working at least 20 hours per week, and much to the dismay of many shareholders, the company takes the hit for this cost.  Howard Schultz was passionate about this because as a child, his family suffered financial hardships because his father's jobs did not provide health insurance.  The family lived in public housing and he knew from experience that when your entire paycheck must pay for health problems, there is nothing left over.

In today's current health system, the burden for insurance is placed on companies and there is not a good alternative for individuals seeking their own individual health insurance or for those who are unemployed.  Unless you show up at the emergency room - and then the circle continues as hospitals and doctors eat these costs which are passed on in higher insurance costs and higher costs of services.

Professional caregivers should all be provided with health insurance benefits - - - there is such irony in being a caregiver yet not being cared for as an employee receiving health insurance - - - and even those who must quit their jobs to be a family caregiver should have access to affordable health insurance.  That is not the case now. 


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Caregiver Training Schools

Senior caregivers may begin their careers first as a caregiver for a family member, neighbor or friend.  They develop many of their skills on the job.

Caregivers working for quality senior home care agencies must first complete a training program and orientation.  This training can be from 1 hour to 20 hours and more and more states are enacting legislation to require training hours for even non-medical, companion caregivers.  In addition, most senior care companies provide on-going training opportunities for caring for seniors with specific conditions and training for providing care for each of the types of memory loss.

Senior care briefs provide information on caring for specific conditions, such as a stroke or hip replacement.  You may also view caregiver training videos to learn how to transfer a senior safely and manage care needs for a senior with memory loss. 

Certified Nursing Aide training programs provide classroom and field training for caregivers to learn the skills necessary to manage for all the personal care and emotional care needs of seniors.  C.N.A. training programs will enable students to pass the state certification exam and begin working at a nursing home, hospital, hospice or home care agency when hands-on care is required.

You may explore training opportunities and take a free sample nursing aide test to find out about the skills taught in a training program.  Ongoing employment opportunities are available for certified nursing aides as the large baby boomer generation ages  - living longer and requiring assistance with care. , ,

Healthy Aging Doctor Andrew Weil Increases Vitamin D Recommendation

Dr. Andrew Weil, the founder and director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine and a leading doctor in studying healthy aging, has increased his daily recommendation of vitamin D to 2,000 IU per day from 1,000.

You can grab more vitamin D from sunshine, but for those of us who live in colder climates and stay indoors for much of the year, or for those who are not able to be outside as much because of medical conditions, Vitamin D must be found somewhere besides under the sun.  When the sun is shining, just 10 to 15 minutes of exposure per day will help your body absorb vitamin D.

Dr. Weil suggests taking vitamin supplements for the daily dose of Vitamin D, because the top foods delivering this vitamin, such as fortified milk, eggs, salmon and tuna, do not contain enough of it to increase blood concentrations to optimal levels.

Many seniors are automatically prescribed vitamin supplements by their doctor but you should check to see your daily intake, especially if just a little more of a vitamin can prevent cancer and other diseases.

The Moores Cancer Center at the University of California at San Diego conducted a meta-analysis study which combines data from multiple studies and determined that raising blood levels of vitamin D could prevent one-half of the cases of breast cancer and two-thirds of the cases of colorectal cancer in the U.S.

Caregivers can assist their senior clients in monitoring their vitamin intake by using a Care Plan and medication tracking system and taking this information along to doctor's appointments.

C.N.A. Training Schools

Caregivers interested in advancing their careers and gaining more pay and more job opportunities may consider becoming a Certified Nursing Assistant (C.N.A.).

C.N.A.'s learn senior caregiving skills, both hands-on care techniques for safety and managing the emotional aspects of caregiving.

Many C.N.A. schools offer scholoarships or grants or tuition-reimbursement programs to attract more students to the industry.  As nursing homes, hospitals and assisted living communities must maintain a certain percentage of C.N.A.'s on staff to maintain their licensing requirements, there are ongoing job opportunities available for certified nursing assistants.

Each state requires nursing aides to pass their certification exam after first completing a state-approved nursing aide course which includes field work.  Usually courses are between 6 and 8 weeks and both part-time and full-time courses are available through colleges and community programs.  Some nursing homes and hospitals offer C.N.A. training programs.

Learn about the job duties for certified nursing aides, take a sample nursing aide test or practice test and find the location and cost of nursing aide schools in your area on Caregiverlist and apply for a professional caregiving job (both part-time and full-time opportunities are available).

Illinois Revokes Nursing Home's License

A Chicago Tribune investigative report has been succesful in exposing a lack of compliance to Illinois laws for admitting and caring for nursing home residents.  Criminal background checks and risk assessments were not being conducted on new residents, allowing for mentally ill patients and convicted felons to become rent-free residents of Medicaid nursing homes and placing senior residents at risk.

Seniors who do not have personal assets and a monthly income to pay for nursing home costs can qualify for ongoing care in a nursing home paid for by Medicaid, a state and federally funded program.  Owning a Medicaid nursing home can be compared to owning an apartment complex which is always rented - as long as you can admit qualifying patients, the government will pay the rent each month. 

One nursing home housed 18 felons and drew attention after 17 assualts and 2 incidents of sexual violence were reported.

If a nursing home is housing a large percentage of mentally ill patients, additional staff are needed, along with around-the-clock supervision to protect seniors who may have memory loss and not be aware of how to interact with someone who is mentally ill and could cause them harm.  One of the easiest ways to find out if a nursing home houses a large percent of mentally ill patients is to check the average age of residents - - if there are lots of residents who are not seniors then this is a red flag that the qualifying residents are there for mental illness.  It follows that necessary precautions should be in place to prevent the assaults and sexual abuse that happened at the Chicago nursing homes.

Somerset Place in Chicago housed more than 300 residents and the federal government has pulled the plug on their Medicaid payments.  However, it took good reporting to make this happen - another indicator that the state nursing home inspection reports do not provide all the answers for maintaining quality nursing homes.  Felons belong in prisons, not nursing homes.


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January 2010 Unemployment at 9.7%: Caregiving Jobs Growing

The U.S. Department of Labor reported this morning that the unemployment rate for January, 2010, is 9.7%, with employment in retail and temporary work increasing.  At the same time, the health care and social service industry sector increased from 13.3 % to 17.1 % of the total job market from January a year ago - another indicator that employment opportunities in the healthcare field are indeed growing to keep up with the needs of the large baby boomer generation.

What type of jobs are available in senior care for individuals with no experience in caregiving?

  • Companion Caregivers
  • Senior Home Care Agency Office Staff: Office Manager, Scheduler, Recruiter
  • Community Relations (Sales)

What types of jobs are available in senior care for experienced caregivers?

  • Certified Nursing Aides
  • Certified Home Health Aides
  • Personal Care Aides
  • Licensed Practical Nurse
  • Registered Nurse
  • Social Worker

You may become a certified nursing aide by attending a state approved training program and successfully completing the state C.N.A. exam.  You can obtain companion caregiver training by working for a senior home care agency which usually will provide training as part of their new employee orientation program (some states require a specific amount of training hours for each new caregiver).  You may also take a sample or practice nursing aide test to learn more about the skills a training program will teach.

As the Department of Labor statistics indicate, you will most likely enjoy long-term employment in the senior care field, along with the fulfillment of doing work which is highly appreciated. 





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Medicare Fraud: Spot It, Report It, Spread the Word

The U.S. government does not provide universal health care, but pays out an estimated $60 billion a year in fraudulent Medicare claims - that is $60 billion with a "b".  A private business that has to earn a profit in order to pay employees and cover their operating costs would not keep their doors open if they had this amount of fraud.  The Obama administration realizes the government is partly to blame for creating  a system which allows this much fraud to happen.  They have setup a website to educate seniors and caregivers about Medicare fraud and to assist us all in reporting it.

How can we stop Medicare fraud?

Learn about how Medicare fraud happens.

Check out 60 Minutes reporting on Medicare fraud to understand the system better.  It is important to realize that the reimbursement claims for home care visits for Medicare skilled care (care provided by a Registered Nurse, Physical Therapist, Occupational Therapist, Speech Therapist) pay very generous amounts to the Medicare agencies for the visits:  $500 per visit for a R.N., for example.  The claim system is complicated - some visits pay more than others - filing a claim is similar to filing a federal tax return.  However, Medicare agencies quickly learn the system and so do those who are seeking to abuse it.  The same type of care for various medical diagnoses pay different reimbursement rates, for example.

Ask questions.

If you or your spouse or relative are receiving skilled care visits by Medicare, ask the agency what the government reimbursement amount will be and based on what qualifying factors.  Ask them how long the care has been approved for and confirm with your referring doctor - - - all Medicare visits must be doctor approved.

Ask your doctor if he is associated with the Medicare agency.  While referral fees are not allowed, doctors are often invited to be on the advisory board or receive other incentives to refer to a certain agency - find out why the doctor refers to the agency and if they refer to more than one agency.

Medicare Fraud Warning Signs:
  • Service is offered for free - free medical equipment or additional free caregiving services
  • No approval needed for services
  • Door-to-door sales call or telemarketing call asking for your Medicare number for pre-approval
  • Medicare is offering you the service for free and a random company is calling to notify you
Note:  Medicare services are pre-approved by your medical doctor after a hospital or nursing home stay and require you to be confined to your home.  Remember, even wheelchairs paid for by Medicare require extensive forms to be filled out, along with pre-approval from a medical doctor (and the Scooter Store, which advertises on Infomercials that they will get your wheelchair pre-approved for you definitely has the legal right to educate you about the Medicare approval process, but as they found out when they were convicted of Medicare fraud, they cannot hire their own doctors to drop by and approve you for a wheelchair).  You may review the Scooter Store Medicare fraud case which also is an indication of the generous reimbursement rates for some Medicare-approved services which is a reason for the high rates of fraud. 

Learn more by reviewing information presented at the national summit on health care fraud.  Senior caregivers should also make sure a senior checks with their doctor before moving forward with any Medicare service, as only their medical doctor will authorize the Medicare home care services.

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