Caregivers: Get Ready for Health Insurance Open Enrollment

Senior caregivers — especially CNAs and Home Health Aides, are certainly considered members of the healthcare industry. Ironically, many don’t have adequate health insurance. If you are a Certified Nursing Aide or other professional caregiver and work through a quality senior home care agency or nursing home, chances are you have some medical insurance coverage through your employer. However, if you work as an independent contractor, come 2014, you will need to enroll in a health insurance plan per the Affordable Care Act.

If this affects you, our friends at eHealthInsurance.com have recently released answers to frequently asked questions regarding health insurance open enrollment for 2014.

Open Enrollment for 2014 Health Plans: Frequently Asked Questions

When is the new open enrollment period?

The first-ever open enrollment period for individual and family health insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act begins October 1, 2013 and continues through March 31, 2014. Open enrollment periods in succeeding years will be shorter than this one-time six-month period.

What is an open enrollment period?

The Affordable Care Act’s open enrollment period is when individuals and families can purchase health insurance plans that meet the requirements of the health reform law. Coverage under these new plans will begin no earlier than January 1, 2014. New health plans will provide coverage for essential health benefits defined by the ACA. Consumers who qualify will be able to apply for government subsidies and enroll without fear of being denied for pre-existing medical conditions.

Who needs to apply for coverage during open enrollment?

The new open enrollment period is for individuals and families who do not have employer-sponsored major medical health insurance meeting the requirements of the Affordable Care Act. If you already have employer-based major medical health benefits, you do not necessarily need to enroll in a new plan during the open enrollment period, but rather through your employer’s own open enrollment period for group coverage. If your share of your employer-sponsored health insurance monthly premium is deemed too costly under the law, you may choose to opt out of that plan and purchase a qualified health plan with subsidy assistance, depending on your income level.

Will I be required to purchase a health insurance plan during this period?

If you are currently uninsured and wish to enroll in a health reform-compliant plan for 2014, you will need to enroll during this open enrollment period. If you don’t purchase a health reform-compliant plan, you may be subject to a tax penalty and it may be difficult to find and qualify for health insurance later in the year. If you are currently enrolled in an individually purchased health insurance plan, you may be able to retain your current coverage into 2014. Ask your health insurance company for more details.

What happens if I don’t purchase during the open enrollment period?

Outside of open enrollment, your ability to apply for health insurance may vary from state to state. It may be limited to the occurrence of a qualifying event, such as the loss of a job, a marriage or divorce, a move, or the birth of a child. 

What if I miss open enrollment and don’t have a qualifying event?

You may be able to purchase a health plan that is not in compliance with the health reform law, like a short-term health insurance plan. However, these plans may not meet the standards of the Affordable Care Act and you may be subject to a tax penalty on your 2014 federal tax return.

If you need to shop for affordable insurance, we’ve made it easy for you to compare the rates of healthcare insurance providers.

Caregivers, let us know — how do you feel about mandatory healthcare insurance and the Affordable Care Act? Are you covered through your Senior Home Care Agency?

Caregiver Stress Relief Photo of the Week

Caregivers employed with senior care companies know the realities of caregiver stress. Caregiverlist invites all family caregivers and professional caregivers to take a moment for relaxation with our photo of the week and inspirational quote. This week's photo features unique orchids, as a reminder for caregivers to take a moment to relief their daily stress and to celebrate who they are. Thank you for caring for our seniors and please refer your friends to apply for part-time and full-time job positions on www.Caregiverlist.com and visit our career center for additional career tools.

Caregiver Stress Relief Photo Orchids

"Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body."

Joseph Addison

 

 

Tips for Deciding When 24-Hour Home Care is Necessary

This week we invited guest blogger Linda Bright to discuss the signs that a parent might need more help than you alone can provide.

When I was in my 20’s, the idea of nursing homes and assisted living centers for my parents was nowhere on my radar. Mom and dad were busy enjoying their retirement years, traveling and playing golf every chance they got. Unfortunately within a few years, fate decided to step in and change things up a bit. It started with a devastating diagnosis for our mother; early onset Alzheimer’s which quickly claimed mom’s razor-sharp memory and her quirky personality, leaving us lost and grieving for the mother who raised us.

Her prognosis was as grim as expected and within months, my father had to step in as full-time caregiver. Just when we thought it couldn’t get any worse; it did and one night I got a phone call from distraught father that my mother had suffered a catastrophic stroke. Within weeks, I watched as the mother (who used to knit my winter mittens, cook ten course meals and go skydiving with my brothers) fade into someone I hardly recognized. Gone was her mischievous smile, her biting humor and her commanding soprano voice. Like a wilted rose, she had lost her blush and bloom, holding on to life by the most tenuous of threads. We had hoped she would have made it until the next Christmas, but we lost her after celebrating what would be her very last Thanksgiving.

So years later when my father started showing signs of dementia, my heart sunk into my stomach. Our experience with our mother was traumatic enough, and the thought of now watching my father slip into some similar decline was too awful to contemplate. Yet, when I noticed some worrisome traits, I began my own criteria for determining if dad needed home-care as well.

If you too might be worried about an elderly person’s welfare, then here a few tips that we have implemented to determine our needs within our own family.

  • Unexplained Bruising: If you notice that either parent has significant injuries and yet, can’t recall how they occurred, this might be a red flag. Slips and falls are among the most dangerous threats facing the elderly, it has been cited that among those the elderly population, 70% of accidental deaths are caused by falls.
  • Unpaid Bills: Another sign you might notice that an elderly parent might be struggling are piles of unopened mail, past-due accounts and collection notices. If your once-organized parent doesn’t seem to have a handle on their finances, this should be taken with grave concern.
  • Clutter in home/unkempt appearance: Is your once-fastidiously groomed parent suddenly wearing the same clothes, day after day. Do they seem unconcerned with the piles of clutter that normally would have been organized, sorted and put away? A messy home or a house that is in disrepair can also indicate underlying care issues that might need further investigation.

We were fortunate to hire a caregiver who has been able to stop by my father’s house and check his blood sugar levels, in addition to his well-being. At the moment, my father is still living on his own, and that is important for him, but my brothers and I have a rotating weekly schedule to stop in and make sure he is doing well.

Removing dad from his home would truly be a worst-case scenario, so we are being extra-vigilant to make sure he is cared for and can remain independent.

After all, my parents tended to our every needs growing up, providing a warm and loving environment, security and protection. Wouldn’t any of us want to do the same?

Linda Bright is a staff writer and a public relations coordinator for MyNursingDegree.com.Given her experience as a former hospital administrator, she writes primarily about healthcare reform, patient rights and other issues related to the healthcare industry. In her free time, she enjoys Sudoku, spending time with her family, and playing with her poodle, Max.

Should Caregivers Wear Scrubs?

Caregiver scrubs as uniforms are clear indications of professionals on the job. Your elderly client can more easily identify you as a caregiver if you present yourself in a caregiver uniform. We think scrubs are ideal for the senior caregiver because they are comfortable, allow for a range of motion and are easily cleaned. And scrubs are a universal symbol identifying the wearer as a member of the healthcare profession.

CNAs and healthcare professionals are in the business of providing care. A set of stylish scrubs can also provide comfort for your senior client by distracting them from any unpleasantness by giving them something else to focus on.

Caregiverlist has partnered with Scrubs Magazine, the nurse’s guide to good living, to offer a Scrub of the Month as a Grand Prize in our Refer-A-Friend program. If you know someone who has what it takes to be a great caregiver (you know the type — good work ethic, reliable, and above all, empathetic), fill out the form and we'll be happy to set them on a career path that offers the ability to make a huge difference in someone's life.

This month’s scrubs are from Cherokee Uniforms. As you can see, they are smart, chic, comfortable, professional and FUN! They are easy to clean and they let the world know that you are skilled and ready to work. You could win the whole outfit — top, bottoms and shoes, when you refer a friend to Caregiverlist.

What do you think? Do you wear scrubs in your daily work as a senior caregiver? If you don’t, what is stopping you?

Tips for Handling Seniors with Cognitive Impairment

Guest blogger Christian Wilson tackles the arduous task of caring for those with memory impairment with some very practical tips.

Caring for an individual with memory problems can be difficult and stressful. Even more stressful, however, is realizing a loved one—or yourself—may be beginning to show the signs of memory issues or mild cognitive impairment (MCI). This can lead to both worry and denial, since MCI is considered a very early stage of dementia. It’s important to note that a person who has developed MCI won’t necessarily develop dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, though those who do develop MCI are at a much higher risk for further impairment.

What is mild cognitive impairment? It’s often classified a change in cognition, essentially the way a person thinks. Cognition includes memory and the ability to understand and comprehend one’s environment. Unfortunately, while it can be an ambiguous condition and there isn’t a consistent way to diagnose MCI, there are several recognizable symptoms to look for. These symptoms can include:

  • Confusion
  • Depression
  • Difficulty forming short-term memories
  • Difficulty speaking or communicating complete thoughts
  • Easily distracted
  • Forgetfulness
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Mental fog

Diagnosing mild cognitive impairment. Because MCI is a more ambiguous condition, diagnosing it can be a challenge for doctors and health care providers and oftentimes won’t receive the proper response. Since much of the MCI diagnosis process is based around observation, it can take an extended period of time to come to a firm conclusion. Blood testing can be done, as well neurological tests, and brain imaging. Blood tests can determine vitamin B-12 deficiency and hypothyroidism, both which can produce symptoms of MCI. If these conditions are discovered, treatment can improve symptoms, and if symptoms improve then the individual isn’t likely afflicted with MCI.

Caring for patients. So, if you’re in the position of caring for someone diagnosed with MCI, what can you do?

Educate yourself. If you’re providing care for a person or loved one with MCI, the better educated you are about the condition, the better you’ll be able to provide positive care. It can be as simple as knowing and understanding the signs of MCI or preparing for the possibility of caring for a person with a worsening condition.

Monitor and assess. Observe the individual and look for signs of improvement, stability, or decline. Being aware of their current state of mind will determine how you care for them. If they improve, your role may eventually be reduced. If their condition declines, the quicker you will be able to respond, which will result in greater likelihood the patient will be able to receive proper treatment, especially if the MCI begins to be manifested as dementia.

Create a positive environment. Make sure the person has plenty to do. An active mind is a healthy mind and keeping their mind and body active is often the best thing a caregiver can do. This can include reading a book or playing games (both video and board), visiting a museum, as well as going for a walk or hike. Additionally, having patience will contribute to a more positive environment and reduced stress.

Diet and exercise. A change in diet can help to ease and reduce the signs of MCI. Develop a involving more fruits and vegetables, while decreasing the high fat and high sugar foods. Increase the person’s intake of omega-3 fatty acid supplements and vitamin B (particularly if a change in diet rich in these nutrients is not enough). Coupled with a healthy diet, regular exercise has been shown to have a very positive impact on the brain and cognitive function. Ensure the person participates in physical activity, such as gardening, swimming, or walking, on a daily basis.

Before embarking on any plan of action, it is imperative that you work with a doctor in order to help your senior, whether they be a family member or client, age well.

Christian Wilson currently works in the home care industry. He writes about issues facing the elderly and spends a lot of his work day answering questions regarding home care. When he’s not at work he enjoys traveling with his family and meeting new people.

Living and Aging Well at Home

Caregiverlist welcomes Dr. Doris Bersing, PhD. as our new Home Care Expert. Dr. Bersing is the founder and president of Living Well Assisted Living at Home, Dr. Bersing discusses how to successfully age in place at home. If you have any questions regarding the elderly aging at home, especially those with Alzheimer's disease or dementia, feel free to post your questions here.

How to Have More Choices to Age Well at Home?

We all hope to age in a healthy way and most of us avoid thinking about frailty or problems before they arise. However, If we force ourselves to plan, we can make informed choices.

90% of people want to live in their own homes. This has been true for all of our history. Moving out of home to an “age segregated community” is a modern phenomenon. Maximize your choices by planning your estate, your home, your health, and your wellness.

To Maximize your Choices:

Do some planning: financial and legal

It’s no surprise that with age, seniors often experience increased limitations, the loss of certain abilities and require more assistance with the activities of daily living. It is equally unsurprising that one’s finances largely influence the types of services and long-term care available to that individual. An experienced financial planner and long term care specialist can provide you with invaluable advice on money issues and more, to help you find the appropriate solution to your particular situation.

Aging well at home usually involves not just healthcare but money and legal matters, as well. That might include estate planning, getting legal forms such as advance health care directives and power of attorney for finances in place, and understanding the coverage and policies -such as Medicare and Social Security benefits – available to you of the person in your care.

Look at your home

Is it safe? Can you make it more safe? Can you use new techologies to enhance your wellbeing. These technologies are improving everyday and offer real benefits. Look into Universal Design options. Can your home be made more suitable for your changing needs? Does it make sense to move to smaller home and use the extra money to pay for your support?

Be active

It matters less what you do, but that you do something that is meaningful to you and that uses your mind, spirit and body. No need to commit to one thing – change your mind as often as you want, and give any challenge a try!

Take charge of your health

Your Doctor may know best, but does she know and hear you. Do you have a system for understanding what you need to do to care for yourself and for learning about recommended procedures? Are your medical records and Powers of Attorney in a safe place? NOBODY should face serious medical decisions alone. We all need advocates. Medications are potent (that’s why they work). Learn about them and find ways to take them as prescribed.

Tackle your fears about memory changes

Learn about what things you need to worry about and what you can adapt to. Don’t panic! Don’t let others around you panic! – But don’t deny and pretend you are OK, if you are having problems. Changes to your environment and social support can make all the difference. Talk to your friends, doctors and family. Dementia is not a new problem – humans have been having memory loss for centuries – let’s learn from our predecessors.

Be open to smart technology

There are numerous studies, projects, and research aiming to use integrated information technology systems to support and enhance the health, safety and social connectedness of older people living in their own homes. Currently, there are many exciting technologies being developed to help seniors to stay independent and aging in place are many, some of these are: home-monitoring systems, telemedicine devices, tracking systems like GPS shoes and GPS watches, electronic walking aids, intelligent phones, and even robotic nurses.

Never give up your home without weighing all the choices

Is this the right time? Be curious about why you are making life changing decisions, weigh the consequences, think about your motivations, get input from trusted people. It’s rarely a good idea to make a life transition when grieving, adapting to a change in health status, or because you are appeasing anybody. It somebody tries to persuade you to make big changes during these times, question their motivation. The old choices of struggling alone at home or moving to an institution are being replaced by new ones. Stay on the cutting edge. Learn what the options are, participate in creating those options. Make your voice heard. 

Senior Games are the Olympics of the Older Set

The National Senior Games 2013 presented by Humana come to a close in Cleveland on August 1.

Over 10,000 athletes 50 years and older compete, although most of the competitors are between the ages of 65 and 80.  The athletes represent all 50 states as well as nine countries, including Angola, Germany, Latvia and Russia.

This year, legendary singer, actor and writer Pat Boone rocked the basketball court, helping to lead his team, the Virginia Creepers, to victory over rival team the South Carolina's Darlington Generals, with a final score of 38 to 25 at Saturday’s game.

The “Senior Olympics” are held every two years on a national level. The first games were held in 1987 in St. Louis, MO. At those games, 2,500 seniors competed in front of 100,000 spectators. State games are held throughout the year.

The Games, the largest multi-sport event in the world for seniors, are comprised of 19 core events including:

  • Archery
  • Badminton
  • Bowling
  • Cycling
  • Golf
  • Horseshoes
  • Pickleball
  • Shuffleboard
  • Tennis
  • Track & Field and more

and team sports:

  • Basketball
  • Softball
  • Volleyball


In 2011, Dorothy Fadiman, with her production company Fadiman Social Documentaries, produced SHATTERING the MYTH of AGING: Senior Games Celebrate Healthy Lifestyles, Competition and Community. The 8 minute film follows a 74 year old Louisville, Kentucky man as he and his fellow seniors compete in Olympic-level sports. The documentary celebrates the human spirit and agrees with Dylan Thomas that we “...not go gentle into that good night.




We at Caregiverlist champion Healthy Aging and believe that senior caregivers and their clients can work together to achieve stronger bodies, healthier minds and relieve stress with regular exercise. Who knows? Perhaps Senior Games 2015 is on your horizon.

Seniors Warned of Medical Alert Scams

Phone scams targeting the elderly are on the rise, warns the Better Business Bureau. Telemarketers call offering seniors a free medical alert system that was never ordered. The phone calls are a scam intended to get the senior’s personal information and credit card number.

The robocalls claim to represent the well known “Life Alert” medical alert system (they of the “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!”), and state that a system has been ordered for them and will be sent to them at no charge. The consumer is directed to press a number to speak to a live salesperson who will then request credit or bank account numbers. Life Alert has issued a fraud alert informing consumers that they never employ telemarketers or perform cold calls.

We’ve written about senior scams before, primarily the ever-popular summer Grandparent Scams and holiday scams. Seniors are especially susceptible to frauds because the scammers count on the elderly to be especially fearful, trusting and sympathetic.

The BBB offers these tips when dealing with unsolicited calls:

  • Never provide personal information to an unknown caller.
  • Never respond to a robocall from an unknown company.
  • Don’t press a key to talk to a human. Simply hang up.


In addition, the Better Business Bureau advises seniors and other consumers to look for the following “red flags”:

“Free” Offers – Be wary of “free” offers that require you to pay a handling charge or other fees. In the case of medical alert systems, ask if there are additional monthly charges. If the telemarketer says a friend or family member bought the unit, ask for the name of the person and verify with them before agreeing to anything.

Scare Tactics – Being trapped in your own home with no way to call for help can be a scary situation for anyone, but for many seniors, it can be a realistic scenario.  Don’t fall for scare tactics.

Calls for Immediate Action – Listen for language like “this offer is good for today only!”

Implied Endorsement or Affiliation with Legitimate Entities – If a seller claims its product has been endorsed by another reputable organization, check directly with that organization for verification.

Refuses to Answer Questions Directly, Provide Contact Info, or Complete Offer Details –  Tell the caller you will not provide any information or make any decisions until you get all details in writing.

If you or someone you love has fallen victim to this or any other scam, report it to your bank or credit card company, file a report with the Better Business Bureau and submit a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. Also, share any information with the Caregiverlist caregiver community here in the comments.

Senior Caregivers Win $$ -- Contest Extended

Senior caregivers are unsung heroes. Professional caregivers allow the elderly to age in place longer, they make life in assisted living and nursing homes possible, and they provide the support and attention that's vital to a growing older population.

Caregiverlist wants to "show the love" to the professional senior caregiver. That's why we've decided to extend our summer photo contest to honor professional caregivers. Caregivers, Certified Nursing Aides, and Certified Home Health Aides may submit a photo of themselves with a senior client to the Caregiverlist Summer Photo Contest for Senior Caregivers.

Submit a photo of you and your senior client. Show us the special bond that makes caregiving so much more than just a job. Then invite friends and family to vote for you and your senior. Contest winners will be chosen based on popularity via voting. Caregiverlist will award $100, $50 and $25 Amazon gift cards to the top 3 voted pictures and free t-shirts to the runners-up The contest runs through Monday, August 31, 2013. Winners will be announced shortly thereafter. Our Caregiverlist Facebook page hosts the contest.

Caregivers may submit their photo on Facebook and vote for caregiver and senior photo submissions here.

You can vote for your favorite caregiver and senior photo here.

Good luck!


Julie and the Grandmas.

Caregivers also may always submit a job application on Caregiverlist to be considered for part-time, full-time and live-in caregiving jobs and find online caregiver training.

Seven Caregiver Trends

China's rapidly aging population (estimated to grow 35% by 2053), along with its urban single-child mandate, has forced the government to urge adult children to provide more emotional support to their elderly parents. Here, guest blogger Charlotte Bishop discusses the recent steps taken in China to encourage more active long-distance caregiving and it's international implications.

You may not have been following the news in China this past week, but China has enacted what may be the first law governing caregiving to older adults.  In a law called the "Protection of the Rights and Interests of Elderly People"  enacted this month caregivers are called to task.  The law states "Family members living apart from the elderly should visit or send greetings to the elderly persons."  This is not what I would consider a very enforceable statute, but it is a sober statement about what caregivers and their older loved ones around the world are increasingly seeing. 

AARP and a group called the National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC) have been surveying caregivers since 1997 and an analysis across the years show some interesting trends:

  1. the average age of caregivers has been steadily increasing from 46 years old in 1997 to now 50 years;
  2. the percentage of caregivers who are women still outnumber men, but the numbers have declined from 73% women in 1997 to the most recent figure of 67% women; (this has been generally consistent across caregivers of all ages)
  3. the average percentage of older recipients of care is growing - 24% of recipients 85 years of age and older to now 30% being that old or older;
  4. the proportion of caregivers who also hold a day job has been quite consistent during the years of these surveys;(from roughly three in four to four in five caregivers employed)
  5. across all ages of caregivers there is an increasing incidence of leaves of absence from their jobs reported by caregivers
  6. "burden of care" measured in hours of caregiving as well as actual activities was measured only in the most recent survey, but it was the older caregivers reporting the greatest burdens;
  7. as a counterpoint to this "burden," the older caregivers also were those most likely to use outside services to help in the caring; (older caregivers also were less likely to report help from friends)

Getting back to our China example, the law does say "should."  But it just may be that the authorities were seeing some of the same trends as we see here in the United States.  And what our surveys report pretty much squares with what I see as a geriatric care manager; older caregivers taking care of older friends or spouses shoulder a larger burden, and it ultimately takes its toll on the caregiver.  If you know an older caregiver, help them to find resources to take some of the load off; remember also that a large portion of that "load" may be guilt about not going it alone...so be supportive. 

Charlotte Bishop is a Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Care Management, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago.  Charlotte's blog is also the winner of the 2013 ALTY Award for "Best Senior Healthcare Article."  Please email your questions to ccbishop@creativecasemanagement.com.

If you need help caring for a beloved senior, Caregiverlist is here to help. Request Senior Home Care Agency and Assisted Living Rates and Services Near You: Submit Request. You can also read our recent news story about Chinese elderly and poverty here.

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