Caregiving and Christmas

I miss you all! But it was for wonderful reasons, at first, that I haven’t been here for 2 months. I was speaking in so many great places. The opportunity to speak out about getting prepared, keeping those caregiving demons away as best one can has been the gift of my mid-life life!

And then….here I am again…………..as a caregiver! Just as my tour of duty ended with dozens of speaking engagements in the fall, I took a lovely trip to visit my daughter abroad, and my husband took a terrible trip on the bleachers! Surgery and at least six weeks in a leg brace!

Oh how it comes flooding back, right?

Wait, what? I need to take an extra hour for getting someone else dressed and ready? I have to watch my phone like the Bat Signal might appear in case I get a text from the bedroom? Oh crap, I forgot to give him his phone, and now I’m at the pharmacy getting his meds AND my meds. It’s been three years since I’ve been in these caregiving shoes, and although one never forgets, it sure as hell is like getting back on that rusty, old Shwinn that you never wanted to ride again.

Can you get me some ice for my leg?

So a special thanks and prayer of gratitude to all of you who have supported me here, online, in person, at events, book signings, on Facebook and Twitter. I love you all so much. And all of us are working so hard to make caregiving easier….seems like an oxymoron, doesn’t it? Merry Christmas and the best in 2019. I’ll try better to stay in touch and like I always told my dear, darling mother-in-law, “the phone goes both ways…” Don’t ever be afraid to reach out!

“You Just have to Laugh….and have a Wonderful Holiday Season!

© 2018 Cathy Sikorski

Problems and Some Solutions…Or the Peppermint Twist?

Did you know that two of the biggest problems in Independent and Assisted Living are STD’s and drinking?  Here are two articles, one from AARP and one from the New York Times.

STD Rates Keep Rising for Older Adults

New Old Age: Drinkers in Assisted Living

It appears as if we DO have something to look forward to in our old age. Returning to dorm life hasn’t changed a bit since I was listening to “Benny and the Jets” while drinking peppermint schnapps and waiting to sneak my boyfriend up the back stairs of DeChantal Hall.

Even Dorothy knew this was coming……….and I don’t mean the Wizard of Oz………..

I have no solutions to these problems, but now that I have your attention, I just want you to know that we will be discussing lots of problems AND SOLUTIONS at this great Caregivers Conference in Philly on November 3rd.  And there will be two Keynote Speakers in charge of the laughs. Yes, I’m one of them. Dr. Ruth was busy that day.

Come to the conference. It’s only $25 for a ticket and that includes breakfast and lunch…in PHILLY? Do you think you can get breakfast and lunch for 25 bucks anywhere in Philly? Ask Rachael Ray, she’ll tell you, that’s a deal. And SO MUCH GREAT INFO, and meeting great people.

See you there! I might have a bottle of peppermint schnapps in my conference tote. Meet me in the little girls’ room. After my Keynote, I am a professional.

“You Just Have to Laugh… and get to the Conference!

Here’s the link for tickets: https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/3601596

©2018 Cathy Sikorski

 

Yay! It’s Open Enrollment……….or is it?!?

Today is a guest post from a Medicare Guru, Joanne Giardini-Russell, who I was lucky enough to find. I was going to paraphrase, but nope, read the whole thing. Such huge and I mean HUGE mistakes are made when it’s time to sign up for Medicare. So yes, YOU DO NEED HELP. This is the reason why:

Medicare – 5 Tips for the Season

It’s that annual time of year! The ads come out, your neighbors, siblings and friends starting buzzing and asking “what plan do you have? Why do you pay anything – I pay nothing and love my plan… You should have…” Right?

Can I interrupt the fanfare for a few minutes? My company helps people make good Medicare decisions. That’s all we do. 100% Medicare. So, we watch you all making the same mistakes just about every hour on the hour!

This short article will point out a few of the most common problems that we see:
• That friend that pays nothing and tells you that you’re overpaying? They most likely
have an HMO style Medicare Advantage plan. They likely don’t know that if they step
out of their network, they may have zero coverage. If they have chemo or radiation
enter their world? They’ll pay 20% of a large number. If they need 18 sessions of PT?
They’ll pay $30 each time. If they want to go to Mayo Clinic? They can’t. Moral of the
story? Don’t listen to your friends.

• When agents and insurance companies tell you annually “you can change your plan next year if you don’t like this one”. Whoa, not so fast. Some people can, some people can’t.
There are two types of products to supplement your Medicare coverage. There is
Medigap and Medicare Advantage. Most people that learn about the two usually want
Medigap. But, there’s a catch – you have to medically qualify for the product at times.
SO, if you can pass the health underwriting in the year after “you don’t like your plan”
than, yes – welcome aboard the Medigap train!

• Pre-existing conditions. They DO exist after you turn age 65 and hit Medicare eligibility! We’re so ingrained with group insurance and generally no pre-existing condition worries but they DO reappear with Medicare. This relates to Medigap coverage. Here’s the
rule: When you are NEW to Medicare’s Part B (and I don’t care if you are starting Part B
at age 65, age 72, age 75, etc. – the important part is that you are starting it), you have a
six-month window of opportunity to purchase a Medigap contract with no health
questions asked of you. So, when you and I are speaking, and you tell me that you have
MS and get infusions that cost $30,000 twice a year and you are starting Medicare? We
are going to have a serious conversation and I’m doing everything in my power to steer
you to a Medigap contract.

• A giant hole in Medicare-Land: People not being introduced to nor understanding the
basic premise that “there are two products to pick from to become your supplement”.
The world tends to focus on Medicare Advantage (think corporate profits or agent
commission might have something to do with this? Yes, sarcasm injected). You need to
understand what you are buying and the limitations of your product if there are any.
Make an informed decision.

• If you buy a Medigap contract, you can go to any doctor or hospital in the country that you choose. As long as they take Medicare (the majority do), you may go. We find that
at age 65, most people want choice and control over their healthcare. With Medicare
Advantage you will have networks and restrictions.

So, those are some of the problems that we see over and over again. There are dozens of other issues (prescriptions, Cobra, Obamacare, etc.) but if you know these 5 things, you’ve become a Medicare genius amongst your friends and family.
We’ve designed our firm to help you navigate Medicare issues almost in the way that I raised my children. Not to insult anyone’s intelligence, but we assist you as if you were 5 years old.

Meaning we lay out the steps rather simply.

Example. You call for advice and the response is “please go get Part A and B of Medicare and come back to me and I’ll help with your product”. That is Greek to you, generally. Online? In person? Where? What do I need? Boomer Health Group will instead send you a video tutorial with the forms that you need to fill out. You’ll get guidance as to step A, then B, then C. You finish step A? Come back for step B. We’re not the folks assaulting your phone and mailbox with Medicare solicitations.
Best of luck navigating the season! We’re here to help as needed.
Boomer Health Group
248-871-7756

And a special thanks to Joanne at Boomer Health Group. Call her. Really.

“You Just Have to Laugh…..and get Prepared….”

 

 

Today’s Reminder: Aging will Rock You Like A Hurricane

My husband has had The Weather Channel on all morning. We don’t live anywhere near hurricane Florence, but we are compelled to watch. It made me wonder if I had a channel called the Storm of Aging, if people would watch it like a train wreck.

I’m pretty sure no one would watch that channel, or the new Netflix series: Get Prepared for Hurricane Caregiver. Or even the HBO event: The Devastating Typhoon of Long-Term Care.

I know, this ain’t sexy. It’s not exciting, but it sure can be as calamitous.

We’ve all seen on those made-for-TV-movies when the heroine is sure to die from the rare disease that she contracted in the Amazon jungle while trying to save a previously, unknown Pygymy tribe that she will now “get her affairs in order!” Miraculously, a suited-up lawyer appears in the jungle with a notary to take care of the paperwork.

Don’t be the jungle heroine. If she had lived, she would still need paperwork done.  She would need a Financial Power of Attorney, a Health Care Power of Attorney, a Living Will, a Will and even maybe she should’ve considered a trust for all those royalties from her incredible tale.

People prepare for retirement. People prepare for death. But they do not prepare for the “Typhoon In Between.” Long-term care costs and the wrong preparation can and does leave people (especially women) destitute. Don’t let that be you.

See an Elder Lawyer, not an Estate Lawyer (although, if they are both an Elder and Estate Lawyer that’s a win-win).  We are nice people. Ask this one question:  “What do you know about Medicaid Planning and Long-Term care spending from my assets?”

GET PREPARED. That’s what I’ve been seeing all week from Jim Cantore and The Weather Channel.  And that’s a great message for everyone.

“You Just Have to Laugh….and Get Prepared…..”

©2018 Cathy Sikorski

 

It Ain’t Gettin’ Any Easier!

Pretty much every day, I am alarmed by little stories I find by scanning information about Elder issues.

My new friend Joanne Giardini-Russell, a true Medicare Guru, wrote an article this week about one of her clients who continued to go to work up to age 71. That, in itself, wasn’t a big surprise to me. If 60 is the new 40, working to age 70 or older,  is bound to happen more and more. Many of us actually like working.  Sure, many must keep working, and that is another article, for sure. But many people do work well into their 70’s and even 80’s. And those same hard-working people are often horrified about seemingly innocuous decisions they made (or didn’t make, by omission) and how they have placed themselves or their spouse into true fear of imminent destitution. Because of runaway health care costs.

You see, this guy’s venial sin was working too long and not retiring…..his mortal sin was not getting good information about how this affected his health insurance….more specifically Medicare. Suffice it to say that Joanne is trying to help this couple who have blown through more than $30,000…YES, THAT IS THIRTY THOUSAND DOLLARS…. of their own money, even though he had group insurance at work.

I don’t know this unfortunate couple’s story. But my guess is, they were not educated at work, they did not know how to use Medicare to their advantage at age 65, they did not take advantage of all the options at work for short-term disability and long-term disability, even if it required a contribution, and so on.

Those of us in this field are trying hard to get everyone to see the advantage of advanced planning instead of crisis planning. We are trying to work with your Financial Advisors,  your HR people at work, and quite frankly, anyone else who will listen, including you.

Find us. Ask us to come to your work and speak. Ask us questions on the internet machine!

Buy our books, yeah I said it. But let me ask you a question, if anyone could have saved thirty dollars, three thousand dollars, or thirty thousand dollars, by buying a book for fifteen dollars, would that be worth it? Yes, my friends, I think it would. #WhoMovedMyTeeth?

 

There is tons of good information out there. But you must find the experts, read things, ask questions and take action. Now is the time if you are a Baby Boomer, now is the time if your parents are in their 50’s and 60’s.

Oh, and to you Millennials and Gen-Xers….it’s never too late!

 

“You Just Have to…… Get Your Sh%$#@# Together…..and then you can Laugh all the way to the bank!”

Joanne doesn’t even know I’m telling you about her….so she will see this when you do.  If If you have any inkling that you want to discuss what you should do about signing up for Medicare:

Check out my friend Joanne at :

Boomer Health Group

Joanne Giardini-Russell, Medicare Guru

http://www.boomerhealthgroup.com/

 

 

Hot Fun In the Summertime…..

Yay! It’s summer…..

If you are a Baby Boomer, or a baby,  or anyone…..it’s summer and you want to take a vacation! But guess what?!? People get sick on vacation, too!

I attended a Medicare seminar with my Mom the other day…and that is so another story…but one little-unnoticed tidbit stood out for me….Medicare won’t pay for your vacation illness, sort of.

Did you ever notice that everything we need to care about in aging is ‘sort of?’ I sort of have a knee problem; Insurance sort of covers that; Eggs are sort of good for you;  You sort of shouldn’t drink with that medication. I digress, sort of.

We finally reach the age where we want to travel, travel, travel and there’s a big ol’ mousetrap in the middle of it. You will be entering a Rube Goldberg universe of obstacles if you don’t prepare.

If you go on vacation with Medicare all by itself and don’t take any of its friends…nope, no good, won’t pay if you trip on the gangplank of the water taxi in Venice, or puke your way through the Galapagos Islands. Certain Medigap policies will cover you for 80% of the cost in your first two months of travel. Medicare Advantage might cover some aspects of an emergency, sort of.

So it’s all kinda’ sorta’.  You want to have a vacation and not just in the summer. You want to travel for fun and fun and more fun, while you’re healthy and can pay for it. C’mon universe…I earned this!

So what can you do?

  1. Call your insurance provider and ask…Do you cover travel? Domestically and abroad? Believe it or not, some Medicare Advantage will not cover you from state-to-state, so if you’re a snowbird….yikes! Check it out.
  2. Do you pay for airlifting? Getting me home from the Machu Picchu where I fell climbing the Stairs of Death on Wayna Picchu cause I forgot I wasn’t a Millennial? Do you?
  3. How do I file a claim for unexpected medical expenses when I get home?
  4. What if my preexisting condition requires some unexpected medical care while I’m traveling, do you cover that? Presumably, if you have a preexisting condition, your health insurance carrier already knows that.

But what can you do that’s best?

Dig down deep in your heart and your pocketbook and buy travel insurance. Make sure it covers all these possibilities. Because the truth of the matter is, it’s a few extra hundred dollars. If you’re paying thousands to take a glorious trip, don’t be cheap or chintzy now. Rest assured, you will probably not use it. And then thank your lucky stars, if you need it.

 

Bon Voyage!  Love ya’, mean it!

“You Just have to Laugh…..”

©2018 Cathy Sikorski

Maybe we get by with a little help…………..

I was inspired by a Republican.

I know, you didn’t really expect that from me. I don’t do politics here, and this isn’t that.

My friend Dave likes to tease me about being a bleeding-heart liberal. But it’s truly all in fun and we do have sane, respectful conversations.

But Dave blew me away yesterday. We were at a lovely birthday party where he greeted me with “welcome to the Republican convention!” then with true pleasantries put aside, he told me he is volunteering at a local food bank.

For the entire summer and perhaps beyond, he will spend several hours a week at a local food bank. I don’t do that, do you?  And he still works parttime.

I asked him how he felt about this experience two weeks in.

His biggest take away so far is that he had no idea how truly desperate so many people are, especially in his area, whiech is fairly affluent.

And that’s it right there, isn’t it?

He had no idea. Those of us who are fortunate enough to lead lives of relative prosperity have no idea. I include myself in that. As much as I like to believe I have the heart and soul of well-oiled liberal thoughts. I still, often, have no idea of the deep-down-and-dirty reality of other peoples’  struggles.

There are many ways to go with this. But for now, I’d just like to say.  Maybe we could all volunteer for a day, an hour, a week, a month, a summer and see what enlightenment brings. I’m looking into it, how ’bout you? Let’s all just get a real idea. And then maybe we can come up with some workable ideas that all of us can get on board with.

We can, I know we can.

Not Just Laughing now, but not crying either….looking for a way to come together.

©2018 Cathy Sikorski

 

 

 

Just Tell the Truth………..

I took a friend in for some out-patient surgery.  Her anesthesiologist told her that she was only going to have a sedative, like the one you get for a colonoscopy. In other words, it would not be general anesthesia. He explained that the difference. General anesthesia relaxes all the muscles, whereas the sedative just makes you sleepy. The good news is she asked to be extra-sleepy and he was totally down with that.

When I was finally allowed back to help my friend get dressed, hear her discharge instructions and get her in the wheelchair to go home, I could see that she was quite a bit loopy. She couldn’t remember everything the doctor had said. She couldn’t remember exactly why her tongue was like sandpaper.  And she was uncertain of her discharge instructions.

All of which was fine, because that’s why I was there. I came as her ‘person.’ It’s pretty much standard that you bring your person to surgery with you. In fact, I highly recommend in all my seminars that you take someone with you to every serious doctor’s appointment, lawyer’s appointment, and financial advisor. Four ears are always better than two.

You absolutely must take a driver to the hospital with you when you are having any kind of sedative. You must. And yet…..

Our discharge nurse told us the tale of how some people try to pretend that their ‘person’ is coming, just not at the moment. I get that. We had to be at the hospital at 6:30 AM. Not many people want to get up in the dark to take someone to the hospital. Maybe you have a tag-team of players. You got your ‘early-riser’ and you got your ‘picker-upper.’ That’s fine. Just so long as someone is there to hear the instructions and take you home, get your meds and put you to bed.

But apparently, there is an underground of people who drive themselves, or get an Uber, or somehow show up alone. They give the intake nurse a fake phone number of their ‘picker-upper,’ and go in and get that surgery. regardless of how they are getting home.

Our nurse said she gets fake phone numbers, lies about family or friends coming, lies about where their car is when the wheelchair is at the door, lies about even where they are going to go after surgery.

If only there was a nose indicator.

She thinks that it’s because people may be private, or stubborn, or just that they don’t want to inconvenience anyone. I told her, I thought all of that is likely true.

But there’s also another possibility. Some people really don’t have a ‘person.’  They just don’t. So if you have a  person. Or you can choose a person from column A or column B. Please do two things. Please don’t be dumb and go it alone…chose a person. You need them. You need them for information, for remembering and for your safety as well as for the safety of every single person trying to get home that day. Just be honest.

And two……….be ever so grateful you have a person. And maybe you can offer to be a person someday.

“You Just have to Laugh……and be a person.”

©2018 Cathy Sikorski