Tag Archives: Caregivers

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

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

ALMOST EVERYONE IS FALLING FOR THIS NEW MEDICARE CARD SCAM! PROTECT MOM!

This is so important, that I scrapped my blog for today, for this. And since it is Friday afternoon, I’m going to repeat it again early next week. Please, for the love of God, tell your parents, your Seniors,  your neighbors, your friends,  even your enemies and maybe your pets…… that bad, bad people are scamming those with Medicare about their new cards.  THEY ARE FREE and NO ONE WILL CALL YOU ABOUT THEM:

NEW CARDS MEDICARE FRAUD ALERT: YOUR NEW CARD IS FREE!

Don’t Pay Those Medical Bills.

Yes, I said it. Countless times I have run into weary-worn caregivers who are frustrated by the overwhelming cost of care. According to AARP, out-of-pocket (OOP) costs for caregivers can be upwards of twenty percent of a caregiver’s income.

https://www.aarp.org/caregiving/financial-legal/info-2017/out-of-pocket-cost-report.html

And this is only getting worse.

I often find that clients of mine or even those I’m caring for are quick to pay any medical bill that comes to their mailbox. I encourage you to STOP that right now. We in caregiving and Elder healthcare know that there are many documents that come to our door that say: ‘This is Not a Bill.” And yet it looks like a bill, it sounds like a bill and it often has wording that indicates, “your share of expenses.” I’m sure you’ve found, as I have, that with my mother’s generation:”If it’s a bill, you pay it.” Even if it just ‘looks’ like a bill, many seniors will pay it, just to get it off their plate and to do the right thing.

Unquestionably, we should not pay something that says, “This is Not a Bill.” I’ve been able to either take those away, sneak them out of the house, or train my caregivees not to pay them. That has made a significant in-road into this problem. But it is the real bills that can cost you more than you know.

I tell the tale of a bill I received for my brother-in-law from the hospital for $4500.00, after his death. He had excellent health insurance and was ill for many months prior to his death, so this bill seemed far too exorbitant based on what I knew about his insurance. Every month for a year, I received this bill. Every two or three months, after I called to inquire if they had submitted it correctly to insurance, if they had processed the bill, or if they had calculated all the insurance discounts, they would tell me to wait as the bill was still in process. But they continued to send me the bill, even though they were waiting for payment.

I could have paid that bill ten times before it was properly processed. The actual final bill was $0.00. Yes, zero dollars and zero cents. Just try getting back $4500.00 you’ve overpaid because you were hasty to ‘pay’ a bill. And as I alluded to at the beginning of this article, often caregivers pay these bills out of their own pocket. Don’t do that either, if you can help it, ever. That discussion is for another day.

But for now, when you receive a bill, make sure it is correct. Make sure it has been processed both by Medicare and your Medigap policy, if you have one. Make sure you have received all your proper discounts. Don’t ever be afraid to call and question a bill. Never be afraid to wait, just wait and see if the bill has been processed properly. You can and will save yourself money, frustration and maybe even some heartburn.

Then perhaps you can have the last laugh!

“You Just have to Laugh……….”

©2018 Cathy Sikorski

Peace and Love to all Caregivers…………

Yesterday, I had the privilege of consulting with an attorney and his clients, who are dealing with the death of their elderly father and the need to place their mother in a dementia facility.

I just want to reiterate here how precious each and every true caregiver is. If you are caring for a parent, a spouse, a child, a relative or a friend, you are an unsung hero. You are likely losing time from work, money from Social Security, work, or retirement benefits. You are probably tired, angry, frustrated, exhausted, confused, and sad at least some bit of every day. I saw this in these clients. And I recognized it in myself from days gone by.

You are also filled with joy, comfort, love, and solace that you have the opportunity to provide so deeply for someone you love. Those emotions aren’t always on the surface. But you know they are there. Because these clients were now former caregivers for their Dad and current caregivers for their Mom they were experiencing all of this simultaneously.

All the hard work they were doing was right in front of us. Our conversation was complex and detailed. The wife had a file 5 inches thick with paperwork.

And yet… at some point….we were discussing very difficult decisions and how their Mom was ready to die as well.  So I told them my constant conversation with my mother-in-law:

“Marie would say to me often, ‘Just bring the box, I’m ready,’ I related.

“And I would say to her, ‘Marie, I would, but the problem is, you can’t climb in the box, someone has to put you in, and with my bad back, I just can’t do that.’

Marie and I would chuckle and the conversation would change.

Which is just what happened here. One chuckle was enough for all of us to keep moving forward in our quest to help them and their elder with difficult decisions.

To all you caregivers, may today bring you a bit of laughter, a smile from someone or just a full heart, for you are certainly doing that for someone else. And for that, I thank you.

Maybe laughter is the best medicine.

“You Just have to Laugh……………..”

©2017 Cathy Sikorski

Laugh….and the world laughs with you……………

Okay kids….it’s time to laugh, even just a little bit…

How do you know if you are a caregiver?

  1. If you are buying wipes and you don’t have a baby…..
  2. If you have dozens of medications in your house and none of them are yours…..
  3. If you wish some of them were yours…………..
  4. If, when someone says ‘whine’, you break out a long-stemmed glass……..
  5. If you get into your car and your car takes you to a nursing home but that’s not where you were going……….
  6. If you’re so tired that you used Preparation H to brush your teeth before bed….
  7. If you have dishes in the sink, laundry in the hamper, unpaid bills, and you drop everything to take your Mom to the doctor and the hairdresser and lunch and the bank and the pharmacy and the grocery store and the dry cleaners…….
  8. If you have on two different shoes…..
  9. If you just recently started using swear words that never came out of your mouth before….
  10. If you are so well-versed in medical-speak that they ask you to check on a patient in Room 612 ……..
  11. If when you say you’re going to the Vet, you don’t mean a place where animals get medical care….
  12. If you use so many acronyms like HIPPA, AARP, HMO, DME, SNF, OT, PT, ER, that you start spelling your kids’ names instead of saying them….
  13. If date night is now every Friday night in the Emergency Room….

Or this……

 

Check with your spouse, your significant other, your friends, your therapist….you just might be one of us!

“You Just have to Laugh…..”

©2017 Cathy Sikorski

Knock Knock…Who’s there? Good info…that’s who!

I attended an Elder Law Conference recently and as usual, my head is spinning. Lots to tell you, because not one of you is getting younger.

But the big takeaway was a talk by a dementia expert, Teepa Snow, on how we are truly failing those with this disease. It’s not them who’s the problem…it’s us.  We are so hellbent on proving we know what’s best for our loved ones, that we have done nothing to understand what it feels like to be them.

I was invited to do a Virtual Reality tour of what it’s like to have dementia. Unfortunately, I couldn’t go that day. But those who did said it was unbelievable. And enlightening. They quickly learned what it’s like to have someone in your face, someone yelling at you for no apparent reason, someone repeating to you when you believe you answered their question. I cannot stress enough how we need to take a good, hard look at what we, the caregivers, the health care workers, the families are doing. Ms. Snow told us there are 110 different kinds of dementia. 110. There can’t be a common answer to treatment for every single form. And locking every body up is not the answer. It is certainly not the quality of life answer for everyone.

I’m not naive. I realize that dementia has a big component of safety issues. Just spending 90 minutes with Ms. Snow, who has hours and hours of material, convinced me that as a public policy we need to re-think the concept of dementia care.

Her website is at teepsnow.com, and it’s called Positive Approach to Brain Change. If you have any family members at all who are suffering from any effects of dementia, please check out her website and her videos. They are remarkable and could be game-changing for your life right now.

And if any of you wonderful readers did not hear by now….I WON the contest to be the Keynote Speaker at the National Caregiver’s Conference. AND GUESS WHO THE SPEAKER IS RIGHT AFTER ME????  TEEPA SNOW! How great is that? I’m so excited to be meeting her once again after my Elder Law conference. Life is full of wonderful treats sometimes, isn’t it?

Since you read this far with no chuckles, I’m going to give you 3 Elder Law Knock Knock Jokes I found on the internet:

Knock Knock……….Who’s There?  Little Old Lady………Little Old Lady Who?

I didn’t know you could yodel!

Knock Knock…..Who’s there?   To………….To Who?

To WHOM!

Knock Knock….Who’s there?   Nana………….Nana Who?

Nanna You’re Business

I’m pretty sure you could use those jokes somewhere today!

“You Just have to Laugh……”

©Cathy Sikorski 2017

I know you love me….

So many of you have already voted for me to be the guest Keynote Speaker at the National Caregivers’ Conference in Chicago in November. But in case you are not a Facebook Friend or I don’t have your email. I’m posting the link here in hopes that you will mosey over to this website, scroll to the bottom on the left where the names of all the finalists are and click on my name and then click the vote button! You can certainly look at my video, but it’s not necessary. Just need your vote. Thanks for your support, I will do my best to make you proud of me, my blessed readers! Tomorrow, I promise you another hilarious story!

Vote for Your Conference Keynote