We are all caregivers in some way. Perhaps we look after family, friends, neighbors, or even pets, offering medicine or bringing chicken noodle soup when someone is sick, or simply being a compassionate ear when a loved one needs to talk. However, some of us have ventured into extraordinary caregiver journeys. We care for grandparents, parents, spouses, children, and other family members who can no longer care for themselves—those who suffer from Alzheimer’s, dementia, strokes, and other disabilities.
It’s estimated that there are 44 million family caregivers in the United States, providing roughly 75% of all necessary care services. Family members spend about 37 billion hours each year providing care which, if paid, would amount to at least $470 billion in wages annually. What’s more, AARP notes that caregivers spend about 20% of their own wages to provide for those they care for, which amounts to $6,954 on average, or as much as $9,022 per year in certain demographic groups.
If you’re a family caregiver, you probably don’t need to be reminded of your ongoing sacrifices; you know them well. However, in honor of National Family Caregiver Month, we’d like to recognize the work that you’re doing, and provide you with information about a few resources that may be able to ease some of your strain.
1) Support Groups
Although each caregiving journey is unique, many of the challenges individual caregivers face share similarities — from trying to carve out “me” time, to navigating the medical community, sorting through government benefits and insurance plans, and more. On top of this, caregiving can be emotionally trying as well. It helps to have support from others who are working through similar challenges or who can simply understand what you’re coping with. Your local hospital or your loved one’s physician can usually point you in the direction of support groups designed for caregivers in your area. In addition, MeetUp.com often lists local support groups, or you can create a group if it doesn’t already exist in your area. If getting out to meet in person is difficult, various online support groups are available, such as The Caregiver Space, the Smart Patients Caregiving Community and Caregiving.com.
2) Respite Care
Many insurance plans offer respite care benefits. Medicare and Medicaid will provide them under specific circumstances as well. Respite care is a special type of temporary care provided for people with disabilities or life-threatening illnesses. Although the duration of relief care varies, it often gives caregivers a few days or couple of weeks each year to rest, travel, or see to their own personal needs. If your insurance does not cover respite care, see Julia Quinn-Szcesuil’s Care.com article “How Do I Pay for Respite Care?”
3) In-Home Healthcare
Like respite care, in-home healthcare is often a covered benefit of insurance plans, including Medicare and Medicaid plans. It can help bridge the gap between enabling someone to stay at home and recovering in a skilled rehabilitation center or staying in a nursing home. While it’s not ideal for someone who needs around-the-clock care, it can help caregivers make ends meet, as the healthcare specialist can assist with things like bathing and dressing wounds during a visit. Philip Moeller walks a caregiver through the process of setting up in-home healthcare through Medicare on PBS News Hour.
4) Local Area Agency on Aging
Your local Area Agency on Aging can provide a wealth of information and connect you with all sorts of resources, ranging from assistance understanding benefits that are available to finding care providers and services in your area. To find your local resource, visit the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging website and enter your location.
Most people have to work a paid job in addition to caregiving, and that presents unique challenges as well. Between needing time off for surgeries and doctor appointments to managing affairs and providing physical care, flexibility from employers is often needed. The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides a pathway for people caring for others to take time off when they need it, without worry about losing their job.
6) Benefits Checkup
With so much going on and so many things to track, it’s easy to overlook a benefit or service you may be entitled to that can ease some of your burden. The Benefits Checkup provided by the National Council on Aging lets you enter your location to see all programs in your area you or your loved one may qualify for.
Oftentimes, insurance plans and medical programs leave a gap, and not everyone is fortunate enough to have coverage either. Expenses for things like medical equipment and prescriptions add up fast. If you’re a caregiver acting as head-of-household, you may also be struggling with the cost of pet medications, and general household expenses too. RefillWise can help with all these things. Our free pharmacy discount card works on all prescription medications, as well as prescription medical equipment, and can be used at most popular pharmacies — saving you money whether you need to make purchases for yourself, your family, the person you’re caring for, and even your pets. Best of all, our rewards program offers you cash back for using our card, which you can use on all your other needs, from groceries to hygiene supplies, clothing, or little treats for yourself. To get started, text JOIN to 22822 or sign up on our site now.
“You can't help getting older,” George Burns once remarked, “but you don't have to get old.” Indeed, aging is not an option, and with it comes a slew of new adventures. If you’re an adult child of someone in or nearing their golden years, you can expect some awkward, funny, and downright silly moments brought on by the changes that come with age.
1) They Can’t Hear You in a Restaurant
(But They’ll Still Hear Your Private Phone Conversations from the Next Room)
Hearing diminishes with age, but perhaps not in the ways one would expect. It has to do with the fine hair cells inside the ear that help translate sound waves into sound. When those die off or diminish, hearing starts to go. It’s very common for seniors to have trouble hearing when there’s background noise because they can’t isolate the sound of your voice, even if you’re sitting at the same table as them in a restaurant. However, it’s almost a guarantee they’ll hear every single word of your phone call whether you step outside or into the next room. Don’t rely on the distance to save you from questions about your love life, job, or anything else you want to keep quiet. If there’s no background noise, they’ll hear your conversation just fine.
2) They Can’t Remember How to Set the DVR
(But They Remember All Your Embarrassing Childhood Moments)
Sir Norman Wisdom once explained, “As you get older three things happen. The first is your memory goes, and I can't remember the other two…” It’s not all memories that go, though. It’s the short-term memory loss that gets most people. That’s why you can show Mom or Dad how to set the DVR one day and have them ask you how to do it again the next. The same is true for things like scheduling appointments, remembering where they put their keys, or something really important they called to tell you. On the flip side, long-term memory stays intact, so they will remember the time you tripped over your own feet on stage and how red you turned every time they mentioned your first crush.
3) They Have Strict Rules You Need to Follow
(But Their Grandkids Can Do No Wrong)
Raising you was a chore. They knew they needed to produce a child who was ready to take on the world and be successful, so there were rules...and lots of them. Those rules made you what you are today. They still have lofty expectations for you, but their relationship with their grandkids is different. Candy before dinner? Sure thing! Running and playing baseball inside the house? Sounds like fun! Don’t question this one; you won’t win. Just be glad they’re enjoying their grandkids.
4) They Won’t Laugh at the Same Things You Do
(But They’ll Laugh Even More at the Little Things)
Researchers aren’t quite sure why, but our sense of humor changes as we age. There’s a good chance you’ll still snicker at someone’s misfortune, crude jokes that target someone, or at self-depreciating humor, but your folks probably don’t. Seniors tend to laugh more at silly things, inconsistency, and wit.
5) They’ll Be Incredibly Open About the Things You Don’t Want to Hear
(But Mum’s the Word When They Need Help)
You will hear about their medical ailments and bathroom behaviors in great detail, often around the dinner table. Considering their hearing is going too, the people at the next table will hear as well. (It’s ok, they probably have aging parents as well, or will someday.) At the same time, autonomy tends to diminish with age, and the more you pick up the slack, the more likely they are to avoid tipping you off when they need help with something because they’ll want to try to manage it alone. It’s a lot like the inverse of your teenage years. Take heed with this one and do your best to create a balance that preserves their ability to make decisions and tackle tasks on their own as much as possible. It’ll help ensure they do come to you when they need assistance.
Get Help When You Need It
Although some of the things associated with aging can be humorous to seniors and their family, there are times when things like memory loss and medical issues are a genuine concern, and these should be addressed by a physician. With the help of prescription medicines and medical equipment, people are living richer, fuller lives, and living longer than ever before. RefillWise celebrates this, and helps make it easier for people to afford the things that enhance their lives. With our prescription discount card, members save an average of 40%, and can also receive discounts on medical equipment like canes which allows them to remain mobile and autonomous longer. Moreover, those who obtain a RefillWise card are automatically enrolled in our rewards program, providing gift cards that can be used on anything from groceries to medicine, personal care items, and even entertainment. If you use your RefillWise card to pick up prescriptions for them or other family members in your household, you will earn cash rewards even faster. Your parents can text JOIN to 22822 or you can use your email to sign your parents up on our site for their free RefillWise pharmacy discount card today.
As the world around us becomes more entwined with technology, we’ve seen a steady transformation of many services, products, and important information to the online marketplace. Twenty years ago, most of us would order a pizza by looking up the number in a phone book, calling on a landline phone, and talking to a live person who would manually take the order. Nowadays, you can order a pizza in a matter of seconds and your order simply appears on a screen in front of the pizza assembly line. Pizza is only one of the countless examples, however. From the comfort of your home or office, you can now order food, apply for a mortgage, and research any topic under the sun — including how to manage your healthcare and the high costs that come with it.
Unfortunately, a large percentage of seniors is still slow to adopt to technology. A study by the Pew Research Center found that through 2014, 40% of Americans aged 65 and above still do not have access to the internet. While some of them have real limitations such as visual impairments, other restricting health conditions, or simply lack the ability to afford an internet connection, the same study found that 53% of those seniors without access to the internet simply believe that they are not missing out on any important information.
This statistic is particularly worrisome considering how complicated our healthcare system has become. Because they are far more likely to need treatment, medications, and other various health services, it is vital for seniors more than any other group to be able to access information and resources in order to obtain the appropriate care and, correspondingly, the best outcome.
Seniors are now faced with several difficult choices when they retire, including what kind of Medicare plans in which they should enroll, how much coverage they need, whether or not to purchase a supplemental plan, and how to afford any of these options in the first place. Without adequate information, seniors far too often have to decide between getting all of the healthcare that they legitimately need or being able to afford essentials like groceries. While the costs associated with healthcare continues to increase, the amount of information and resources available online also continues to increase, providing access to important weapons in the fight against these mounting costs to anyone with a little motivation and an internet connection.
If You Build It, They Will Come
There are already a number of great tools available online such as physician finders provided by insurance companies, independent organizations like 211.Org who can help identify assistance programs, and even free savings programs like our very own RefillWise that can save money on nearly every prescription at over 50,000 pharmacies around the country. Many of our leaders in the federal government, state governments, and even most major internet providers have recognized the importance of internet access and have begun offering various programs to provide internet services at sharply discounted rates, in many cases for as low as $5 or $10 a month.
Having access to the internet and being able to use it can not only save some frustration, but it could very likely help you save money, time, and have a positive effect on your overall health. As our country continues to shift to an online identity, it is essential that all of us — seniors included — do our part to remain proactive and stay informed about our own health. In 2016, it is nearly impossible to do so without at least a basic level of internet literacy and access. If you are a senior, we highly encourage you to check out these 5 useful links that are great examples of resources available today.
5 Useful Online Resources for Seniors
RefillWise.com — RefillWise is a free prescription discount card that can be used at any major chain pharmacy to save money on nearly any prescribed medication. Although it cannot be used in addition to insurance, it can especially help seniors who don't have a Part D plan, those who have something prescribed that is not covered by their Part D plan, and those who fall into the coverage gap.
How to Sign Up For Medicare - The Center for Medicare (& Medicaid) Services has a very comprehensive website with great links, info, and answers to commonly asked questions.
211.Org — 211 is a non-profit organization that helps to connect those in need of assistance with any programs that may benefit them, including seniors who are having trouble affording healthcare that they need.
MedLinePlus.gov — MedLine Plus is a wonderful website filled with general information and articles that address some very common issues that affect nearly all seniors, including tips on how to stay healthy as a senior.
MedicareRights.org — The folks at MedicareRights are an extremely helpful group of advocates working to make sure our seniors are getting the most out of Medicare. They also have a team of Medicare counselors who can help assist you if you have any questions about how Medicare works, where to find help, etc.