Medicare and the Flu Shot

The flu shot — a vaccine against the influenza virus, usually administered with an intramuscular needle in the upper arm — has a tricky relationship with Medicare. Here are a few important facts to know for the winter 2012-2013 flu season: Read more of this post

Informal Caregivers in Formal Healthcare Settings

We, as a country and as a healthcare system, have no way to determine exactly how many family members and friends act as caregivers. However, according to this 2011 AARP report, that number tops 60 million, and were these volunteers to demand payment for their services, it would introduce a new $450 billion market. And yet, for a number of reasons, these “informal caregivers” often go unacknowledged. One reason is that there’s no simple delineation between one’s responsibility as family/friends and one’s responsibility as an official caregiver; where do we draw the line between bringing over a bowls of chicken soup and shopping for someone else’s groceries? How much of a sacrifice must be given before that line is crossed? Read more of this post

Definitions: Medicare Part B

Medicare Part B is also known as “doctor’s insurance“; it’s what covers beneficiaries’ visits to the doctor’s office, as well as some medications related to doctor’s visits. The baseline cost (also known as a “premium”) for Part B in 2012 is $99.90/month, generally explained as applying to all single beneficiaries making $85,000/year or less ($170,000/year for couples); see this Social Security Administration site and click on “Monthly Medicare Premiums for 2012” to see what beneficiaries must pay for incomes higher than those benchmark amounts. Read more of this post

“Sit and Be Fit” Review

Sit and Be Fit is a low-intensity chair-based exercise program televised on PBS. Led by Mary Ann Wilson with a candid and cheerful smile, the show also features three older men and women participating in the exercises, and it provides a rhythmic soundtrack to provide steadiness and a fun essence to the exercises.  Read more of this post

Definitions: Medicare Part A

The simple definition for Medicare Part A is that it covers inpatient hospital visits. In reality, Part A is a little more complicated. In some cases, for example, it may cover some services as part of home health care, hospice care, or skilled nursing facility (SNF) care. Medicare.gov, the government website for Medicare, provides a basic, user-friendly explanation. Read more of this post

Dependence: Bathing

Recent surgery on both feet has left me completely homebound, quasi-bedbound, and largely dependent on my parents as caregivers  for the duration of the summer. This post is one in a series of reflections on my experiences that mirror those central to some seniors’ lives. 

One of the most difficult post-surgical instructions for me to accept was that I could not bathe for several weeks. This keeps my bandages dry, but also reduces my chances of losing my balance while getting in and out of a tub, or just standing on a slippery floor. In 2011, the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) issued a report estimating that bathrooms accounted for over 234,000 of emergency-department visits in 2008, with bathtubs/showers accounting for the highest rate of nonfatal, unintentional accidents (68%). The cause? A combination of getting in and out of the shower or actively bathing. Read more of this post

New Nursing Homes: Seem Familiar?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the current nursing-home model is fairly popular in the United States: in 2009, there were over 15,000 nursing homes, with a total of over 1.7 million beds, and an 85% occupancy rate. The stereotypical nursing home, with linoleum floors, long, bare corridors,  school cafeteria-style dining rooms, and perpetual games of Bingo, arrived as a combination of two previous methods of care-taking: hospitals and “old folks’ homes”. Hospitals have been around forever; but it seems that “old folks’ homes” have taken a few-decades hiatus but are determined to make a come-back. Read more of this post