4 Tips for Talking with a Parent about Giving Up Driving

August 19, 2019

Driving represents independence to most adults, including seniors. If you need advice for talking with a loved one about giving up their keys, this will help.

Bringing up the topic of safe driving, or hanging up their keys for good, with a senior parent can be difficult. Adult children typically dread this conversation. It’s often easy to avoid the discussion until a crisis forces the conversation. Hopefully, this will never be the case.

If you are struggling with how to initiate a conversation about driving with a senior you love, we have a few tips that will help.

  1. Demonstrate empathy and kindness.

Before you tackle a sensitive topic like driving, take time to reflect on what this change will mean for your loved one. Not being able to drive can be damaging to a senior’s self-esteem if not handled well. For most people, driving represents independence and freedom.

Giving up driving may also take an emotional toll:

  • Feeling forced to rely on others for transportation
  • Feeling like a burden on a busy loved one’s schedule
  • Feeling frustration at the inability to leave the house freely or without preplanning

Keep these factors in mind as you talk about driving with your senior loved one.

  1. Do some research first.

Before you initiate a conversation about driving with an older loved one, do some research. Explore local transportation services that are accessible and priced fairly. If you create a list of options, so they know they will be able to remain independent, the senior might not be as reluctant to limit or give up driving.

  1. Explore limitations and adaptive equipment.

Some age-related changes can make it more difficult to drive, but that doesn’t always mean the senior should stop driving altogether. Seniors can choose to impose personal limitations on when or how far they drive. There may also be adaptive devices or vehicle modifications that allow a senior to be a safe driver for a few more years.

Consider a few examples that might keep your older loved one driving longer:

  • Avoid nighttime driving: If night vision is an issue, as it is for many seniors, suggest they limit their driving to the daytime.
  • Drive during off-hours: Driving during rush hour can be daunting for people of all ages. Suggest your family member avoid driving during the busiest times of day.
  • Drive only to locations nearby: Encourage your loved one to only drive to locations within a few miles from home, such as to the grocery store or bank. By setting a personal boundary as to how far they drive, seniors can still maintain some independence.
  • Explore adaptive devices: From swivel seat cushions to extra large mirrors, there are a variety of devices designed to overcome common challenges older drivers face. Many are inexpensive and easy to install.
  1. Don’t let age be the primary determinant.

There is no particular age when seniors should stop driving. An older adult’s fitness for driving should be the primary determinant in whether or not it’s time to stop. Is the Senior Driver in Your Family Safe Behind the Wheel has good information and resources for helping you objectively assess a senior’s driving skills.

Transportation Is Available at Legacy Senior Living

One of the most popular services at Legacy Senior Living communities is transportation. Residents rely on it for everything from physician appointments to shopping trips. It’s much easier and less expensive than maintaining a car.

Call us today at 423-478-8071 to learn more!

The Differences between Assisted Living and Nursing Homes

July 22, 2019

If you aren’t sure about differences between assisted living and nursing homes, this information will help you learn more.

When a senior in the family begins to require a little extra help, sometimes their loved ones can be confused about what type of care they need and how to find it. Because the differences in senior living aren’t always obvious, deciding between an assisted living community or a nursing home can be challenging.

People don’t always know that these are two very different types of senior care. Adult children who haven’t been through the process of finding senior living for a family member often think an assisted living community is just a more upscale version of a nursing home.

There are many myths surrounding senior living that further complicate the issue. It’s no wonder families end up confused and unsure about what type of care is the best solution for their loved one.

To help make your search a little easier, we’ll explain the differences between an assisted living community and a nursing home while also dispelling the most common myths.

Dispelling Myths About Assisted Living and Nursing Homes

Myth: The only difference between a nursing home and an assisted living community is their appearance. Both types of senior living offer the same care and services.

Fact: While these two kinds of senior housing typically differ in appearance, the primary contrast is in the types of care and services that are offered. That’s why it is important to learn a little more about each one.

Assisted living communities are home to older adults who need support with life’s daily activities. Some require assistance with personal care (e.g., bathing, grooming, and dressing) and many need help with medication management. These communities are also known for providing well-balanced meals, and a variety of life-enrichment programs every day.

A nursing home is designed for those who require medical care delivered by skilled health care professionals. For example, it would be a solution for a senior who needs skilled nursing assistance with a wound that won’t heal or an older adult with a tracheotomy that requires respiratory therapy.

Myth: Seniors who need help with medication can only go to a nursing home, not an assisted living community.

Fact: While nursing homes do provide medication management services, so do most assisted living communities. In fact, most assisted living residents receive some type of medication support. Considering some older take 5 or more medications/supplements each day, it’s easy to understand why this service is standard in most assisted living communities.

Myth: Only wealthy people can afford an assisted living community.

Fact: This persistent myth might be caused by seniors and their families not understanding all of the services included in the monthly fee. As they learn more, they discover what a true value assisted living can be.

Many of the expenses associated with maintaining a private home are included in the basic monthly fee at an assisted living community—room and board, utilities, basic cable, local phone service, some transportation, healthy meals and snacks, housekeeping, lawn care, and snow shoveling. Other expenses that are often part of the monthly fee are fitness classes and life-enrichment programs.

Myth: Assisted living and nursing home residents don’t have much to do beyond watching television and playing bingo.

Fact: Both assisted living communities and nursing homes offer a variety of daily activities. They tend to be programs that nurture the body, mind, and spirit. The difference is that activities in nursing homes are designed to work around the medical needs and limitations of residents. Some even offer one-on-one activities, such as reading, with nursing home residents who aren’t mobile.

Myth: The food is always terrible in senior communities.

Fact: This is another popular myth that simply isn’t true, especially for assisted living communities. While nursing home residents may have special dietary needs, such as pureed foods, the staff tries to make them both nutritious and delicious.

Assisted living communities often employ chefs to plan menus and supervise cooking. Residents typically have a choice of several menu options at each meal. Because dining rooms are usually restaurant-style, mealtime is often a social affair that residents look forward to each day.

Senior Living Options at Legacy

If you aren’t quite sure what type of care your senior loved one needs, we’ll be happy to help make that determination. With options ranging from independent and assisted living or personal care to memory care and respite, our team knows and understands how to help older adults find the support they need to live their best life. Call us at (423) 478-8071 today!

4 Tips for Making a Smooth Transition to Assisted Living

June 17, 2019

Smooth Transition to Assisted Living

Taking time to prepare for a transition to an assisted living community is vital. These 4 tips will help.

When an older adult is contemplating a move to an assisted living community, they often feel overwhelmed. As do their family members. With so many choices to explore and decisions to make, it’s easy to understand why seniors and their families feel so stressed.

One source of stress often comes from figuring out how to make the process of moving go well. While relocating is tough at any age, for an adult who is giving up their family home, the transition can be emotionally charged.

Here are a few suggestions to make the transition to an assisted living community go a little easier.

4 Tips for Making a Smooth Transition to Assisted Living

Tip #1: Get involved prior to moving.

One step you can take to ensure a smoother transition is to encourage your senior loved one to get involved with the community’s social life before moving day. It’s a great way to meet new neighbors and connect with people who share similar interests.

Another way to get comfortable before moving day is to stop by for a meal or two. Most assisted living communities are happy to have potential residents and their family members enjoy lunch or dinner in the dining room prior to the big day.

Tip #2: Set realistic timelines for moving.

Families often underestimate how much time it takes to downsize and sell a home, even one that isn’t very large. If the senior has lived there for a long time, as many do, it can be physically and emotionally exhausting to clean out their home. Unless this move is the result of an emergency, give yourself time to plan and pack.

Remember, in addition to packing the items that will be going to the assisted living community, you’ll probably need to host an estate sale or garage sale, and arrange to donate unneeded items to charity.

Tip #3: Make the new apartment look familiar.

While it can be tempting to sell or donate the senior’s current belongings and purchase new, it isn’t usually the best way to handle this move. Remember, the senior is relocating to a new environment where they will be surrounded by unfamiliar faces. That can be overwhelming.

Instead, create an environment in their new apartment that looks and feels like “home.” It will likely help your older loved one feel more comfortable and settle in faster.

As you develop a plan for decorating their assisted living apartment, try to include at least a few pieces of their favorite furniture and household belongings. The recliner or love seat they sit on to watch television, bedding from their bedroom, family photos, and familiar wall décor can help the senior feel more at home from the first day they move in.

Tip #4: Understand there will be ups and downs.

As with any major life change, there will be highs and lows during the days leading up to the move and shortly after. This is true not only for the senior, but for family members as well. Your role will likely revert back from hands-on caregiver to spouse or adult child.

For many people, that change can be an adjustment. Give yourself permission to feel down while also making a commitment to accept and embrace the new opportunities this move presents.

If you have questions about assisted living or need more advice for making a smooth transition, we’ll be happy to help. Call the Legacy Senior Living community nearest you for advice!

Tips for Choosing a Senior-Friendly Realtor

May 27, 2019

If you or a senior loved one are searching for a realtor, these tips can help you find and interview potential candidates.

Moving can be physically and emotionally exhausting. In fact, mental health experts rate moving as one of life’s most taxing events. It’s right up there with losing your job or getting a divorce.

Added to this stress is the sentimental aspect of moving. It is fairly common for a senior to have lived in the same house for decades. That can make parting with the home even more difficult. Finding a realtor who has experience and training working with seniors is the can help make the process more manageable.

Common Reasons Older Adults Relocate

Seniors move for many reasons, but there are a few that are the most common. In a study conducted by a relocation specialist, the top three reasons cited were:

  • Declining health: 34% of older adults surveyed said their move was caused by a change in health.
  • More freedom: 10% of respondents were looking for a more carefree lifestyle and fewer home-maintenance burdens.
  • Problems keeping up: 42% of older adults said they were no longer able to keep up with home repairs and maintenance.

Having a licensed real estate agent who understands each of these situations can help make this transition go a little more smoothly. That is one reason the National Association of Realtors created a special designation for realtors who work with seniors.

Choosing a Senior Real Estate Specialist

A realtor who has earned the Seniors Real Estate Specialist® (SRES) credential has undergone additional training. They know the unique challenges older adults face as they prepare to sell their home. You can use your zip code to search the National Association of Realtors online database for a specialist near you.

Once you’ve found a few good candidates who seem capable of selling the senior’s home, it’s time to schedule an in-person interview with each one. If you live too far away to be able to do that, try to use a video chat service like Skype to conduct the interviews.

Here are a few suggestions to ask each of your realtor candidates:

  • What led them to seek the SRES credential?
  • How many seniors have they helped sell their home?
  • How do they go about setting a price for a senior’s home?
  • How do they approach the sale of an older adult’s home differently than that of a younger family?
  • What will they do to market the home?
  • Do they offer advice on staging or other ways to help the senior earn top dollar for the home?
  • How successful is their track record for getting the asking price for a home?
  • Are some months better than others when it comes to selling a senior’s house?
  • Do they have experience working with any senior move managers or moving companies in the area?

Our final tip is to ask for a reference list of families they’ve helped sell a home. That can give you a better understanding of how well they work with and are sensitive to the needs of older sellers.

If you are a senior or an adult child of one looking to make a move, we hope you will keep Legacy Senior Living in mind. With options ranging from independent and assisted living to memory care, we have a variety of solutions for older adults to consider.

Call us at (423) 478-8071 to set up a personal tour!

Helping a Senior Manage Anxiety Before a Move to Assisted Living

April 29, 2019

manage move anxiety

Moving can be distressing. Use these tips to try to help manage move anxiety and make a smooth transition to assisted living.

Moving during the retirement years is much different than moving as a young or middle-aged adult. Seniors who are relocating might find the emotional issues they encounter to be more difficult than the physical challenges moving presents.

For an older adult who has lived in their home for many years, parting with the house can feel like letting go of the happy memories created there. It can also trigger grief and sadness if members of the family have passed away.

The relocation process can lead to anxiety for the senior and stressful days for those who love them. It can make the transition to what should be a new and exciting time in life overwhelming.

Managing Move Anxiety During the Retirement Years

Psychologists call the anxiety seniors encounter before a move relocation stress syndrome (RSS). There are a few ways you can help your elder loved one manage this transition:

  • Include them in decisions: When you are busy juggling a career, a parent’s care, and your own family’s needs, you might try to make most of the decisions about the move yourself. That can make the senior feel like they are losing their independence. Unless your loved one has a health issue that prevents them from participating in the process, include them in as many decisions as seems reasonable. Your goal should be to find the balance between including the family member and overwhelming them with too many unimportant decisions.
  • Maintain an attitude of respect: Sometimes the process of downsizing a senior’s home can get a little contentious. What you see as something to throw away or donate might be a treasure to your aging loved one. Work with the senior and the team at the assisted living community to determine what furniture and belongings will fit and what will need to find a new home. As you do so, remember to be kind and respectful.
  • Create a plan for moving day: Carefully planning for the day of the move is important for reducing stress and anxiety. Pack a suitcase filled with everything your family member will need right away. These supplies may include medication, toiletries, a change of clothing, personal care items, and other daily necessities. Also, assemble a supply box that contains items you may need on moving day, such as a coffee pot and coffee supplies, snacks, towels and washcloths, cleaning products, and trash bags. Put both the suitcase and the box in the car with you instead of sending them with the movers.

Our final suggestion is to encourage your senior loved one to maintain their sense of humor. Despite your best efforts, things may go wrong as the older adult makes this transition. Be patient and try to laugh off the small inconveniences.

Questions about Moving to Senior Living

If you have questions about moving to a senior living community, one of our experienced team members will be happy to provide answers. Call the Legacy Senior Living community nearest you for help!

5 Advantages of Virtual Physician Visit Services

February 25, 2019

As technology improves, more physicians are offering virtual office visits. Here are 5 advantages of virtual physician visit services.

Getting to and from a physician’s office can be challenging for older adults, especially those who live in rural communities or those who’ve given up driving. Many are reluctant to ask a busy adult child for help and aren’t aware of other transportation options. For some seniors, it is a barrier to getting the care they need when they need it.

One option that has been growing in recent years is virtual physician visits. As the technology improves and is easier for seniors to use, the number of physicians offering this service has grown. Insurance companies are seeing the value of virtual visits and including them in their list of covered services.

There are issues to be aware of if you are a senior considering virtual physician visits or the adult child of one. Here’s what older adults and their families should consider.

5 Advantages of Virtual Physician Visit Services

  1. Convenience: Being able to have a face-to-face conversation with a physician from the comfort of your living room is appealing to many. As technology becomes easier to use, even those seniors who aren’t experienced computer users will likely find this service to be convenient.
  2. More focused physician-patient interaction: Physicians are busy professionals, sometimes so busy that patients feel they aren’t being listened to. The doctor might be distracted by other office personnel and patients. Those who have utilized virtual visits often cite the advantage of their doctor’s attention. When it is just the patient and the physician talking by video conference, a doctor can focus more effectively.
  3. No exposure to viruses: Physician waiting rooms are full of sick people. That can expose an older adult, who may have a weaker immune system, to bugs and viruses. Visiting your physician virtually eliminates that risk.
  4. Less time spent waiting: Physicians are notorious for running behind schedule. That leaves patients stuck sitting in the waiting room with nothing to do. It can be stressful and aggravating. When you are waiting for your virtual visit, however, you can relax in the comfort of your own home.
  5. Easier access to specialists: Patients often want to seek a second opinion when they are diagnosed with a health condition. That can be difficult to do for people who live in rural communities. With the help of technology, a patient in Nebraska can meet with a physician in New York virtually to receive advice.

Other Factors to Consider

While virtual physician visits have many advantages, there are a few other factors to consider and ask questions about:

  • How easy is the technology to set up and use? If the senior runs in to problems, how will they go about finding assistance?
  • Does the older adult’s insurance or Medicare pay for virtual visits? If not, how much is the out-of-pocket charge?
  • Is the older adult’s internet connection strong enough? For seniors in rural communities, a lack of good internet options might make virtual visits challenging.

Transportation Provided at Legacy Senior Living

One of the most popular services used by residents of Legacy Senior Living is transportation. Seniors and their families have peace of mind knowing our communities can arrange transportation to and from physician offices. Call the Legacy community nearest you to learn more about this vital resident service.

Is It Time to Consider Assisted Living?

January 28, 2019

6 Signs a Senior Needs Assisted Living

Are you wondering if it is time for a senior in your family to move to assisted living? These six signs that an older adult is struggling can help you decide.

A question we often receive from the families of seniors is how to tell when it’s time for a move to assisted living. While some older adults are excited to move to a community that offers many opportunities for friendship and life enrichment activities, others are more reluctant to make a change.

If this is a question your family is grappling with, we can help. Finding an answer starts with recognizing the warning signs that might indicate a senior is struggling at home.

6 Signs a Senior Needs Assisted Living

  1. Change in personal hygiene: Have your parent’s personal hygiene habits declined? Is their appearance not quite as tidy as in the past? Are they wearing clothes that are not appropriate for the season or the time of day? These may seem like inconsequential details, but they aren’t. A marked decline in personal care can be a sign an older adult is having difficulty keeping up.
  2. Unintended weight gain or weight loss: Another sign a senior might benefit from a move to an assisted living community is if they are gaining or losing weight. This change may be due to a poor diet. Because cooking for one often seems like too much work, an older adult might skip meals or rely on fast food and convenience foods. Another reason is that they’ve given up driving and are having difficulty getting to and from the grocery store often enough.
  3. Errors with medication: Seniors may take several different types of medication each day. This can increase their risk for medication errors. According to Pharmacy Times, almost half of the two-billion prescriptions filled each year are incorrectly taken. Check to see if your loved one is on track by comparing the number of pills left in their medication bottles with the number prescribed. Having too many or too few left can indicate a problem.
  4. Making money mistakes: Another red flag that a senior is struggling is making mistakes with finances. A few signs that indicate an older adult is having difficulty managing their finances include phone calls from creditors, a stack of past-due bills, or a senior unable to identify credit card charges.
  5. Decline in housekeeping: The condition of a senior’s home can also tell a tale. If your parent’s home has always been neat and in good repair, a disheveled, dirty house isn’t a good sign. Check their refrigerator for expired foods. Notice if trash or laundry are piled up. Also, look for neglected maintenance tasks, such as burned-out light bulbs or a leaky faucet.
  6. Withdrawing from social activities: Stepping back from favorite volunteer projects and giving up going to church or synagogue are other warning signs. Sometimes withdrawal is due to a lack of transportation, but other times it can be a sign of cognitive change. For example, isolated seniors are at a higher risk for depression.

These are just a few of the most common signs that a senior is struggling and could benefit from assisted living. If you are still wondering if assisted living is the right choice, we’ll be happy to help you understand all of your senior care options. Call the Legacy Senior Living community nearest you to learn more.

Giving Seniors “Experience” Gifts this Holiday Season

December 17, 2018

Struggling to find a holiday gift for an older adult? An experience gift might be the solution. These ideas will help you get started.

Finding a meaningful holiday gift for a senior loved one isn’t always easy. Many seem to have everything they want and need already. If an older adult has moved to a senior living community, they may have limited space for storing belongings and seasonal items.

What can you do to show an older adult your love and gratitude this holiday season?

As we grow older, family gatherings and the gift of time often take on new meaning. An experience gift might be the ideal solution this year.

The Gift of Time This Holiday Season

Unlike the tangible gifts typically given during the holidays, experience gifts involve spending time together. Here are a few suggestions to help you come up with an experience gift for your senior loved one.

  • Pampering time: Schedule some spa time for the ladies in the family to enjoy together. Whether during or after the holidays, a spa day can give everyone a chance to relax and recharge. Most salons offer a variety of options ranging from pedicures and manicures to facials and makeovers.
  • Movie night: Start a new tradition. Sometime during the holiday season, plan a move night for everyone in the family. New movies often debut in theatres around the holidays, so there should be a variety of family-friendly movies to consider. If going out isn’t an option, host a movie night at home. This can be just as much fun. Show a holiday movie that several generations of the family can enjoy together, such as The Grinch Who Stole Christmas or Home Alone.
  • Talent show: While this idea might take a bit more time, it can be fun for everyone involved. Organize a talent show and encourage family members to participate in some way. Designate one or two outgoing loved ones to emcee the event. Those who are more reserved can help with planning if they prefer. Faraway family members, who can’t be there in person, can video their talent to be played during the event.
  • Sports night: Another idea for a senior who is a sports fan is to organize an outing to watch a local team. From minor league baseball to major league basketball, sports events are fun for people of all ages. Whether it’s a Saturday afternoon or a weeknight, varying times can make it easier on family schedules. If the senior has a mobility challenge, most arenas can make accommodations if you call ahead.
  • Craft party: Working on craft projects is another fun way for several generations to spend time together. While many of them don’t require special talents, the different generations may teach each other new skills. You can purchase craft kits at a local hobby store. These can range from bird houses to handprint garden stones and stained-glass sun catchers.

The idea behind experience gifts is to find ways for families to spend time making memories.

Stay On Top of the Latest News on Aging

If you haven’t already done so, take a minute to bookmark the Legacy Senior Living blog and check back often. From fire safety to flu-shot myths, we share new information and resources every week!

Holiday Gifts for an Adult with Alzheimer’s

November 26, 2018

If you are having a tough time coming up with holiday gifts for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia, you’ll likely find this guide to be of help.

If you are struggling to come up with a holiday gift idea for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or a similar form of dementia, know that you aren’t alone. Families want to include senior loved ones in holiday traditions like gift giving while also keeping their safety in mind.

That’s why we created this simple holiday gift guide. We hope it will help spark some ideas for a present that will bring joy to your senior family member.

Holiday Gift Ideas for Adults with Alzheimer’s and Dementia

  1. Music: Music has therapeutic benefits, especially for people with memory loss. It can be soothing, calming, or uplifting depending upon the type of music. As a holiday gift, you can purchase an iPod (or even an iPad) and download some of your loved one’s favorite songs. Vinyl record players are also gaining in popularity again. You could buy one along with a few vinyl records of your senior loved one’s favorite artists from youth.
  2. For the birds: If you are the caregiver or family member of an adult with Alzheimer’s, you may have noticed how captivated they are by birds. Whether it is watching birds build a nest, have lunch at the bird feeder, or enjoy a dip in the bird bath, research shows that people with dementia find peace and comfort in birdwatching. The National Audubon Society launched a special initiative, Bird Tales, to help educate people on the role birding can play in improving the lives of people with Alzheimer’s. Depending upon your loved one’s living situation, you can buy a bird feeder and bird food for them to enjoy. If space doesn’t allow for that, you can purchase a bird feeder that attaches directly to window glass. From the comfort of their living room, seniors can watch the birds eat.
  3. Comfort clothing: As Alzheimer’s disease progresses, it can cause problems with mobility, dexterity, and coordination. This makes it more difficult for people to manage personal care needs independently. You can help by purchasing clothes that are easier to get on and off. Jogging suits, shirts that zip up the front (instead of buttons), jeans with an elastic waistband, and sneakers with a Velcro closure make it easier for a senior with a physical impairment to dress on their own.
  4. Fidget blanket: Another holiday gift that can reduce agitation and anxiety in an adult with Alzheimer’s is a fidget blanket. These are tactile blankets that have ribbons, bows, buttons, hooks, family photos, and more attached. For an adult struggling with anxiety or agitation, having a blanket or quilt with fidget activities built in keeps their hands busy. You can find a variety of sellers on Etsy and a list of people who make fidget quilts on Alzheimer’s Support. If you are crafty and want to make one of your own, you will find instructions on the Patchwork Posse website.

We hope this guide helps you find the perfect holiday gift for your senior loved one.

The Talk: Discussing the Need for Memory Care during the Holidays

The holiday season is generally a time of year when families are reunited. It can provide you with an opportunity to talk about your senior loved one’s care needs now and in the days ahead. Memory care might be a solution that helps your loved one safely live their best quality of life.

We invite you and your family to visit the Legacy Senior Living community nearest you. Our dedicated memory care program, The Harbor, is committed to helping adults with dementia live their best quality of life at every stage of the disease. Call us today to schedule a private tour.

Helping a Parent Prepare for Medicare Open Enrollment

October 8, 2018

Medicare open enrollment

Navigating your way through Medicare open enrollment can be confusing. Use this information to help you learn more and get started.

Medicare’s open enrollment period has arrived! As of October 15, seniors and others who participate in Medicare can make changes to their existing coverage. If you are an adult child helping an aging parent navigate their way through this process for the first time, it can be daunting. Many adult children feel anxious, overwhelmed, and fearful that they will make a bad decision.

We thought it would be helpful to the residents of Legacy Senior Living communities and the older adults who follow our blog if we shared a few tips for making the most of Medicare Open Enrollment.

What to Know About Medicare Open Enrollment

Q: How long can we make changes and what are the dates for Medicare Open Enrollment?

A: Medicare Open Enrollment is the same every year: October 15 through December 7. While that might seem like a generous time frame, it can go quickly when you are exploring your options. Be sure to start early and give yourself plenty of time.

Q: If I make changes on my parent’s behalf, when do they take effect?

A: Changes made during open enrollment go into effect on January 1 of the following year.

Q: What is Medicare Advantage Plan?

A: Medicare Advantage Plans are offered by private health insurance companies. These plans fall under a senior’s Medicare Part C benefit. Insurance companies contract with Medicare to provide health care services to seniors.

Some of these plans offer very cost-effective solutions for older adults with benefits that might extend to prescription coverage or even hearing aids. It’s important to do your research, however, as these plans can vary widely.

Q: Do Medicare recipients who are satisfied with their current coverage need to do anything?

A: Unless you indicate otherwise, your current coverage will be automatically renewed. There are a few steps to take to ensure that your plan or your parent’s plan will remain the same. That includes checking to be sure current physicians, pharmacies, hospitals, and outpatient centers will still participate. Remember, some providers opt out of our plans and even traditional Medicare.

Carefully review the “Evidence of Coverage” (EOC) and “Annual Notice of Change” (ANOC) documents you or your parent received in the mail. These notices will list any plan changes for the upcoming coverage year.

Q: Where can I learn more about plans and coverage in my parent’s area?

A: You can use Medicare.gov to search for options near you or your parent. If you would prefer to talk to someone by phone, call 1-800-MEDICARE (633-4227) for help.

Finally, every state has personal help available, but you will need to contact them early as their schedules are busy during the open enrollment period. Find the contact information for your state here.