Medicare Basics for New Retirees

Medicare Basics for New Retirees

The Medicare program was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson in the summer of 1965. It is designed to provide health insurance to adults aged 65 and over, as well as younger people with disabilities. But the program actually dates back to President Teddy Roosevelt and President Harry Truman.

Roosevelt included Medicare in his presidential campaign platform in 1912. In 1945, Truman unsuccessfully fought for a national health insurance program with a special focus on coverage for older adults and people with disabilities. It wasn’t until President Johnson’s term when Congress actually enacted the necessary legislation and the program kicked off in 1966. President Truman and his wife, Bess, were the first two people to enroll in Medicare.

Today, Medicare gives retirees greater financial security. But it can be confusing for those about to enroll in the program. Let’s take a look at some of the basics you’ll need to know to get started with Medicare.

Medicare 101 for New Enrollees

First, it helps to understand how the Medicare program is organized. There are four parts and each is assigned a different letter: A, B, C, and D. Here’s a quick overview of each:

  • Medicare Part A: Often referred to as the “hospital benefit,” part A covers part or all of hospital stays, short-term rehabilitation at a skilled nursing center, hospice care, and skilled home health services.
  • Medicare Part B: Medicare Part B is designed to cover two primary types of care: medically necessary services and preventative services. That could include doctor visits, outpatient therapy, mental health treatment, laboratory testing, cardiac rehab, mammograms, flu shots, and more.
  • Medicare Part C: This part of Medicare is comprised of Medicare Advantage plans. Through these replacement plans, private insurance companies contract with Medicare to provide health care coverage to seniors. These plans may have lower out-of-pocket costs and may even include prescription drugs.
  • Medicare Part D: If you opt for traditional Medicare instead of a Medicare Advantage plan, you can sign up for prescription drug coverage under Medicare Part D. In most cases, you need to sign up for drug coverage at the time you enroll in Medicare. If you don’t, you’ll pay a penalty when you decide to sign on. Use the Medicare Plan Finder to explore drug plan options in your zip code.

Answering Commonly Asked Questions About Medicare

If you are like most adults preparing to sign up for Medicare, you have many questions. Here are the answers to two of the most common.

Q: How much does Medicare cost?

A: Because most seniors (or their spouse) pay into Medicare through their employer, Part A of the benefit is usually free. But there is a monthly premium for Part B coverage and, if you opt for it, Part D. In 2024, Medicare Part B is $174.70 per month. While Part D pricing varies, the average monthly cost for basic benefit coverage in 2024 is $34.50.

Q: Does Medicare pay 100% of an enrollee’s health care expenses?

A: Unfortunately, like all health care plans, Medicare has deductibles and limits. The exception may be if you choose a Medicare Advantage Plan that doesn’t have deductibles. Adults who select traditional Medicare might want to consider purchasing what is known as Medigap insurance. It helps pay for those expenses Medicare doesn’t. 2024 Choosing a Medigap Policy can help you learn more.

Finally, if you need more clarification between Medicare Parts A and B, this article might be of interest. It covers everything from coverage and costs to open enrollment.

Healthy Menu Planning: Incorporating Anti-Inflammatory Foods into Your Diet

Healthy Menu Planning: Incorporating Anti-Inflammatory Foods into Your Diet

As the medical research community continues to discover more about inflammation and the role it plays in disease management, they’ve also come to better understand how it impacts aging. Studies seem to indicate a link between inflammation in the body and a variety of health issues. These are believed to include osteoarthritis, depression, multiple sclerosis, lupus, Alzheimer’s, ADHD, diabetes, and even some types of cancer.

By reducing the presence of inflammation, experts believe we may be able to decrease our risk for illness or better manage diseases already present in the body. It can also help promote more successful aging and pain management. That’s because inflammation is a driver of many types of pain.

Researchers believe nutrition could be one way to manage inflammation. This requires avoiding the foods thought to increase inflammation and consuming more of those that reduce it. Here are a few tips to help you plan anti-inflammatory menus.

Avoiding Foods That Increase Inflammation

Most people don’t know which foods help beat inflammation and which ones increase it. So, let’s start by talking about the foods known to ramp up inflammation in the body. Here are a few of the most common ones:

  • Processed meats
  • Baked goods
  • Red meat
  • Deep-fried foods
  • Sodas and other sugary drinks
  • White-flour pastas and breads

For many people, these foods are a part of their daily diet. By eliminating or reducing the amount of them you consume, you may be able to avoid or delay the onset of some diseases.

Eating an Anti-Inflammatory Diet

In contrast to the foods outlined above, these choices might reduce inflammation in your body:

  • Salmon: With a high amount of omega-3 fatty acids along with vitamins B12 and D, salmon is another good inflammation fighter. But people often struggle with preparing it so the flavor is more appealing. If you need ideas, try one of these healthy salmon recipes.
  • Blueberries: This popular superfood is rich in an anti-inflammatory agent called quercetin. Whether you add them to your morning oatmeal, your lunchtime salad, or a fruit smoothie, try making blueberries a routine part of your diet.
  • Leafy greens: Most of us know eating our greens is good for us. When it comes to reducing inflammation, leafy green vegetables should be a dietary staple. You can toss a little chopped spinach into tuna salad, add fresh kale to a bowl of soup, or swap lettuce for bread in your sandwich.
  • Pineapple: This popular citrus fruit is also a hardworking one. It’s packed with good nutrients like vitamin C, vitamin B1, potassium, manganese, and a digestive enzyme known as bromelain. Together, these ingredients help boost the immune system and reduce inflammation. It’s a great natural sweetener to try with chicken dishes, salads, and smoothies.
  • Bone broth: Don’t let the trendiness of bone broth put you off of the benefits it offers. Nutritionists recommend it to patients because it contains inflammation-fighting ingredients like glucosamine and collagen. If you aren’t excited about the lengthy process of making it yourself, you can find it at most local grocery stores or online through companies like Brodo and Kettle & Fire.
  • Walnuts: Nuts often have a bad reputation because they can be high in fats. But in the case of walnuts, those are healthy fats. Just a quarter cup of them contains all the omega-3 fatty acids you need in a day to decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease, inflammation, diabetes, and more.
  • Beets: This root vegetable is another superfood. The betalain found in beets has anti-inflammatory properties. You can roast them in the oven, blend them to make a healthy dip, or just slice them up to add to salads.

Transitioning to menus that include more anti-inflammatory foods might be a process. It will also take time to fully implement. If it feels too overwhelming to tackle these changes all at once, try making a few at a time.

The Heritage Difference

At Heritage Senior Communities, we are committed to providing a higher level of care and hospitality. We call it the Heritage Difference. Among the seven service standards that make Heritage different is our dining program. Every day, residents enjoy meals that are both nutritious and delicious. If you are considering making a move to a senior living community, we hope you will visit one of our locations in Michigan or Indiana for a personal tour!

What Are the Benefits of Independent Living Communities?

What Are the Benefits of Independent Living Communities?

Dear Donna:

I’m writing in hopes that you can answer a few questions for me. I’ve been living alone the past three years since my husband lost his battle with cancer. We had purchased a condo about two years before he got sick, and it’s been an easy place to maintain by myself. However, I’m ready for a change.

Many of my friends have passed away or moved to be closer to their children, so my social circle has decreased. While both of my kids are great about checking in on me and helping when I need them, I don’t want to be a burden.

I’ve been seeing ads for independent living communities, and it sounds like they might be a good option for me. However, I want to make sure I’m on the right track before I make any major life changes. Can you tell me how a single woman might benefit from moving to one of these communities? Any insight would be greatly appreciated.

Sincerely,

Barb in Omena, MI

Understanding the Benefits of Independent Living

Dear Barb:

It sounds like you are on the right track! I’m happy to share some of the ways independent living communities benefit active older adults. They include:

  • A variety of different services

Independent living communities offer a wide range of services designed to make it easier for you to live a more independent, carefree lifestyle. These vary from one community to another, but often include housekeeping/laundry, meal plans, transportation services, and access to fitness facilities and daily life enrichment activities. Residents also leave worries about lawn care and maintenance behind when they move.

  • Access to more care if it’s needed

Your move may also take care of your future needs. For example, some independent living communities are part of a campus that includes assisted living and/or dementia care. If your need for care and support changes down the road, you’ll be able to remain part of the same community.

  • Around-the-clock safety and security

Independent living communities offer a safe and secure living environment. In addition to on-site staff around the clock, most individual apartments or suites have emergency call systems. This can give seniors and their loved ones greater peace of mind.

  • Flexible, maintenance-free living

Residents usually have a choice of floor plans, and some communities even offer different housing options for independent living. For example, it might be a stand-alone villa, an apartment, or a suite. What they all have in common is maintenance-free living. By moving to an independent living community, you’ll leave behind worries about furnace repair or tracking down a trustworthy contractor to install a new roof. That’s in addition to not having to concern yourself with lawn care or snow removal.

  • Formal and informal ways to socialize

Independent living offers a variety of opportunities for socializing, entertainment, and fun. This is often one of the primary reasons older adults make this type of move. Each community has a calendar of daily activities for residents to enjoy. They typically range from fitness classes and movie nights to outings to a local mall or museum. On an informal basis, you’ll find residents enjoying a cup of coffee together in the lounge in the morning or working on a volunteer project together for a local nonprofit organization.

I hope this gives you a better idea about what a day as a resident of an independent living community looks like, Barb!

Please call a Heritage Senior Living community near you to schedule a tour at your earliest convenience. One of our experienced team members will be happy to show you around and answer any questions you have about independent living.

Kind regards,

Donna

5 Ways to Prevent Loneliness in Seniors

5 Ways to Prevent Loneliness in Seniors

Loneliness and isolation are more common as we grow older. A decreasing social circle, being out of the workforce, and mobility challenges are just a few contributing factors. Research is clear about the health risks linked to senior isolation. Some experts go as far as to liken these dangers to those associated with smoking and obesity.

Socially isolated older adults are at higher risk for:

  • Depression
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Dementia
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Premature death

So, what can you do to prevent spending too much time alone? We have a few suggestions.

Combatting Isolation in Older Adults

  • Explore transportation options: If you only drive for necessary outings and avoid asking loved ones for rides, you might be spending more time at home. A couple of avenues to explore are ride-sharing services and senior transportation companies. Check with your local senior center or agency on aging to see if they are aware of any local options. Many maintain lists of reliable transportation providers who cater to older adults.
  • Volunteer your time: Another way to prevent isolation as you grow older is to volunteer for a local nonprofit organization. You’ll likely find a variety of opportunities close to home. Some may even offer transportation to and from their office. Check with your favorite organizations to see if they need volunteers or call the closest United Way office for suggestions. If in-person volunteering isn’t possible, you’ll likely still benefit from connecting with a virtual project. This article can help you find one.
  • Adopt a senior pet: Depending upon your situation and budget, you might find adopting an older dog or cat can help boost the spirit and prevent loneliness. Check with a local animal shelter to see what older animals are looking for a forever home. Younger adults and families with young children typically don’t rescue senior pets. That means older animals often spend longer amounts of time in shelters.
  • Explore senior centers and clubs: It’s common for older adults to find their social circle decreasing over the years. One way to remedy that is by joining or participating in senior groups and organizations. If you aren’t aware of any in your neighborhood, start by searching online for senior centers and senior fitness clubs. For those who belong to a religious institution, call and ask if they have any retiree groups.
  • Consider moving to senior living: One more solution to combat isolation and its associated health risks is moving to a senior living community. These communities are designed to promote connection and healthy aging. You’ll benefit from shared meals, daily life enrichment activities, and outings to nearby shopping centers, restaurants, and other popular destinations. Residents also find the daily informal gatherings that take place around the community to be a great way to develop new friendships.

Visit a Heritage Community This Summer

Summer is a great season to start your search for a senior living community. It will give you an opportunity to tour the community and take a stroll around the campus. Call the location nearest you to set up a time!

What to Know about Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids

What to Know about Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids

The price of hearing aids has been a much-discussed challenge for years. In fact, the high cost of these devices has kept many older adults from making a purchase. The struggle it causes for couples and families isn’t always obvious.

Partners may not be able to watch television or listen to music together because of disagreements over volume. Even carrying on a conversation can be difficult. This situation is fairly common.

The Statistics on Hearing Loss

Hearing loss can be caused by many factors. They range from working or living in a loud environment to trauma, age, nutritional deficits, or an infection. Here are a few things to know about hearing loss:

  • Trouble hearing is fairly common. Almost 15% of American adults ages 18 and over experience some problem with their hearing.
  • Men between the ages of 20 and 69 are twice as likely to have hearing loss as women of the same age.
  • Age is the leading indicator of a decline in hearing. People between the ages of 60 and 69 experience the greatest amount of hearing loss.
  • About 28.8 million people in the U.S. could benefit from using hearing aids.

Until recently, cost was a significant barrier to purchasing hearing aids. The process required multiple appointments with a licensed hearing professional followed by a purchase price of as much as $6,000. Few health insurance companies even covered the expense. Then a new rule went into effect in the fall of 2022 that made things easier and less expensive.

What to Know about Over-the-Counter (OTC) Hearing Aids

In 2017, a new law was passed that made hearing aids more accessible and affordable. It went into effect in the fall of 2022. The new law is for adults only and includes standards for safety and effectiveness. It also includes limits on how much the sound can be amplified (to avoid further damage to hearing), as well as stipulations related to the severity of the hearing impairment.

The good news is OTC models cost significantly less. They range in price from $200 to $1,000. As you are deciding which one might be a good fit, experts say to keep the following in mind:

  • Customization: While the preset OTC hearing aid model works for an estimated 68% of people, others will need one that is customizable. The self-fitting style is more expensive but allows the wearer to finely tune settings like amplification and frequencies.
  • Shape: OTC hearing aids come in two styles. One is placed inside the ear, and the other goes behind the ear. Each has its own pros and cons. It’s a good idea to experiment with each one to see which is a better fit for you. That includes trying to manipulate features.
  • Customer service: As is true of any new device, customer service can play a role in how well it works for you. Be sure to ask each company you are considering what days and hours their customer service is available. Also ask about how much support you will receive during the initial set-up and in the future.
  • Return policy: While no one goes into a purchase like this thinking it won’t work, things sometimes go wrong. Make sure the company has a good return policy and offers a warranty.

Shopping for an OTC hearing aid can be daunting. Fortunately, there are a variety of credible organizations that have reviewed products and shared their findings. Consumer Report’s “Best Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids for You” is one you may find useful.

Tour a Heritage Community This Spring

Spring is a great time to begin the search for a senior living community for yourself or a loved one. With communities throughout Michigan and one in Indiana, Heritage is likely to have a location that meets your needs. Call today to schedule a private visit and tour!

How Seniors Can Stay Safe Shopping Online

How Seniors Can Stay Safe Shopping Online

Online shopping has become a convenience many people rely on and take advantage of almost daily. It’s so easy to order whatever you need from the comfort of your sofa and have it all delivered right to your front porch. As more shopping malls and discount stores are shuttered due to decreasing foot traffic, online bargain hunting has become a necessity. That means learning how to shop safely online is important.

For those who are less tech-savvy, it’s easy to fall into traps that can cost you a lot of money. Research shows as many as 50% of Americans who shop online have experienced a cyber hack. The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center estimates people over the age of 65 lost $3.1 billion in 2022 alone.

What can you do to protect yourself while shopping online? We have a few tips that might help you stay safe.

Be On Guard Against Online Shopping Scams

  • Use credit cards, never debit cards.

Debit cards might help you avoid overspending, but they can also put your bank account at risk for hacking and fraud. This is especially true when shopping online. If you pay for an order by debit card and the site is a scam, a thief can empty your financial account before you realize something is wrong. While your bank will usually return the funds eventually, your accounts may be frozen until the investigation is complete. In contrast, when you use a credit card to make a purchase from an illegitimate website, the credit card company will usually take quick action to protect your account.

  • Stick to stores you know and trust.

Social media is another way criminals target people for fraud. Scammers buy ads featuring attractive clothing, vacations, and household items for too-good-to-be-true prices. People click on the links not realizing they aren’t legitimate companies. Shoppers’ products never arrive, their credit card numbers are stolen, or both. Avoid this problem by making online purchases only from stores you know and trust, such as those you’ve visited in person. Also, be sure you go directly to the store’s website using a Google search. Never click on and follow links you receive via email or on social media, no matter how realistic they look.

  • Check site security before ordering.

Another essential safety tip for online ordering is to verify the website is secure. It’s fairly easy to do. Check to make sure the site’s web address begins with “https” and has a tiny icon of a lock next to it. That combination signals a site is secure. If you don’t see that lock or the “s” after “http,” it’s best to avoid shopping on the site. Doing so might put you at risk for identity theft or other types of financial scams.

  • Monitor financial accounts.

Finally, make it a habit to check your financial accounts regularly. That might mean not setting up your accounts to pay bills automatically. When you do so, it’s tempting to skip routinely reviewing online statements. That could lead to fraudulent activity being unnoticed for months. Apply this practice to credit cards, investment accounts, and banking. It’s also a good idea to take advantage of alert systems most financial institutions have available. You can set up notifications so you are contacted by phone or text when a major charge is made, an account balance reaches a pre-set limit, or there is a login from a new device.

Bookmark the Heritage Blog

If you found this article to be of interest, we encourage you to bookmark this blog and visit often. Each week, we share a new post on topics ranging from caregiving and healthy aging to dementia and senior care.