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Talk About Your Medicines Month

October is quite an important month for seniors. Not only does this month mark the beginning of open enrollment, but it also serves as an annual observance to call attention to the need to improve communication about medications. In today’s post, we are celebrating Talk About Your Medicines Month!

The National Council on Patient Information and Education (NCPIE) created Talk About Your Medicines Month in 1986 to bring attention to the value that better medicine communication can play in promoting better medicine use AND better health outcomes. Here at Seniors Speak Out, we agree! Here are several tips for how you can improve communication with your doctor and pharmacists about your medications.

At the Doctor’s Office:

Before your doctor writes you a new prescription, be sure to discuss your current medical conditions and what medications you are currently prescribed. In order to ensure there are no adverse reactions with your current medications, your doctor will need to know this critical information. Additionally, be sure to alert your doctor if you have any allergies.

As your doctor writes you a prescription, get your pen and paper ready! You might need to take notes as he answers some of your questions, which might include:

  • What time of day should I take this medication?
  • Is there a generic version of this medication? (This might help keep the out-of-pocket costs down, as generic medication is often cheaper than brand name medications)
  • Are there any foods or drinks I should avoid while taking this medication?
  • When will the medication begin working?
  • Are there any side effects I should be aware of?

At the Pharmacist:

Did you know a survey of 5,200 licensed pharmacists in the U.S. found that less than half their working time was spent filling prescriptions? Six out of 10 pharmacists provide medication therapy management to help patients like us understand our medicines.

  • Does this medication require refills? If so, how often do I need to do so?
  • How should I store this medication?
  • What happens if I miss a dose?

Of course, feel free to ask your doctor or pharmacist any additional questions you might have. By communicating with these providers frequently, you can ensure every medication fits your individual needs. Also, remember that these medicines were prescribed just for you, and it is dangerous to share prescription medicines with others.

It is also important after finishing a medication to ensure it is disposed of properly. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration recommends utilizing medicine take-back programs to ensure others don’t accidentally take or misuse the unneeded medicine. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration regularly hosts National Prescription Drug Take-Back events where collection sites are set up in communities nationwide for safe disposal. Seniors and caregivers can also contact their local waste management authorities to learn about other disposal options.



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Seniors and Oral Hygiene: What You Need to Know

peter-kasprzyk-110926We rely on our pearly whites every day, but did you know one of the top health challenges seniors face is maintaining our oral hygiene? As we age, our teeth and gums become more susceptible to problems that might not have previously surfaced. Luckily, there are steps we can take to protect our teeth for years to come.

Some common oral hygiene problems among seniors are darkened teeth, difficulty chewing, root decay, dry mouth, and gum disease. To prevent these issues and keep teeth and gums healthy, experts recommend brushing teeth twice a day, plus flossing once a day.

If holding a toothbrush is difficult or painful, ask your dentist for options that cater to your specific needs. Solutions like extending your toothbrush with a tongue depressor, or using a soft washcloth or gauze in place of a traditional tooth brush can make frequent brushing a more manageable task.

Dry mouth, one common oral hygiene problem, is best managed through preventative measures. Since it is often caused by medications, be sure to drink extra water or use sugar-free mints or gum to increase saliva production and moisten your mouth.

And did you know that one of the most important things you can do to protect your teeth is to avoid tobacco products? These products will only increase the likelihood of developing tooth decay and gum disease.

If you have dentures, oral hygiene is just as important. Be sure to clean them regularly, as these appliances can be a breeding ground for harmful bacteria.

It’s essential to visit your dentist as often as he or she recommends – typically, this will be every six months, unless you have a specific issue that needs to be addressed with more frequent care.

According to the American Dental Association’s Mouth Healthy recommendations, when you visit your dentist, make sure to mention what medications you are on, as well any dental issues you’ve been dealing with lately.

During the exam itself, your dentist will likely perform a physical check of your face, neck, bite and jaw, along with your gums and teeth, to comprehensively check for any issues. If you have any questions about your treatment options or your dental insurance plan, don’t be afraid to ask your dentist. There are many different options for senior dental coverage that may cater to your needs. Often times, Medicare Advantage covers regular dental visits, but be sure to check your coverage for more information about your plan.

 



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Get the Facts About Senior Malnutrition

Good nutrition is essential to maintaining health and well-being, but many seniors in the United States are at risk for malnutrition. In fact, senior malnutrition costs the United States $51.3 billion per year.

Senior malnutrition is caused by a variety of factors, including health, income and socialization levels. For seniors who suffer from depression, dementia, dental issues or various chronic illnesses, appetite loss can contribute to malnutrition. And, living on a limited income might discourage some seniors from buying nutrient-rich groceries. Also, reduced socialization and living alone can make eating wholesome meals harder when you are cooking for only one. To spot senior malnutrition, friends, caregivers and family members should observe eating habits and watch for unusual weight loss.

It is important to remember that we can prevent malnutrition by eating nutrient-rich foods. To help, you can consult your physician on your dietary needs and use senior nutrition programs. Chronic health conditions may be prevented, delayed or managed through these nutrition services and programs. The Administration for Community Living’s Older Americans Act congregate and home-delivered meals programs provide healthy meals in senior centers and deliver meals to homebound older adults. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program and the Nutrition Services Incentive Program are also great resources. You can find local nutrition programs via the Eldercare Locator.

One way to eat nutrient-rich foods inexpensively is to check weekly circulators at the front of the grocery store to see what’s on special and plan meals accordingly. Remember that frozen produce has the same nutrient values as fresh produce and can often be found on sale. You can also use coupons on some items. To help encourage healthy eating, you can also make some meals a social event. This makes dinner a bit more enjoyable, and friends can help cook for one another. Some great ways to do this are to throw a potluck dinner party or invite family over for a picnic.

By using these tips, we can work together to help prevent malnutrition. Read on to view our infographic on senior malnutrition and share it with a friend!

Bob Blancato is the National Coordinator for the Defeat Malnutrition Today Coalition

Senior Malnutrition Infographic



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New Video from Medicare Today: What is Medicare and How Does it Work?

Our partners at Medicare Today have a great new video about the different health care coverage options that Medicare offers. Here are a few highlights from the short video, but be sure to watch it for yourself!

  • Medicare has four main parts: A, B, C, and D.
  • Part A covers inpatient care, like hospital stays and hospice care.
  • Part B covers outpatient care, such as doctor visits, preventative treatments and some medicines taken during your doctor visit.
  • Part C, otherwise known as Medicare Advantage, is Medicare coverage offered by private health plans.
  • Lastly, Part D covers outpatient prescription medications and is offered by private insurance companies.

Sign up for these plans happens during the open enrollment period each year, which is October 15 – December 7, 2017. Are you 65 or older and looking to enroll in Medicare? Mark your calendar!

For more information on Medicare coverage, check out the video or visit MedicareToday.org.



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Medicare Open Enrollment Essentials

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2017 Guide to Medicare Open Enrollment

With open enrollment for Medicare just around the corner, we created a guide for those who are eligible. Hint: you’re eligible if you’ve reached age 65. Don’t forget to visit our fast facts page for more information and check out five tips to make the most of open enrollment. One of the big things to do during Open Enrollment is review your Part D plan. Here are some tips, specifically for that process.

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Seniors Speak Out Has Resources to Help During Open Enrollment

Open enrollment for Medicare is underway until December 7th and with it comes the opportunity to enroll in benefits for the first time, or review your existing coverage to ensure its meeting your current needs. Medicare plans can change from year to year, and sometimes these changes can hit your wallet December 2015and subsequently your health. Open enrollment is the perfect time to do some additional research and make sure you’re getting the right coverage at the best price.

Comparing plans and navigating the process of enrolling in a new plan can seem a bit daunting at first, but it’s imperative to take the time to review them, since selecting the wrong plan might make the medications you require unaffordable or inaccessible. To help, we have updated our resources to give you specifics on plans in each state and tips to make the process as simple and efficient as possible.

If you’re enrolling in Part D for the first time, use these tips to identify the best plan for you. After you’ve familiarized yourself with the general program, Seniors Speak Out also offers state specific resources and information on our “Part D State by State” map. Each state will link you to the number of plans available, the number of beneficiaries enrolled, lowest available monthly premiums, and more. This information will allow you to compare your Part D plan to the others offered in your state and help you make an informed choice.

If you have any additional questions regarding open enrollment, contact your local Area Agency on Aging and schedule a time to talk to someone who’s been trained to help you make the most of your Medicare. Seniors Speak Out offers a map with each state’s contact information here.

Make sure to take advantage of the many benefits offered by Medicare during this open enrollment period so you can stay healthy and active for years to come.



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Seniors Sound Off: Learn About Part D and Get Involved

In the last 3 weeks, two of my friends have been diagnosed with very serious illnesses. One is enrolled in Medicare and has Part D coverage and one is not yet old enough to be eligible. Their experiences in accessing the medicines they need have been quite different and have led me to once again appreciate the security and strength that Medicare Part D coverage provides.

Of course the examples of two people cannot tell a whole story but I believe their situations do illustrate two points that all Medicare beneficiaries need to consider:

  1. How do we best learn about and utilize all of the benefits Medicare Part D provides?
  2. How do we support efforts to protect the Medicare coverage we have?

Over the next few weeks I have invited several people with great expertise in Medicare to help answer these questions. I also hope you will send in your questions, ideas, and concerns. I promise we will respond!!

Together we can work to protect against any threats to our Medicare Part D coverage.

Remember — your voice makes all the difference!!!



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Thanksgiving Plans???

Thanksgiving weekend has been a traditional time for discussion and consideration of Medicare Part D plans. This year, as families gather, both Medicare beneficiaries and younger family members may be considering their various healthcare coverage options. It’s a great thing to do because plans and coverage needs can and do change from year to year!

The tools Medicare has provided on its website, www.medicare.gov, have become even more streamlined and user friendly over the years, and surveys consistently show that those of us who use them appreciate that convenience as well as the coverage we receive.

Happy Thanksgiving!

So, if you haven’t already done so, take a break from that post-turkey-dinner nap, non-stop football, or Black Friday shopping and go over your Part D coverage!   Don’t forget to also check out all of the resources that are available at www.SeniorsSpeakOut.org!  They will get you prepared for the tasks at hand.

Remember, www.medicare.gov is ready and waiting all the time, and though Medicare’s call center is closed of Thanksgiving Day, you call them bright and early Friday morning or any other time including the weekend at 1-800-633-4227.

Have a safe and wonderful Thanksgiving!



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Shopping for Plans In-Person or Via the Phone

Earlier this week on the blog, we laid out the simple steps you can take to compare plans and shop for coverage using the online tools, such as the Plan Finder, available at www.medicare.gov. Of course, there are people of all ages who are not comfortable putting all their information into a computer – or at least trying to do it without help. Fortunately, Medicare understands this. If you would rather have an in-person discussion or talk to a specialist on the phone, those resources are available as well.

The initial steps to shopping for coverage are the same whether with a representative or online. Begin by making a list of the medicines you take and the dosage. Next, decide whether you want to get most of your medicines, especially the ones you take regularly, by mail or at a local pharmacy. You’ll also need your Medicare card available which will have key information like your Medicare number and the date you became enrolled in Medicare.

If you don’t use a computer or have one available, you can call your local Area Agency on Aging and make an appointment to meet with the SHIIP Counselor who can help you compare available plans. You can find information on local agencies using our online mapping tool. When you go, remember to bring your medication information and your Medicare card with you when you go.

Additionally, you can speak to a Medicare counselor over the phone any day of the week by calling 1-800-MEDICARE or 1-800-633-4227. A live person will walk you through any questions or concerns you have along the way. They are available 7 days a week excluding federal holidays.

How long will this process take? Probably about an hour or so.  Not long, but enough time to maybe save you money or at least confirm that you are getting the best coverage you can for the medicines you take.

Finally, you can always get information directly from the plan you are interested in. To do this, go to the Plan Finder on the Medicare website, follow the directions, and you will get a list of plans in your area. Click on the name of the plan in order to obtain the contact information. You can also call a local SHIIP Counselor to get plan contact information.

Have you gone through the paper enrollment process? Any guidance you would share with fellow seniors? We’d love for you to sound off in the comment section or through our Facebook page to let us know about your personal experience.