What is Hospice?

What is Hospice?

When a loved one is aging, and you begin to consider seeking greater care for them, the options can seem endless. Hospice may be one of the choices you face, but what is hospice? What does its care entail? When is it the best decision for you and your loved one?

Hospice can be described as a philosophy of care. Rather than sole focus on physical health, hospice addresses quality of life. Both emotional and spiritual health become a primary area of care in hospice. It is a patient-oriented care, surrounding both a patient and their family with a team of attentive professionals. Hospice care aims to keep the patient as comfortable as possible for as long as possible.

Hospice is primarily for those with a limited life expectancy, usually one projected around 6 months or less. Patients who require hospice care usually have a very serious medical condition, one that can make day to day life fairly uncomfortable. Though many assume hospice care is for those suffering from cancer, a hospice patient can be suffering from heart disease, dementia, lung disease, and more.

Often patients and their family believe they should wait for a doctor’s recommendation for hospice. However, a physician may be waiting for the patient or their loved ones to start the conversation. This can often lead to a very late start to hospice care. Don’t feel as though you have to wait for your loved one or their doctor to suggest hospice care. If you feel your loved one could benefit from visits from qualified and caring professionals who specialize in easing pain and seeking greater mental/emotional/spiritual health, hospice may be the right choice for you.

Another common misconception surrounding hospice care is the idea of “giving up.” Many believe that resorting to hospice care is accepting that your loved one may pass soon. There is full hope in hospice care. If your loved one shows signs of recovery, you choose an experimental route for their care, or wish to resume treatment, hospice care is not set in stone and you may stop the treatment as desired. However, your loved one will not only be receiving the best care for their condition, but also the emotional and spiritual support the patient could be lacking.  Hospice care provides an easing of pain and feeling of comfort that allows the patient to focus on things other than their condition. When your loved one is no longer plagued with intense pain, they can take the time to enjoy family, friends, and more. Hospice is far from giving up, but rather giving you and your loved one the hope for a well lived life. This care can be given in a number of places, including: the home, assisted living facilities, long-term care facilities, rest homes, hospitals, and more.

Much like all other forms of care, hospice care does not come free. Patients and their loved ones have several options when it comes to paying for care. Coverage for hospice is widely available. According to Moments of Life, hospice is covered by Medicare nationwide, by Medicaid in almost all states, and by most private health insurance policies. Private savings or pooled family money can also be used for payment for hospice care.

Hospice care is a plan for your loved one that is full of compassion, comfort, and quality care. Though misconceptions and confusion about hospice may deter you, it is essential to do your research, clearly and effectively communicate with both your loved and their physician, and understand that hospice is not the end, but the beginning of holistic care and comfort for your loved one.

If you have questions on Hospice, ask your doctor.  You can also reach out to Renaissance Senior Care, we can help.

Renaissance Team

The ABCs of Medicare: Know Your Options and How to Fill the Gaps

The ABCs of Medicare: Know Your Options and How to Fill the Gaps

Medicare is the primary source of comprehensive healthcare insurance for seniors 65 and over. For most of America’s senior population, Medicare is a blessing they’re eligible for when they turn 65. However, you still have to begin with a good basic understanding of how the parts work together and a knowledge of where the coverage gaps are. If you make the wrong choice, you could end up having to spend a lot of your own money.

Enrollment Periods

The full initial enrollment period for Medicare includes the three months prior to, the month of, and the three months after your 65th birthday. You’ll need to sign up during the first three months if you want coverage to begin the month you turn 65. You’ll be automatically enrolled in Medicare if you’re receiving Social Security; otherwise, you’ll need to enroll on your own through Social Security or the Medicare.gov website.

Medicare: What’s What?

Medicare is composed of four parts, Parts A, B, C, and D. The majority of enrollees begin with Part A, which covers hospital inpatient care and some kinds of home health care with no premiums, while Part B covers doctor services, hospital outpatient care, preventive care, and some types of home health care. With Part B there is a monthly premium that’s based on your income (higher-income enrollees pay more). And you can sign up for Part B at age 65 if you’re retired or will retire at 65; if you’re still working, you’ll need to study your options to determine the proper time to enroll given your situation. You can also sign up for Part D, which covers prescription medications, when you sign up for Plan B. If you delay and sign up late, you could end up incurring a permanent penalty that could cost you plenty.  

Medicare Part C, also called Medicare Advantage and sold through companies like Aetna, offers plans that generally come with co-pays and deductibles. However, there’s a yearly out-of-pocket limit, so when your deductibles and co-pays are paid up, the plan pays 100 percent of your medical bills for the remainder of the year. These plans function like managed care plans, with care provided by doctors and hospitals within the plan’s network. Many Advantage plans come with dental, hearing, and vision coverage, which aren’t covered under Original Medicare.

Medigap

There are out-of-pocket costs associated with original Medicare, and there’s no limit on what you could spend, which means your end of the deal could add up quickly, particularly if you require therapy or medical treatments. Medigap plans cover most of Medicare’s out-of-pocket expenses. If you’re covered under Original Medicare, choosing a Medigap plan is a way of filling one of those gaps, which can become a financial burden for older adults. Once Medicare has paid your claim, it’ll be forwarded directly to your Medigap plan, which then pays its portion of the bill.

Medigap won’t cover prescription drugs, so you’ll need to purchase a separate plan for drug coverage. If you’re enrolled in an Advantage plan, you’ll receive an annual notice of change, with important information about any changes to your plan in the coming year (plans are sometimes terminated, so read these carefully).

Go to Medicare.gov to find Advantage plans in your area.

Filling the Gaps

Medicare doesn’t cover deductibles/co-pays for hospital stays and doctor services, fees for doctors who charge more than Medicare pays, the cost of prescriptions, or dental care. You can fill these gaps by adding a supplemental Medigap policy and Part D policy, or by enrolling in a Medicare Advantage plan. If you go the Medigap/Part D route, you’ll have fewer out-of-pocket costs, though your premiums will be higher than with Medicare Advantage.

Knowing how to get started in Medicare can eliminate some of the anxiety and confusion enrollees sometimes experience. Remember, it’s important to determine if you’d rather have higher premiums or higher out-of-pocket costs. Also, research the best ways for you to fill gaps in your coverage and get the plan you need.

Renaissance Team

Don't Overlook Your Emotional Healthcare As A Caregiver

Journaling and the Benefits for the Caregiver

I do realize that journaling can be hard to start, if you don’t know where to start, especially when you are already so busy with caregiving. However, I hope these tips help provide some insight on how to start so you too can reap the benefits of journaling. 

  • Find a small, pretty book with an appealing picture on the cover. Having something you enjoy looking at can encourage you to write.

  • Write what you want to write. There is no set amount of style or words.

  • Choose a particular place and time that will help develop a mindset for your thoughts. Some people like a busy lounge, others like a cozy nook.

  • You choose the medium, write about anything you choose. Write about your day, celebrate small wins, write down future goals, or write about memories.

  • Review your journal entries from time to time. It’s great for reflection and to dive deeper into the meaning of what you are trying to express. 

Just do it, you’ll be happy you did. Journaling really can be transformative to your life. Here is a list of benefits that this simple activity can do: 

  • Develops Self-Worth – Caregivers realize the many things they are doing right by writing down daily events and thoughts.

  • Provides Clarity – The simple act of writing words on a page brings clarity. When difficult situations present themselves, journaling helps identify the significance of events.

  • Reduce Stress – A caregiver’s anxiety and health levels have a direct impact on the person they care for. If you care for yourself by reducing your own stress levels, you will be better prepared for what comes your way.

  • Deflects Anger– As you write about anger, you should notice a decrease of emotion and start moving toward a calmer state.

  • Develop Personal Insight – This can help identify personal traits that you may need to work on. Some people realize they need to work on being more of a patient caregiver.

  • Provides Time to Reflect – Journaling forces caregivers to slow down, take a few minutes to breath during a busy day. Time for yourself can really help a caregiver re-focus and re-charge. 

Journaling is like speaking with a trusted friend who listens and provides transformative respite. It presents an opportunity for emotional catharsis and helps the brain regulate emotions. It provides a greater sense of confidence and self-identity. Our hope is that if you choose to journal that it will be a key tool in your journey, and that you may too see the benefits it has waiting for you.

Fall Prevention Checklist

Did you know that falls are the leading cause of injury-related deaths among seniors? Falls are sadly also the leading cause of non-fatal injuries to seniors as well. The statistics prove that the results are staggering and putting together a fall prevention plan should be a priority. We here at Renaissance Senior Care have put together a checklist to help you take precautions to prevent falls with your loved one.

 

  • Consider a walk in tub to ensure easy entrance and exit.

  • Keep items off of stairs, make sure to fix loose or uneven steps.

  • Make sure stairway is lighted.

  • Exercise regularly. Doing exercises that increase leg strength, improve balance and flexibility. Consider yoga or riding a bike.

  • Reduce or eliminate medications that may cause dizziness or drowsiness.

  • Move furniture that is in the way.

  • Get up slowly when lying down or sitting.

  • Make sure kitchen items are within reach. If you can’t reach item make sure your step stool is stable before each use.

  • Use a night light in areas of your home that you may need to visit at night such as a bedroom, bathroom or kitchen.

  • Secure loose carpeting and use double-sided tape on rugs so they do not slip.

  • Use non-skid, no-wax flooring.

  • Re-position electrical and extension cords so they are out of the way.

  • Install handrails on both sides of stairways.

  • Clean spills immediately to avoid slipping.

  • Remove roots outside that protrude from the ground.

  • Spread sand or salt on icy walkways.

 

We hope you consider making these safety improvements to make sure your loved one’s home is slip and fall free as possible. 

At Renaissance Senior Care we work hard to help each resident live their best quality of life. If you are located in Montana call us today to learn more about our service and schedule a private tour!

20 Home Safety Tips for Alzheimer's

20 Home Safety Tips for Alzheimer's

Here are 20 ways to make your home a safer place for a loved one with dementia. 

While some Alzheimer's behaviors can be managed medically, many, such as wandering and agitation, cannot. It is more effective to change the person's surroundings—for example, to remove dangerous items —than to try to change behaviors. Changing the home environment can give the person more freedom to move around independently and safely. 

Minimize Danger

People with Alzheimer's disease may not see, smell, touch, hear, and/or taste things as they used to. You can do things around the house to make life safer and easier for the person. For example: 

  1. Check all rooms for adequate lighting. Use nightlights in bathrooms, bedrooms, and hallways.

  2. Be careful about small pets. The person may not see the pet and trip over it.

  3. Reset the water heater to 120 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent burns.

  4. Label hot-water faucets red and cold-water faucets blue, or write the words "hot" and "cold" near them.

  5. Install grab bars in the tub/shower and beside the toilet.

  6. Put signs near the oven, toaster, and other things that get hot. The sign could say, "Stop!" or "Don't Touch—Very Hot!"

You can also try these tips: 

  • Check foods in the refrigerator often. Throw out any that have gone bad.

  • Put away or lock up things like toothpaste, lotions, shampoos, rubbing alcohol, soap, or perfume. They may look and smell like food to a person with Alzheimer's.

  • If the person wears a hearing aid, check the batteries and settings often.

Basic Safety for Every Room

Add the following items to the person's home if they are not already in place: 

  • Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in or near the kitchen and in all bedrooms

  • Emergency phone numbers and the person's address near all phones

  • Safety knobs and an automatic shut-off switch on the stove

  • Childproof plugs for unused electrical outlets and childproof latches on cabinet doors

You can buy home safety products at stores carrying hardware, electronics, medical supplies, and children's items. 

Lock up or remove these potentially dangerous items from the home: 

  1. Medicines

  2. Alcohol

  3. Cleaning and household products, such as paint thinner and matches

  4. Poisonous plants—contact the National Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 or www.poison.org to find out which houseplants are poisonous.

  5. Guns and other weapons, scissors, knives, power tools, and machinery

  6. Gasoline cans and other dangerous items in the garage

Moving Around the House

Try these tips to prevent falls and injuries:

  1. Simplify the home. Too much furniture can make it hard to move around freely.

  2. Get rid of clutter, such as piles of newspapers and magazines.

  3. Have a sturdy handrail on stairways.

  4. Put carpet on stairs, or mark the edges of steps with brightly colored tape so the person can see them more easily.

  5. Put a gate across the stairs if the person has balance problems.

  6. Remove small throw rugs. Use rugs with nonskid backing instead.

  7. Make sure cords to electrical outlets are out of the way or tacked to baseboards.

  8. Clean up spills right away.

Make sure the person with Alzheimer's has good floor traction for walking. To make floors less slippery, leave floors unpolished or install nonskid strips. Shoes and slippers with good traction also help the person move around safely.

You may want to re-evaluate the safety of the person's home as behavior and abilities change.

For more home safety tips, see the NIH / National Institute on Aging's checklist:

Retrain Your Mind - Communication - Dementia

There are so many negative and positive occurrences in the world that all seemingly stem from communication. Governments and politicians try to out maneuver one another to gain an advantage. Wars begin on assumptions. Employees and employers squabble based on perceived or assumed expectations that go unmet. Debates turn into arguments which turn into violence. All this because we are sure that our point of view is right and there is no other way. What if we untrained ourselves and began communicating with each other like each had something to teach one another. Or what if we communicated with each other like this "12 Top Tips In Working With People with Dementia" below? I think we'd find that our family, business, and community interactions would be more positive than negative. 

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What happened to house calls from doctors?

The concept of a family practice doctor, as we know it now, is rather new. For most of our modern history the doctor was someone connected with the family. The doctor knew their patients—they knew their medical history, their occupation, and often even a good bit about their daily habits. They knew the names of their patient’s children, and might have even been there when the kids were born. The doctor was someone who served the family and the community. They made house calls. They spent time following up on health concerns.

This picture of the personal physician is in stark contrast to how many people interact with their physicians in our 21st century model. Startling statistics have come out in the past 10 years about the average day and client load of a standard doctor. For example, the New York Times reports that appointment times allocate a full 8 minutes for a doctor to spend with each of their patients. According to the Washington Post, physicians in the United States have an average of 2,367 patients under their care.

A client load of this magnitude and appointment allocations of such a minimal amount of time make it impossible for physicians to know their patients in the same way it used to be.  At least, that is the case in a standard medical practice.

Concierge medicine is the exception to these rules. This is a branch of medical care that has arisen out of the need for more personalized attention and medical care that the bulk-service physician industry no longer allows for.

What Concierge Medicine Delivers

There is a reason not all physicians provide concierge medicine. This type of practice brings doctors one-on-one with their patients, including into their homes and lives. Typically, a concierge medicine program will include benefits like:

  • House calls, as needed
  • Longer appointment times, including a complete review of test results
  • Same day and next day appointment availability, as needed
  • Wellness coaching, including medical weight loss
  • State of the art medical testing
  • 24/7 access to your physician

Concierge medicine allows a physician to develop a closer relationship with their patients, giving them the chance to spend more time focusing on the needs of one individual. In practice, this means more time for preventative and diagnostic testing, more time to review test results, and a greater chance of catching chronic and potentially fatal issues before they develop.

At Renaissance Senior Care, we believe that concierge medicine will provide your loved one and our residents with the care they deserve. Visit any one of our 8 assisted living homes in Montana and experience how enlightened elder care should feel like.