Questions Abound When Considering Medicare Options

One of the benefits of membership at the Broken Arrow Senior Center is access to information. That knowledge comes in many forms – from friends, activity leaders, company representatives, industry experts, medical professionals – and, who knows, maybe even from me every once in a while.

This past month, the topic of Medicare has popped up a lot – at the bank, the pharmacy, a Zumba class and a United Way meeting. Now it might be that I’m just paying better attention, but it could be that the time to make any changes or to opt in is rapidly approaching.

I realize that we are a 55-plus organization and that you become Medicare-eligible at 65. However, the average age of our members is 73, so we’re going to spend a bit of time this month on the topic of Medicare. We know many of you will be considering an array options and changes so you can sign up for the coverage that meets your health care needs as well as your budget. There’s a more in-depth article about Medicare on page 13.

It’s up to you to get ready. It’s up to you to be informed. It’s up to you to be your own advocate. And if you miss the deadline – especially if you are new to being 65 – you may end up paying much higher premiums.

Did I mention that you must do a good deal of homework before you can even determine what option is best for you? To help narrow your scope of priorities, I’ve collected some of the top questions to consider when you are choosing between Medicare and Medicare Advantage or between different Medicare Advantage plans.

Will you be able to use your current doctors? Are they in the plan’s network? What if they’re not in the network? What about specialists? Do you need a referral first? Is your preferred hospital, home health/home help agency, senior and skilled nursing facility in the plan’s network? What if you need care and you’re out of state or out of the country?

What costs should you expect? What about premiums, deductibles, co-pays and your out-of-pocket max? Should you find an option for dental, hearing and vision coverage?

Before you’ve barely started exploring your options, you’re already considering more than a dozen questions. You could spend an entire day just contemplating prescription drug coverage.

What about prescription drug coverage premiums, deductibles and co-payments? How much are brand-name drugs? Generics? Can you use your pharmacy? Can you get your drugs through mail order? Delivery? Compounding? Canada? Can you get 30- or 90-day supplies? What about when you travel?

As you can see, there’s a lot to consider. Over the next few months, we are going to provide opportunities for our members to explore these questions. You’ll be able to learn from industry experts and get help finding the right plan that fits your unique needs.

You should never feel alone in this journey. Be on the lookout for more details in the weeks and months to come.

Make Certain Your Shoes Fit Right

Incorrectly fitting footwear is common in older adults and is a risk factor not only for foot problems but also for falls.

When I look at the footwear that many of the BASC members have on, it concerns me – especially when I see shoes that I know were purchased during the first Bush administration. Many older adults do not wear the best footwear, and inappropriate footwear can impair balance and alter gait.

According to one study, muscle weakness, gait deficits and balance deficits accounted for three of the top five risk factors for falling among older adults.

Having run half marathons for years, I’ve always prided myself on having the right footwear. However, as I recently learned, as you age, your feet can continue to evolve and change.

I had the opportunity to have a 3D scan conducted of my feet, and it was eye opening. I discovered that my left foot was a full size larger than the right. One foot had a high arch and instep and the other was as flat as Fred Flinstone’s.

Another blow to my self esteem, my size 11 foot is a 4E width.

WILLLLLMMMAaaaaa!

My doctor even told me to wear shoes when I’m at home. I’m used to kicking off my shoes when I walk

in the house, but studies have made it clear that older adults walking barefoot or only in socks at home have a significantly higher likelihood of falling.

I have the right shoes now, and I know there’s really a lot to learn about your feet.

Our Transportation Program: Don’t Keep It A Secret

The BA Senior Center provides an environment for older adults to stay physically active and socially engaged.

For seniors, maintaining their independence is crucial for healthy and active aging. The Center also helps older adults avoid the loneliest number – One.

Social isolation is a big problem for seniors who don’t drive. Having access to affordable transportation keeps older adults connected with family, friends and their community and has many other life-prolonging benefits.

More than 40% of seniors regularly experience loneliness, according to a University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) study. The loneliness epidemic in older adults is serious, and the statistics are compelling:

  • Nearly 30% of adults over the age of 65 live alone.
  • 45% of older adults are divorced, separated or widowed.
  • 42% of older adults have some form of disability.
  • Loneliness increases the likelihood of mortality by 26%.
  • Lacking social engagement is as damaging to your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
  • 4 Isolated individuals have a 64% better chance of developing clinical dementia.

Don’t Keep it a Secret

The BA Senior Center has a transportation program to help older adults get to and from the Center daily. If needed, our bus has a lift to accommodate wheelchairs and other mobility devices.

Every morning, we pick up older adults in our defined service area and take them to the Center. While at the Center, members can participate in more than 50 activities a week (bingo, pool, crafts, dominoes, bunco, guitar, quilting, Zumba, tai chi, yoga and others). Participants can have a hot lunch, visit with friends, participate in health screenings and attend our monthly health and wellness lectures provided by Hillcrest South.

In the afternoon, our members are safely transported back to their homes after a full day of enjoyment.

Older adults without transportation need assistance with other personal errands that are essential for healthy and active aging, so this summer we are adding scheduled trips to the grocery store and pharmacy.

If you know of a relative, loved one, neighbor, friend or co-worker who could benefit from attending the BA Center and/or riding our bus, please ask them to contact us. We have the capacity to impact the lives of dozens of older adults every day who do not have transportation but want to be active members at the Center.

Please help us help as many older adults as possible to break free of the bonds of loneliness and isolation. Give us a call today at 918-259-8377.

Change: You Have To Break A Few Eggs

Most mornings during the week, I make breakfast for my wife and me.

I start with butter or olive oil in the pan, add some meat or vegetables or both, then crack some eggs and add some cheese, salt, pepper and spices. The finished product is an omelet that is cut in half – and breakfast is served.

A few weeks back, we watched a cooking show and saw the chef crack eggs into a bowl and beat them vigorously for three minutes. While they were cooking, he folded them in on themselves. The result was fluffy, restaurant-quality eggs.

I was determined to make better eggs, so I tried his method. The eggs were good, but they did not look like those on TV. The next day it was my wife’s turn, and the results were the same. The day after that was my turn again. I was closer to the mark, but my eggs were still not the same as on TV.

“Enough,” my wife said. “Just make them the old way.”

We didn’t anticipate that the outcome of changing the way we make eggs would be anything less than perfect.

Seriously: It’s eggs, not a lunar landing. We took a risk, and, having failed, quickly reverted to what was comfortable – the ways things have always been. Now I switch back and forth between recipes.

The BA Senior Center has grown over the past year, and it will continue to grow if we are to remain the best place for active adults in Broken Arrow and Eastern Tulsa County.

However, lots of questions arise every day. How can we expand the space currently used by quilting, crafts and crochet? What happens if we reach the room capacity of our weekly poker activity? Can we build a parking garage out of spare parts (probably not)? Would people attend a presentation on end-of-life issues and advanced directives? Is the time right to offer a seminar detailing the benefits of CBD oil and explaining the recently passed medical marijuana laws?

I spoke with a member the other day, and she told me that she had a great vision for the Broken Arrow Senior Center. She had plans to grow the Center and have us ready to occupy two buildings. The only part of the plan that didn’t gel in my mind was that “nothing would change,” because “older adults don’t like change. So just keep things moving the way they’ve always been.”

Fear of change is a very real thing. It’s not limited to older adults, younger adults, adolescents or infants. It affects everyone and everything. Very few people don’t feel anxious at the prospect of a minor adjustment or a significant upheaval, and the problem becomes much worse when fear of change keeps them from making rational decisions.

Every organization changes over time and the BA Senior Center is no exception.

We hope you’ll be with us for every leg of our future journey. Some things might be hard to embrace immediately, but, together, we’ll be stronger if we’re united with one clear vision – having a safe place for older adults to stay physically active and socially engaged.