As individuals retire or age into Medicare, their insurance situation can change dramatically. There are a multitude of options open to those with Medicare. The terms are different, the prices are different, the products offered are dramatically different each year.
The purpose of this column is to give those who are eligible for Medicare, or soon to be eligible for Medicare, some understanding of their insurance options and how it could impact their health and finances.
These questions and answers are meant as a guide to help you understand the complex questions you are now thinking about. Each individual's specific situation may create a different solution. You shouldn't necessarily do what your friends, family and neighbors do.
Q: My mother has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. I know so little about this and what is coming for our family. Could you offer some assistance and information with this?
A: I have heard this particular scenario a lot recently. Many families and caregivers are reaching out for help when told their loved one has Alzheimer's. Alzheimer's disease is a form of dementia that affects how the brain functions. Plaque builds up in the brain and blocks how the brain communicates. This creates difficulties in day to day functioning for the person. The disease is also not a predicable progression. Some days are better than others. Sometimes it affects how an individual behaves. Sometimes it makes walking and moving difficult. Sometimes it makes speech difficult. Sometimes it does all of that and more.
There are stages of this disease. I really don't want to sound like I know a lot about this disease because I don't. The absolute best resource is the Alzheimer's Association. This is a national organization that is dedicated to the study, education and coping related to this disease. The local Alzheimer's chapter is in Williamsville, but often is coming to our neck of the woods.
The Alzheimer's Caregiver Support Group that I have talked about in the past meets at the JAMA building at 15 S. Main St., second floor on the second Tuesday of every month at 1 p.m. The social worker who facilitates the group is Maggie Irwin, and she can be reached at 483-5448.
Chautauqua Adult Day Care and Tanglewood Manor/Memory Gardens also provide specialized care for those with Alzheimer's.
This week on Friday, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. the Alzheimer's Association is putting on a Dementia Care Conference at the St. Luke's Episcopal Church at 410 N. Main St. in Jamestown. This program requires that you pre-register. I would highly recommend that you try to attend this educational care conference. The registration number is 1-800-272-3900.
I have been to many of their programs over the years and always walk away feeling like I learned a lot. This program is offered free to family caregivers. It is $30 for professional caregivers.
This program will be an overview of Alzheimer's disease and coping with the many changes that could be coming your way. There will also be other agencies there for you to reach out to. You will be given information about the progression of the disease as well as ways of helping you and your family cope with this diagnosis.
The questions you have asked about resources is much the same as being diagnosed with cancer.
I have so many questions, I don't know where to begin. The Alzheimer's Association should be one of your first stops. This training is a wonderful opportunity to begin this learning process.
Your situation today is different than it was a month ago and will be different again in another month. Begin reaching out to resources like the Alzheimer's Association for many of your answers.
Home care agencies, Office for the Aging and professionals in the area will also be of help to you. So don't stop answering questions.
See you Friday at the Dementia Care Conference. I know I will be there.
Janell Sluga is a geriatric care manager certified and works for Senior Life Matters, a program of Lutheran Senior Housing, and has worked in Chautauqua County with seniors for more than 18 years. She is HIICAP (Health Insurance Information, Counseling & Assistance Program) counselor-trained by Office for the Aging. She does not sell insurance or represent any insurance company. She is an unbiased source of insurance and education to help seniors choose the best option for them.
You may submit questions to be answered in later columns to Janell Sluga at Senior Life Matters, 737 Falconer St., Jamestown, NY 14701, or call 716-720-9797, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please remember that not all questions can be answered in this format, but as many as can be, will be.