Family Caregivers

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Your Family Member and Medicare

Is your mother, father, husband, wife, or other close relative or friend currently on Medicare? Are they planning to go on Medicare within the next 12 months? Since you may be (or may soon be) a ‘care-giver’ for a relative or friend, there is certain information that may be helpful to you. One of your key resources is the Guide for Families and Friends of People With Medicare.

Helping Them Enroll in Medicare

To enroll in Medicare, you have 3 options:

Call Social Security toll-free at 800-772-1213. (TTY users call 800-325-0778).

Go to the Social Security website to apply for Medicare online.

Apply by phone or in person through any Social Security office. To find a Social Security Office near you, go to Find a Social Security Office.

Helping Them Choose the Right Plan

Original Medicare (Parts A & B) is the plan everyone gets enrolled in unless you request a Medicare Advantage plan (Part C).

Since Medicare is insurance (and not assistance), you should consider the same things you would with any health insurance plan, such as premiums, deductibles and co-pays, coverage, choice of hospitals and doctors, and any restrictions and limitations.

Further, medical coverage (Part B) and prescription drug coverage (Part D) are optional. You do not have to choose them if you don’t want to. The same applies to Supplemental Insurance aka “Medigap” policies.

To help you help them through the myriad choices, Click here for information about Medicare plans in your area.

Long Term Care

An important resource for information about Long Term Care is the National Clearinghouse for Long Term Care Information.

Medicare has very limited coverage for Long-Term care. It does have provisions for a Skilled-Nursing facility, home health care and hospice care under Medicare Part A, but coverage is limited. For a complete discussion of Medicare’s contribution please see the website at Medicare Long-Term Care information.

Because Long Term care can be very costly, the above links also address financial and legal planning and are well worth reviewing.

Home Health Care

The Medicare website has a tool that provides information on how well Medicare- certified home health care agencies in your area care for their patients. You can compare different home health care services against each other and see how well they rate in your state and nationally.

Called Home Health Compare, it provides contact and other important information on all Medicare-certified home health agencies in the country. You can also get “quality of care” information on these agencies, as well as learn about patient rights, including the right to choose an agency. You can access this free tool by clicking on Home Health Compare.

Hospice and End of Life Care

Medicare helps pay for Hospice care within certain limitations. Click on the Official Government Booklet on Medicare Hospice Benefits to learn about eligibility, services and how to find a hospice provider.

The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) is a national consumer organization dedicated to improving care at the end of life. It is supported by a grant from The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. You can access them at the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization website.

Caregiver Support

The US Department of Health & Human Services runs an agency called the Administration on Aging. It provides information on a range of services and opportunities for older Americans and their caregivers and families.

Their web site includes a Caregivers Resource Room and other resources for elders and their families. They also run the National Clearing House for Long Term Care Information as discussed above. It provides information and resources to help you and your family plan for future long-term care needs.

The US National Institutes of Health also has a National Institute on Aging that offers a free booklet called Caregiving Resources. You can see it at: NIH National Institute on Aging-Caregiving Resources. It gives contact information for government, associations, and health groups, as well as legal and financial information.

For information on Eldercare services in your area see the Eldercare Locator. Also call toll-free on 800-677-1116

The National Institutes for Health, National Institute on Aging has several excellent pamphlets and articles you can download from All National Institute on Aging Care Giver Publications and Age Page articles.