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Tips for Helping Aging Relatives With Their Health Care

Three tips to help caregivers manage Medicare and doctors' visits


(Editor’s note: This content is provided by HealthPartners, a Next Avenue sponsor.)

If, like me, you help take care of a loved one on Medicare, you know it can be stressful.

Whether you’re just starting to realize mom or dad may need some help managing their care or you’ve been doing it for a while, there are steps you can take to make the process easier on everyone — you, your loved one and their health care team.

I recommend getting a head start now. If you wait until there’s an actual medical emergency, it can be difficult to get all the information you need in the heat of the moment. And it’s one less thing to worry about when emotions are running high.

These three things have worked well for me as I’ve helped care for my Medicare-aged parents.

1. Become an authorized representative. If you’re feeling like it’s time to take things to the next level, you may want to become an authorized representative for your loved one. Each health insurance company will have a process for how you can do this — give yours a call to learn more.

As an authorized representative, the health insurance company will be able to share information with you about your loved one’s health insurance plan. They can help you understand Explanations of Benefits or share details on clinic bills and monthly premiums — or even answer questions you may have on behalf of your loved one.

2. Research health plan details. Make a copy of your relative’s member ID card. That way you have his or her ID number, important numbers to call with questions and the name of their plan.

From there, call the health plan and ask for an overview of the person’s benefits — if you’re an authorized representative. Take the time to make sure you understand the details of their coverage. If you’re unsure about some of the terms they use, ask them to explain or do some internet research.

3. Make a list of doctors and medicines. I’m a big fan of spreadsheets, so this one comes easily for me, but I know not everyone shares my obsession!

You’ll want to keep track of prescription medicine names, dosage (amount) and instructions for use. Ask the pharmacy for a printout of your loved one’s account history. Or, if they have Medicare Part D, you can get a monthly statement of prescriptions that were filled the previous month (called a Part D Explanation of Benefits). Either way, make sure to get a couple months’ worth of history to account for meds taken less often. Then check the list against what’s actually in mom’s or dad’s medicine cabinet.

And be sure to add information about doctors and other providers. I put an example of the spreadsheet I use below. Download this template, fill it out and share it with other caregivers. Note the separate tabs for tracking prescription drug, medical provider and plan benefit information.

Your loved one’s health plan is there to help. Don’t hesitate to give them a call if you want to better understand their health insurance benefits!

By Alison Renneke
Alison is a senior manager of member services at HealthPartners. She’s been with HealthPartners for more than 16 years. Her team is a one-stop shop for answers, information and support for Medicare and Medicaid members and providers. When she’s not working or writing for the HealthPartners Medicare blog, she enjoys spending time with her family, boating in the summer and watching movies in the winter.

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