How New Medicare Advantage Changes Could Affect You

Medicare, in general, is more focused than ever on positive health outcomes, specifically on keeping seniors out of the hospital.

Medicare Advantage plans have been responding to this by adding extra coverage. For the first time, these extras may include basic (non-medical) in-home senior care.

This newly-offered type of care may provide for household support activities for seniors that help them live comfortably and healthily at home. These essential tasks could include light cleaning, cooking, dishwashing, grooming and more. Home safety equipment may also be included. For more detail and background, read on.

About Medicare Advantage

Also called Medicare Part C, the Advantage plans are offered by private insurance companies and replace Medicare Parts A (hospital), B (doctors, office visits and tests) and sometimes D (drug coverage). You may have a choice of several Medicare Advantage plans, depending upon where you live. If you choose an Advantage plan, you must follow their rules and must typically use their network of doctors.

The private Medicare Advantage insurance plans must cover the same medical care that traditional Medicare does, but may charge more (or less) for specific services. These plans may also impose extra rules, such as requiring a referral to see a specialist, etc. (Referrals are not currently required in traditional Medicare.)

Medicare Advantage may charge an additional monthly premium, over and above your regular Medicare premium ($135 monthly in 2019), and some Advantage HMOs charge no extra premium.

New Medicare Advantage Offerings

For a few years now, Medicare Advantage has been touting “extra benefits” like vision care (optometry and prescription eyeglasses), dental cleanings, hearing aids and/or free gym memberships. They hoped the extras would encourage people to switch from traditional Medicare, to Medicare Advantage.

Recently, the private insurers that offer Medicare Advantage plans have been given permission to add even more extras, which vary from one plan and company to another.

What is so interesting for seniors who need home caregivers is this: In the past, seniors could only get limited, skilled medical in-home care from traditional Medicare or Medicare Advantage. They would not cover any “non-skilled” in-home care that seniors need. Now, these items may be included. Examples of new in-home supportive services Medicare Advantage may cover:

  • At-home custodial care (grooming, meal preparation, bathing, and more)
  • Transportation to medical appointments
  • Meal delivery
  • Shower grab bars and other home safety devices
  • Caregiver support
  • Adult daycare
  • And more

Keep in mind that coverage varies significantly by plan, so be sure to read the details before choosing among the Medicare Advantage plans, or deciding to stick with traditional Medicare.

Study Coverage Details and Rules Carefully

This extra at-home coverage is welcome news for seniors and their family caregivers. It’s very important to be aware, however, that different plans will have different specifics, varying rules about accessing these benefits, and limits on the maximum number of home visits allowed. Medicare’s guide to Advantage Plans may help you.

By adding this extra coverage, Medicare Advantage is acknowledging what we have known for so long—that proper in-home care (beyond skilled medical/nursing care) improves long-term health for seniors. This type of care can keep seniors living successfully at home, which saves seniors money and helps the senior to enjoy greater independence, as well as enhanced quality of life. It’s about time, and we hope for even more positive changes in the future.

Transition Care for Seniors

Often times, Medicare does not cover, A Place at Home is here to fill the gaps in coverage and prevent unnecessary readmissions through our Transition Care Management (TCM) program.

Our TCM program ensures a safe and smooth transition home by complying with discharge orders, providing personal care, transportation, helping with errands, follow-up appointments, and light housekeeping.

If you or a loved one are in need of transition care, contact us for more information.

A Place at Home: Strongly Rooted, Dedicated to CARE

Trees hold significant symbolism which represents our strong dedication to compassionate care for seniors in our community. The Tree of Life concept spans multiple schools of thought, running through art, religion, and literature.

In essence, the Tree of Life represents the intertwining of all living things. At A Place at Home, we believe in extending our branches to the senior community – giving them a continuum of loving care throughout the aging process.

Our Mission: Caring for the Family Tree of Life

Like others, we see beautiful, enduring trees as a symbol of the vitality of life, connecting those that came before us, and those that will carry on after we are gone. The tree brings to mind the idea of generations of families and ancestors. It stands for strength, stability, and nourishment.

The term family tree is so appropriate—like natural trees, its branches grow and extend. The leaves rustling in the wind appear similar, yet each has its own uniqueness and texture. Deep roots keep the tree stable and extract nutrients from the earth, helping it to develop, grow, repair and renew. We are devoted to developing the best care plan for our seniors and renewing hope for families.

For A Place at Home Senior Care, Trees Carry Powerful Meaning

The care that we provide to families and seniors in need are the roots supporting the family system–at a time when the added strength is most needed. For us, dedicated senior care is a means to help nourish the lives of loved ones, assisting families when they can’t do it all themselves. We believe that caring, above all else, is the path to ensuring generations can live on, through past, present and future, with hope and happiness.

From Symbolism to Imagery: Our Tree Logo and Living Memorials

The A Place At Home tree represents our commitment to improving the lives of all that we serve. Our devotion to the seniors we care for continues even after they have passed away. In their loving memory and honor,  we plant a tree through the Arbor Day Foundation. The newly planted tree memorializes the family’s loved one forever, living on to provide future generations an enduring symbol of lasting peace and comfort.

A Place at Home is rooted in CARE.

Join us in expanding our roots by becoming a franchise partner.

When To See A Doctor: Parkinson’s Disease

April is National Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month and we realize that many of our readers, or their loved ones, are affected by the disease.

PD (Parkinson’s disease) is typically not diagnosed until age 50 or older and is currently incurable, but not fatal. However, its complications, like pneumonia, can be life-threatening. This makes an early diagnosis, close medical monitoring, and supportive senior care crucial for those with PD. Please review these important facts about PD and learn how to recognize early signs.

What is Parkinson’s Disease?

PD is a neurodegenerative disorder, causing gradual nerve cell deterioration in the brain region known as the substantia nigra, over a period of many years. The brain cells affected are dopamine-producing neurons. The neurotransmitter, dopamine, helps coordinate body movement— turning thoughts about moving into active motion. Dopamine also regulates emotional responses, helps you to pay attention, learn, and more. Parkinson’s is 50 percent more common in men and the cause of the disease is currently unknown.

When to See a Doctor: Parkinson’s Disease Symptoms

Parkinson’s symptoms vary from person to person and progress at different rates. If you notice these symptoms in yourself or a loved one, see your doctor for an exam. The symptoms can be caused by other medical conditions, so you must see a doctor for a diagnosis. Doing so quickly will help you maintain good health and reduce stress (on you as the patient, and your loved ones).

No matter what the cause of your symptoms may beearly diagnosis provides the very best chance for successful treatment and a bright future. Most people with Parkinson’s are diagnosed after age 50. As individuals age, PD can lead to PDD (Parkinson’s Disease Dementia)

PD symptoms may include increased levels of:

  • Tremors in hands and other body areas
  • Arm and/or leg stiffness
  • Slowed movements, known as Bradykinesia
  • Balance problems, difficulty walking

Early PD signs to watch for, especially if these are new or have no reasonable explanation:

  • Poor posture, sitting or standing stooped over
  • Sad or blank expression on the face
  • Horse or quiet voice
  • Poor sense of smell
  • Difficulty moving, stiffness
  • Micrographia, small or crowded handwriting
  • Sleep problems
  • Constipation
  • Dizziness

Living with PD

To maintain the highest possible quality of life, individuals living with Parkinson’s disease must be regularly monitored by their physician, usually a neurologist. Physical therapy is commonly prescribed early on— and regular exercise is known to delay worsening of symptoms. There are a number of medications used to help manage PD.

For the best prognosis, patients should have the understanding and support of family members and/or caregivers, as needed, so that they can overcome the challenges of Parkinson’s disease. 

The actor Michael J. Fox is a well-known individual living with Parkinson’s, (diagnosed early, at age 30), and Alan Alda recently revealed he has PD, diagnosed about four years ago, at age 78. Both provide examples of, and valuable insight about, living well with PD.

How Common is Parkinson’s Disease? states that approximately one million people will be living with PD by 2020, with 60,000 new cases diagnosed annually. The aging population with Parkinson’s is creating an increasing need for senior care options and supportive services. Medical research is ongoing–to find better medications and treatments to counter symptoms, and potentially discover a cure for PD. The NIH (National Institutes of Health) has published an outline of promising Parkinson’s research in progress. 

We’re Here to Help

For seniors living with Parkinson’s disease, and their loved ones, A Place at Homeprovides customized in-home senior care options. Contact us for more information.

Paying for Long Term Care: Will You Need More than Medicare?

About 70 percent of today’s seniors will need some type of long-term care.

Unfortunately, Medicare doesn’t cover everything that a senior may require. Let’s look at some places where Medicare falls short so you can successfully prepare for future health care needs–and avoid unwelcome surprises.

Medicare Limitations and Senior Care Options 

Important limits, and costs to be aware of are bolded or linked:

  • Basic hospital coverage: Medicare Part A hospital coverage comes with a big deductible of over $1300 per benefit period, plus $335 daily after the 60th day through 90th day.  After 90 days, you enter Lifetime Reserve Days, of which you have 60.

  • Doctor visits and outpatient care: Medicare Part B has a monthly premium and a yearly deductible, then provides 80/20 coverage for medically necessary doctor’s office care, lab testing, certain medical equipment, and specific preventative screenings.

  • Prescriptions: Medicare Part D has a monthly premium, often in the $20 to $50 range per month, depending upon the plan selected. You also pay a co-pay for each Rx, depending on medication category. Coverage for brand name drugs may be 50 percent or less.

  • Private Medicare insurance option: Medicare Advantage (Part C) may have a monthly premium, (in addition to the monthly $135 Medicare premium amount), although some HMOs require no extra premium. Plans substitute for Medicare Parts A, B and sometimes prescription part D, but may charge different out-of-pocket amounts than Medicare, and have different rules. Some plans offer extra perks, like prescription eyeglasses, rides to doctor appointments and more. Unfortunately, some are unclear about the specifics of the extra perks. 

  • Residential board and care or skilled nursing facility: Medicare Part A covers only 20 days with no co-pay. You must pay $170.50 daily for days 21-100. End-of-life hospice care is covered if you meet the stated conditions.

  • In-home skilled medical care: Medicare offers coverage for 21 days, if ordered by a physician. The covered care must be skilled medical care, such as nursing or physical therapy. (Medicare does not currently pay for home health “custodial care” services, like senior grooming assistance, laundry, cooking meals, etc. 

Options to Fill Medicare Gaps

  • Medigap insurance: Some Medicare A and B recipients choose to buy optional, private Medigap insurance, which covers your share (of Medicare approved bills only), for a monthly premium, depending on the plan. You must purchase during a special Medigap enrollment period to avoid being charged for pre-existing conditions. 

  • Private long-term care insurance: Policies can be expensive. However, most people will require long term care, which Medicare does not cover, so insurance may be worth considering.

  • Affordable at-home senior care: Setting up compassionate, supportive at-home care, rather than a residential rest home, may reduce stress on the senior and save money.

Note: Dollar amounts apply to 2019 benefits, which may increase yearly.

Get Reliable In-Home Care for Omaha Seniors

Let A Place at Home in Omaha help. We will work with you to create a custom plan for in-home, long-term or respite, senior care. Contact us today.

Understanding the Potential Link Between Stress and Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease is a frightening type of dementia that causes issues with memory, thinking processes, and behavior.

The symptoms generally start slow and gradually worsen over time and increasingly interfere with the patient’s day-to-day tasks and relationships.

Studies into the causes and cures for Alzheimer’s has been ongoing for decades, and while no single cause has been determined, recent studies have uncovered some things that can increase a person’s risk of developing the disease. One of those things is stress.

Stress and Alzheimer’s Disease

One of the first studies into the linking of stress and Alzheimer’s began in 2012 by the University of Southhampton in the United Kingdom. Members of that research team undertook a three-year study investigating how chronic stress impacts both people with ongoing mild cognitive impairment and people of a control group that had no reported memory issues. 

A more recent study by researchers from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine has determined that stress connected to both traumatic childhood and adulthood experiences can cause the brain to age more rapidly than that of a person without a history of such negative experiences.

The results of the study were presented at the annual Alzheimer’s Association International Conference and the research itself covered 1,300 individuals in their 50s and their performance on a variety of memory and thinking tests. The conclusion determined that stressful events could age the brain by at least four years. 

The Basics of What is Stress

Stress occurs when a person’s body is forced to respond to a situation the mind deems dangerous. Common symptoms of stress include tense muscles, increased sweating, and pounding heart. While these immediate symptoms generally fade once danger passes, some individuals may continue to experiences feelings of stress.

Such ongoing feelings and symptoms are known as chronic stress, and as studies have shown, chronic stress can be very serious and have severe, permanent effects on the individual mentally, physically, and emotionally.

How Stress Causes Physical Changes to the Brain

The hormone that causes many of the symptoms of stress is known as cortisol, often referred to as the ‘stress hormone’. Cortisol is one of the primary hormones involved in a body’s ‘fight or flight’ response and when it’s released due to stress, it’s what causes those symptoms of increased blood pressure, respiration, and heart rate.

A person who has chronic stress has chronically high cortisol levels which is what research has shown to be associated with high blood pressure, anxiety, and memory loss.

Physical Changes to the Brain Stress Causes:

  • Lost brain cells
  • A reduction in brain size
  • Decreased activity in the pre-frontal cortex
  • Disruption of certain synapses that regulate social skills and cognitive functions
  • Increased activity in the brain area that regulates anxiety

Taking Control Over Lifestyle Factors

While studies have certainly provided enough evidence to show that memory loss and dementia-specific diseases like Alzheimer’s have a connection to stress, particularly chronic stress and stress related to traumatic events—there has been no definitive evidence showing a direct linkage.

However, what has been shown is that taking control of certain lifestyle factors can reduce a person’s risk of developing such ailments. Therefore, it is in your best interest to minimize stress-inducing activities and assist your senior loved ones with lowering their stress. 

How Seniors Can Make the Most of the New Tax Laws

The tax filing deadline this year is Monday, April 15, 2019, making now the ideal time to look at how newly-introduced Trump tax rules may affect seniors. Tax brackets have changed this year, with lower taxes for many people. However, some deductions are discontinued or capped, which could cut into any savings. Here we list important tax changes affecting seniors.

Senior Tax Planning in the Trump Era

Keep these points in mind when planning your tax strategy and filing 2018 federal taxes:

  • Reconsider itemizing vs. standard deduction: The standard deduction is now $12,000 for singles and $24,000 for joint filers. Itemizing will benefit those whose deductible expenses are higher than this new threshold.  
  • Consider itemizing if medical expenses were over 7.5 percent: Add up your healthcare expenses to decide about whether or not to itemize. This year, if you itemize, you may deduct medical expenses that total more than 7.5 percent of your AGI (adjusted gross income). 
  • Think about moving for property tax savings: Moving may seem drastic, but if you’ve already been considering moving to another state, and/or downsizing to a smaller home for retirement, now may be the best time. Your state and local tax (SALT) deductions are now limited to $10,000, meaning you may not be able to deduct as much in property taxes (as you might have in past years). Moving to an area, or home, with a smaller tax bill may be worthwhile if property taxes are high where you currently live.

How the New, Lower Tax Rates and Bracket Changes May Help Seniors

  • You may save on RMDs (required minimum IRA distributions): At age 70 ½, you must withdraw minimum amounts from your 401k or IRA, which adds to your income. Tax rates have gone down for many Americans, and brackets expanded. (There are 7 tax brackets, with tax rates from 10 percent up to 37 percent for high incomes.) This means your extra IRA or 401k distribution income won’t be taxed as heavily as it may have been in past years. Saving money here could make up for property taxes you might no longer deduct. 
  • You may save if some of your Social Security benefits are taxable: If your income (including Social Security benefits) exceeds a certain amount, the Social Security benefits may be partly taxed as income. However, the new tax brackets and lower rates across the board could take the sting out of a higher income.

Everyone’s tax situation is unique. Senior retirees should consult a financial advisor or tax consultant now, for specific advice on tax filing. Expert advisors are busy (and get even busier as days pass) this time of year–plus more people will seek professional help with the new tax rules this year. Starting now will allow you time to weigh any new tax strategy options you have, and get your 2018 taxes filed by the April 15, 2019, tax filing deadline. If you want to read more about the changes, this is a relatively short outline of tax changes issued by the IRS.

A Place at Home: Dedicated to Caring for Seniors 

As a leader in the in-home senior care field, A Place at Home is dedicated to helping seniors enjoy the highest possible quality of life. That includes saving money on taxes and receiving convenient, compassionate home care. If you need more information about customized, at-home senior care options, contact us today

NOTE: In Massachusetts and Maine, this year’s tax filing deadline is Wednesday, April 17, 2019, due to local holidays. For all other states, the tax deadline is Monday, April 15, 2019.

Learning Invaluable Lessons From Seniors: Odillia Magut

Odillia Magut has been named A Place at Home’s February Caregiver of the Month.

While Odillia has only been a CNA for four months, she is no stranger to caring for others. She has dedicated nearly three decades to taking care of her older relatives, including her mother-in-law.

During her time as a family caregiver, Odillia soaked up invaluable life lessons that she now takes with her in her daily life.

“I have learned so much from being a caregiver – how to be patient, how to be compassionate, and how to live life to the fullest,” Odillia said.

From companionship to providing seniors assistance with day-to-day activities, Odillia truly cherishes her time spent caring for others.

“I love spending time with seniors and helping them with their needs. It makes me feel so fulfilled,” Odillia said.

In addition to enjoying her time with senior clients, Odillia appreciates the support she receives from the A Place at Home staff. “They truly listen and are always very understanding. They are kind and they motivate me to always be my best,” Odillia said.

Become A Caregiver

A Place at Home caregivers genuinely enjoy caring for others. Together, we work to provide each senior the opportunity to live their best life. Contact us to inquire about becoming a caregiver with us.

How to Prevent Heart Disease At Any Age

Taking proper care of your heart requires a lifestyle commitment that not everyone is willing to make. People of all ages can get caught up in bad habits like smoking, unhealthy eating, and lack of exercise. Proactively taking steps to prevent heart disease is essential to living a healthy life. Check out the tips below to get started on your journey to healthy living.

Live smoke-free

Smoking remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States, killing more than 480,000 Americans each year. The act of smoking is always extremely harsh on our hearts and blood vessels by giving way to increased blood pressure and depleted oxygen levels.

In just 20 minutes after that last drag, blood pressure levels and pulse rates begin dropping. After a full year of quitting, a person’s chance of a heart attack is diminished by half. Reducing the risks associated with cardiovascular disease begins with putting out that last cigarette, for good. Remember, quitting tobacco products completely is the only working strategy to fully protect your heart from the negative effects of smoking.

Eat Healthily

Did you know that protecting yourself from heart attacks and other complications of heart disease can begin with a simple change in diet? Diets high in sodium can lead to
increases in blood pressure and further complicate symptoms of an existing cardiovascular disease.

  • Limit consumption of unhealthy, solid fats
  • Cut down on recipes that are high in cholesterol.
  • Substitute plain fruits and vegetables into your shopping list for items that are high in sodium, like instant dinners.
  • Consider purchasing from local producers to add an extra dash of freshness to your next entree.

Looking for a new culinary direction for your meals? Check out the delicious, heart-healthy dishes that are common to the Mediterranean diet. Seniors can benefit positively from the food choices associated with a Mediterranean diet, as well as the cultural emphasis on enjoying meals with friends and family.

Exercise Daily

One of the greatest challenges is pairing a nutritious diet with a regular schedule of exercise. Older adults, who are at the greatest risk of heart disease, must engage in regular physical activity to enjoy lower, safer blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

If you are looking for activities to stay active, don’t underestimate the value of simply going for a walk if the weather is tolerable. Many adults with joint pain and arthritis will turn to yoga or water aerobics as their outlet for physical activity. Water provides a kind of low-impact resistance training capable of targeting your joints and muscles.

As always, family members and caregivers should work to improve mobility and fall prevention by finding exercises that target the skills and abilities that can keep seniors safe during their daily routines.

4 Self-Care Tips for Caregivers

With the increased population of seniors in our society, caregivers have become some of the most significant people in supporting the lives of seniors.

Seniors often need companionship, laundry services, shopping assistance, and physical therapy. While caregivers may be essential to the well-being of seniors, they need to know the importance of their own well-being.

Regardless of the type of care that you provide, you should observe some practices that ensure a quality life of those you are caring for as well as your own care. Here are some tips that you should consider as you carry out your caregiving duties:

Sharing Responsibilities

Sometimes being a caretaker can take a toll on you, hindering your ability to perform duties outside of your workplace. Consider sharing responsibility with people around you or an in-home care agency to avoid overworking yourself.


Maintaining yourself is essential to living a healthy life. You cannot provide effective care if you have poor health or fatigue. For this reason, building good eating and sleeping habits are absolutely necessary. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that adults get at least 20 to 30 minutes of cardio a day. Get your heart rate up with a walk, a job, or an exercise class.  Ensure your eating stays on target by meal planning and prepping once or twice a week.

Seek Emotional Support

Caregiving can sometimes be incredibly stressful. This can take a toll on your mental health, making it difficult to carry out your responsibilities and other tasks. Support groups can help you deal with stress. These groups understand the hardships you are going through and can provide emotional support.

Take a Break

Caregiving can sometimes get extremely overwhelming. Set aside time for yourself whenever possible—do the things you love or just take some time to relax. It could be a short nap or a vacation, anything that allows you time to rejuvenate and refresh so that you have the energy and mental capacity to continue caregiving.

Your own care should always come first, and it is only when you take care of yourself that you can take care of others around you. Above all, surround yourself with a support system that will help you deal with emotional battles that may come your way.

A Place at Home: Trust Us for Compassionate Senior Care

At A Place at Home senior care, we know that sometimes you need a break from your caregiving duties. That’s when we step in. Whether you just need a few hours or 24/7 care—we are here to provide compassionate care solutions, where and when you need us. We offer a continuum of care for seniors ranging from in-home care services and care coordination to senior living alternatives. Contact us today for more information.

Living Out My Passion: Shena Cue

Shena has dedicated the past 17 years to being a caregiver. Her genuine compassion for others has nabbed her Caregiver of the Month for January.

Shena has been passionate about caring for others ever since her childhood. “When I was a little kid, I used to volunteer whenever I could. In high school, I helped out with the Special Olympics. Then my grandparents started needing help around the house, so I spent a lot of time caring for her. That’s when I realized caring for others is what I really wanted to do,” Shena said.

Shena’s dedication, passion, and love for her job are truly unmatched. Caregiving isn’t just a job, it’s her life’s purpose. “There is nothing else in my life that makes me as complete as being a caregiver. It just makes me feel so good being able to care for people – giving them the things that they really need,” Shena said.

With nearly two decades as a caregiver under her belt, Shena aspires to expand her compassion from caregiving for individual clients to caring for her entire community.

“I love being a CNA. That’s why I’ve been in this field for 17 years. I genuinely love doing what I do. But I want to broaden my reach someday by opening up a staffing or home care agency like A Place at Home,” Shena said.

Shena is the epitome of A Place at Home’s motto, We are CARE (Compassionate, Accountable, Respectful, Ethical). Every day, she sets out to treat everyone she encounters with kindness and respect.

“Shena has to be one of the most compassionate people I know. She definitely has her heart in this job, and it really shows. She strives to do everything she can to make her clients happy,” Dani Pierce, HR Director said.

Congratulations Shena! Thanks for always showing A Place at Home seniors the CARE they deserve.

A Place at Home: Trust Us for Compassionate Senior Care

At A Place at Home senior care, we know that our in-home caregivers make us great. Our careful hiring practices and high standards ensure that seniors receive compassionate, reliable assistance with the activities of daily life. Our senior support services are planned around elderly individuals’ specific needs – and designed to maintain their dignity and independence. A Place at Home caregivers genuinely enjoy caring for others. Together, we work to provide each senior the opportunity to live their best life. Apply now or contact us to inquire about becoming a caregiver with us.