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Are you a member of the 'sandwich generation'? How to help your aging parents

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(BPT) - If you have kids in school plus parents who need more help as they're aging, you may be part of the population called the "sandwich generation." Basically, your days are overflowing with tasks like making lunches, chauffeuring kids to activities and homework help — while also taking care of parents or other elderly relatives. While it can be rewarding to know you're making a difference in the lives of those you love, it can also be a lot to manage. When it comes to older relatives who rely on you, it's important to prioritize their healthcare and medical needs.

Here are practical tips to help you support your parents.

Stay connected with their healthcare providers

Whether your loved one has few medical needs or many, it's vital to understand their health conditions and to ensure that you're alerted whenever anything changes. Take these important steps to get organized:

  • Ask your parents to designate you as an approved contact with their healthcare providers, so their doctors can inform you of their medical issues.
  • Help your parents complete a healthcare directive. This designates who would make decisions about their health if they were unable to do so.
  • List your parents' prescription medications. Create a list of their drugs and confirm that they understand their medications and dosages.
  • Set up a calendar for you and your parents to track appointments easily.

Assess their living situation

If your parents still live in their home, check on them regularly to ensure there are no areas of concern. Look for tripping hazards (like small rugs and items on stairs) and signs your parents have trouble caring for themselves, such as the house being less tidy or their appearance seeming unkempt.

If you recognize issues around the house like a messy kitchen or dirty laundry piling up, you don't have to do everything yourself. It's important to know there is help, such as home aides for cleaning, cooking and personal care. Ask their healthcare provider about options for occupational therapy, physical therapy, home healthcare, if needed, or other assistance that may even be covered by Medicare.

Help your parents understand the ABCs of Medicare

Because Medicare can be confusing, it's important to help them get coverage that suits their needs and budget. The first step is understanding the basics of Medicare:

Parts A and B (Original Medicare) provide basic healthcare coverage. Part A helps cover inpatient care in hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, hospice and home healthcare. Part B helps cover services from doctors and other providers, outpatient care, some medical equipment (like walkers, wheelchairs and hospital beds), and preventive services (screenings, vaccines and annual wellness visits). Parts A and B do not cover prescription drug costs, and you'll likely have out-of-pocket costs like copays and deductibles.

Part C (Medicare Advantage) is a Medicare-approved plan from a private company to help pay for additional services, and may have lower out-of-pocket costs than Original Medicare Parts A and B. You will need to use doctors in your chosen plan's network. Medicare Advantage plans may also offer additional benefits including hearing, vision and dental services, so it's important to consider what benefits are important to your parents.

Part D refers to prescription drug coverage, which may be included as part of your Medicare Advantage plan. But you must get a Part D plan or your loved ones will risk penalty charges for not having one.

The plan that's best for your parents may depend on how often they see doctors, how many prescriptions they have — and their budget. It can be helpful to talk to a knowledgeable Medicare agent to explore your parents' Medicare options and to compare plans.

For example, ClearMatch Medicare provides assistance by first asking what's important to your parents in a Medicare plan, then learning about your parents' prescriptions and doctors to make sure they're included in their plan. They'll review available plans in the area to compare the costs and benefits so you and your parents can make an informed decision. Your parents can then enroll in the Medicare plan of their choosing right on their site.

Need assistance? Free help is just a phone call away. ClearMatch Medicare is dedicated to making Medicare easier to understand so your parents can choose the plan that's right for them. Their highly trained and licensed insurance agents are patient and helpful, and if they find your parents are already in a great plan, they'll say so.

Call 1-888-441-6962 (TTY:711) for a free Medicare review, Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-9 p.m., Saturday, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. (ET) or visit ClearMatchMedicare.com, open 24-7.