Caregiver Chronicle Jan/Feb 22

By David Greenberg

Being the caregiver of an aging loved one can be overwhelming. Chances are it seems like crisis mode is the normal state of affairs for families in this situation.

One of the most important things to know if you are a caregiver in this kind of situation is that you are not alone. In fact, alone is the worst situation you can put yourself in because that is generally a condition that is doomed to fail. And when it does it can have a horrible impact on not only the loved one for whom you’re caring but for yourself as well.

Fortunately, in our community, there are a number of valuable resources for caregivers to help them from becoming overloaded.

One of the most beneficial, but possibly little known or understood, is the SHINE (Serving Health Insurance Needs of Elders) Program. A service of the Florida Department of Elder Affairs, locally SHINE is administered through Elder Options. Its role is to provide unbiased Medicare and health insurance counseling and information to Medicare beneficiaries, their families, and caregivers.

Explaining the full scope and service of SHINE could fill this newsletter. Instead, for now, we are going to focus on two specific areas of what SHINE can do for you.

The first is how to deal with the overwhelming information you receive about Medicare and other healthcare components of insurance. There is a great deal of information to consider when making these decisions, and there are a number of people, businesses and organizations that want to help you make these decisions.

That’s obvious based on the number of sales pitches Medicare beneficiaries get – especially during the open-enrollment period.

“When you are caregiving in crisis, which is most of the time, people often overlook the possibility of being fully informed on all these issues,” said Cheryl Harris, the local SHINE liaison. “As caregivers, we certainly want to avoid surprises. And as a caregiver, it’s often hard to deal with one more thing.”

Because SHINE is not representing any insurance companies or Medicare itself, the SHINE counselor can and will give you the best recommendation for you and your situation.

Additionally, if your loved one has not yet set up a Medicare. gov account, the SHINE counselor can help do that. And, in your account, you can designate a representative who can deal with Medicare for you. If you choose, that representative can be your SHINE counselor.

Also, your SHINE counselor can help you find the right pharmacy to get your medications at the best cost and help you deal with Medicare costs and charges.

The second area of SHINE’s services we want to focus on here is protecting your loved ones from potential scammers. “As caregivers, we always want to trust people who say they are here to help,” said Kristina Young, the SHINE Outreach & Education Specialist at Elder Options. “But it is imperative to do our due diligence to protect ourselves and our loved ones. Seniors are the biggest targets when it comes to scammers.”

There are a variety of scams that are popular right now. One of the biggest is spoofing a local doctor’s office. “Is that call really from your doctor’s office?” said Young. “The best thing is to simply not answer the phone. Let them leave a message. Then call your doctor’s office back to confirm. Scammers will try to keep you on the line. The more often you answer, the more they are going to call you. If you do answer, they will ask for personal information, like your Medicare number. Your doctor already has that information. If you get that question, hang up.”

Scams are done by phone, email, text or knocking on your door. Some of the most common scams right now are related to genetic testing or audio genetic testing, ambulance, COVID-19, durable medical equipment (DME), medical identity theft, and pharmacy and prescription. So, it is important to be cautious when dealing with people you don’t know and to monitor your Medicare charges online. “If you fall victim once, it is likely to happen again, especially after medical identity theft.” said Young.

So, it is worthwhile to embrace SHINE as one of your resources to protect your family and loved ones. To learn more, you can call SHINE locally at 800-262-2243 or go online to floridashine.org