Autumn: Time for Pumpkins, Football and…. Medicare Open Enrollment

 For most, the fall season is synonymous with football, the beauty of autumn and everything and anything pumpkin flavored or scented. However, fall now includes a new seasonal tradition- shopping for the right Medicare plan during open enrollment season running October 15 through December 7.

Medicare provides health insurance benefits to over 52 million seniors and disabled people in the US¹. And that number continues to balloon as nearly 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 every single day, thus becoming eligible for Medicare. Due to this surge, Medicare is continually changing and must evolve to remain sustainable. The health insurance landscape for seniors really began to change in 2006 with the implementation of the Medicare Part D drug program and proliferation of Medicare Advantage plans. Medicare Advantage plans were created as a more cost-effective type of Medicare health plan offered by private insurance companies that contract with and serve as a substitute for original Medicare, which then provides recipients with their Part A and Part B benefits.

The new normal

This “new normal” was meant to give Medicare recipients more choice and the capability to do cost comparisons between plans that fit individual need and budget. However, the benefit of vast choice actually creates frustration and confusion for many and may cause “decision-making paralysis.” Research has found that because of this, many Medicare recipients just go with last year’s plan because they feel it’s too much effort to switch plans. That decision could come back to haunt them. Their plan, that was perfect last year, now may have higher premiums and co-pays or may no longer really meet their specific healthcare needs.

Medicare’s labyrinth of terminology, benefit options, rules, penalties, and a myriad of forms can be staggering, especially if you’re technologically challenged due to much of the research and registration options being online. But again, annual open enrollment is said to encourage Medicare recipients to spend their money more wisely, take better care of themselves, and get better personalized health coverage. It may also be said that our health and welfare should at least be worth this effort once a year. These are all great points, but we must find a happy medium.

Medicare recipients should take more responsibility for their choice of healthcare coverage and should feel fortunate to have these choices. However, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and private insurers need to streamline the process and make it a little easier, especially for seniors. Congress needs to enact legislation to consolidate Medicare Advantage and Part D plan choices and standardize options in order to facilitate informed decision-making by Medicare plan enrollees.² Granted it is not an easy fix, but MedicareRights.com shares an interesting article,”50 Wishes for Medicare’s Future,” which details a number of ideas and solutions to fix Medicare and its delivery system.

Until then, those eligible for Medicare can find help on sites like MedicareInteractive.org, which provides a number of resources and tips such as:

  •   If enrollees want to join a stand-alone prescription drug plan (PDP), they can use the Plan Finder tool on Medicare.gov. The Plan Finder tool compares plans based on the drugs you need, the pharmacy you go to and your drug costs. And remember coverage changes every year. The cost of your medications may look very different from the year before.

  •   If enrollees want to join a Medicare Advantage Plan, they can call 1-800-Medicare or go to Medicare.gov to find out what plans are available in their area. Once they receive the list of plans, they can check the plan websites to see which best fits their needs and budget.

  •   Call or visit the website of your State Health Insurance Assistance Program or SHIP. Your state SHIP can help you to understand all of your Medicare coverage options, and counselors are available to meet with enrollees one-on-one, in person at no cost. In Pennsylvania, the APPRISE Program offers SHIP.

Lastly, Messiah Lifeways Coaching will be hosting 2 open enrollment events on Oct. 25 and November 15. APPRISE counselors will be on hand to offer FREE 1 hour one-on-one counseling sessions. If you live in the Cumberland County area, please schedule an appointment by calling 717.240.6110. Slots are going quickly! For other counties and locations, call the State hotline at 1.800.783.7067 or call your local Area Agency on Aging. 

For additional resources on Medicare, check out the links below:

¹CMS.gov
²medicarerights.org/50wishes/streamline-enrollment

Revised form Oct. 2017

 

Supporting Adult Day Clients and Caregivers

It is not an easy thing to walk alongside and provide care for a beloved spouse or loved one as he or she suffers the effects of Alzheimer’s disease. As we all know, Alzheimer’s disease is a thief – it steals not only memories, but also a person’s sense of identity and purpose as he or she loses the ability to do the things that have long been part of daily life.

Bob Gates lived this journey first-hand after his wife of more than 60 years, Audrey, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in July 2011.

Bob and Audrey met in 1st Grade and had their first date at the young age of 16. After graduating from high school, the couple married in 1954 and built a life together as best friends and partners. Bob’s career with Bell of PA and Bell Atlantic, which we now know as Verizon, spanned more than 40 years and took the couple to Sunbury, Pottsville, and Altoona before they settled permanently in the Harrisburg area. Audrey was a full-time mother and homemaker, raising their three children and actively helping with grandchildren as well. The couple’s favorite hobby was traveling. They traveled to many different places on the east coast, but returned time and again to Myrtle Beach, SC where they camped right on the water. An outdoorsy family, the Gates enjoyed camping, fishing, hunting, and time spent together around the campfire. The close-knit family also practiced a strong faith, which led them to serve their church and the community out of love for the Lord.

It is no surprise then, that after receiving Audrey’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis, Bob and family banded together to care for Audrey at home for as long as possible. As Audrey’s needs increased and became overwhelming, Bob found respite and support through the Adult Day program on the campus of Messiah Village where Audrey became a client in January 2017. Bob’s objectives in enrolling Audrey in Adult Day were to provide her with increased socialization, keep her physically active and stimulated, and slow the progression of her mental decline. Additionally, Bob knew that enrolling Audrey in Adult Day would allow him to recharge and renew himself as her primary caregiver and give him time to downsize their home and prepare for the next stage of life – the couple’s move to their apartment in Village Square.

“Adult Day is a godsend,” Bob says. “The team members are the most compassionate, caring, professional people I have ever seen. They are genuine – it is not an act. It takes a special kind of person to do what they do, and they are just that…special.”

The Gates moved into Village Square in November 2017, and Bob continued to take Audrey to Adult Day every day until February 2018, when Audrey was discharged from Adult Day and welcomed to the Manchester neighborhood. Now, Bob visits Audrey daily, often utilizing Kibler Bridge, which connects Village Square to Village Center. In the Manchester neighborhood, Audrey continues to receive top-notch care, and Bob is grateful for the ways that team members show love and compassion to Audrey each day.

Despite the challenges and – yes, the sadness – of Bob and Audrey’s journey, Bob is grateful. “We are highly blessed,” he says. “I have met so many people at Messiah Village that I treasure, and I am blessed to be in a beautiful community surrounded by friendly, helpful, compassionate, Christ-like people.”

Written by: Rachel Pease, Director of Development at Messiah Lifeways
Originally published in “Spolight” A Newsletter for Donors and Volunteers, September 2018

 

New Vice President of Mission Advancement Named

Messiah Lifeways President & CEO Curt Stutzman recently announced that Alicia B. Titus will join the Executive Team as Vice President of Mission Advancement on October 22.  Alicia will oversee Marketing, Donor & Volunteer Development, and the Welcome Centers.

Stutzman shared, “Alicia comes to this role with a deep understanding and knowledge of the senior living industry and important market trends. She has indicated that she appreciates our culture, our mission, and core values and looks forward to putting her expertise into action at a senior living community where she can forge relationships with residents and team members alike.”

Titus comes to Messiah Lifeways from LeadingAgePA where she was Senior Vice President of Education and Research. She’s earned two undergraduate degrees in Marketing & Information Systems from Penn State University and is pursuing an MBA with a concentration in Healthcare Management from Lebanon Valley College. An alumnus of Bishop McDevitt High School, Alicia lives in Harrisburg with her husband and son.

Pumpkins and Leaves and Hay Bales . . . Oh My!

I came home from a weekend away last week to discover pumpkins, colored leaves, and hay bales adorning the neighbor’s porch. A sudden sense of sadness and indignation washed over me. It’s not fall yet! Don’t make me say goodbye to summer until I have to!

There is nothing inherently wrong with fall – crisp air and apples, comfy sweaters and boots, vibrant foliage and mums, football tailgating and soccer are all lovely reasons to embrace this season.

However, fall in Pennsylvania also means that cold weather and winter are around the corner. And for that reason, I will always have a love-hate relationship with fall.

I can already feel the dread rising up like bile in my throat. Dramatic? Ok – forget the bit about the bile.

But in all seriousness, I fight that dread throughout the cold months. I find it all too easy for complaint after complaint to roll off my tongue, for discontent to lodge itself like a stubborn splinter into my heart.

What’s a girl to do?

Gratitude is the only antidote. No, gratitude doesn’t change the weather or how I feel about the cold, but it does change my heart and my focus.

Practicing gratitude can happen in countless ways: keeping a journal or gratitude jar, thankful praying, meditating on God’s goodness, mindfully walking, writing thank-you notes to those you appreciate, and the list goes on.

Turning our focus from the negative to the positive provides a wealth of benefits – other than a cessation of grumbling. According to an article in Forbes Magazine [click here],  scientific research reveals that gratitude increases empathy and reduces aggression. It also improves

  • physical health
  • psychological health
  • sleep patterns
  • self-esteem
  • mental strength

Instead of whining about how cold it is this year, I resolve to express gratitude in some way every day.

 

We’re delighted to have Kerry Hoke, Director of Pastoral Ministries, join the blogging team. Kerry has a Bachelor’s degree in English from Messiah College, graduate credits from Asbury Theological Seminary, and a Master of Arts in Spiritual Formation and Leadership from Spring Arbor University. She and her husband Bryan, who is the Bishop of the Atlantic Conference of the Brethren in Christ Church, have three daughters.

Messiah Lifeways Names Central PA CEO as New Board Chair

 

Mechanicsburg, PA —Messiah Lifeways® named Mona S. Engle to lead its non-profit board of directors. Engle has been a board member for 8 years, serving most recently as vice-chair to outgoing chair, Glenn P. Heisey, Esq.  Engle is CEO of Susquehanna Valley Women’s Health Care (SVWHC), a 50 provider, multi-site OB/GYN private practice located in Central Pennsylvania.  Mona is a graduate of Eastern Kentucky School of Nursing and has been in management roles for the past 30 years.

“I look forward to partnering with Mona as we lead this ministry into a new era,” says President & CEO Curt Stutzman. “She has deeply connected roots to our ministry and is a vibrant, articulate advocate for our mission.”

In the late 1970’s, Mona and her late husband, Dale Engle, often visited Messiah Village with their young children.  Dale was then the pastor at Crossroads Brethren in Christ, just across the street from the campus of Messiah Lifeways at Mount Joy Country Homes.  Engle shares, “When I consider my history with Messiah Lifeways, I think about belonging – belonging to a community where you are respected, appreciated, celebrated & above all, able to live life to the fullest during all of life’s journey.”

In addition to her role with Messiah Lifeways, she is a board member of the US Women’s Health Alliance and an active member of Living Word Community Church in York.

In her spare time she enjoys her 3 grandchildren, traveling, playing golf, and watching her favorite sport teams, the University of Kentucky and Penn State University.

Retirement Planning: Beyond Dollars & Cents

“Retirement is a time of great change, and a chance to begin an exciting new phase of your life. But like anything done well, it takes planning. While everyone thinks they are ready to retire, not everyone is truly prepared.” – Retirement Options Coaching

Financial planning for retirement is crucial. It takes center stage in retirement preparedness, as it should. Concerns such as, “have I saved enough, will I be able to cover [my/our] medical bills, or will I have enough to leave to my family?” are tough questions to plan for and to truly answer. To compound things further, despite the average life span in the U.S. continually climbing in the last 50+ years, retirement age has not kept pace. Therefore, an increasing number of people are living well beyond their expectations in retirement – sometimes 20 to 30+ years longer. And because they were not expecting to, they were wholly unprepared. A number of recent studies, including one from GoBakingRates.Com show that 1 in 3 Americans have no money saved for retirement, and the large majority don’t have enough saved. So without question, many of us need to do more (maybe a lot more) to get prepared. Hop to it!

But to narrow the point for this article, let’s be positive and assume you’re not a part of the unprepared mass, and you’ve taken the necessary steps towards financial preparedness. Now it’s on to the next step in retirement planning.

Embracing non-financial retirement plans and expectations

There are many other significant areas in retirement life that also require attention, planning and consideration aside from finances. We know many are financially unprepared, so it’s likely, many including those who are financially prepared, have done little to no planning or even considered asking other questions about their own retirement. ”What will I do to fill that time with purpose, meaning, and productivity? How do I plan to stay healthy, engaged and even flourish in retirement? Can I or must I reinvent myself? Do I need to work? What will that journey look like for possibly 10, 20 or 30+ years in retirement?”

Part of finding this balance and ensuring a positive experience in retirement is changing our attitude toward aging and embracing it as a time of gain, not loss. Messiah Lifeways, Coaching in particular, believes in changing the conversation about aging. In late 2016, we began to offer the Retirement Options Coaching (ROC) program to reinforce this ideal. ROC helps retirees plan for their next phase of life by assessing, focusing, and guiding retirees through a Life Options Profile™ which concentrates on 6 key life arenas:

  1. Career and Work
  2. Health and Wellness
  3. Finance and Insurance
  4. Family and Relationships
  5. Leisure and Social
  6. Personal Development

A Life Options Profile evaluates these six parts of retirement and provides personal, practical, and a relevant self-portrait of one’s lifestyle needs and strengths. It also provides insight and guidance on transitioning from your current lifestyle to a new retirement lifestyle. Suggested reading, powerful questions and client exercises work in conjunction with the Life Options Profile, which enables retirees to examine and plan for a more fulfilling, healthy, and productive lifestyle and can help balance many of the other attributes vital to a successful retirement.

How can you tell if you are prepared? Answer these eight short, seemingly straight-forward questions to help you determine if you are retirement ready.

In retirement, do you have a plan for…

…exercising your mind for continued, personal learning? Yes or No

…changes in income, health and/or lifestyle that may affect your financial security?  Yes or No

…maintaining your sense of purpose and self-worth? Yes or No

…how you will purposefully spend your time with fulfilling activities and interests?  Yes or No

…interaction with others to build and maintain enjoyable relationships? Yes or No

…managing family commitments to aging parents, children and grandchildren? Yes or No

…where you will reside? Yes or No

…making adjustments to ensure a healthy attitude towards life and retirement? Yes or No

Give yourself 1 point for each question you answered ‘yes’ and zero for ‘no.’ Then add up the total. If you scored a 6 or under, you could benefit from taking the Life Options Profile assessments and working with a Certified Retirement Coach to develop a personal retirement plan. To learn more about this valuable program, rates, or to schedule a free 30-minute consultation, contact the Messiah Lifeways Coaching office at 717.591.7225 or email Coach@MessiahLifeways.org.

 

 

Caregiver Absenteeism: a Growing Economic Burden

“There are only four kinds of people in the world: those who have been caregivers, those who are currently caregivers, those who will be caregivers, and those who will need caregivers.”

– Former First Lady, Rosalynn Carter

The Family Caregiver Alliance® defines a caregiver as, “an unpaid individual (for example, a spouse, partner, family member, friend, or neighbor) involved in assisting others with activities of daily living and/or medical tasks.” We can also define most caregivers as loving, caring heroes, who give of themselves unconditionally while in many instances sacrificing their own health and wellbeing, relationships and even employment.

According to research from the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, in 2015 there were roughly 34.2 million unpaid caregivers in the U.S. providing care particularly for someone over the age of 50. And the average age of a caregiver across the board was 49.2, which falls firmly in the primetime of a career and raising teens or even grandkids. Statistics also show them spending on average 24.4 hours a week providing care for a loved one. This research also indicated that 70% of working caregivers suffer work-related difficulties due to their dual roles. For instance, 61% of caregivers experience at least one change in their employment due to caregiving such as cutting back work hours, taking a leave of absence, receiving a warning about performance/attendance, among others. Furthermore, 49% arrive to their place of work late/leave early/take time off, 15% take a leave of absence, 14% reduce their hours/take a demotion, 7% receive a warning about performance/attendance, 5% turn down a promotion, 4% choose early retirement, 3% lose job benefits, and 6% give up working entirely.¹

Add all these stats and scenarios together, and you have a recipe for a residual burden on caregivers resulting in burnout, depression, poor health and a compromised commitment to their employers. This translates into poor work performance, loss of productivity, plus increases in absenteeism, health care subsidies, paid time-off, sick leave, and FMLA claims. Bottom line – caregiver absenteeism costs the U.S. economy an estimated $25.2 billion in lost productivity. ²

Employers must adapt

This problem will continue to trend upward, especially as the number of baby boomers surges and eventually grow older, frailer and more dependent. Employers will need to be more sensitive and proactive on this issue. Family Caregiver Alliance (FCA) offers employers a number of suggestions for removing barriers to equal employment such as adopting caregiver-friendly work policies and workplace flexibility, along with providing eldercare support, resources, and referral services to caregiver employees.³ [click here for the full list from FCA]. As Rosalyn Carter summarized, the potential for caregiving can affect us all, so the likelihood of being a caregiver and an employee simultaneously is a strong possibility. Are you prepared as an employer?

Messiah Lifeways Coaching encourages these ideals from FCA to employers, especially in the area of education and support. Messiah Lifeways Coaching will be offering its annual workshop entitled “Caregiver Solutions” on September 26, 2018. This workshop is designed for those seeking options, resources, and support as caregivers, especially for those who may be struggling to balance caring for a loved one and their own busy lives. The workshop is also open for professional development and education and to employers looking to gain a better perspective on the issue. Topics include: assessing and avoiding caregiver burnout, care options, costs, and making a plan. If you or a staff member would like to attend, please call 717.591.7225 or register online at www.MessiahLifeways.org/Events.

¹National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP (2015) Caregiving in the U.S.
²Gallup-Healthways. (2011). Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Survey: Caregiving Costs U.S. Economy $25.2 Billion in Lost Productivity. Based on the average number of work days missed per working caregiver, assuming $200 in lost productivity per day.
³Williams, J. C., Devaux, R., Petrac, P., & Feinberg, L. (2012). Protecting Family Caregivers from Employment Discrimination

2018 Senior Games

Exactly What do you Need to Fix Yourself?

Before you begin your journey to wellness, you need to be clear about where you want to go! If you just say something fluffy like, “I want to feel healthier,” you need to dive deeper because casual intention won’t get you there. Goals need to be more specific. For instance, if you’re overweight, your goal (or one of them) will probably be to lose a certain amount of weight. If you get tired at lunchtime and drag yourself around all day long, you’ll probably want more sustained energy. If you’re in pain, you’ll definitely want to reduce inflammation and get rid of the pain, preferably without drugs.

You can start right now to fix the things you want to change. Whatever you strongly visualize as the newer, younger, healthier version of yourself can come true. You need to want it badly enough to be willing to work for it. It takes a can-do attitude and a warrior spirit because you’ll most likely be needing to break some very old habits.

Don’t let your age be a cover-up for inaction. Never act your age and especially don’t use it as an excuse. “I’m XX years old, so of course I can’t do that.” “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” “I’m doing pretty well for my age.” We’ve all heard them, over and over and over. Defining yourself by your age can be your downfall. If you’re too old to do anything new, you’ll stagnate and likely slip into the health problems you have learned to expect with age. So never say “I’m too old.” Take those three little words right out of your vocabulary.

True stories of a few people I know…

I have a friend from Camp Hill who has been running at least three miles a day for over 30 years, rain or shine. Incredibly, he’s never missed a day! He’s now in his 70’s, thinks he’s a kid, and has no intention of stopping.

While visiting Key West, I watched a man in his mid-80’s walk unassisted and unprotected on a 30 foot long tightrope, 15 feet above the ground. Since I teach balance classes, I know how incredibly difficult this is, especially since everyone knows that people “lose their balance as they age.” He did his tightrope walk most evenings to entertain the crowds, and so far hasn’t fallen off. Maybe nobody ever told him he was too old to balance.

Two friends of mine who happen to take my classes are the picture of health and act like they’re half their age. One rides horses, mucks their stables, and feeds them – all year long. The other is a walker and teaches dyslexic kids as well as English as a Second Language classes. What do they have in common besides a zest for life (and no meds) — they’re both about the turn 80!

The lesson … don’t allow your age to define you and hold you back. You CAN learn new things and create positive change. Too many people get motivated to improve their health a little late, like when the doctor reads them the riot act or when they collapse on the floor and have to be carted off to the emergency room. Don’t you wait for that cataclysmic event to start your fix. Get started now!

Next time we’ll talk about the first steps you can take to clean up your diet. Till then, think hard about your goals.

 

Written by: Susan Charles, MS Pennsylvania State University and Messiah Lifeways Guest Blogger. After working for 25 years in sales and marketing for IBM and Lexmark, Susan undertook a second career in Wellness with a degree in holistic nutrition along with many fitness certifications with an emphasis on older adult exercise. Her new passion has formed the foundation for public speaking, writing, counseling, and exercise teaching as a second career. 

Who am I?

Introducing Susan Charles, MS Pennsylvania State University and Messiah Lifeways Guest Blogger

After working for 25 years in sales and marketing for IBM and Lexmark, Susan undertook a second career in Wellness with a degree in holistic nutrition along with many fitness certifications with an emphasis on older adult exercise. Her new passion has formed the foundation for public speaking, writing, counseling, and exercise teaching as a second career. Let’s hear a little bit from Susan and what she has in store for our readers.


I’m a new blogger for Messiah Village. I’m 70 years old, live in Hampden Township, and have seven grandchildren. I am healthy as a horse, and whatever I share in this blog, I have tried myself. I just hate it when people preach about things they read on the internet but haven’t made any effort to find out if they really work. You can call me Wellness Grandma because the things we’ll cover will include wide-ranging “wellness” topics. Some examples are purpose-driven living, healthy holistic nutrition, getting in shape for travel, keeping your mind sharp as you age, and much more.

Why am I writing about these things? I feel like my life is fabulous right now, and I revel in getting up every morning with energy and enthusiasm. I strongly believe all of us can do better and sometimes a little guidance helps. I just returned from 12 days of hiking very rigorous trails in the Himalayas, and last fall I went scuba diving with hundreds of sharks, rays and barracudas in Bora Bora. I feel great all the time and take no meds. Although I have lots of academic credentials, I think the results speak louder than the words of advice found in scholarly articles or just about everywhere. I live the life of wellness and love every minute of it. It has paid off very well, and I am enthusiastic to share some of the insights I’ve learned along the way. My goal is to be able to help you create a better version of yourself.

In future blogs, I hope to be able to have online discussions and make this information more interesting and helpful for you! So, let’s get started…

At Messiah Village you hear about embracing life more fully, which is something I hope all my readers would like to do. This blog will generate ideas offering concrete suggestions about how to fully embrace life and improve your overall wellbeing. There will be lots of wide-ranging topics and suggestions. For example, we will discuss things about how to keep your mind sharp, how to create more energy, how to make healthier food choices, and lots more. Hopefully, you’ll want to incorporate some of these suggestions into your daily life.

Let’s get started

Healthy eating is a perfect place for us to start. In terms of results. It offers terrific odds for success because a positive change in eating habits will make you look and feel better than just about any other single thing you can do.

It’s easy to form bad eating habits, and most of us do. Many fast foods, sweet foods, fried foods, and greasy foods taste incredibly good, and so we eat them regularly. Replacing them with healthy food is a process that takes some knowledge of better options and (you will probably hate this word) willpower.

The word willpower has gotten a bad rap in the food world because of its association with dieting. But we won’t use it to mean starving yourself like some half-crazed person on a low calorie diet who beats themselves up later because they couldn’t stick with it. In fact, that kind of dieting is virtually guaranteed to fail. We’ll elaborate on this whole issue in the future because it’s worth a bit of digging in.

What we mean by willpower is about developing a willingness, and later a preference, to reach for a piece of fruit instead of a junk food snack in the middle of the afternoon. Soon we’ll dive into topics such as how to get off processed foods, a mighty hurdle but critical to success. We’ll talk about the (boring?) topic of eating your veggies and loving them, which actually doesn’t have to be boring at all.

I hope you will follow this blog. Right now, just take my word for it; the dividends for making the effort will be well worth your trouble.

Stay tuned for future blog entries as Susan shares her insight, energy and adventures – helping to “Change the Conversation About Aging and Wellness.”