At risk for glaucoma? Find out before it’s too late

At risk for glaucoma? Find out before it’s too late

Do you have diabetes, a family history of glaucoma, or are you African American and age 50 or older? If so, your risk of getting glaucoma may be higher. With the start of a new year, it’s the perfect time to schedule a regular eye exam to check for glaucoma. You can prevent vision loss by finding and treating problems early.

Find out more about Medicare’s glaucoma screening coverage.

Get smart: know when antibiotics work

By: Patrick Conway, M.D., Director and Chief Medical Officer, CMS Center for Clinical Standards and Quality

As we enter flu season, you may seek fast relief when illness strikes, but think twice before asking your doctor for antibiotics. Did you know that if you have a cold or flu, antibiotics won’t work for you? That’s because antibiotics cure bacterial infections, not viral infections. Every time someone takes antibiotics, sensitive bacteria are killed, but resistant germs may survive to grow and multiply.

Antibiotic resistance, caused by overuse and misuse of antibiotics, is one of the world’s most pressing public health problems. These drug-resistant bacteria—which were once easily treatable—can now cause significant harm and suffering. When antibiotics fail to work, we get longer-lasting illnesses, need more doctor visits or extended hospital stays, and more expensive medications.

If you or a loved one lives in a nursing home, pay close attention to when antibiotics are prescribed. Roughly  2 out of 3 nursing home residents get at least one course of antibiotics each year, yet nearly 27,000 residents end up with antibiotic-resistant infections each year. These infections are often severe, difficult to treat, and lead to more hospitalizations and deaths among people over 65.  If you have questions, please ask your health care provider.

The CDC has marked November 12—18 as Get Smart About Antibiotics Week. You can take several steps to make certain you’re using antibiotics properly:

  • Take antibiotics only to treat a true bacterial infection. It should be for only as long as your doctor prescribed to treat the infection, to reduce your risk of getting the infection again, or to reduce the risk to those around you.
  • Always talk to your doctor before taking an antibiotic to be sure it will treat the infection you have.
  • Never take antibiotics for a viral infection, such as a cold, cough, or the flu. Antibiotics won’t cure your virus, they won’t keep those around you from getting the illness, and they won’t help you feel better. In fact, taking antibiotics when you have a virus may do you more harm than good, because you increase your risk of getting an antibiotic-resistant infection later.
  • Not sure if you have a virus, which can’t be treated by antibiotics? Get smart—read this chart!

Antibiotics won’t help you recover from the flu, but keep yourself from catching the major flu viruses in the first place by getting your flu shot! It’s free for people with Medicare, once per flu season in the fall or winter, when given by doctors or other health care providers (such as senior centers and pharmacies) that take Medicare.

Medicare resources for your loved ones

More than 66 million Americans care for loved ones who have a chronic illness, disability, or frailties that come naturally with old age. Nobody is in a better position than family caregivers to help loved ones manage their health and health care, like medicines, treatments, diets, and exercise. Only you know what’s most important to you and your loved ones – that’s why we want to be sure you have all the information you need to make the best decisions.

During Open Enrollment – which ends on December 7th – it’s worth your time to review and compare your loved one’s coverage choices. Only you can decide what mix of benefits and costs will work best with your loved one’s needs and budget. Now is the time to look at all of the health and drug plan options in your area. If you still need help comparing plans, call 1‑800‑MEDICARE. 

Looking for more information and support? Our caregiver resources have tip sheets, videos, and practical information for caregivers, including tips on what Medicare covers, planning for the future, and taking care of yourself. You can also sign up for our caregiver e-newsletter, so you’re always informed about Medicare issues that affect you and your loved one. We know you’re juggling a lot, so we put it all in one place to save you time.

For even more information, check out the Administration on Aging’s Eldercare Locator and the National Family Caregivers Association.

Keep your loved ones healthy – take them to the doctor

Who doesn’t want another reason to celebrate? This year add a new holiday to your family’s calendar – Take Your Loved One to the Doctor Day on September 20th. After all, what’s a better reason to celebrate than the good health of the people you love?

The best way to stay healthy is to live a healthy lifestyle. Your loved one can live a healthy lifestyle and prevent disease by exercising, eating well, keeping a healthy weight, not smoking, and taking advantage of Medicare’s preventive services.

Preventive services can find health problems early, when treatment works best, and can keep your loved one from getting certain diseases. The first “Welcome to Medicare” preventive visit and yearly “Wellness” visit are a key part of a healthy lifestyle. 

Schedule a doctor’s appointment today, and as long as the doctor accepts assignment there’s no cost. Now that’s something to celebrate! 

“Medicare & You” goes paperless

Love your red, white, and blue “Medicare & You” handbook? Did you ever think it would be nice to get the same information online? Knowing that the number of people 65 and over using the web has tripled in the past 10 years, we thought it would be a good idea too. And, now we’ve got some great news!

As part of the new Medicare.gov, you can go on the web and access all the same information found in your printed handbook. You can learn what’s new for the year, how Medicare works with your other insurance, get Medicare costs, and find out what Medicare covers. Even better, the handbook information on the web is updated regularly, so you can instantly find the most up-to-date Medicare information.

You can also do a lot of things on your own like replace your Medicare card, change your address, sign up or make changes to your Medicare coverage, and find out important date. All this in time for October 15 – the start of open enrollment.

Take advantage of some other great features to get just want you need:

  • Search quickly for what you want and print only the pages you need, while getting the latest, up-to-date official Medicare information, including the most recent list of available plans
  • Get “Medicare & You” in different formats like large print, eBook or audio
  • Subscribe to get an e-mail when information is updated
  • Access personalized information

And, if you’d like to trade in your printed copy for a paperless version, we’ve got you covered. You can choose to get your next “Medicare & You” handbook electronically by using the “go paperless” option. In a few simple steps, you’ll be all set. Sign up today and we’ll send you an e-mail including a link to the new online Medicare & You. It’s instant, current, and convenient.

 

Get yearly prostate cancer screenings

 Did you know prostate cancer is the most common cancer in American men?

Help prevent prostate cancer from affecting you or the men in your life. If you’re a man who’s 50 or older, make sure you get screened for prostate cancer every 12 months.

Your Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance) covers 2 tests to help find prostate cancer early, when treatment works best:

  • Digital rectal exam—You pay 20% of the Medicare-approved amount after the yearly Part B deductible.
  • Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) test—Free to all men with Medicare 50 and older (coverage for this test begins the day after your 50th birthday).

Also, whether you’re seeking coverage information on prostate cancer screenings or another item, service or test, quickly find what’s covered by visiting our newly redesigned website.

Learn more about prostate cancer by visiting the American Cancer Society, the National Cancer Institute, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Early detection matters: get screened every 12 months.

The New Medicare.gov: Making Medicare Information Clearer & Simpler

Did you notice something new today? Medicare.gov has a new design that makes it faster and easier for you to answer your Medicare questions.

We know Medicare.gov is your trusted source of online Medicare information.  That’s why we worked more than 2 years improving the things you use most. We did interviews and focus groups with people like you and the people who help you with your Medicare questions to help us find out what matters most to you. And, we used that feedback to make the website better.

The new Medicare.gov includes features not available before, like:

  • Many ways for you to do the most common tasks, like finding out about costs, coverage, and plans, through several paths — right from the homepage
  • Action-oriented labels to help you get the information you want faster
  •  Design that works on mobile devices, like tablets and smartphones, so you can get information anytime, anywhere, and in the most convenient format for you

The new Medicare.gov is just one of our efforts over the past year to make it easier for you to understand your Medicare. Whether it’s putting our information in simple, straightforward language so you can understand it the first time you read it or improving the design of the “Medicare Summary Notice ” so you can better understand your Medicare claims,  we’re committed to making Medicare information clearer and simpler.

Check it out and tell us how we did—send us a tweet (use #medicaredotgov)

Protect Your Health with Covered Shots

You take your car for scheduled maintenance service just to make sure it’s fine, right? And, like most of us, you have things like car and homeowners insurance just in case you need it. Shouldn’t you take just as much precaution with yourself to make sure you stay healthy? Keeping your immune system strong is a lifelong, life-protecting job, but we’ve got you covered. Your Medicare preventive benefits include 3 shots:

  1.       Flu Shots—Covered once a flu season in the fall or winter.
  2.       Hepatitis B ShotsCovered for people at high or medium risk for Hepatitis B (usually a series of 3 shots).
  3.       Pneumococcal ShotCovered to help prevent pneumococcal infections (like certain types of pneumonia). Most people only need this shot once in their lifetime.

Getting your shots has never been easier. As we approach the fall season, you’ll see these shots offered in many places, such as your local pharmacy, so make sure you take advantage of them. As long as the supplier or doctor accepts assignment for giving the shot, you pay nothing.

You’re way more important than your car or house so make the time to stay healthy.

Coming August 2012 – a new Medicare.gov

We’re getting ready to unveil a redesigned Medicare.gov that will make it easier and faster for you to get answers to your Medicare questions. With the new website, you’ll find more ways to get to information you need, like costs, covered services and items, and plans that fit your needs. In the meantime, keep visiting Medicare.gov – the official online source for your Medicare information.

 

You’re not alone – caregivers share their stories

Even when it’s a labor of love, caring for an aged, seriously ill or disabled friend or family member can be hard, and you may wonder whether anybody can understand what you’re going through. Actually, many people can relate to your situation—did you know nearly 66 million Americans serve as caregivers? It’s difficult to wrap your mind around a number that large, which is why we created Caregiver Stories.

Meet James Patterson. James became a caregiver to his wife on New Year’s Day 2005, after she was hospitalized with complications from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). As with many others in his situation, he didn’t just wake up that day and choose to become a caregiver. “It’s a very long process, becoming a caregiver, and you never realize you’ve begun until you have a chance to reflect.”

According to James, being a caregiver is a big responsibility, one that can be isolating. “I think men, in particular, tend to think they can handle everything themselves and are not as comfortable asking for help,” he says. “That’s a mistake—it’s important to get help when you need it and have support structures in place.”

James suggests that caregivers take some time for themselves when and if they can. Two or 3 times a week, he has a caregiving helper come and stay with his wife for a few hours.

“These breaks are extremely important because I can get chores or errands done or go play a game of golf,” he explains. “As a caregiver, you can never really get away—you’re always there. But, if you can find time for something else and get away from your daily routine even for a short while, it can be very rejuvenating.”

Although the physical demands are great, he also notes the emotional weight that many caregivers carry. “A struggle I deal with as a caregiver is that you don’t always get a ‘thank you’ for your hard work because it becomes expected and part of the routine, which can sometimes make you frustrated or angry. However, my actions are just part of our way of our life, so ‘thank-yous’ aren’t needed or expected anymore, and when one comes along, it’s a really big deal.”

His “best advice” for new caregivers: “Be patient and be in it for the long haul. Get as much information as possible and know that people are there to support you.” James describes the resources at Ask Medicare and the National Institute on Aging as invaluable. “They cover everything from bathing to hygiene to incontinence. I’m learning something new every day. I can show the materials available to my wife and we can read them together so she can help me help her.”

If James’ story inspired you or gave you food for thought about your caregiver experience, then please consider sharing your best tips and lessons. Write about your experience and send a photo to caregiverstories@cms.hhs.gov–we may add your story to our website!