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Savvy Senior By Jim Miller
How To Keep Up With Your Medications
Dear Savvy Senior,
What devices can you recommend to help forgetful seniors keep up with their medications? My 76-year-old mother takes nine different prescription drugs and that doesn’t include all the vitamin supplements or over-the-counter medicines she takes. Any suggestions?
The challenge of juggling medications can be a problem for anyone, especially seniors who take multiple drugs for various health conditions. Here are some different solutions that can help.
Medication Helpers - Getting organized and being reminded are the two keys to helping your mom stay on top of her medication regimen. To help achieve this, there are a wide variety of inexpensive pill boxes, medication organizers, vibrating watches, beeping pill bottles and even dispensers that talk to you that can make all the difference. To find these types of products go to epill.com (800-549-0095) and forgettingthepill.com (877-367-4382) where you’ll find dozens of affordable options.
If your mom needs a more comprehensive medication management system there are several good options here too. One of my favorites is the Maya from MedMinder (medminder.com, 888-633-6463), a computerized pill box that will beep and flash when it’s time to take her medication, and will call her if she forgets. It will even alert her if she takes the wrong pills. This device can also be set up to call, e-mail or text caregivers letting them know if your mom misses a dose, takes the wrong medication or misses a refill. The cost for Maya is $20 per month which covers rental and service fees.
Some other good medication management systems worth a look at are TabSafe (tabsafe.com, 877-700-8600) and the Philips Medication Dispensing System (managemypills.com, 888-632-3261), both of which will dispense her medicine on schedule, provide reminders and will notify caregivers if her pills aren’t taken. These systems run under $100 per month.
Reminding Services - Another option that can help your mom keep on top of her meds is with a medication reminding service. These are services that will actually call, e-mail or text your mom reminders of when it’s time for her to take her medicine and when it’s time to refill her prescriptions. Some even offer extra reminders like doctor and dentist appointments, wake-up calls and more.
Companies that offer such services include mymedschedule.com, which provides free medication reminders via text message or e-mail. Their website can also help you make easy-to-read medication schedules that you can print out for your mom to follow. Other similar companies worth a look are rememberitnow.com which also offers free text message and e-mail reminders and pillphone.com which charges around $4 per month.
If, however, your mom doesn’t text or use a computer, OnTimeRx (ontimerx.com, 866-944-8966), Snoozester (snoozester.com) or Daily Pill Calls (dailypillcalls.com, 866-532-6855) may be the answer. With starting prices ranging between $4 and $10 per month, these services will call your mom on her home or cell phone (they can send text messages too) for all types of reminders including daily medications, monthly refills, doctor appointments and other events.
Or, if you’re looking to keep closer tabs on your mom, services like Care Call Reassurance (call-reassurance.com, 602-265-5968) or CareCalls (parentcarecall.com, 888-275-3098) may be a better fit. In addition to the call reminders to your mom’s phone, these services can be set up to contact you or a designated caregiver if she fails to answer or acknowledge the call. Care Call Reassurance costs $15 per month if paid a year in advance, and CareCalls costs $39 per month plus a one-time activation fee of $99.
Savvy Tip: If you have questions or concerns about the medications your mom is taking, gather up all her pill bottles (including all prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, minerals, and herbal supplements) and take them to her primary physician or pharmacist for a drug review so he or she can look for any potential problems.
Dear Savvy Senior
I would like to find out what kinds of veterans benefits are available to older vets and their spouses? My dad served four years in the Army during the Korean War, and I’m curious to see if there are any VA benefits that he or my mom may qualify for. What can you tell me?
That’s a great question. There are actually millions of older veterans and their families who don’t take advantage of the VA benefits they’re entitled to because they either don’t know they exist or they don’t think they would qualify for them. Here’s what you and your parents should know.
Underused Benefits - While the VA provides a wide range of commonly-known benefits and services for its veterans – like health care, education support through the GI Bill and home loans – they also provide a bevy of lesser-known benefits that were specifically created to help senior veterans and their family members, as well as their survivors.
To be eligible, however, your parent’s income and assets in most cases will need to be below certain limits, and your dad’s discharge from the military must have been under conditions other than dishonorable. Here’s a breakdown of four benefits that are often overlooked by older vets and their families.
Veterans Pension: This is available to limited-income veterans that are age 65 and older or are totally disabled, who served at least 90 days of active military service with at least one day of service during a period of war (stateside or overseas). To be eligible, your parent’s assets will generally need to be under $80,000 not counting their house and vehicle, and their annual “countable income” must be under $15,493 or $11,830 for a single veteran. Countable income includes earnings, disability and retirement payments, interest and dividends, and net income from business or farming, minus medical expenses if they exceed at least 5 percent of their total income.
Death Pension: This is available to low-income surviving spouses and dependents of wartime veterans whose death was not related to military service. To receive this benefit, a surviving spouse’s annual income must be under $7,933, or under $9,696 if she is housebound (minus medical expenses), with cash assets under $80,000.
Aid and Attendance: This little known benefit can help elderly veterans and their spouses pay for in-home care, an assisted living facility or nursing home care. It pays up to $1,949 per month, in addition to the monthly pension benefits. To qualify, the veteran must be 65 or older (or permanently disabled), have served during wartime and meet certain financial and medical requirements.
To qualify medically, one of your parents would need assistance with basic everyday living tasks like eating, bathing, dressing or going to the bathroom. Being blind or in a nursing home or assisted living facility for mental incapacity also qualifies.
And to qualify financially, your parent’s annual income as a couple (minus medical and long-term care expenses) cannot exceed $23,396; $19,736 for a single veteran; or $12,681 for a surviving spouse. And their assets must be less that $80,000, excluding their home and car.
Burial Benefits: Regardless of income and assets, this benefit provides all veterans, spouses and dependents a free burial at a national cemetery and a free grave marker. Unfortunately, funeral or cremation costs are not covered. However, some veterans may qualify for a $300 funeral allowance and $300 for a plot if they choose to be buried in a private cemetery. To learn more see www.cem.va.gov.
VA Resources - A good place to learn about all types of veterans benefits is at the online at www.ebenefits.va.gov or www.vba.va.gov. Or, contact your regional VA office or local veterans service organization, where you can get personalized help and assistance in filing claims. See www.va.gov/statedva.htm for contact information or call the VA benefits helpline at 800-827-1000.