Choosing Urgent Care Or Emergency Room — Tips For Caregivers

Medical emergencies are not uncommon for our senior loved ones who are aging in place. Family caregivers are always at the ready to help their older adults navigate the options for emergency care and get the help they need quickly. Our guest contributor is Traci Blake a senior digital marketing consultant for MultiCare Retail Health based in Washington state. With more than 15 years of experience running digital marketing efforts for healthcare organizations, Traci would like to share her expert tips on how to select which facility can best meet your senior’s emergency medical needs for optimum results.

When you get into a pickle as a senior, it’s essential you get the proper healthcare you deserve. After all, it’s not uncommon for a small issue to get out of hand quickly. But if an accident or other medical concern occurs outside of your primary care provider’s normal hours, you might not know what to do.

Luckily, you typically have two choices: an urgent care center or the emergency room. While these terms are often used interchangeably, there are key differences that separate these healthcare facilities from each other. How to choose between the two often relies on the level of care they provide and the type of medical concern you’re experiencing. These factors often dictate which location you should visit.

A recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention claims that only 40% of seniors say they’re health is in very good or excellent condition. Regardless, a sudden spill or trip can be serious enough to put anyone in a hospital bed.

As a senior, it’s vital you get the care you deserve. Here’s how to identify which location is right for whatever medical malady might come your way.

When You Should Go to the Emergency Room

You should visit the emergency room if you’re experiencing a life-threatening issue or an issue you deem life-threatening. When it comes to your health, it’s better to err on the side of caution. If you’re concerned an illness or accident necessitates emergency care, you should always go to the emergency room.

The staff at your local emergency room are adept at treating a range of serious issues, whether you’re a baby or a senior. This includes anything from a serious fall to a sudden heart attack. The staff here are board-certified professionals who use the most up-to-date pieces of technology and medical equipment to treat you for 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Common conditions that are treated by emergency rooms include:

  • Head injuries, including concussions and other forms of trauma
  • Automobile accidents
  • Chest pains and difficulty breathing
  • Symptoms of a heart attack
  • Serious falls that have caused multiple injuries
  • Severe allergic reactions
  • Strokes or stroke symptoms
  • Severe or excessive bleeding
  • Loss of vision or loss of consciousness

The CDC also notes that up to 136.9 million people visited an emergency just last year. However, only 9% of these patients were actually admitted to the hospital. This just goes to show that the vast majority of these emergency room visits can also be treated elsewhere. This is when you should visit an urgent care clinic.

When You Should Visit an Urgent Care Facility

An urgent care center should be visited when you aren’t experiencing a life-threatening issue, but you are unable to visit your primary doctor. This could be because your doctor isn’t open, or you simply need timely care that your doctor can’t provide on short notice. Because urgent care centers typically have shorter wait times, this makes them a popular option for urgent health care needs.

Urgent care centers generally treat minor injuries and illnesses. For example, you wouldn’t go to the ER if you had symptoms of strep, but you might visit your local urgent care. As such, these locations are not often open all day and all night, but they usually keep extended hours during the day. Here are some of the most common reasons seniors might visit an urgent care clinic:

  • Minor fractures, strains, sprains, or pains
  • Small burns, cuts, or bruises
  • Cold and flu symptoms, including nausea, fever, vomiting, and diarrhea
  • Any minor issue that might require a lab test or X-ray
  • Seasonal allergy issues

As you grow older, you may find that it’s difficult to maintain your health in the way that you’re used to. While a slip in your 30s might not have spurred a second thought, something seemingly as innocuous is certainly liable to cause more trouble in your 70s. You want to make sure that in case something like this does cause trouble, you’re prepared to enlist the proper care.

If you’re struggling to identify which healthcare location you should visit, this guide will help you get the medical service you need when you need it most.

As with any medical condition, consult with your healthcare team to discuss what is best for your senior loved one so that you are prepared in the case of an emergency.

Additional Resources

For many family caregivers of seniors, a trip to a medical facility or even a doctor appointment can be upsetting. You may enjoy these articles to help you prepare to spend time in the Emergency Room or Urgent Care Center and possibly prevent emergencies in the home.

 

Caregiving is the Greatest Teacher for Future Planning

Our Guest Author this month will help many who are facing aging alone once their family caregiving role comes to an end. Carol Marak is the founder of CarolMarak.com, the Elder Orphan Facebook group, and @Carebuzz Facebook Live events. She is an expert about everything aging. Herself a former family caregiver, Carol is personally equipped with aging alone expertise.

 

No matter what stage of caregiving you’re in, if you’re past it, in the middle of it, or it’s a paying job, the lessons learned will equip you for your own older life.

That’s what happened to me.  After caring for both parents, I realized, “There’s no one here for me to do all that I’ve done for them.”  A thought like this will quickly jolt anyone into scrambling for a plan. I’ve always been the independent sort, and now I face growing older without a spouse, partner, or adult children.

Like me, there are many women, and men, who find themselves in the similar circumstances. Growing older alone. And most of you, I bet, are caring or have cared for a relative as well.

Carol Marak, Aging Alone Expert

The lessons learned give insights into what’s ahead.  At first it’s scary, but soon you’re grateful because you know so much and feel prepared, sort of. You know how to respond in an emergency, what’s needed when making serious medical decisions and legal matters, how to prepare for a medical treatment, the out-of-pocket costs of medical and other necessities, what to expect when you ring a doctor at 2:00 AM, and how to arrange for extra help.

Above all, you know that one day you will need help!  That’s wisdom you cannot buy.

But what people like me, aging alone, don’t learn from helping parents is, who do we count on for assistance, to help us respond to an emergency, make medical decisions, bring us a cup of soup, take us to the doctor, run errands, and more.

We learn what’s to come. But we don’t know where to start when planning for it or even thinking about it.

Growing older for my parents was totally different than what it is for me. They didn’t feel the need or urgency to prepare.  Growing older was part of life and they had no doubts about knowing who would step up for them.

Caring for an older person is hard. Period. No ifs buts or maybes. And making a plan for that is even more difficult. Period.  It’s takes time, effort, and patience. But making a plan when aging alone, well, that’s titanic. We question:

  • Will my money outlast me?
  • Who do I call in case of an emergency?
  • Who will be my health care proxy?
  • What if I’m all alone and lonely, who will come over?
  • What if I’m sick, who will look in on me?

That’s the short list.

Future Planning

These are the tough questions and they’re the reason I started working on my future plan soon after my dad passed away.  I’ve created a FREE starter kit for people who have the urgency to prepare. It’s yours for free to download here.

The thing about planning, it’s not meant to be a once and done deal. Instead, it expands our understanding of the kind of world we want and shows us a path we’d need to take to get to a better place–or, at minimum, the paths we need to avoid.

I believe we all need to have a sense of what’s next, and a vision of the kind of world we want. Planning for the future should deal with tomorrow’s problems–which if not addressed will inevitably leave us weakened, vulnerable, and blind to challenges to come.

Healthy Hearing Can Help Keep Your Brain Fit

It is Better Hearing and Speech month, so we invited Annette Mazevski, Au.D., Ph.D., to author an article for Senior Care Corner®.  Annette is the Manager of Technology Assessment at Oticon, a hearing aid manufacturer. She has more than 15 years of experience as an audiologist and researcher, during which she has guided hearing aid wearers through the fitting process and conducted hearing health research.

 

Is your loved one having trouble hearing but reluctant to try hearing aids? They’re not alone. Among seniors with hearing loss, fewer than one in three has ever used them.

And that’s unfortunate.

Numerous studies have shown a correlation between untreated hearing loss in older adults and a greater risk of cognitive decline. When hearing is compromised, the brain has to work harder to process information and struggles to fill in unheard consonants and syllables. Conversation becomes more difficult, and your loved one may withdraw from the social connections that are so important to brain health.

This isolation and resulting loneliness can increase their risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

The good news is that a solution as simple as wearing hearing aids can significantly reduce the risk of cognitive decline associated with hearing loss. Importantly, hearing aids can restore the ability to communicate, so your loved one stays socially active and engages in other brain-stimulating activities.

When seniors actively wear hearing aids, they’re more likely to connect with others, one of the primary ways to stimulate the brain.

A Healthy Hearing Check

Annette Mazevski, AuD PhD

Is a hearing evaluation part of your loved ones’ regular health screenings? If they haven’t had their hearing checked, help them see that they’re missing an important component of everyday health. Talk with them about scheduling an appointment with a hearing care professional. A hearing evaluation conducted by qualified hearing care professional is painless and non-invasive.

During the appointment, the hearing specialist will not only verify if your loved one has hearing loss but also explain the kinds of difficulties they will experience with the severity of their hearing loss. The hearing specialist will then guide them as they choose a hearing solution that is specifically tailored to their hearing loss and preferences.

Your loved one may be surprised to find that today’s hearing aids offer a range of discreet styles and attractive benefits. The newest technology in hearing aids is designed to carefully process speech, so it is presented to the brain as clearly and accurately as possible – the way the brain is best able to understand it. Oticon hearing aids with BrainHearing technology support the hard work the brain does, enabling people to hear better, with less effort so they can participate more actively in life.

Your loved one can also choose from a variety of advanced hearing aid features and functionalities, such as the ability to connect to cell phones, stream music and integrate with smart home devices.

Support Your Loved One with Hearing Loss

As people grow older, the shift from hearing well to hearing difficulties can be so gradual, they may not realize how much they are missing. They may unconsciously adjust their everyday activities and social interactions to cope with hearing difficulties, gradually diminishing their ability to live their life to its fullest.

You can be a valuable ally in helping your loved one see the benefits of better hearing. Regular hearing healthcare and actively wearing hearing aids can help your loved one stay engaged in life and connected to the people and activities they love.

It will be a win-win for all of you!

Share, Learn, and Connect at National Caregiving Conference

We invited Denise M. Brown to author an article for Senior Care Corner® because we believe her conference is a valuable opportunity and resource for family caregivers. In addition, in the article she offers a number of resources family caregivers will find valuable sources of support now and in the future.

Denise began working with family caregivers in 1990 and launched CareGiving.com in 1996 to help and support them. She’s the author of several books including The Caregiving Years, Six Stages to a Meaningful Journey.

 

We often hear that we need to take regular breaks from our caregiving responsibilities. Often those suggested breaks include ideas for self-care which mostly focus on pampering.

Pampering is more than manicures and pedicures.

Our National Caregiving Conference feels like pampering for your heart and soul. When you join us at our conference, you join a community that understands you and that welcomes you.

Often during our caregiving experience we can feel disconnected, wondering where we belong because our lives feel so much different that our friends, co-workers and neighbors.

At our conference, you connect with others in a similar situation and with those who totally get it.

Connecting and Learning

Because you connect with those who understand, you can develop deep and meaningful relationships with other attendees.

Elizabeth Miller, who helps care for her mom and operates her own business, HappyHealthyCaregiver.com, returns to our conference every year to re-connect with friends she met at our first year conference. She also will present for the third straight year because she wants to share what she learned the hard way about self-care.

Sharon Hall, who cares for her husband and cared for her mom until her mom’s death in March, presents at our conference to share what she’s learned about her husband’s disease, frontotemporal degeneration. She knows how confusing the FTD behavior can be and wants others to know that they can manage the difficulties. If you care for a family member with FTD, networking with Sharon will provide a sense of relief that only someone who truly understands can give.

At our conference, we’re not just educating each other. Professionals and researchers attend to learn from us what caregiving is like. Last year, researchers from Purdue University and Johns Hopkins University attended our sessions to hear directly from family caregivers about their experiences.

We’re the experts in caregiving which is why health care professionals and researchers attend our National Caregiving Conference – to improve their work by receiving our expertise.

This Year’s Conference

This year’s conference, which will take place November 7-10 at the Chicago Marriott O’Hare, will honor our amazing difference to our family, our carees, our community and ourselves.

This year, we want to create an experience that leaves you feeling different, either about yourself, your caregiving experience or your future.

We also want you to return home with new relationships which continue to pamper your heart and soul until our next conference in 2020.

Caregiver Resources

We understand that attending our conference can present a financial hardship. Visit CareGiving.com regularly to learn about contests you can enter for a chance to win cash and free nights at our conference hotel. Each year, we’ve given away at least $4,000 to help family caregivers and former family caregivers attend our conference.

In addition, you can check out these organizations if you need to hire or have help for your caree so you can attend:

  • Check with your local Area Agency on Aging to find out about programs which help you get a break.
  • Call the Department of Veterans Affairs National Caregiver Support Line at 1-855-260-3274.
  • Hospice offers a five-day respite benefit so the primary family caregiver can take a break.
  • Contact your local assisted living facilities and nursing homes to learn about short-term placement for your caree while you attend the conference.
  • Disease-specific organizations, like the Alzheimer’s Association and ALS Association, may offer respite programs.
  • Easter Seals offers programs for adults and children with disabilities.

If you cannot join us in Chicago, we hope you’ll watch our live, free broadcast of select conference sessions on November 8 and 9. As you watch our live broadcast, you’ll feel connected to a community that understands.

To learn more about our conference, please visit our conference webpage.

 

Medicare’s Coverage of Respite Care in 2019

Danielle Kunkle Roberts authored this article as a guest of Senior Care Corner®. She is the co-owner of Boomer Benefits and a Forbes.com Contributor. Her licensed insurance agency specializes in Medicare-insurance related products, helping tens of thousands of clients across 47 states.

The number of unpaid caregivers in the United States has reached over 40 million, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Often, a caregiving role falls upon a family member whether or not they are prepared to take on the difficult job.

The need for caregivers to have a break by way of respite care is well known amongst senior advocacy groups. Congress heard the plead for respite coverage and acted by passing the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018. One of the bill’s many additions to Medicare Advantage plans is respite care.

Medicare’s coverage of respite care will depend greatly upon what kind of Medicare plan a patient has. Let’s look at how both Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage plans will cover respite care in 2019.

Original Medicare and Respite Care

Original Medicare’s coverage of respite care was not changed by the 2018 legislation from Congress. Medicare strictly states that it will cover respite care if the patient has a terminal illness with 6 months or less to live. Meaning, a patient must be receiving hospice benefits to get their respite care covered.

Hospice Respite Care

Original Medicare will cover short-term respite care for up to 5 consecutive days. According to Medicare.gov, they will cover additional stays in the case they are not too frequent.

To be covered, the respite care will need to be provided in a Medicare-approved facility such as a hospice facility, hospital, or a nursing home.

Additionally, the care will generally be provided under the following circumstances:

  • The caregiver is facing physical or emotional fatigue
  • The caregiver has an appointment, obligation, or event to attend to
  • The caregiver is ill and can no longer take care of the patient on their own

Cost with Original Medicare

Fortunately, if the patient meets Medicare’s criteria, Part A will foot most of the respite care bill.  Typically, the patient will only be responsible for covering 5% of the Medicare-approved amount.

To break down an example of this, if Medicare approves $100 per day for inpatient respite care, this would leave only $5 per day for the patient to pay while Medicare picked up the rest.

Beneficiaries enrolled in Medigap plans may find that their plan covers the 5% coinsurance for them.

Medicare Advantage and Respite Care

Notably, Medicare Advantage (MA) plans have seen the biggest change from the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018. Respite care is one of the additions now allowed. If a carrier decides to include some of these new supplemental benefits to its plan design, it will usually allocate a set dollar amount and/or credit a certain number of hours of respite care that will be covered.

The respite care options that can be covered by some Medicare Advantage plans include:

Short-term residential facilities

Many assisted living facilities, nursing homes, and hospice centers offer short-term respite care as a service. There are typically rooms in these facilities that are specifically designed for temporary stays by their respite patients.

In-home respite care

In-home respite care is a great option for caregivers that need a temporary break but are in a situation where the patient cannot leave the home.

Adult day care

Caregivers can schedule respite care through an adult day care on occasion or a set schedule. This is a great change of pace and scenery for the patient while giving the caregiver a temporary break.

It is important to stress that not every MA plan will offer respite care coverage. There are still many plans that have yet to offer this coverage. With 2019 being the first year that plans can offer this coverage, analysts believe many more plans will offer the benefit in the future.

Summary

Respite care is a practical and necessary break for caregivers. This unpaid role can feel daunting to the caregiver at times and even cause stress on the patient. The newly available coverage of respite care through Medicare Advantage plans will be a welcome benefit to many beneficiaries and their family members.