Our recent research piece, “Aging in America,” described the current state of long-term care for seniors. It isn’t a particularly pretty story. Too many people already suffer under our current, cobbled-together system. Change is needed.
But large-scale, systemic change takes time. If you are an older patient, a person with older family members, or a caregiver, be prepared to conduct your own research when developing a care plan for the future. Luckily there are a lot of resources that can help you understand your eligibility for services, apply for financial assistance, or streamline your care. If you don’t own a computer or have a poor internet connection, try calling the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services at 877-267-2323 for Medicaid or 800-633-4227 for Medicare. If you do have Internet access, review our curated list of resources below.
Know your options
As we age, we can sometimes lose control over our affairs and healthcare decisions. It’s important to understand your options before that happens and plan appropriately. Then, if you do end up needing long-term care, you’ll be prepared.
The Administration for Community Living is an excellent resource. Get started with LongTermCare.gov, where you can learn:
- The basics of long-term care: what is it, who needs it, etc.,
- How to find local long-term care providers and facilities, and
- The pros and cons of living at home versus in a nursing or assisted living facility.
Next stop: Medicaid.
Know your state Medicaid
As noted in “Aging in America,” long-term nursing care, whether provided in a facility or at home, is paid for by Medicaid, not Medicare. Since every state can choose how to implement their Medicaid programs, every state has their own set of rules for senior care.
To learn about your state’s program, Medicaid.gov is a great place to start. Here you can:
- Check your eligibility and apply for Medicaid,
- Find the website and phone number for your state’s agency, and
- Find fairly up-to-date overviews of Medicaid programs in every state.
Next, find great insights at the American Council on Aging. This organization is focused on helping elderly patients navigate Medicaid to get the long-term care they need. Here you’ll find detailed information on:
- The many factors that affect Medicaid eligibility,
- How to successfully apply, and
- What Medicaid will and won’t cover.
This site is particularly useful if you expect to have a large number of financial assets that could affect your eligibility.
To get a sense of what your state’s Medicaid can offer in regards to home healthcare, take a look at the Kaiser Family Foundation’s data. While this chart does date from 2018, it can give you an idea of what you can expect Medicaid to cover.
Compare nursing facilities
If you expect to eventually enter a nursing facility or are helping a family member find placement, start your search on the Medicare.gov site. Here you can search for and compare care facilities as well as home health services and long-term care hospitals in a given geographic area. Select a few facilities and click “Compare” to see the following:
- Distance from the zip code or city searched,
- Overall star ratings, ratings for specific categories, and reports and data related to those ratings,
- Number of beds,
- COVID-19 vaccination rates,
- Whether the facility has been penalized for violations, and much more.
For further insight into a facility’s past, you might also check the “Nursing Home Inspect” tool created by ProPublica. This database collected 80,000 nursing home reports from across the country to help patients better understand the quality of facilities and identify red flags.
Seek out resources for diverse elders
Due to systemic racism and inequality, people who are BIPOC, LGBTQ+, or who do not speak English are at higher risk for poor health and poor care as they grow older. If you fit one of these groups, you may need to seek out additional resources when developing your care plan.
The Diverse Elders Coalition is a great repository of resources. Here you can find:
- Family caregiving training and tools,
- Useful information about Medicare and Medicaid, and
- A library of resources on a wide range of topics relevant to aging in diverse populations.
Many other organizations offer assistance and resources for specific groups.
- National Asian Pacific Center on Aging
- National Association for Hispanic Elderly/Asociación Nacional Pro Personas Mayores (Website currently unavailable.)
- National Caucus and Center on Black Aging
- National Indian Council on Aging
- The National Resource Center on LGBT Aging
- Southeast Asia Resource Action Center
Talk to your pharmacist about additional services
Finally, if you don’t need long-term care but would like to simplify your current care, talk to your pharmacist. Ask whether the pharmacy offers medication synchronization, also called “med sync” or “medication alignment.” Med sync ensures that all your prescriptions are ready at the same time every 60 or 90 days, which not only reduces the trips you make to the pharmacy but can also help you adhere to your prescription therapy.
Tired of sorting your own medications into a pillbox every week? Ask your pharmacist about adherence packaging, also known as “blister packaging” or “multi-dose packaging.” Instead of receiving bottles of pills, you’ll either receive sheets of foil- or plastic-backed blister packaging or a roll of individual packets. The individual cells or packets will hold all the pills you should take at a given time.
This can simplify your medication regimen, but it only works for oral solids that are taken at regular intervals; you’ll still need to manage as-needed drugs and non-solid formulations on your own. Ask to look at your pharmacy’s adherence packaging before signing up, too. Some adherence packaging can be hard to open with arthritic hands or may be useless for the sight impaired.
Automatic medication dispensers, like those by Hero Health, Medacube, and Pria, are a more high-tech alternative to pillboxes. While these dispensers can be expensive and are also limited to oral solid medications, they have many features that can simplify your care and improve your adherence to therapy.
If you can’t make it to the pharmacy at all, call your pharmacist and ask about ScriptDrop home delivery. Whether you need a refill of your daily medications or have a new and urgently-needed prescription, ScriptDrop is here to help.