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Caring for Aging Parents: Four Health Care Facts to Know

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As we reluctantly become “adult children caring for aging parents,” this additional responsibility is overwhelming and potentially scary. Understanding the basics of your aging parent’s healthcare options can help you feel better, because you will be prepared if their healthcare needs change. Here are four common myths and facts:

Myth: if my mom needs help at home, Medicare will pay for it. Fact: Medicare pays for home health care, if you qualify, for a time-limited period. Home health care is comprised of skilled care provided by a licensed clinician to help one regain their previous function level. So if your mom had a planned surgery for which she was hospitalized, she may qualify to receive short term help once she is discharged home. Medicare services are not designed to provide supervision and general help with everyday activities like getting out of bed, showering, or even moving safely around one’s home. These services, called Private Duty or Private Services, are funded primarily through self-pay, and some long term care insurance policies. This is a helpful distinction, because you will want to choose a home care company that is licensed to provide both types of services, Medicare home health and Private Services. By doing so, you’ll avoid having to research and work with multiple companies if your aging parent needs home care.

Myth: Medicare and Medicare Advantage Plan are the same. Fact: they are not the same. Your aging parent may have traditional Medicare, or they may have health insurance benefits as part of a pension plan that offers Medicare Advantage plans (for example). The main takeaway here is, because there are different options, you’ll want to ensure your aging parent has chosen the right plan for their current needs. You can make changes to their insurance plan choice every year during Medicare Open Enrollment. It is also important to note that if they have a qualifying event, they may revert from an advantage plan to traditional Medicare if it better meets their needs. Medicare.gov is a great, free resource to learn about different plan options.

Myth: your doctor or hospital social worker chooses your home care company for you. Fact: it is a federal requirement that you are given the opportunity and information to choose a home care provider that is right for you. The hospital discharging your aging parent may promote their own home care company and/or leave you feeling overwhelmed to make this big decision when you don’t feel like you are capable of doing so. Bottom line: ask for choices and ensure you choose a company that provides both Medicare and Private Services.

Myth: my aging parent is doing fine, I don’t need home care. Fact: it’s not too early to understand the basics so you can make good choices if needed, and help at home can be a proactive and positive resource for both of you. For example, having a Private Services nurse pack your dad’s medications weekly in a pill organizer, and record a quick wellness check during their visit, is proactive. Doing so helps you feel like Dad is safe, and that you’ll catch something early if a health issue arises. Choosing a company that offers both Private and Medicare services means that if his needs change, you can arrange to add Medicare services through this same company.


Whether your goal is proactive care, or your aging parent has suddenly declined, Cooperative Home Care is pleased to help you when you call 1-800-HOMECARE (in MO) or 1-800-466-3227; in Illinois call 618-466-3227.

We offer both Medicare and Private Services, and our Intake Nurse will answer your call directly, to help you identify and access the resources you need for your specific situation.