If you are caring for a Medicare beneficiary, you’ve already got a lot on your plate. A senior’s health and medical coverage are constantly changing, so planning ahead as much as you can is key. Whether it’s managing their expenses or researching best care practices, it always helps to know what to anticipate.

Keep an Eye on Health Coverage and Costs

First, depending on what kind of Medicare supplement or Advantage plan your loved one has, you may need to anticipate higher out-of-pocket costs beginning in the new year. For example, the Medicare Part B deductible this year is $183 and the Part D deductible can be as high as $405. The Part A deductible also increased to $1,340 this year. If you are managing your loved one’s finances, keep in mind that you may experience a surge in expenses right at the start of this year.

When it comes to monthly premiums, I often advise against Medicare beneficiaries using automatic deductions as a method to pay them. That way, when premiums for drug plans or supplemental insurance increase, you aren’t suddenly left with a drawn-down bank account and wondering why everything is so expensive.

However, for some people, these kinds of automatic deductions can be beneficial. This payment method makes one less thing that you must pay attention to as a busy caregiver. If the Part D premium for your loved one isn’t too high and this is within your loved one’s budget, you might want to think about simply sending one payment for the entire year so that you no longer need to worry about it.

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Keep in mind that, if your loved one is enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, but you both decide it is not a good fit, you should use the Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period. This period lasts from January 1 until February 14 each year. During this time, beneficiaries can drop their Advantage plan, revert to Original Medicare (Parts A and B) and even join a Part D plan.

Managing an Elder’s Health Care

The beginning of the year is also a good time to make sure that all your loved one’s preventive services are up to date. Conflicting information in the media about mammograms, pap smears and PSA tests for older individuals makes it hard to know which ones are necessary and when. Speak with your loved one’s primary care physician for guidelines regarding these tests and others. On the other hand, screenings for cognitive decline and depression should be conducted regularly.

It is also important to make sure the PCP understands the medication interactions in older adults. Too often elders are prescribed benzodiazepines, SSRIs and other medications which are often not advisable for older adults. Work with the PCP to discuss the risks and benefits of a loved one’s daily medication regimen and any drugs needed for surgeries and other procedures. Seniors are often given excessive doses of anesthesia during operations, which can lead to temporary behaviors that mimic dementia (known as delirium). Discussing your concerns with the PCP will ensure that your loved one is getting the safest care possible.

Preparation and Self-Care Are Crucial

Your willingness to be a caregiver is one of the greatest gifts you can give your family and society. But, this responsibility can also become overwhelming and frustrating. Don’t forget to take care of your own physical and mental health. Stay up to date with your own preventive appointments, seek respite and try to stay organized to simplify your responsibilities. Planning ahead, asking appropriate questions and taking sound advice can be crucial to starting the new year off right for you and your loved one.