I remember my years of carrying multiple Medicare cards for multiple elders. My billfold bulged like a Sunday newspaper. I once spent nearly a full day on the phone trying to get a replacement Medicare card for my mother who managed to throw hers away while cleaning out her purse.

Since that time, some things have changed and some have not. The need to carry multiple Medicare cards is the same. First, you need the primary Medicare card for Part A hospitalization, and for most people, Part B, for doctor bills and some equipment. If you have prescription coverage, you need a separate Medicare Part D card, and yet another if you choose supplemental coverage to Medicare Parts A and B. Still a handful – or I should say a purse full - if you are caring for more than one elder.

What has changed, however, is that a computer savvy senior or caregiver can accomplish a lot of Medicare research, and get a surprising amount of information, just by visiting the Medicare website. If my mother had lost her card today, I'd be able to accomplish online in half an hour or less what took me nearly a day to accomplish by phone a few years ago.

Medicare has re-designed its website for caregivers to make it more user friendly. Some of the useful resources you will find include:

  • Benefitscheckup site to see what benefits your elder may qualify for
  • Community support information through the Eldercare Locator
  • Assistance information for elders who have limited financial resources
  • Extra Help paying for Medicare

If you follow the link under Caregiver Topics you'll find:

  • Care that is covered by Medicare
  • How to locate a doctor
  • How to find the right hospital
  • The Nursing Home Compare tool
  • Payment options for nursing homes
  • Alternatives to nursing homes
  • How to locate a dialysis facility
  • Learning about hospice

You can also choose the "services" link and find tips on:

  • Staying healthy
  • Finding in-home health care services
  • Finding home health agencies
  • Long-term care options
  • Medical supplies

Other helpful links include:

  • National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys
  • National Clearing House for Long-term Care Information

Ask Medicare has my endorsement as a huge step forward in helping caregivers through a complicated system with far less frustration than in the past.

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