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EVERY 67 SECONDS someone in the United States develops the disease.


An estimated 5.3 million Americans of all ages have Alzheimer’s disease in 2015.

  • Of the 5.3 million Americans with Alzheimer’s, an estimated 5.1 million people are age 65 and older, and approximately 200,000 individuals are under age 65 (younger-onset Alzheimer’s).
  • Almost two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer’s are women. Of the 5.1 million people age 65 and older with Alzheimer’s in the United States, 3.2 million are women and 1.9 million are men.
  • Although there are more non-Hispanic whites living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias than people of any other racial or ethnic group in the United States, older African-Americans and Hispanics are more likely than older whites to have Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.

The number of Americans with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias will grow each year as the size and proportion of the U.S. population age 65 and older continue to increase. By 2025, the number of people age 65 and older with Alzheimer’s disease is estimated to reach 7.1 million — a 40 percent increase from the 5.1 million age 65 and older affected in 2015. By 2050, the number of people age 65 and older with Alzheimer’s disease may nearly triple, from 5.1 million to a projected 13.8 million, barring the development of medical breakthroughs to prevent or cure the disease.


In 2015, an estimated 700,000 people in the United States age 65 and older will die with Alzheimer’s.

As the population of the United States ages, Alzheimer’s is becoming a more common cause of death. Although deaths from other major causes have decreased significantly, official records indicate that deaths from Alzheimer’s disease have increased significantly. Between 2000 and 2013, deaths attributed to Alzheimer’s disease increased 71 percent, while those attributed to the number one cause of death—heart disease—decreased 14 percent.

Alzheimer’s is the only disease among the top 10 causes of death in America that cannot be prevented, cured or even slowed.


In 2014, friends and family of people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias provided an estimated 17.9 billion hours of unpaid care, a contribution to the nation valued at $217.7 billion. This is approximately 46 percent of the net value of Walmart sales in 2013 and nearly eight times the total revenue of McDonald’s in 2013.

  • Approximately two-thirds of caregivers are women and 34 percent are age 65 or older.
  • Forty-one percent of caregivers have a household income of $50,000 or less.
  • Over half of primary caregivers of people with dementia take care of parents.
  • It is estimated that 250,000 children and young adults between ages 8 and 18 provide help to someone with Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia.

Alzheimer’s takes a devastating toll on caregivers. Nearly 60 percent of Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers rate the emotional stress of caregiving as high or very high; about 40 percent suffer from depression. Due to the physical and emotional toll of caregiving, Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers had $9.7 billion in additional health care costs of their own in 2014.


Alzheimer’s disease is one of the costliest chronic diseases to society.

  • In 2015, the direct costs to American society of caring for those with Alzheimer’s will total an estimated $226 billion, with half of the costs borne by Medicare.
  • Average per-person Medicare spending for people age 65 or older with Alzheimer’s and other dementias is three times higher than for seniors without dementia. Medicaid payments are 19 times higher.
  • Nearly one in every five Medicare dollars is spent on people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. In 2050, it will be one in every three dollars.

Unless something is done, in 2050, Alzheimer’s is projected to cost over $1.1 trillion (in 2015 dollars). This dramatic rise includes a five-fold increase in government spending under Medicare and Medicaid and a nearly five-fold increase in out-of pocket spending.


Most people living with Alzheimer’s are not aware of their diagnosis.

Despite widespread recognition of the benefits of clear and accurate disclosure, less than half (45 percent) of seniors diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or their caregivers report being told the diagnosis by a health care provider, compared with 90 percent or more of those diagnosed with cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Health care providers routinely encounter the situation of having to deliver a frightening or upsetting diagnosis to patients and perhaps to relatives, friends and loved ones. Yet there is broad agreement among physician organizations that patients have the right to know and understand their diagnosis. Benefits of disclosing a diagnosis include better diagnosis (opportunity for a second opinion), better decision-making about their lives for both the present and the future, and better medical care.

To Download the full report, go to:

Copyright © 2015  Alzheimer’s Association®. All rights reserved.

By |April 15th, 2015|Articles|Comments Off on 2015 ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE FACTS AND FIGURES

Providing Thoughtful Care: Tips for Seniors and Their Adult Children

Providing Thoughtful Care: Tips for Seniors and Their Adult Children
From the time you were born your parents kept you safe, warm, clothed, fed. Helped with your homework. Worried when you were sick or broke curfew.
Eventually your parents retired while you raised your kids and similarly fretted about illnesses, curfews and college. They likely still guided you during this time, but at some point older parents may start to have issues with mobility, vision or worse.
You might not believe your teenagers when they promise their room is clean or homework done. But when your mother tells you her dizziness is “nothing”, or dad says his limp is just a muscle strain, you probably take them at their word, at least initially.
Your parents may be experiencing medical problems and safety concerns requiring intervention.
I know. I’ve been there.
My mother’s worst year was in 2004. After she buried her husband of 58 years – my dad – in April followed in December by her son – my older brother – I swooped in to protect her, a behavior she resisted.
From I Will Never Forget:

Gradually I took on a more protective role. Apparently I revved up a little too high and into hover mode, as sometimes she told me I was “bossy” and needed to back off.

Depending on the specifics of your situation, consider the strategies below. The first set is intended for the adult offspring of aging parents. The second list is for the senior parents.
Tips For Helping Your Parent
Most parents resist intervention from their adult children. I had to tread carefully to balance the respect my mother deserved with the supervision she needed.
What worked best for me was to identify her specific needs and “offer” to help.
From I Will Never Forget:

I noticed Mom’s sweater was uncharacteristically dirty. As I scratched my finger over the discolored streak, I realized something brownish was sloughing off in my hand—chocolate.

“Mom,” I said gently, “this is a little dirty. Maybe I can wash it for you?”

“Sure. You can do my laundry anytime,” she answered. Steadily I took over her car keys, finances and more.

When her Alzheimer’s advanced creating serious safety concerns, mom had to be moved into an assisted living facility! The only technique that worked during those tumultuous months was continuing to remind her that I loved her and that I was doing “what was best for her.”
If you’re an adult child, tying to keep your parents safe without stepping all over their autonomy, consider these suggestions:

  • Validate. Tell your parents you understand and appreciate that they don’t want to overburden you with their care.
  • Be Honest. Is your help genuine? Do your parents really need physical assistance? Are you letting them do the things they can and want to do for themselves?
  • Identify. Offer a few areas where you can help and have your parents select one or two (e.g., drive them to appointments, do their laundry, or do the shopping either for them or with them).
  • Delegate. If distance and/or time doesn’t logistically allow for you to help in these direct ways, then hire a house cleaner for them, someone to shovel snow or a professional caregiver to assist them with daily activities.
Tips For Letting Your Adult Children Help
Conversely, adult children may start to make decisions for their parents possibly to the point of interfering. My mother felt I was being “bossy” and resisted.

  • Validate. Tell your children you know they want to help.
  • Be Honest. Acknowledge that there are some things you really can’t do safely anymore (e.g., changing chandelier light bulbs, shoveling snow, climbing or descending the stairs).
  • Identify. Offer some areas in which your children can help you. These can be activities that you honestly need help with or simply dislike doing (e.g., driving over 20 miles or handling insurance issues).
  • Delegate. If you have a child that doesn’t live close enough to take over a physical chore, he or she can help in other ways. Let him or her handle the finances long distance or pay for a housekeeper or caregiver.
Health issues and family dynamics are too complex and varied for one-size fits all solutions. The point is to be honest, genuine and to discuss the options.
If you’re the aging senior, you legitimately need help with some things. If you’re the adult child, help out but don’t take over.
Elaine C. Pereira, MA, OTR/L, CDC, CDP, national speaker and award-winning author of the memoir, I Will Never Forget: A Daughter’s Story of Her Mother’s Arduous and Humorous Journey Through Dementia, on Home Care Assistance’s sister site, Elaine’s memoir chronicles her journey of caring for her mother who had Alzheimer’s; the heartwarming, honest and deeply moving story will speak to anyone who has a loved one with dementia.
By: Home Care Assistance 1/26/15
By |January 28th, 2015|Articles|Comments Off on Providing Thoughtful Care: Tips for Seniors and Their Adult Children

Depression, Anxiety Can Precede Memory Loss in Alzheimer’s, Study Finds

Depression, sleep problems and behavioral changes can show up before signs of memory loss in people who go on to develop Alzheimer’s disease, a new study suggests.

“I wouldn’t worry at this point if you’re feeling anxious, depressed or tired that you have underlying Alzheimer’s, because in most cases it has nothing to do with an underlying Alzheimer’s process,” said study author Catherine Roe, an assistant professor of neurology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

 “We’re just trying to get a better idea of what Alzheimer’s looks like before people are even diagnosed with dementia,” Roe added. “We’re becoming more interested in symptoms occurring with Alzheimer’s, but not what people typically think of.”
Tracking more than 2,400 middle-aged people for up to seven years, the researchers found that those who developed dementia were more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression sooner than those without dementia.

Other behavior and mood symptoms such as apathy, anxiety, appetite changes and irritability also arrived sooner in participants who went on to cope with typical dementia symptoms, according to the research, published online Jan. 14 in the journal Neurology.

More than 5 million Americans are currently affected by Alzheimer’s disease, a progressive, fatal illness causing not just memory loss but changes in personality, reasoning and judgment. About 500,000 people die each year from the incurable condition, which accounts for most cases of dementia, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

Roe and her team examined data from participants aged 50 and older who had no memory or thinking problems at their first visit to one of 34 Alzheimer’s disease centers around the United States.

Over a period of up to seven years, about half remained cognitively normal, while the other half developed memory loss or thinking problems indicative of dementia.

Among the other findings, 30 percent of those who went on to develop dementia had depression after four years in the study, compared to 15 percent of participants who didn’t have dementia.

Roe noted that research hasn’t yet determined whether depression or other mood and behavioral changes result from the same underlying changes in the brain contributing to Alzheimer’s disease, or as a psychological response to dealing with the condition. And while the study showed an association between behavioral changes and Alzheimer’s risk, it did not prove a cause-and-effect link.

Keith Fargo, director of scientific programs and outreach for the Alzheimer’s Association, praised the study, saying it offers a “fuller view of what might be happening with people who are developing dementia and people who are not.

“What people need to know about Alzheimer’s is that it’s not just problems with thinking and memory,” he said. “It’s a universally fatal brain disease where you lose the cells in your brain over time and that manifests in many different ways. One way is through dementia, but it can manifest in other ways such as depression, anxiety or trouble sleeping.”

Fargo urged anyone who’s noticing significant behavioral or mood changes in themselves or a loved one to speak to a physician.

“Don’t try to tough it out and don’t try to wait for it to go away,” he said. “Those things are probably manageable through either lifestyle measures or medication, or they may be indicative of something larger going on such as dementia or Alzheimer’s.”

By Maureen Salamon
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 14, 2015 (HealthDay News)

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Aging offers more on Alzheimer’s disease.

Copyright © 2015 HealthDay. All rights reserved.


By |January 22nd, 2015|Articles|Comments Off on Depression, Anxiety Can Precede Memory Loss in Alzheimer’s, Study Finds

Arts and Crafts Projects Thought to Improve Brain Health

Recent research has shown a link between mental well-being and creative activities. They are finding that crafting projects, such as creating complex knitting patterns, may have the same benefits to the mind as cognitive activities, like crossword puzzles. They are also beginning to notice mental health benefits since the calm associated with painting or sculpting is similar to the relaxation one feels when they meditate. Arts and crafts may help protect the brain against aging-related cognitive decline, while also promoting happiness and stress reduction.
Have you ever been so involved in painting a piece of art, or knitting an elaborate pattern, that you don’t notice your thoughts or what was going on around you? This unadulterated focus is called “flow” by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, and he describes this state as one of the purest forms of happiness and key to mental health. Csikszentmihalyi states that the human nervous system processes a limited amount of information at a given time. When in “flow”, the body does not have enough processing power to think about physical feelings, such as hunger, or negative emotions. Similar to meditation, flow can alleviate stress by calming anxious thoughts or feelings of agitation.
Crafting leads to the stress-reducing state of “flow” but also has anti-depressant potential since it can stimulate the release of dopamine in the brain’s reward center, giving feelings of pleasure. The British Journal of Occupational Therapy surveyed over 3,500 knitters and 81% of respondents with depression reported feeling happy after knitting, while 50% were very happy. This sense of joy and accomplishment continues further when the finished craft is given as a gift or put on display and admired by others.
In addition to making people happier, arts and crafts could have cognitive health benefits. Crafting can be an intellectually stimulating activity and is unique in that it involves many areas of the brain. For instance, creating a complex quilting pattern would work areas of the brain involved with attention span, creativity, visual-spatial processing and problem solving. The Journal of Neuropsychiatry published a study in 2011 stating that playing games, reading books, and crafting could potentially reduce the chances of developing mild cognitive impairment by 30-50%.
Although further research is needed, crafting is a great non-pharmaceutical way to alleviate anxiety, depression and stress while promoting brain health. To learn about other lifestyle factors that influence brain health, read Home Care Assistance’s latest book in its senior wellness series, The Brain Boost: A Practical Guide to Brain Health.

By |January 5th, 2015|Articles, View All|Comments Off on Arts and Crafts Projects Thought to Improve Brain Health

Alzheimer’s Accountability Act Incorporated into Funding Bill Signed into Law

Alzheimer’s Accountability Act Incorporated into Funding Bill Signed into Law
– Alzheimer’s Association Statement –
Washington, D.C., December 17, 2014 – As the largest Alzheimer’s advocacy organization in the
world, the Alzheimer’s Association, and its relentless advocates, applaud Congress for creating a formal
process to ensure that scientific judgment will guide them in future Alzheimer’s research funding
decisions. This critical provision comes from the Alzheimer’s Accountability Act (H.R. 4351/S. 2192),
which was fully incorporated within the fiscal year 2015 funding bill signed into law by the President.
Because of this action, Congress will be equipped with the best information to determine necessary
Alzheimer’s research funding levels in each year leading up to 2025 to achieve the primary goal of the
National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease, creating a means to prevent and effectively treat
Alzheimer’s disease.
“In setting funding levels, Congress has told us that they want to hear directly from the nation’s top
scientists. That’s exactly what the Alzheimer’s Accountability Act does by connecting scientists with
appropriators,” said Harry Johns, president and CEO of the Alzheimer’s Association. “The Alzheimer’s
Association urged the introduction and passage of this Act so that Congress understands what science will
bring us to the day when there will be survivors of Alzheimer’s, just as there now are for the other major
diseases in our country.”
Introduced in April, the Alzheimer’s Accountability Act calls for the National Institutes of Health (NIH)
to submit a Professional Judgment Budget for Alzheimer’s disease research each year until 2025 to
achieve annual research milestones established under the National Alzheimer’s Plan. It will reflect the
state of Alzheimer’s knowledge and the required investments in research identified by leading scientists
to achieve the plan’s 2025 objective. With the Alzheimer’s Accountability Act, Congress has created a
mechanism that will utilize rigorous scientific judgment, rather than shifting political interests and
unforeseen events, to guide Congressional funding allocations to achieve the 2025 goal.
Alzheimer’s Association grassroots advocates and staff held thousands of congressional meetings to
secure support for the Alzheimer’s Accountability Act since the bill’s introduction. While the
Alzheimer’s Association and its sister organization, the Alzheimer’s Impact Movement, were the only
two organizations to endorse and work to advance the Alzheimer’s Accountability Act, the legislation
received strong, bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate.
In addition to the Alzheimer’s Accountability Act, the funding bill included a $25 million increase for
Alzheimer’s research, which comes on the heels of an unprecedented $122 million increase for
Alzheimer’s research, education, outreach and caregiver support in fiscal year 2014. Together, these
increases bring annual federal funding for Alzheimer’s research to $591 million. However, scientists have
stated that accomplishing the goal of the National Alzheimer’s Plan will require a commitment of at least $2 billion a year.
“According to leading experts, we must dramatically increase research funding to accomplish the primary
goal of the National Alzheimer’s Plan to prevent and effectively treat Alzheimer’s by 2025. The
Alzheimer’s Accountability Act will ensure that Congress hears directly from scientists what they will
need to successfully achieve the federal government’s goal,” said Johns. “We now eagerly look forward
to the President’s fiscal year 2016 budget with the tools in place to implement urgently needed,
significant increases in Alzheimer’s funding to finally stop the human and economic devastation it
There are currently more than 5 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease at a cost to the nation
of $214 billion a year, according to the Alzheimer’s Association 2014 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and
Figures report. Though Alzheimer’s is not normal aging, because advancing age is the greatest risk factor
and Americans are living longer than ever before, those numbers are projected to soar to as many as 16
million by 2050, costing the nation $20 trillion over the next 40 years.
For more information on Alzheimer’s disease and available resources, visit the Alzheimer’s Association
Alzheimer’s Association
The Alzheimer’s Association is the world’s leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer’s care,
support and research. Our mission is to eliminate Alzheimer’s disease through the advancement of
research; to provide and enhance care and support for all affected; and to reduce the risk of dementia
through the promotion of brain health. Our vision is a world without Alzheimer’s. For more information, visit

By |December 22nd, 2014|Articles|Comments Off on Alzheimer’s Accountability Act Incorporated into Funding Bill Signed into Law

Music and art can enrich the lives of people with Alzheimer’s disease.


Although music has been with us since the dawn of time, in the last few decades studies have found that music as a therapeutic tool can increase cognitive function in Alzheimer’s patients.

Music can be powerful. Studies have shown music may reduce agitation and improve behavioral issues that are common in the middle-stages of the disease. Even in the late-stages of Alzheimer’s, a person may be able to tap a beat or sing lyrics to a song from childhood. Music provides a way to connect, even after verbal communication has become difficult.

Use these tips when selecting music for a person with dementia:

  • Identify music that’s familiar and enjoyable to the person. If possible, let the person choose the music.
  • Choose a source of music that isn’t interrupted by commercials, which can cause confusion.
  • Use music to create the mood you want. For example, a tranquil piece of music can help create a calm environment, while a faster paced song from someone’s childhood may boost spirit and evoke happy memories.
  • Encourage movement (clapping, dancing) to add to the enjoyment.
  • Avoid sensory overload; eliminate competing noises by shutting windows and doors and by turning off the television. Make sure the volume of the music is not too loud.


Art projects can create a sense of accomplishment and purpose. They can provide the person with dementia — as well as caregivers — an opportunity for self-expression.

When planning an art activity for someone with middle- to late-stage Alzheimer’s, keep these tips in mind:

  • Keep the project on an adult level. Avoid anything that might be demeaning or seem child-like.
  • Build conversation into the project. Provide encouragement, discuss what the person is creating or reminiscence.
  • Help the person begin the activity. If the person is painting, you may need to start the brush movement. Most other projects should only require basic instruction and assistance.
  • Use safe materials. Avoid toxic substances and sharp tools.
  • Allow plenty of time, keeping in mind that the person doesn’t have to finish the project in one sitting.
 Learn more:

Map out a plan to approach Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s Navigator

Read more:

Sign up for the Alzheimer’s Association weekly e-newsletter
Receive ideas to keep the person with Alzheimer’s active and engaged. Also get updates about Alzheimer’s treatments, care and research. Subscribe now.
By |November 6th, 2014|Articles|Comments Off on Music and art can enrich the lives of people with Alzheimer’s disease.

A person with Alzheimer’s or other dementia doesn’t have to give up the activities that he or she loves.

A person with Alzheimer’s or other dementia doesn’t have to give up the activities that he or she loves. Many activities can be modified to the person’s ability. In addition to enhancing quality of life, activities can reduce behaviors like wandering or agitation.

Choosing activities

In the early stages of dementia, the person may withdraw from activities he or she previously enjoyed. It is important to help the person remain engaged. Having an open discussion around any concerns and making slight adjustments can make a difference. For example, a large social gathering may be overwhelming, but the person may be able to interact more successfully in smaller groups.

As Alzheimer’s progresses, you may need to make other adjustments to the activity. Use the following tips:

  • Keep the person’s skills and abilities in mind.
    A person with dementia may be able to play simple songs learned on the piano years ago. Bring these types of skills into daily activities.
  • Pay special attention to what the person enjoys.
    Take note when the person seems happy, anxious, distracted or irritable. Some people enjoy watching sports, while others may be frightened by the pace or noise.
  • Consider if the person begins activities without direction.
    Does he or she set the table before dinner or sweep the kitchen floor mid-morning? If so, you may wish to plan these activities as part of the daily routine.
  • Be aware of physical problems.
    Does he or she get tired quickly or have difficulty seeing, hearing or performing simple movements?
  • Focus on enjoyment, not achievement.
    Find activities that build on remaining skills and talents. A professional artist might become frustrated over the declining quality of work, but an amateur might enjoy a new opportunity for self expression. For activity ideas join ALZConnected, our message boards and online support community. Every day, caregivers like you share new ideas and encourage one another.
  • Encourage involvement in daily life.
    Activities that help the individual feel like a valued part of the household — like setting the table — can provide a sense of success and accomplishment.
  • Relate to past work life.
    A former office worker might enjoy activities that involve organizing, like putting coins in a holder or making a to-do list. A farmer or gardener may take pleasure in working in the yard.
  • Look for favorites.
    The person who always enjoyed drinking coffee and reading the newspaper may still find these activities enjoyable, even if he or she is not able to completely understand what the newspaper says.
  • Consider time of day. 
    Caregivers may find they have more success with certain activities at specific times of day, such as bathing and dressing in the morning.
  • Adjust activities to disease stages.
    As the disease progresses, you may want to introduce more repetitive tasks. Be prepared for the person to eventually take a less active role in activities.

 Your approach

If you notice a person’s attention span waning or frustration level increasing, it’s likely time to end or modify the activity.

  • Help get the activity started.
    Most people with dementia still have the energy and desire to do things but may lack the ability to organize, plan, initiate and successfully complete the task.
  • Offer support and supervision.
    You may need to show the person how to perform the activity and provide simple, easy-to-follow steps.
  • Concentrate on the process, not the result.
    Does it matter if the towels are folded properly? Not really. What matters is that you were able to spend time together, and that the person feels as if he or she has done something useful.
  • Be flexible.
    When the person insists that he or she doesn’t want to do something, it may be because he or she can’t do it or fears doing it. Don’t force it. If the person insists on doing it a different way, let it happen, and change it later if necessary.
  • Assist with difficult parts of the task.
    If you’re cooking, and the person can’t measure the ingredients, finish the measuring and say, “Would you please stir this for me?”
  • Let the individual know he or she is needed.
    Ask, “Could you please help me?” Be careful, however, not to place too many demands upon the person.
  • Stress a sense of purpose.
    If you ask the person to make a card, he or she may not respond. But, if you say that you’re sending a special get-well card to a friend and invite him or her to join you, the person may enjoy working on this task with you.
  • Don’t criticize or correct the person.
    If the person enjoys a harmless activity, even if it seems insignificant or meaningless to you, encourage the person to continue.
  • Encourage self expression.
    Include activities that allow the person a chance for expression. These types of activities could include painting, drawing, music or conversation.
  • Involve the person through conversation.
    While you’re polishing shoes, washing the car or cooking dinner, talk to the person about what you’re doing. Even if the person cannot respond, he or she is likely to benefit from your communication.
  • Substitute an activity for a behavior.
    If a person with dementia rubs his or her hand on a table, provide a cloth and encourage the person to wipe the table. Or, if the person is moving his or her feet on the floor, play some music so the person can tap to the beat.
  • Try again later.
    If something isn’t working, it may just be the wrong time of day or the activity may be too complicated. Try again later, or adapt the activity.

The Alzheimer’s Association Can Help

It helps to know you aren’t alone. Talking to others who are going through the same experiences as caregivers can provide you with ideas, support and resources.

Read more:

By |October 24th, 2014|Articles|Comments Off on A person with Alzheimer’s or other dementia doesn’t have to give up the activities that he or she loves.

5 Biggest Medicare Enrollment Mistakes

Finding the right Medicare plan matters. With hundreds of policies to choose from, and so much information to understand, many people guess when choosing a policy and end up paying too much for a plan that doesn’t cover what they need.

Open enrollment period for Medicare begins October 15. To help baby boomers avoid making the most common mistakes, the nonprofit National Council on Aging (NCOA) created My Medicare Matters®.

Here are the five biggest mistakes boomers should watch out for when enrolling in Medicare:

Mistake 1: Signing up too early or too late for Medicare and its parts

If you are aging into Medicare, your initial enrollment period is based on your 65th birthday. To avoid long-term penalties, make sure you know what you have to choose—and by when. If you or your spouse are still working when you turn 65 and your insurance meets certain requirements, it may make sense for you to delay enrollment in Parts A, B, and D. Find the rules here. On, you can take a free, confidential Medicare QuickCheck™ and receive a personal report with your initial enrollment period, or special enrollment period if you or your spouse are still working, and recommendations about when you should sign up for which parts of Medicare.

Mistake 2: Not understanding the difference between a Medicare Supplement and a Medicare Advantage policy

If you are new to Medicare, you have a fundamental choice to make: enroll in original Medicare or opt into a Medicare Advantage plan. It is very important that you understand the pros and cons of both types of coverage.

Original Medicare is a fee-for-service program. Most consumers supplement the government benefit with a private Medicare Supplement (also called Medigap) policy as well as a Part D plan for their prescription drugs. A Medicare Supplement policy may cover some services that are not included under the standard Medicare Parts A and B as well as some out-of-pocket costs such as co-insurance costs for care at skilled nursing facilities, the Part A deductible, and foreign travel emergency care. If you choose a Medicare Supplement policy, you will pay an additional monthly premium. You won’t need prior authorization to use specialists or to get second opinions.

A Medicare Advantage Plan (Part C), on the other hand, takes the place of original Medicare Parts A and B. These plans work more like group insurance. They are sold through approved, licensed insurance companies and may have an additional monthly premium. Often, Medicare Advantage plans include prescription drug coverage as well as services that original Medicare does not such as health/wellness programs and vision care. However, a Medicare Advantage plan may also limit a person’s ability to use doctors and hospitals, and also require prior authorization to use specialty services.

During open enrollment, you have the option of changing from one type of plan to another if your needs have changed.

Mistake 3: Guessing when picking specific plans

It can be very difficult and time-consuming to compare all of the plans that are available to you. Many people try to do their homework, get frustrated, and then “give up and guess.” Choosing a Medicare plan is too important to leave to guesswork. Take the time to review your health insurance needs before your first—and every subsequent—enrollment period. Think about:

  • Do you have health insurance from another source?
  • Do you have any chronic conditions?
  • Which doctors and hospitals do you use?
  • Which prescriptions do you need and what pharmacies do you get them from?

You don’t have to do this on your own. You can get help from a trusted source that can help you think through your options and compare plans. If you’re unsure about your choices, start with a Medicare QuickCheckTM to get a personalized report on your options and use that to start a conversation with a licensed benefits advisor.

Mistake 4: Not applying for extra help

Millions of older adults are eligible for billions of dollars in programs that can help them pay for their prescriptions and health insurance premiums, deductibles, and coinsurance. If your income in retirement is modest, you should find out if you qualify for assistance. NCOA also offers a free online BenefitsCheckUp® where you can see if you’re eligible and apply online for Extra Help or Medicare Savings Programs. Or, contact your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) to see what’s available to you.

Mistake 5: Not re-evaluating your coverage every year

Unfortunately, choosing health insurance is no longer a one-time decision for most Medicare beneficiaries. Insurance companies can make changes to policies every year. Just because your doctor and medications are covered this year doesn’t automatically mean they will be covered in the coming year. Research studies show that the average consumer could save $300 or more annually if they review their Part D coverage. Make sure to confirm cost, copays, coinsurance, covered providers, and prescription drugs. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Has your health changed in the last year?
  • Is your current plan still meeting all of your health needs?
  • How much have you paid out-of-pocket in the last year—and for what?
  • How is your plan changing for the coming year? How will that affect your out-of-pocket costs?
  • Are there better options available to you now?

Browse more of to learn more about Medicare, take the Medicare QuickCheck™, and find additional support.

An educational service of the National Council on Aging

By |October 15th, 2014|Articles|Comments Off on 5 Biggest Medicare Enrollment Mistakes
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