Aging Well Syracuse
Helpful tips for family caregivers
It’s the little things that can often make the difference between a tough day or a day that unfolds smoothly. In this May/June issue of the newsletter, we offer insights and information to hopefully tip the scale. For instance, Mother’s Day can be very painful if your mother has passed on. Check out our tips for making it a special day, even if she isn’t here to celebrate. Medicare got you down? We’re happy to report that the government is coming out with a new card and new Medicare Beneficiary Identifier that will provide more protection against identity fraud. Always nice to have that covered! Last is our final article in the caregiving and driving series. This time we focus on ways to keep everyone safe if your passenger has dementia and tends to get agitated in the car.
Mother's Day without Mom
Mother’s Day was the brainchild of Anna Jarvis of West Virginia. In 1908, Anna held a memorial service to honor her mother’s deep commitment to love and compassion. Her mother epitomized kindness by caring for wounded soldiers.
Far from a commercialized event, Anna envisioned Mother’s Day as a day to show profound appreciation through letters of gratitude or acts of love.
Even if your mother is no longer with you, you can tap into this sweet remembrance and honor your mom in many ways:
- Write a letter. Pick a favorite memory or a quality that you are grateful for. Thank your mother for all that she gave you or modeled for you.
- Talk with others who knew her. Call or get together and share stories. Whether it’s siblings or friends, embrace those who also still hold your mother in their hearts.
- Cook a favorite meal or engage in a favorite activity. You may not be able to spend literal time with Mom, but dedicating part of the day to something she enjoyed is a lovely way to honor her memory.
- Spend time with other mother figures. Perhaps you have an aunt or a mentor who has supported you in a motherly way. Acknowledge that loving, womanly presence by spending time with that mother-in-spirit.
- Feel your feelings. The wonder of the human experience is the breadth of our emotions. Rather than bottle them up, allow your feelings to emerge and look for the meaning or lesson behind them.
- Forgive your mother. Close relationships always have their ups and downs. Your mother was human and had her foibles. Even if she was lacking in the mother department, she likely did not intend to hurt you. She, like all of us, was simply doing the best she could.
Is a new Medicare card in the mailbox?
Beginning in April, Medicare started sending out new cards to all its members.
The mailings will take place in waves. The person you care for may not receive theirs until later in the year.
You don’t need to do anything. The new card will arrive automatically. (The only exception to this is people who are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan. Those cards will remain the same, so no mailing expected.)
Medicare benefits have NOT changed! The program your loved one is enrolled in stays the same. Just the card is changing.
Why change the card? Primarily, it’s for security reasons. When Medicare first started, it made sense to use Social Security numbers as the identifying number for beneficiaries. That was before the age of identity theft.
The Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI). Medicare is giving everyone new numbers. There will be no rhyme or reason or hidden meaning to the combination of numbers and letters assigned. Nothing to reveal information about the cardholder.
Destroy the old card securely. Shredding or burning the card is best. It does have your relative’s Social Security number. You don’t want that getting into the wrong hands!
Watch out for scammers. Sadly, there are always those who prey on elders during a change like this. Be aware that Medicare will telephone only if the beneficiary has phoned in and left a message requesting a call back. The insurance company for Part D (drugs) or Medicare Supplemental Insurance (Medigap) may call. But they will not ask for the Medicare Beneficiary Identifier. They will already know it. If someone calls and requests verification of the number, hang up immediately. Then call Medicare at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227).
You can sign up for notifications about the new card at medicare.gov/newcard/.Return to top
When your passenger has dementia
Unbuckling the seat belt, grabbing the steering wheel, opening the door when traveling. These are not actions that make sense. But for a person with dementia, they seem like reasonable actions to stop a frightening or frustrating situation.
When you are the driver, such actions can be dangerous.
Your attention needs to stay focused on the road. Here are some tips to prevent common problems.
- Plan to leave earlier. A hurried schedule will only make your loved one more agitated.
- Visit the bathroom before heading out. A “precautionary pee” goes a long way toward removing anxiety.
- Bring a bag of tricks. A stuffed animal, a photo book, a DVD player with a favorite and calming show. Keep a snack and water handy in the front seat.
- Have them sit in the rear, on the passenger side. This way they will not be able to easily grab the steering wheel or your arm. Also, you can readily see them via the rearview mirror.
- Use the “child lock” feature on your car. People with dementia have been known to open the door unexpectedly, and unwisely.
- Hide the seat belt buckle. A seat belt cover can make the buckle harder to reach. Or twist the buckle so the button is on the inside and less easy to release.
- Play soothing music. Try calming melodies or sing-along tunes from the past.
- Choose an easy route and time of day. People with dementia readily become overstimulated. Plus, your mood can greatly influence theirs. Taking the “scenic route” and driving when traffic is less frenzied will result in a more pleasant ride for both of you.
- Enlist an assistant. If there have been episodes before, bring someone else along who can distract and comfort your passenger so you can focus on the road.