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Live Life On Your Own Terms

clockMedicare Part A covers hospice care for terminally ill patients “with a life expectancy of six months or less” as determined by the patient’s physician. But with a 2011-2016 average of just 2½ months of hospice care, some 1.4 million hospice care beneficiaries in 2016 could have benefitted much more had they signed up sooner.

Why the delay? One reason may be the patients’ and families’ all-too-human tendency to keep hoping against hope that the inevitable won’t happen. They tend to associate hospice care with resignation, with lacking the courage to keep on fighting whatever condition they suffer from. Perhaps some physicians are also uncomfortable talking with patients and their families about end-of-life issues.

medicare checkupThis month marks the start of Medicare's annual open enrollment period. Instead of automatically renewing your current plan, it makes good sense to give it a thorough examination, to make sure it's still fulfilling your needs and that you're not paying for coverage you don't need.

More than your health could be at stake here. 

The average Medicare beneficiary runs up $16,000 in medical costs each year and pays about half of them – $8,000 or  more – out of pocket. And according to consulting firm, at least 90 percent of Medicare beneficiaries are shelling out for more out-of-pocket medical costs than they need to.

While Medicare Parts A and B cover 80 percent of doctor visit and hospital charges, what they don't cover can be expensive. 

7 unexpected benefitsDid you know that flossing your teeth can help you live an average of 6.3 years longer? That’s what Dr. Michael Roizen writes in his book, Real Age.

The same bacteria that cause periodontal disease can infect and swell your arteries, constricting blood flow and leading to heart attacks and strokes. Periodontal disease also elevates white blood cell count, stressing your immune system and making it harder to fight off infection.

That’s one unexpected way of adding years to your life. Here are six more:

Be born in the right season.

inheritanceStereotypes – including those held by economists and retirement analysts – are just plain wrong, it turns out.

Seniors are not spending all their money on health care and long-term care. They’re not splurging on round-the-world cruises or other big-ticket, bucket list items. And they’re not living in such abject poverty that they need to survive on cat food.

According to studies by the Employee Benefit Research Institute [EBRI] and the Society of Actuaries [SOA], most retirees are living frugally but comfortably, thank you.

caregivers need care tooSome 43.5 million Americans are currently unpaid caregivers, a 2015 study found. The average caregiver is a 49-year-old woman working almost 60 hours a week – more than 34 hours outside the home plus over 24 more hours caring for an elder female. And teetering at the edge of caregiver burnout.

Bad as those numbers may sound, they’re going to get worse. As Baby Boomers age, the younger demographic cohorts who follow them will be smaller in number, putting more pressure on fewer caregivers to care for more elders. And that pressure takes a toll on caregivers’ physical and emotional health.

In that 2015 study, more than 20 percent of caregivers – almost 9 million people – reported that caregiving worsened their health, with mood changes, anxiety, aches and pains, stress overeating, and sleep disorders including insomnia.

So if you’re a caregiver, it’s vitally important to take care of yourself.