Is Pet Insurance a Good Idea for Those on a Budget?

I own two dogs and a cat that I would do almost anything for, but expensive veterinary bills put a strain on my budget. Is pet insurance a good idea?


If you are the kind of pet owner who would do anything for your furry family, including spending thousands of dollars on medical care, pet insurance is an option to consider. Here is what you should know.

Rising Vet Costs


The cost of owning a pet has gone up in recent years. New technologies make it possible for pets to undergo sophisticated medical treatments for many life-threatening diseases, but these treatments are not cheap. This is why pet insurance has become more popular in recent years. More than two million pets are currently insured in the U.S. and Canada, according to the North American Pet Health Insurance Association.

How Pet Plans Work


Pet insurance is similar to human health insurance. Pet policies typically come with premiums, deductibles, co-payments and caps that limit how much will be paid out annually. Unlike regular health insurance, with pet insurance you usually have to pay the vet bills in full then wait for reimbursement from the insurer.

Pet policies vary greatly from basic plans that cover only accidents and illnesses, to comprehensive policies that provide complete nose-to-tail protection including annual checkups, vaccinations, spaying/neutering and death benefits. You should also be aware that pet policies typically do not cover pre-existing conditions, and premiums are generally lower when your pet is young and healthy.

Costs for pet insurance will also vary by insurer and policy, but premiums typically depend on factors like the cost of veterinary care where you live and the age and breed of the pet. The average annual premium for basic accident and illness coverage was $516 per pet in 2017, while the average claim paid was $278, according to the pet health insurance association.

If you are still working, one way to pay lower premiums, and possibly get broader coverage, is to buy pet insurance through your employer, if available. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, 11% of employers in the U.S. offer pet health insurance benefits. These plans are usually discounted.

Alternative Option


Many animal advocates suggest forgoing pet insurance. They recommend putting the money you would have spent on premiums into a dedicated savings account to pay for vet care as needed. Depending on the policy, pet insurance can cost $1,500 to $6,000 over the life of an average pet. Most pet owners will never spend that much for treatment.

Ways to Save


If you cannot afford pet insurance or choose not to buy it, there are other ways you can save. For example, many local animal shelters offer free or low-cost spaying and neutering programs and vaccinations. Some shelters work with local vets who are willing to provide care at reduced prices for low-income and senior pet owners.

There are also a number of organizations that provide financial assistance to pet owners in need. To locate these programs, visit the Humane Society's website.

To save on pet medications, get a prescription from your vet (ask for generic if possible) and shop around for the best price. Medicine purchased at the vet's office is usually more expensive than what you can get from a regular pharmacy or online.

Most pharmacies fill prescriptions for pets inexpensively and many offer a pet discount savings program too. You can also save by shopping online at a verified pharmacy.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living” book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization’s official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

Published August 16, 2019

How to Help a Parent Declutter

My 70-year-old mother has become somewhat of a hoarder. Since my father died a few years ago, her house is so disorganized and messy with stuff that it is becoming a hazard. What should I do to help her?

Clutter addiction is a problem that affects up to 5% of Americans, many of whom are seniors. The problems can range anywhere from moderate messiness to severe hoarding, which may be related to a mental health condition such as obsessive-compulsive disorder. Here are some things you should know along with some tips and resources that can help your mom.

Why People Hoard


Many people hoard because they have an extreme sentimental attachment to their possessions, or they believe they might need their items at a later date. Hoarding can also be a sign that an older person is depressed or showing early signs of dementia.

Common problems for seniors who live amongst excessive clutter include tripping, falling and breaking a bone; overlooking bills; missing medications that are hidden in the clutter; suffering from the environmental effects of mold, mildew and dust; and even living among insects and rodents.

What to Do


If you find that your mom has a moderate clutter problem, there are a number of things you can do to help. Start by having a talk with her, respectfully expressing your concern for her health and safety, and offering your assistance to help declutter.

Most professional organizers recommend decluttering in small steps. If your mom accepts your offer to help, start by taking one room at a time or even a portion of a room at a time. This will help prevent your mom from getting overwhelmed.

Before you start, designate three piles or boxes for your mom's things – one pile is for items she wants to keep and put away, another is the donate pile and the last is the throw away pile.

You and your mom will need to determine which pile each item belongs in as you work. If your mom struggles with sentimental items that she never uses, like her husband's old tools or her mother's china for example, suggest she keep only one item for memory sake and donate the rest or give to family members who will use them. You will also need to help her set up a system for organizing the kept items.

Find Help


If you need some help with the decluttering and organizing, consider hiring a professional organizer who can come to your mom's home to help you prioritize, organize and remove the clutter. The nonprofit National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals has a directory on its website to help you locate a professional in your area.

If your mom has a more serious hoarding problem (if her daily functioning is impaired or if she is having financial difficulties, health problems, or other issues because of her hoarding) you should seek professional help. A doctor may prescribe antidepressants or therapy to help address control issues, anxiety, depression and other feelings that may underlie the hoarding tendencies to make it easier for her to confront her disorder.

To learn more and find professional help see the International OCD Foundation which provides a hoarding center on their website, which offers information, resources, treatments, self-help groups and more.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living" book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization's official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

Published August 9, 2019

How Medicare Covers Ambulance Services

How does Medicare cover ambulance services? About three months ago, I took an ambulance to the hospital emergency room because I rarely drive anymore, and I just received a $1,100 bill from the ambulance company. 


This is a Medicare issue that confuses many people. Yes, Medicare does cover emergency ambulance services. In limited cases, non-emergency ambulance services may be covered too, but only when they are deemed medically necessary and reasonable. What does that mean?

First, it means that your medical condition must be serious enough that you need an ambulance to transport you safely to a hospital or other facility where you receive care that Medicare covers. If a car or taxi could transport you without endangering your health, Medicare will not cover a ride in the ambulance. For example, it is likely Medicare will not pay for an ambulance to take someone with a simple arm fracture to a hospital. But if he or she goes into shock or is prone to internal bleeding, ambulance transport may be medically necessary to ensure the patient's safety. The details make a difference.

Second, the ambulance must take you to the nearest appropriate facility, meaning the closest hospital, critical access hospital, skilled nursing facility or dialysis facility generally equipped to provide the services your illness or injury requires. It also means that the facility must have a physician or physician specialist available to treat your condition. Thus, Medicare may pay for an ambulance to take you to a more distant hospital if, for example, you are seriously burned and the nearest hospital does not have a burn unit.

Similarly, if you live in a rural area where the nearest hospital equipped to treat you is a two-hour drive away, Medicare may pay. But if you want an ambulance to take you to a more distant hospital because the doctor you prefer has staff privileges there, expect to pay a greater share of the bill. Medicare will only cover the cost of ambulance transport to the nearest appropriate facility and no more.

Non-Emergency Situations


In limited cases, Medicare will also cover non-emergency ambulance services if such transportation is needed to treat or diagnose your health condition and the use of any other transportation method could endanger your health. Not having another means of transportation is not sufficient for Medicare to pay for services. Some examples include transportation to get dialysis or if you are staying in a skilled nursing facility and require medical care. In these cases, a doctor's order may be required to prove that use of an ambulance is medically necessary.

Ambulance Costs


The cost for ambulance services can vary from several hundred to several thousand dollars depending on where you live and how far you are transported.

Under original Medicare, Part B pays 80% of the Medicare-approved amounts for ambulance rides. You, or your Medicare supplemental policy (if you have one), will need to pay the remaining 20%.

If you have a Medicare Advantage Plan, it must cover the same services as original Medicare, and may offer some additional transportation services. You will need to check with your plan for details.

How to Appeal


If an ambulance company bills you for services after Medicare denies payment, but you think the ride was medically necessary, you can appeal (see Medicare.gov/claims-appeals). Often, a lack of information about a person's condition or need for services can lead to denials.

If you need some help contact your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP). SHIP has counselors that can help you file an appeal for free. To locate your local SHIP, visit ShiptaCenter.org or call 877-839-2675.

For more information on this topic, call Medicare at 800-633-4227 and ask them to mail you a copy of the "Medicare Coverage of Ambulance Services" booklet, or you can see it online at Medicare.gov/Pubs/pdf/11021-Medicare-Coverage-of-Ambulance-Services.pdf.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living" book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization's official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.


Published August 2, 2019

Osteoporosis Risk Factors and Prevention for Men

Can men get osteoporosis or is it primarily a problem for women? When I fell and broke my wrist last winter the doctor that treated me told me I might have osteoporosis, but I never got it checked. What can you tell me?


Many people think of osteoporosis primarily as a disease that affects women, but men can get it too, especially in their later years. Here are some things you should know.

Osteoporosis in Men


Osteoporosis is a disease that causes the bones to become weak, brittle and more susceptible to fractures. Though women are four times more likely to acquire it, around 2 million American men have osteoporosis today and another 12 million have "pre-osteoporosis" or osteopenia. 

Unfortunately, men are much less likely than women to get the health of their bones checked even after they break a bone. Doctors may overlook many factors that put men at risk of osteoporosis.

While menopause is a major component that accelerates bone loss in women, some of the key risk factors for men developing osteoporosis include: being over age 70; being thin or underweight; smoking; consuming more than three alcoholic drinks a day; having a family history of osteoporosis; and having a previous fracture.

Certain health conditions — such as rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease, testosterone deficiency, hyperthyroidism, COPD, kidney or liver disease, mobility disorders such as Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis or stroke — can also increase your risk. Additional risk factors include, taking certain medications like anti-inflammatory steroids, prostate cancer drugs, proton pump inhibitors for GERD, antidepressants, immunosuppressants and anti-seizure drugs.

To help you determine your risk of osteoporosis, the International Osteoporosis Foundation has a quick online quiz you can take at RiskCheck.IOFBoneHealth.org

Prevention and Treatment


A good first step in preventing and treating osteoporosis is to get screened. All men over age 70 should have a bone density test. Those who have had a fracture or have other risk factors should also be tested after age 50. Screening for osteoporosis is a simple and painless bone density test, which takes about five minutes. Many health insurance companies will cover bone density tests, as does Medicare. 

Here are some other ways you can protect your bones: 

Boost your calcium: The best way to get bone-building calcium is through your diet. Dairy products (low-fat milk, cheeses and yogurt), dark green leafy vegetables (broccoli, kale, collards), sardines, salmon, cooked dried beans, soy foods, almonds, fortified cereals and juices are all good sources of calcium. Vitamin D is also important to help your body absorb calcium. 

The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends 1,000 mg of calcium daily for men under age 70, and 1,200 mg for those over age 71. They also recommend 800 to 1,000 international units (IU) of vitamin D for those over 50 years of age. If you are not getting enough vitamin D through sunlight or food, consider taking a supplement. Most daily multivitamins contain at least 400 IU. Please consult your physician before changing your diet or introducing supplements. 

Exercise: Weight-bearing exercises like walking and strength training with weights or resistant bands three or four times a week can significantly improve your bone health and reduce the risk of a fall that could cause a fracture. 

Control vices: Avoid smoking, limit alcohol to no more than two or three drinks per day and limit caffeine intake (coffee, tea or soda) to three cups a day.

Consider medications: The same medications used to treat osteoporosis in women have also been approved for men. The most widely prescribed medications for osteoporosis are bisphosphonates, a class of drugs designed to slow or stop bone loss. Talk to your doctor about your risk factors to determine if osteoporosis screening is appropriate. If you need treatment, discuss these and other options as well as the potential side effects.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living" book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization's official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

Published July 26, 2019

WCCF Offers Non-Profit Board Training

Washington County Community Foundation realizes that board training for small non-profit organizations can be difficult to schedule or plan for on a tight budget.   We also recognize that a great Board of Directors is critical to a nonprofit organization’s success.  We want you and your organization to be successful.  Therefore, we are offering a great opportunity for you and your Board of Directors to receive high quality board training right here in Washington County through the Community Foundation Research and Training Institute.  

Members of Boards of Directors are invited to the training event on September 17, 2019, at the Community Learning Center at 1707 N. Shelby Street in Salem.  Our guest presenter is David Bennett.  David served as the Executive Director of the Community Foundation of Greater Fort Wayne for 22 years.  During his tenure, the assets of the Community Foundation grew from $28 million to over $150 million, and he helped position the Foundation as a trusted community leader.

David formed the Community Foundation Research and Training Institute (CFRTI) in 2017.  CFRTI provides a variety of training opportunities for community foundations and nonprofit organizations, along with strategic planning facilitation and the preparation of organizational risk assessments.

Aside from overseeing the strategic planning process several times in Fort Wayne, he has served as the facilitator of the strategic planning process at the Parke County Community Foundation and the Johnson County Community Foundation. David also serves as a trainer for the Community Foundation Boot Camp course through the Indiana Philanthropy Alliance, and as an instructor for the Finance Course offered through the Council on Foundations.

David is a life-long Hoosier.  He earned his bachelor’s degree in Economics from Williams College, and a Master’s in Public Affairs from Princeton University.   He currently resides in Grabill, Indiana.  David is President-Elect of the Rotary Club of Fort Wayne and has been recognized as a Paul Harris Fellow.

Beginning in 2020, Washington County Community Foundation will require all nonprofits that receive funding from the Washington County Community Foundation to have at least one current, active board member that has completed this valuable training. 

The cost to attend a session is $100.00 per person.  However, this fee will be refunded if the Board Member attends the entire session.  If a Board Member leaves early or does not show up, the registration fee will be retained by the Washington County Community Foundation. 

Registration deadline is September 4, 2019.  Register by calling 812-883-7334.

Where to Get Help Paying Your Medicare Costs

Are there any sources you know of that can help me save on my Medicare coverage? I am 65, and live primarily on my Social Security. I am having a hard time paying my Medicare out-of-pocket costs.


There are several financial assistance programs that can help lower-income Medicare beneficiaries who are having a difficult time paying their out-of-pocket health care costs. Here is what is available, along with the eligibility requirements and how to apply.

Medicare Savings Programs


The Medicare Savings Program (MSP) helps pay premiums and out-of-pocket costs for Medicare Parts A and B. It has several different benefit levels for people based on their income and assets. For those eligible for the highest level of assistance, the program will pay your Part A and B premiums and most of your Medicare deductibles, coinsurance and copayments. At a minimum, the program will pay only your Part B premium.

The minimum standard set by Medicare to qualify for the MSP is an income under 135% of the federal poverty level, which at the moment works out to approximately $1,426 a month for individuals (or $1,923 for married couples). Payouts from 401(k) plans, pensions, Social Security and help from family members count toward income for purposes of eligibility.

Medicare also allows states to impose an asset test, which may require the maximum assets of an individual to be as low as $7,730 for eligibility ($11,600 for married couples), excluding your house and car, but counting retirement savings and bank accounts.

Some states have made their MSP programs more generous, with much higher income limits and, in some cases, no asset test at all. The program may be called something other than MSP in your state. To find out whether you qualify or to apply, contact your state Medicaid program. Visit Medicare.gov/contacts or call 800-633-4227 for contact information.

Extra Help with Medication


For help with Medicare (Part D) prescription drug plan costs, there is a separate program called Extra Help. To get it, you will need to apply through your local Social Security office.

Depending on your income, this program may pay all or part of your Part D prescription drug plan's monthly premiums, annual deductibles and prescription co-payments. In 2019, individuals with an annual income below $18,735 ($25,365 for a married couple) and assets under $14,390 ($28,720 for a married couple) may qualify for Extra Help.

If you are eligible to participate in a Medicare Savings Program, you will automatically qualify for Extra Help. But because the requirements are slightly different, even if you do not qualify for a Medicare Savings Program for Part A or B, you might be able to get Extra Help for Part D. For more information or to apply, visit SSA.gov/extrahelp or call Social Security at 800-772-1213.

Other Assistance Programs


Depending on your income level, needs and location, there may be many other financial assistance programs that can help such as Medicaid, SSI (Supplemental Security Income), PACE (Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly), SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), (LIHEAP) Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program and many others.

To find out what types of assistance programs you may be eligible for and to learn how to apply for them, go to BenefitsCheckUp.org. This is a free, confidential tool designed for people age 55 and older that contains more than 2,500 programs.

It is also possible to get help in person at one of the 87 locations of Benefits Enrollment Centers scattered across the U.S. Call 888-268-6706 or visit NCOA.org/centerforbenefits/becs to locate a center in your area. Some centers also offer assistance over the phone.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living" book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization's official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

Published July 19, 2019
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How to Make the Most of Your Doctor's Visit

I manage a large health clinic that treats thousands of patients each year. We have found that patients who come in prepared are much more satisfied with the care they receive. Can you write a column educating patients on how to prepare for doctor's appointments? 


Studies have shown that patients who help their doctors by providing important health information and preparing themselves for appointments tend to receive better care than patients who do not. Here are some simple things we can all do to help maximize the benefits of our next visit to the doctor.

Before Appointments


Gather your health information and get organized before your appointment to ensure a productive meeting with your doctor. This is especially important if you are seeing multiple doctors or are meeting with a new physician. Here is what you need to do before your next appointment:
  1. Get your test results: If you are seeing a new doctor for the first time, make sure he or she has copies of your latest X-ray, MRI or any other test or recent lab results, including reports from other doctors. In most cases, you will need to do the leg work. This may be as simple as a phone call to your previous doctor or you may need to go pick it up.
  2. List your medications: Make a list of all the medications you are taking, including prescription medications, over-the-counter drugs and herbal supplements, along with the dosages. Alternatively, put all your pill bottles in a bag and take them with you to your appointment.
  3. Know your health history: Talk to your doctor about any previous medical problems and procedures, even if they are not the reason you are going to the doctor this time. This can make an office visit much more efficient. Write it down if it is complicated. Genetics matter too, so knowing your family's health history may also be helpful.
  4. Prepare a list of questions: Make a written list of the top three or four issues you want to discuss with your doctor. Since most appointments last approximately 15 to 20 minutes, this can help you stay on track and ensure you address your most pressing concerns first. If you are in for a diagnostic visit, you should prepare a detailed description of your symptoms.

During Appointments


When you meet with your doctor, it is important to speak up and get to the point. Right away, concisely explain why you are there. Do not wait to be asked. Be direct, honest and specific when recounting your symptoms or expressing your concerns. Many patients are reluctant or embarrassed to talk about their symptoms, which makes the doctor's job much more difficult. It is also a good idea to bring along a family member or friend to your appointment. They can help you ask questions, listen to what the doctor is telling you and give you support.

Consider taking notes or asking the doctor if you can record the session for later review. If you do not understand what the doctor is telling you, ask him or her to explain it in simpler terms so you can understand. If you run out of time and do not get your questions answered, ask if you can follow up by phone or email, make another appointment or seek help from a nurse.

For more information, the National Institute on Aging offers an excellent booklet called "Talking with Your Doctor: A Guide for Older People" that can help you prepare for an appointment and become a more informed patient. To get a free copy mailed to you, call 800-222-2225 or visit order.nia.nih.gov.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living" book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization's official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

Published July 12, 2019
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WCCF is Offering Scholarships to Non-Traditional Students

The Washington County Community Foundation is now offering scholarships to non-traditional students through its Education Matters initiative.  The deadline for applications is October 3, 2019 by 3:30 PM.

Education Matters is a regional undertaking organized by the community foundations that serve Washington, Scott, Harrison, Clark and Floyd counties to try to increase the number of working adults in our region who started but never completed some form of post-secondary education – education that extends beyond high school.

You might be surprised to learn that in Southeast Indiana, only 25% of our workforce has an associate’s, bachelors or professional degree, compared to 38% nationally. Yet one in four of our community’s adult workers has earned some college credits! That’s over 3,100 people in Washington County!  For whatever reason, they started but never completed their post-secondary education. This represents a tremendous amount of untapped potential in our community.

The following criteria have been established for scholarships:  

  1. Annual awards will not exceed $3,000 the first twelve months and $5,000 per person in any subsequent twelve month period.
  2. Scholarship applicants must be a minimum of 28 years old as of the date of application.
  3. Only individuals who can demonstrate continuing legal residence in Washington County for at least the past five years are eligible. Documentation such as tax forms, housing receipts, or utility bills will be used to verify residency and/or household income.
  4. Scholarship awards may be used for tuition, course-related fees, or books only. Checks will only be written to an educational institution or certified training provider.
  5. The application deadline is October 3, 2019. No exceptions.
  6. Adult scholarship awards may not be used to pay for college debt.
  7. Subsequent awards will only be considered for students maintaining at least a 2.5 GPA.

Call the Washington County Community Foundation office at 883-7334 or email program.officer@wccf.biz to request an application or for more information.

The mission of the Washington County Community Foundation is to engage people, build resources and strengthen our community. 

WCCF offering $30,000.00 in Fall Grant Cycle

Grants for the WCCF Fall Grant Cycle are issued from the Washington County Community Foundation’s Touch Tomorrow funds and are made possible by the generous donors of the Foundation.    The total amount available for this grant cycle is $30,000.00.

Grant applications for the fall grant cycle are available at the WCCF office located on Shelby Street in the Learning Center complex or by emailing program.officer@wccf.biz.  The Washington County Community Foundation is currently accepting applications. The application deadline will be 3:30pm, September 13, 2019.  For more information, you may call Judy Johnson or Lindsey Wade-Swift at the Foundation office.  The number is 883-7334.

Washington County Community Foundation is a nonprofit public charity established in 1993 to serve donors, award grants, and provide leadership to improve Washington County forever

Hiring an In-Home Caregiver

I need to locate a good in-home caregiver for my 83-year-old mother. What is the best way to find and hire a caregiver?


Finding a good in-home caregiver for an elderly parent can be challenging. How can you find one that is reliable and trustworthy, as well as someone your parent likes and is comfortable with? Here are some tips that can help.

Know Your Needs


Before you start the task of looking for an in-home caregiver, your first step is to determine the level of care required. This can help pinpoint the type of care needed. For example, if she only needs help with daily living tasks like shopping, cooking, doing laundry, bathing or dressing, a "homemaker" or "personal care aide" will do.

If she needs health care services, there are "home health aides" that may do all the things a homemaker does. Home health aides also have training in administering medications, changing wound dressings and other medical-related duties. Home health aides often work under a nurse's supervision.

Once you settle on a level of care, you will then need to decide how many hours of assistance she will need. For example, does your mom need someone to come in a few mornings a week to help her cook, clean, run errands or bathe? Or does she need more continuous care that requires daily visits or a full-time aide?

After you determine her needs, there are two ways you can go about hiring someone. You can either go through an agency or you can hire someone directly.

Hiring Through an Agency


Hiring a personal care or home health aide through an agency is often the safest and easiest option, but it can be more expensive. Costs typically run anywhere between $14 and $25 an hour depending on where you live and the qualifications of the aide.

An agency will handle everything, including an assessment of your mom's needs, assigning appropriately trained and pre-screened staff to care for her and finding a fill-in on days her aide is not available.

There are drawbacks, however. For instance, you may not have much input on the selection of the caregiver. The caregivers may change or alternate, which can cause a disruption.

To find a home-care agency in your mom's area, ask for referrals through friends, family or doctors' offices. You can also use the home-care locator service tool at PayingForSeniorCare.com – click on "Find Quality, Affordable Care." In addition, Medicare offers a home health compare tool at Medicare.gov/HomeHealthCompare to help you find and compare home health care agencies.

You should be aware that original Medicare does not cover in-home caregiving services unless your mom is receiving doctor ordered skilled nursing or therapy services at home. If your mom is in a certain Medicare Advantage plan, or is low-income and qualifies for Medicaid, she may be eligible for some financial assistance.

Hiring Directly


Hiring an independent caregiver on your own is the other option, and it is usually less expensive. Costs typically range between $12 and $20 per hour. Hiring directly also gives you more control over who you hire, so you can choose someone who you feel is right for your mom.

Be aware that if you do hire someone on your own, you become the employer. There is no agency support to fall back on if problems arise or if the aide does not show up. You are also responsible for payroll taxes and any work-related injuries that may happen. If you choose this option make sure you check the aide's references thoroughly and conduct a criminal background check.

To find someone, ask for referrals or try eldercare-matching services like Care.com or CareLinx.com. For a fee, an aging life care expert (see AgingLifeCare.org) may help you find a caregiver.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living" book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization's official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

Published July 5, 2019
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