As we get older, the ones we love inevitably age too. For many, there comes a time where you are no longer just a son, daughter or family member — you’re a caregiver. Ensuring your aging parent or loved one is able to manage and afford their medical treatments can have an enormous impact on their health and quality of life.
Dan Klein, president and CEO of the Patient Access Network (PAN) Foundation, the largest independent charitable organization dedicated to helping people pay their out-of-pocket costs for prescribed treatments, offers five simple ways you can help an aging family member manage their treatment — so you can both live healthier and happier lives.
1. Meet with their doctor or healthcare provider.
Building a relationship with their healthcare provider will help lay the groundwork for future communication and care management. Before attending an appointment, talk to your parent or family member about their needs and concerns, make a list of the medications they are taking and the renewals they may need and determine together what you’d like to accomplish. If drug costs are a financial burden, don’t be shy about asking for samples or if there are less expensive generic equivalents available.
2. Check in with the pharmacist.
Connecting with your parent or family member’s pharmacist is an excellent way to become familiar with their treatment plan and ask questions about potential side effects and interactions of prescribed drugs. Be sure to ask about mail order options offered by some insurance plans and specialty pharmacies, which can save money and time by delivering a three-month supply of medication directly to their home.
3. De-clutter the medicine cabinet.
It is common for those struggling with chronic or multiple illnesses, particularly in old age, to have multiple prescriptions from different healthcare providers, each with complicated regimens that may make it difficult to keep track of what pills to take and when. You can help by ensuring their medicines are organized, accessible and stored appropriately.
Auditing their medicine cabinet is a good place to start. Make note of anything that is running low and order refills where needed. You can visit fda.gov for information on how to appropriately dispose of medications that have expired or are no longer necessary.
A pill organizer box can help keep track of complicated treatment schedules and reduce the risk of missing a dose or doses. Free pill reminder apps, such as Medisafe Pill & Med Reminder, allow you to manage the accounts of multiple family members.
4. Review Medicare or insurance coverage.
Diagnoses and treatments can frequently change and it’s therefore important to ensure your parent or family member’s Medicare or insurance plan still meets their needs. It is worth paying particular attention to their prescription drug plan, which can differ year to year. Online tools, like The National Council on Aging’s Benefits Checkup Tool and Medicare Interactive sponsored by the Medicare Rights Center can help you review benefits and find the best option for them.
They may also be eligible for other Medicare programs — like a Low-Income Subsidy — that can lower out-of-pocket costs.
5. Find out if charitable financial assistance is available.
The PAN Foundation is one of several charities that provides financial assistance for out-of-pocket costs. You can learn more about patient assistance charities at panfoundation.org. You can also download FundFinder, a free app developed by the PAN Foundation that notifies you when assistance becomes available from any of the major charitable patient assistance foundations.