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Carol Bradley Bursack, Published May 03 2009

Bursack: Turning 65 a time to ponder Medicare

Dear Carol: My mother is turning 65. She is in poor health, so even though she isn’t that old by today’s standards, she needs quite a lot of help. I need to learn more about Medicare, estates and other issues. –Karin

Dear Karin: Turning 65 does, indeed, get people thinking. Most people will be looking into Medicare as they near this age. A good starting point is the government site www.medicare.gov. This site has many layers of information.

As with Social Security, it’s a good idea to apply for Medicare a few months ahead of time, so you know you have everything in place. This site also has good information about the Medicare Part D prescription drug program, which needs to be readdressed yearly, and is confusing to nearly everyone. I would use the tools on the site to compare prescription drug plans, at least for a start.

Also, ask your mother’s pharmacist if he or she has any recommendation for companies that may cover the majority of her drugs. Many people find that as their prescriptions change, they must change companies for insurance in order to get good coverage. Let’s hope as our health care system improves prescription drug coverage for people enrolled in Medicare D will get better. For now, however, we have what we have, and that means yearly reassessments.

As far as the estate issue, everyone should have a health directive drawn up, as accidents and health emergencies can occur at any age. However, we tend to get more anxious about this as people age. You and your mother should go together to an estate attorney. There are several companies that provide these services in Fargo-Moorhead.

Two attorneys who are well respected in this field are Brenda Rosten of Rosten Law Office and Susan Johnson-Drenth of Vogel Law Firm. Both attorneys are well qualified to help with estate planning, of which a health directive is an important part. A power of attorney for financial decisions is also important.

As I mentioned, many law offices offer this service, but be sure the person you deal with is someone who does estate planning on a regular basis. As in any field of law, this takes specific training and experience.

Good luck with these issues. You can call the Medicare office (800) 633-4227, but if you are at all computer savvy you will actually find the Web site easier.

Bursack is the author of “Minding Our Elders,” a support book on family elder care, and maintains a Web site at www.mindingourelders.com. To view past columns, go to www.inforum.com and click on columnists. Readers can reach Bursack at carol@mindingourelders.com or write her at

The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107