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Carol Bradley Bursack, Published July 03 2011

Bursack: Website a good Medicare source

Dear Readers: At one time I carried Medicare cards for four elders, and every time there was a question about their coverage, I had to make a time-consuming phone call.

To add to the fun, my mom had lost her Medicare card before I was carrying hers, so I was well initiated in the red tape of card replacement.

While Medicare can still seem a mystery to many, the help they offer in navigating the system has vastly improved. The Internet, of course, is one of its most prominent aids.

Recently, I was given a tour of the newly updated “Ask Medicare” site, because Medicare is trying to get the word out about how much it is doing to help caregivers, as well as care recipients, find the information they require.

If you type www.medicare.gov/caregivers into your Web browser, you’ll find the Ask Medicare main page. From there, you can follow topics as varied as “how to pay for care” to “caregivers’ stories.” Yes, Ask Medicare wants your stories, as that link is the second most popular link on the site.

From the main page, you’ll also find links leading to the Benefits Check Up page, which can help you make certain you or your elder are getting the benefits you have earned.

By clicking on Support for Caregivers and then “Find support in your community,” you will be led to the Eldercare Locator, which helps you find local support. There is also a link to see if your elder qualifies for extra help with finances.

If you follow the link under “Caregiver Topics,” you’ll find information about what types of care will be covered by Medicare, how to locate a doctor, how to find the right hospital and the Nursing Home Compare tool.

Medicare is increasingly recognizing and highlighting the fact that the caregiver is a key part of the care team. The people I talked with at Medicare said that they want to let people know that they consider the elder, the caregiver, the professionals and Medicare a team working together for the good of the elder.

You’ll probably want to sign up for the “Ask Medicare” newsletter. It’s a helpful, free resource with just the right amount of information without being overwhelming.

Ask Medicare won’t be able to solve all of your caregiving problems. But

if you are caring for an elder, or are on Medicare yourself, there are many answers on the website.

Ask Medicare is a welcome step forward in helping caregivers through a complicated system with far less frustration than in the past.

Carol Bradley Bursack is the author of a support book on caregiving and runs a website supporting caregivers at www.mindingourelders.com. She can be reached at carol@mindingourelders.com.