Planning ahead for 2014, made me stop and ponder for a moment … what are the things that are really important to me? First thing that came to my mind was my family. Second was the health of my family and myself. This article is dedicated to Medicare recipients and their caregivers so that we can all have a healthy and happy New Year. Here are 8 easy things that can help you navigate the healthcare maze.

1] Make an appointment for your Annual Wellness Visit. This is a Medicare benefit that provides you and your physician an opportunity to sit down and develop or update a personalized prevention plan to protect you against disease and disability, based on your health and risk factors. This is not an annual physical exam.

2] Follow that prevention plan!

3] Sit down with your loved ones and discuss your end-of-life wishes and complete an advanced health care directive form. Your medical team and family will use this document if you are ever unable to make your wishes known. Forms are available online at www.kokuamau.org and www.hawaiiship.org, or by calling the Sage PLUS Program at 1-888-875-9229.

The advanced health care directive can be as detailed as you like. Be sure to discuss it with your family and give a copy to your physician. If you currently have an advanced healthcare directive, take a moment and make sure it is still in line with your wishes.

4] Do you have a POLST (Physicians Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment) document on file? Printed on bright pink paper, and signed by both a doctor and patient, POLST helps give seriously ill patients more control over their end-of-life care. For more information, pick up the upcoming Feb/March issue of Generations Magazine.

5] Medicare provides most preventive benefits with no co-pay. Take advantage of them to keep you on track toward good health.

6] Do you have family members that help you with your health insurance? Health and drug plans offer a “authorized representative” form that enables that person to obtain information about your health coverage and billing on your behalf.

7] VOLUNTEER! Volunteering is a great way to meet new people, help your community and keep you active. The Hawaii SHIP has several different volunteer opportunities.

8] Do you belong to a community group that would like an educational Medicare presentation? Call or email Hawaii SHIP to request a speaker.

The Hawaii SHIP (State Health Insurance Assistance Program) is a volunteer-based Medicare counseling program that is available statewide through a grant from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. For assistance, volunteer information or to request a Medicare speaker, contact us 1-888-875-9229 or help@hawaiiship.org.

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