HELP LINE: Harvey answers more frequently asked questions

I SAT DOWN recently to write yet another column about Medicare, but then I thought to myself, “I don’t have the intestinal fortitude to do another one of these right now!”

(Actually, what I really thought to myself was considerably more colorful than that, so use your imagination and thank me for my good taste).

So, I decided to regurgitate (metaphorically speaking) some of the questions I’ve gotten from a number of you.

Generally, if one asks, many are wondering.

And while I concede that some of these are Medicare-related, you’ll also note that there does appear to be life beyond Medicare.


Q. Tell me the truth: Does the Federal government “run” Medicare?

A. Yes. Now, Part C (“Advantage Plans”) and Part D (prescription drug plans) are actually the products of private insurance companies, but they are “approved” by the Feds (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services).

In the same vein, Medicare supplemental plans (“MedSupps,” “MediGaps”) are also private.

CMS runs Medicare parts A and B directly.

Q. My daughter keeps telling me to get rid of my two little dogs because I could trip over them and break my hip. What do you think?

A. I think your daughter loves you — and she is, of course, correct — but the real question is: How important are they to you?

Think about your day and what you look forward to, and what gives you a reason to carry on.

If the answer is (among other things) “two little dogs,” then, if it were me, I’d take my chances, because loneliness and purposelessness kill as many folks as do falls and broken hips.

If that’s what you decide, think about how you could make yourself safer (e.g. “bell” the dogs? And no, I’m not kidding!). And please don’t give your daughter my phone number.

Q. I know that it doesn’t start until October, but can I get free help with this whole Part D “thing”?

A. Yes. Call any of the numbers at the end of the column.

Decent people will help you, without making you feel like an idiot, and they will not try to sell you anything.

Q Do I have to have help with that Part D ‘thing’?

A. No. Go to and use the PlanFinder.

When they say “health plans,” they mean “Advantage plans.”

Good luck!

Q. My son and his wife think I should have some “help” at home.

What should I do?

A. Any number of things, but first, tell me this: What do you think?

Q. I’m 88 years old. Don’t you think I’m a little old to be worrying about “exercise”?

A. Yes. I think you should stop “worrying” and just do it.

Most of us aren’t looking to live forever. We just want to “live” until it’s time to do something else.

So, whether it’s lifting weights (I’m not kidding), aerobics, hiking or walking from one room to the next, the more you move, the better you’ll do and the more of a “life” you’ll have. Period.

Q. I hate being “old”!

A. I’m sorry. Did you hate being “young?”

Q. Do I have to have a will?

A. Well, do you mean, is there a law that says you have to? No.

There is also no law that says you have to have a durable power of attorney for health care or an advance directive or a community property agreement or anything else.

Irresponsibility is splendidly legal.

If you don’t particularly like whatever family you have, then, by all means, do absolutely nothing.

Q. Do you work for the government?

A. No.

Q. Do you work for the state?

A. No.

Q. Do you work for the newspaper?

A. No.

Q. Who do you work for?

A. Information & Assistance, which is part of the Olympic Area Agency on Aging.

My job is to help people find help, if they want it or need it.

If they don’t, my job is to stay out of the way.

Q. My dear wife has what we and the doctors think is probably Alzheimer’s and I take care of her at home; sometimes, she kind of “comes to” out of nowhere.

That happened the other day, and she wanted me to promise that I’d never put her in a nursing home.

I was shocked, so I just distracted her until she forgot about it, but I feel terrible!

What should I do?

A. I’m sorry. I know how hard that is, and I know how much it hurts.

Please don’t make that promise.

I’ve seen too many folks make it, then kill themselves (literally) trying to keep it.

If it happens again, you could just say something like, “I promise to always love you and be there for you,” then know that you told the truth.

If she loved you as much as you love her, she wouldn’t want you to die proving it … and neither would you.

Q. I’m already worrying about the holidays and I feel like the Grinch! But I just dread having my family come pick me up and drop me in the middle of extended family mayhem for a whole day! What should I do?

A. Nothing; well, I suppose you could say “no,” but are you sure you really want to?

I’ll bet you know that a lot of folks would give anything to have your “problem,” but if you’d truly prefer to be left alone, then by all means, be alone.

A buddy of mine simply turns down the volume on his hearing aids, then spends the next 364 days telling stories about what he heard that he didn’t “hear.”

Holidays aren’t “joy-filled” for everyone, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s surprisingly common.

Just be sure that you’ll still feel OK about you, the morning after.

Q. I hate health insurance!

A. Me, too.

Q. My Mom keeps sending me your columns. Do you think she’s trying to tell me something?

A. Yes.

Q. I HATE growing old!

A. Then, don’t.

Grow wiser, more accepting, more flexible, quicker to laugh, slower to judge.

Grow polite, helpful, courteous, generous or … smart.

Hate growing old? Then, grow young. You know who youth is wasted on …


Mark Harvey is director of Clallam/Jefferson Senior Information & Assistance, which operates through the Olympic Area Agency on Aging. He is also a member of the Community Advocates for Rural Elders partnership. He can be reached at 360-452-3221 (Port Angeles-Sequim), 360-385-2552 (Jefferson County) or 360-374-9496 (West End), or by emailing [email protected].

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