medicareDr. Tamara Kuittinen, medical education director in the Department of Emergency Medicine at Lenox Hill Hospital knows there’s an increase in the number of seniors coming to emergency rooms during the holidays. She thinks this is happening because it’s only at Thanksgiving that many family members can get together. When they do, the younger members are often surprised by deterioration they haven’t seen happening gradually in their older relative’s health.
Too often, they rush them to the hospital not just because they are alarmed, but also because they’ll be returning to a distant home and only have a little time to find out what’s needed.  Dr. Carl Ramsay, Kuittinen’s colleague, has also seen a 10 to 20 percent increase in the number of elderly emergency department admissions during the holidays.
He agrees the reason is twofold.  Younger family members do not usually keep up with the physical condition of their relatives throughout the year.  They may be shocked to see how weak a senior has become. Younger people are not always aware of how normal aging changes our appearance, cognition and mobility, so they may not be in a position to decide how to respond appropriately.
More often than not, these emergency room visits are not really necessary. The doctors caution against taking seniors to hospitals unless absolutely necessary because hospitals are basically places on concentrated disease. Hospitals present a risk of exposing people with weakened immune function to airborne diseases and infections.
Most doctors recommend annual preventive health care checks to avoid medical emergencies.  Both Medicare and the alternative, Medicare
Advantage plans, provide a lot of coverage designed to track seniors’ health and identify problems when most treatable.  Medicare Advantage plans actually offer something beyond traditional Medicare benefits ─ Advantage plans limit annual out-of-pocket costs to help seniors afford needed health care.
Advantage plans also help with care that Medicare doesn’t cover, like eyeglasses, hearing aids and dental care.  Those extras help keep seniors active and more involved with family and friends.  Most Advantage plans also cover prescriptions, while some even offer health club memberships, which is another way to keep seniors strong.
After a senior first becomes eligible for Medicare, most Advantage plans are only available between October 15 and December 7 in later years.  Even though the number of Advantage plans that are available has been growing, premiums are actually down from last year.  Most people can now choose from one to two dozen Advantage plans.

Wiley Long is founder and president of Medigap Advisors, and is passionate about helping people navigate the confusing waters of Medicare. He is the author of The Medicare Playbook: Designing Your Successful Health Coverage Strategy, a clear and simple explanation so you can make the most of your Medicare coverage.