Diabetes Forecast

5 Tips for Retirement Planning

Thinking ahead makes for a smooth transition from nine-to-fiver to retiree

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Many people look forward to retirement after decades of work, while others may find themselves there unexpectedly. Either way, it’s a big transition. But with a little planning, you can protect your health as you move into this new phase of life with diabetes.

1. Get (And Stay) Covered

If you’re 65 or older, or if you have a permanent disability, you most likely qualify for Medicare coverage. Do your homework to make sure you choose the coverage under Medicare that’s best for you. Start by talking with your health care providers to make sure they accept Medicare and that your medications are covered by your insurance plan. Medicare Part A covers hospital and nursing home care. Medicare Part B covers blood glucose testing supplies and insulin for use with a pump. There’s a penalty for not signing up for Part B when you become eligible, in the seven-month period that starts three months before your 65th birthday, notes Vanessa Jones Briscoe, PhD, ARNP, CDE, department chair for aging studies at Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, Florida.

Medicare Part D covers insulin, syringes and needles, and diabetes medications, as do the voluntary Medicare Advantage plans. Medicare does not cover dental services (unless you’re involved in an accident and your mouth is affected), eyeglasses, or hearing aids, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Consider buying a plan for those services through a private insurer. Each state and county has its own Department of Insurance to help you navigate enrollment choices. Visit medicare.gov to learn more.

2. Maintain an Active Mind And Body

During retirement, it’s important to stay active for your physical and mental health. Exercise can help improve blood glucose management and stave off some complications, including heart disease and nerve damage. “Physical activity improves health in many ways … [including] maintaining strength of the bones to prevent disability,” says Nicolas Musi, MD, director of the Barshop Institute for Longevity and Aging Studies at the University of Texas Health and Science Center in San Antonio. “It’s also very important for brain health.” Exercise improves thinking and memory and can prevent depression, for which seniors and people with diabetes are at a greater risk.

Build a fitness regimen that includes cardiovascular exercise, strength training, balance, and flexibility. Your local YMCA may have programs targeted toward older exercisers—and with moves to target heart, muscles, and balance, says Briscoe. Walking clubs, aqua fitness (good for those with joint problems), and dance classes are great ways to exercise and stay social, an important factor for health.

3. Stretch a Health Care Dollar

Living on a fixed income can be a challenge. Your provider and pharmacist may be able to help you keep drug costs down. “You have to make sure when you’re talking with a physician about diabetes that they do know your income situation,” says Carol Kaplun, RN, BSN, of Iona Senior Services in Washington, D.C.

Your pharmacist can let you know if there are generic or similar drugs that have better coverage under your insurance plans. Generally, drugs that have been on the market longer are less expensive than their newer counterparts. Online pharmacies may also have cheaper options, but Musi urges consumers to make sure their sources are reputable.

See the American Diabetes Association’s list of drug affordability resources at makeinsulinaffordable.org.

4. Travel Safely

People often have more time to travel when they retire. Because diabetes will come along for the ride, you’ll need to do a little extra planning. Pack medication and supplies to cover more days than you’ll be away—you can ask your health care provider or pharmacy for extras—and carry a list of all your medications (with dosages) and the names and phone numbers of your pharmacy and doctor. If you frequent a chain pharmacy and are traveling within the United States, your drugstore may be able to fill your prescription at any location. Traveling abroad? A supplemental insurance plan, which you purchase in addition to your regular insurance or Medicare, can cover health care issues and emergencies, plus sometimes the medications you may need on your trip, says Kaplun. If you’re traveling in a group, let the leader know you have diabetes and that you may need to stop for meals or to test your blood glucose, urges Fiona Druy, RNNP, MPH, a gerontological nurse practitioner in Washington, D.C.

5. Get a Little Help At Home

If you need help with care at home, agencies on aging can connect you with local resources. You can search by ZIP code at n4a.org or by visiting eldercare.gov. Medicare covers in-home intermittent skilled nursing care in certain instances, such as following a hospitalization. Agencies on aging and hospitals can point families to certified and bonded caregivers, says Druy. It’s in hospitals’ best interest to point you to a reputable provider: Hospitals get fined by Medicare if patients are readmitted within 30 days. Not all recommended providers may accept your insurance, so agencies on aging can help you navigate that as well. 



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