Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Be Wise About the Flu

Learn about Who Needs A Flu Vaccine.

Cold And Flu Treatment: Get it Right or Get Worse

With the best of intentions, the choices we make in treating illness for ourselves or for our children are not always right. Even simple over-the-counter cold treatments or flu medicines can make matters worse with the wrong selection.With nearly all states across the U.S. presently experiencing a flu outbreak, it’s the right time to make the right treatment choice and get your health back on track.

To get advice specifically on cold remedies, see our article on what works/what doesn’t. But to clear up any confusion you may have on flu symptoms and flu treatments , here are three valuable tips.

Tip 1:  When to choose cough suppressants vs. cough expectorants

One of the most common errors in treating the flu is in the selection of cough medicines. The selection of cough treatments in most drug stores is overwhelming, especially when you’re not feeling well. Before you grab the first bottle you see, first understand the key difference between a cough expectorant and a cough suppressant.:
  • A medicine labeled as a cough expectorant is designed to increase your coughing and make it more “productive” by increasing mucous production, also known as phlegm. 
  • A medicine labeled as a cough suppressant or antitussive seeks to reduce coughing, or at least suppress the urge to cough. 
You no doubt understand why you may want to reduce coughing; it’s not enjoyable and can even hurt, or at least hurt your ability to get a good night’s sleep! But, why would you want to promote coughing with a cough expectorant? Because a productive cough removes bacteria from your lungs, helping you to heal more quickly or reduce the severity of your cold or flu.
Encourage wet coughs, discourage dry coughs
Make your choice between a cough suppressant or cough expectorant according to what kind of cough you are experiencing:
  • A “wet” cough loaded down with that gross-sounding stuff is actually good for you, since all that mucous is packed with bacteria that needs to leave your body. So, encourage that wet cough, since its likely helping your body fight the infection.
  • A “dry” cough is loaded with little more than frustration. It usually comes from that throat tickle you feel when you've got the flu, rather than from the body’s efforts to expel phlegm.  Especially if the dry cough is inducing insomnia, suppressing the desire to cough is likely the best solution.
A cough expectorant usually employs a drug such as Guaifenesin to loosen up the mucus, clearing the lungs. Most cough suppressants try to reduce the desire to cough by coating the throat or by using the drug Dextromethorphan (often abbreviated DM) to block the cough reflex.

Tip 2: Sometimes, less is more....

Many doctors feel that the right solution for a cough is to trust the body to make the right decision regarding whether or not to cough: in other words, to not take a flu treatment medicine unless your symptoms are interfering with your sleep or other necessary activities. Particularly if you smoke, have asthma, or have emphysema, coughing may clear up your lungs and reduce flu symptoms and some OTC medicines may interfere.

Another reason some doctors treat flu symptoms conservatively is because of possible side effects.  For example, dextromethorphan may interact negatively with certain medicines, such as antidepressants. As well, many combination cold and cough medicines contain decongestants that can create risks for those with high blood pressure or heart disease, since decongestants can raise blood pressure. Even if you don’t have these health conditions, many cough and cold over-the-counter medicines have ingredients that can increase anxiety. 

Before you go for medicines, consider relieving symptoms with these CDC-recommended solutions for upper respiratory problems:
  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Use a clean humidifier or cool mist vaporizer.
  • Avoid smoking, second-hand smoke, and other pollutants (airborne chemicals or irritants).
If you feel the need for symptom relief through medicines, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends starting with acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen to relieve pain or fever (read about what is safe to give your child). With any cough, cold, or flu medicines in your cabinet, check the expiration date and dispose of them if expired. The CDC also cautions against giving children younger than age four any medicines that are intended for older children and giving your child two medicines that contain the same ingredients – a common risk with multiple-symptom cold medicines.

Tip 3:  Know when to go to the doctor

The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. Knowing when to let a flu run its course vs. seeking professional medical help is a difficult decision. While most people recover in less than two weeks, some develop complications such as pneumonia, which can be life-threatening and result in death. Since the flu, also known as influenza, can be dangerous, especially for people 65 and older, young children, and people with certain health conditions, such as COPD, it is always best to see a doctor if you are at all unsure of the severity or risk.

If you’ve already got flu symptoms, CDC recommends that any particularly high risk persons seek care as soon as possible for flu symptoms (such as fever, cough, sore throat runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches) because antiviral treatment can avert serious flu outcome. 
Prevention is the best medicine, of course. The best way to prevent the flu is by getting vaccinated each year. CDC routinely recommends vaccination as long as influenza viruses are circulating.

For more in-depth information on the flu, including flu symptoms, flu relief, flu treatment, and flu statistics, see CDC’s online seasonal influenza center.

If your doctor prescribes prescription strength cough medicines, remember that the FamilyWize prescription drug card can be downloaded for free by clicking on the link in the upper, right-hand corner of this article. Save up to 75% on prescription medications. If you need assistance with medical help, please visit our community resource page for your state to find low cost or free health services and clinics.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Fat Tuesday - Mardi Gras is Here!

City of New Orleans
Colorful masks are a Mardi Gras tradition.
It's Carnival!

Did you know that MARDI GRAS is considered America’s Greatest Party? The City of New Orleans celebrates a tradition that dates back at least a century. The celebration of Mardi Gras originated in Paris. In 1699, French explorer Iberville camped alongside the Mississippi River, about sixty miles south of New Orleans. He and his men decided to call the site where they landed, Point du Mardi Gras. 
Mardi Gras can be celebrated on any Tuesday from February 3 through March 9. Mardi Gras is celebrated 47 days before Easter, that's forty days of Lent and seven Sundays.
Mardi Gras, also known as Fat Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday, Carnival, and even Pancake Day in the UK. The celebrations begin on 12th February in 2013. Falling just before Lent, this marks the last opportunity for fun and feasting before 40 days of "self-denial". Mardi Gras means "Fat Tuesday" in French.

Mardi Gras Indians                              

pancake day
Colorful costumes and parades
mark Mardi Gras tradition.
(Image from:
Mardi Gras Indians are perhaps the most colorful and interesting part of Mardi Gras tradition. In the early days of Mardi Gras, African Americans participated in the parades by joining Native American "krewes". Their hand made and often elaborate costumes make this feature of Mardi Gras parades spectacular. Some costumes weigh over one hundred pounds!You just have to see the spectacular costumes they adorn in the parades! Make sure you have your cameras' batteries charged!

The City of New Orleans 

New Orleans is one of the most colorful cities in the United States, and is filled with cultural influences from Europe, the Caribbean and Africa. Visitors find a unique blend of food, music and culture all in one amazing place. There's no better place to hold a celebration like Mardi Gras.
From gumbo, Jambalaya, to the famous Beignets, the Big Easy makes it easy to tantalize the taste buds!, Home to the New Orleans Jazz Festival, this is the town to visit if you love jazz music. New Orleans is truly one of America's most culturally and historically-rich destinations
The parades actually start before Fat Tuesday, but on any day, you'll be able to find something to do. Sometimes there are several parades going on the same day, with different routes. Just wear comfortable shoes so you can walk the parade routes. Sometimes parades wind up lasting much longer due to stalling along the parade route! Families enjoy St. Charles Avenue between First Street and Napoleon Avenue. Most of the parade goers are families so the atmosphere is good, clean family fun. 
Catching beads and doubloons from floats are a wonderful experience, but not everyone is going to make the trip to New Orleans. If you travel to New Orleans, bring a bit of the Big Easy to you! Celebrate at home by making hats or decorations, and of course plenty of food! has an easy recipe for Beignets, a New Orleans favorite. 
craft projects
King Cake is another colorful Mardi Gras tradition.
Decorating with streamers and balloons in traditional Mardi Gras colors, yellow, purple and green is a great way to teach your kids about this great American tradition. Bake a king cake and see who gets the prize. 

Visit the website to get some wonderful, fun templates to make your own masks before you departure. They are fun, easy to do craft projects for the kids if you can't take a Mardi Gras vacation. Have fun and enjoy Fat Tuesday!!!
Cindy Foley

Contributing Writer

Monday, February 11, 2013

Touch Technology Helping Kids With Disabilities

How IPads are helping disabled children communicate and develop motor skills

Children who have an intellectual disability or physical disability, such as paralysis, cerebral palsy, vision loss, hearing loss, down syndrome, and autism, are experiencing fascinating and effective ways to overcome or compensate for their disabilities through cutting-edge technology.

Enablement Through Touchscreen Technology

youth with disabilities
New technologies for students help with
small motor skills.
Children with some disabilities often struggle with common life processes that many of us take for granted, such as cognition, body movement, and communication. Take the keyboard and computer mouse, for example. These common computer tools work fine for those with ordinary motor skills, functioning successfully to connect our thoughts with the computer. But for those whose cognitive or motor skills are in some way diminished, these common interfacing tools are a hindrance, not a go-between.

By comparison, the touch screens of many modern devices, such as the iTouch, iPad, and iPhone, are significantly more accessible, more intuitive devices for many children and adults with physical or mental disabilities:
  • In one case, a two-year-old child with cerebral palsy that put him a year behind developmentally in language, cognition, and motor skills was able to completely bridge that disablement gap within four months with daily exposure to therapeutic iPad sessions.
  • In another case, an eight-year-old with down syndrome, autism, and apraxia is now able to request food or toys, ask for help, and is successfully learning colors and numbers, made possible with an iPad and an app called Proloquo 2 Go
These two examples are not exceptions. Thousands of parents are discovering extraordinary benefits of touchscreen devices in helping youth with disabilities. According to BridgingApps – an organization that works to bridge the gap between technology and people with disabilities – the significant and revolutionary benefits of touchscreen devices for children and adults with special needs have resulted in an estimated 40,000 apps being developed in a very short amount of time that benefit physically and mentally disabled children. Some examples include:
  • Yes|No – one of the simplest apps for people who have disabilities. It allows touch to express a yes or no preference.
  • Touch-to-speak apps, like Proloquo2Go, enable children struggling with small motor skills to point to iconic symbols or images, allowing them to non verbally express what they want, such as what they would like to eat. See a video example of this app in action here.
  • Trouble with hearing? Try soundAmp R, an app that amplifies sounds in certain situations.  Apps like this have increased the use of Ipads in schools since users can also record lectures or presentations to play back later.
  • Assistive Chat is an app that predicts sentence completion, so when you must type out words and sentences, you may not need to type the whole thing.
  • Some apps encourage physical movement by making it a game or simply entertaining to do so. An entertaining app is sometimes used in conjunction with exercise equipment, such as treadmills for those with down syndrome. Using the app as a reward can boost their interest in physical movement that they would otherwise prefer to avoid.
  • Some children with mental disabilities have shown motor skills improvement from playing with iPad apps that were not necessarily designed for youth with disabilities, such as Elmo Loves ABCs, which teachers children to write the entire alphabet. These new technologies for students benefit preschool disabled as well as children with disabilities in the classroom.
  • Also look at Behavior Tracker Pro if you are the parent, teacher, or therapist of a mentally disabled child and need to measure the behavioral progress of children with mental disabilities. It’s supportive for both special education students in the classroom and at home because it helps you track behaviors and automatically graph them – even export the data for off-line manipulation in Excel.

Ipads in the Classroom

Many parents and teachers are finding that the iPad is effective for education disabilities. It is expected that, over the coming years, school districts across the country will begin to approve iPads for classrooms, especially for their students with special needs in the classroom.

Ipads For Youth With Disabilities

First, understand that employing tech in classroom or home, such as iPads or iPhones, is not a solution without the active involvement of the parent or teacher, any more than putting a hammer in a student’s hand will result in great home construction. iPads for school or home are simply tools, and no matter how effective they can be, they are not solutions in themselves. 

tech in classroom
Vincent uses treadmill with
iPad apps for disabled children.
(Image from:
If your child has mental or physical disabilities, take a look in the Apps for Special Education section of the App Store. Here you will find hundreds of new apps for the iPhone and iPad of specific value to the disabled. These new apps for apple range in price from free to several hundred dollars. 

For a more objective analysis of great iTouch apps and iPad apps for disabled children and adults, consider investing in the book Getting Started: iPads for Special Needs by Sami Rahman.  The handbook addresses not only why you should consider an iPad for your special needs user, but also which one to buy, the accessories that may be necessary for a special needs user, such as stylus, keyboards, Braille interfaces, wheelchair mounting and more – all with a particular focus on the special needs user.

 Ric Moxley

Contributing Writer

Friday, February 8, 2013

February Family Fun to Keep Kids from Freaking Out!

kids activities
Family activities at home can be
creative and fun for everyone.

Right about now we are all starting to wish for warmer weather. Personally, I could live in 80 degree weather year round. I am not a big fan of the cold weather, especially when it comes to trying to figure out what to do with my little toddlers and preschoolers when we are stuck inside all day.

February is the tail end of being cooped up for the winter and you have probably exhausted all your avenues for fun family activities.  Now that my kids are older they are pretty busy between school and sports and they don't have much down time. As for my toddlers and preschoolers that is a different story. I am constantly trying to think of craft activities for toddlers and preschoolers. A day of rain is a day of sadness and they are always wondering what to do.

By now winter kids activities have become scarce. I constantly have to come up with kids activities that will keep them entertained and most importantly keep their attention span for more than 10 minutes, a tough thing to accomplish with a classroom of children who are 2 to 5 years old!

I am sure you have exhausted all the game boards in your family entertainment department and the TV is starting to be on 24/7.  So what other things can you do to keep your kids busy and keep them from saying "But I'm bored?" Maybe start some new family hobbies or start learning some new family fun crafts to spruce up the family home evening activities in your home. Here is a list of family ideas that will hopefully keep everyone busy until the warmer weather hits and they are able to play outside. I hope it also answers the family's question of "What to do on a rainy day."
family fun crafts to
Family fun crafts to keep kids busy
are a hit for everyone!
  • Kitchen Time - Incorporate a cooking/baking day once a week.  Have your child help you cook dinner one night a week or make the dessert for everyone. They will have fun and also appreciate what it takes to make meals for the family.
  • Homemade Valentines - Instead of buying Valentines this year have your children make them. Find some scrap paper, glue, ribbon, glitter, and doilies and create away. It will take them awhile and the finished product is priceless.
  • Make a Photo Collage - Go through old photos and make a huge collage and put it together as a family. Hang the finished product for everyone to see.
  • Kids Daily Activity Apps - I just discovered this cool thing a few months ago when my printer went to heaven and I had to purchase a new one. My new printer, a Hewlett-Packard is the coolest thing ever and a hit with my preschoolers. I had no idea when I purchased it that it did so much. I am able to download children apps through my printer and my printer will print out daily activities. It ranges from educational activities to just coloring activities for children. I can also find recipes for kids and so much more. Their favorite is the Nickelodeon App since it has all their favorite characters. I am sure a lot of you are thinking this is no good to me if you don't have the printer. However, a lot of these apps can now be found on your phone. There are also free apps that can be found on the Internet.
  • Printables for Kids - There are coloring websites for kids of all ages. The easiest way to find a page is to Google kids' worksheets or free kids coloring pages and 100's of pictures will come up. You can even find easy things to do with your toddlers. It doesn't take much for a toddler to become excited about something. Give them coloring pages of their favorite characters and they will be grinning from ear to ear. My favorite free printable website for my preschool would be the "Golden Goose Club" from Mother Goose Time. You will find many rainy activities for kids and some cool games for kids.
  • Make Some Slime, Play-Doh, or Flubber - I know I know, what a mess. But it actually isn't, even though it sounds like it. Just keep it in the kitchen and your kids will love you for it and it will be something they will always remember doing when they get older. There is nothing better than a greasy, grimy, goop that slithers through your hands. Yes, I said "your hands"! Kids of any age love this. It is a big sensory sensation to anyone. With so many different recipes to choose from you can't go wrong. Pick a different recipe a day and see which one you like best. I am a little partial to the flubber. It stays together and can be stretched time and time again and feels really cool between my fingers.
  • Daily Dream Puppet Show - Perform a puppet show with your kids and incorporate their dreams. If your kid is a dreamer this is a great way for them to express it. This is also a great way to get your kids to sleep. If your child is having problems going to bed at night you can remind them if they don't sleep, they won't dream and then they can't have a puppet show. You will find out this will end up being a highlight of the day for your child and they will look forward to it every day. If they can't remember a dream, have them act out what kind of dream they would like to have. The imagination is an endless tool for teaching.
  • Fun With Shaving Cream - Yes you heard me right, shaving cream. This is absolutely the most fun and inexpensive entertainment that the whole family can enjoy for an hour. Plus it will make masterpieces for the refrigerator. I have been teaching preschool for over 20 years and this is the one project that they all remember and all you need is some shaving cream, a dab of paint and a piece of paper. Put the shaving cream and paint on the paper and smear away.  Make a picture of some sort and just feel the oozing feeling of shaving cream squirt through your fingers. Guaranteed, you will enjoy this whether you're 9, 19 or 90! Ah, the simple things in life!
I hope some of these ideas help you rediscover your child's playfulness as well as your own. Keep the cabin fever away!

Marci Psalmonds
Contributing Writer

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Grapefruit: Adverse Interactions with Medication

grapefruit interactions
Many medications have adverse interactions with grapefruit
(photo from
Eat a grapefruit for breakfast. It sounds like a healthy suggestion, doesn't it? For many, the health benefits of grapefruit are obvious. Grapefruits are high in vitamin C to boost the immune system, have high levels of antioxidants to ward off cancer, contain high water levels for a flavorful hydration option, and even have fat-burning enzymes. Less obvious, however, are the potentially adverse interactions that can come from eating a grapefruit or drinking grapefruit juice while on certain medications prescribed by your doctor. 

First, realize that the reference to “certain medications” is extremely broad. The list of drugs that have dangerous grapefruit interactions is longer than most people may expect it to be. Millions of Americans are taking these common medications. That fact, along with a statistic from WebMD stating that one fifth of Americans have grapefruit for breakfast, is startling. Hopefully, the people taking those medications know about grapefruit interactions and are not part of that 20 percent.

How Does it Interact?

So what does grapefruit do that makes it react so negatively with a considerable number of drugs? According to WebMD, it interferes with how the body breaks down certain drugs due to a chemical it contains called furanocoumarin. The result is that the medication stays in your body for too short or too long, rendering it either useless or unsafely potent.

More specifically, research cited on ABC News suggests that furanocoumarins block enzymes in the intestines that break down medications in a normal metabolic process. It only takes one grapefruit or one glass of grapefruit juice to impede this important process for more than 24 hours. Because of this, taking your medications hours apart from when you normally consume grapefruit does not prevent the interaction. You may simply need to cut this acidic fruit out of your diet altogether. Fruits with similar interactions are Seville oranges, limes, and pomelos.

Ignoring this precaution about grapefruit medication interactions is not a wise idea. Drugs that note sudden death as a possible side effect could be made lethally potent from the effects of grapefruit. The chances of sudden death would be exacerbated by an interaction, basically causing an overdose of the drug. Other side effects of grapefruit interaction include heart rhythm irregularities, trouble breathing, kidney failure, blood clots, and muscle breakdown.

For quick reference, ABC News has a list of 43 specific drugs known to interact with grapefruit. Generally, WebMD lists the following types of medications as posing a possible threat when grapefruit is co-ingested:

  • Statins (cholesterol-lowering drugs)
  • Antihistamines
  • Calcium channel blockers (blood pressure drugs)
  • A variety of psychiatric drugs (including the popular Zoloft)
  • Immune suppressants
  • Pain medications (such as Methadone)
  • Impotence drugs for erectile dysfunction (such as Viagra)
  • Anti-HIV medication
  • Anti-arrhythmic medications

You may not want to limit your concern to these drugs or even this fruit, though. There are plenty of other food-drug interactions you may not be aware of. It’s important to consult a doctor or pharmacist any time you are prescribed a new medication. Don’t panic; just be sure to ask about any food-drug interactions associated with what you were prescribed. 

Above all, please don’t take these interactions lightly or ignore any warnings expressed on your prescription bottles or voiced directly to you by your doctor. Researchers feel that patients and even members of the medical community take food-drug interactions much less seriously than interactions involving medications taken with other medications. Unfortunately, both types have dangerous side effects and require some physician responsibility and consumer awareness. Improperly used, even a healthy fruit like grapefruit can cause a great deal of harm. Be informed about your prescriptions and the diet you follow while taking them. 

Amanda Gilmore
Contributing Writer

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Adaptive Living – How to Help

What to do when a friend, spouse or employee becomes disabled

If you have a family member, friend, or employee who has experienced a permanent disability, you may feel conflicted between two opposing thoughts:
  • I want to help and encourage them.
  • I don't know how to help and encourage them, and I'm worried that I might make matters worse for them.
These feelings are understandable. Especially because, as a close friend or family member, it may be hard to find the right balance between helping and getting in the way; between tough love and insensitivity; between encouraging and badgering. Most likely, the wrong approach is taking no approach. There is risk in reaching out and offering help, but that risk is small compared to the loneliness of frustration of being in a state of total permanent disability without a support community. To help you help them, consider the following tips and guidelines.  

How to be a supportive friend or family member

Communication is key to getting on the right path as a friend or loved one. Offer your assistance and ask for what help they might need, whether that is transportation, dressing, bathing, walking, or whatever. It's best not to assume and just start helping; this may embarrass or frustrate the disabled person, who may be trying to learn how to do things on their own and thus find your attempt to assist to be unhelpful. 

However, knowing that you are willing to help can mean the world to them. One simple example of this from my own life: Shortly after my injury, I would put a shirt on, only afterward remembering that I wanted to wear it with the sleeves rolled up. With only one good hand, that meant I had to either take off the shirt and roll the sleeves in advance, or hope that there was a good friend nearby who wouldn't feel embarrassed or bothered by me asking them to roll up the sleeve I couldn't reach.

Other ways to help:
  • Talk with others who have experienced a similar physical disability. Ask their advice on do's and don’ts toward being helpful.
  • Review steps you can take to conform the home to accommodate the person's new immobility.
  • Go to to find opportunities in your area where you can make a difference in the lives of others who have a permanent disability.
Most important: reach out to the disabled friend or family member regularly. After a major and debilitating injury, friends and family often flock to the recovery room at the hospital, but then disappear from their lives afterwards. Adaptive living takes time. Be available to them through the passage of time.

How to be supportive as an employer

As an employer, you are likely feeling an interest in taking action on two different levels: that of being a good mensch and that of being in legal compliance. For both of these, here are some tips:
Adaptive living
Employers can provide a support community
for employees with disabilities.
(Image from
  • Walk a mile in their shoes. Imagine yourself going through the same type of physical disablement as your employee. Consider physically and mentally walking through the experience of coming to work, approaching the workstation, taking restroom or lunch breaks, and performing the work, except doing so as this newly disabled employee. Most likely, you will immediately recognize problem areas and can take actions proactively to make the work environment more adaptive to their condition.
  • Get professional advice  If your company is large enough, there is likely a person in Human Resources whose job it is to help you make a disabled employee's work experience more productive or successful. If you are in a smaller company without that HR resource, look outside the organization for professional help. For example, if your employee is returning to work blind, contact The National Federation of the Blind (NFB), who will be more than willing to guide you in taking steps to be helpful and ADA compliant. 
  • Get online help.  Your first two stops should be (the U.S. Department of Justice Americans with Disabilities Act website) – and The first is chock-full of information useful for employers. The second provides resources on benefits, rights, emergency preparedness, employment, technology and transportation for employers of people with disabilities.
For a 10,000-foot view of what you need to consider as an employer, take a look at this brief article regarding how to do the right thing as an employer of the disabled. You might also want to look at the US Department of Labor's webpage Disability Employment Policy Resources by Topic.

Adapting through giving

One final thought on how to help as part of adaptive living is for the person now living with a total permanent disability

Speaking as a person who has experienced a permanent disability (read more about my injury in Adaptive Living – Adjusting Mentally and Adaptive Living – Adjusting Physically), I have found that nothing puts my head, heart, and life on a healthy track faster or better than actively reaching out to others who are recovering from the trauma of a recent physical disability. The more time I spent helping others, the less time I had available to bemoan my condition.

Helping others also created a kind of accountability; after all, it's hard for me to encourage others toward successful adaptive living without feeling a responsibility to model it in my own life. That kept me on track.

How can you "reach out" – give yourself to others experiencing paralysis or other types of physical disability? The first step is to look at your own recovery; especially those things that help you succeed.

For me, that included such things as recovering my ability to keep my career plans moving forward by learning how to type one-handed (I volunteered my time with occupational therapists and physical therapists to demonstrate the technique and offer encouragement) and learning how to do household activities successfully with one hand that most people can only imagine doing with two, such as tying shoes one-handed and food preparation/cooking one-handed.

In a similar fashion, look at your adaptive living successes; they are each an opportunity to help others adapt to their own impairment. With each volunteer effort you make, you benefit as well.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

National Wise Health Consumer Month

Did you know that more than half of Americans surveyed in 2011 don't think it is possible to save money on their health care coverage by shopping around. We don't think to ask doctors to negotiate a price on treatments like we do when we go to buy a car or purchase other big ticket items. Do we think to question the necessity of medical tests that are so routinely ordered these days? Some might not be necessary. Well, February has been designated as National Wise Health Care Consumer Month just for that purpose.
Health care costs have escalated to the point that we are now going without treatment for many preventative treatments in order to not have the high medical expenses down the road that could have been headed off if preventative care had been followed. 

With health care costs rising, research your
options before buying a plan.
According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (ARCH) the average cost of a visit to the doctor is about $199; a visit to the ER costs about $922. Up to a quarter of these visits may be unnecessary and the cost  amounts to hundreds of thousands of dollars annually! 

Out of pocket medical bills cost the average consumer almost $3,000 annually.  This results from meeting higher deductibles plus the shared costs with  insurance companies covering 70 - 80% of medical bills, while the other 20-30% is picked up by the consumer.  This can add up quickly so it is really important to study your plan options and read the fine print to save yourself some money down the line.

Explore your options if you are trying to save money on your health care coverage.  Become an informed consumer in order to make the right choices. Consider checking into the following types of service:
  • Fee-For-Service - Probably the most expensive of all plans but might be best when considering your personal situation. These plans offer basic coverage, such as doctor visits, surgeries and hospitalization. When the maximum coverage is reached, major medical coverage takes over. 
    Comprehensive major medical covers basic and major medical expenses. Many employers offer this type of coverage. 
  • Health Maintenance Organizations charge a monthly fee, or premium, but provide coverage within their network of doctors with little to no deductible. Co-pays differ, so it is important to consider how many visits you make to doctors and specialists per year, as well as your monthly budget. If you choose to be treated ouside of the network, additional charges may apply.

Keep costs under control

health care costs
You can save money on
your health care

With health insurance premiums on the rise, there's a good reason many Americans are concerned about the cost of their coverage. So when you're selecting a plan, be sure to ask these questions so you'll have a better idea how much you'll actually have to pay for health care:

  • Is there a deductible and, if so, how much is it?
  • What are the co-pays for each type of service (doctor visits, specialists and emergency room).
  • Is there a prescription plan, how much do I pay for generics vs. brand, are my medications covered?
  • What is covered under hospitalization? Will I have to pay a certain amount per day, during my stay?
Understanding these options when reviewing health insurance plans and taking into consideration your own health needs can save you money in the long run. If you are not currently dealing with a health issue, it can be difficult to anticipate these costs, but remember that emergencies don't always come with a warning, so you don't want to get caught with inadequate coverage when you need it.
A drawback of an HMO could be giving up your doctor, if he or she is not in network, along with easy access to specialists and hospitals outside the plan. If your doctor or specialist is not part of an HMO network, a PPO plan might be best for you. Consumer Reports discusses the differences between the two types of plan as well as point of service and high deductible plans. Remember that there are options available. Even if you have coverage through your employer, they often offer both an HMO and a PPO plan, or if you make your health care needs known to your employer, they might be able to offer something that better fits your needs. 

There are also other options available to help cut your medical costs, such as the FamilyWize discount prescription card. You can download the card for free and start saving up to 75% on prescription costs. FamilyWize essentially acts like a huge consumer group buying service for the uninsured and underinsured. Over 60,000 pharmacies across the country participate in the FamilyWize discount card program. The FamilyWize website also has community resource links for each state that can direct you to agencies that can help you save on health care costs, food and housing assistance and help with utilities.

Become an informed consumer when the selection of your Health Care Plan is up to you.  Make sure you take the time to research just what plans are out there that will meet your own needs. 

Cindy Foley
Contributing Writer