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New Medicare Cards are Designed to Reduce Medicare Fraud

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Millions of People with Medicare Are Getting New, More Secure Cards
(Family Features) Millions of people with Medicare will receive new, more secure Medicare cards in the mail in 2018. The new cards replace Social Security Number-based Medicare numbers with a new unique, personalized Medicare Number, known as the Medicare Beneficiary Identifier. Each person with Medicare will have his or her own number. The cards will be mailed automatically, free of charge, and there will be no changes to Medicare users’ current benefits.

The new Medicare cards no longer contain a person’s Social Security number, but rather a unique, randomly-assigned Medicare number that protects people’s identity, helps reduce fraud and offers better safeguards of important health and financial information. Removing Social Security Numbers from Medicare cards is one of the ways the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is helping to protect the identities of people with Medicare. The unique Medicare Number not only increases protections from fraud for people with Medicare, it also makes it harder for criminals to use Social Security Numbers to falsely bill Medicare for care services and benefits that were never performed.

CMS is mailing the new Medicare cards in geographic waves. This means people with Medicare may not get their new card at the same time as their friends or neighbors. People with Medicare and their caregivers can visit medicare.gov/newcard to find out when cards will be mailed to their areas. They can also sign up for email notifications about the card-mailing and check the card-mailing status in their states. As soon as people receive their new Medicare cards, they should safely and securely destroy their old Medicare cards and start using their new cards right away.

Make note of these facts to help ensure a smooth transition to your new card

  1. Your card will have a new Medicare Number that’s unique to you, instead of your Social Security Number. This can help protect your identity and keep your personal information more secure.
  2. Your card will automatically come to you at no cost. You don’t need to do anything as long as your address is up-to-date. If you need to update your address, visit socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.
  3. You can find out when your card is mailing by signing up for email notifications at Medicare.gov/NewCard.
  4. Your Medicare coverage and benefits will stay the same.
  5. Mailing takes time, and Medicare will mail the new cards by April 2019. Your card may arrive at a different time than your friend’s or neighbor’s.
  6. Once you get your new Medicare card, destroy your old Medicare card and start using your new one right away. Rather than simply throwing the old card away, shred it or cut it into small pieces.
  7. Your card will be paper and not laminated, which makes it easier for many providers to use and copy for their records.
  8. If you’re in a Medicare Advantage Plan (like an HMO or PPO), your Medicare Advantage Plan ID card is your main card for Medicare. You should still keep and use it whenever you need care. However, you also may be asked to show your new Medicare card, so you should carry this card, too.
  9. Doctors, other health care providers and facilities know your new card is coming and will ask for your new Medicare card when you need care, so carry it with you.
  10. Only give your new Medicare Number to doctors, pharmacists, other health care providers, your insurers or people you trust to work with Medicare on your behalf. Treat your Medicare Number like you treat your credit card numbers. Medicare will never contact you uninvited to ask for personal information.

 

 

 

August 29, 2018 |

5 Tips to Help Reduce Litter and Protect the Oceans

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(Family Features) The tide of environmental studies showing the harmful effects of litter and mismanaged waste on oceans are seemingly everywhere. For example, 8 million metric tons of plastics wind up in streams, rivers and waterways each year, according to research published in “Science.”

According to the Ocean Conservancy, plastic product consumption is predicted to double over the next 10 years. With the health of the oceans closely tied to the health of the environment, marine life and humans, making choices that help reduce ocean pollution is one way to make an impact. In fact, research from the Plastic Free July Foundation shows that more than six in 10 people refuse plastic shopping bags, avoid pre-packed fruit and vegetables, pick up litter and avoid buying water in plastic bottles.

“Mismanaged packaging waste is a threat to our oceans and the overall health of our planet,” said Lynn Bragg, president of the Glass Packaging Institute. “We can all make a difference by changing the type of food and beverage packaging we buy, opting for reusable and refillable containers, following local recycling guidelines and helping keep beaches and waterways clean.”

These tips from the Glass Packaging Institute are just a few ways to contribute:

 

  1. Think about the packaging you choose. When making a purchase, consider alternatives to plastic like glass or other natural and sustainable packaging. Glass, for example, is made mostly from sand and recycled glass, is reusable, recyclable and does not harm oceans or marine life.
  2. Choose reusable containers. Taking advantage of reusable containers for food and beverages is one way to live a more eco-friendly life. Since only 9 percent of plastic bottles are recycled, according to “National Geographic,” reusable containers can serve as an ideal replacement for bottled water whether at home or on-the-go. Rather than plastic, choose glass or stainless steel, which can hold hot or cold food and beverages, and help protect the contents from any chemicals.
  3. Reduce your single-use footprint. Whenever possible, bring reusable bags and containers to the store. Some foods like cereal, pasta and rice can be purchased from bulk bins and placed in a glass or stainless-steel storage container. To further cut down on plastic waste, consider switching to reusable straws, which are available in glass, stainless steel or bamboo.
  4. Recycle better. Learn what you can and can’t recycle in your community. Certain items like disposable cups, greasy pizza boxes, non-recyclable plastic containers (like those for yogurt) and take-out containers can contaminate entire batches of recycling. About 91 percent of plastic is not recycled and can linger in the environment for hundreds of years, contributing to ocean pollution. Glass containers are 100 percent recyclable; steel and aluminum cans and cardboard are also easily recyclable.
  5. Get involved. Volunteering or donating can help keep local beaches, parks and waterways clean. Getting involved with international and national groups with local chapters are also ways to participate in a local cleanup.

 

Find out more about the benefits of choosing and reusing glass packaging to help reduce ocean pollution at upgradetoglass.com.

 

 

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

 

August 22, 2018 |

5 Tips to Aid Performance in the Classroom

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(Family Features) With all the stress of a new school year, it can be difficult for students to readjust to a healthy routine, but many experts agree that sleep is among the most important parts of that routine. Numerous studies demonstrate that children who sleep better learn better.

While you’re busy shopping for pencils, book bags and notebooks, remember that a good night’s sleep should also be at the top of your list this season. Make the transition easier with these five tips from Dr. Sujay Kansagra, director of Duke University’s Pediatric Neurology Sleep Medicine Program and a sleep health consultant for Mattress Firm:

Ease into earlier bedtimes. For many children, the sudden shift to an earlier bedtime and wake-up call can pose a big challenge. Children who were accustomed to falling asleep later at night during the summer will have to slowly adjust their body clocks to move bedtime earlier during the school year. To ease children into the earlier sleep schedule, start moving bedtimes earlier by 10-15 minutes each night until reaching your end goal.

Ensure a comfortable sleeping environment. Pay attention to factors like lighting and noise. It may be necessary, especially early in the school year when the days are still long, to add blackout curtains to help block bright light. If noise is a factor, consider adding some soft background music or a sound machine to serve as a buffer so other noises are less intrusive.

Be sure the bed is up to the task. Another environmental consideration is the bed itself. Mattresses are not always top-of-mind as you consider back-to-school shopping, but when sleep can have such an impact on your child’s educational performance, the right mattress can help ensure students are getting quality zzz’s at the start of a new school year.

Avoid bright light prior to bedtime. Aside from your window, there are also other sources of light that can affect sleep. Several studies have shown that excess screen time just before bed can have a negative impact on the brain’s ability to transition into sleep mode. Try curbing screen time well before bedtime, or if your child must use screens, engage the night-reading feature, which alters the hue of the light for less impact.

Develop a consistent nighttime routine. A routine performed 20-30 minutes prior to bed every night can subconsciously ease children’s brains into sleep. A ritual that involves bathing, brushing teeth, talking about the day’s events, discussing what’s ahead for tomorrow and quiet time with a book are all ways to unwind together and slow down those active minds for a transition toward a peaceful night’s rest.

Remember that sleep is vital for memory retention and cognitive performance. Without it, children may experience behavioral problems and other difficulties in school. Find more resources to help improve your kids’ sleep, including tips on how to purchase a new mattress, at DailyDoze.com.

 

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

August 15, 2018 |

Caring for Caregivers

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How to Prevent Caregiver Burnout

(Family Features) While caring for an older family member – whether it be a spouse, parent or grandparent – can be a rewarding experience, it can also be a difficult and overwhelming task. This is especially true if your loved one lives with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia-related illnesses.

Whether it’s out of love or obligation, caring for a chronically ill or disabled family member (and potentially his or her financial and legal interests) can come at the expense of the caregiver’s quality of life. In addition to maintaining a healthy, active lifestyle outside of caregiving responsibilities, it is important for those caring for a loved one to learn ways to avoid health hazards and stay well-informed of any changes in their loved one’s condition. Add work and children to care for to the equation and it’s a formula that can lead to stress, exhaustion and even potential health issues.

The additional duties often required to provide care for a loved one can lead to physical or emotional fatigue, often referred to as “caregiver burnout.” If you’re caring for an older adult, the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America recommends these tips to help manage stress before caregiving leads to burnout.

Know the signs of burnout. By the time many caregivers suspect signs of burnout, they’re likely already suffering symptoms related to their responsibilities. Being aware of some of the warning signs can help caregivers properly manage stress and protect themselves. Warning signs include:

  • Overwhelming fatigue or lack of energy
  • Experiencing sleep issues
  • Significant changes in eating habits or weight
  • Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Neglecting personal physical and emotional needs
  • Becoming unusually impatient, irritable or argumentative
  • Having anxiety about the future or a feeling of hopelessness
  • Suffering from headaches, stomachaches or other physical ailments
  • Experiencing depression or mood swings
  • Having difficulty coping with everyday tasks
  • Lower resistance to illnesses

Educate yourself about the disease. It’s likely the loved one you care for has several health problems, takes multiple medications and sees multiple health care providers to manage his or her conditions. As a first step in learning more about Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-related illnesses, visit alzfdn.org or nia.nih.gov/alzheimers for information. Support groups, educational workshops, community resources and professionals can also help increase your understanding of the disease and what to expect so you can be a better-informed and prepared caregiver.

Be prepared for important decisions. Take care of financial, legal and long-term care planning issues early on to help reduce stress later. Try to involve the individual in decision-making if he or she is capable, and consider personal wishes regarding future care and end-of-life issues.

Build your care skills. Key skills for any caregiver include communication, understanding safety considerations and behaviors, and managing activities of daily living such as bathing, toileting and dressing. Some organizations and local hospitals may even offer classes specific to your loved one’s disease that can aid you in the process.

Develop empathy. Try to understand what it is like to be a person living with Alzheimer’s or dementia. Put yourself in the affected person’s shoes while also recognizing your own losses. Manage your expectations of your loved one and remain patient.

Ask for help when you need it. Reach out to medical and mental health professionals as well as family and friends. They can assist you when things get tough. In addition, there are typically programs, agencies and organizations in your community that can help manage the challenges of caring for older parents, grandparents, spouses and other older adults.

Advocate for and connect with your loved one. Take an active role in the individual’s medical care. Get to know the care team, ask questions, express concerns and discuss treatment options. Also remember to connect on a personal level through kindness, humor and creativity, which are essential parts of caregiving and can help reduce stress.

Think positive. Focus on the capabilities and strengths that are still intact and enjoy your relationship with your loved one while you are still together. Look for ways to include him or her in your daily routines and gatherings to make as many memories as possible.

Find more caregiver resources and tips at alzfdn.org.

 

Tips for Managing Caregiver Stress

Stress can affect anyone and caregivers may find themselves faced with additional stressors. To help manage stress and avoid caregiver burnout, keep these tips from the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America in mind:

  • Maintain a positive attitude
  • Be flexible and accept the circumstances
  • Be honest and open about your feelings
  • Take it one day at a time
  • Get a good night’s sleep
  • Incorporate stress management techniques, such as meditation or deep breathing, as well as exercise into your daily routine
  • Drink plenty of water and eat a healthful diet full of fruits and vegetables
  • Set realistic goals and go slow

Getting Help with Caregiving

Everyone needs a break from time to time, even caregivers. Look into respite programs for a chance to care for yourself. Types of respite include:

Home Care

  • Home care is often initiated by a doctor’s order or hospital stay and administered by medical professionals who come into the home and help with personal care and housekeeping functions.
  • Medicare covers some home health services.

Adult Day Programs

  • Social-model programs offer stimulation, socialization and therapeutic activities in a community-based group setting and often include meals.
  • Medical-model programs (adult day health care programs), offer health-based services as well as social activities in a group setting.
  • Some programs include assistance with activities of daily living and transportation.
  • Adult day services charge per hour and may be covered under some long-term care insurance policies.
  • Medicaid covers some adult day health programs.

Facility-Based Respite

  • Provide a short stay for your loved one in a nursing home or another facility.
  • Facilities typically charge for each day your loved one is in their care.
  • Medicare or Medicaid may cover some costs of an inpatient facility.

Family and Friends

  • Identify responsible family members and friends who can lend a hand in providing supervision for your loved one and create a rotating care schedule, if possible.
  • Enlist the help of family members living in different states by assigning them tasks such as legal or financial paperwork.

 

Photos courtesy of Dreamstime (Couple walking)

 

 

August 8, 2018 |

Simple Ways to Embrace Snack Cravings

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(Family Features) While snacking can bring you joy, it can also leave you feeling guilty. There are, however, simple steps that can be taken to help fight this inner conflict and allow you to embrace snack time rather than trying to ignore your wants.

These tips from the snacking experts at Blue Diamond can help you choose flavorful snacks that satisfy your cravings.

Plan for the day ahead. No one knows your schedule better than you, so planning your snacks ahead of time can set you down the right path. Writing down your timeline for the day and choosing what you are having to eat can help. It can allow you to know how many snacks you need to pack and if it needs to be an on-the-go or sit-down food. Try packing your snacks the night before to cause less drama rushing around in the morning getting everything ready.

Focus on flavor. Keeping flavor-forward snacks, such as almonds, on-hand can help you feel satisfied and happy without that feeling of guilt you sometimes get immediately after snacking. Whether you’re yearning for something sweet or something spicier, an option like Blue Diamond Snack Almonds allows you to eat what you want without denying your cravings. With more than 20 flavors to discover – like Dark Chocolate and Sriracha – and 5 grams of protein per serving, you don’t need to sacrifice taste for a satisfying snack.

Mix and match. When planning your snacks, try a variety of flavor and texture combinations, think sweet and salty or creamy and crunchy, to see what fuels your body best. For example, homemade trail mix is one way to switch up what you are eating. It’s easy to throw in something soft and sweet like marshmallows or add salt and crunch with pretzels or nuts. The possibilities are nearly endless.

Keep a snack at your desk. If you don’t have time to pack different types of snacks each morning, try keeping a stash of your favorites at your desk. Look for options that are easy to store in a confined place, such as almonds, granola bars, crackers, popcorn or wafers.

Find more flavorful, guilt-free snacking solutions at BlueDiamond.com.

 

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

 

August 1, 2018 |

5 Ways to Give Your Body a Boost Inside and Out

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(Family Features) Balancing work and life is no small proposition, and when things heat up, it can be easy to let your normal self-care habits slide. While a busy lifestyle may not allow for luxurious weekly trips to the spa to rejuvenate, you can still steal moments to promote the wellbeing of your mind and body.

Wake up with water. Staying properly hydrated is an important way to keep your body in top condition. Proper hydration can help keep all your body’s systems functioning like a well-lubricated machine. Some studies have even shown that starting the day with a cold glass of water can help jumpstart your metabolism and curb cravings. Carry water with you throughout the day so you can sip whenever the urge hits you and aim for at least 64 ounces a day.

Take care of your skin. Hydration is important for your skin. Bring the bliss of a spa experience into your shower with a body wash like Softsoap Hydra Bliss Hydrating Body Wash, which is crafted with rejuvenating scents like Coconut Water and Blueberry or Cucumber Water and Mint. These formulas help retain your skin’s natural moisture, which can leave your skin feeling soft and smooth. Follow up with a moisturizing lotion to leave skin silky and soft all day long.

Make drive time your zen time. Instead of using your morning commute to run through your to-do list and mentally prepare for your work day, give yourself permission to let those duties wait until you reach your desk. Instead, take a mental boost by listening to some of your favorite music or enjoying an audiobook.

Eat for energy. Food has one true purpose: fueling the body. At mealtime, put your wellbeing first and load up on foods that deliver nutrition your body needs. Look for proteins, a moderate amount of carbs and essentials like fiber that promote good digestion. Avoid feeling deprived by allowing yourself to enjoy occasional treats, but generally avoid unnecessary calories and sugary snacks.

Wash away your worries. After a rough day, there are few things like a warm shower or bath to help wash it all away. Allow soothing aromas to envelop your senses as you lather your skin for a relaxing clean. Experience the essence of serenity with an option like Softsoap Pure Zen Relaxing Body Wash. Choose from tranquil scents of Rosewater and Lotus Flower or Jasmine and Watermint for a relaxing sensory experience.

Explore more ways to take better care of your body inside and out at softsoap.com.

 

Photos courtesy of Getty Images

 

 

July 25, 2018 |

Create an Accessible Lifestyle

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Enhance independence with mobility in mind

(Family Features) If you’re like the majority of the population, mobility is something you take for granted. However, once you or a loved one encounters an illness or disability that results in dependence on a wheelchair, your perspective is likely to change dramatically.

Mobility is a major factor in a person’s independence, but when illness or injury hinders free movement, even a simple task like running to the store becomes a challenge. Fortunately, there are numerous options you can explore to improve mobility and accessibility if you or a loved one becomes reliant on a wheelchair or other assisted mobility.

Ramps in Place of Stairs

Safety is a primary concern for someone whose mobility is limited. Even minor falls can cause significant injuries, particularly for seniors whose bones tend to be more fragile. When a loved one begins experiencing trouble with the steps, a ramp is a good solution. In fact, ramps aren’t just for those who are reliant on a wheelchair or other motorized device like a scooter. They are also a good solution for someone who uses a cane or walker, or someone who experiences pain or difficulty maintaining balance on the stairs.

Accessible Vehicles and Parking

Getting out of the house is an important way to help someone whose mobility is compromised continue to feel connected to the larger world, and practically speaking, even if they’re not physically up to social engagements, chances are that doctor’s appointments will still be a necessity. However, parking limitations cause major challenges for wheelchair users.

Not only is getting in and out of the vehicle a chore, 74 percent of people have personally seen a handicap accessible parking space being improperly used, according to a survey by BraunAbility. As a leading manufacturer of wheelchair accessible vehicles and wheelchair lifts, its Save My Spot campaign works to educate the public about the meaning and importance of handicap accessible parking. In addition to understanding and educating others about the proper usage of handicap accessible parking, chair users may benefit from wheelchair accessible vehicles that provide maximum maneuverability, such as the BraunAbility Pacifica, which delivers the most interior cabin space and widest doorway and ramp for ease of entry and exit.

Hand Rails and Grab Bars

Hand rails add another measure of safety in the home. They can add stability and support on staircases, ramps and other walkways, but they’re also beneficial in areas like the bathroom. A rail or grab bar near the toilet can help steady someone raising or lowering to use the facilities. Similarly, rails in or adjacent to the shower can assist with safe transitions into and out of the stall. Remember to follow all manufacturer instructions for installing rails to ensure they provide adequate support and can bear the weight of the user.

Bathroom Modifications

Proper hygiene goes a long way toward promoting overall wellness and independence, but a person with limited mobility may struggle using the features of a standard bathroom. In addition to safety rails and grab bars, devices such as shower stools and raised toilet seats can provide needed support. Depending on your circumstances, it may be necessary to consider renovations to include a roll-in tub or seated shower and a vanity with a counter at an accessible height.

Wider Doors and Hallways

While it’s not always possible to widen doors and hallways, this is an important consideration for someone who is heavily reliant on a wheelchair or other motorized device. If the chair can’t clear hallways and maneuver around corners, a person’s access to the home is severely limited, sometimes to the point of needing to find new housing accommodations. When considering whether the doors and hallways will meet your needs, remember to take into account any accessories or equipment, such as an oxygen tank, that may affect the chair’s turn radius.

Find more ideas to promote independence and mobility at braunability.com/savemyspot.

5 Facts About Handicap-Accessible Parking

Handicap-accessible parking plays a critical role in giving chair users independence and mobility, making it important to understand the rules of the parking lot. To bring awareness to the challenges wheelchair users face, BraunAbility offers these reminders:

  1. The striped lines next to a handicap-accessible parking space indicate it is reserved for a wheelchair-accessible vehicle. These spaces are wider than regular handicap accessible parking spaces, offering room for people to safely lower a ramp and enter and exit their vehicles.
  2. There is a difference between handicap accessible parking for cars and wheelchair-accessible vans. When the parking sign says, “Accessible Vans,” it is reserved for wheelchair-accessible vehicles only. Van accessible spaces are easily identified by a striped access aisle on the passenger side.
  3. Some people have hidden disabilities, and it may not be visibly apparent that they need a handicap-accessible spot. Not all people who require handicap parking access are reliant on wheelchairs. These spots are also intended for use by people with disabilities such as deafness or a recent injury.
  4. Businesses are required to meet a quota for handicap accessible spots. The number of handicap accessible parking spaces required depends on the total number of parking spaces in the lot, but at least one in every six handicap accessible spaces must be designated for a wheelchair accessible vehicle, according to the American Disabilities Act.
  5. Wheelchairs continue to increase in size, requiring more room to maneuver in and out of vehicles, and therefore need extra space in a parking spot for the wheelchair user to safely access a fully deployed ramp.

 

July 18, 2018 |
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