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National Blood Donor Month

Was one of your resolutions for the New Year to volunteer or help others more? Well, one way to get a head start on this resolution is by becoming a blood donor. January is National Blood Donor Month, and donating blood is an easy way to make an impact and help save lives. It is actually a common misconception that seniors shouldn’t or can’t donate blood. According to the American Red Cross, the general requirements for blood and platelet donors are as follows:

  • The donor must be in good general health and feeling well
  • The donor must be at least 17 years old in most states, or 16 years old with parental consent if allowed by state law
  • The donor must weigh at least 110 pounds

Other aspects of a donor’s health history are evaluated before a donation can occur, and each donor receives a “mini physical” measuring temperature, pulse, blood pressure and hemoglobin. As seniors, we shouldn’t be discouraged from donating blood if we fit the above criteria. In fact, if you’re able, I would encourage you all to donate in order to help save a life (or two)! After all, the American Red Cross estimates that one donation can potentially help more than one patient, and every two seconds someone in the United States needs blood.

If you’re looking to make an impact, check out the American Red Cross’ website, which has helpful information on the blood donation process and where to find local blood drives. Also, be sure to remember to bring a copy of your medication list with you when you go, which is something you should always have in your wallet anyway!

Lastly, don’t forget that blood platelets are also needed. If you would like to consider this type of donation or learn more about it, most blood centers (and the Red Cross) can answer your questions. Be sure to share this information with other seniors. Maybe you can even go donate blood or platelets together!



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Healthy Eating Tips for the Holiday Season

The holidays are here! This time of year is always a busy time for us seniors – whether it be traveling to spend time with loved ones or shopping for grandchildren.

While it may be tempting to try all the cookies at the holiday party this year, remember that it is important to remain committed to your health all year long! Below are some tips to help you maintain your healthy diet this holiday season.

Know Your Food Groups

1200px-USDA_MyPlate_green.svgWe all recall the food pyramid, but did you know there is an easier way to determine what food groups to eat daily? The United States Department of Agriculture created “MyPlate,” which offers ideas and tips to help you create a healthier eating style that meets your needs and improves your health. MyPlate illustrates the five food groups and how much room each should take up on your plate. Simple enough right? Additionally, ChooseMyPlate.gov has specific information about each food group and offers personalized eating plans. Be sure to check it out!

Eat Nutrient-Rich Foods

One of the best ways to maintain a healthy diet is to eat foods that are filled with nutrients, and it is equally as important to take in a variety of nutrients. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, foods that are brightly colored are typically richer in nutrients. Specifically, when choosing which fruits and vegetables to eat, vibrant colors are your best bet! Whole grains, low-fat dairy and lean protein (chicken, seafood, and beans) are also great ways to diversify your nutrient intake. By eating a meal filled with nutrients before attending that cookie swap you’ve been invited to, you won’t be as tempted to eat all of the unhealthy snacks.

Read the Labels

Food labels are helpful tools to determine the nutritional value of a certain food, though they can be a bit confusing. To make it easier to read these labels, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has included a how to guide on their website. The FDA recommends you limit the intake of saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, sodium and carbohydrates, so you should pay close attention to that section of a nutrition label. And be sure to talk to your doctor about all of this!

Stay Hydrated

Apple cider and hot chocolate may be perfect for the holiday season, but these beverages aren’t nearly as healthy as water! Be sure to drink water throughout the day to stay hydrated. I’ve found carrying around a reusable water bottle is helpful to remind me to drink more water.

How do you plan to eat healthy this holiday season? Tell us in the comments section below!



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Tell Your Senators: Repeal IPAB to Protect Access to Medicare

There are only a few weeks left in December, which means Congress is working quickly to pass a number of resolutions before year’s end. But before they can return home for the holidays, they must protect seniors and vote to repeal the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB).

If you’re a new reader, you might not know that your access to quality health care is currently under threat by IPAB. IPAB was established by the Affordable Care Act to decrease Medicare spending if growth exceeds a certain target. If this happens, a board of 15 unelected officials are given a broad-range of authority to make decisions about mandatory cuts to Medicare spending. Such arbitrary cuts to Medicare are unacceptable, especially considering that these bureaucrats are unelected and in no way accountable to voters.

Medicare is extremely important to seniors like us who depend on the program for access to the medicine and health care services we need. But IPAB threatens to come between us and our doctors by making potentially drastic cuts to our Medicare. In fact, IPAB isn’t even required to maintain quality health care when making these cuts! Now is the time to repeal IPAB and ensure that seniors have unfettered access to our doctors and coverage.

Time is running out! The House of Representatives has already acted to protect our Medicare and we urge those in the Senate to follow suit. Seniors must join together to stand up for Medicare. Let’s speak out and tell our Senators to repeal IPAB immediately before it harms seniors like us. To write your Senators, click here.



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National Diabetes Month

November is National Diabetes Month and to the surprise of most people, diabetes affects some 12 million American seniors – an astounding 25.2 percent of the population over age 65. Given this high percentage and the fact that over 7 million adults have undiagnosed diabetes, it is important to have a clear understanding of the disease and discuss various ways to properly manage it.

Diabetes

There are two types of diabetes, Type 1 and Type 2. Individuals with Type 1 diabetes produce little or no insulin, so they must take insulin regularly in order to survive. According to the CDC, Type 1 diabetes accounts for only 5-10% of all diabetes diagnoses. Children and young adults are most likely to be diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, but it’s important to note that people of all ages can be diagnosed. On the other hand, Type 2 diabetics do produce insulin. Thankfully, some Type 2 diabetics may be able to manage their condition with a healthy diet and a proper exercise regimen, however, medications and insulin may also be required. Type 2 diabetes accounts for 90-95% of all diabetes diagnoses. Although Type 2 diabetes can occur in all ages, it is the type that most often affects middle-aged and elderly populations.

Treatment

Individuals with Type 1 diabetes must take insulin frequently to make up for their lack of insulin. Unfortunately, this is the only known treatment at this time. Still, it is important for Type 1 diabetics to regularly exercise and maintain a healthy diet in order to avoid extreme spikes or crashes in blood sugar levels. Additionally, it is recommended to always keep a carbohydrate snack nearby to quickly raise glucose levels in the event of a crash.

Some Type 2 diabetics may be able to effectively manage their diabetes with a healthy diet and exercise. The American Diabetes Association recommends 30 minutes of exercise at least five days a week coupled with a well-balanced diet that includes only a moderate sugar intake. Good examples of exercise include taking long walks, biking, and doing simple yardwork. Some Type 2 diabetics may require insulin or other medications to safely manage their condition. Regardless, a healthy diet and exercise are still great additions to any treatment plan.

If you have diabetes, be sure to talk to your doctor about the right treatment for you, as recommendations will vary based on your needs.

What does Medicare Cover?

Medicare Part B generally covers the services that affect people who have diabetes and preventative services for people who are at risk. Home blood sugar (glucose) monitors and supplies used with equipment, including blood sugar test strips and lancet devices may be covered. If you are at risk for diabetes, you may be eligible for up to two diabetes screenings each year. Additionally, Part B also covers diabetes self-management training (DSMT) services for people recently diagnosed.

Medicare Part D covers diabetes supplies used for administering insulin, though there may be some out-of-pocket costs. These supplies may include: syringes, needles, alcohol swabs, gauze, and inhaled insulin devices. For more information about what aspects of diabetic care are covered by Medicare, be sure to check out Medicare.gov.



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Assess Your Health This Holiday Season

Image Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

Image Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

Medicare open enrollment has arrived and so has the holiday season! For those of us who are 65 and older, this means it’s time to examine our current coverage and determine if it still meets our individual needs.

Each year, Medicare users are given the opportunity to review and alter their Medicare Part D plan from October 15th to December 7th. Today, we’re sharing a few tips to make the process of assessing your coverage much easier. Feel free to use these tips over the Thanksgiving holiday period to discuss Medicare options with your family and loved ones. After all, Thanksgiving is National Family History Day.

Check Your Mail

You should have received an “annual notice of change” or “evidence of benefits” letter from your insurer. This letter is important to review, because it highlights the cost and benefit changes in store for 2018.

Know Your Medications

The medications you need may vary each year, so it’s essential to have a detailed list of all your current medications before you assess your Part D coverage. Be sure to check to make sure your current medications are covered, as well as any new medications you might now be prescribed.

Review All Costs

Be sure to calculate other costs associated with health care coverage besides monthly premiums, like out-of-pocket cost sharing such as copays or coinsurance. Study these factors to determine if they fit within your budget.

Check Approved Pharmacies

Make sure your preferred pharmacy is included in your Part D coverage by checking if your pharmacy is preferred under your plan’s network. This can help lower out-of-pocket costs.

Assess Plan Ratings

Did you know Part D plans are assessed by a five-star rating system? This system shows how they are performing on specific features, such as customer service and patient safety. Don’t forget to check how your plan compares to others.

Look for Other Options

After you assess your plan, examine other options to see if there is a better fit for your individual needs. Use this Medicare Plan Finder to explore your options and compare plans here. Additionally, you can always call 1-800-Medicare 24/7, visit www.medicare.gov or call your Area Agency on Aging, which offers appointments with a Medicare information expert (SHIIP). If you need help finding contact information on your Area Agency, or if you need information on any service programs or resources, feel free to call the national Eldercare Information number at 800-677-1116.



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Honoring Those Who Served

November 11th is a historic day throughout the world because it marks the official end of World War I, but in the United States, it takes on even more significance because it is the day we officially honor those who have served our country.

How did Veterans Day come about?

On November 11, 1918, an armistice was declared between the Allied nations and Germany in WWI. Twenty years later, Armistice Day was declared a Federal holiday. After the end of WWII, various communities began celebrating Veterans Day on November 11 and, in 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, signed legislation officially changing the name to Veterans Day and designating it as a time to honor those who have served in our nation’s armed forces.

To those of you who are veterans, we say a heartfelt thanks for the sacrifices you and your family have made and for all that you have done to protect our freedom and safety.

To everyone else, we hope you remember to reach out to mark this holiday by extending thanks to the more than 20 million living veterans in the United States.

It is only when we carry on the traditions in history of our country that we preserve them. This is one that we all have a duty to maintain. I hope you will have a chance to see a parade, hear a concert, watch a patriotic movie, or say thanks to the men and women who have given so much.

We would love to hear about who you are honoring today, so feel free to comment on our most recent Facebook post. As always, we thank you for being a part of our community, and we encourage you take a few moments to celebrate those who have demonstrated immense sacrifice and a love of our country.



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Talk About Your Medicines Month

October is quite an important month for seniors. Not only does this month mark the beginning of open enrollment, but it also serves as an annual observance to call attention to the need to improve communication about medications. In today’s post, we are celebrating Talk About Your Medicines Month!

The National Council on Patient Information and Education (NCPIE) created Talk About Your Medicines Month in 1986 to bring attention to the value that better medicine communication can play in promoting better medicine use AND better health outcomes. Here at Seniors Speak Out, we agree! Here are several tips for how you can improve communication with your doctor and pharmacists about your medications.

At the Doctor’s Office:

Before your doctor writes you a new prescription, be sure to discuss your current medical conditions and what medications you are currently prescribed. In order to ensure there are no adverse reactions with your current medications, your doctor will need to know this critical information. Additionally, be sure to alert your doctor if you have any allergies.

As your doctor writes you a prescription, get your pen and paper ready! You might need to take notes as he answers some of your questions, which might include:

  • What time of day should I take this medication?
  • Is there a generic version of this medication? (This might help keep the out-of-pocket costs down, as generic medication is often cheaper than brand name medications)
  • Are there any foods or drinks I should avoid while taking this medication?
  • When will the medication begin working?
  • Are there any side effects I should be aware of?

At the Pharmacist:

Did you know a survey of 5,200 licensed pharmacists in the U.S. found that less than half their working time was spent filling prescriptions? Six out of 10 pharmacists provide medication therapy management to help patients like us understand our medicines.

  • Does this medication require refills? If so, how often do I need to do so?
  • How should I store this medication?
  • What happens if I miss a dose?

Of course, feel free to ask your doctor or pharmacist any additional questions you might have. By communicating with these providers frequently, you can ensure every medication fits your individual needs. Also, remember that these medicines were prescribed just for you, and it is dangerous to share prescription medicines with others.

It is also important after finishing a medication to ensure it is disposed of properly. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration recommends utilizing medicine take-back programs to ensure others don’t accidentally take or misuse the unneeded medicine. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration regularly hosts National Prescription Drug Take-Back events where collection sites are set up in communities nationwide for safe disposal. Seniors and caregivers can also contact their local waste management authorities to learn about other disposal options.



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The Different Parts of Medicare

Are you turning 65 this year? If you were born in 1952, this is an important year for you. Why? Because at age 65, you can now enroll in Medicare!

As I’m sure you already know, Medicare is the federal health insurance program for people age 65 and older. Medicare provides plenty of benefits, so you should be sure to enroll as soon as you are eligible. Don’t forget open enrollment is just around the corner and begins on October 15.

Before then, you might want to learn more about Medicare and what it can offer. For starters, there are four different parts of Medicare: Parts A, B, C and D. Check out our new infographic for information on these health care coverage options!

new-piktochart_22778752



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Seniors and Oral Hygiene: What You Need to Know

peter-kasprzyk-110926We rely on our pearly whites every day, but did you know one of the top health challenges seniors face is maintaining our oral hygiene? As we age, our teeth and gums become more susceptible to problems that might not have previously surfaced. Luckily, there are steps we can take to protect our teeth for years to come.

Some common oral hygiene problems among seniors are darkened teeth, difficulty chewing, root decay, dry mouth, and gum disease. To prevent these issues and keep teeth and gums healthy, experts recommend brushing teeth twice a day, plus flossing once a day.

If holding a toothbrush is difficult or painful, ask your dentist for options that cater to your specific needs. Solutions like extending your toothbrush with a tongue depressor, or using a soft washcloth or gauze in place of a traditional tooth brush can make frequent brushing a more manageable task.

Dry mouth, one common oral hygiene problem, is best managed through preventative measures. Since it is often caused by medications, be sure to drink extra water or use sugar-free mints or gum to increase saliva production and moisten your mouth.

And did you know that one of the most important things you can do to protect your teeth is to avoid tobacco products? These products will only increase the likelihood of developing tooth decay and gum disease.

If you have dentures, oral hygiene is just as important. Be sure to clean them regularly, as these appliances can be a breeding ground for harmful bacteria.

It’s essential to visit your dentist as often as he or she recommends – typically, this will be every six months, unless you have a specific issue that needs to be addressed with more frequent care.

According to the American Dental Association’s Mouth Healthy recommendations, when you visit your dentist, make sure to mention what medications you are on, as well any dental issues you’ve been dealing with lately.

During the exam itself, your dentist will likely perform a physical check of your face, neck, bite and jaw, along with your gums and teeth, to comprehensively check for any issues. If you have any questions about your treatment options or your dental insurance plan, don’t be afraid to ask your dentist. There are many different options for senior dental coverage that may cater to your needs. Often times, Medicare Advantage covers regular dental visits, but be sure to check your coverage for more information about your plan.

 



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Happy National Grandparents Day!

 

This Sunday is National Grandparents Day! Contrary to popular belief, this holiday was not invented by the greeting card industry. Grandparents Day was created thanks to the work of one tireless advocate named Marian McQuade. In 1970, Marian launched an effort to recognize grandparents in her home state of West Virginia, and later across the entire United States. Eventually, in 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed an official proclamation declaring the first Sunday after Labor Day as National Grandparents Day. As a mother of 15 children and grandmother to 43 grandchildren, Marian certainly qualifies as an expert in grandparenting.

If you ask any grandparent about their grandchildren, you will see their face light up and their voices fill with excitement. Though many describe the experience as being twice the fun and half the work, it is important to remember that in addition to being fun, being a grandparent is vitally important to all the generations of the family.

In the United States, almost 3 million grandparents are raising grandchildren, and many more contribute significantly with finances and time to raising younger generations. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

A grandparent is a living embodiment of family history – both good and bad, and funny and sad. What was mom like in second grade? Did dad get into trouble when he was a little boy? What were you doing when Neil Armstrong landed on the Moon? Only a grandparent can fully answer those questions, and what a great gift that is.

If you haven’t already done so, this National Grandparents Day, I encourage you to take the time to jot down a few stories you want to pass on to future generations.

To all my fellow grandparents, I hope you take the time today to appreciate and be appreciated for the unique gift of being a grandparent.