The Pain of Arthritis

Renea Dennison, Contributor

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Arthritis is a big subject. According to www.mediinenet.com, 350 million people worldwide suffer from this disease. 40 million are in the US, with more than 250,000 being children. The numbers are staggering at first, but when you consider the term covers more than 100 types of joint (bone or attached tissue) problems, the numbers makes more sense. Arthritis is common, and the term is well known. Unfortunately, the disease is not clearly understood, which makes it harder to diagnose properly and treat appropriately.

Osteoarthritis arthritis, the most common type, is degenerative. Osteoarthritis happens when the cartilage between bones wears away causing bone on bone friction. This rubbing causes pain, swelling and stiffness. Over time joints can lose strength and pain can become chronic. Risk factors include age, family history, being overweight and some injuries. The best way to avoid this kind of arthritis is to maintain your weight, stay active, and avoid injury. Mild to moderate symptoms can be managed by regular physical activity, strengthening the muscles around the joint for added support, using hot and cold compresses, over the counter anti-inflammatory medicines and/or pain relievers. Finally, balance activity with rest and avoid excessive repetitive movements to help manage your symptoms.

Inflammatory arthritis, such as rheumatoid or psoriatic, is when your immune system goes awry and attacks joints with inflammation in an attempt to get rid of perceived infection. This type of arthritis not only erodes the joints, but can also attack internal organs, the eyes and other parts of the body. Risk factors include environment (such as smoking) and genetics. With this type of arthritis, early diagnosis is critical. Early treatment with DMARDs (a class of drugs) will help put the disease into remission and reduce pain, improve function, and prevent further damage.

Infectious arthritis can be caused by bacteria, fungus or a virus which enters the joint. Sources include food poisoning such as salmonella, contamination such as shigella, hepatitis C, and certain sexually transmitted diseases. Again, early diagnosis is critical. Antibiotics may clear the infection, but in some cases the arthritis can still become chronic.

Metabolic arthritis, also known as gout, is when excess uric acid builds up in the joints. The uric acid crystalizes in the joint and causes sudden pain, or a gout attack that can come and go. This arthritis can be treated by reducing the uric acid in your system, but it may become chronic causing continued pain and disability.

The most critical aspect of arthritis is early diagnosis. Treatment with medications, appropriate activities, and other treatments up to and including surgery for joint replacement, always start with a diagnosis with your primary care physician. Advanced arthritis may eventually result in consulting specialists such as ophthalmologists.

The second biggest factor is activity. There are many, many types of exercise you can do to reduce joint pain, improve flexibility, and prevent joint damage. Here is an article with 16 exercises for people who suffer from arthritis. You can choose one, or several, and change your life.

If you suspect you have arthritis consult your physician. Some joint damage cannot be reversed so early treatment is vital. In the meantime, remember to live a healthy, active lifestyle with lots of love and fun built in. There is no better prescription for a healthy, happy life.

Century Health Solutions is a subsidiary of Stormont Vail Health, Topeka and provides free Medicare Educational Seminars. We are your local expert in Medicare insurance planning and will help you find the best option for your personal situation. Call us at 785-270-4593 with questions or to sign up for a free seminar. Our business hours are Monday-Friday, 8:00am-4:30pm.

Go to: http://www.centuryinsuranceagencyks.com or email info@century-health.com for more information.

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Tips for a Safe and Happy 4th

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By Renea Dennison, Contributor

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One of the highlights of summer is our annual celebration of Independence Day every July 4th. The holiday is good old-fashioned family fun, with food, parades, games and for the finale, beautiful and exciting fireworks.

When you are young and energetic, you hardly notice the heat and half-expect to get sunburned. Swimming in the lake or running through the sprinklers to keep cool is part of the fun. Adults expertly work at keeping the young safe from burns, etc. because we all know their limitations and work to avoid problems.

To no one’s surprise, seniors are not as energetic so will most likely skip the sprinklers. You might think since they are not running around heat is not a problem. This is not true. Seniors have more trouble regulating body temperatures and are therefore much more likely to succumb to heat stroke.

If you have a senior at your celebration, or if you are the senior, please make sure to keep the following practices in mind:

  • Stay out of direct sun as much as possible. Sit somewhere cool and shady. Use sunscreen liberally and a wear hat.
  • Drink plenty of fluids. The longer you are out, the more you should drink.
  • Stay near a restroom for frequent bathroom breaks.
  • Make sure chairs are cushioned and comfortable.
  • Have a light jacket and/or blanket for after dark activities.
  • If possible, have a cool and quiet place to retreat for brief periods of time such as indoors or inside a running air conditioned car.

Seniors, especially those with dementia issues, are not always aware of the danger they are in. If you have a senior with you, watch over them carefully. Do not push them past their limits. Remember, admitting you cannot keep up is a difficult thing to do.

You might also consider changing up some of your activities. For instance, during the hottest part of the day you might watch a patriotic themed movie. How about patriotic themed karaoke or sing-alongs? Many seniors also love to play board and card games. Go to a cemetery and place small flags on the graves of veterans. Seniors have many stories to tell about past glories and the history of the country. They’ve lived it! You might even film them talking about past celebrations or the moments in history that really impacted them.

There are many ways to safely enjoy the 4th of July this year. You do not have to let go of all the old ones, but safety involves keeping in mind the limitations of seniors as well as little ones. Follow the above guidelines for the safety of all concerned. Start some new traditions this year to add to your old ones to keep your seniors safe. After all, everyone, regardless of age, should be able to enjoy Independence Day. Be creative! Be safe! Happy 4th to you and yours!

Century Health Solutions is a subsidiary of Stormont Vail Health, Topeka and provides free Medicare Educational Seminars. We are your local expert in Medicare insurance planning and will help you find the best option for your personal situation. Call us at 785-270-4593 with questions or to sign up for a free seminar. Our business hours are Monday-Friday, 8:00am-4:30pm.

Go to: http://www.centuryinsuranceagencyks.com or email info@century-health.com for more information.

MACRA

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By Bob Evenson, Contributor

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MACRA (Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act) changes the availability of certain Medicare supplement plans beginning January 1, 2020. Specifically, MACRA prohibits Medicare supplement plans to cover the Part B deductible of Medicare after that date.

The goal of MACRA is to reduce overall Medicare spending by requiring beneficiaries to pay a small portion of the costs (the deductible) each year. However, only individuals who become Medicare eligible on or after January 01, 2020 will be affected. Those entitled to Medicare prior to this date can keep their current Medicare supplement plan. The Part B deductible is $183.00 in 2018.

If you are Medicare eligible prior to January 01, 2020, all Medicare supplement plans will still be available to you. If you are already enrolled in a Supplement Plan C or F, you can keep your plan. You may even change to another carrier that offers a Supplement Plan C or F after January 1, 2020, although medical underwriting may be required.

If you become Medicare eligible January 01, 2020 or later, Supplement Plans C and F will no longer be available. Plans C and F are being replaced by Plans D and G. Under the new plans, you will be responsible to pay the Medicare Part B deductible.

In summary, if you are a Medicare beneficiary prior to January 1, 2020, the new law will not affect you. If you become eligible on or after that date, you will choose from different plans requiring you to pay the annual Medicare deductible. The new law pertains to supplement plans only, and will not affect Medicare Part A or Part B, Part C Medicare Advantage Plans, or Part D prescription drug plans.

Finally, remember all Medicare supplement plans have exactly the same benefits as required by CMS. Those identified by the same letter have the same benefits. In other words, Plan G benefits are the same regardless of which insurance company you use. The only difference is the insurance company and the price you pay for the plan. Shop before you buy, or talk with a licensed expert to help you make the right selection of Medicare coverage for your circumstances.

Century Health Solutions is a subsidiary of Stormont Vail Health, Topeka and provides free Medicare Educational Seminars. We are your local expert in Medicare insurance planning and will help you find the best option for your personal situation. Call us at 785-270-4593 with questions or to sign up for a free seminar. Our business hours are Monday-Friday, 8:00am-4:30pm.

Go to: http://www.centuryinsuranceagencyks.com or email info@century-health.com for more information.

Medicare vs. Medicaid

By Renea Dennison, Contributor

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Do you ever find yourself confused about Medicare vs. Medicaid? Many people think they are the same thing, but they are not. This was brought to my attention with a recent article by our own Bob Evenson.

One can see why many might believe they are the same thing. First, the names are very similar. They are both federal programs created in 1965, and they are both designed to help pay for health care. Still, they are not the same.

Medicare is a federal health insurance program designed for eligible adults age 65 and older, and anyone under 65 who has a severe disability. Medicare has 4 parts. Part A covers hospitalization, except for long term care, and is paid through payroll deduction by everyone who works or has their own business. It is free to the participant. Part B covers doctor and outpatient visits. Participants pay premiums through Social Security deduction. Part C works through private carriers in a PPO or HMO type arrangement. Part D covers medications. Part C and Part D premiums are paid directly to the private carrier by the participant.

Medicare is funded by the premiums mentioned above and by general revenues in the federal budget. Besides age and/or disability, you must have 40 quarters of income reported to Social Security to be eligible for Medicare. Because Medicare is a federal program, the same requirements for coverage stay the same from state to state. The only difference pertains to insurance covered by private carriers which may impact deductibles and co-insurance on Parts C and D.

Medicaid is a health insurance program designed for people with low income. The program is funded by both state and federal governments. The federal government sets up parameters for states to follow, and reimburses states based on those guidelines. States, however, decide how to administer and fund the program. Not all states use all the funding available from the federal government because they do not want to participate in all the requirements. These reasons are why Medicaid varies from state to state.

Eligibility for Medicaid is not based on age or illness, but rather income. Families, children, pregnant women, people with disabilities and the elderly can all qualify for Medicaid if they meet the low income threshold. Medicaid will also pay premiums and other out of pocket expenses Medicare charges to anyone enrolled in both programs. About 15% of Medicare participants are also on Medicaid.

While Medicare and Medicaid are two different programs, they are both social programs designed to help those who might otherwise be unable to get insurance. Please feel free to comment below if you have any questions about Medicare vs. Medicaid.

Century Health Solutions is a subsidiary of Stormont Vail Health, Topeka and provides free Medicare Educational Seminars. We are your local expert in Medicare insurance planning and will help you find the best option for your personal situation. Call us at 785-270-4593 with questions or to sign up for a free seminar. Our business hours are Monday-Friday, 8:00am-4:30pm.

Go to: http://www.centuryinsuranceagencyks.com or email info@century-health.com for more information.

Yoga for Seniors

By Renea Dennison, Contributor

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This blog has promoted yoga as a healthy practice on a number of occasions. Recently, I came across an article specifically directed towards the advantages of yoga for seniors. The columns’s good points made me realize it was time to write about yoga again and share this important information. You can read the item here.

Specifically, the story addressed three major benefits of yoga for senior health. In fact, that was the title, “3 Benefits of Yoga for Senior Health.” How perfect is that?

Here are the 3 major benefits as described in the piece:

  1. Improves sleeping habits – yoga helps relieve tension. After a yoga workout you will probably feel less anxious which leads to more sleep.
  2. Improves mood – it is a genuine mood booster and those who practice it have a lower risk for depression
  3. Reduces aches and pains – the breathing techniques aid in eliminating the stress that makes pain worse. Moreover, the movements will assist to decrease joint swelling, and increase joint and muscle strength. It aids in increasing functionality as well as flexibility. People who do yoga fall less, and are able to move more easily. Incidentally, less pain also promotes more sleep.

Yoga improves flexibility and balance while helping you stay in shape. Not many exercise plans can make the same claims. What is particularly great about yoga for older adults is that it is a Practice. New practitioners do not have to force themselves into awkward twisted shapes or uncomfortable poses. Everyone starts where they are, and by continual practice (at least 3 times per week), they improve muscle tone, flexibility, and strength over time. Each person goes at their own pace.  My favorite yogi is Adriene Mishler whom I follow on YouTube and Twitter.  She says repeatedly that we should, “Do what feels good.”  She means do what you can, but it should feel good and not painful.

Yoga helps regardless of physical limitations. Even those who are wheelchair bound can perform yoga. Just check out the videos by David Procyshyn if you don’t believe me. You can find a great list of David’s videos and the best order to go through them, as well as a long list of yoga benefits here.

If you are very active, workout regularly, and play sports so you keep fit, I salute you. Even you, however, can gain from yoga. If you are one of the millions who have difficulty keeping in shape, or even walking, then check out David’s videos. You will be amazed at what 3 days a week of yoga can do for you.

Century Health Solutions is a subsidiary of Stormont Vail Health, Topeka and provides free Medicare Educational Seminars. We are your local expert in Medicare insurance planning and will help you find the best option for your personal situation. Call us at 785-270-4593 with questions or to sign up for a free seminar. Our business hours are Monday-Friday, 8:00am-4:30pm.

Go to: http://www.centuryinsuranceagencyks.com or email info@century-health.com for more information.

 

 

 

Scam Alert!

By Renea Dennison, Contributor

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Have you or a loved one been a target of a crook recently? Studies show a growing problem with thieves stealing health, dreams and life savings, especially among our aging population.

Scams come in all sizes and designs. The elderly are particular favorites for these selfish creeps. Seniors are often a favorite quarry because older people tend to have more money than younger adults, are less likely to report a theft, tend to trust ‘authority’ figures more, are frequently isolated, and can be more susceptible due to changes in the brain.

Scammers love to find a wealthy and trusting victim, playing on their emotions without a shred of conscience. For instance, a current popular scam is to call and start the conversation with, “Grandma!” The unsuspecting prey responds with a grandchild’s name like “Mike?” and the scammer starts his con. He claims he is in jail somewhere and begs for help without letting his parents know. An amazing number of people have forked over thousands of dollars because they love and want to protect their grandchildren who were, as it happens, nowhere near a jail.

Scammers also come in the guise of business people, assisting you to file your disability or health claims (and stealing millions from the government). They can pretend to be in-home health services where they get paid while you are left without the services. Some do enough service to gain trust and scam your savings while you are thinking the person is there to support you. They take money to supposedly aid you with phony credit companies, set up pretend non-profits to care for others while milking you for donations, and even take money for funerals which the recipient never gets. Some people have even been hurt or died due to the neglect of a facility or home-health scam who received money without actually helping the patient. Others have had their dreams smashed when the person they thought would love them for the rest of their lives was actually just bilking them of their life savings. And don’t forget the worker scam where the bill seems to spiral out of control. The list and types of scams are only limited by the creativity and depravity of the scammer.

How can you avoid losing money, and possibly your health, to someone so unscrupulous? I hate to tell you to be less trusting, but we must all be on our guard against such cheaters. Check out the latest senior scams regularly by going to the website for the National Center on Elder Abuse so you are less vulnerable to a new scheme. Maintain up to date contact information on your family members and the professionals who help you, and keep those lines of communication open. You want to feel like you can easily call to check a story out or discuss something with someone in case you are making a mistake. Further, your family can vet your professionals and workers (such as plumbers) for you. They can also watch for changes in memory or math skills which make you more susceptible to fraud.

Finally, increase your financial knowledge. Continue to learn by taking classes, reading or watching relevant programs. These skills not only help you recognize a scam sooner, but can keep your brain functioning at a higher level for longer.

The best advice to avoid a scam is to simply stay alert. Don’t let yourself be lulled into thinking you are safe because of your experience, or past being a target because of your age or level of wealth. Even people with low incomes can have their identities stolen and find themselves facing hungry debt collectors. Keep your dignity and the money you earned. Keep alert!

Century Health Solutions is a subsidiary of Stormont Vail Health, Topeka and provides free Medicare Educational Seminars. We are your local expert in Medicare insurance planning and will help you find the best option for your personal situation. Call us at 785-270-4593 with questions or to sign up for a free seminar. Our business hours are Monday-Friday, 8:00am-4:30pm.

Go to: http://www.centuryinsuranceagencyks.com or email info@century-health.com for more information.

Blood Pressure – Part 2

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By Renea Dennison, Contributor

Last week we talked about what blood pressure (BP) is, how your blood pressure is determined, and that the top or systolic number gauges pressure when the heart is beating and the lower or diastolic number measures pressure when the heart is resting. This week we will talk about the different levels of hypertension or high blood pressure (HPB), and what we can do for it. Your BP can change minute by minute, so the numbers below represent consistent readings and not a one-time experience.

Normal – A systolic of less than 120 and a diastolic of less than 80. This is where everyone wants to be if possible. If you are here, wonderful! Keep up your healthy habits of a balanced diet and regular exercise.

Elevated – A systolic of 120-129 and a diastolic of less than 80. This is not good, but no need to get worked up. This is basically a warning. You are likely to develop HBP unless you take steps to control it. Eat a healthy diet, lower your salt intake, lose weight, reduce your alcohol intake, and exercise regularly. You doctor may want you to come back in 6 months for another reading. At this point, watching your BP is a good idea.

HBP Stage 1 – A systolic of 130 – 139 or diastolic of 80-89. Changing your lifestyle is a must (see Elevated). Your doctor will prescribe this, and may also prescribe medications based on your risk of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (i.e. – heart attack or stoke). Your doctor will want to see you again in 1-6 months depending on your risk factors.

HPB Stage 2 – A systolic of 140 or higher or a diastolic of 90 or higher. Your doctor will give you medications to bring your BP down, as well as prescribe you a change in lifestyle (see Elevated). Your doctor will want to see you again in a month.

Hypertension Crisis – A systolic of 180 or higher or a diastolic of 120 or higher. Wait 5 minutes and take your BP again. If it is still this high, call 9-1-1.

Many people prefer to keep track of their BP at home. This is helpful for peace of mind for the patient, letting the doctor know if your medications are working, and also because some patients just get higher readings in a doctor’s office.

If you decide to keep track at home, select a monitor that goes around the upper arm (wrist and finger monitors are not as accurate). Try to get a monitor that inflates itself, has a digital readout that is easy to read, and perhaps plugs into your smartphone. Take it with you on your next visit to your doctor to be sure it matches the numbers the doctor is getting, that the cuff fits and that you are placing it correctly. Avoid caffeine, cigarettes, alcohol and exercise for 30 minutes before you take a reading. Be sure to sit up straight in a chair with your feet flat on the floor. Your arm should be supported so your elbow is at heart level. Don’t talk during the measurement. Take your BP at the same time every day, and write the numbers down unless you have a smartphone to do it for you. Bring the numbers with you when you go to the doctor so they can see how your medications are working. Finally, you don’t need to actually have HBP to start monitoring it. People who are seemingly healthy rarely go to the doctor, so HBP may sneak up on you. Better to be safe than sorry.

HBP can be deadly, but fortunately is usually easy to control. Though the lifestyle changes can be challenging for some, they are all things everyone should be doing even if they are healthy. Unlike some illnesses, the treatment itself is easy and painless. Take your medications if prescribed, and measure your BP regularly. Then ta-da! You too can have safe and healthy blood pressure.

Century Health Solutions is a subsidiary of Stormont Vail Health, Topeka and provides free Medicare Educational Seminars. We are your local expert in Medicare insurance planning and will help you find the best option for your personal situation. Call us at 785-270-4593 with questions or to sign up for a free seminar. Our business hours are Monday-Friday, 8:00am-4:30pm.

Go to: http://www.centuryinsuranceagencyks.com or email info@century-health.com for more information.