Tips for a Safe and Happy 4th

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By Renea Dennison, Contributor

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Photo by Brett Sayles on Pexels.com

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.

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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.

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.

Blood Pressure – Part 1

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By Renea Dennison, Contributor

Your blood cells provide oxygen and nutrition while removing waste. Those same blood cells rush through a complex structure made up of veins and arteries known as the circulatory system. Your circulatory system provides every organ in your body, including the heart which keeps it moving, life.

You might think as long as the blood is flowing without obstruction everything should be fine and you are healthy. However, there is another important factor to consider. How much force, or pressure, is the moving blood placing on the walls of the arteries as it goes through? This is an important question. High blood pressure (HBP) damages organs and can cause stroke, kidney failure, and heart attacks. Unfortunately, you cannot feel this pressure. Usually, all seems ordinary whether your blood pressure (BP) is high or normal. That is why HBP, or hypertension, is known as the ‘silent killer’.

When you go to the doctor someone takes your BP. It doesn’t matter what your symptoms, if you are age 3 and older and go to the doctor’s they will take it. They do so at every opportunity because using the cuff and measuring is the only way to know if you have developed HBP.

While at the doctor’s, you may wonder what your medical professional is doing when they pump air into the cuff and then listen through a stethoscope tucked under the cuff. They pump enough air to provide more pressure than your systolic (top) number and then wait for the whooshing sound to get your top number. When they cannot hear the pressure any more, they have the diastolic (bottom) number. So for example, they will say you have 120 (top) over 80 (bottom) also written as 120/80.

Did that sound like gibberish to you? (It used to sound like it to me.) Let me explain. The systolic, or top number represents the pressure on your artery walls when your heart is beating. That is, when your heart is squeezing blood forcefully through your body. It is measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg). I don’t know why, except that is how they first figured it out and they are still doing it the same way today. Anyway, this is the number that is given most attention. I remember it by thinking of the S in systolic. To me it means stress or strain as in the pressure the squeezing heart puts on the walls of your arteries. People with good BP always have a systolic number under 120.

We call lower number the diastolic number. It is based on the pressure in your arty walls when your heart is not beating. That is, when it is resting, filling with blood and taking in oxygen. I remember this number by thinking of the D in diastolic and relating it to the word downtime. Don’t get me wrong, you can still be diagnosed with HBP even if your systolic number is under 120 if your diastolic number is high enough. It is just not very common. A normal healthy person will have a diastolic number under 80.

Next week we will talk a little more about the numbers and what it means to have HPB. In the meantime, eat right, exercise, and keep a happy attitude.

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.

Breathe Easy

pexels-photo-321576.jpegBy Renea Dennison, Contributor

This is National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month. We put them in the same month because they both impact breathing, and both are inflammatory illnesses. Inflammation is the enemy of wellness, especially if it becomes chronic.

Asthma can be described as airway inflammation marked by spasms in the bronchi of the lungs. It causes difficulty in breathing, and is sometimes misdiagnosed as COPD in the elderly. Asthma has a better prognosis if treated properly, so a correct diagnosis is very important.

Asthma is reported in 8-10% of the population, and though most people associate it with youngsters, anyone can develop asthma and older adults are particularly at risk. People with asthma may experience chest tightness, shortness of breath, or cough, and episodic wheezing. Short term prescriptions, such as steroids, are effective but prescribing them can be problematic with senior patients who often have multiple medications already.

In addition, older adults having mild asthma symptoms may have the same level of breathing difficulty as children experiencing a severe attack which complicates both diagnosis and treatment. Asthma in seniors rarely goes into remission, and is much more likely to become a potentially dangerous, if not disabling disease. Asthma episodes may be induced by physical activity or exposure to irritants that trigger allergies.

Allergies can be a serious issue for seniors. Like asthma, treatment can be troublesome due to other medications you may be taking. Also, physicians may overlook your allergic reactions since they are looking at bigger issues you may be experiencing. Therefore it is important to tell your doctor when you are having allergic reactions to things indoors or outdoors. Further, you should avoid traditional antihistamines unless specifically prescribed by your doctor. They can be dangerous to seniors as their side effects include confusion, drowsiness, and dizziness.

You can minimize your allergic reactions by controlling your environment. If you have seasonal allergies, check the pollen count on your weather forecast and avoid the outdoors on the worst days. You should also keep you windows closed if possible when pollen counts are high. If you do go out, wear sunglasses to protect your eyes. When you get home, wash your hands, shower, and change your clothes. If you go to bed after being outdoors without showering, change the pillowcase before retiring the next night. Make sure your air conditioner unit is serviced regularly, and your vents cleaned annually to avoid mold and dust allergies.

Asthma and allergies are nothing to sneeze at, but there are steps you can take to reduce the rate and strength of incidence. If you think you may have asthma or allergies talk to your doctor. Understanding your health situation, avoiding triggers and being prepared are the best ways you can combat these illnesses and breathe easy.

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.

Engage at Every Age

By Renea Dennison, Contributor

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May is when we observe Older American’s Month. The Administration on Aging has announced the 2018 theme to be Engage at Every Age. (The Administration on Aging is part of the Administration for Community Living and can be reached at www.acl.gov. )

This month we celebrate the many ways seniors add value to the lives of others. Of course, people of any age can take part in the activities planned. The website claims the theme, “emphasizes that you are never too old (or too young) to take part in activities that can enrich your physical, mental and emotional well-being and celebrates the many ways older adults make a difference in our communities.”

This blog frequently encourages a healthy lifestyle including physical, mental and emotional wellness. During May we are reminded of all the wonderful ways seniors influence and mentor younger adults and children. Older people set an example every day by keeping active, being in emotional control, eating right, and seeking help when something is wrong.

It’s true that when we get older we tend to begin to feel forgotten. We often move slower, which causes us to fall behind. Frequently we are last to be waited on, and are sometimes ignored at service counters. We can begin to feel invisible. In addition, we can’t always participate in fun activities or helping others the way we did when we were younger. We need to remember though, that we still have loads to offer. We have so much experience in the world! We have learned heaps and earned every wisdom (gray) hair on our heads. This knowledge needs to be shared and handed down to younger generations.

Don’t worry if their interest doesn’t coincide in a timely manner with your desire to share. You can still write it down, record it, or better yet, make a video and post it for your family in social media. Tell them about your family history, or some experience you had that really taught you something. Did you lock yourself out three times in one week (like me) and learn to always have a spare? Did your grandmother tell you a story about walking across the prairie with no one in sight? Do you know a trick to folding sheets or the best way to make gravy?

You probably have many interesting tales to tell, and lots of wisdom to impart. Celebrate this month by remembering all you have given and all you still have to give. Check your local Aging agency for any events you can participate in. For Topeka, you can contact the Jayhawk Area Agency on Aging or the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability. You still have so much to offer, and nothing is more rewarding than helping and giving to others.

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.