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Happy National Picnic and Grilling Month!

Here at Seniors Speak Out, we love picnics and cookouts so we thought it would be fun to share a few tips and recipes that are sure to impress your friends and family while you celebrate these tasty appreciation months.

First, we recommend checking your local tourism center or consulting guides online, to find nearby parks for picnicking, though having your own private picnic at home is guaranteed to be just as fun.

Second, grilling for a large group of people and transporting food from the grill to a picnic can be challenging. Luckily, there are delicious foil packet recipes that allow each guest to have their own individual, mess-free meal. The foil wrapping is also wonderful for transporting food from the grill to a picnic table and also stack easily in a cooler or basket. Some of our favorites are Barbecue Chicken and Vegetables in Foil, Grilled Clambake with Shrimp and Corn in Foil and Sausage and Vegetables Jambalaya in Foil. You can also find more options here.

If foil meals aren’t your thing, grilling a few chicken breasts to go with family-style sides is a classic approach to cookouts and picnics. While potato salad is a go-to and delicious side, this Cauliflower Salad or an Avocado-Pesto Pasta Salad with Corn are healthy substitutes that go great with any at home or outdoor picnic dish.

Lastly, be sure to have plenty of bottled water to help you stay hydrated while cooking outdoors. Also, make sure you bring insect repellant to keep insects away from your family as well as the food.

Now it’s time to get outside and start cooking! Be sure to let us know how you plan to celebrate National Picnic Month or National Grilling Month on Facebook and Twitter and feel free to share your own healthy recipes with us!



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How well do you really know Medicare’s key terms?

We spend a lot of time discussing Medicare and how to stay healthy, but how well do you really know these 10 key aspects of Medicare? Take our quiz below by selecting the right word for each definition and find out! If you want to brush up on even more Medicare terminology, you can use Medicare.gov’s dictionary, where we obtained the definitions for the terms below!

A person who has health care insurance through the Medicare or Medicaid programs.

Correct

That's right!

Incorrect

Sorry, that is incorrect. The correct answer is Beneficiary.

The health care items or services covered under a health insurance plan.

Correct

That's right!

Incorrect

Sorry, that is incorrect. The correct answer is Benefits.

A request for payment that you submit to Medicare or other health insurance when you get items and services that you think are covered.

Correct

That's right!

Incorrect

Sorry, that is incorrect. The correct answer is Claim.

The amount you must pay for health care or prescriptions before Original Medicare (Parts A and B), your prescription drug plan, or your other insurance begins to pay.

Correct

That's right!

Incorrect

Sorry, that is incorrect. The correct answer is Deductible.

A list of prescription drugs covered by a prescription drug plan or another insurance plan offering prescription drug benefits. Also called a drug list.

Correct

That's right!

Incorrect

Sorry, that is incorrect. The correct answer is Formulary.

Health care that you get when you're admitted to a health care facility, like a hospital or skilled nursing facility.

Correct

That's right!

Incorrect

Sorry, that is incorrect. The correct answer is Inpatient Care.

The facilities, providers, and suppliers your health insurer or plan has contracted with to provide health care services.

Correct

That's right!

Incorrect

Sorry, that is incorrect. The correct answer is Network.

The periodic payment to Medicare, an insurance company, or a health care plan for health or prescription drug coverage.

Correct

That's right!

Incorrect

Sorry, that is incorrect. The correct answer is Premium.

Health care to impede illness or detect illness at an early stage, when treatment is likely to work best (for example, Pap tests, flu shots, and screening mammograms).

Correct

That's right!

Incorrect

Sorry, that is incorrect. The correct answer is Preventative Services.

Generally, any company, person, or agency that gives you a medical item or service, except when you're an inpatient in a hospital or skilled nursing facility.

Correct

That's right!

Incorrect

Sorry, that is incorrect. The correct answer is Provider.

 

How well did you do? Let us know by reaching out on Facebook and Twitter!



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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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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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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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It’s Time to Enroll in Medicare

If you’re an individual eligible for Medicare, this is a very important time of year. Open enrollment for Medicare starts on October 15 and continues through December 7. Open enrollment is the time when individuals turning 65 can enroll in Medicare coverage for the first time. It’s also the one time each year in which existing beneficiaries can shop for new coverage and change plans.

It’s important that you take advantage of this annual opportunity to look at your coverage and make sure it’s meeting your current needs. Your health, treatments and prescription medications can change a lot in a year, so reviewing your costs and coverage can help you determine if you want to stay with your current plan or choose a new plan from multiple available options.

This year, assessing your plan needs is more important than ever since the average basic premium for Part D prescription drug coverage is expected to decrease for 2018!

We’re committed to ensuring you have the resources you need to make the best choices for you or a family member. Basic information and videos on Medicare and Part D are available on our website. We also have a handy enrollment fact sheet in English and in Spanish. Additionally, you can find out if you are eligible for payment assistance through the Extra Help program and how to enroll (Spanish).

Seniors Speak Out also has additional resources for seniors and will provide information throughout open enrollment on signing up for coverage. Be sure to check back often to stay in the know.

Happy open enrollment!!

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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.



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National Immunization Month

Fall is right around the corner, which means many kids are headed back to school. For me, the end of summer invokes memories of fresh school supplies, a new sweater or two, and sometimes a trip to the doctor for dreaded shots. Though I’ve long-since graduated from school, this is a good time of year to remember that getting the appropriate vaccinations is important and not limited to children.

This August, in honor of National Immunization Awareness Month, we’re sharing how important it is for seniors to take control of our own health by staying up to date on our vaccines. For those of us who have grandchildren, it is even more critical, as we don’t want to put our young loved ones at risk for an illness that could’ve been prevented by immunization.

By remaining diligent about necessary vaccinations, we can work together to help prevent infectious diseases. Doing so should be easy since some of the most commonly needed vaccines are covered under Medicare Part B and Part D. As always, remember to consult your doctor if you have any questions about what is included in your coverage or what vaccine is appropriate for your needs. As a starting point, be sure to read on and check out our list of the CDC’s recommended vaccinations for seniors who are 65 years old and up.

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