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The Best Gift Any Grandparent Can Give a Grandchild

gift-of-healthFor grandparents, giving is quite possibly the best part of the holiday season. When you gather with your kids and grandkids this holiday season it's wonderful to share your homemade cookies and heartfelt gifts, but two things no one in your family should ever give to a loved one are influenza (flu) or whooping cough.

Most people have heard of the flu and understand how contagious it may be. However, many people might not know how serious it can be, particularly for young children and older adults who are at high risk for severe complications. In fact, each year the flu causes an average of 200,000 hospitalizations, and thousands of deaths. Pertussis, which is also known as whooping cough, may not be as well-known as the flu; however, it is also a serious and highly contagious disease that affects the respiratory tract. It can cause severe coughing fits that can last up to 10 weeks or more, and it spreads from person to person much like the cold and flu viruses - through coughing and sneezing. People of all ages can get whooping cough, but the disease is especially dangerous for infants and young children to whom it can cause severe and even life-threatening complications.

Sadly, about half of children under 1 year old who get whooping cough end up in the hospital and approximately 1 out of 100 infants hospitalized for whooping cough will die. Because the disease may be milder in adolescents and adults, many people may not realize they actually have whooping cough, and accidentally spread it to others. In fact, babies are most likely to catch whooping cough from a family member. One recent study of infants with whooping cough showed that approximately 85 percent of babies got the disease from a member of their immediate or extended family, when a source could be identified.

A simple solution to help keep your family healthy

No one likes to be sick during the holiday season, but thanks to the extra travel and large family get-togethers, someone always seems to fall ill. As a grandparent, you may take the normal precautions, such as frequently washing your hands and coughing and sneezing into a tissue, but these are not enough to stop the spread of the flu and whooping cough. Fortunately, there is something you can do to help prevent these diseases. Talk to your healthcare provider about what vaccines you need to help keep yourself and your family members healthy.

Getting the word out

Despite the seriousness of both flu and whooping cough, the number of adults who get vaccinated against these diseases remains alarmingly low. While the CDC recommends everyone, especially those around babies get vaccinated against whooping cough, only 14 percent of adults 19 years and older, and 26 percent of adults living with an infant have had the recommended Tdap vaccination, and only 43.6 percent of adults were vaccinated against the flu last season.

"Grandparents are such an important part of their grandchildren's lives," says Amy Pisani, Executive Director of the nonprofit organization Every Child By Two. "That's why it's important that they speak to their healthcare providers about getting vaccinated against the flu and whooping cough. We want every grandparent to be able to play a happy, healthy, helpful role in their grandchildren's development, for many years to come."

To help raise awareness about the importance of timely vaccination for people of all ages, Every Child By Two is launching the Vaccinate Your Family program. The program includes a new website for the public - VaccinateYourFamily.org - and a number of new resources including the "Grandparents Toolkit." The toolkit includes a number of materials including tips on how to soothe a fussy baby, ideas for the perfect baby shower, a guide to discussing whooping cough with your healthcare provider, and much more.

To learn more about influenza and whooping cough, and how you can help keep yourself and your family safe through vaccination, visit the Vaccinate Your Family web site and download the free toolkit.

Dealing with the Dark: Six Tips to Boost Your Mood This Winter

winter-dark

It's that time of the year again, when the days grow shorter and the weather becomes colder. Approximately 45 million Americans are negatively affected by the change of seasons and darkening of the summer light. They experience a drop in energy, have trouble getting up, feel down, crave carbs and become irritable or withdrawn. The severity of these symptoms can range from mild, but tolerable, to severe and debilitating. It not only affects their health, but it also affects their everyday life.

The problem typically starts gradually as the days become shorter in late summer or fall, and peaks midwinter in regions like the northeast. Researchers believe these seasonal mood changes are caused by the decreased amount of daylight people are exposed to during the fall and winter months, and that sunlight acts as a signal that synchronizes our body's circadian rhythm. When we do not receive that morning light signal, the winter blues may occur.

Numerous studies have identified several ways that can help alleviate the symptoms caused by this sunlight deficiency. Here are six tips to help you deal with the winter blues.

Get more light. Get outside in the fall and winter during the day as much as possible. Just 15 minutes of sun on your face and hands two to three times per week is enough for many people.

Purchase a bright light therapy lamp. Patients are advised to sit in front of a specially designed light box that emits about 10,000 lux of UV-filtered white light, most often in the morning for 20-30 minutes. Bright-light therapy has been found to be the treatment of choice. The clinically-proven Day-Light Classic by Carex Health Brands or the more compact Day-Light Sky, can be found in retail stores or purchased online.

Get some exercise. Regular exercise, in the mornings, can be a natural energizer that can help maintain a positive outlook.

Watch your diet. A healthy, well-balanced diet relatively high in protein and low in carbohydrates provides the nutrients needed to stay active and alert.

Take part in social activities. Stay in touch with friends and family to avoid isolation. This might include a sunny vacation.

Get some sleep. Maintain a regular sleep schedule to keep your circadian rhythm in balance.

For moderate to severe winter blues, some people may need to seek professional help. One option often used by health care professionals is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). A trained therapist can help a person develop behavioral tools to deal effectively with the winter blues. Success rates for CBT are high and the skills learned can be utilized whenever symptoms begin to appear.

Winter blues can begin as early as August and may continue into April. If symptoms are severe, look to your doctor for help as mood changes can have a severe impact on your daily life.

 

Winter woes: Dry eye is more prevalent in winter weather

Our wardrobes aren't the only things that change when the weather turns chilly. Our bodies are often affected not only by the outdoor changes, but inside changes as well. The body part that receives most of the brunt from winter weather is our eyes.

Between the harsh winter winds and the dry heat radiating inside, our eyes can suddenly feel irritated and scratchy this time of year. In fact, exposure to these atmospheres can cause moisture to evaporate inside our eyes. As a result, our tear glands cannot adequately produce the fluid needed to maintain the eyes' protective, liquid coating. The result is itchy, dry eyes that can cause pain, blurred vision, a burning sensation or even watery vision as our eyes try to compensate for the dryness.

While it is difficult to avoid dry eyes altogether during the winter months, there are several steps that you can take to ensure your eyes stay soothed while indoors this season.

Help for the home

During the frigid winter months, a home's humidity level can easily dip below the 30-55 percent range required for our eyes to stay lubricated. Offset this dry air by using a humidifier in your home. An alternative is leaving off the exhaust in your bathroom while you shower.

Also, refrain from using a ceiling fan while sleeping at night, as drafts can also exacerbate symptoms. To keep this culprit in check, light a match in the room you are in to find where the draft is located.

Fill up on fluids

Even mild dehydration can negatively affect how dry your eyes feel, as cold temperatures can dampen the body's thirst mechanism and artificial heat hastens tear evaporation. Keep eyes hydrated by sipping water throughout the day. Also, increase your intake of fluid-rich foods like soup, fruits and veggies. Adding a cup of hot tea or water with lemon can not only keep you cozy on a chilly day, but ensure proper hydration as well.

Nourish your body

Many clinical studies show omega-3 fatty acids, which are considered essential fatty acids, may protect adult eyes from dry eye syndrome. Omega-3s support healthy tear production and keep eyes moisturized. In addition to omega-3s, other ingredients like Vitamin A, D3, green tea and evening primrose oil can significantly accelerate the time it takes to feel relief. A formula like EyePromise EZ Tears, which contains nine soothing ingredients to target symptoms from the inside, offers rapid results with the dietary ingredients mentioned.

Watery eye help

In cold and windy conditions, many complain their eyes water more than normal. Typically the symptoms of watery eye are excessive tearing, which is made worse by being outdoors. Wearing spectacles will provide protection against the wind, even if you don't usually wear them outdoors. In some cases, excessive watering of the eyes may be a sign of a blockage of tear ducts or infection of the eye.

If you are concerned about the health of your eyes - whether tear production is suboptimal or you suffer from watery eyes, visit your eye care professional.

winter-day 

Skill Swap: How Grandparents and Kids Can Learn From Each Other

grandparent-kid-teach-learn-stories-family-history-skillKnown for their wisdom and patience, grandparents pass down skills, knowledge and stories to both their children and grandchildren. Conversely, grandparents can also learn from their grandkids, especially when it comes to technology. Traditional skills and new trades and tools alike, both grandparents and grandchildren have a talent to bring to the table.

Whether they live in the same city or must rely on technology to communicate, grandparents, grandchildren and even parents can come together to learn from each other. In honor of Grandparents Day and celebrating family all year round, Intel offers some suggestions on activities for a grandparent-grandchild skill swap:

Savvy skills from grandchildren

Capturing memories. Grandparents are all about capturing memorable moments in photo form. While they most likely know how to use a point and shoot camera, the may not have mastered the art of a tablet or smartphone camera. Grandkids are experts when it comes to technology and will love spending time teaching grandma and grandpa how to take pictures, edit and create digital albums with them.

Friendly competing. Many grandparents love playing cards and board games. Some even join clubs where they get together with friends to play games like Bingo and Bridge. Grandparents may also enjoy the digital games that their grandchildren are always playing. Then, even when families are miles apart, they can still enjoy a little friendly competition through group or one-on-one digital games.

Reading redefined. Grandparents grew up in a world of hard copy newspapers, magazines and books and aren't always familiar with today's e-books and digital reading platforms. Grandkids can help Grandma and Grandpa set up a digital library on their tablet, All-in-One PC, 2 in 1 or smartphone and download a few of their favorite books, magazines or newspapers.

Passed down pastimes from grandparents

Real home cooking. Make sure your secret family recipes are kept within the family. Grandkids can create a digital archive of grandma and grandpa's recipes on their tablet, PC, 2 in 1 or smartphone while grandparents teach them how to create the delicious feast from scratch.

Spotlight storytelling. Grandparents can spread their family history and make their life story last for generations when they share it with their grandchildren, interview style. As they talk about their childhood, school, career and more, the kids can take notes on their device or record the story, pairing anecdotes with photos to eventually create a digital memory book. The whole family will be able to look back and enjoy these memories for years to come.

Learning lost arts. There are certain skills learned in the grandparents' generation that some would consider "lost arts" today. Boy Scouts, etiquette class and home economics are not as common as they used to be. Grandparents can spend time teaching their grandkids these valuable skills, such as tying their favorite knots learned in scouts, sewing a button or a patch on a pair of pants, table manners and the art of writing a well-crafted thank you card. Grandkids can take notes as they learn to help them remember in the future.

Family time is precious. Take advantage of these ideas to broaden your horizons as both a grandparent and a grandchild. For more ideas and inspiration on family skill swapping, visit http://intel.ly/1LJdO9h.

Seniors Are Often in Denial About Hearing Loss: Are You One of Them?

Excuse me, can you say that again?” If this sounds typical, you’re not alone. Hearing loss is the third most common health problem in the U.S. with more than 40 million people suffering from it to some degree. Despite all this, only 30 percent of Americans with hearing loss (most of whom are seniors) seek treatment.

To find out why, the manufacturer of Siemens hearing aids polled several hundred seniors at a national conference. Despite most of them admitting to having hearing loss, the survey found seniors are quite passive about their hearing health. About one third of respondents admitted to having their hearing checked only once or twice in their entire life. When visiting their doctor, hearing was the least likely routine health check received — tied with a colonoscopy.

Seniors struggle with perceptions

Seniors completely overestimate how others will react to them wearing hearing aids, according to the data. The majority (51-67 percent) said they don’t wear hearing aids because they fear others will perceive them as “old, feeble or kind of dorky.” Some worry that wearing hearing aids will make them stand out in a crowd in a negative way. Ironically, the vast majority of seniors are not judgmental of another person wearing hearing aids.

Many respondents are also in denial over the social repercussions of their hearing loss. One in four said they don’t want to interact with someone who continuously asks them to repeat themselves, citing that person as “annoying.” Yet, when the situation is reversed, most seniors think it’s perfectly acceptable if they are the ones doing the repeating.

“What I find so interesting is seniors’ perceptions of what makes them look old,” says Emmalyn Loeffler, Au.D., manager of audiology for Sivantos, Inc. “While only one in seven seniors with hearing loss wears hearing aids, 50 percent of seniors admitted to having procedures more commonly associated with vanity, such as getting Botox injections.”

Outdated views of hearing aids

Another common concern among seniors is the perception of hearing aids themselves. Many still view hearing aids as

large, clunky devices that simply amplify sound. According to Dr. Loeffler, this is no longer the case.

“We refer to today’s hearing aids as ‘smart’ because they automatically adapt to your environment, learn your preferences, and intelligently focus on sounds you really want to hear. Most people can’t even tell you’re wearing them and some are even invisible when worn,” she says.  

Survey respondents were asked what new features and capabilities they would like to see added to hearing aids, and their answers reflected today’s technology-driven society:

  • 73 percent would like rechargeable batteries
  • 63 percent suggested adding wireless connectivity
  • 54 percent want hearing aids to be water and dirt-proof for outdoor use
  • 51 percent would like to control their hearing aids via a smartphone app

Many benefits to treating hearing loss

According to Dr. Loeffler, seniors who regularly have their hearing tested and are proactive in trying to address hearing loss are better able to maintain active social lives, extend their careers, and receive diagnoses of potentially more serious medical conditions early. Moreover, leaving hearing loss untreated makes it difficult to understand and follow a doctor's advice, respond to notifications and alerts (e.g., doorbells, car horns), or enjoy conversations with friends and family. All of these outcomes are frustrating and embarrassing, and some could be dangerous. Rather than ignoring hearing problems, Dr. Loeffler recommends the following:

  1. Be proactive about getting your hearing checked. Ask your doctor to test your hearing during your yearly checkup to be sure there are no changes. Medicare guidelines will cover diagnostic hearing exams if your physician suspects a problem, so if you are Medicare-eligible, your exam should be covered.
  2. Baby boomers and seniors are concerned about staying and looking young. One of the best ways to accomplish this is to wear hearing aids to treat hearing loss. Remember, hearing aids don’t make you look old. Not wearing hearing aids when they’re needed does.
  3. Stay socially active. A simple and painless hearing test can help avoid the irritation that arises from asking others to repeat themselves when you can’t hear. This will benefit you socially and in your career, if you’re still working.

4 Times to Ask for Help with Health Insurance Hurdles

Millions of people each year find themselves in transition with their health care coverage.

"The world of choosing health care coverage is becoming very complicated, especially for people making life transitions," says Tricia Blazier, personal health and financial planning director for Allsup. "Many people may not realize the true alternatives and options they have available, mainly because it's unfamiliar territory."

Cost is a top concern, according to a Healthline survey of 490 U.S. consumers, more than half of survey respondents, or 50.8 percent, said they would rather avoid seeking medical treatment than face the high costs or coverage limits with their health plans.

People often are unfamiliar with their plan's terms, costs and provisions. It's especially complicated when trying to make decisions about transitions between coverage, such as leaving employer coverage for COBRA or an exchange plan, or choosing Medicare alternatives.

Following are four reasons to consider seeking help with the health benefits coordination process:

Protect your spouse and dependents. Benefits coordination refers to matching your families' needs with the health plans available to them. One example is a retiree who is leaving work-provided health coverage for Medicare coverage. "If your husband or wife was using your retiree health plan, then they may be able to purchase a Marketplace exchange plan for less cost while you join Medicare."

Avoid gaps in health insurance coverage. Transitions between health coverage, such as leaving an employer for disability or retiring, can be complicated to navigate. As individuals move to federal insurance programs, such as Medicare, there are program rules and processes that can add to the confusion. "You want to make sure you understand how timing works as you transition from group health to another form of healthcare coverage," Blazier says.

Avoid penalties or unanticipated extra costs. Penalties are particularly important with certain types of health insurance coverage. For example, Medicare has penalties that apply to Part B and Part D coverage when individuals miss those enrollment windows. Another example is the coordination when moving to Medicare from a high-risk deductible health plan (HDHP) and a health savings account (HSA). "These are more complicated pieces of the puzzle when you are transitioning between types of health coverage, so it's important to talk to a health benefits specialist," Blazier says.

 Discover more options and better alternatives. While working, many people defaulted to a choice of health insurance plan from their employer. Transitioning to other coverage can open up new opportunities. "It's possible that you, your spouse and your children will each have a different type of health care coverage because it's available and it makes financial sense," Blazier says. Specialists in health benefits coordination also can supplement the assistance individuals get through their employer's human resources team.

For all of these reasons, it can be vital to work with a health benefits coordination specialist. Choosing health care benefits is an extremely personal decision, affected by variables such as the person's health and medical needs, financial situation, family situation and place of residence, to name a few. (BPT)

5 Ways Grandparents Can Stay in Touch with Family Anywhere

These days, it’s not uncommon for family members to live in different cities, states or even across the country. If your family lives far away, the distance can make it difficult to connect, especially with grandkids. Thankfully there are a number of effective ways to keep in touch with the ones you love.

Here are five things you can do to stay connected with your children and grandchildren, no matter where you are:

           Face to face from place to place. If you have a computer and a webcam, you can either video chat and/or video message. There are a number of free services that allow you to virtually connect with your friends and family face to face, from anywhere. Check to make sure your computer and your family’s computers have this capability, and then put it to use. It’s an amazing feeling to be able to say hello and see everyone’s smiling faces digitally, if you can’t do it in person!

       Stay in touch on the go. When it comes to connecting with loved ones near or far, you need reliable, affordable cell service. Relish in those special family moments with TracFone. With plans on America’s two largest and most dependable networks, TracFone gives grandparents, families and friends an affordable way to stay in touch through photos, videos, texts, email, social media and of course, a phone call. Stay connected with great, easy-to-use phones.

        Get social with your media. Social media isn’t just for the younger generation. Grandparents across the country are using sites like Facebook and Instagram to connect with friends and family that live far away. The best part is your grandkids are more than likely already using these platforms, so it’s easy for them to connect with you. Aside from communication, these channels are also a great way to stay up to speed on everything your loved ones are up to, so log on and start sharing.

        Write a letter. Although it’s great to hear your grandkids’ voices on a phone call or see them on video chat, there’s still something special and heartfelt about snail mail. Unlike emails that can get deleted, many people keep letters for years on end. Write your grandchildren a heartfelt letter and send it their way – show them that it can be fun to have a pen pal! Chances are they’ll cherish it, and may even send one back.

        Celebrate those special days. You already see or speak with your family during birthdays or holidays, so find other moments in time to keep communication going. Try calling your kids and grandkids on the anniversary of a special trip, or setting up a weekly phone call to hear more about a big event in their life and provide updates of your own. Also find unique holidays to get in touch. What better way to celebrate your day than spending it talking with the ones you love most. 

         Keep the lines of communication open with the suggestions above; even the simplest hello can be just the ticket to brighten someone’s day. To learn more about ways to stay in touch with affordable communication options from TracFone, visit www.TracFoneWireless.com. (BPT)