Tag Archives: technology

Getting Older with Grace

Covered Bridge: How Do You Know You’re Getting Older?

When I started working in the Medicare industry 15 years ago, I was ignorant about Medicare and insurance of any kind really. It seemed like a growth industry to me.

15 year later, I have a much more personal interest in the subject, having quite a few family members over 65. This aging thing is not as easy as I thought it would be. Things change.

I’ve made progress in the meantime. I also used to think being online and connected was not that necessary. Now I couldn’t live without it. Please note, the perception that older people don’t like to use technology is false. According to Pew Research Center, 4 in 10 seniors own smartphones, more than double the share that did so in 2013.

I have an almost 8-month-old and an 8-year-old and have “mom brain” most days. I used to take extra time getting ready for a big event or even a regular day. When I was done, I would look in the mirror and say, “You look very well put together.”  Now, when I go through all the same steps, I look in in the mirror and say, “You look clean.”

When did I stop hearing, “You look great,” and start hearing, “You look great for your age”? Probably around the same time folks went from saying, “I like your new glasses,” to “Your new glasses take 5 years off your face.” Ugh.

I’ve learned not to ask anyone how old they are unless they are under the age of 12. Even then, I would think twice about it. If anyone forces you to guess how old they are, make a fair guess, and then subtract 15 years. No one ever complains.

The Population Reference Bureau says that from 2014 to 2060, the number of people age 65 and older in the United States will more than double from 46 million to over 98 million. Surprisingly, people over age 85 are the fastest growing 10-year age group of the older population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Aging is tough. Often, we have to forgo many of the activities of our youth, such as:

  • Driving a car
  • Living independently
  • Eating anything you want
  • Staying up all night
  • Getting a haircut
  • Worrying about the small stuff (Oh wait, that’s a good thing.)

While I still have a way to go before some of these activities are things I have to forgo, I try to remember those family and friends that are maturing and reaching a stage where they may have to give up some of these activities. I try to show as much grace and dignity to them as I hope someone will show to me. Maturing is tough.

 

Morgan Gunder is a community and broker liaison for Reid Health Alliance. Born in the South and raised in the Midwest, she is a wife and mother with a passion for traveling, learning, and technology.

Internet Safety and Privacy

Internet Safety

In honor of Safer Internet Day earlier this month, we helped you and your family practice internet safety all week.

Make sure you’re not accidentally giving out personal information you wouldn’t want on the internet, like your phone number or address, to any individuals or companies you don’t know or have never heard of.

Never share your password with anyone. If you do have to share one, like your wifi password, use one that’s not tied to any important accounts. A secure password manager can help you if you struggle to keep track of your passwords.

Safely Managing Your Passwords

 

When creating screen names, don’t include any important personal information, like your last name or birthdate, and help your children set up any accounts they have to protect their info.

Safely Setting Up Accounts Online

 

Protecting your kids in the age of technology can be tricky. Make sure you know how to enable parental controls across devices.

Protecting Your Kids Online

 

You don’t have to be a tech wizard to practice better privacy safety online. Securing your browser, using anti-virus software, keeping programs up to date, and paying attention to settings on your accounts is an easy way to get started with digital security.

Learn to Protect Yourself Online

 

For many of us, social media is a way to share our lives with loved ones. But sharing personal details, your location, or even family photos can be risky. Adjust your social media privacy settings to protect your info.

Social Media Privacy Settings

 

Be smart shopping online. If a website looks old and outdated or if you can’t find any reviews or press coverage for their company in a quick search, don’t enter your credit card info into their site. Services like PayPal can also protect your money and info.

Online Shopping Safety

An App for Better Dental Health

Long View: Dialing In to Better Dental Health

I have a confession to make. My toothbrush talks to my cellphone, and I’m pretty much OK with that. I’ve brushed my teeth well over 36,000 times in my time on this planet, and suddenly now, in my 50th year, I need my phone to tell me if I’ve been doing it correctly.

Having good teeth is a genetic gift I inherited from my grandmother. She grew up in an era before there was fluoride in the drinking water, and her father didn’t believe in traditional medicine. I wonder if she ever even went to the dentist as a child. And yet, when she passed away, well into her 90s, she didn’t have a single cavity.

I’m lucky to have inherited her teeth DNA. I’ve only had two cavities in my life and both came after a pregnancy and were so shallow I didn’t even need Novocain. So they don’t count.

This is good news because I have a very low gag threshold and can’t stand having any kind of metal dental instrument in my mouth. Just getting X-rays at the dentist once a year is traumatic for me. I have to give myself a pep talk while biting down. “Just breathe and don’t throw up, just breathe and don’t throw up.” If I had to withstand anything more exotic than a quick cleaning, the dentist would probably have to sedate me.

Getting back to my talking toothbrush, thanks to Bluetooth technology, an app on my phone tells me if I’m brushing long enough, too hard, too soft, or not long enough in a certain area. How my phone knows this is pure sorcery in my opinion, but I’m taking my phone’s advice and trying to do a better job of brushing. After all, good oral hygiene is a part of our overall health and well-being.

In my line of work, I get a lot of feedback from seniors on Medicare. Time and time again, one of their questions is, “How am I going to pay for my dental care?” This is a valid question because original Medicare does not pay for dental care. Without purchasing a separate dental insurance policy, the expenses of cleanings, X-rays, cavities, root canals, crowns, partials or even dentures must come out of your own pocket. (Whew, just typing those procedures made me queasy.)

Some people get to remain on their company’s dental insurance policy when they retire. Others will decide to purchase private dental insurance as part of their overall retirement health insurance expenses. Many people that don’t have these options are kind of left wondering what to do now.

There are many Medicare Advantage plans that offer members a set-amount dental benefit along with medical coverage to help offset some of the expense of dental care. It won’t provide as extensive of coverage as a private dental insurance policy does, but the benefit does help offset some (or all if you have teeth like my grandmother’s) expenses of good dental care.

If keeping your pearly whites in working order is a priority for you but the extra expense of full-blown dental insurance isn’t, a Medicare Advantage plan might be a solution. While you’re at it, you can consider looking into one of those high-tech toothbrushes like mine. As your mother always told you, the best dental care starts with good brushing habits.

Lora Felger is a community and broker liaison at Health Alliance. She is the mother of 2 terrific boys, a world traveler, and a major Iowa State Cyclones fan.

Homesickness in College Students

How to Deal with Homesickness in College

One of the main causes of distress in students is homesickness. According to the UCLA Higher Education Institute, over 30% of college students experience low-level homesickness, and about 69% of first year college students experience severe homesickness.

Homesickness is more than the concept of missing home or missing family — it’s the feeling of longing and feeling out of place. Whether they’re nearby, out-of-state, or studying in a foreign country, college students are not only experiencing a new phase of life, but they’re also at a new school, in a new place.

Although it’s normal to feel homesick, wanting to enjoy a home-cooked meal with family or not wanting to deal with adult responsibilities and academic pressures may quickly make homesickness grow. Homesickness builds in waves and can turn into more serious mental health issues if not taken seriously.

Last year, Assist America worked on a severe case of homesickness, helping an 18-year-old student from Germany who was hospitalized after his homesickness transformed into serious depressive episodes.

In the weeks leading up to his hospitalization, the student had shown increased signs of homesickness, including mentioning that he wanted to go home, a decrease in the desire to participate in activities and social events, and suicidal thoughts.

After a while, his roommates told the university staff about his behavior, and he was later admitted to the hospital. Once he was stable, Assist America arranged for transportation supervised by a medical escort to take him back to Germany.

Tips for Overcoming Homesickness

Some preventive measures can be taken by both parents and students to help overcome homesickness.

For Parents

  • You can help your child prepare for college life by visiting the campus ahead of time so they can familiarize themselves with its surroundings.

  • In the years before college, consider sending your child to summer camps, activities, or to visit family away from home , so they can gradually learn to deal with separation anxiety.

  • Avoid expressing your own anxiety about your child leaving for college in front of them. Instead, talk optimistically and positively about their new experiences to come.

  • Encourage your child to find trusted friends and adults on campus. These relationships will help them build connections in their new community and ease the transition.

  • Consider sending little surprise care packages to your child. Include their favorite cookies or candies, a new book, gift cards to their favorite stores, a letter, and a funny family photo.

  • Make the most of technology. Staying in touch on the phone or through video chat is easier than ever and can help the whole family feel connected.

For Students

  • Stay engaged in campus activities. Many colleges organize welcome week events to help students get used to college culture.

  • Establish and stick to a daily routine, even if it’s difficult to stay on track with exams and events around every corner. Routines are good for dealing with stress and anxiety and will help you adjust to your new community and class schedule.

  • Feeling homesick is normal, as long as you can handle the situation. To help battle feelings of loneliness, keep a family picture on your study table, video-chat often, or go old-school and write letters to family and friends back home.

  • Find ways to reward yourself as you make gains in your new routine. For instance, after submitting an important assignment or taking a big exam, take some time to do something fun or treat yourself with something you like.

  • If campus is only a drive away, you and your parents and friends can plan a few weekends throughout the school year to visit each other on campus, at home, or to meet at a halfway-point.

  • When packing for college, take some of your favorite decorations from your room to make your new room feel more like home.

  • Know what services are available to you to help you cope with homesickness. Too often students don’t realize all the things their college has ready to help them with exactly these issues. Never shy away from seeking advice from a trusted adult on campus about these services. Or you can look into these services privately on your school’s website.

While Studying Abroad

  • Students who study abroad are even more likely to feel homesick since they have to adjust to a whole new culture and lifestyle, learn to speak a new language, and meet all new people from many backgrounds.

  • A challenge while studying abroad is knowing who you can ask questions and how and where to get help. Before leaving, create a reference list with the names, contact details, and roles of people that will be helpful during your stay. Once you arrive, be sure to add anyone important you meet to your list. 

  • Schools often have an international student department who will organize welcome events and get-togethers. Be sure to attend those activities, especially at the beginning of your time abroad.

  • Many international programs also have Facebook groups where former and new students can exchange tips and experiences. Joining these groups to make connections and prepare before leaving home.

  • Make friends with people from the same country as you. When you’re missing home, spend time together. Your shared experience of studying abroad can make you feel a little closer to home.

How Assist America Can Help

Assist America provides useful services that can reassure parents and students studying out-of-state or abroad.

For example, Assist America can help students find where and how they can refill certain prescriptions before they even leave home, so they can plan their departure with peace of mind.

Students who know they will need to see a doctor while away from home can call us or Assist America for referrals. Assist America also provides emergency trauma counseling for students on the phone, with referrals for follow-up sessions with specialists.

Finally, students going to a foreign country can use the Pre-Trip Information tool on Assist America’s website and the mobile app to familiarize themselves with their destination.

App Store Google Play

 

 

 

App Store is a service mark of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries. Google Play and the Google Play logo are trademarks of Google LLC.

Self-Care Month

Self-Care Month

It’s Self-Care Month, and if you’re not sure why self-care matters, these TED talks can explain why your emotional and physical health should be a priority.

If you’ve never focused on self-care before, these 10 habits are a great way to get started.

Taking Time for Yourself

 

Create a relaxing routine for self-care. Whether it’s herbal tea and reading a book before bed or coffee and the newspaper in the morning, taking structured time for yourself is a great way to wind down and prepare you for the next thing.

Relaxing Routines

 

Take a break from technology. Whether it’s picking up a book, heading outdoors, or just spending time with friends or family, turning off the news and social media can help you refocus on yourself.

A Break from Tech

 

If you need to be more mindful or focus on relaxation, even if it’s only for 5 minutes, find a meditation app that can help guide you.

Mindful Meditation

 

Learn something new. Cooking or baking new recipes, knitting, or playing an instrument requires you to focus but can also give you time to yourself.

Learn Something New

 

Mixing up your day-to-day routine, like taking a different route to work, can help you get out of a rut, and these little changes can help you create new neural pathways to keep the brain healthy and build new habits.

Changing Up Your Routine

Beat Stress Tips

Tips to Beat Stress

It was Everybody Deserves a Massage Week, so we helped you take a minute for yourself each day with these tips to beat stress.

If you’ve never had a massage, they’re a great way to relax, relieve muscle tension, and help your immune and digestive systems.

Massage Away Stress

 

Grab some gum. It’s been shown to relieve anxiety and stress and improve alertness while multitasking.

Fighting Strss with Gum

 

Watch a viral video, comedy special, or your favorite rom-com. Laughter can lower stress hormones, reduce inflammation in the arteries, and increase good cholesterol.

Laughter for Your Stress

 

Unplug from your technology, turn off your phone, and shut off the news. Taking a break can genuinely help you beat stress.

Eat a square of chocolate, suck on a peppermint, or sip on hot chocolate. Sweets can stem the production of the stress hormone.

A Dose of Sweetness

 

Try a stress-relieving yoga routine. It’s great exercise, and you’ll feel refreshed and calm afterward.

Stress-Fighting Yoga

 

Learn to knit, cross-stitch, or sew. Repetitive motions have been shown to help sooth anxiety.

Knit Your Way to Peace

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Technology Improving Seniors' Lives

Vantage Point: Technology Helps Seniors Stay Independent

We all want to stay as independent as possible, and that is especially true as we age. Most adults want to age in place, which means aging comfortably in their own home. Luckily, we live in the technology age, and staying independent as we age is totally possible with some cool gadgets!

  • Automatic pill reminders – There are many options to help you take your medications safely and consistently.

    I’ve seen some models that attach to the pill bottle as the lid. The lid reminds you with an alarm that you or a loved one can program, and the lid also keeps track of when the last medications were taken.

    I’ve also seen some models that keep the pills locked until a certain time, and then unlock with an alarm to remind you.

    Another option might be one of the talking clocks that are out there. A loved one can program its recordings to remind you to take your medications.

  • House-cleaning robots – There are house-cleaning robots that can make things like vacuuming and cleaning your floors a lot easier.

    This is a great idea for those that find housework to be exhausting or hard to accomplish because of ability or illness.

  • Safety devices – There are many personal emergency response systems out there for you to choose from. They range from bands that you wear on your wrists that let you signal for help to full-on camera systems that can be installed to let your family monitor you.

    There are also sensors that can be attached to the objects that you use the most. Then, if something seems amiss or out-of-routine for you, your loved ones can be alerted to check in on you.

    Most of these safety systems can be viewed or managed on a smartphone.

  • Just plain cool GPS shoes – There are shoes out now that are able to keep people dealing with Alzheimer’s or dementia, who may have the potential to wander, safe.

    A safe area is set up for the person, and if they go outside of that boundary, an alert is sent to their loved ones.

These gadgets are just a few of the vast options available to help you stay home and live independently longer.

Breck Obermeyer is a community liaison with Health Alliance Northwest, serving Yakima County. She is a homegrown girl from Naches and has a great husband who can fix anything and 2 kids who are her world. When not attending community events or providing Medicare education throughout the Valley, she can be found indulging in her hobbies of homesteading, pioneer cooking, and learning new survival techniques. She also has a strong love for all things Halloween.