Senior couple meeting with financial advisor.

Useful tips to help caregivers navigate the cost of care

(BPT) – When a patient receives bad medical news, it can be a paralyzing moment. It’s easy to see how any serious diagnosis can shatter someone’s life into a million pieces, but we often overlook what’s happening to the caregiver who’s devoting their time and energy to provide care. On top of the physical and emotional demands, the financial cost of caregiving is unavoidable.

What makes someone a caregiver? American caregivers support patients in a variety of ways. They can be young or old, live close by or miles away and provide care full time or part time. Many of us are caregivers – for our children, parents, siblings or even close friends. Maybe you are a caregiver who provides “hands-on” care now, but may be called upon to provide financial assistance in the future. It’s crucial for caregivers to make wise financial decisions about caregiving — for their loved ones and just as importantly, for themselves.

At 34 years old, Danielle Fontanesi had to give up her job as a full-time attorney so she could care for her husband, Matt. Matt was fighting acute myeloid leukemia and needed around-the-clock care while recovering from a stem cell transplant. Fontanesi wasn’t able to go back to work for more than a year, and found it challenging to find a new job given her employment gap, which cost her more than $175,000 in lost income. The cost of relocating next to a major cancer center where Matt was treated was also substantial.

“Not only did I lose income, I lost a year of career progression,” says Fontanesi. “We still had to pay our rent, car payments and hospital expenses, while not having income during this period.”

According to Gwen Nichols, MD, Chief Medical Officer of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society(R) (LLS), Fontanesi is far from alone in her financial plight.

“Again and again, we find that caregivers make huge financial sacrifices to care for their loved one,” Nichols says. “When you tally up the losses, it’s quite astounding: loss of wages, loss of health insurance, loss of retirement savings and the list goes on. These hold serious financial consequences for caregivers.”

Over time, the economic burdens of long-term medical care can create added distress for patients and caregivers that is often called “financial toxicity.” Financial toxicity occurs when growing out-of-pocket healthcare costs lead to serious financial problems. Out-of-pocket costs can include anything from hospital stays or outpatient services to medical equipment and medications.

To help caregivers navigate the cost of cancer care for themselves and their loved ones, Nichols offers these important tips:

Encourage your loved one to seek a second opinion: When appropriate, caregivers should help their loved one seek a second opinion. A second opinion can help ensure an accurate diagnosis, which can then guide your loved one’s treatment plan. An accurate diagnosis enables resources to be directed in a way that offers your loved one the greatest potential benefits, both in terms of a better health outcome as well as financial impact. When weighing multiple treatment options or in circumstances of uncertainty, it’s also helpful to gain a second opinion to help inform the best course of care and avoid the detrimental health effects and costliness of incorrect or unnecessary treatments.

Help start a dialogue: It’s crucial to have an open conversation with healthcare providers about financial pressures. You and your loved one should partner with their medical provider to understand the cost of certain services and treatments. This information can help empower you and your loved one to make the right decision for you and your family. For example, your loved one may be able to choose among treatments or select providers or treatment centers that offer the same or even greater potential benefit, but at a lower cost.

Be an advocate for change: Your voice as a caregiver is valuable, and can help shape discussions about the cost of care. Whether you act as an individual or part of an organized effort by a patient advocacy organization, you can make an impact by sharing your story about the financial hardships you’ve experienced. These firsthand accounts are vital for spurring action. To learn more about LLS Advocacy and how you can raise awareness about the cost of cancer care, visit www.lls.org/be-an-advocate.

Take advantage of available resources: Caregivers are often hesitant to seek help and are often unaware of the many resources available to them at their fingertips. LLS has free resources and support services such as online chats with medical experts, support groups, help with financial pressures, referral to other helpful local and national resources, and more. To learn more, visit www.lls.org/support/caregiver-support.

Nichols also notes that it’s crucial to take time for self-care and remember that your family is your first resource, so don’t be afraid to reach out to them for help. There are many ways for friends and family to lighten the load in this challenging time: assisting with home repairs, running errands, or preparing a meal. These kind gestures go a long way when there’s financial strain. After all, if you sacrifice your own health and well-being, you won’t be at your best to effectively care for a loved one.

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Winter storm power outages on the rise – 3 ways to prepare

(BPT) – Winter storms can wreak havoc on roads, homes and personal lives. However, facing hours of cleaning up fallen tree limbs, shoveling snow or being cooped up inside with antsy kids might be the least of your worries. Experts predict more frequent and severe storms could lead to lengthy power outages that could affect thousands of Americans this winter storm season.

In fact, increasingly severe weather is the chief reason power outages are becoming more likely, according to a National Governors Association report. What’s more, a study by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found the average outage lasts two hours and 20 minutes, but increases by 260 percent to six hours and 10 minutes when a major event like severe weather is involved.

While you can’t predict when a winter storm or extended power outage might affect your neighborhood, you can take steps now to prepare your home and family for severe weather events.

Stock up in advance

Nearly everyone has experienced long grocery store lines and cleared-out store shelves when news of a coming storm hits the airwaves. Spare yourself the aggravation, or possibly being caught without essentials if stores sell out, by stocking up on important items at home.

Keep enough bottled water and non-perishable foods on-hand to feed everyone in your family up to one week. Set these items aside in a “storm prep” box so you don’t dip into them until you really need them. Canned foods, protein bars, dry cereal and nuts are great options.

Never allow your supply of prescription medications to fall below a week’s supply, and make sure you stock up on useful over-the-counter meds such as pain relievers and cold remedies. Finally, keep a supply of batteries, flashlights and battery-powered lanterns readily available to ensure you have safe illumination when the power goes out.

Invest in emergency power

With the average length of power outages growing longer, many Americans are turning to generators to help ensure their homes and families stay safe and comfortable during winter storms. In fact, a report from the Society for Risk Analysis notes “a string of natural disasters and prolonged blackouts have motivated consumers to invest in personal generators at unprecedented rates.”

Homeowners have two options when it comes to back-up power; portable generators and automatic standby generators. Portable generators can be moved from place to place and are designed to power a few key items or systems, like a refrigerator or lights, using properly rated extension cords. These manually operated generators are usually gasoline-fueled and must be operated outside of the home.

Automatic standby generators like those from Kohler are permanently installed outside the home similar to a central air conditioning unit. They attach to a home’s existing natural gas or propane lines and turn on automatically within seconds when the power goes out; homeowners do not need to be present to operate. Standby generators can power an entire house, from essentials like the refrigerator, sump pump, lights and water heater to non-essentials such as TVs, computers and more. To learn more about automatic standby generators, visit www.KohlerGenerators.com.

After the storm

Once the storm is over, continue to be cautious. Check weather and traffic reports before leaving the house to determine if roads are closed. If you do venture out, stay alert for downed power lines. If you spot power lines that are down or damaged, call the power company immediately. Finally, check on your neighbors, especially the elderly, to ensure everyone is fine.

Preparation is the best way to protect your home and family during the winter storm season. Take action now, which includes a storm prep box and a backup power source, to keep your family safe and comfortable, no matter what the weather may bring.

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3 simple tips to get delicious, balanced weeknight meals on the table

(BPT) – Weekday schedules get crazy, which is why the first casualty of all that chaos is the family dinner.

While most families say eating together is a high priority, day-to-day reality is different. According to a 2013 poll by NPR and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, only half of children in the U.S. are in families that dine together. Yet research cited by the American Academy of Pediatrics shows that children reap many benefits from regular family meals, from improved academic performance to developing a deeper sense of resilience.

But busy families can find time to sit down together more often, says Colleen Burns, a lifestyle expert and spokeswoman for Nestle’s Balance Your Plate program. To be successful, set the intention with good planning and smart strategies. What’s more, these meals can also be delicious and nutritious.

“When you have simple solutions in your toolbox to get those well-balanced and tasty meals on the table in the little time that you have, it lets you establish and keep an important family ritual,” says Burns, who is also a busy mom of six boys. “At the same time, you don’t get burned out, and that’s key to staying motivated and inspired.”

To help you get started, Burns shares her top three simple tips to get delicious and nutritious meals on the table quickly.

Shop the freezer section: When you’re in a time pinch, frozen foods have many offerings that set a good foundation for any home-cooked meal, Burns says. Oftentimes, the quality is just as good as their fresh counterparts, and they eliminate many steps of prep time, whether you’re looking at entrees, veggies or sides. On top of all that, fruits and veggies are flash-frozen, which locks the nutrients in place.

Don’t sacrifice: If you know what to look for when shopping the grocery aisles, you can find convenient entrees and sides without sacrificing taste or quality.

Burns recommends Stouffer’s Macaroni & Cheese as one easy solution that helps you get a great meal on the table. It has ingredients that consumers would use in their own kitchens, such as freshly made pasta, butter, cheddar cheese and milk. Burns likes to serve it as a side to marinated chicken (see recipe below) and roasted seasonal veggies, because it’s a simple solution that makes her and her family feel good about dinner.

Maintain balance: Look to a variety of entrees and sides to bring a nutritional balance as well as delicious flavors to your dinner menu. Burns recommends opting for lean proteins like fish and chicken served with fresh or frozen veggies. Check out her how-to video, https://youtu.be/fKcY-jiTWJg, to learn more.

Marinated Garlic and Lemon Roasted Chicken Drumsticks with Honey Mustard Sauce

10 chicken drumsticks

1 large lemon zested and juiced

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

3 whole cloves garlic, chopped

1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon oregano

1 pinch each salt and pepper

Minced parsley for garnish

Honey Mustard Sauce:

3 tablespoons melted butter

1/2 cup honey

1/2 cup mustard

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Directions

In a bowl, mix together lemon juice, zest, olive oil, chopped garlic, paprika, oregano, salt and pepper. Add chicken drumsticks and toss to coat evenly. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. When ready to cook, let chicken come to room temperature for about 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Arrange chicken on oiled foil-lined sheet pan.

Bake uncovered for 20 minutes. Flip chicken pieces and cook another 10 minutes until chicken reaches 165 degrees and is no longer pink.

Make sauce in a small bowl by whisking together the mustard and honey.

Add water as needed for a workable consistency.

With a small pastry brush, brush sauce over chicken and broil 5 minutes until bubbly.

Place chicken pieces on a serving platter and sprinkle minced parsley over all.

Source: Nestle’s Balance Your Plate

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Senior guest? How to prepare your home for older visitors

(BPT) – Whether it’s for a special occasion or just because, hosting an older adult in your home can be a wonderful experience with lots of memory-making potential. However, for a safe and successful visit, you may want to make a few adjustments to your home before they arrive to make it more senior-friendly.

“Spending time with aging parents or grandparents is a wonderful experience for all generations,” says Sara Terry, Brookdale Senior Living’s senior vice president of resident and family engagement. “Creating a welcoming and relaxing atmosphere is the job of any good host and that is no different when entertaining seniors. Considering older adults’ varying mobility and comfort levels, there are a few adjustments you can make to your home to meet their needs.”

Whether your guest is staying short- or long-term, Terry offers these six tips to help you transform your home into a more senior-friendly environment so you can focus on what matters most: making memories with your entire family.

Outdoors

The walkways to many homes are cracked or uneven, which is a risk factor for falls. Make sure the pathway is cleared and easy to see, shovel show in the winter and sweep leaves in the fall. Stairs can be tricky to maneuver as well. If possible, add a ramp that leads to your door. If there are stairs, install handrails on each side. Entryways divided by a threshold can be tricky for someone with mobility issues. Eliminate this common tripping hazard when seniors visit.

Clutter

The easiest thing you can do is remove clutter (especially on the floor) to allow sufficient space for senior guests who may be in a wheelchair to maneuver around rooms. Remove or tape down all cords. Rugs may look nice but they are a leading tripping hazard. Remove all accent rugs from your home, and in areas like the entryway where you must have mats, make sure they are secured with non-slip material.

Light

Seniors need more light than you do in your home, particularly in notoriously dim areas such as entryways, hallways and staircases. Replace existing soft light bulbs with brighter or higher wattage ones and add motion-sensor lights to bathrooms. Adding night lights throughout your home is an easy addition that helps seniors see better, especially at night or on darker winter days.

Stairs

Ideally, a senior won’t have to navigate stairs, but if you have some in your home, you can make the space safer by having railings on both sides. Railings should be at least 1.5 inches in diameter to accommodate seniors with limited dexterity and aging grips. What’s more, help each stair be more visible by using contrast strips (available at your local hardware store).

Bathrooms

Make bathrooms safer by adding well-placed grab bars next to the toilet and in bathing spaces. In the shower or tub, add non-slip strips and a shower seat for comfort and ease of use. For guests who are staying awhile, consider adding a handheld, adjustable-height showerhead. Finally, set the hot water heater temperature to 120 degrees as to avoid unintended burns.

Room selection

Whether your loved one is staying one night, one month or more, selecting the right room will increase their comfort and safety. One-level living is key, so if possible use a room on the main floor with easy access to the bathroom, kitchen and living room. Furniture, including the bed and chairs, should be at a good height (neither too low nor too high) to be easily used. Knobs can be difficult, so consider replacing round door handles with lever handles.

“In addition to these tips, I recommend having a conversation with your loved one before their stay,” says Terry. “Talk to them about what will make them feel at home in your home. What’s most important is enjoying your visit to the fullest and spending valuable time together.”

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4 things no one tells you about preparing for baby

(BPT) – It’s only a matter of time now. Your little bundle of joy is on its way, and for the first time you are about to be a parent. Think you’re ready? Many people do and then the reality of parenthood strikes them. Remember your friends who said being a parent is nothing like they expected? They were right.

Parenting is a wild ride, but it’s also one of the — if not the — most rewarding things you’ll ever do in your life. Just don’t expect it to be smooth sailing right from the get-go. It’s going to be challenging, but there are things you can do to prepare before your life changes forever.

To give you the leg up you so desperately need, Dawn Dais, author of the parenting book “The Sh!t No One Tells You,” offers this advice:

* Take advantage of your freedom. If this is your first baby, you need to maximize every second of freedom you have left. Go to the movies, order an appetizer and a dessert at dinner, travel, decide to leave the house and then do so 25 seconds later. Watch television shows with cuss words.

* Sleep now. Dais recently teamed up with Store Brand infant formula to help get the word out about ways parents can prepare before their baby arrives. Earlier this year, they released a “Baby’s First Year” survey that found 25 percent of new moms confessed their biggest fear before their baby’s arrival was the fear of never sleeping again. You will sleep again, but it might not be for a few months, so it’s important to get it in while you still can!

* Do your research. Make sure to discuss important topics before the baby arrives, such as feeding. The Store Brand formula survey found infant formula is the last topic researched by new moms while pregnant, but the No. 1 topic researched after their baby arrives. Feeding is the most important thing you do with your baby, so why is it so far down on the list? A lot of new parents don’t think about this because they just assume they will breastfeed. They are told that it is the most natural thing on the planet and so it’s not even a consideration or option not to breastfeed. But what people don’t tell you is that breastfeeding can be hard and there may be challenges. The survey also found that more than 50 percent of moms experience issues when it comes to breastfeeding baby, with low breast milk supply being the top concern. So knowing your feeding options before baby arrives is vital.

* Babies are expensive, so know where you can save big. It’s important to note that all infant formulas are required to meet the same FDA standards. That means you can choose store-brand infant formulas that meet the same federal nutrient requirements for baby as nationally advertised brands, and in fact, cost up to 50 percent less!

Make the most of your new role as a parent

Having a child is the most monumental change you can make to your life, but the joys that come with parenting make the process entirely worth it. So, plan ahead now by applying the tips above and you’ll eliminate some of those potential headaches. To learn more about feeding options and the “Baby’s First Year” survey, visit storebrandformula.com.

Headline: Tips to prepare for parenthood

Parenting can be tough. Make the most of it with these tips from Dawn Dais, author of the parenting book “The Sh!t No One Tells You .

* Take advantage of your freedom. If this is your first baby, you need to maximize every second of freedom you have left. Go to the movies, order an appetizer and a dessert at dinner, travel, decide to leave the house and then do so 25 seconds later. Watch television shows with cuss words.

* Babies are expensive, so know where you can save big. It’s important to note that all infant formulas are required to meet the same FDA standards. That means you can choose store brand infant formulas that meet the same federal nutrient requirements for baby as nationally advertised brands, and in fact, cost up to 50 percent less. I wish someone had told me that. Moms who use formula can relate — it can be expensive.

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Entertaining tips: Worry-free ways to clean before your guests arrive

(BPT) – For many of us, this is the best time of the year to spend with friends, family and lots of food. The weather has turned colder, the clocks have shifted back and we’re ready to invite guests over to eat, laugh and make new memories for the new year.

Let’s face it, because you spend more time indoors this time of year, you’re also probably a bit more anxious when it comes to keeping the house tidy and making sure you’re keeping yourself and your guests healthy. So, what’s the best approach to cleaning up before your get-together starts? You’ve likely heard this before, but it’s true: Clean only what your guests see. There’s no need to push all your furniture into the middle of the room to clean your baseboards or grab those dust bunnies from underneath the china cabinet. Of course, you want the guest bathroom to be shipshape, as well as a few of the following areas, before guests arrive.

Home is where the oven is: Most people like to mingle in the kitchen (hello bacon-wrapped dates!), so you want it to smell like all your wonderful food, not harsh chemicals. While you might be tempted to clean every inch of the kitchen, keep it simple and remember to clean as you go, especially during food prep. From raw cookie dough to chicken wings, you want to be careful not to cross-contaminate surfaces, so disinfect and clean those food-prep areas often, including cutting boards. (Use a product like PURELL(R) Multi Surface Disinfectant, which contains no harsh chemicals, to keep those counters and prep stations worry-free.) Don’t let those dirty mixing bowls pile up, either. Rinse as soon as you can and load them into the dishwasher.

The hangouts: After the kitchen, you probably know where your guests will gravitate. Maybe the kids hit the basement or rec room and sports fans huddle in the family room around the TV. Vacuuming and dusting are a must, and put away all the non-essential items. Place anything you don’t need into your laundry basket and stash it in the laundry room.

So many things to touch: Now think about all those hands touching surfaces like doorknobs, remotes, toys or playpens, especially if you have little ones crawling about or you’re expecting lots of toddlers. No one wants to be sick, especially when there is fun to be had. To prevent the spread of germs, disinfect those often-touched items and surfaces with PURELL(R) Multi Surface Disinfectant, which not only kills 99.99 percent of germs on hard surfaces, but also sanitizes soft surfaces and other areas in the house where you normally wouldn’t use traditional products.

Runny noses: For every hostess gift or side dish people bring, you should also expect some sniffles and sneezes. Keep your guests comfortable by putting out some boxes of tissues and an alcohol-based hand sanitizer in key areas, like near the buffet line and next to the tissue box.

A little elbow grease and some targeted cleaning should leave you plenty of time for the really important stuff: cooking, eating and enjoying time with your loved ones.

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4 great gifts for your green-living friend

(BPT) – Here’s a stat for you: More than 145 million Americans report being alarmed or concerned about climate change, according to the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

Yes, over 145 million. That’s more than a third of the nation’s total population. Are you one of them? Whether you are or not, it’s a safe bet someone on your holiday shopping list is and you’d love to find the perfect gift that matches their passion.

Living an environmentally healthy, sustainable lifestyle is a personal thing and one every environmentally conscious person does a little bit differently. To complement that, Cool Effect is offering you the chance to personalize a great gift for those eco-conscious Earth lovers this holiday season. With a wide variety of carbon-cutting projects and flexible options, you can personalize the perfect gift package for anyone on your list. Cool Effect, a non-profit, has already done the work for you and created the holiday gift bundles below.

Breathe deep, breathe clean

Share the gift of clean air, literally, with The Cuckoo Combo. This pack, named for the threatened bird, supports efforts to capture methane and reduce nitrous oxide emissions while generating income for local communities.

Through your gift of this package, your loved one will be able to support the Native American Methane Capture program in Colorado that is converting this otherwise harmful gas to clean energy. They will also support technology initiatives to keep nitrous oxide emissions in check through the Mississippi-based Nitrous Oxide Abatement initiative.

Blown away with options

Most people have heard about the potential power opportunities that exist in wind harvesting, but it’s those living a more sustainable lifestyle that are especially excited about it. Support that enthusiasm with The Big Fan gift pack.

Your gift will support the creation of renewable energy wind turbines in Costa Rica, leading to long-term clean energy independence and jobs for local workers.

The wind turbines created through this initiative will provide power to 50,000 people and save 11,000 metric tons of carbon emissions. Your gift can help make it happen.

The power of poo

Initially this might seem like a white elephant present, but the aptly named Poo Package is actually a very real, important environmental project that anyone on your list would be grateful to support.

Using biogas digesters, animal waste — a source of harmful methane emissions — can now be turned into clean, usable energy. Your gift helps farmers in India build their very own biogas digesters that reduce these emissions while providing enough energy to power a neighborhood of Indian homes.

A brew-tiful gift

What’s the perfect gift for the environmentally conscious coffee drinker in your life? How about a package that supports the long-term sustainability of their favorite beverage? The Brew-tiful Gift package supports efforts to reduce logging in coffee growing regions, which reduces Earth-warming emissions and the hotter, drier climate they create that hinders coffee growth.

Through support of this gift pack, your loved one will be working to protect nearly 450,000 Peruvian acres from deforestation while also reducing firewood use in Honduras by nearly 50 percent — and those are initiatives everyone can drink to.

Pick the perfect project for your loved one today

These four projects are just a sample of the myriad environmentally conscious efforts your family and friends can support through your gift. To learn more about any of these projects or to shop other options and find the perfect gift, visit CoolEffect.org. Each project you find there can be customized to your price point and the passions of your loved one and they all support the same ideals of making this planet a greater, greener place to live during these holidays and all that will come after them.

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The first rule of the road: Focus on driving

(BPT) – Have you noticed that traffic seems to be worse lately? There’s a good reason for that — there are more vehicles on the road than at any time in recent history. Unemployment is low and gas is affordable, which means more people are driving more miles. And more drivers means an increased risk of getting into a collision, which impacts the number of auto insurance claims and, potentially, the cost of insurance premiums.

There is some good news, however, because vehicle technology has advanced significantly in the past decade, with features like backup cameras, active braking and pedestrian detection, which employ radar, camera, lidar and other sensors to detect and track vehicles, pedestrians or objects around the vehicle. Many of these enhancements are designed to help prevent collisions and make driving safer, but that doesn’t mean you should let your guard down. When you’re driving, the road should get your full and complete attention, because as great as all of this new technology is, it’s not perfect and collisions can still occur.

“Rear-end collisions are the most common claims we see nationwide. We had nearly 60,000 customers report they were involved in rear-end collisions last year,” said Vice President of Claims at Mercury Insurance Kevin Quinn. “People are surprised to find out they’re at fault if they hit the vehicle ahead of them, even if the other driver brakes suddenly. This is why active braking technology, which can slow down your vehicle while using cruise control or even stop it completely if someone walks in front of your car or you aren’t able to react quickly enough to hit your brakes, is a great development. But, even if you have this technology, you still need to focus on the road to avoid getting into collisions.”

The most common auto collisions to be aware of, according to Mercury Insurance, include:

1. Your vehicle is rear-ended by another vehicle;

2. Your vehicle rear-ends another vehicle;

3. Another vehicle hits your parked car;

4. Another vehicle fails to yield in an intersection and hits your vehicle;

5. Collision with a fixed object;

6. Glass damage;

7. Another vehicle hits yours while changing lanes;

8. Your vehicle hits a parked car;

9. You fail to yield in an intersection and hit another car; and

10. You back into another vehicle.

“Most of these collisions are avoidable if people pay attention to their surroundings. Cars are safer, but drivers are more distracted than ever, especially by phone apps, texting and taking calls. And it’s not just drivers who are distracted, we’re also seeing more pedestrian accidents, because they have their heads buried in their phones and aren’t paying attention while they’re walking,” said Quinn. “No message, photo or phone call is more important than your safety and the safety of others, so please drive — and walk — responsibly.”

Drivers should annually review their auto insurance policy with a local independent insurance agent. Knowing what is and isn’t covered will help in the event you’re involved in one of the common auto insurance collisions.

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Homeowners liable for snow and ice control

(BPT) – Whenever it snows, it is common to see shopping center employees and business owners out and about clearing pathways, parking spaces and entrances of snow and ice. But this isn’t just good business to help customers get in the door, it is also a liability issue should someone slip, fall and injure themselves. Homeowners, too, face similar, albeit more limited, liability if they fail to take adequate steps to remove such slippery hazards from their property.

Generally speaking, homeowners are responsible for limiting dangers on their property, but in some cases this can also extend to public sidewalks abutting the home. In some localities, Homeowners Associations (HOAs), and governments also require that homeowners clear snow and ice or face fines. A regional survey of county and municipal ordinances conducted by the Salt Institute found that 83 percent have written policies directing property owners to remove accumulated snow and ice “within 24 hours of the end of the snowstorm.” Penalties for property owners not complying can range from nominal tickets to misdemeanors punishable by up to 90 days in jail and fines of up to $500.

Shoveling snow is simple enough, but ice is another matter, and nothing works better to remove ice or prevent ice from forming than salt. Salt lowers water’s freezing point, the temperature at which it changes from a liquid to a solid and vice versa. Melting water that is already frozen is called deicing and is applied once ice appears. Preventing water from freezing in the first place is called anti-icing and is applied when a freeze is expected.

Commercially available anti-icing materials include salt (sodium chloride), calcium chloride, magnesium chloride, potassium acetate and calcium magnesium acetate. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, but salt brine remains the best choice for anti-icing in temperatures above 15 degrees F (minus 9.4 degrees C) and continues to work in temperatures as low as minus 6 degrees F. For extremely low temperatures, look for a mixture using calcium or magnesium chloride instead.

Laws regarding snow and ice clearing vary by state and locality, but most mandate that some action be taken within a reasonable time period after it stops snowing. For example, the Illinois Snow and Ice Removal Act states that any owner who “removes or attempts to remove snow or ice from sidewalks abutting the property shall not be liable for any personal injuries allegedly caused by the snowy or icy condition of the sidewalk resulting from his or her acts or omissions unless the alleged misconduct was willful or wanton.”

The dangers from slips and falls should not be taken lightly, especially for the elderly. Each year thousands are rushed to emergency rooms as a result of icy falls with injuries that could have easily been prevented. One enterprising hospital, St. Vincent’s in Indianapolis, Indiana, even decided to give away road salt to local residents one winter to try and prevent such injuries and the resulting emergency room visits. In the end, the person who is most likely to slip and fall is the homeowner themselves.

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Don’t let asthma ruin the holidays

(BPT) – With colder months arriving, there are a few things on everybody’s minds: festive treats, gift shopping and of course, time spent with family and friends. As many people look forward to the holiday season, asthma sufferers need to be aware and prepared for all the triggers this time of the year can bring. The change in weather, traveling or being in a relative’s home with new allergens can all trigger an asthma attack.

Charmayne Anderson has been living with asthma for as long as she can remember. Now, as Director of Advocacy at the Allergy and Asthma Network, she educates others on how to prepare for an asthma attack and enjoy life — and the holidays — unencumbered by their condition. After living with asthma through childhood, adolescence and now adulthood, she has witnessed an evolution of asthma medications and respiratory treatments firsthand.

“When I was diagnosed with asthma as a child, there were no inhalers or similar treatments for us to take home,” Anderson said. “My parents would have to take me for after-hours emergency care visits for an injection to help get my breathing under control.”

Anderson, along with the approximately 25 million asthma patients in the U.S., has more advanced and effective treatment options today to help manage symptoms and asthma attacks. For most people with asthma, having a rescue inhaler on-hand at all times is crucial, whether at home or on the go. Since asthma triggers may change frequently, it’s difficult to predict when an attack could strike. Particularly at this time of year, walking in the chilly winter air could be enough to cause wheezing and shortness of breath.

“For someone who has asthma, it can be a life-or-death situation. When you’re experiencing an attack, even if it’s minor, if you can’t get relief immediately it just escalates and becomes even greater,” said Anderson. “Having my rescue inhaler with me at all times and being able to check the dose counter is critical.”

One modern feature of asthma inhalers that has been especially helpful for Anderson and others areis dose counters integrated into rescue inhalers. For Anderson, dose counters serve as a forewarning that her inhaler is running low. Such a seemingly small reminder has certainly made a big difference; Anderson believes dose counters have helped her be more proactive in filling her prescription and being aware how much medication is left.

Every year, asthma accounts for 10.5 million doctor visits and 1.6 million emergency room visits in the United States. By utilizing dose counters and maintaining an asthma treatment plan, asthma sufferers like Anderson can help avoid emergency situations like these and travel with some confidence knowing they’re prepared.

Anderson said, “Prior to using a rescue inhaler with a dose counter built in, there were many times when I was away, out or not necessarily paying attention to how much medicine was in my inhaler. I’d get to a point when I would need it and I realized there was nothing in it, and I’d scramble to refill it.”

Now, when it comes time to travel for the holidays, the number one thing on Anderson’s to-do list is to make sure her and her children’s inhalers are filled.

“Before heading out of town I check everyone’s dose counter to make sure there is enough medication,” said Anderson. “Reaching out to a pharmacy while you’re traveling for the holidays is hard, especially when you’re experiencing an asthma attack and in an emergency situation.”

For additional information on the importance of dose counters, visit KnowYourCount.com.

Ms. Anderson has been compensated for her time in contributing to this program.

RESP-41556

September 2017

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