Lisa Arroyo-4000

March is Problem Gambling Awareness Month: Know When to Stop Before You Start

(BPT) – The bright lights. The energy and laughter that fills the room. Casinos are fun and exciting to the vast majority of people but for some, they can be problematic.

Casinos are a form of entertainment, so how do you ensure what’s meant to be a fun and leisurely activity continues to be a positive experience? Time spent at a casino should be a planned and budgeted entertainment option — like you would approach an evening out for dinner or a sporting event. There are preventative measures that can be taken to help ensure that an experience at a casino remains a fun one.

Leading experts in the field of gambling research maintain that it starts with being an informed consumer who understands the realities of gaming. “Being informed means understanding your thoughts about the next big win, beating the odds, and finding the hot machine or deck of cards,” said Dr. James Whelan of the University of Memphis. “Misunderstanding these thoughts about chance can lead to harmful mistakes and excessive losses of money. Informed consumers know that setting limits on how much you spend and how long you play is the best way to not let these thoughts result in you losing more than you can afford.”

Here’s what everyone should keep in mind before their next casino visit.

Betting on a winning streak

It’s always exciting to hit a jackpot, but winning streaks are highly uncommon and beyond anyone’s control. Each spin of the wheel or roll of the dice is an independent event, which means that the chances of a specific outcome aren’t influenced by previous outcomes. So rolling snake eyes once makes you no more (or less) likely to roll snake eyes again.

The chances of beating the odds

Casino games are designed with a house advantage. Mathematically, the house advantage is a measure of how much the house expects to win, expressed as a percentage of the player’s wager. For example, in a wager with a house advantage of 5 percent, the player will lose, on average over time, $5 for every $100 wagered. Because the odds always favor the house, the longer or faster a person plays a casino game, the more the person should expect to lose even in skill­-based or hybrid games. In the same way, the more a person wagers, the more the person should expect to lose.

Believing in superstitions

It might be fun to imagine that rubbing a rabbit’s foot improves a player’s chances of hitting a jackpot, but the reality is that this “magical thinking” has no impact whatsoever. Cheating aside, there’s nothing a player can do — no ritual or lucky charm — to influence the outcome of any casino game. Superstitions can’t determine whether a player wins or loses because every casino game — whether it’s blackjack, craps or a slot machine — is based on randomness, or on chance.

Lisa Arroyo has worked at Harrah’s Joliet Casino in Illinois for the past 25 years. Like everyone who works at a Caesars Entertainment property, Arroyo thinks about gambling as a fun activity you pay for, like going to the movies or to a theater performance.

Arroyo has heard customers laughing and having fun playing blackjack — and she has also heard customers make troubling statements that have caused her concern. “We definitely don’t want people to come in and spend more than what they have budgeted. We want our guests to simply have fun and gamble responsibly. If someone makes a statement or series of statements that concern us, we will have a discussion with the patron and inform them of responsible gaming options and alternatives if needed.”

Gambling responsibly?

Is responsible gaming an oxymoron? Not at all. Arroyo wants gambling to be a choice made for the right reasons. She is one of the advocates of Caesars Entertainment’s Responsible Gaming program, the first hospitality gambling program of its kind to formally train employees on the importance of Responsible Gaming.

The premise of the program involves Arroyo and her colleagues across Caesars’ global network of properties, called Responsible Gaming (RG) Ambassadors, who are celebrating their 15th year of assisting casino guests who may not be gambling responsibly. If comments or statements are made that are concerning to any employee, that concern is brought to the attention of the RG Ambassador who will sit down with the guest to address the reported concern, offer problem gambling program assistance and help resources, and answer questions. “We just let them know that if they feel like they might have a problem, we’re here to answer questions and help,” said Arroyo.

She informs people who express they might have a gambling problem to ask themselves some of the following questions.

* Do I lose time from work due to gambling?

* Is gambling making my home life unhappy?

* Have I ever felt remorse after gambling?

* Do I ever gamble to get money to help pay debts or to otherwise solve financial difficulties?

* Does gambling cause a decrease in my ambition or efficiency?

* Do I ever gamble longer than I had planned?

Caesars Entertainment wants everyone who plays at its casinos to be there for the right reason — to simply have fun. For the past 25 years, Caesars has been committed to promoting responsible gaming and has provided assistance to guests who may not be gambling responsibly. This year, Caesars’ Responsible Gaming Ambassador Program is celebrating its 15th anniversary with 815 Responsible Gaming Ambassadors that may assist guests with problem gambling help resources.

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Simple ways to save on your pet’s medical costs

(BPT) – Pet parents know that there’s nothing like the love of furry family members. Keeping your pets healthy is a priority because you want them to live as long as possible. However, health care costs for pets are expensive, and if you are dealing with additional expenses such as prescriptions for chronic conditions, it can become a burden to your budget.

Fortunately, there are several things pet owners can do proactively to keep pets healthy and save money on health care costs.

Invest in preventative care

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is just as applicable to pets as it is to their human caregivers. One of the most important things a pet parent can do to ensure the ongoing health of any animal is to bring them in for annual checkups whether they are experiencing health issues or not.

During wellness checkups, veterinarians can screen for a variety of health conditions. They provide insight on diseases, age-related concerns, dental health, nutritional considerations and so much more. Plus you’re able to provide your pet with important vaccinations. Regular checkups help vets identify problems sooner rather than later, and this can translate to more affordable health care costs to pet parents in the long run.

Get an Inside Rx Pets prescription card

Costs for managing your pet’s health can be a bear with pet owners spending more than $8 billion on prescription and over-the-counter medications annually. The Inside Rx Pets program offers savings on commonly prescribed medications such as insulin and antibiotics, as well as seizure, glaucoma and anti-inflammatory drugs. The Inside Rx Pets savings card is not insurance; it is a savings card you can use for certain human medications that may be prescribed for your pet. A complete list of the medications with which you can use the Inside Rx Pet card, as well as pricing information and other details, can be found at https://InsideRx.com/Pets.

Benefiting from these discounts is easy for pet parents: If your pet’s veterinarian writes a prescription for an applicable medication, simply download the free discount card from the Inside Rx Pets website and present it with the prescription at one of the 40,000 participating pharmacies located across the U.S. that fill prescriptions for animals. These include national chains such as Kroger Family of Pharmacies, CVS and Walgreens (yes, the same pharmacies you go to for your own medications).

Exercise and focus on nutrition

Obesity is a growing concern for many pets. Poor nutrition paired with limited exercise causes pets to put on additional weight. This weight can put them at higher risk for health concerns like diabetes, osteoarthritis and ligament injuries. These health concerns not only risk the quality of life for Fluffy or Fido, but also can deeply impact your pocketbook.

Pets, just like humans, require exercise and proper nutrition to stay healthy and feel their best. Whether that’s letting your rabbit out of the cage to run or going on a walk with your dog, be sure to make regular exercise a part of your fur family’s routine. If you’re unsure what is appropriate for your pet, call your veterinarian or bring it up at a wellness visit. They’ll be delighted you reached out for more information to keep your pet healthy.

Start an emergency fund

Choosing between a pet and an unexpected health expense is something no one wants to experience. Being prepared can make a big difference when facing difficult decisions, so it’s wise to have savings set aside in case of a rainy day.

Some people are starting pet health savings accounts (HSAs) that are similar to the accounts that people hold for themselves to pay for medical expenses. Whether you choose that path or a traditional savings account, when you have an emergency fund you won’t have to worry about any unexpected expenses, so you can simply focus on getting your pet well again.

Being proactive is important for keeping your pets healthy for many years. From scheduling annual wellness visits to taking advantage of the Inside Rx Pets discount card, there are many easy actions pet parents can take today to reduce costs so furry family members stay well.

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Navigating Medicare: 5 allies who can help

(BPT) – Enrolling in Medicare for the first time or starting coverage under a new plan? It might bring you back to that first day starting a new job. You knew some of the basics, but you also knew there was a lot more to learn. More than likely, you got help from colleagues who have been around for a while and helped show you the ropes.

Don’t worry. With Medicare, you have the same kind of knowledgeable support. You’ve got a team on your side that can help make navigating the health care system easier. Goodbye hassles, hello helpers.

Here are five allies in your corner:

1. Your Primary Care Physician. This physician is the “go-to” doctor who provides guidance on your health care needs, taking the time to really get to know you, your medical history and your health goals. Think of your Primary Care Physician as the “quarterback” of your medical team — someone who can take charge of knowing the ins and outs of your health status and help drive decisions to get you on the right track and keep you there.

2. A caregiver. Perhaps the “unsung hero” of your health care team, caregivers are the ones you know you can count on — the ones you know are there to offer support and care for you, whenever you need it. Whether a family member, neighbor, friend or professional assistant, these are the people in your life who help you along the way. Their assistance can span everything from bringing you to appointments or getting prescriptions filled to making meals or offering emotional support.

3. Your pharmacist. This team member keeps an eye on the medications you take — prescription and over-the-counter — to make sure they work safely together. Your pharmacist is a great person to talk with about how medications are making you feel and answer any questions you have on topics including what side effects to expect, what to do if you miss a dose, or how to store your meds.

4. An insurance agent. Original Medicare. Medicare Supplement. Part D. Medicare Advantage. There are many options and decisions to make when it comes to your Medicare coverage, and a licensed insurance agent can help you find the right plan, or plans, for you. Once you’ve selected a plan, you can also always call your agent to ask questions if your health or coverage needs change or if your plan changes from year to year.

5. Your insurance company. Within your insurance company, there are more people than you likely realize who are working hard on your behalf to ensure you get the medical care and support you need. Insurers can offer tools, resources and support that can help you live a healthier life.

For more information to help you navigate Medicare, visit MedicareMadeClear.com.

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The secret to sticking to your resolutions just may lie in your Medicare benefits

(BPT) – Despite our best intentions, 80 percent of us have given up on our New Year’s resolutions by mid-February. Determined to make this year different? If you’re enrolled in Medicare, you might be surprised to learn that your benefits could give you an edge in your quest to stay motivated and on track to attaining your goals for the year ahead.

Read on to learn how maximizing your Medicare benefits could help you achieve some of the most common New Year’s resolutions.

Resolution No. 1: Lose weight and get fit.

Exercise is a key part of the equation if you want to finally get out of those elastic-waist pants and back into your jeans. Only problem is, most of us can come up with a whole host of excuses for not making exercise part of our daily routine, with the expense of a gym membership one that’s frequently cited by people living on a fixed income.

If you’re enrolled in a Medicare Advantage or Medicare supplement plan, you might not be able to use that excuse anymore. Many plans include a gym membership as part of their plan benefits, giving their members access to fitness centers in their area at either no extra cost or a discounted rate.

“Regular exercise can help you lose some weight after over-indulging during the holiday season, but it’s important all year round to help improve your well-being and maintain your independence,” said Efrem Castillo, M.D., chief medical officer for UnitedHealthcare Medicare & Retirement. “Taking advantage of your plan’s fitness benefits could have you well on your way to a trimmer and more energized you by spring.”

Resolution No. 2: Make 2018 your healthiest year yet.

Medicare is designed to make it as affordable as possible to get the preventive care you need. And that can make a huge difference to your health and well-being by catching health issues early, when they’re usually easier to treat.

Original Medicare (Parts A and B) covers an annual wellness visit as well as some preventive screenings, such as mammograms and colonoscopies. Your annual wellness visit is a good opportunity to sit down with your doctor and develop a plan to help you achieve your best health in the year ahead. In addition to services covered under Original Medicare, many Medicare Advantage plans provide additional benefits, such as a full annual physical as well as dental, hearing and vision coverage.

Resolution No. 3: Save more money/Get out of debt.

All those gifts you bought over the holidays may have left your credit card statements extra-lengthy. And life can get expensive any time of year, particularly as our health care costs creep up as we get older. Fortunately most people can save money on health care in a variety of ways.

If you’re enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, keep the following tips in mind:

* Take advantage of cost savings on prescription drugs. Many plans offer home delivery pharmacy benefits that can be a great way to save money — not to mention trips to the pharmacy. And if your doctor prescribes a high-cost medication, ask if a cheaper alternative is available that could work just as well, such as a generic or a drug on a lower tier of your plan’s formulary (the list of covered drugs).

* Choose doctors and hospitals that have a relationship with your plan. Staying in-network when you need care is one of the best things you can do to manage your health care costs.

* Look for extra plan discounts on everyday health care items and services such as vitamins, hearing aids and alternative medicine services like acupuncture.

Resolution No. 4: Less stress. More happiness.

More and more Medicare Advantage plans are taking a keen interest in helping their members manage their emotional well-being given the direct correlation between our mental health and our physical health. Check to see if your plan offers any resources to help members manage their stress.

Resolution No. 5: Kick the habit.

If you smoke, you know you should quit. Make 2018 your year! Medicare covers up to eight face-to-face visits per year with a doctor or other health care practitioner who can provide counseling to help you make cigarette and other tobacco use part of your past. That personalized, one-on-one attention can make a big difference. So if you’ve tried to quit on your own in the past but struggled, consider taking advantage of these free counseling sessions.

The secret to sticking to your New Year’s resolutions may just lie in your Medicare benefits. So rather than rely on sheer willpower alone, put those benefits to use to help you stay on track toward your goals. When you close out 2018 as a thinner, happier and healthier version of yourself, you’ll probably wonder why you waited so long to make Medicare your secret weapon in conquering your resolutions once and for all.

Plans are insured through UnitedHealthcare Insurance Company or one of its affiliated companies. For Medicare Advantage and Prescription Drug Plans: A Medicare Advantage organization with a Medicare contract and a Medicare-approved Part D sponsor. Enrollment in these plans depends on the plan’s contract renewal with Medicare.

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Considering disability benefits? Answer these questions first

(BPT) – Age and chronic illness can take a toll. A June 2017 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds that the costliest health conditions in the U.S. include: heart disease, cancer, arthritis, stroke and type 2 diabetes. An estimated 117 million people have one or more chronic health conditions.

These health issues also place in the top 10 conditions of former workers who receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits.

Social Security disability is an important alternative for former workers who can no longer work because of a severe health condition. The average SSDI recipient worked 22 years before they experienced a life-changing disability.

“More people are living with chronic illness, and many people do OK with treatment and rehabilitation,” said Mike Stein, assistant vice president of Allsup, a disability benefits representation organization. “But other people have to stop working when their health just won’t let them continue.”

About 154 million workers have paid FICA taxes and have disability insurance coverage through the SSDI program. If you know someone who may qualify, check out the Refer a Friend program. Following are answers to the top five questions about applying for disability benefits.

1) Who applies for disability benefits? People who have experienced a work-disrupting severe health condition that will last for 12 months or longer, or is terminal. They may have a health condition, such as arthritis, a severe spinal condition, cancer, or have experienced a stroke or car accident. On average, former worker recipients are 54 years old. Last year, about 2.3 million former workers with disabilities applied for disability benefits.

2) When should I apply for disability benefits? Generally, you should apply when you cannot work because of your health condition. As soon as you must stop working, it makes sense to apply for Social Security disability benefits if you have solid medical evidence. If you are uncertain of when to apply, you can find help from a disability representation organization that provides free assessments of your likelihood of qualifying for the program.

3) Why should I apply for disability benefits? Most people apply for disability benefits because they need the monthly income. Plus, there are several additional benefits. You can get extra dependent benefits if you have a child under 18. You can get Medicare after 24 months of receiving cash SSDI benefits. You also protect your retirement benefits, and you can receive incentives to return to work. “It’s important not to give up on the idea of returning to work, eventually, because it’s much better for your finances in the long run,” Stein said.

4) How do I apply for disability benefits? Much like filing taxes, you have different options when applying for disability benefits. You can try it on your own, or enlist the help of a professional representative who understands what the Social Security Administration needs to process your claim. Most people who apply on their own are denied at the application level, and must appeal. Having a representative early in the process can improve your chances of approval and help ensure your application is completed properly. Most people have a representative for their hearing.

5) How much money will I receive? Your monthly benefit will be calculated based on your past work earnings and the amount of FICA taxes you paid on those earnings. You can find online calculators that will help you get an estimate of what you can expect to receive before you apply for SSDI.

It can take a long time to receive benefits because the Social Security disability program has stringent rules and several steps in the claim review process.

“Many people make the mistake of waiting to apply for disability,” Stein said. “They deplete their savings, they borrow from their 401(k) plan, and they make other big sacrifices — before they apply for disability benefits. It makes it that much harder when they have to wait months or even years for Social Security to review their claim.”

An important consideration is applying for disability with a representative, Stein said. “If you can receive disability benefits at the very beginning, with your application — you can save yourself many months of time for appeals and possibly avoid a hearing on your disability claim.”

For more information, visit FileSSDI.Allsup.com.

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When buying hearing aids: 6 essential things to know

(BPT) – Being an informed health care consumer is hard work. There is information everywhere. But how do you sift through it and make sense of it all? And how do you know what is reliable and what isn’t?

Sorting through the noise when buying hearing aids is no exception.

In the past several months, there has been significant media coverage and social media discussion about the Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act of 2017, which will make certain types of hearing aids available over the counter in the next several years. At the same time, there are many advertisements about devices called Personal Sound Amplification Products (PSAPs) — which are not hearing aids and are not designed to treat hearing loss — adding to the confusion.

To help consumers cut through the clutter, the Better Hearing Institute (BHI) has pulled together six essential facts for people with hearing loss who are considering the purchase of hearing aids.

BHI recommends that anyone who is ready to address their hearing loss keep these six points in mind:

1) Addressing hearing loss promptly and appropriately is important for health and quality of life. Research shows that hearing loss is linked to cognitive decline and dementia, depression, an increased risk of falls and hospitalization, and greater health care costs. Hearing loss also is linked to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, moderate chronic kidney disease, obesity, sleep apnea and rheumatoid arthritis, studies show.

2) Hearing loss is not a simple mechanical issue and cannot be remedied as easily as buying a pair of reader glasses at the grocery store. Hearing loss is a complex sensory loss. It involves brain function and frequency losses specific to the individual. Human hearing involves a multifaceted interplay between specific parts of the ears and brain. For this reason, hearing aids — which are designed specifically to compensate for hearing loss — must be cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ensure safety and efficacy.

3) Hearing aids need to be custom-fitted and programmed specifically for the individual so they correctly address those specific frequencies the individual has trouble hearing. The beauty of authentic hearing aids is that they’re tailored — through personalized fitting, programming and follow-up adjustments — to correctly address those specific frequencies the individual has trouble hearing. This gives the wearer the greatest benefit and ensures that the level of amplification is appropriate across the entire frequency spectrum. Follow-up hearing aid adjustments, along with training to help consumers adjust to amplification and re-learn how to hear and process sounds they had been missing, further increase user satisfaction.

4) Personal sound amplifiers (PSAPs) are not hearing aids and are not cleared by the FDA to treat hearing loss. Consumers need to be careful not to confuse hearing aids with PSAPs, which simply turn up the volume — sometimes to dangerously high decibel levels — regardless of the individual’s specific hearing needs. Over-amplifying in this way may put the consumer at risk of greater hearing damage.

5) Seeing a hearing care professional is the best safety net for proper diagnosis and treatment. Going to a hearing care professional helps ensure that any underlying medical issue behind a hearing loss is identified and addressed. It also helps ensure that the person’s hearing loss is safely and effectively treated. Hearing care professionals — audiologists, hearing aid specialists and ENTs (Ear, Nose and Throat doctors or doctors of otology and otolaryngology) — are best suited to help consumers with hearing loss. Audiologists and hearing aid specialists are expressly trained in all aspects of hearing aids and amplification, and they are state-licensed. Many work in practices with ENT doctors. They have the most appropriate and accurate equipment to give a precise read of an individual’s current hearing level. Involving a hearing health care professional also means the consumer gets maximum benefit from their hearing aids.

6) Currently, hearing aids are only sold by licensed hearing care professionals. Today, real hearing aids cannot be purchased in the U.S. without the involvement of a licensed hearing care professional. The way hearing aids are sold, however, will change in a few years due to the Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act of 2017, which was signed into law in August 2017. Nevertheless, the complex nature of hearing loss will not change. The safest thing consumers can do for their hearing is to seek professional hearing health care advice from the start.

BHI urges consumers with hearing loss to remain encouraged. Most people with hearing loss can benefit from custom-fitted and programmed hearing aids. In fact, 91 percent of people who purchased hearing aids in the last year say they are happy with their purchase, and 90 percent say they would recommend getting hearing aids to family members and friends, BHI research shows.

For information on types of hearing loss, visit http://www.betterhearing.org/news/heres-what-you-need-know-about-different-types-hearing-loss.

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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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3 ways to save money on diabetes medications

(BPT) – Controlling the “ABCs of diabetes” — A1C, blood pressure and cholesterol levels — is difficult enough, but when you add that second C — costly medications — it’s easy to see how one’s levels can spiral out of control quickly.

According to the American Diabetes Association, for the 30 million people living with diabetes in the U.S., health care costs are more than double (2.3 times) the costs of those without diabetes. This is due to the ever-increasing costs of medications to treat diabetes and the chronic conditions that often accompany the disease, namely high blood pressure and high cholesterol. In fact, between 2002 and 2013, the cost of insulin has tripled, and newer cholesterol- and blood pressure-lowering medication costs are also on the rise.

Now consider that in the U.S., more than 2 million children and adults living with diabetes do not have access to health insurance, and millions more are in high-deductible plans that can require high out-of-pocket costs. Lack of access to diabetes medications can lead to avoidable doctor visits, hospitalizations, amputations and even death.

The good news is there are several ways to save money on diabetes care without compromising on quality.

First, shop around. Medication prices can vary greatly by pharmacy.

Second, if you are not using insurance to cover the cost of prescription drugs, there are many ways to obtain prescription assistance. One way to start saving money immediately is with Inside Rx, available at https://insiderx.com, a free discount drug card program, which provides deep discounts on certain brand-name diabetes medications, including insulin and drugs that treat co-existing conditions such as high cholesterol and blood pressure.

Third, explore pharmaceutical assistance programs. Most pharmaceutical companies also offer financial assistance programs to persons who have trouble affording their medications and supplies.

By doing some research into these types of discount programs and databases, it may be possible to save thousands of dollars a year, while controlling your diabetes and enhancing your quality of life.

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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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Buying life insurance can be complicated. But it doesn’t need to be

(BPT) – Getting insurance can be famously complex and time-consuming. Whether it’s life, health, automobile or home, it takes time to understand what coverage you need and how to get it. As a result, it’s easy to put off items that don’t feel truly urgent until it’s too late.

Buying life insurance and helping to protect your family in the event of the unexpected is one of the most important purchases you can make. Doing this right requires a clear understanding of how much coverage you need, what a policy actually covers and how much you can reasonably afford. That’s a tall order for anyone.

But life insurance doesn’t need to be complicated. Understanding the basics — and taking advantage of the tools out there that can help you find the right policy in just minutes — are all you need to help protect your family’s future.

So, what do you need to know about life insurance to make an informed decision? Let’s answer your questions and clear up some myths first — and then explain your options.

Isn’t life insurance for older people? I’m young and healthy. I don’t need it.

The answer is a resounding no, and for obvious reasons: Even the young and healthy are at risk for the unexpected, from accidents to sudden illness. Life insurance can help you and your loved ones — whether that’s your children, parents or siblings — prepare for the unknown and make the right financial decisions. Laying the groundwork for that protection now, when you’re healthy and young, is an important step in building a sound financial future.

The good news is that there are different types of insurance policies that can best serve you and your family’s needs. Whole life insurance, which is what we often think of when we’re considering a life insurance policy, offers coverage you can’t outlive, with the cash value of the policy growing over time.

If you have big responsibilities right now and are still healthy, term life insurance, which can replace income and cover expenses in the unfortunate event of an early death, might be the better option. You can choose the timespan of the policy based on your family’s needs (for example, if you’re just starting your family, you may want to opt for a 20- to 30-year policy to make sure your children are covered until they’re adults). In an ideal world, your family will never need the policy, but it’s a strong safety net that can help you feel more secure, regardless of what the future holds.

But life insurance is expensive!

Life insurance costs can be high, yes — but that’s not a given. Understanding the amount and type of coverage you need keeps costs down. Being underinsured can be distressing in an emergency; being over-insured can eat away at your financial planning. Opting for a term life policy can help you solve these challenges. Their premiums are typically lower, and allow you to only cover the most likely scenarios for your age demographic.

This helps, but I’m still not sure which policy I need. And I’m too busy to keep searching.

This is where products like TruStage(R) come into play. You don’t need to spend hours assessing your risk and sorting through the clutter yourself; you have access to an online application as well as licensed agents that can help take the guesswork out of the process.

TruStage offers a simplified-issue term life insurance product that helps demystify the process for you through an online application process that takes about 10 minutes to complete.* After answering a few health questions, their automated process delivers a decision in minutes, offering coverage amounts of $5,000 to $300,000 to provide protection for home mortgages, children’s education, income replacement and final expenses. It also provides coverage options based on your budget, rather than making you estimate the amount of coverage you need.

In other words, in the time it takes you make a box of mac ’n’ cheese, you could help protect your family.

Where do I go to get started?

Visit www.trustage.com to fill out the online form. Include if you’re a credit union member, but even if you aren’t, you could still be eligible to apply for coverage.

Questions about TruStage? Call 1-855-309-2688.

*Source: TruStage.com Production WEB Policies Time reporting 2017.

TruStage(R) insurance products are made available through TruStage Insurance Agency, LLC. Life insurance, annuities, & accidental death & dismemberment insurance are issued by CMFG Life Insurance Company. The insurance offered is not a deposit, and is not federally insured, sold or guaranteed by your credit union.

WHL-1943500

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