Finding Doctor Right

Living in a small town on the water in Connecticut not too many things have changed from my father’s time, or for that matter, from his father’s time . . . Well, we have better cars, better communication technology, etc., but the one thing that still remains steadfastly the same is how most of my town’s residents go about locating a personal physician –word of mouth.

Apologies to my fellow New Englanders, but that is not such a good way to handle your health care anymore, especially with the many specialists that are out there practicing their profession. With the Internet (i.e., Google) there is no reason at all for not being completely on top of locating the best suited physician for your particular needs.

Here are some tips on how to best handle such a selection:

Simple Questions

  • Is the doctor’s location right for me?
  • Will I prefer working with a man or a woman?
  • Will the age of the physician be a factor in my decision?
  • Am I looking for a Western Medicine or Eastern (alternative) Medicine trained person?
  • Is the doctor’s support staff to my liking and well trained?
  • Does this doctor accept my insurance program?
  • What hospital is the physician affiliated with?
  • How well did the physician communicate with me during my initial consultation?

Specific Questions

  • What are the physician’s academic credentials (medical school, board certified, fellowships, etc.)?
  • How specific is his/her training in the area you are seeking a referral?
  • Has this particular physician been sued or are there any other “black marks” against his/her license (contact the Public Citizens Health research Group or your county court house)?
  • How many patients does this doctor book per hour?
  • Do they handle all testing (blood work, MRI, x-rays, etc) within their office?
  • If this physician is a specialist, does he/she work with your primary physician?

When it comes to choosing a physician, being a “wall flower” will just not suffice … You must speak your mind, ask questions, and increase your knowledge of your medical situation to get the best medical help available.

Write down questions, keep good records of every meeting, and use the tools (i.e., Internet) to do research on any ailment you may be seeking treatment for. Finding the “right” doctor is the first step in developing a relationship that may help you enjoy a long and healthy life.

 

Written by Jeffrey Johnson

Gardening Feeds the Body and the Soul!

Did you know that gardening is therapeutic? Just getting your hands into good soil is a start to planting veggies or flowers, and it can lift your mood while getting your body strong. It connects us to our food and gives us purpose for our day. March is the perfect month to start those seedlings! Who doesn’t love to see a flower emerge or something sprout from a seed we planted?

Ways to plant a garden, even if you don’t have a yard –

1. If you only have a patio or a sunny window, you can still grow veggies or flowers in containers.
2. Patio gardens can be a wonderful way to stimulate your green thumb. Southern exposure is preferable for growing those veggies and flowers.
3. You can start your seedlings in egg cartons with some potting soil. You can also pick up some pots at your local garden shop, or you can use old coffee cans. Just make sure to poke a hole in the bottom and have a something to catch the drained water.

Choose your seeds –

1. Herbs are wonderful to grow in-doors – basil, thyme, sage, mint, etc.
2. Lettuce grows quickly and you can choose from numerous types.
3. Carrots are wonderful to grow in a container, as well as beets and radishes.
4. If you have a patio garden, you can grow tomatoes and bell peppers.
5. If you choose other types of veggies, make sure and get the dwarf varieties.
6. It fun to grow edible flowers like nasturtiums which spice up your salads and make them look pretty!

Read the instructions on the seed packs or plants –

1. Plant seeds about five times deeper than they are big.
2. Keep soil damp until the seeds sprout, but not soggy.
3. Turn your plants daily so they won’t lean towards the sun.
4. Once they get a good size, feed them with a good fertilizer.

You’ll find that visitors love to look at your plants as well as you do. Trying something new is good for our brains and helps us keep a positive outlook. Even wheelchair bound or less mobile elders can enjoy gardening in containers.

For more information on living longer, healthier, happier lives at home contact:

Visiting Angels of Auburn
14 Hooksett Road
Auburn, NH 03032
603-483-8999

Are you Caring for a Family Member? You May Be Eligible For a Break on Your Taxes

Caregiving might be a little less taxing this year if you are one of the many people eligible for tax exemptions for care. You may be eligible to declare your parent or other elderly relative as a dependent for a tax deduction, or to deduct their medical expenses from your taxes.

As you prepare your 2011 return, Visiting Angels has a few tips for determining your possible tax benefits. Remember, these tips are guidelines only. It is strongly recommended that you consult with a tax advisor before submitting your return.

In order to declare your elderly relative as your dependent, you both must meet certain criteria:

  1. You must be related to the person. If you are caring for your parent, grandparent, stepparent or parent-in-law, you may be eligible for a caregiver tax exemption.
  2. The person you are caring for must not have received more than $3,700 in income in 2011. This figure does not include social security payments.
  3. You must have provided more than 50 percent of the person’s living expenses, including housing, food, dental care, transportation and other similar expenses in 2011. The person you are declaring as your dependent does not need to live in your home – which means they may be living in their own home, or a care facility, but you must be paying for more than 50 percent of their expenses.

If your situation meets all of the above criteria, you may be eligible to claim your relative as a dependent on your 1040 form, which can equate to a reduction of your taxable income by $3,700 for the year.

If your family is dividing the duties of caring for an individual – for example, more than one sibling is contributing to the care of a parent - you may still be eligible for the tax exemption. However, only one person can declare someone as a dependent in a single year. Each sibling must provide at least 10 percent of the parent’s care, and combined the siblings must be providing for more than 50 percent of the parent’s care. Many families choose to take turns each year as to who will receive the tax exemption for caring for a relative. In this case, the person who is declaring the parent as a dependent must fill out a “Multiple Support Declaration” and submit it with their tax return. All of the other siblings must sign the form to claim that they will not take the exemption on their own tax returns. You can find the form on the IRS site: http://www.irs.gov/formspubs/article/0,,id=243943,00.html .

If you are not able to declare your relative as a dependent because they earned more than $3,700 last year, but you still provide more than 50 percent of their expenses, you may still be able to receive tax benefits by deducting their medical expenses on your tax return. The IRS allows caregivers to deduct costs incurred from a parent’s health care, such as hospitalization, prescription drugs, dental care, and long-term services. The deduction is limited to medical expenses that are in excess of 7.5 percent of the caregiver’s adjusted gross income. You can obtain a full list of deductible medical expenses from the IRS here: http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p502.pdf .

In addition to these federal tax benefits, some states also offer tax incentives for caregivers. Since tax laws are complex, you should always consult with a tax expert before finalizing your tax return. The AARP FoundationTax-Aide program provides free tax preparation and counseling information to all low and middle-income taxpayers, even if they are not AARP members. For more information, call 1-888-227-7669 or visit www.aarp.org/taxaide.

For more resources for family caregivers, or to explore other care options for your loved one, call Visiting Angels at (603) 483-8999 or visit us online at www.homecareofnh.com.

In Caring for Someone with Alzheimer's, Support is Most Important Resource

Auburn, NH – February 25, 2011 – According to the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, as many as 5.1 million Americans may have Alzheimer’s disease, a fatal brain disease that causes a slow decline in memory, thinking and reasoning skills. A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease can be frightening and devastating to an individual and their loved ones, but there are some steps you can take to make it through.

While there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, there are treatments and therapies that can slow the worsening of dementia symptoms and improve the quality of life for those with the disease and their caregivers. If you suspect your loved one is showing symptoms of Alzheimer’s, it is extremely important to be proactive by getting them to their physician, and if a diagnosis is made, to get a care team and plan in place as soon as possible.

First, know these 10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s:

  1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life: not remembering recent events, names, where things go, and other new information.
  2. Challenges in planning or solving problems: Having trouble following a familiar recipe or keeping track of monthly bills, difficulty concentrating and taking much longer to do things than previously should be taken seriously.
  3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home or at work.
  4. Confusion about time and place: People with Alzheimer’s can lose track of dates, seasons and the passage of time.
  5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships: look fordifficulty reading, judging distance and determining color or contrast.
  6. New problems with words in speaking or writing: Signs include trouble finding the appropriate words, completing sentences, and following directions and conversations.
  7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps: People with Alzheimer’s may put things in unusual places, or accuse others of stealing.
  8. Decreased or poor judgment when making decisions: There may be issues with monetary scams or less attention to grooming and hygiene.
  9. Withdrawal from work or social activities.

10.  Changes in mood or personality: Signs include increased depression, fearfulness, anxiety or suspicion, rapid and persistent mood swings, withdrawal and disinterest in usual activities.

If your loved one is displaying any of these warning signs, it is vital to have them evaluated by a physician and screened for Alzheimer’s. It is important to remember that Alzheimer’s disease is not a normal part of the aging process, and it should not be mistaken for basic forgetfulness. Every person may experience one or more of these signs in different degrees, but with Alzheimer’s disease, these symptoms gradually increase and become more persistent.

If a physician diagnoses Alzheimer’s, the more proactive you are in making decisions regarding care, the more you can manage the disease. Here are a few basic steps to help if you or someone you love is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s:

  1. Educate yourself about the disease. The more you know, the more you can be prepared. The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (www.alzfdn.org) and the Alzheimer’s Association (www.alz.org) are two great resources.
  2. Take care of financial, legal and long-term care planning issues. Discuss wishes related to future care and end-of-life issues.
  3. Employ cognitive stimulation. Listening to music, word puzzles and memory games can help and can provide a positive experience for the patient and caregivers.
  4. Arrange respite and/or regular professional care. Even if you are willing and able to be a primary caregiver for an Alzheimer’s patient, you will need help, if only to take a short break. Plus, it helps to introduce a professional caregiver while a person is still in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, because once the disease progresses it can be more difficult and upsetting to change routines. When looking to hire home care help, try to find a person who has Dementia Care Professionals of America training (http://www.careprofessionals.org/ ) or experience with dementia care clients. Visiting Angels, for example, the nation’s leading network for quality, compassionate home care, is one local home care agency that provides this training to its staff.
  5. Build a support system. Being a caregiver for someone with Alzheimer’s can be stressful and overwhelming. Find people to talk to, reach out for help, and always make time to maintain your own physical and mental health. Many local hospitals and departments of aging offer free support groups, along with sites like the National Family Caregivers Association (http://www.thefamilycaregiver.org/caregiving_resources/ ) and Caring.com (http://www.caring.com/ ).

If you or your loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or a related dementia, know that you are not alone. For more information or to explore care options, call Visiting Angels at (603) 483-8999 or visit us online at www.homecareofnh.com.

Show Your Heart Some Love!

February is the perfect month to show your heart some love. The best way to love your heart is to get it pumping and feed it wholesome foods! It doesn’t have to be hard and it can be fun! Taking care of your heart will improve your mental health, reduce your waistline, help you sleep better, reduce your chances of developing diabetes, and reduce your blood pressure! It will also improve your balance and since falling is the #1 cause of older adults’ accidental deaths, loving your heart might just save your life in more ways than one. Try adding just a few of these healthy habits into your life and see how much better you feel!
Fun Ways to Keep Your Heart Pumping!

1. Try the stairs instead of the elevator for a bit of a stretch.
2. Park your car one or two spots further from the store or house.
3. Add a morning or evening walk to your day.
4. Treat yourself to dancing after dinner.
5. Put some music on while vacuuming and “cut that rug.”
6. Opt for a nature walk or a bike ride rather than that movie – I am sure those grandkids can use the exercise as well.
7. Buy a new exercise or dance CD/DVD. There are great ones available for any ability.
8. Take a yoga, aqua exercise or Tai Chi class.
9. Rake the yard or vigorously sweep the porch.
10. Explore your local parks, zoos and museums.


Great Habits for Healthy Hearts!


1. Choose fruit for dessert instead sweets.
2. Use a non-stick pan, this will cut down on the butter and oil.
3. A handful of almonds can curb your appetite.
4. Keep a water bottle handy and always stay hydrated – It’s good for your skin, too!
5. Oatmeal is great for breakfast. Good roughage is good for your heart and lowers cholesterol.
6. Eat fish at least twice a week, limit the red meat to twice a week and eat smaller portions.
7. Try baby spinach for your salads – variety will keep you eating your veggies.
8. Soups are wonderful during the winter months and can be very healthy for your heart.
9. Hot tea and broth before a meal can also curb your appetite.
10. Sprinkle your unbuttered popcorn with a little cinnamon and sugar for a low-cal dessert.

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