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Holiday Depression & Stress

November 5th, 2018 | No Comments | Posted in Family Health & Safety

While many look forward to the holidays, others dread the season. If you feel stressed, the obligations at holiday time can take their toll on even the most cheerful of people. Here are some tips to help you minimize holiday stress.

Causes of Stress

Ask yourself what exactly about the season makes you feel stressed. Your feelings may be triggered by the following:

  • Unhappy childhood memories
  • Difficult familial relationships
  • Negative feelings about your life over the past year
  • Seasonal monotony—seeing the same faces, eating the same food and going through the same motions
  • Lowered immune defenses because of colder temperatures, high incidence of the flu, eating more and sleeping less
  • Financial stress

Minimize Holiday Stress

Consider the following tips to help reduce stress this holiday season:

  • Enjoy the present and try not to worry about what may be lacking.
  • Don’t feel you must meet all family obligations. Do not simply do something or go somewhere because of tradition, especially if it makes you unhappy.
  • Ask others for assistance. For example, ask a relative to host the family get-together, or make it a potluck and have everyone contribute to the meal.
  • Make a to-do list in chronological order to minimize stress.
  • Limit your alcohol intake.
  • Stay active and continue to eat a balanced diet.
  • Create a new tradition, such as volunteering, especially if you feel lonely.
  • Make time for yourself and your needs, even when hosting guests in your house.
  • Keep tabs on your holiday spending. Make a budget and stick to it, no exceptions.
  • Don’t feel you must meet all family obligations. Do not simply do something or go somewhere because of tradition, especially if it makes you unhappy.
  • Ask others for assistance. For example, ask a relative to host the family get-together, or make it a potluck and have everyone contribute to the meal.
  • Make a to-do list in chronological order to minimize stress.
  • Limit your alcohol intake.
  • Stay active and continue to eat a balanced diet.
  • Create a new tradition, such as volunteering, especially if you feel lonely.
  • Make time for yourself and your needs, even when hosting guests in your house.
  • Keep tabs on your holiday spending. Make a budget and stick to it, no exceptions.
View more Live Well, Work Well tips here.

Health Savings Account

April 5th, 2018 | No Comments | Posted in Family Health & Safety

10 Reasons to Love a Health Savings Account

Many consumers are eager to learn more about health savings accounts (HSAs), which continue to generate buzz as a growing trend in health care coverage. The general assumption is that a financial tool with this much potential must be complex and difficult to understand. However, HSAs are simple to outline, and can be broken down into a list of ten basic points for consumers to easily digest.

  1. HSAs fund health care needs

The HSA is first and foremost designed to fund health care expenses in conjunction with a high deductible health plan (HDHP). An HDHP is a requirement to set up an HSA. The HSA is a savings account that secures pre-tax dollars in a fund for future medical needs, and helps meet the deductible on one’s health insurance plan, should something happen that takes medical expenses beyond what is readily affordable.

  1. HSAs utilize pre-tax funds

HSAs may be set up through employers or through financial institutions like banks, insurance companies, or third-party administrators. Contributions to HSAs through employers are set up as pre-tax investments. HSA accounts created through financial institutions are designed so that consumers can take an “above-the-line” deduction on personal taxes. One asset for many is that taxable income is decreased, so fewer taxes need to be paid out.

  1. HSAs come with significant premium savings over traditional insurance plans

High deductible health plans also come with much lower premiums than a traditional plan. This is especially apparent to someone who pays the premiums all year long but doesn’t actually go to the doctor or utilize medical services very often. For this person, the premium can feel like money out the window. Based on premium savings alone, some HSA consumers see 20 to 40 percent savings each year.

  1. HSAs offer expanded coverage options for consumers

Unlike typical insurance plans that have a highly negotiated list of medical products or services that are covered, HSAs allow many additional health-related expenses. So doctors’ visits, hospital expenses and prescriptions are covered, but coverage also extends to some dental and vision services, and certain “non-traditional” treatments such as acupuncture and deep tissue massage.

  1. HSAs allow negotiating power to secure discounts on medical services

Because an HSA is a “cash” account, it empowers consumers with an option to negotiate pricing on many medical services, which can lead to substantial savings on medical expenses. For example, standard imaging services can vary widely in price depending on location and payment method. An MRI, for example, can cost anywhere from $400 to $1,800 for the exact same service.

  1. HSAs offer control and choices regarding health care needs

With these plans, consumers have unlimited choices regarding services, service providers and medical expenditures. With an HSA, one can go to the doctor of his or her choice.

  1. HSAs are portable

If a consumer switches jobs, the HSA account follows. And, unlike traditional insurance plans, consumers do not lose unused funds in these accounts at the end of the year. The consumer “owns” this account and all benefits that come from its good management.

  1. HSAs create financial incentives for managing health care expenses

There are always unfortunate cases where a catastrophic event occurs and emergency medical services are required that do not allow time to “shop around.” But the majority of medical transactions faced in the course of a lifetime are more predictable. Since the HSA is a consumer-controlled cash account, that consumer is encouraged to think about whether a particular expense is worth it or if a cheaper alternative, like a generic medication instead of name brand, might work just as well.

  1. HSAs are a powerful tool for retirement investing

Over time, a relatively healthy person or someone who is a decent financial manager can save a good deal of money and investment earnings in an HSA. Consumers who are between the ages of 55 and 65 also have the opportunity to make additional “catch-up” contributions to the fund. Increased access to this fund begins at age 65. The account can continue to be used for medical expenses with no penalties, but withdrawals for other purposes are also possible (after age 65) and often face fewer penalties than withdrawals from an IRA.

  1. HSAs create a health-conscious community and put market forces to work that drive down health costs for everyone

Because of the incentive to save and earn money, consumers are encouraged to become educated on health care and medical services to become active participants in the control of their health and wellness. Providers of medical products and services are forced into a healthier competition for consumers. Additionally, there is a personal incentive to make smarter decisions about the use of the health care system, then decreasing the likelihood of its abuse. Overall, it becomes a more efficient system, and the costs of medical services decrease to meet the new market realities.

The HSA is an easy-to-use tool that offers consumers a way to take control of their health investments. It puts all of the financial incentives in the right place to encourage the consumer to make healthier lifestyle choices, better health care-related financial decisions, and to invest and save money over time for future medical needs. Consumer driven health care has the power to change a family’s financial future while also catalyzing positive change in America’s health care system as a whole.

Spring Maintenance Checklist

March 6th, 2018 | No Comments | Posted in Family Health & Safety

Too many homeowners believe spring maintenance is all about the cleaning. Sure, spring cleaning comprises a big chunk of any spring home maintenance schedule, but maintenance aimed at various structures, appliances, and systems within the home is, arguably, just as important. Nearly all homeowners love to see spotless windows for that first sunny, 70-degree day, but you can’t forget your roof and the possibility that ice dams formed over the winter. Indeed, just as much as that first spring day should provide an excuse to go for a hike or a picnic, it should also provide a reminder that your outdoor spring maintenance is waiting. Follow this spring maintenance checklist to ensure your home is in optimal condition for the rest of the year.

Spring Maintenance Checklist

  • Gutters and downspouts: Pull leaves and debris from gutters and downspouts. Reattach gutters that have pulled away from the house. Run a hose on the roof and check for proper drainage. If leaks exist, dry the area and use caulking or epoxy to seal the leak.
     
  • Siding: Clean siding with a pressure washer to keep mold from growing. Check all wood surfaces for weathering and paint failure. If wood is showing through, sand the immediate area and apply a primer coat before painting. If paint is peeling, scrape loose paint and sand smooth before painting.
     
  • Exterior caulking: Inspect caulking and replace if deteriorating. Scrape out all of the eroding caulk and recaulk needed area.
     
  • Window sills, door sills, and thresholds: Fill cracks, caulk edges, repaint or replace if necessary.
     
  • Window and door screens: Clean screening and check for holes. If holes are bigger than a quarter, that is plenty of room for bugs to climb in. Patch holes or replace the screen. Save bad screen to patch holes next year. Tighten or repair any loose or damaged frames and repaint. Replace broken, worn, or missing hardware. Wind can ruin screens and frames if they are allowed flap and move so make sure they are securely fastened. Tighten and lubricate door hinges and closers.
     
  • Drain waste and vent system: Flush out system.
     
  • Hot water heater: Lubricate circulating pump and motor.
     
  • Evaporative air conditioner: Clean unit, check belt tension and adjust if needed. Replace cracked or worn belt.
     
  • Heat pump: Lubricate blower motor.
     
  • Foundation: Check foundation walls, floors, concrete, and masonry for cracking, heaving, or deterioration. If a significant number of bricks are losing their mortar, call a foundation professional. If you can slide a nickle into a crack in your concrete floor, slab or foundation call a professional immediately.
     
  • Roof: Inspect roof surface flashing, eaves, and soffits. Perform a thorough cleaning. Check flashings around all surface projections and sidewalls.
     
  • Deck and porches: Check all decks, patios, porches, stairs, and railings for loose members and deterioration. Open decks and wood fences need to be treated every 4-6 years, depending on how much exposure they get to sun and rain. If the stain doesn’t look like it should or water has turned some of the wood a dark grey, hire a deck professional to treat your deck and fence.
     
  • Landscape: This is a natural for spring home maintenance. Cut back and trim all vegetation and overgrown bushes from structures. Limbs and leaves can cut into your home’s paint and force you to have that side of the house repainted. A little trimming can save a lot of money and time.
     
  • Sprinklers: Check lawn sprinkler system for leaky valves, exposed lines, and improperly working sprinkler heads. If there is an area of your yard that collects too much water or doesn’t get enough, run the sprinklers to figure out the problem. If it’s not something you can fix yourself, call a professional before your lawn needs the water.
     

Prevent Frostbite

January 4th, 2018 | No Comments | Posted in Family Health & Safety

Purchasing Medications Online

January 4th, 2018 | No Comments | Posted in Family Health & Safety

Kitchen Appliance Safety Tips

November 9th, 2017 | No Comments | Posted in Family Health & Safety

The kitchen is home to a number of appliances that are used on a daily basis. And while these appliances are incredibly useful, they can also be dangerous if they are used incorrectly or break down.

In order to protect your home and family from injuries caused by kitchen appliances, consider the following safety tips:

  • Unplug appliances when they are not in use to reduce the risk of electrical shock. If this is not an option, ensure that plugs are kept away from sources of water, like sinks.
     
  • Ensure that appliance cords are tucked away neatly and out of general walkways. Hanging cords can create tripping hazards or endanger small children that might tug on them.
     
  • Store countertop appliances like toasters and microwaves away from sources of heat, like stoves. Some kitchen appliances are made of plastics and can melt if exposed to excess heat, creating a fire hazard.
     
  • Only use microwave-safe utensils and cookware when reheating food items.

Above all, it’s important to install fire alarms in your kitchen and avoid using outdated appliances.

Common Flu Vaccine Myths

September 7th, 2017 | No Comments | Posted in Family Health & Safety

Back to School Basics

August 10th, 2017 | No Comments | Posted in Family Health & Safety

After a summer of sleeping in and doing things on their time, the morning alarm and school bell can be a tough transition for students going back to school.

Whether they dread it or love it, the end of summer can be hectic for your whole family. This newsletter contains some tips to ease the transition.

Back-to-school Basics

First Day Mania

The first day of school tends to be hectic for kids of all ages, adjusting to a new classroom or schedule and trying to remember all the books and supplies they need. Or perhaps your child is transitioning to middle or high school, which is even more stressful for some children. Plus, just the transition from summertime freedom to structured schooldays can be a difficult one. Here are several tips for parents to ease first-day stress for their kids:

  • Walk younger students to their classroom and stay with them until they are settled and feel comfortable. Introduce them to their teacher, show them their desk, locker, etc. Leave once they feel at ease.
  • Arrange a visit beforehand if your child will be going to a new school. Explore all the areas of the school and get a map to help direct him or her on the first day.
  • Pack backpacks the night before so no one is scrambling at the last minute looking for books and supplies. Also, have lunch packed or lunch money ready in advance.
  • Make sure you complete any school forms that were mailed to your child over the summer, such as immunization records, permission slips and class schedules—and put in a safe folder for your child to turn in.
  • As your child gets older, appearance and what he or she wears on the first day of school becomes very important. To make the morning smoother, pick out clothes the night before. This will help keep everyone on time while getting ready and prevent last-minute rushing in the morning.

Backpack Safety

Backpacks are a popular and practical way for students to carry their books and supplies. When used correctly, the backpack’s weight is distributed to some of the body’s strongest muscles, and it can be an efficient way to carry the necessities of the school day. However, if backpacks are too heavy or worn incorrectly, they can cause back, neck and shoulder pain, as well as posture problems.

To choose the right backpack, look for the following:

  • Wide, padded shoulder straps. Narrow straps can dig into shoulders, causing pain and restricting circulation.
  • Two shoulder straps. Backpacks with only one cannot distribute weight evenly.
  • Padded back. This protects against sharp edges from objects inside the pack and increases comfort.
  • Waist strap. It can distribute the weight of a heavy load more evenly.
  • Lightweight. The backpack itself should not add much weight to the load.
  • Rolling backpack. This type of backpack may be good for students who must carry heavy loads. Just remember, rolling backpacks must be carried up or down stairs.

To prevent injuries when using a backpack, remind your children of the following guidelines:

  • Always use both shoulder straps.
  • Tighten the straps so that the pack is close to the body.
  • Pack as lightly as possible.
  • Organize the backpack so all of its compartments are being used.
  • Stop often at your locker and remove any unnecessary books or items.
  • Bend down using both knees while the pack is on.

Parents can also help in the following ways:

  • Encourage your child or teenager to tell you if he or she is in pain or discomfort because of a heavy load in the backpack.
  • Talk to the school about lightening the load and/or be sure the school allows for enough time for your child to stop at his or her locker throughout the day.

Researchers found that the average weight of a child’s school backpack was 18 pounds, or 14 percent of his or her body weight. Studies have found that children carrying backpacks exceeding 10 percent of their body weight are more likely to lean forward while walking—potentially increasing their risk of back pain. Talk with your children and make sure they are using their backpacks correctly!

Playground Safety

It’s that time of year again—summer is over and it’s time for kids to go back to school.

Each year, over 200,000 preschool and elementary children are injured on the playground, according to the National Program for Playground Safety. Following is a checklist you or your child’s school can use for quick reference, so before your child heads out the door for the playground, you can be sure that:

  • Supervision is present. Many playground injuries are related to inadequate supervision. Adult presence is needed to watch for potential hazards and help keep all the children safe.
  • All children play on age-appropriate equipment. Preschoolers ages 2 to 5 and children ages 5 to 12 are developmentally different. These two groups should play on separate, age-appropriate equipment.
  • Surfaces are cushioned. The National Program for Playground Safety found that nearly 70 percent of all playground injuries are related to falls to the group. Acceptable surfaces include hardwood fiber/mulch, pea gravel, sand and synthetic materials such as rubber mats or tiles. Concrete, asphalt, grass, blacktop and packed dirt or rocks are not recommended.
  • Equipment is safe. Check to make sure the equipment is anchored safely in the ground, not damaged or broken, S-hooks are entirely closed, bolts are not protruding, there are no exposed footings, etc.

Good Homework and Study Habits

After a long summer, your child may have trouble getting back into the swing of homework. Parents should help children establish healthy study habits as soon as school starts, rather than waiting until they notice problems or until their child’s work load becomes overwhelming. The following tips can help you promote good study habits in your children:

  • Create an environment that is conducive to doing homework, such as a permanent work space in the child’s room or in another part of the home that offers privacy.
  • Set a schedule for when homework will be done. Ideally, your child should have a chance to unwind after school or participate in after-school activities, so he or she feels rested before starting homework.
  • However, make sure after-school activities don’t consume the whole evening or get in the way of homework time.
  • Establish a household rule that the TV stays off during homework time.
  • Be available to answer questions and offer assistance, but never do a child’s homework for him or her.
  • Find out what works best for your child. Some work better in several short sessions, while some are more productive completing work in one chunk.
  • Have your child take a 10-minute break every hour and do something else to alleviate eye, neck and brain fatigue.
  • Set up a tutor for your child if he or she is struggling in a particular subject and you aren’t able to help enough yourself. Be sure to discuss this option with your child’s teacher first.

Other Helpful Suggestions

The following suggestions include important information—such as health conditions and emergency contacts—that need to be shared with your child’s school but can sometimes slip through the cracks.

  • Give the school an up-to-date list of emergency contacts for before, during and after school hours.
  • Give the school nurse and/or principal a list of medications your child is currently taking. If it’s a medication the child needs to take during school, be sure it is in the original container and clearly marked (not in an envelope, for instance).
  • Report any health problems your child has to the school nurse and/or principal. Allergies are a good example of a health problem the school needs to know about in advance, since there are so many allergies now to food, plants, trees, bee stings or latex.
  • Inform the school nurse and/or principal of any physical restrictions your child may possess, such as asthma, and how this may affect his or her physical activity.

Resources Available

The following websites are helpful resources parents can use to make the transition of going back to school easy for everyone.

For many children and teens the beginning of every school year can be a little bumpy. Change is exciting, but it can be scary, too; however, with your guidance, understanding and patience, your child or teen should have an exciting, successful and rewarding school experience.

Life Insurance for Millennials

August 10th, 2017 | No Comments | Posted in Family Health & Safety

Promoting Life Insurance to Millennials

Many organizations invest substantial resources in putting together attractive benefits packages for employees. With its enticing promise of financial security for loved ones, life insurance has traditionally been a popular benefit option.

However, the generational shift taking place in the workforce has led to some younger workers questioning the need for life insurance. A recent survey conducted by the Life Insurance and Market Research Association (LIMRA) shows that only two-thirds of Generation Y, also called millennials, have any kind of life insurance.

 

According to a recent study, 1 in 4 millennials said they would prefer to purchase life insurance through their workplaces.

Some of the factors behind these statistics may be shifts in income and lifestyles. Large numbers of millennials are entering the workforce with a significant amount of student loan debt, and many are delaying traditional adult milestones like getting married, having children and purchasing a house.

Yet while these attitudes may seem to lessen the immediate need for life insurance for millennials, they are not entirely turning millennials away from the idea of life insurance.

The same survey found that millennials are more likely to report that they will buy life insurance in the next 12 months than other generations. Additionally, 1 in 4 Gen Y consumers said they would prefer to purchase life insurance through their workplaces.

Reasons to Buy Life Insurance

These numbers suggest that millennial workers are not adverse to life insurance, they just need to be sure of its value before signing up. With that in mind, here are some reasons that employers can use to encourage millennial employees to purchase life insurance.

It’s cheaper. In general, life insurance gets more expensive as a person ages. A 25-year-old person in good health can find a sizable six-figure term life policy for just a few hundred dollars a year. For a senior citizen, that same coverage can cost thousands more.

While there is no hard reference point for the start of Gen Y, the oldest millennials are now approaching their mid-30s, and the window may be closing on the time for them to get the best rates.

It protects employees’ dependents. Although some millennials are delaying getting married and having children, that doesn’t mean all of them are, nor does it mean they are delaying these events forever. Life insurance should be attractive for anyone with dependents regardless of his or her age. The reality is that few people have savings that their dependents could live off of should they die unexpectedly.

It protects families from employees’ debts. It’s no secret that today’s college graduates are burdened with record-breaking amounts of student loan debt. If something were to happen to employees that included their parents as financial cosigners, their parents would be responsible for the outstanding balances. Similarly, a newlywed spouse of an employee who has joint credit card debt or mortgage debt would be responsible for the entire sum should the employee die. Moreover, the average funeral costs between $6,000 and $10,000.

Buying enough life insurance can help take care of these financial issues. A relatively small life insurance policy can help employees assuage these concerns and keep them invested in your company for years to come.