By Sharon Mosley, CNS
Think you have to have a big budget to get big style? Think again. This fall, major mass retailers are bringing in top celebrities and designers to give fashion followers a big bang for their buck. Yes, you do have to do your homework and visit the store’s websites to know when and where these designer collections will launch. You may even need to visit a store out of town to score a deal if the collection is really “hot.” But when you do manage to buy a high-fashion trend for a low price, it’s worth it.
Here are a few of my favorite “budget busters” in stores now:
• Missoni for Target: A huge launch a few weeks ago that shut down Target’s website and flooded stores with customers proved that the iconic Italian designs were a big hit at bargain prices. The video commercial from the Milan-based company is worth checking out online — and yes, there are a few Missoni treasures still available, but you’ll have to be quick to pick up these great deals.
• Sofia Vergara for K-Mart: The sexy star of ABC’s award-winning sitcom, “Modern Family” has a great collection of clothes at K-Mart arriving just in time for fall and the upcoming holiday season. Her figure-hugging dresses and skirts are steal deals. Watch for K-Mart’s “Money Can’t Buy Style” campaign featuring 20 “real” people putting their own individual spin on clothes available at K-Mart.
• The Kardashian Kollection at Sears: Another major launch this fall is the Kardashian boutique at select Sears’ stores. The famous sisters, Kim, Kourtney and Khloe turn their love of fashion into affordable stylish clothes and accessories. The shoes and boots are my favorites — all priced below $60.
• Jennifer Lopez at Kohl’s: Old Hollywood glamour comes to Kohl’s this fall with Jennifer Lopez’s take on a star-quality lifestyle — complete with faux fur vests, cocoon cardigan coats and suede platform pumps. The vintage-inspired Hollywood bedding collections are big hits, too.
• Norma Kamali for Wal-Mart: The New York designer has been doing great pieces for Wal-Mart for several years now, but her unique style continues to be one of the best bargains in the store. Kamali’s famous signature jersey dresses and tunics are steals at under $20. And if you can’t find Kamali in your local Wal-Mart, check her clothes out online.
• Versace at H&M: Watch for the November debut of Donatella Versace’s collection at H&M. The colorful clothes that the Italian house of Versace is traditionally known for promise to be one of H&M’s biggest designer collaborations yet. And if you don’t get in on the fall collection, watch for yet another Versace collection available in H&M stores in early spring of 2012.
Wireless Control System controls home lighting and electronics inside and out
If you’ve ever held your garage door opener and wished that it could do more than just open your door, SkylinkHome’s newest innovation now gives you the power to wirelessly control your entire house.
“Technology has reached a point where this type of wireless control system is possible, easy to install and use,” said Philip Tsui, CEO and the Chairman of Skylink Group. “We’ve created an affordable and easy to use system that can control almost everything in your house with a simple remote keypad, the SkylinkPad.”
The SkylinkPad allows complete control of your home with the push of a button. The pad, which comes in a variety of different models, includes six different options, from one to 14 button keypad choices. The one button pad is perfect for children, giving them the convenience of turning their bedroom light off or on, while the 14 button pad allows the home owner to control everything in the house.
The six different pads are available with 1, 2, 3, 7, 10 and 14 button configurations and can work together on the same system so everyone in the family can use their own.
The credit card sized SkylinkPad can also be used for more than one location, allowing you to control your home, vacation home, parents’ home, office, warehouse, business locations and much more.
The system uses wireless receivers plugged into wall outlets or lamp sockets as well as control modules which can be wired out of sight. For professionals, the Skylinkhome Wireless Control System has modules with three wires that can be installed almost anywhere.
The system can be used to control anything electronic, including lamps, coffee makers, fans, stereos, garage doors, security systems and countless other electronic devices and appliances.
“The other benefit of the system is how it can help lower your electricity bill. With the touch of a button, you can shut off all of your lights or set up motion sensors to work with the system. This allows you to turn on your lights only when you need them and save energy in the process,” said Tsui.
The Wireless Control System also works with timers to ensure that lights are off at a specific time. Dimmers are also compatible and can reduce energy usage by up to 40 percent.
Visit www.skylinkhome.com for more information.
By Lesley Sauls, CNS
My daughter and I were strapped into harnesses and facing each other inside a giant beach ball atop a grassy, tree-lined hill in Montana. Our guide called out to hang on tight and then gave a shove. We bounced, rolled, screamed and laughed as we tumbled down the hill to a meadow below. After 50 seconds of jolting chaos our ball finally came to a rest in utter stillness. We giggled with relief and dangled from our straps as we waited for someone to release us.
This activity had appealed to my daughter when we decided to go on a long “glamping” weekend together. The inflated “Zorb” ball comes from Australia. I had imagined that we would wander around the prairies of Montana by walking within it. I hadn’t pictured a break-neck ride, and I was sure one try was enough to call myself a Zorbinaut, but my 10-year-old disagreed.
“You can’t say you really did it, Mom, if you don’t go twice!” she challenged.
So in we went to plummet head over heels down the hill once again.
Our other activities were more in keeping with what I expected from a Montana dude ranch. We took a trail ride with two young wranglers whose sense of humor and knowledge made my daughter and me feel comfortable on our mounts and free to enjoy the snow-capped mountain views. When the ride was over, we offered to help put the horses away, but this was where glamping kicked in.
In glamour camping, the guest is queen (or king). If a trail ride is on offer, the horses are saddled and ready to go when the riders arrive, then cared for after they leave. If a Zorb is to be tackled, the ball is ready at the top of the hill and returned there after each ride for guests who want to take multiple tumbles. If a canoe trip sounds fun, guides portage the canoes and do the paddling.
The result of being pampered at every turn was an awareness of my surroundings often missed when I’m busy lugging gear, setting up tents or figuring out the next meal. With people assigned to handle those issues, I was able to play with my daughter and look for geocaching spots in the woods. I especially enjoyed being handed a cold huckleberry lemonade every time I looked a bit parched.
One afternoon my daughter went to a Kids Camp yurt, where she had lunch with guides who helped her find arrowheads and make them into necklaces. Then they all painted their faces before heading out on a hike where they saw an elk and two wolves.
While she was being entertained, I slipped off to Spa Town to pamper my saddle-sore body with a massage. In a white canvas room I slipped out of grubby trail clothes and into a fluffy white robe. Eric Nygard ushered me into another small tent, where he opened the tent’s flaps like a curtain so that I had an unimpeded view across a vast meadow and up into a purple mountain. Strong rains had produced a brook behind our tent whose babbling mingled with birdsongs, cricket chirps and the rush of wind through tall grass. As Nygard worked, the pitter-patter of rain began on the canvas and a roll of thunder sounded across the valley.
At mealtimes, too, guides and wranglers entertained and cared for us. Christi and Steve Fraker are fifth-generation horse teamsters. They drove two wagons full of glampers down to the banks of the Blackfoot River, where a chuck-wagon dinner of baked beans and corn on the cob from cast-iron kettles, meat roasted over an open fire and a steaming Dutch oven filled with cobbler were being prepared. While the adults enjoyed a full bar and a campfire, the kids went with the Frakers to dip their hands in paint and decorate a gentle white horse with a rainbow of handprints and hearts. Later, leathery cowboy Mike Doud taught the children to rope a mock steer head attached to a hay bale.
More than anything else, the overnight accommodations elevated the vacation to the level of glamorous camping. Our resort boasted some houses with kitchens, hot tubs and enough room for a family reunion, but our campsite drove home what it meant to go glamping.
When we arrived, our camping butler, Wesley Parks, greeted us with a smile, took our bags and led us on a leisurely stroll around Pinnacle Camp, one of three sites at our resort. Five large canvas tents were scattered around a wood and stone pavilion, where Parks showed us we could have a made-to-order breakfast each morning and a gourmet dinner any evening. In our two-bedroom tent we found wood floors, custom-made beds and a bathroom with a heated floor.
Once we were settled, Parks suggested a hike before dinner was served at the pavilion. He pointed us in the direction of a riverside trail and reminded us to make a lot of noise.
“Interpersonal communication is strongly encouraged here,” he laughed. “If a bear hears you coming, he’ll stay out of your way.”
As my daughter and I walked along the river we talked like magpies. We launched pinecones into the fishing creek and found a tall rock where we lay on our stomachs and tossed pebbles into the frothy water.
Back at camp, the pavilion’s heavy brown and ivory striped curtains were pulled back to let a warm sunset shine on the heavy wood tables where our seared marlin appetizers awaited. My daughter charmed Parks into making another of his “perfect” cocoas, and I enjoyed an equally lovely margarita. We made new friends over dinner and then wandered to a nearby campfire, where a historian taught us about Louis and Clark and showed us artifacts from the area’s history. Without a word, Parks delivered a coffee with just the right amount of cream and a sweet, golden roasted marshmallow he had made with the children. I folded it into a s’more and knew camping would never be the same again.
WHEN YOU GO
Where to go: We fell in love with Paws Up in Montana (www.pawsup.com), but there are other options to explore glamping: Glayoquot Wilderness Resort in Vancouver (www.wildretreat.com), Costanoa Resort in Northern California (www.costanoa.com) and Storm Creek Outfitters in Idaho (www.glamourcamping.net). Other glamping ideas can be found at www.glampinggirl.com and www.goglamping.net.
How to plan: Paws Up recommends that guests contact a pre-arrival concierge two to three weeks before visiting the ranch to discuss activities and create a schedule. Activities can last all day, but most are half-day events that can be separated by a lunch of smoked trout salad and sweet potato fries at the Trough restaurant.
Who will enjoy it: There are glamping and kids’ camp activities for every age, but remember to ask about specifics for kids under 12. Zorb, for example, is not meant for the smaller set.
When to go: Paws Up operates in every season. We enjoyed lush, green springtime, but activities continue throughout the summer and into winter. Paws Up celebrates Christmas with sleigh rides, ski trails, snowmobiles and snowy horseback adventures.
How to get there: Paws Up is a half-hour drive out of Missoula, Mont., which is served by several major airlines. A ride to the resort is provided by knowledgeable resort employees who explain the area’s mining and ranching history en route.
By Phyl Newbeck
There are lots of ways to enjoy the snow. There’s skiing and snowshoeing for those who like to use their own internal motors, and snowmobiling for people who prefer a mechanical motor, but what about harnessing (literally) a third option. For those looking for a new experience, a dogsled tour is a perfect middle ground for those who want to get out on the trails with a bit of an assist, but without an internal combustion engine.
Ken Haggett of Peace Pups Dog Sledding in Lake Elmore has been running dogs for 10 years. Six years ago, he turned his passion for dogs into a business. Although he also offers dog cart and scooter rides in the fall, the meat of Haggett’s business begins in the winter. Four days a week he runs three two-hour tours from his land in Lake Elmore and twice a week he offers one-hour tours at Stowe Mountain Resort in the late afternoon and early evening. The Stowe rides often take place after dark on trails illuminated by Haggett’s headlamp and include some fast downhill sections.
For people worried the dogs are being mistreated, Haggett notes “you can’t push a dog with a rope.” Siberian Huskies are bred to run and Haggett said it is harder to stop them than to get them started. Haggett’s website shows photos of all his current sled dogs (19 in all) as well as a gallery devoted to those who have passed on. For each dog he lists measurements, favorite movies, likes and dislikes. Muddy Waters likes dead squirrels and dislikes global warming. Nemo is partial to beer drippings but objects to the lack of affordable health care. The political bend of the dogs may help explain why Haggett gives 10 percent of his proceeds to a variety of charitable organizations including Democracy Now, Professional Fire Fighters of Vermont, and the Breast Cancer Relief Fund. “Most of our guests are animal lovers,” said Haggett. “The idea of doing an activity with a bunch of dogs is appealing to them. Nobody comes from Australia or Ireland to see me. They come for the dogs.”
Rob Farley has been running dogs since 1994 after a ride on someone else’s dog sled got him hooked on the sport. He sees his operation, October Siberians Sled Dog Adventures, as a hands on one in which customers can help harness the dogs and hook them up to the “picket line” where they wait to get placed on the main line. He runs 8 to 10 of his 12 dogs at a time, depending on the trail conditions.
Farley begins running his dogs when the temperatures drop below 50. He starts with them pulling his ATV for four miles to build up their strength. Farley’s tours begin on Dec. 15 and continue until the snow disappears, usually at the end of March. Many of his customers are couples and some are families; many are return customers. Farley’s sled is designed for two drivers so customers can get the feel of driving, although Farley maintains full control. He hopes the experience will allow his guests to catch the same bug he did.
Farley runs his dogs at Little River State Park on weekends but he also does some evening rides at Snowflake Inn with a headlamp. He enjoys the variety at Little River which has woods, historical structures and a reservoir. There are a variety of loops which Farley can choose based on his client’s preferences. Some loops are mellow but others can include steep and fast “white knuckle” downhill sections. “There’s a lot of flexibility,” he said “and a lot of opportunity for photo opps.”
Larry Abrams of Waterbury took a ride with Farley last spring and hopes to do so again this winter. “He allows you the chance to drive, which I thought was marvelous,” Abrams said, noting he had enjoyed negotiating the hills and curves of the course. “I learned a lot in the two hours plus about the history of sled dogs and about the landmarks in Little River State Park.” However, what impressed Abrams the most was Farley’s dedication to his dogs. “He obviously has a passion for the dogs and they for him and that made the experience even better,” he said. “I would think this is the perfect experience for someone who has done everything. It’s something new and exciting and different.” Haggett believes dog sledding is a great activity for those who may not be able to go out in the snow by themselves. “It’s a unique way of travelling into the woods,” is how Farley puts it.
Haggett’s oldest guest was 90-years-old and he has had several riders with physical disabilities. One of his most memorable guests was a woman with terminal cancer who had asked her daughter to bring her. “It was really special to be part of that,” said Haggett.
For information on dog sled tours throughout the state, visit http://www.voga.org/dog_sledding.htm
Shelburne Museum Chairman James Pizzagalli recently announced plans for a new center for art and education at the Museum that will expand the museum’s educational programs, bring new and exciting exhibits to visitors and, for the first time, open the museum year-round.
The announcement opens the public phase of the Campaign for Shelburne Museum, a $14 million capital campaign with the center for art and education as its centerpiece. To date the campaign has raised $10.75 million.
The 16,000-square-foot center will include galleries, an auditorium and classroom space and will accommodate a year-round calendar of exhibitions and programs for youth and adult audiences. Currently, the museum’s 39-building campus opens in mid-May and closes at the end of October.
“The center for art and education at Shelburne Museum enhances the museum’s educational and cultural missions. We envision significantly expanded opportunities for the community, for Vermont and for all museum visitors as a result of the new center,” Pizzagalli said.
Plans for the center for art and education include:
• 5,000 square feet of gallery space that will be used for temporary exhibitions. New galleries will provide for special exhibitions on a year-round basis, while Webb Gallery will be reprogrammed to exhibit the museum’s permanent collect of over 500 American paintings. Today, due to space limitations, only a small percentage of the paintings collection is on exhibit.
• An auditorium with seating for 130, allowing the museum to offer lectures, presentations and symposia.
• 2,000 square feet of flexible classroom space designed to be programmed in a variety of ways for different activities and group sizes.
• Design that meets the LEED certification standards of the United States Green Building Council including: use of local materials, such as stone, to reduce required transportation of materials and to support the local economy; wood products selected from sustainably harvested forests and energy efficient heating, cooling and lighting.
Ann Beha Architects, a Boston-based firm with extensive expertise in museum and sustainable building design, was selected to design the new building. Construction is tentatively planned to start next year with the center opening in 2013. The project, which is still in the planning stages, must move through both local and state permitting processes before construction begins.
While construction of the new building is the focal point of the Campaign for Shelburne Museum, the campaign also includes an endowment to sustain the ongoing operation for the center and installation of a major fiber optic communications upgrade throughout the museum’s 45-acre campus.
“Year-round access, coupled with the center’s modern classroom and auditorium and improved Internet access on campus, will enable us to broaden our reach and expand our innovative programming in ways we haven’t been able to do in the past,” said Karen Petersen, director of education at the museum.
Visitors come to Shelburne Museum each year from throughout the United States and beyond to view the museum’s renowned collections of folk art, fine art and Americana. More than half are from Vermont, and they are admitted at half price. In the five and a half months that the museum is open, more than 100,000 people visit, generating an estimated $15 million annually for the local economy. With the new year-round center and the access it affords, the expectation is that visitation will grow and the local economy will benefit.
“The goals achieved by this fundraising effort will provide Vermont and the region with much more access to great art, history and culture,“ Pizzagalli said. “It is our hope that our vision for a fundamentally reshaped Shelburne Museum is shared by the community.”
Most of us don’t think about where our food comes from as we’re taking a nice bite into it…but that is changing and local restaurants, and the food producers they partner with, are making that change happen.
On Oct. 13 at ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center, eight Burlington-area restaurants created food using locally-sourced food ingredients provided by over 35 Vermont food producers. The restaurants were vying for the title of Grand Food Miles Champion and/or any one of three other titles which included: Lowest Food Miles, People’s Choice, and Judges’ Choice. What is a food mile? A food mile is a phrase to describe the distance a food travels to get to one’s plate.
More than 180 guests enjoyed servings from each restaurant and helped to decide the People’s Choice award. They also tasted four varieties of wine from Boyden Valley Winery.
Awards winners included:
• Lowest Food Miles: Barkeaters – Creating a dish using local ingredients that traveled the least distance, Barkeaters dish was Bloomin’ Beet and Carrot Latkes with Apple Relish. The food producers included Bloomfield Farm, Charlotte; Nitty Gritty Grains, Charlotte; Philo Farm, Charlotte and Shelburne Orchards, Shelburne.
• People’s Choice: American Flatbread – Creating a dish deemed the best overall by ECHO guests, American Flatbread’s dish was Cider Braised Lamb with Butternut Squash Puree and Spiced Apple Chutney. The food producers included Shelburne Farms, Shelburne; Shelburne Orchard, Shelburne; Stony Loam Farm, Charlotte.
• Judges’ Choice: Skinny Pancake – Creating a dish deemed the best overall by the celebrity judges, Skinny Pancake’s dish was Steak and Potatoes. The food producers included Arethusa Farm, Burlington Intervale; Charlotte Berry Farm, Charlotte; Jericho Settlers’ Farm, Jericho; Personal Garden, Burlington.
• The Judges’ Choice was determined by the votes of four celebrity judges: Alice Leavitt, food writer, Seven Days newspaper; Sally Pollack, Burlington Free Press Food writer; Sarah Langan, core faculty member, New England Culinary Institute; and Cheryl Herrick, food blogger from crankycakes.com.
• Grand Food Miles Champion: Sugarsnap – Creating the best overall dish with the least food miles, determined by a combination of overall points in the three categories, Sugarsnap’s dish was Roasted Garlic Soup with Cheddar Tuile. The food producers included Bread and Butter Farm, So. Burlington; City Chicks, Burlington Intervale; Full Moon Farms, Hinesburg; Samara Farm, Burlington Intervale; Shelburne Farms, Shelburne; Sugarsnap Farm, Burlington Intervale; Windstone Farm, Williston.
Other participating restaurants included August First, Farmhouse Tap & Grill, Leunig’s Bistro and Sweetwaters.
When asked about the quality of the food prepared by area chefs, judge Cheryl Herrick commented, “The variety of what was prepared was amazing and the level of excellence was motivational.”
Another judge, Alice Leavitt, was pleasantly surprised by some of the ingredients used. “I saw chefs using products that I didn’t even know we had in Vermont. And the use of the common Sumac to create a caramel in a dessert was amazing.”
“We couldn’t be happier with the turnout and the quality of offerings at this year’s event,” said Molly Loomis, ECHO’s Director of Education. “This event created the opportunity to learn, build relationships and show creativity with fresh Vermont food ingredients.
How to find your next job when no one wants to hire you
By Tucker Mays and Bob Sloane
This article is written for you and the thousands of other executives across America who are age fifty or over and lost their jobs. The unemployment rate for this age group is now higher than that of any other and at the highest rate since the Depression. Why is it that America’s most skilled and experienced workers struggle to find work? Although they will never admit it, most recruiters and companies admit privately that they are significantly less interested in hiring executives when they reach the age of 50. There are many reasons for this bias but the most important are inflexible management style, difficulty reporting to a younger boss, high compensation needs, and lack of computer skills. In order to overcome these objections and maximize your experience, you need to follow a three-step plan.
• During interviews discuss how you modified your management approach to fit different challenges in different business cultures. Specifically, describe how you had to revise your style when working on special projects that required you to adjust to changing priorities, make quick decisions with limited information, produce results with fewer resources, and manage an ad hoc team of individuals who did not directly report to you.
• Cite examples from your career when you enabled a younger superior to succeed, grow and advance his or her career. During an interview, emphasize that you will manage what your boss wants to get done now, so that he or she will have more time to work on what should be done in the future. Also, convey that you are as committed to his or her success as well as your own.
• You will have a significant advantage over younger job candidates the more you are willing to accept less salary up front in exchange for a greater performance-based bonus. Companies prefer individuals who are willing to take some risk to prove themselves. For executives over 50, compensation flexibility can be a key factor in getting a job. A reduction of up to 20 percent from your previous salary is reasonable.
• As every aspect of business continues to be impacted by fast changing technology, it is important that you know the latest technologies that are specific to your managerial function, whether it be general management, sales, marketing, finance, operations or HR. To do this, it is advisable to attend industry or functional group training programs or conferences, and also to consult with trusted colleagues in your field.
Make Your Age an Asset
At age 50 or over, you have devewloped special abilities, highly valued by companies that offer significant advantages over less experienced younger executives.
• Problem Solving: Since you have faced more challenges and solved more problems, you can solve most problems faster than younger job-seeking competitors. This is a critical skill companies are in urgent need of in today’s fast paced world. Therefore, try to find examples where you quickly identified key drivers impacting performance, and developed solutions that achieved improved results in record time. Examples might be delays in new product introduction, late shipments, cost overruns, or declining quality control.
• People Management: By the time you reach age 50, you have discovered how to quickly and accurately assess who should stay and who should go, and how to make those who stay even better. When interviewing, give examples of people you managed who went on to successful careers, and others who struggled, but flourished when you changed their responsibilities to better match their abilities.
• Judgment: From who to fire and who to hire to where to cut and where to spend, you’re in a better position to make the right decisions than most who are younger than you and less experienced. You can further strengthen your candidacy by discussing decisions you made that others either avoided or doubted that were successful.
• Leadership: As few individuals are born leaders, this critical trait takes time to develop. Accordingly, most executives over 50 will possess greater leadership credentials than their younger counterparts. It is important during interviews to describe examples where you led cross functional teams, initiated new programs and projects, spearheaded a company’s shift in a new direction or motivated people to achieve record results.
Finally, job seeking executives over 50 must understand that the job search strategies which worked for them during their 30s and 40s are no longer as effective. They should not rely on recruiters, friends, and published job leads to find jobs in growing mid-to-large size companies.
Change Your Search Strategy
Executive recruiters now account for less than 10 percent of all job opportunities, and have a reluctance to recommend unemployed executives over 50 to their clients for the reasons previously addressed in this article. Therefore, you should spend no more than 10 percent of your time working with recruiters, and only engage with those you know, have worked with, or to whom you have been referred.
The competition is so intense that you should only respond to leads with job specifications that are close to a perfect fit with your skills and experience. Given the low probability of gaining a job via this route, spend no more than 5 percent of your time responding to published job opportunities. Network to the unpublished job leads, for which there is far less competition.
Larger companies usually have built in succession plans and hire from within nearly 90 percent of the time. In contrast, smaller companies usually hire executive talent from the outside as they grow. Further, there are 20 times as many companies in the U.S. with sales of under $ 100 million as there are above. They are less concerned with your age, highly value your experience, and make faster hiring decisions. Therefore, focus your search efforts on smaller companies.
In order to overcome the strong job market bias against hiring executives over 50, you must develop compelling arguments to counter job market concerns behind the bias, cite the key reasons why your age is an asset, and use different job search strategies in order to find you next job faster.
Tucker Mays and Bob Sloane are Principals of OptiMarket LLC, an executive job search coaching firm they co-founded in 2001 to help executives over 50 find their next job in the shortest time possible. Tucker and Bob have also co-authored the book “Fired at 50: How to Overcome the Greatest Executive Job Search Challenge.”
Seniors have more benefits, better choices, lower costs
With more benefits, better choices and lower costs, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is encouraging people with Medicare and their families to begin reviewing drug and health plan coverage options for 2012. The Medicare Open Enrollment Period — which began on Oct. 15 — has been expanded to last seven weeks and will end on Dec. 7. This will give seniors and people with disabilities more time to compare and find the best plan that meets their unique needs. Across the country, HHS officials will hold 150 events in the days leading up to Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period to inform and educate people with Medicare.
“Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, people with Medicare can get certain preventive services for free and can get more affordable prescription drugs,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “Open enrollment is seniors’ chance to review their Medicare choices and pick the plan that works for them, or keep the plan they have today.”
Those with Medicare should review the 2012 quality ratings for Medicare Advantage health plans (Part C) and prescription drug plans (Part D) for the upcoming year.
This year CMS is highlighting plans that have achieved an overall quality rating of 5 stars with a high performer or “gold star” icon so people with Medicare can easily find high quality plans. People with Medicare can switch to an available 5-star plan at any time during the year.
Using Medicare’s Plan Finder – available at www.medicare.gov/find-a-plan – people will see the enhanced star ratings for 2012. In addition, Plan Finder users will see an icon showing which plans received a low overall quality rating for the past three years.
“Over the past year, we have worked to improve health coverage choices for people with Medicare, and make it easier for people to find a plan that is both a good value and meets their health care needs,” said CMS Administrator Donald M. Berwick, M.D. “Due to these efforts, people with Medicare have good, meaningful choices for their 2012 plan options.”
In 2012, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, additional benefits to people with Medicare include lower prescription drug costs through a 50 percent discount on covered brand name drugs in the coverage gap (also referred to as the “donut hole”), wellness checkups, and access to certain preventive care with no copayments – a benefit that all Medicare Advantage plans will offer starting in 2012.
Resources for Medicare Beneficiaries
People with Medicare, their families and other trusted representatives can review and compare current plan coverage with new plan offerings, using many proven resources, including:
• Visiting www.medicare.gov, where they can get a personalized comparison of costs and coverage of the plans available in their area. The popular Medicare Plan Finder tool has been enhanced for an efficient review of plan choices.
• Calling 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) for around-the-clock assistance to find out more about coverage options. TTY users should call 1-877-486-2048. Multilingual counseling is available.
• Reviewing the 2012 Medicare & You handbook. It is also accessible online at: http://www.medicare.gov/publications/pubs/pdf/10050.pdf — and it has been mailed to the homes of people with Medicare.
• Getting one-on-one counseling assistance from the local State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP). Local SHIP contact information can be found:
- At http://www.medicare.gov/contacts/organization-search-criteria.aspx or
- On the back of the 2011 Medicare & You handbook or;
- By calling Medicare (contact information above).
• Through a listing of national stand-alone prescription drug plans and State specific fact sheets can be found at: http://www.cms.hhs.gov/center/openenrollment.asp
People with Medicare who have limited incomes and resources may qualify for Extra Help paying for their prescription drug costs. There is no cost to apply for Extra Help, also called the low-income subsidy. Medicare beneficiaries, family members, trusted counselors or caregivers can apply online at www.socialsecurity.gov/prescriptionhelp or call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY users should call 1-800-325-0778) to find out more.
Protecting Against Fraud and Identity Theft
During this Open Enrollment Period, Medicare recommends that people treat their Medicare number as they do their social security number and credit card information. People with Medicare should never give their personal information to anyone arriving at their home uninvited or making unsolicited phone calls selling Medicare-related products or services. Beneficiaries who believe they are a victim of fraud or identity theft should contact Medicare (contact information above). More information is available at www.stopmedicarefraud.gov.
Local businessman and entrepreneur Steve Kozak has launched a new business and website called Worry Free Elder Care. The new site helps retirees and boomers take control of their life in retirement by putting them in touch with local experts in such critical areas as elder law and estate planning, long term care insurance, adaptive living space solutions, and services to extend living at home.
By providing direct access to local experts and professionals certified in elder care issues, Worry Free Elder Care simplifies the process of getting the best answers and information to the many challenging questions associated with retirement planning and aging, according to a company press release.
“I’ve gone through a lot of this process for both my father and for my wife and myself,” Kozak said. “I quickly realized that there’s a ton of information out there and a lot of service providers, too. My problems came from not knowing where to start, then having to plow through all the information to find what I was looking for. It can be confusing and very time consuming.”
His service, he says, has narrowed down the field of information and service providers to only the “best of the best,” to save consumers time “and a lot of frustration.”
Worry Free Elder Care has developed a 4-step process called L.E.A.H. – Long Term Care Advisor, Elder Care Lawyer, Aging in Place, and Home Care Assistance. In each of these areas, Kozak has researched the market and found the best local, certified professionals to service their clients, according to the release.
“When you know you are talking to the local expert, Kozak says, “you can feel confident about moving forward with a plan, whether it be for long term care insurance, retirement planning, or contracting for in-home services. Procrastination becomes less of an issue, too, if you know you are talking to an expert to begin with.”
For more information, visit www.worryfreeeldercare.com, call 802-399-2721 or email [email protected]
Being a caregiver can be one of the most challenging, complicated, and rewarding jobs you’ll ever do. It is detail-oriented, physically and emotionally taxing, and can require lightning-fast decision making that could potentially affect the outcome of a person’s recovery. In short, it’s a task that lays a very serious responsibility in the hands of the caregiver, and being educated can make all the difference.
Nobody understands this more than Joni Aldrich. In 2004, the author and speaker became the primary caregiver for her husband, Gordon, when he was diagnosed with cancer. She spent two years learning the intricacies, trials, and triumphs of being a caregiver. Most recently, Aldrich was faced with being the primary caregiver for her mother, who was battling lung cancer. It was those two experiences that compelled Aldrich to want to share her knowledge with other caregivers out there who may be looking for answers like she was so many years ago.
“As the primary caregiver for my 84-year-old mother with lung cancer, a recent morning started out pretty normal,” explains Aldrich, author of the newly released “Connecting through Compassion: Guidance for Family and Friends of a Brain Cancer Patient.”
“Coffee, breakfast, medicine—all standard stuff. Minutes later, she told me that her mouth, tongue, and throat were numb, and she was having trouble swallowing. I immediately got her nurse on the phone. It became apparent that she was having an allergic reaction to an antibiotic she’d been taking. After a brief conversation, I ran for the Benadryl. And because I had some within reach, a possible catastrophe was averted.”
The problem, says Aldrich, is that many caregivers don’t realize how having a few basic tools on hand can not only make their jobs easier, but could also end up being lifesaving for their patients. And, as in the case of Aldrich’s mother, it can be as simple as knowing to have Benadryl close by that can be the difference between life and death.
If you’re a caregiver looking for a little advice on how to stock your own supply, Aldrich is here to help. On these two pages are the ten items she says are must-haves for any caregiver kit.
“While being a caregiver is one of the most challenging experiences of my life, it has also been one of the most rewarding,” Aldrich concludes. “Having the support of others who have been there can be a huge help. Do your research, plan ahead, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. The peace of mind you’ll get from being prepared is one of the most precious gifts you can give yourself as a caregiver.”
For more information, visit www.jonialdrich.com.
Must-Have Items For Caregivers
1. Seven-day, multiple-section pill organizer. Care giving is a very detail-oriented job. With all the different medications, doses, and timing involved, it can be a difficult task to keep it all organized. Having a pill organizer can be a lifesaver (and a sanity saver) for you and your patient. Aldrich recommends using one that has slots for every day of the week and different times for each day. She says that most caregivers will fill their pill organizers ahead of time, so there’s also the added benefit of reminding you ahead of time to call the pharmacy for a refill without any confusion or lapse of medication.
2. Updated list of all medications. When you are responsible for the full-time care of a patient, it is imperative that you keep a list of all medications and their dosage information with you at all times. Aldrich says to make a point to update it on a regular basis and take a current copy with you to every doctor’s appointment. You never know when the patient might need to have emergency medical care. Keep a copy in every possible place where you may need it at a moment’s notice (or in case you leave the house without it by mistake) like your purse, coat pockets, and vehicles. Tack a copy by the phone and the patient’s bed for easy access as well. One note of caution: The patient’s privacy is of utmost importance. Share patient medications only with medical professionals, hospice nurses, and in-home care providers—and only on a need-to-know basis.
3. Good pill cutter. Depending on the prescription, you may have to cut pills in halves or quarters to get the right dosage, and Aldrich says that a pill cutter is the safest way to do it. Using a knife might mean you get a sliced finger, or, worse, the pills go flying to the carpet where you can’t find them—but your pet, child, or grandchild may later. A good pill cutter also ensures that your dosage is a consistent size.
4. Over-the-counter oral antihistamine. While treatment at home is not enough in the cases of severe allergic reactions, mild symptoms usually respond to non-prescription allergy medications. An oral antihistamine, such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl), is a great drug to stock in your medicine cabinet so you’ll know where it is in case of an emergency. A liquid or “fast-melt” type of Benadryl can be better than pills, especially if the patient is having a reaction in their mouth or is experiencing some stomach upset. And Aldrich warns to always call for medical assistance before the problem becomes severe.
5. Latex or non-latex gloves. Gloves are necessary to protect both the patient and the caregiver from harmful germs, and they can be used for protection in a variety of situations—from serving food to cleaning up messes. When in doubt, and when it comes to the safety and health of someone suffering from a chronic illness, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Some gloves may be “one size fits all,” but Aldrich recommends buying them in a size that fits you well, for ultimate protection.
6. Hydrogen peroxide. It’s a fairly well-known fact that peroxide is good for cleaning wounds. But did you also know that it’s good for getting bloodstains out of clothing and bedding? Or that you can soak your toothbrush in peroxide to kill germs and viruses? It can also be used like a mouthwash to help patients who may be suffering from mouth sores. Peroxide can also be used for cleaning surfaces like sinks and showers, and it doesn’t have a strong smell like ammonia to upset the sensitive noses (and stomachs) of patients.
7. Rubbing alcohol. While it’s also a great wound sterilizer, did you know that rubbing alcohol is a good cleaning agent? Aldrich recommends using a cloth with alcohol to sterilize handrails and doorknobs—especially if someone in the house is sick. Rub lightly over phones and keyboards to clean and prevent the spread of oh-so-many germs that gather on multi-user electronic devices (being careful not to soak and ruin the components). And while it’s not as easy on the nose as some cleaners, rubbing alcohol can also make faucets and sinks shiny and germ-free.
8. Digital thermometer (with covers). Digital thermometers are fast, accurate, user-friendly, and easy to read. Monitoring a patient’s temperature is important for keeping them infection-free and comfortable. Aldrich says that you should have several on hand in the event that one doesn’t work, you are unsure of a reading, or you can’t find one in the middle of the night. Plastic covers are an important add-on so that germs don’t get spread from patient to patient.
9. Good blood pressure monitor. In the past, if you wanted an accurate blood pressure reading, you would have to visit your doctor’s office or local pharmacy. Now there are plenty of accurate digital machines that are available for purchase for in-home use. They are both affordable and compact, making them perfect for any patient who is receiving long-term in-home care. Aldrich says to look for the fully automatic version that measures blood pressure correctly on the upper arm at heart level. The readings are given on a digital display and can be stored in the monitor’s memory. If you’re unsure about the type or brand that is best, ask your pharmacist. And for a more accurate reading, have the patient rest for five minutes before taking his blood pressure, and ask him to sit up straight with his feet flat on the floor.
10. Plenty of paperwork. You’ll need to have a calendar for organizing appointments, medical tests, and a schedule of care giving help. Keep a three-ring binder for storing medical test results in one cohesive place; patient notes are critical for doctor’s visits, particularly when there are multiple caregivers. Have all pertinent phone numbers posted near every phone. The note that doesn’t get documented or the question that doesn’t get answered may be the one that gets you into the most trouble. And Aldrich says to always remember that patient care should never be a guessing game.