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We are breaking bread and sharing space with a diverse group of individuals from across the globe. They emanate from Canada, New Zealand, China, Philippines, India, United States, and all over Europe. The age group ranges from babies to the nineties. We are cruising across the Adriatic, the Aegean and the Mediterranean Seas. People watching is rich. Parents with children, newlyweds, retirees, those celebrating birthdays, anniversaries, empty nest status, and those honoring their wanderlust.
It is here that I celebrate our common humanity. The love of history around the world, the love for food, the magnificence of a sunrise or a moon reflecting its rays onto the ocean, the wonder of a stage magician, the laughter at the antics of a comedian and the majesty of a chamber orchestra.
It is also here that I note how people treat one another. Those who have social intelligence wait until everyone on the elevator that needs to exit does so before they enter. Those who have manners wait in line to get their turn. Those who are done with their meals leave the table and push in their chairs. Those who are done with the treadmill will wipe it down for the person coming behind them.
Mealtime in the buffet is a study of the human condition. I watch how parents interact with their children. Most children are mannerly and sit and eat a meal with their parents. They talk, laugh and delight in one another. Parents are smiling and appear to enjoy being with their progeny. There are others that are constantly reprimanding their children to stay seated and to eat their food obviously exasperated at the constant activity. Still others have all the children on electronic devices, and no one is connecting.
What I think about with the flurry of life going on around me is what we need to learn to be successful and to make the world a better place. Do we need to know math, science, history, languages and reading? Of course. However, in my opinion, watching 2200 people on a cruise ship interact in a variety of ways, here is what I think we really need to learn.
We need to learn how to be kind, mannerly, and conversant. We need to honor others by being interested in their story. We need to self-regulate and wait our turn. We need to learn social cues and how to treat others with dignity and respect. We need to be inclusive and caring. We need to clean up after ourselves and not leave trash anywhere. We need to share tissues for toilet paper in line if we know there is none in the stalls. We need to look out for one another, kind of like an international buddy system. How I wish we could take these basic lessons in decency and humanity across the globe. This is what is means to promote peace, dignity and unity right where we are. For information contact: joneen@myrelation
shipcenter.org or check out www.myrelationshipcenter.org
Dear Savvy Senior,
I own two dogs and a cat that I would do almost anything for, but expensive veterinary bills put a strain on my budget. Is pet insurance a good idea?
Older Pet Owner
Dear Pet Owner,
If you’re the kind of pet owner who would do anything for their furry family, including spending thousands of dollars on medical care, pet insurance definitely is an option to consider. Here’s what you should know.
Rising Vet Costs
The cost of owning a pet has gone up in recent years. New technologies now make it possible for pets to undergo sophisticated medical treatments for many life-threatening diseases, just like humans. But these treatments don’t come cheap. That’s why pet insurance has gotten more popular in recent years. More than 2 million pets are currently insured in the U.S. and Canada, according to the North American Pet Health Insurance Association.
How Pet Plans Works
Pet insurance is actually very similar to human health insurance. Pet policies typically come with premiums, deductibles, co-payments and caps that limit how much will be paid out annually. But unlike people coverage, you usually have to pay the vet bills in full and wait for reimbursement from the insurer.
Pet policies vary greatly from basic plans that cover only accidents and illness, to comprehensive policies that provide complete nose-to-tail protection including annual checkups and vaccinations, spaying/neutering and death benefits. You should also be aware that pet policies typically don’t cover pre-existing conditions, and premiums are generally lower when your pet is young and healthy.
Costs for pet insurance will also vary by insurer and policy, but premiums typically depend on factors like the cost of veterinary care where you live and the age and breed of the pet. The average annual premium for basic accident and illness coverage was $516 per pet in 2017, while the average claim paid was $278, according to the pet health insurance association.
Major pet policy providers include the ASPCA, Embrace, Healthy Paws, Nationwide, PetFirst, Petplan and Trupanion. To help you shop and compare coverage and costs from pet insurers, go to PetInsuranceReview.com.
If you’re still working, one way to pay lower premiums, and possibly get broader coverage, is to buy pet insurance through your employer, if available. Eleven percent of employers in the U.S. offer pet health insurance benefits, according to the Society for Human Resource Management, and these plans are usually discounted.
Many animal advocates think most pet owners are better off forgoing pet insurance and instead putting the money you would have spent on premiums into a dedicated savings account to pay for vet care as needed. Depending on the policy, pet insurance can cost $1,500 to $6,000 over the life of an average pet, and most pet owners will never spend that much for treatment.
Ways to Save
If you can’t afford pet insurance or choose not to buy it, there are other ways you can save. For example, many local animal shelters offer free or low-cost spaying and neutering programs and vaccinations, and some shelters work with local vets who are willing to provide care at reduced prices for low-income and senior pet owners.
There are also a number of organizations that provide financial assistance to pet owners in need. To locate these programs, visit HumaneSociety.org/PetFinancialAid.
To save on pet medications, get a prescription from your vet (ask for generic is possible) so you can shop for the best price. Medicine purchased at the vet’s office is usually more expensive than you can get from a regular pharmacy or online.
Most pharmacies fill prescriptions for pets inexpensively, and many pharmacies offer pet discount savings programs too. You can also save by shopping online at a verified pharmacy like 1800PetMeds.com, DrsFosterSmith.com and PetCareRX.com.
Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.
Beauty and goodness are the opposite of darkness and evil. As humans, we are drawn to beauty and long for things that sparkle and shine. All over the world, in the most desperate of neighborhoods, people plant flowers, paint their apartments, find things that are pleasing to the eye and decorate their surroundings. As a world traveler, I have visited with those who are the most under-resourced in third world countries. Yet, when they greet you, they are wearing their finest clothes, even if they are torn and tattered. It appears to be universal.
When evil happens or death is near, flowers are what people bring. Why do people bring flowers to the hospital, to a funeral or to a site where death and destruction has occurred? What is it about flowers that are healing? In flowers, as in all of nature, there is unspeakable and extravagant beauty. When we hear or experience ugliness and evil, beauty is what we long for. There is power in beauty. Beauty helps us overcome violence, destruction and sadness. It lifts us out of our circumstances and gives us hope. Beauty is found in the orderliness of the universe, the consistency of the sunrise, the stars, beaches, mountains, in music and the arts.
Have you ever been to a concert where the music was so extravagantly beautiful and powerful, it left you speechless? I recently attended a symphony concert. At the end of the powerful classical Beethoven piece, there was 30 seconds of silence. The audience was catching their collective breath before it broke out in thunderous applause. That is the power of beauty.
With the ugliness around us in the form of mass shootings, bullying, blaming, and shaming, we need sunrises, sunsets, flowers, music, and rainbows. We need the beauty of kindness, compassion, empathy and caring. We need to reach toward a higher power that is the essence of transcendent beauty and goodness. We need something to hold onto, to give us hope and healing. We need to seek beauty out and search for it. When we find it, we need to bask in the glory of it, marvel and bathe in it.
We cannot stay in a dark place for long. It effects our brain in a negative and depressing manner. Hope, light and beauty will help us snap out of it. We need to be awestruck and breathless at the beauty around us. It happens when a baby is born, a puppy sits on our lap, a stranger becomes a friend, a meal is shared, a tear is wiped away, a hug is given to comfort and connect. Beauty is something that goes beyond the nature of our senses, it weakens our knees, and gives us goosebumps. Hope is anchored in beauty.
Amid unspeakable evil, death and destruction, let’s search for, embrace and experience the beauty that is all around us. Beauty, goodness and truth will transform us and give us hope. email@example.com or www.myrelationshipcenter.org
How does Medicare cover ambulance services? About three months ago, I took an ambulance to the hospital emergency room because I rarely drive anymore, and I just received a $1,100 bill from the ambulance company.
This is a Medicare issue that confuses many seniors. Yes, Medicare does covers emergency ambulance services and, in limited cases, non-emergency ambulance services too, but only when they’re deemed medically necessary and reasonable. So, what does that means?
First, it means that your medical condition must be serious enough that you need an ambulance to transport you safely to a hospital or other facility where you receive care that Medicare covers.
If a car or taxi could transport you without endangering your health, Medicare won’t pay. For example, Medicare probably won’t pay for an ambulance to take someone with a simple arm fracture to a hospital. But if he or she goes into shock, or is prone to internal bleeding, ambulance transport may be medically necessary to ensure the patient’s safety on the way. The details make a difference.
Second, the ambulance must take you to the nearest appropriate facility, meaning the closest hospital, critical access hospital, skilled nursing facility or dialysis facility generally equipped to provide the services your illness or injury requires.
It also means that the facility must have a physician or physician specialist available to treat your condition. Thus, Medicare may pay for an ambulance to take you to a more distant hospital if, for example, you are seriously burned, and the nearest hospital doesn’t have burn unit.
Similarly, if you live in a rural area where the nearest hospital equipped to treat you is a two-hour drive away, Medicare will pay. But if you want an ambulance to take you to a more distant hospital because the doctor you prefer has staff privileges there, expect to pay a greater share of the bill. Medicare will cover the cost of ambulance transport to the nearest appropriate facility and no more.
In limited cases, Medicare will also cover non-emergency ambulance services if such transportation is needed to treat or diagnose your health condition and the use of any other transportation method could endanger your health. Not having another means of transportation is not sufficient for Medicare to pay for services.
Some examples here are if you need transportation to get dialysis or if you are staying in a skilled nursing facility and require medical care. In these cases, a doctor’s order may be required to prove that use of an ambulance is medically necessary.
The cost for ambulance services can vary from several hundred to several thousand dollars depending on where you live and how far you’re transported.
Under original Medicare, Part B pays 80 percent of the Medicare-approved amounts for ambulance rides. You, or your Medicare supplemental policy (if you have one), will need to pay the remaining 20 percent.
If you have a Medicare Advantage Plan, it must cover the same services as original Medicare, and may offer some additional transportation services. You’ll need to check with your plan for details.
How to Appeal
If an ambulance company bills you for services after Medicare denies payment, but you think the ride was medically necessary, you can appeal (see Medicare.gov/claims-appeals). Often, a lack of information about a person’s condition or need for services leads to denials.
If you need some help contact your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP), which has counselors that can help you file an appeal for free. To locate your local SHIP, visit ShiptaCenter.org or call 877-839-2675.
For more information on this topic, call Medicare at 800-633-4227 and ask them to mail you a copy of the “Medicare Coverage of Ambulance Services” booklet, or you can see it online at Medicare.gov/Pubs/pdf/11021-Medicare-Coverage-of-Ambulance-Services.pdf.
Recently, I heard for the hundredth time how hard marriage is. I hear it at service club and chamber meetings, at political gatherings, even at engagement parties. Is marriage hard or is it what we don’t do before marriage that effects this sentiment that is expressed so frequently?
When teaching, I talk about the purposes of dating and what kind of things need to be discussed when one is dating. This is a surprise as most people think dating is fun and games. If it remains fun, life is good, and the relationship is tracking. This could not be further from the truth. Dating fun is great, but there is a lot of work that needs to be done since dating is the process by which we choose a life partner.
According to Dr. John Van Epps, the author of the book How to Not Fall for a Jerk (or Jerkette), there are five things one must do, in order, to not fall for a jerk. In his Relationship Attachment Model (RAM), Van Epps highlights one must first get to KNOW someone. How does one get to know? They spend time together, talk, meet each other’s friends, etc. The real key is to observe. How is this person with those who serve them at a restaurant, or with those who clean the bathrooms at the airport? How does this person treat their parents, siblings, classmates or coworkers? How does this person handle anger, frustration, disappointments, tangled Christmas lights, or money? Are they a spender? Saver? How do they handle or feel about debt? Do they plan for the future or do they take one day at a time? How do they express their faith, their hurts, their hopes and dreams? How do they handle conflict, holidays, birthdays, and season changes? Observations are an essential strategy regarding choosing a life partner.
Maya Angelo once said, “When people tell you who they are, believe them.”
After getting to KNOW, we should get to TRUST. Van Epps outlines we trust way too soon giving passwords, access to credit cards and even house codes. Trust takes time and involves observation of one’s character and integrity. After trusting, Dr. Van Epps opines that one should RELY on that person testing the trust. If the person is reliable, then trust was warranted. Once Knowing, Trusting, Relying are complete, then the couple should define their level of COMMITMENT. Is this relationship just fun and games or is it on its way to marriage? The last of the five levels in the RAM Model is TOUCH. I ask the audience, why touch might be last in this sequence. The answer usually comes quickly, “Because sexual touching, many times, clouds one’s thinking through the process leading to sliding rather than deciding into a relationship. Correct!
Marriage is hard when the work is not done at the dating stage to choose a life partner with skill and intentionality. And, can I ask a for a favor? Please stop saying how hard marriage is. Children are listening. For more information: firstname.lastname@example.org or www.myrelationshipcenter.org
As humans, relationships and supportive connections are essential to our physical health, mental and emotional wellbeing, and even our survival.
All of us have an inherent need to be known and connected. Watching Tom Hanks in the movie “Castaway” lamenting for his “friend”, a volleyball he named, “Wilson” who was drifting away on the ocean, was an amazing heartfelt depiction of the longing to go through life in relationship.
A Stanford University landmark study entitled, “Connectedness & Health: The Science of Social Connection.” Dr. Emma Seppala outlines that the lack of social connection is a greater detriment to health than obesity, smoking and high blood pressure. By contrast strong social connections leads to a 50% increased chance of longevity, strengthens the immune system, helps us recover from disease and surgery faster, and increases happiness and life satisfaction.
Individuals who feel more connected and supported by others have lower levels of anxiety and depression. They report a higher self-esteem, greater empathy for others, have less stress, and are more trusting and cooperative. Those who live in a “tribe’ or, even have one significant supportive friend, are more likely to report a sense of life purpose.
Those in the workplace who feel their colleagues are team players and are supportive of each other and the company’s success are more productive and stay with the job longer that those who feel unconnected and overlooked.
Much of the social science research is highlights that loneliness is on rise and is being considered a public health crisis. A survey conducted by the CIGNA Insurance Company of more than 20,000 U.S. adults ages 18 years and older revealed some alarming findings: nearly half of Americans report sometimes or always feeling alone or left out. One in four Americans rarely or never feel as though there are people who really understand them. Two in five Americans sometimes or always feel their relationships are not meaningful and they are isolated from others. One in five people report they rarely or never feel close to people or feel like there are people they can talk to.
Americans who live with others are less likely to be lonely compared to those who live alone. However, this does not apply to single parents/guardians. Even though they live with children, they are more likely to be lonely. Only around half of Americans have meaningful in-person social interactions, such as having an extended conversation with a friend or spending quality time with family, daily.
This data is compelling due to the consequences of aloneness. Depression, mental health issues, suicide, violence, drug and alcohol abuse, divorce, child abuse and neglect, turnover rates and lack of productivity in the workplace, lack of civility and kindness, cost of health care and the list goes on.
Because healthy relationships and supportive connections are essential, why are we not focusing on obtaining healthy relationship skills? It is as important as eating well, exercising and getting enough rest. Healthy relationships change everything.
For more information: email@example.com or visit: www.myrelationshipcenter.org.
I attended the Western Conservative Summit at the Denver Convention Center this past weekend. There were many interesting and inspiring speakers. Those that presented spoke about complex issues such as immigration, the opioid crisis, violence, foreign policy, education reform, just to name a few.
The speaker that brought down the house was Mr. Larry Elder, an attorney, author and talk show host who happens to be Black. He told the story about his father and the importance of the life lessons he taught him to get to success. He went on to talk about the crisis of father absence and the social science especially in the Black community. According to the US Census Bureau 19.7 million children (one in 4) reside in a home without a father. He went on to outline the data that shows when a child is raised in a father-absent home, he or she is affected in the following ways:
The children are:
Although these statistics are compelling, single moms are doing a heroic job and many young people do amazingly well even without a dad in the home. What Mr. Elder was outlining was that we need to do something to heal the family, so ALL children thrive and succeed.
We must work together to increase the value of committed love, marriage, family formation and marriage strengthening. The Center for Relationship Education (CRE) works with community partners such as the Denver Rescue Mission, Goodwill, Mi Casa, all 5 military bases in Colorado, Arapahoe HHS and with an organization called Responder Strong teaching skills to police officers, firefighters, and EMTs. CRE develops relationship skills, such as communication, problem solving, conflict resolution, attachment theory, fun and friendship, goal setting, financial literacy, and delivers a host of family strengthening services to fathers and their partners. CRE provides families and individuals with support, knowledge and the skills necessary to build and maintain healthy relationships. Relationship skills educators recognize and address expectations about relationships that come from families of origin and early experiences. A primary goal of CRE is to broaden the target group receiving marriage education services and reach out to families that may otherwise not know about, or have access to, marriage education and family-strengthening programs such as low-income couples, as well as diverse ethnic groups. Programs that teach about marriage and building healthy relationships serve all types of people: unmarried or married couples, single individuals who want to learn about what it takes to develop a successful relationship and marriage, and even young people who want to learn dating and partner selection strategies. It is time to work together and let men know how important they are to the health and well-being of their children. firstname.lastname@example.org or www.myrelationshipcenter.org
Negative self-talk has the power to convince us that what we say is actually who we are. At one time or another, most of us have participated in negative self-talk. This is unfortunate because what we say about ourselves shuts us down in destructive, insidious ways. When we do not think highly or value ourselves, we are much more likely to be around people who do not value us. By being around this kind of negativity, we are more likely to be involved in substance abuse, aggression, eating disorders, bullying, violence or other negative behaviors.
At times we experience our “inner critic.” Sometimes our inner voice can motivate us toward accomplishing goals, help us to self-regulate or even make healthy choices. However, if negative self-talk gets habit-forming and excessive, it can bring us down and have a deleterious effect on our body, our mind and even our life. The words we say to ourselves are powerful. These words can even bring back memories of a critical parent or friend.
Negative self-talk may affect the belief we have in ourselves, our abilities, and even our future. These words may diminish our self-confidence, our positive outlook and even affect our hope of accomplishment. Negative self-talk can be stressful, debilitating, reduce motivation and increase helplessness causing depression and isolation.
One of the most obvious effects of negative self-talk is that it is negative, which replaces positivity and a “can do” spirit. Positive self-talk is a predictor of success and accomplishment. Studies have shown that when people focus on what they can do and the skills they have as well as the desire to do great things, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy.
To stay away from negative self-talk, you must be aware of the words you are uttering to yourself. Notice if you are being overly self-critical. Be intentional and mindful. Take hold of your negative thoughts and hold them captive. Only allow things that are edifying and affirming into your mind. Often we say things to ourselves that we would never say to a friend or a loved one.
It is a good idea that when you catch yourself engaging in negative self-talk, imagine saying negative words to someone you love or admire. If you would not say it to this person, what would you say instead? What would you like someone you care about to say to you. This is a great way to shift your self-talk to a more positive form of affirmation and encouragement.
When I train educators to implement the middle or high school REAL Essentials relationship development skills curriculum, I teach them how to norm the classroom to make it safe for all students to participate. One of the norms or agreements is to not engage in negative self-talk. By doing this, it stops the oft heard phrase that young people say about themselves, “My Bad”. For more information: email@example.com or www.myrelationshipcenter.org
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