How to Cope with Seasonal Affective Disorder

What can you tell me about seasonal affective disorder? I have always disliked wintertime, but since I retired and am home a lot more, the dark and cold winter months make me depressed and lethargic.

If you get depressed in the winter but feel better in spring and summer, you may indeed have seasonal affective disorder ("SAD"), a wintertime depression that affects roughly 6% of Americans.

In most cases, SAD is related to the loss of sunlight in the winter months. Reduced sunlight can upset natural sleep-wake cycles and other circadian rhythms that can affect the body. It can also cause a drop in the brain chemical serotonin, which affects mood, and can increase the levels of the hormone melatonin, which can make you feel more tired and lethargic.

If you think you may have SAD, the best way to diagnose it is to visit your doctor. Alternatively, you can take a SAD "self-diagnostic" test on the Center for Environmental Therapeutics website at CET.org/self-assessmen. In the meantime, here are several treatment options and remedies that may help.

Light therapy: The most effective treatment for SAD is sitting in front of a specialized light therapy box for 15 to 20 minutes a day. Light therapy mimics outdoor light to cause a change in the chemicals of the brain that are linked to mood. It is most effective when timed to fit a person's individual circadian rhythm, which varies widely from person to person depending on whether they are a night owl or a morning lark. You can calculate the proper time for doing light therapy by taking the circadian rhythm test atCET.org/self-assessment.

The best light therapy lamps provide 10,000 lux of illumination, many times stronger than typical indoor light, and have a diffuser screen that filters out ultraviolet rays and projects the light downward toward the eyes.

Cognitive behavioral therapy: Even though SAD is considered to be a biological problem, identifying and changing thought and behavior patterns can help alleviate symptoms too. To help you with this, choose a therapist who specializes in cognitive behavioral therapy and who has experience in treating SAD. To locate someone in your area, check with the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies (FindCBT.org) or the Academy of Cognitive Therapy (AcademyofCT.org).

Antidepressants: Some people with SAD benefit from antidepressant treatment, especially if symptoms are severe. Some proven medications to ask your doctor about include the extended-release version of the antidepressant bupropion (Wellbutrin XL, Aplenzin), selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (S.S.R.I.s), sertraline (also known as Zoloft) and fluoxetine (also known under the brand name Prozac).

Keep in mind, however, that it may take several weeks to notice full benefits from an antidepressant. In addition, you may have to try different medications before you find one that works well for you and has the fewest side effects.

Lifestyle remedies: Some other things you can do to help alleviate your SAD symptoms include making your environment sunnier and brighter. So, open up your blinds, sit closer to bright windows and get outside as much as you can. Even on cold or cloudy days, outdoor light can help, especially if you spend some time outside within two hours of getting up in the morning. Social activities and moderate exercise, such as walking, swimming, yoga and even tai chi, can also help alleviate SAD symptoms.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living” book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization’s official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

Published December 7, 2018

Your Living Trust Choices

The living trust is becoming quite a popular estate planning strategy. It costs more than a will, but includes many features that are helpful during life and in your estate. Let's review some of the basic principles of the living trust.

Living Trust Basics


A trust is created by transferring property to a trustee. The trustee is required to follow the provisions of a written trust document. That document identifies the individuals who will receive the income. In most cases, there are reasons or grounds for invading the principal for the benefit of named income recipients. After a period of time, such as the life of the income recipients, the trust remainder is then distributed or held in trust for the benefit of other persons.

Living Trust Example—Bill and Clara


Assume that Bill and Clara are married with three children. They create a living trust with themselves as the initial trustees. Bill and Clara transfer their home, mutual fund accounts and other assets into the trust. They will receive the income from the assets for their lifetime and have the ability to invade the trust or distribute assets back to themselves at any time. When they pass away, their selected successor trustee will manage the property and use it for the benefit of their three children.

Trust Creation


There are several steps in the process for Bill and Clara to create their trust. They will need to visit with their attorney and discuss the basic provisions for payment of income, invasion of principal, and distribution of their remainder. The remainder is the term to describe the value of the trust after both Bill and Clara pass away.

After they have discussed the living trust provisions and their attorney has drafted the trust agreement, they will then sign the trust both as the grantors and as the initial trustees. In order to have property to manage, the next step is to actually fund the trust or transfer assets to it.

The trust document will explain that Bill and Clara have the right to receive income for life from the trust. They can revoke the trust in whole or in part and transfer assets back to themselves as individuals. The trust will name one or more successor trustees. The successor will manage the trust if they are ill and are unable to manage or if they simply are no longer willing to undertake that responsibility. Finally, the trust document will explain who receives trust property after they pass away.

Living Trust Income Taxes


Because Bill and Clara have the right to receive the income from the trust and also can revoke the trust, they will report all of the income on their personal IRS Form 1040. The IRS does not regard the living trust as a separate taxpayer. For tax purposes, living trust income, capital gains and deductions flow through to their personal tax return.

For example, they may transfer their residence into the trust. If the residence has a mortgage, they will still be permitted to pay the mortgage and deduct the home mortgage interest on their tax return. In addition, if the trust transfers the property to a qualified exempt charity, Bill and Clara will be permitted to report the charitable deduction on their personal tax return.

Funding the Trust


Each type of asset will need to be transferred into the trust. Legal title to real estate is transferred through a deed (typically a warranty or grant deed depending upon your state). Bill and Clara signed deeds that transferred their personal residence from themselves to the trust with them as trustees. The deeds were filed with the local county registrar of deeds.

Stocks, bonds and mutual funds can be transferred into new accounts created by the trustee. In some cases, the financial services firm will require proof that you have the ability to transfer these items into the trust. Your attorney can create an "affidavit of trust" that you will sign. It will authorize the financial services company to create a new account for the trust and transfer the securities or mutual funds into that account.

Your cars, furniture and other tangible personal property are frequently retained in your personal name rather than being transferred to the trust account. If you do transfer vehicles through your appropriate state title into the trust, then it will be necessary to be certain that any purchases or sales of vehicles in the future are correctly titled in the name of the trust.

Estate Taxes


Because Bill and Clara have the right to receive trust income and the ability to invade the trust, it will be included in their estate. You may have heard that a living trust avoids probate. This is true. But, it is most important to realize that the federal government includes both your probate estate and other assets of which you have ownership in your taxable estate.

The taxable estate includes your assets probated under your will, your IRA, most insurance policies and your living trust assets. Therefore, if you have a large estate your attorney will ensure that your planning avoids probate to save probate costs, but is also designed to reduce estate taxes on the total assets in your probate estate and living trust.

Published December 1, 2017

How to Find and Hire a Good Handyman or Contractor

What's the best way to find a good handyman or tradesman to do some work around the house? I have had some bad luck lately with unprofessional workers who do substandard work and charge too much.

Hiring a good home repair handyman can be a challenge. How do you find someone who will return your calls, show up on time, do the job right and finish it, all at a fair price? Here are some tips that can help.

Who to Call


While it may seem obvious, the person you choose to call for help will depend on what you need done. If, for example, you have a small home repair or improvement project that does not require a lot of technical expertise, a handyman may be all you need. But, if you have a job that involves heating or cooling systems, electricity or plumbing, you are better off going with a licensed tradesman. Bigger jobs like home renovations or remodeling may require a general contractor.

Whatever type of work you need, the best way to find it is through referrals from people you trust. If your friends or family do not have any recommendations, turn to professionals in the field, like local hardware or home improvement stores or even real estate agents.

There are also online resources that can help. Websites like Home Advisor can put you in touch with prescreened, customer-rated service professionals in your area for free. You can also try Angie's List, which is a membership service that will connect you with contractors and service companies with various types of expertise for free. They provide ratings and reviews of local professionals who have done work for other members in your area, plus details about the type of work they have completed, prices, professionalism and timeliness.

Another option for finding handyman services is through a local or national service company like Mr Handyman, House Doctors or Handyman Connection. You will probably pay more going through a company than you would with an independent handyman, but service companies typically promise professional workers who are screened, licensed, bonded and insured.

To find local handyman services in your community, check your yellow pages or go to any internet search engine and type in "handyman" along with your city and state.

Things to Know


Once you've located a few candidates, your next step is to get written estimates that list the materials, costs and details of the project. It is a good idea to get at least three estimates from different sources to be sure you are getting a fair deal.

Before hiring someone, check out his or her work history with your state consumer protection agency (go to usa.gov/state-consumer for a list) and the Better Business Bureau (bbb.org/council). You can also conduct an online search using the company or individual's name and search terms like "reviews" and "complaints."

You also need to find out if your candidate has an approved contractor or tradesman license. Using an unlicensed worker in a state that requires a license is dangerous - you will have little legal recourse if the job goes bad. (To see which states license contractors, visithttps://contractorquotes.us/contractor-license/). Contractorcheck.com is another good resource for researching local contractors. In addition, make sure to ask to see your candidate's proof of insurance, which covers any damages they may cause while working on your home, and ask for several references from past jobs.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living" book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization's official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.


Published November 23, 2018

Family Health History

Can a heart attack actually be inherited? I just turned 55 and am trying to make some healthy changes. I would like to know if tracing my family's health history is worth the effort.


Just as you can inherit your father's height or your mother's hair color, you can also inherit their genetic risk for diseases such as heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes. Here is what you should know.

Health History


Even with all the high-tech tests, medicines and procedures that are available today, an accurate family health history remains one of the most important tools in keeping yourself healthy. Since most diseases have both environmental and genetic components, your family's health history can provide you and your doctor a genetic roadmap to your strengths and weaknesses. This information may help you recognize, and even fend off, inheritable illnesses in their early stages.

Tracking your History


To collect your family's medical history, you will need some basic medical facts about your parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles and even first cousins. Talk with them and get the specific ages when family members developed health problems like heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, osteoporosis, asthma, blindness, deafness, depression, alcoholism and more. Also, if family members are deceased, find out when and how they passed away. Some relatives may not want to share their medical histories or they may not know their family history, but whatever information you discover will be helpful. A good resource to help you find an ancestor's unknown medical history is their death certificate, which you can acquire from the state health department. Your relative's death certificate will list the cause of death and your relative's age at death.

Collecting Information


The upcoming holidays, when many families come together, are a perfect time to collect your family's health history. A great resource to help you get started is the free web-based tool called "My Family Health Portrait," which is available at familyhistory.hhs.gov. Using this tool, you can organize your family tree, identify genetic risks and even share the information with your family members and doctors. If you do not like using the online software, you can print out a hardcopy version to fill out by hand.

Tip: If you're adopted, the National Foster Care & Adoption Directory (www.childwelfare.gov/nfcad or 800-394-3366) may help you locate your birth parents to get their medical history.

Increased Risks


Having a parent or sibling with a particular genetic disease does not mean you will get the disease too, but this risk factor nearly doubles the odds that you could develop the same disease. If two or more cases occur in the same immediate family, the odds can increase by fourfold or more. Some additional factors that can increase your risks are:
  • If a family member was diagnosed with a disease 10 to 20 years before the average age of diagnosis (e.g., a family member was diagnosed with heart disease at age 35).
  • A disease that does not usually affect a certain gender (e.g., breast cancer in men).
  • A family member diagnosed with certain combinations of diseases (e.g., breast and ovarian cancer, or heart disease and diabetes).

Handling Your History


If you discover that a serious health problem runs in your family, do not despair. While you cannot change your genes, you can change your habits to increase your chances of a healthy future. By eating a healthy diet, exercising and not smoking, you can offset and sometimes even neutralize your genetic vulnerabilities. This is especially true for heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis. A family medical history can also alert you to get early and frequent screening tests, which can help detect other problems (high blood pressure, high cholesterol and cancers like breast, ovarian, prostate and colon cancer) in their early stages when they are most treatable.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living” book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization’s official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

Published November 16, 2018

When You Need Help Caring for a Parent

Where can I turn for caregiving help? I help take care of my 78-year-old mother and work too, and it's wearing me to a frazzle.

Taking care of an aging parent over a period of time — especially when juggling work and other family obligations — can be physically and mentally exhausting. Nevertheless, there are helpful resources available.

To help you determine and prioritize the type of help you need, a good first step is to make a list of everything you do as a caregiver, big and small. Note the amount of time each task takes every day, week or month. Identify the times when you need help the most and which tasks others might be able to do for you, like making lunch for your mother when you are at work.

Next, list the types of care needed, such as simple companionship or doing active chores, such as grocery shopping. Here are some tips and places you may consider for help once you determine the type of care required.

Caregiving Help


If you have siblings or other loved ones close by, schedule a family meeting, either in person or by phone, to discuss specific tasks with which they could assist. See if friends, neighbors or faith group members could help too.

You should also investigate resources in your mom's town. Many communities offer a range of free or subsidized services that help seniors and caregivers with basic needs such as home meal delivery, transportation, senior companion services and respite services, offering short-term care so you can take an occasional break. Call your Area Agency on Aging (call 800-677-1116 for contact information) for referrals to services available in your community. For respite services, contact the ARCH National Respite Network and Resource Center.

If you can afford it, you may want to hire someone part-time to help with things like preparing meals, housekeeping or even personal care. Costs may run anywhere from $12 to $25 per hour. To find someone, ask for referrals through your mom's doctor or area hospital discharge planners.

Financial Aids


If you are handling your mom's finances, make things easier by arranging for direct deposit for her income sources and set up automatic payments for her utilities and other routine bills. You may also want to set up your mom's online banking service so you can pay bills and monitor her account anytime. If you need help, hire a daily money manager to do it for you. They typically charge between $25 and $100 per hour.

Technology Assistance


To help you keep tabs on your mom when you are away at work or if she lives alone, there are affordable technologies that can help.

For example, there are medical alert systems (like Bay Alarm Medical) which provide a wearable "help button" that would allow your mom to call for help anytime she needed it.

You could install a video-monitoring camera that lets you check in on her anytime via your smartphone or computer. Many of these cameras have built-in motion and sound detection that will let you know when something is detected, as well as two-way audio that will let you talk and listen to her.

There are even websites (like LotsaHelpingHands.com) that can help you more easily coordinate care with other family members.

Insurance Questions?


If you have questions about Medicare, Medicaid or long-term care, your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) offers free counseling and advice on these issues. Call 877-839-2675 or visit ShiptaCenter.org to locate a nearby counselor. You can also get help through the Medicare Rights Center, which staffs a help-line at 800-333-4114.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living” book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization’s official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

Published November 9, 2018
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How to Capture Your Loved Ones' Story

I am interested in making a video of my 82-year-old parents' life story. With the holidays approaching, I thought this could be a neat gift to my older siblings, but I could use some help. What can you tell me? 

A personal recording of your parents' life story could be a wonderful holiday gift and something you and your family could cherish the rest of your lives. Here are a few tips to help you get started. 

What You Will Need


Your first step is to find out if your parents are willing to make a legacy video, which would entail you asking them a number of thoughtful questions about their lives in an interview format in front of a video recording device. If they are willing, all you will need is a smartphone or camcorder and a list of questions or prompts to get them talking. 

Recording Equipment


If you have a smartphone, making a video of your parents' story is simple and free. However, you may want to invest in a "smartphone tripod" to hold the phone while you conduct the interview, and a "smartphone external microphone" to improve the audio quality. You can find these types of products online for under $20. 

Most smartphones today can record quality video and give you the ability to edit out the parts you do not want. You can also download a free video-editing app like Magisto or Adobe Premiere Clip to help you customize your video. 

If you want a higher quality video, consider purchasing an HD camcorder. Sony, Panasonic and Canon are the top-rated brands, according to Consumer Reports. These can run anywhere from a few hundred dollars up to $1,000 or more. 

Questions and Prompts


To help you prepare your list of questions for your parents' video interview, go to the "Have the Talk of a Lifetime" website at TalkofaLifetime.org. This resource, created by the Funeral and Memorial Information Council, offers a free workbook that lists dozens of questions in different categories. Some of these include: earliest memories and childhood; significant people; proudest accomplishments; and most cherished objects. This will help you put together a wide variety of meaningful, open-ended questions. 

Old photos of your parents, their family members and friends are also great to have on hand to jog your parents' memories and stimulate conversation. 

After you select your questions and photos, be sure to share them with your parents ahead of time so they have some time to think about their answers. This will make the interview go much smoother. 

Interview Tips


Arrange an interview time when your parents are rested and relaxed. Choose a quiet, comfortable place where you will not be interrupted. You may need several sessions to cover everything you want. 

When you get started, ask your parents to introduce themselves and ask a warm-up question like "When and where were you born?" Then ease into your selected questions, but use them as a guide, not a script. If your parents go off topic, go with it. You can redirect them to your original question later. Think of it as a conversation; there is no right or wrong thing to talk about as long as it is meaningful to you and your parents. 

Also, be prepared to ask follow-up questions or diverge from your question list if you are curious about something. If you would like to hear more, ask, "And then what happened?" or "How did that make you feel?" or "What were you thinking in that moment?" 

Consider concluding your interview with some reflective questions, such as, "What legacy would you like to leave?" or "How do you want to be remembered?" 

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living" book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization's official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070. 

Published November 2, 2018

What You Will Pay for Medicare in 2019

 

I know there will be a 2.8% cost-of-living increase in Social Security benefits next year but what about Medicare? What will our Medicare Part B monthly premiums and other Medicare costs be in 2019?


The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services recently announced their cost adjustments for 2019. You will be happy to know that, starting in January, the standard Medicare Part B monthly premium for most beneficiaries will be $135.50, a modest increase of $1.50 per month over 2018's standard premium.

There are, however, a small group of Medicare beneficiaries (about 2 million people) who will actually pay less than $135.50 because the 2.8% cost-of-living increase in their Social Security checks will not be large enough to cover the full premium increase. Thanks to the Social Security Act's "hold harmless" provision, Medicare cannot pass along premium increases greater than the dollar increase in Social Security checks.

In addition, a small group of high-income beneficiaries (about 3 million people) will pay higher Part B premiums because their income is above $85,000 for single filers or $170,000 for married couples filing jointly.

Medicare uses your modified adjusted gross income from your tax return filed two years ago to determine your premiums. This means that 2019 Part B premiums are determined by your 2017 income.

So, if your income was between $85,001 and $107,000 (or $170,001 to $214,000 if filing jointly), your monthly premium will increase from $187.50 to $189.60. Monthly premiums for single filers with income of $107,001 to $133,500 or joint filers with income of $214,001 to $267,000 will rise from $267.90 to $270.90. Premiums for single filers earning from $133,501 to $160,000 or $267,001 to $320,000 for joint filers will increase from $348.30 to $352.20.

If your income exceeded these thresholds, your monthly premium for 2018 was $428.60. In 2019, there will be an extra surcharge tier for people at the highest income level.

If your income is between $160,001 and $499,999 ($320,001 to $749,999 for joint filers), you will pay $433.40 per month. Single filers with income of $500,000 or more ($750,000 or more for joint filers) will pay $460.50 per month.

You can contest the surcharge if you fall into any of these high-income categories and you have experienced certain life-changing events that have reduced your income since 2017, such as retirement, divorce or the death of a spouse. For more information about contesting or reducing the high-income surcharge, see "Medicare Premiums: Rules for Higher-Income Beneficiaries" at SSA.gov/pubs/EN-05-10536.pdf.

In addition to the Part B premium increases, the annual deductible for Medicare Part B, which covers physician services and other outpatient services, will see a mild bump from $183 to $185 in 2019. The deductible for Medicare Part A, which covers hospital services, will increase from $1,340 in 2018 to $1,364 in 2019.

For more information on all the Medicare costs for 2019 visit Medicare.gov and click on "Find out how much Medicare costs in 2019," or call 800-633-4227.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living" book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization's official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

Published October 26, 2018

Free Basketball Tickets for Students of Salem Community Schools

Due to the generosity of Stanley Colglazier and his daughter, Sara Colglazier, to the Washington County Community Foundation, students of Salem Community Schools will receive free tickets to the January 5, 2019 JV and Varsity basketball games versus the Wolfpack of Crawford County. Students may enter through any door accessible to the gymnasium and will need to sign-in for entrance to the game.  Salem students are strongly encouraged to wear Salem or black and gold attire. The tickets are available for students attending Salem Community Schools in grades K-12; however, students in elementary school are required to be accompanied by an adult. Be sure to take advantage of these free tickets as the Lions face off against the Crawford County. For questions regarding tickets, please call the Washington County Community Foundation at 883-7334 or SHS athletic director, Hank Weedin at 883-3904.

Washington County Community Foundation is a nonprofit public charity established in 1993 to serve donors, award grants, and provide leadership to improve Washington County forever

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Free Resources That Can Help with Your Medicare Decisions

I am considering making changes to my Medicare coverage during the open-enrollment period. Can you recommend some free resources that can help me decide what changes I should make?


There are a number of helpful resources you can turn to that can help you choose Medicare coverage that better suits your needs. As you may already know, each year during Medicare's open enrollment period (Oct. 15 through Dec. 7) all Medicare beneficiaries can change their coverage without penalty. Given that insurers are constantly tweaking their plans and offerings, making a change could help lower your premiums and give you access to better care. Any changes you make to your coverage will take effect January 1, 2019.

Important Tools


To get help with your Medicare decisions, a good starting point is to re-familiarize yourself with the different parts of Medicare — traditional Medicare, Medicare Advantage, supplemental (Medigap) policies and prescription-drug coverage. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services publishes an excellent guide called "Medicare & You," which you can access at Medicare.gov/medicare-and-you.

If you are already enrolled in Medicare Advantage or a Medicare Part D prescription-drug plan, it is very important that you read and understand your "Annual Notice of Changes" and "Evidence of Coverage." This information should have arrived in the mail in September. These documents explain how your existing coverage will change in 2019 and how much you will pay for your coverage.

Your next step is to go to Medicare's online "Plan Finder" tool at Medicare.gov/find-a-plan. After you enter some basic information — your Medicare number and prescription drugs (name and dosage) — this search tool will produce a list of possible health-care plans in your area, the costs involved, drug coverage and customer-satisfaction ratings. If you do not have internet access, or do not feel confident working through the information on your own, you can also call the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services at 800-633-4227 and a customer service representative will help you over the phone.

Free Advice


If you want personalized help with a Medicare specialist, contact the Medicare Rights Center or your State Health Insurance Assistance Program. The Medicare Rights Center offers a national helpline (800-333-4114). Staff members answer questions about Medicare and can help you choose coverage at no charge.

Your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP), which may go by a different name in your state, provides free one-on-one counseling in-person or over the phone to beneficiaries, family members and caregivers. SHIPs are federally funded programs that are not connected to any insurance company or health plan. To find a SHIP counselor in your area, see ShiptaCenter.org or call the Eldercare Locator at 800-677-1116.

If you are interested in choosing a new Medicare Advantage plan, another resource to check out is the HealthMetrix Research Cost Share Report at MedicareNewsWatch.com. This free website lists the best Advantage plans by area based on your health status.

Agent Assistance


Another way to get free assistance with your Medicare Advantage, prescription drug or Medigap plan is to use an agent or broker who specializes in Medicare-related insurance in your state. These agents and brokers get paid a commission to sell you a policy from the insurance providers they represent.

There are federal rules and state laws governing agents and brokers who sell Medicare plans, which include things like barring them from showing up uninvited at your house to pitch a plan or trying to lure you with a cash offer. They also cannot legally charge you a fee to process your enrollment.

It is important to understand that commission-based agents and brokers will present only the Medicare plans they represent, rather than all the plans in your market. Therefore, you may miss out on some plans that could benefit you.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living” book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization’s official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

Published October 19, 2018

 WCCF Announces Mahuron Education Fund and Elliott Family Fund Grant Recipients

The Mahuron Education Fund was established at the Washington County Community Foundation to encourage educators and staff to teach in innovative ways. This year, the fund has awarded several teachers in the county school corporations over $4400.00.

Bobbie Rutherford’s 3rd grade class at West Washington Elementary School will be receiving new, flexible seating. The wobble cushions to be purchased with the grant will help students stay focused and simulate student learning.

Three Bradie Shrum Elementary School 2nd grade teachers, Angela Snelling, Beverly Lanham, and Ava Kinney, will be utilizing new portable speaker and microphone systems in their classrooms. The speakers and microphone implore students to read out loud through Reader Theatre. They will also be used to teach about authors and sharing corners among other things.

Pam Barry’s Bradie Shrum Elementary School Kindergarten class will see some new additions to their Kinder “Garden”. The grant will be used to purchase giant board games and games to teach social skills, verbal communication, sharing, taking turns, and fostering the ability to focus while using sight words, letter, and numbers.

Students in Jennifer Stahl’s 12th grade West Washington Jr/Sr High School class will be creating kites as a follow-up activity to “The Kite Runner”.

Brooke Ingram’s Bradie Shrum Elementary School Kindergarten class will be discovering STEM activities with STEM bins and challenges as well as Bringing Sight Words to Life through snapwords and cards that assist student capture the whole word as a picture.

Yoga and tumbling will be one focus of Leah Starrett’s East Washington Elementary School Physical Education class. Students will work on tumbling skills, yoga, balance, and more.

Tammy Clemons’ East Washington Elementary School music classes will me utilizing a musical activity rug to help students understand the workings of the music staff through movement utilizing age-appropriate music, games, and activities.

Students in Tara Kennedy’s 5th grade East Washington Elementary School classroom will be learning about owls and what foods they like to eat as they dissect real owl pellets.

Kindergarteners in Jenisa Collier’s Bradie Shrum Elementary School class will be able to match capital and lower case letters, identify consonants and vowels, build words, and develop hand-eye coordination through a Toss and Learn program.

JD Wade-Swift’s new Interactive Media class at Salem High School will be able to conduct more professional interviews and videoing with new lapel mics, better tripod, and heads and professional grade headphones.

Students at Bradie Shrum Elementary School will now have Calm Down Boxes in their classrooms thanks to a grant awarded to Rachel Robinson and Kevin Albertson. The boxes contain items that students can utilize as they need them in order be more academically and emotionally successful.

The Elliott Family Fund, a donor advised fund within the Foundation, has also issued grants for innovative classroom ideas.

Sherri Hoar’s first grade students at West Washington Elementary School will be using hands on STEM learning to enhance student STEM skills with creativity and imagination.

Savannah Hartsfield, Salem Middle School counselor, has been awarded a grant to help purchase school logo shirts to be placed in the Clothing Closet.

Students at Eastern High School will notice a change in their hallways thanks to a grant awarded to art teacher, Laura Temple. Temple and her advanced art students and art club members will create murals to beautify and brighten the hallways of EHS using a variety of art genres and movements.

Bill Spencer-Pierce and Brent Minton have collaborated for a literature and theatre experience for 5th grade and SHS students through the book and play, “Sarah, Plain and Tall”. Every 5th grade student will read the book and participate in class discussion and then experience the play performed by the Salem High School Theatre class.

Washington County Community Foundation is a nonprofit public charity established in 1993 to serve donors, award grants, and provide leadership to improve Washington County forever

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