Thursday, January 29, 2015

Financially Fit in February

Is one of your New Year’s resolutions to get a better handle on your finances? Maybe you would like to figure out how to save more? Or just to learn more about credit. Consumer Credit Counseling Services of Buffalo, Inc. will be hosting a series of financial education workshops at the Dale Association, 33 Ontario Street, Lockport, NY throughout February in order to provide individuals with the tools and resources to better themselves financially. The topics will range from budgeting, tips on how to save your money, credit reports and scores, and identity theft. The workshops will be facilitated by Robby Dunn, Community Outreach Coordinator and Credit Counselor at the non-profit organization. Robby says, “In his experience, most individuals do not have a good grasp on their budget, and that the best thing you can do for yourself to create financial stability, is to have a detailed and thorough budget. No matter what your income is, a disciplined spending plan can lead you towards the path of financial success”. Consumer Credit Counseling Service specializes in helping individuals establish, maintain, and repair their credit and credit scores. “Over the course of one’s life, you can save thousands of dollars by having good credit, whether it is on your mortgage, your auto loans, or personal loans and credit cards”, Robby says. He goes on to say, “It is never too late to address your credit situation. If you know, or think you have credit problems, now is the time to address it”. The upcoming workshops include: “Dollars and Sense” – Trying to cut corners? Trying to save money? This class is for you! You will learn different budgeting techniques, creative ways to save, understanding fluctuations in expenses, debt control and the value of money. It will be held Wednesday, February 4th from 10:00am – 11:00 am // “Credit Counts” – Credit is expensive! Learn why and how to make it less expensive. Good credit will save you tons of $$$$. It will be held Wednesday, February 11th from 10:00am – 11:00am // “Identity Theft”- Are you at risk of identity theft? Unfortunately, we all are. Learn how to detect and defend yourself from identify theft. The average identify theft victim spends over $1,500 repairing the theft; early detection costs much less. This session is being held on Wednesday, February 18th from 10:00am – 11:00am // All sessions are free and open to the public. They will be held at The Dale Association, 33 Ontario Street, Lockport. Depending on your personal situation you may want to attend one, two or all three of the sessions. Please call 433-1886 to register. Consumer Credit Counseling Services of Buffalo, Inc. is a local nonprofit agency established in 1965. They offer a wide array of services that provide solutions to the complex financial side of our lives. In addition to the above workshops, a certified financial counselor is at The Dale Association every Tuesday to help you. Counseling sessions focus on budgeting techniques, debt repayment options, student loan assistance, small business advice, credit report education and credit score explanation.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Over the Counter Drug Use

Although adults over 65 make up 13 percent of the US population, they account for 34 percent of all prescription use and 30 percent of over the counter (OTC) medication use in the United States. Among older adults between 75 and 85, a 2008 study estimated that 47 percent were regular users of OTC medications. While much research has been done on prescription medication among older adults, much less is known about older adults’ behavior surrounding OTC drugs. In order to address this, the Gerontological Association of America and the Consumer Healthcare Products Association recently held a summit for experts to survey available research on OTC drug use by older adults and create an agenda for future study. A summary of the summit results follow. These experts noted that surprisingly little is known about how older adults select OTC medications, how the medications are actually used, and how users decide when to begin and stop using them. Little is also known about how involved physicians and family members are in older adults’ behaviors surrounding OTC medication use. Prior research on prescription medicine has shown that older adults are two to seven times more likely to have an adverse drug reaction than younger adults, and that 62 percent of all emergency room visits for adverse drug reactions are by older adults. While OTC drugs are judged by the FDA as being safe and effective for use without a prescription, risks still remain associated with the misuse of these drugs. These risks can include unintentional overdosing or dangerous drug interactions. Of the 81 percent of older adults using prescription medications, 46 percent are also simultaneously using OTC medications, which suggests potential risk for an adverse reaction. The 2008 study estimates that 4 percent of older adults’ medication regimes could include a potentially major drug interaction, and that half of those potentially dangerous interactions could involve OTC medications. Since a common feature of OTC drug use is self-diagnosis of a medical condition that might not require a doctor’s visit, the health literacy of OTC drug users becomes an important concern. It is encouraging that 80 percent of Americans report following community pharmacists’ recommendations for purchasing OTC medications. However, community pharmacists report that many of the OTC drug-related problems that they identify are a result of patients attempting to self-medicate when a visit to a physician would be more appropriate. In light of this, there is significant interest in what shapes OTC consumer behavior, such as in which instances older adults choose to consult or not consult with pharmacists or physicians, as well as the influence of factors like advertising and recommendations from family members or other sources. What has been shown in a 2003 study is that older adults have lower health literacy scores than younger adults. Compared to 36 percent of adults overall, 59 percent of individuals over 65 were deemed to have basic or below basic health literacy. Another study estimated that one in five primary care patients lacked the skills required to manage everyday tasks relevant for health care decisions. Those older adults with less than high school education, racial/ethnic minorities, and individuals with multiple morbidities were identified as at greatest risk for low health literacy. Another complicating factor is research suggesting that physicians, registered nurses, and pharmacists cannot easily identify such at-risk patients. As the experts note, this poses a challenge for presenting health information in ways that enable older adults to make appropriate health-related decisions. They also note a need for understanding how older adults process health information and their symptoms in order to overcome such barriers. The report also notes the importance of caregivers having sufficient health literacy to properly manage the medications of a care recipient. Research has also shown that “common sense” ideas about health and medications that are not in accord with medical recommendations can often interfere with proper drug usage. For example, some patients will stop taking medications when they feel better despite the potential need to continue drug usage for a period following the alleviation of symptoms, and some chronic conditions may require medication use even when acute symptoms are not present. The report identified six main areas in which health literacy is important for OTC drug use: symptom recognition, appropriate self-management, knowledge of active ingredients, appropriate dosing, attention to drug warnings, and understanding when to stop use. Importance of these areas is made clear from the findings from a 2012 study showing that 24 percent of adults took more than the recommended dose of an OTC drug, 33 percent did not follow the recommended timing for taking a drug, and 46 percent used more than one product with the same active ingredient. Further complicating matters is that while 86 percent of patients believe their physicians are aware of their OTC medications, only 46 percent report OTC medications to their physicians. This suggests that in addition to a need for greater health literacy and effective communication of important factors surrounding OTC drug use, there is also a need for effective interventions designed to encourage greater communication between health care providers and patients about their OTC medication use. In light of all of the above, the panel suggested that further research into OTC drug use should become a greater health policy priority. The current findings suggest a need for greater attention to OTC drug use among older adults. Both health literacy and recommended OTC drug regimen adherence are issues that can be addressed and improved upon.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

The Health Benefits of a Positive Outlook

For reasons that are not always apparent, you may sometimes feel a little down or fatigued. The cause, or combination of causes, may be anything from a recent emotional upset or a major change in your life to a stressful period of time in your life. Sometimes, a mixture of emotions may sneak up on you when you least expect it. Even enjoyable activities can be stressful and demanding. Research indicates that maintaining good health throughout stressful times is directly linked to a positive attitude. To keep a positive flow of energy in your life, try these simple strategies: 1) Improving your mood need not be time consuming or expensive – learn to appreciate simple pleasures, such as a matinee movie or a long chat with a friend can do wonders to brighten your day. 2) Make sure you are well rested. According to the National Institute on Aging, an estimated 30 percent of middle aged Americans don’t get enough sleep. Factors that can help you get a good night’s sleep are sticking to a regular bedtime, sleeping in a cool and dark room and avoiding stimulants such as caffeine after mid-afternoon. 3) The American College of Sports Medicine recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise each day. Moderate exercise is an activity that leaves you feeling warm, but still able to talk. And don’t forget routine activities like mopping the floor and raking leaves are considered moderate exercise. 4) Music has the ability to alter your mood. If you want to relax, listen to slow, soothing classical music. To energize yourself, pick something that is faster such as jazz or pop. Or consider making your own music by playing a musical instrument. 5) Taking up a new hobby provides you with feelings, which can improve your sense of well being. Bringing a little creativity into your life can mean something as simple as trying a new recipe or a more involved project like woodworking or landscaping. The important thing is to develop a new interest. 6) By making a difference in the lives of others and becoming active, you generate positive feelings in your own life. Volunteering will fill your heart and let goodness shine in your life. Studies show that people who volunteer as little as two hours per week improve their own health. Worries drift away when you focus on others. Try one of these strategies to distract your attention from the hectic pace of life around you and restore the energy you need to live a full life. And, Happy New Year!