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How to

Your Guide to Almost Anything

SUNDAY, JANUARY 30 • www.thecabin.net/howto

How to...

Choose a Family Dentist ............................ 3 Choose an Internet Service Provider ....... 4 Choose a Bank ........................................... 6 Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle ...................... 8 Maximize Your Hearing Potential ............ 10

Choose a Retirement Community ......... 12 Find an Insurance Agent ......................... 14 Shop for Furniture ..................................... 16 Choose a Wrecker Service ..................... 18 Buy a New Car ......................................... 20 Choose an ENT Specialist ........................ 22 Find & Hire a Custom Builder .................. 24

Choose a Cosmedic Medical Clinic ..... 26 Pre-plan Your Funeral ............................... 28 Choose a Rehab Facility for Seniors ...... 30 Pick a Restaurant ..................................... 32 Choose a College.................................... 34 Buy a Used Car ......................................... 36 Select Corrective Eye Surgery ................ 38


Log Cabin Democrat • Find our online edition at www.thecabin.net/howto

How to Guide • Sunday, Jan. 30, 2011— 

DENTAL

Howto Important Things You Should Know... • Choose a dentist who offers Digital X-Ray Technology. • Choose a dentist who offers the latest advances in dental techniques. • Choose a dentist who can meet your entire family’s oral health needs. • Choose a dentist who can schedule you in a timely manner. • Choose a dentist who you can trust.

Choose A Family Dentist

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entistry has become a key factor in one’s overall health. Modern dentistry now incorporates new techniques for greater patient comfort as well as improved cosmetic and functional results. With all of the advances in dentistry, you can now obtain optimal oral health and even have your smile rebuilt to achieve your desired results. Here are 5 things you should know when choosing a Family Dentist. 1. Choose a dentist who offers Digital X-Ray Technology. One of the greatest advances in dentistry is digital x-rays. It allows your dentist to achieve a more in-depth level of diagnosis using computer imaging and specialized sensors. Digital X-Rays use up to 90% less radiation than traditional x-rays. This is a great advantage to you as a patient because radiation is cumulative throughout your lifetime. 2. Choose a dentist who offers the latest advances in dental techniques. One way dentists are creating happier, more confident patients is through dental implants. When a person loses a tooth it can cause a person to lose confidence and try to hide their smile. A dental implant can be placed into the area where the tooth once was. It bonds naturally to the jawbone and when restored can look exactly like your other teeth. Implants can also be used with dentures. The denture is placed over at least 2 implants allowing the denture to be securely fixed in that position. This allows the patient to chew without the denture floating around in the mouth. You can eat what-

ever you want as well as speak normally. Dental implants also help preserve facial structure and appearance by helping prevent bone loss in the jaw bone.

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After

3. Choose a dentist who can meet your entire family’s oral health needs. Some dentists offer a wide variety of procedures such as invisalign orthodontic therapy, extractions, dental implants and root canals. Likewise it is important that your dentist be accommodating to both children as well as adult patients. This allows you and your family to be treated at the same facility without spending a lot of time being referred to other offices. 4. Choose a dentist who can schedule you in a timely manner. When you call to make an appointment with your dentist, you should be able to be seen promptly. Some dentists provide same business day emergency services to their patients. When something happens unexpectedly, you need to be seen in a timely manner for peace of mind as well as comfort. This can be a great advantage as only a few dental offices provide this service. 5. Choose a dentist who you can trust. You want to chose a dentist who has the ability to easily communicate your treatment needs as well as make you feel comfortable. Once you have found the right dental office, you and your dentist will be able to work together to help meet your dental needs and obtain optimal dental health for you and your entire family.


 — Sunday, Jan. 30, 2011 • How to Guide

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INTERNET PROVIDER

Howto

Choose an Internet Service Provider

Types of Internet service Whether you’re already connected online and aren’t happy with your Internet service provider or you’re just getting ready to join the World Wide Web, there are a few things to keep in mind while you’re shopping. You may frequently hear the term “Broadband” as you shop. Broadband is a term that includes several types of Internet access: cable, fiber-optic, DSL and satellite. With broadband service, as long as your computer is turned on and your modem is functioning, you will be connected to the Internet. Fiber-optic service is usually provided by local telephone or cable companies, but availability can be limited. Cable broadband operates through cable TV wires, and the services offered in your area depend on your cable television company. Digital subscriber line (DSL) technology uses existing copper telephone wires without interfering with voice service. One drawback to DSL can be the distance from your home to the telephone company’s switching equipment; the farther away, the slower the speed. Satellite is the final option for broadband service. It’s the least-used connection for residential broadband Internet service. Compared to the previously mentioned options it is expensive and slow. For those who can’t access broadband or don’t want to pay its higher price, a dial-up Internet service remains an option. While connection speeds are much slower than broadband, many ISPs offer higher-speed dial-up access with accelerated or optimized services. What ISP connection speeds can you expect? Speeds for Internet services are expressed as kilobits per second (Kbps) or megabits per second (Mbps); there are about 1,000 kilobits in a megabit. For broadband, you’ll see two speeds -- one for upstream and one for downstream. Upstream speeds determine how quickly you’ll be able to do things like email photos, send file attachments and upload information to your personal web page. Downstream speed affects how quickly you can perform common tasks like web surfing, downloading music or software or retrieving email. When you see just one speed listed, it’s generally the downstream speed. Most consumers download much more than they upload, making downstream speed the more important number to compare. For dial-up, both upstream and downstream speeds are about 30 Kbps to 56 Kbps, and the speeds haven’t bumped up much in recent years. By contrast, fiber-optic and cable Internet service downstream speeds are rising dramatically, some offering download speeds of 50 Mbps and upload speeds of 20 Mbps. For DSL, speeds vary a lot, as mentioned above, but downstream speeds typically range from less than 1 Mbps to more than 7 Mbps.

While many ISPs promote 20Mbps or faster service to businesses, these claims should be tested. Test all downstream speeds the day they’re installed, a month later, and quarterly after that. Better yet, before ordering, inquire what other customers, using the same service, are experiencing nearby. Other Internet service provider considerations: The Bundle. You can usually lower your monthly bill by subscribing to Internet access from the same Internet service provider as your local cable provider, long-distance company or wireless phone service. The best discounts are usually offered on bundles that include Internet, video and phone service. While speed is important, reliability is what matters. Broadband is touted as being around 100 times faster than dial-up, and dial-up has been enhanced for faster loading, but if your service is unavailable, speed doesn’t matter. Every ISP sales representative should be able to give you figures on their reliability. But that figure, which should be in the range of 99 percent, will only tell you how often their whole network is functioning. The weakest point is between their facilities and your home. The best way to gauge reliability is by asking your neighbors. Customer Support. When you are talking to those neighbors, ask “when things go wrong, how accessible is technical support?” You want to be sure that the ISP you select provides technical support that meets your needs. If a problem occurs, how quickly does the ISP commit to resolving the outage? In many cases, ISPs think nothing of mailing a replacement modem or rolling a truck a full business day later; while some providers will have a technician available the same day.  Price. Price is the last factor that should be considered when selecting an ISP. Reliability, speed capacity, service accessibility, and customer support are much more critical, especially considering the importance of Internet to both residential and businesses customers. But price matters, too. When all else is equal — from uptime to performance, support, and equipment — price becomes the deciding factor. When factoring price, however, be sure to compare apples to apples. Some ISPs require customers to purchase a modem or CSU/DSU, while others lease this equipment. And some ISPs require multi-year contracts. Such lease and long-term arrangements may end up costing more in the long run, so compare costs carefully. All these issues may seem a little daunting if you’ve never used the Internet, but anyone who’s been online for even a brief period quickly becomes comfortable discussing them. So, some casual conversations with friends, neighbors and sales representatives will get you up to speed on how to find the best ISP for you.


 — Sunday, Jan. 30, 2011 • How to Guide

To subscribe call (501) 329-2927 • Log Cabin Democrat

FINANCE

Howto Important Things You Should Know... • Location Location is very important when it comes to convenience of making a deposit, cashing a check or even meeting with a banker for a loan or customer service problem. • Technology This will give you the option to bank online or receive statements by email. • Customer Service It may be important to you that a person locally can handle a problem for you. Some customers don’t like calling a 1-800 numbers for customer service or bookkeeping. • Checking Select a bank based on the type of account you want from the bank. Most banks offer similar accounts but the charges and fees vary based upon researching checks, overdrafts or other services routinely needed by customers. • Loans Choose a bank that offers low rates and fees with great personal loan service. Make sure you are aware of any fees or points or terms that may affect your loan during its term.

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Choose a Bank

electing a bank seems like an easy assignment. Many times the bank we select is chosen because it’s closer to where we live or work. Convenience of location has always been the number one reason customers select a bank. Convenience is important and should be considered when making a banking decision on where to bank. But, you should expect more from a bank than a good location. Banks today are technologically superior and offer products that are key elements in selecting a financial institution or bank. What do you need from your bank and what do you expect your bank to provide you should be questions asked when making a decision to select a bank. Customers expect more from a bank that offers technological solutions. Suddenly the “free” checking account with no services or options is not as important as being able to access an account online and to see visually if a check has been cashed. Online banking is another technological product worth comparing. Not only the availability of researching a check online; but the development of cash management services for businesses and the development of unique financial services available to customers such as calculating a loan or mortgage on a web site or researching the value of a new or used car or simply reading the local newspaper online or checking a stock price. Checking products and how they are marketed to customers is another important difference to compare when selecting a bank. Most banks offer checking products that range from “free” checking to club accounts. These two types of accounts are the extreme examples of relatively no service or features from a bank with a “free” account and an account with many features that are paid for on a monthly basis. Overdraft fees and protection vary from bank to bank as well. No customer wants to be overdrawn, but it happens from time to time and a bank may charge $15 to $30 dollars per item for an overdraft fee. Some banks have a maximum charge per day while other banks do not. Know what you’re getting into before you open the account. You may also want to know how to visit with a customer service or bookkeeping person to answer a question or solve

a problem. Most banks have local people handling your problems such as a lost deposit or missing check or even to help balance your checking account. If the customer service is a 1-800 number, you might think twice before selecting this bank. Lending is another product that customers expect and need from banks. Most people need a loan for a car, business or home and rely on their bank to provide this service. All banks make loans, but their process of approving an application may differ, or how they handle a customer may differ, or if they keep the loan or sell the loan to another financial institution. These questions may not seem important when you open an account at a bank, but when you need a loan it will matter. Most local banks make decisions locally and have continuity in their lending staff as officers move up through the ranks in the same bank. This allows you to keep the same loan officer as you grow with the bank. In a regional bank the decisions many times are made in lending centers where applications are sent. They use formulas and credit scores to approve loans. The loan officer for a regional bank may work in the community for a few years and move to another community as they are promoted within the bank’s system. Comparing interest rates and fees are also important in deciding on a bank as banks may differ. This would include document preparation fees, late fees, extension fees and other fees that might relate to the type of loan you are requesting. Rates and fees are disclosed and can be compared before signing a loan application. It’s good policy to always ask what the fees and rates on a loan are before applying. Bankers do like customers who are concerned about lower rates and fees as they feel the customer will pay the loan back. The location(s) of your bank is important. But also be sure to consider the technology the bank has installed and the products you might use such as online banking, checking services, researching a problem, or just working with a loan officer to get a fair loan at a low interest rate with reasonable fees. These factors will help you to know your money is secure, and access to it when it counts.


 — Sunday, Jan. 30, 2011 • How to Guide

To subscribe call (501) 329-2927 • Log Cabin Democrat

MEDICAL

Howto Important Things You Should Know... • If you drink alcohol, try to limit it to one alcoholic beverage per day. • Try to keep your home tobacco free. • Eat fewer processed foods and make sure all five food groups are included each day. • Make an appointment with your doctor today if it has been more than a year.

Maintain a healthy lifestyle

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ttaining and maintaining a healthy lifestyle can be daunting to any family, with the abundance of information that bombards us all each and every day. Help can be found, however, with a simple phone call to your family practice doctor! The first step toward healthy living is a trip to see your doctor. Family members of all ages – even the kids! -- will benefit from a yearly visit. This time can be used for needed health screenings and a general discussion of your family’s overall health. Make sure your doctor is a valued member of your family team! Performing or setting up preventative screening tests is a wonderful benefit offered by reputable medical clinics. Medical professionals can help you determine which tests are necessary for each member of the family. In Conway, most clinics offer many of these screenings in-house and can help you schedule the rest with other dedicated physicians. Recommended screenings vary by age and sex of adults. There are also tests for teens and children, along with their annual inoculations. Talk to your doctor about which annual shots (flu and pneumonia, in particular) your family members should take, depending upon their overall health. SCREENINGS FOR WOMEN For women, health screenings include:

•Pelvic exam -- every year. •Pap test -- every year or at the doctor’s discretion. •Mammogram – every one to two years. •Skin test – every year. •Blood pressure – every two years after age 40. •Cholesterol test – every five years after age 40. •Fasting plasma glucose test -- every three years after age 45 to check for diabetes. •Fecal blood test – every year after age 50. •Bone density test – baseline needed after age 50. •Thyroid hormone test – every three to five years after age 65. •Colorectal cancer test – every five to 10 years.

SCREENINGS FOR MEN For men, health screenings include: •Blood pressure -- at least every two years. •Cholesterol test – every five years.

•Skin test – every three years until age 40, then every year. •Fasting plasma glucose test -- every three years after age 45 to check for diabetes. •Digital rectal exam – every year after age 50 to check for prostate cancer. •Prostate specific antigen (PSA) test -- every year. •Colorectal cancer test – every five to 10 years.

TEENS AND CHILDREN For children and teens, doctors may recommend several preventative screenings, ranging from general eye and hearing tests to specialized body mass index and scoliosis tests. Screening tests for babies are also helpful – make sure to ask your doctor which ones might be appropriate for your new bundle of joy! DON’T ‘WEIGHT’ TO GET HEALTHY If you are overweight, an important discussion to have with your doctor is one concerning the best ways to attain and maintain a healthy weight. Many New Year’s Resolutions are based upon losing weight, and many will not be achieved because of the lack of research into the best ways to do it. There are many members of your weight-loss team – your family, your friends and your doctor – all of whom can offer support in a unique way. By making your doctor part of your team, he or she can recommend a weight loss/maintenance regimen personally for you. EXERCISE YOUR OPTIONS For a healthy lifestyle, look for activities you enjoy and that will get you moving. For some people, this will involve a trip to the fitness center or public swimming pool. For others, a home gym with a weight bench and punching bag may do the trick. Thanks to the popularity of “Dancing With the Stars,” ballroom dances and dancing classes have gotten people on their feet, as have Zumba and Pilates classes. And exercise doesn’t have to cost you a cent! Conway is fortunate to have a wonderful walking/biking path that meanders through town. A sunny afternoon is the perfect time for a brisk walk with the kids and dog throughout Conway’s neighborhoods.


10 — Sunday, Jan. 30, 2011 • How to Guide

To subscribe call (501) 329-2927 • Log Cabin Democrat

MEDICAL

Howto

maximize your hearing potential

A Doctor of Audiology (Au.D.) can answer puzzling questions.

Important Things You Should Know... • About 90 percent of all adult hearing problems are caused by problems in the cochlea of the inner ear and the auditory nerve. • Early intervention is very important when hearing loss is suspected. • Many people have the mistaken impression that nerve hearing loss cannot be helped. • Most experts agree that since gradual hearing loss typically occurs in both ears, it makes sense to fit both ears with hearing instruments. • Many times a hearing-impaired individual does not really know how much they are missing because much of the time hearing loss is gradual.

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earing loss is one of the most common chronic conditions in the United States. It affects more than nine million Americans over the age of 65. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, it is more common in this population than cataracts, diabetes and orthopedic problems. Hearing loss affects another 10 million people aged 45 to 65. The National Council on Aging reports that a majority of those people do not use hearing aids. About 90 percent of all adult hearing problems are caused by problems in the cochlea of the inner ear and the auditory nerve. This can be caused by heredity, the aging process, some medications and exposure to loud noise. Symptoms of this type of hearing loss include not understanding what is said, accusing others of mumbling or speaking too softly and the inability to hear in the presence of background noise. This type of hearing loss, sometimes called nerve deafness, is treated by the use of hearing instruments. Many people have the mistaken impression that nerve hearing loss cannot be helped -- this is not true. The majority of individuals who wear hearing instruments have this type of hearing loss. Other Problems In addition to the obvious problems associated with hearing loss, a 1999 study by the National Council on Aging states that there are other serious problems that are caused by a hearing impairment. The study found that untreated hearing loss can lead to problems such as anxiety, depression, paranoia, anger and insecurity. Those individuals in the study who wore hearing instruments reported improvements in many aspects of their lives, including family relationships, sense of independence and sex life. Additionally, close friends and family members of the hearing-impaired respondents have this type of hearing loss. Strained family relationships are another problem seen by hearing professionals. Communication with a hearing-impaired person can be very frustrating for friends and family members. A hearing-impaired individual has to work much harder to hear than people with normal hearing. To compensate for their deficit in hearing, they use facial cues, lip-reading and guesswork to fill in the gaps in conversation.

The Earlier the Better Early intervention is very important when hearing loss is suspected. A simple hearing test can help identify a hearing loss. That test should include a case history, ear inspection to check for wax build-up, tympanometry to check for fluid or infection in the middle ear, pure tone air and bond testing and a speech understanding test. The word-understanding ability of an individual is a good predictor of hearing aid success. While a hearing aid can deliver sound back to the ear, the brain interprets the sound. When a hearing-impaired person needs to wear hearing aids and does not, over time their ability to understand words diminishes. If true word understanding is lost, it cannot be regained even with a hearing instrument. Instruments Improve Hearing Hearing instruments do not give back the hearing that an individual had at 18, but they can dramatically improve the quality of life if an individual does not wait too long to get help. Many times a hearing-impaired individual does not really know how much they are missing because much of the time hearing loss is gradual. Most experts agree that since gradual hearing loss typically occurs in both ears, it makes sense to fit both ears with hearing instruments. Amplifying both ears allows an individual to better localize sound. Additionally balanced hearing with both ears gives a hearing-impaired individual the best ability to disregard background sounds and achieve better hearing in noise. Family and friends play a very important role in the remediation process. They should accompany the hearingimpaired family member to the test if at all possible. Where to Seek Help Doctors of Audiology (Au.D.) or Audiologists are the health care experts to seek out with any hearing problems. Audiologists are specifically trained to diagnose and treat hearing loss. When beginning a hearing aid trial with your audiologist you should always seek a trial period to insure the hearing aid will improve your hearing. A competent Audiologist should be able to answer all your questions and put you in a position to improve your hearing.


12 — Sunday, Jan. 30, 2011 • How to Guide

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RETIREMENT

Howto Important Things You Should Know... • Find out what retirement communities are located in the area where you or your relative(s) prefer to live. • Interview key staff, including marketing, dietary, housekeeping, security and transportation managers and directors, to name a few. • Tour the property to assess the living conditions, safety features and handicap accessibility. • Become informed about services, amenities and continuum of care. • Communicate with the residents, their families and friends. Plan an overnight stay at the facility.

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Choose a retirement community Be informed of all aspects

he first thing is to find out what retirement communities are located in the area where you or your relative(s) prefer to live. The weather is an important factor and the proximity to hospitals, doctors, pharmacies, retail malls/stores is important. It is a good idea to ride around to the various retirement communities to get your first impression of the appearance, architecture and location. Once you know which retirement communities are to be considered, check the telephone yellow pages and contact the local Chamber of Commerce to inquire about which retirement communities are members. The more established ones will be listed in the yellow pages and the Chamber of Commerce directory. It is also good to check the internet web site of each area retirement community. The web site will provide key information about the services that are offered and the accommodations. Other pertinent information may be obtained from the Department of Human Resources Licensing and Survey reports. This information may be obtained via the Internet, at the local Department of Human Resources or at any retirement community that has a licensed nursing wing or assisted living unit. The Dunn and Bradstreet Financial rating, the State Nursing Home Association, The Better Business Bureau and Long-termCare Ombudsman are four additional agencies where retirement community stability and historical information may be obtained. Interview with Key Staff: Call for an appointment and meet the staff; each retirement community is run by an executive director and managers of multiple departments. These include nursing, marketing, dietary, housekeeping, laundry, social services, recreational activities, maintenance of the physical plant and the grounds, security, business and transportation. Make an appointment with the director of marketing or the admissions coordinator. The marketing director/admissions coordinator will explain about the history and ownership of the property, the age, permits and licenses and will provide you with brochures and price lists. The marketing director will show you around the property and introduce you to the staff and management who will answer any questions you may have. It is important to assess the length of employment of the executive director and key managers, their educational credentials, experience and licenses. A strong retirement community staff is knowledgeable in the areas of geriatrics, the aging process, Medicare, rehabilitation, and all long term care issues. Tour Property and Accommodations: A tour of the retirement community is imperative to assess the types and sizes of cottages, apartments and rooms associated with each level of care. Safety features, emergency response equipment and handicap access ability are important features of the tour. The tour allows a potential resident to evaluate the size or space needed for their furnishings, the closets and storage space. The cleanliness and maintenance or upkeep of the property may also be assessed on the tour. Staff-resident interaction, social activities and residents’ appearances may also be observed.

Become Informed About Services, Amenities and Continuum of Care: During the initial and follow-up interviews and tour, it is vital to be informed about the amenities, services and levels of care that are provided and included in the admission contract. It is imperative that a potential resident be advised about whether the retirement community is a buy-in or lease arrangement, the price, refund policy, pet policy, etc. All amenities such as meals, housekeeping and laundry/linen service, telephone, cable television, transportation and social activities should be explained. A full service, multi-level continuum of care retirement community offers levels of care that range from independent living in cottages and apartments, to assisted living or personal care to skilled nursing care. It is preferable to move into a retirement community where a resident may “age in place” and not have to relocate to another property or facility if they should have changes in their condition or require personal assistance or nursing care. The social or recreational activity program should be assessed when making the decision about your future lifestyle. An activities or social calendar should be available for you to study. A varied program of activities offering mental or sensory stimulating activities, physical activities and cultural entertainment should be included so that a resident has multiple daily options and may be as active as they choose to be. Examples of popular activities include bridge and other card games, movies, bingo, aerobic exercise classes, exercise equipment for individual or group use, birthday parties, special theme parties and seasonal or holiday celebrations. Also, outings with provided transportation that include tours of the area, lunches at local restaurants and trips to cultural events should be included in the social calendar. Arts and crafts classes should be available for those who enjoy creative pursuits. A transportation program should be provided to assure transportation to doctor’s appointments and other essential pickups, deliveries or personal transportation to shop, obtain medications and other essentials since many senior citizens choose to stop driving. An established retirement community will have available vehicles that include cars, vans and/or a bus for individual and group transportation. The safety or security of a retirement community should also be assessed since this is a primary reason to leave one’s personal home. Twenty-four hour security is preferable and a gated community is a comforting asset. Communicate with Residents, Families and Physicians Another key way to assess that a retirement community is reputable and stable operationally is to communicate with the residents, their families and friends. Ask pertinent questions about the staff, services, amenities and day-to-day operations and activities. Also, ask your personal physician about local retirement communities, and which ones they recommend for their loved ones and their patients. Also, inquire about the possibility of an overnight visit that includes a few meals and social activities to see if a certain retirement community is a good fit for you. Inquire about the length of stay for most residents and this will give you a good idea about the care and morale of the resident population.


14 — Sunday, Jan. 30, 2011 • How to Guide

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INSURANCE

Howto Y

find an insurance agency

ou probably think you only use insurance when you file a claim, but you’re wrong. We’ll go into why you’re wrong in a moment and show you why that misconception has made shopping for insurance needlessly unpleasant all these years. But first, let’s take three common situations: Marty was divorced with a teen-aged daughter and a 10-yearold son with a learning disability. Money had been tight with only one breadwinner, and savings for college just hadn’t grown as fast as the kids did. A technical job in a medical lab produced a comfortable living, if not lavish. That is, it did until a tingling in Marty’s legs over a few weeks led to a doctor’s diagnosis of Lou Gehrig’s Disease at age 38. Within six months, Marty was in a wheelchair. In another four months, the disability prevented any meaningful work, and suddenly the family had no paycheck. If not for disability insurance, Marty and the kids could not have survived. Richard wasn’t a health nut, only a rabid tennis player who liked to hike with his sons’ scout troop. He stayed in good shape, though, and made a good pair with his wife, the prettiest woman among any of their friends and a popular teacher at her elementary school. Like most families, there was a mortgage, car payments and balances on several credit cards that Richard repeatedly vowed to pay down. Though he had a growing law practice, Richard could see how rewarding it could become with just a few more years of hard work. When he told his tennis partner his head hurt and he needed to sit for a moment, no one could have guessed Richard would die on the bench of a heart attack at age 41. Without his life insurance, neither boy would have ever made it through law school to follow in Richard’s footsteps. Lee was proud of his home, though it might have seemed simple to many folks. It gave him a good feeling to sit before the fire in the living room some times after his son and wife went to bed, just reflecting on how lucky he was. He’d had some tough times in his career and seemed to be finally getting ahead when his employer closed its doors. The time it took to get a new job had drained his savings and forced him to sell his truck for something more affordable, but he had kept his head above water somehow. One night, he pulled the screen across the fireplace as he always did -- a habit formed when he was a volunteer firefighter before he married. He climbed the stairs and slid into bed next to Linda. By the time the smoke alarm woke him, Lee only had time to get everyone out of the house and see the log that had rolled out of the fireplace before the smoke grew too thick. Of all the fires he had helped extinguish, how sad that he couldn’t save his own home. If not for the insurance check, he would have never been able to rebuild. These true stories aren’t meant to sermonize, though they do illustrate three of the most critical needs for protection. Instead,

they’re intended to demonstrate the role of insurance. Marty, Richard and Lee’s families didn’t just benefit from their insurance when they got a payoff check. They benefited everyday they were protected. If Marty, Richard and Lee had had to save enough money to replace their incomes or homes on their own, they would have never had any money left over for anything else, let alone trips with the kids, a nice car or even an occasional meal out. A manageable premium paid to their insurance companies allowed them to devote the rest of their money to other uses. Obviously, our first responsibilities are providing food, clothing and shelter for ourselves and loved ones who depend on us. Every moment you purchase that protection from an insurance company frees you to thrust your energy into other pursuits. Finding an agency that looks at insurance the way you do As long as insurance companies have paid commissions to agents, there have been a few bad apples motivated to sell what has the biggest commission rather than what makes sense for the customer. You’re right to instinctively want to avoid these guys who don’t have your best interests at heart. You can avoid them by finding agencies focused on more than the next commission check. Smart agents recognize that they’ll be more prosperous in the long run by giving good enough service today to keep their clients coming back and referring their friends. Look for an agency that asks about your needs and goals rather than talking immediately about insurance products. An agency should share its know-how as a consultant of sorts to analyze your risks and design a program to manage them. You should ask what experience and professional training the agency’s staff has beyond the legally required continuing education. Professional designations such as chartered-life underwriter, certified financial planner demonstrate a commitment to comprehensive risk management beyond merely pushing the same products at every potential customer. That means that the agency should have a range of products so that the right option is available for your individual circumstances instead of having to convince everyone into buying the same solution. Professional agents tend to have professional outside associates, lawyers, accountants and appraisers, who round out their team. They are comfortable working with other professionals and aren’t afraid to refer clients to them. So shy away from an agent who can’t give you the names of professionals he or she has worked with. Finally, you want an agency that will be there in case you do have to file a claim. Purchasing coverage online or over the phone isn’t much of a bargain if no one is there to go to bat for you or to help you manage the proceeds during the recovery period. Stability and longevity are vital when it comes to long-term services like insurance protection. As you change your understanding of protection to something you benefit from daily, you can see how important it is to work with a professional agency. You wouldn’t pick your physician because of a flyer stuck under your windshield or an online ad. So, use the same care in selecting your insurance professional.


16 — Sunday, Jan. 30, 2011 • How to Guide

To subscribe call (501) 329-2927 • Log Cabin Democrat

FURNITURE

Howto

SHOP FOR FURNITURE

With a basic understanding of wood, you’ll find buying easier.

Important Things You Should Know... • Get physical. Sit in dining chairs, pick them up and feel them. Better furniture is usually more amply sized and more substantial in weight. The chairs should have a better cradle to them and the table surfaces should be smooth and level. • Examine the finish. If the finish is translucent, it should be even and the grain should show through. • Check the function. Drawers with a smooth glide to them and doors that open and close flush are the mark of quality craftsmanship. • Look beneath the surface. See how the piece is constructed, looking for loose screws or ill-fitted joints. Quality construction includes a variety of strengthening features in joints and frames. • Consider the conditions. Choose the piece based on where it will be placed and how often and by whom it will be used. • Find a trustworthy and reputable furniture dealer. A Dealer who has an excellent reputation in your community.

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ave you been furniture shopping lately? The experience may leave your mind swirling with new terminology: Solid wood, veneered wood, engineered wood, “engraved” wood-look, stained, washed, natural finishes and any number of other descriptive phrases for wood, wannabe wood or wood finishes. When it comes to decorating your home or apartment, furniture can be a major expense with longstanding impact. It pays to think about what you need, what you want, and what your budget will allow. GETTING STARTED Start by making a list of your needs room by room. Perhaps you already have some pieces to coordinate with, or maybe you are starting from scratch. Are you replacing long-outdated or worn furniture? Do you need more seating or more sleeping space? Is it time to finally get that large kitchen table that your whole family can gather around or time to get all your stacks of books in a nice cabinet? Whatever your new furniture needs are, make a list and prioritize them so you won’t be overwhelmed or wander around aimlessly having no idea what you are looking for. Once you know what your priorities are, be sure to measure your room or the space that you will be placing your new furniture. Wooden pieces come in a variety of sizes and you will need to know if the item you are looking at will fit or not. You would not want to get home with an entertainment center that will not fit on your wall or overwhelms your room. After you’ve itemized and sized up your needs, browse through decorating magazines and catalogs to help identify the styles you like. Again, advance consideration of the styles that appeal to you will greatly narrow your choices and aid you in finding the right style and selection for your home. FURNITURE JARGON After determining what piece or pieces you want and pinpointing some basic styles that feel “right” to you, it’s time to target a budget. As you can imagine, prices vary widely, and are often tied to the quality of the piece. Finding good furniture that works for you involves understanding how pieces are made and then deciding if the quality of the piece will bear up in day-to-day use. Familiarize yourself with these terms that are used to describe case goods - furniture that is not upholstered, like bedrooms and dining rooms: Solid hardwood: Furniture described this way should be entirely crafted of hardwood, such as oak, maple or cherry. Hardwood furniture should last for generations, and can be repaired and/or refinished, if needed. Solid Wood: This term refers to any wood, soft or hard, used throughout the piece. Like hardwood, solid wood can be repaired or refinished and should have a very long life. Be careful; sometimes the term “solid wood” is used loosely, meaning “solid wood products.” After all, pressed board,

chip board and even cardboard are solid wood (and glue) products. Wood Veneer over Solid Wood: Veneers are thin slices of decorative woods, such as mahogany and burled maple. Applied over a solid wood frame, veneers add a beautiful surface not possible with regular, solid wood alone. Veneers occasionally come unglued from their base and should be repaired by a professional furniture restorer. Wood Veneer over Particle Board or Medium Density Fiber Board (MDF): Instead of a wood framework, the underlying piece is constructed of fiber board or particle board. This is sometimes also referred to as engineered wood. The veneer in this case should be a natural wood, not manmade. Laminate: A laminate is a man-made surface which can appear to look like wood, or is available in many other colors. It is applied over a framework, usually particle board. Laminate is more durable than an “engraved finish.” Engraved Wood Finish: This is not wood at all, though by the sound of it you might think so. This term refers to essentially a paper-like photograph of wood grain that is used to give the appearance of wood. This type of surface usually is not repairable if it gets damaged. HOW IT IS MADE Well-made furniture will not be glued together exclusively, though glue can be used to help reinforce joints. Take a look at a drawer, for instance. A sign of good craftsmanship would include dovetailed front and side pieces, and the use of wood throughout the drawer. On a table the corners are usually reinforced with a corner block. Pieces should feel heavy, solid and not wobbly. Particle board framework is commonly used today as a means to control costs. Particle board is also very strong, in some cases stronger than certain woods. For some uses, it is a budget-saving means to furnish a space. When a piece is described as having an oak finish, fruitwood finish, or specifies any other “finish” term, make sure you find out if the item is actually constructed of wood. Clever catalog and furniture store descriptions often make it sound as if the “finish” is actually referring to a type of wood used in the piece, which may or may not be the case. Be certain to ask exactly what the furniture is constructed from before you make any assumptions. FURNITURE SOURCES The most obvious place to look is in local furniture stores. However, don’t forget real estate sales, auctions and consignment stores. Refinishing used furniture is also a way to recycle a piece of furniture, giving new life to what might otherwise get thrown away. When you are ready to start out on your furniture hunt, remember to assess your needs, set your priorities, narrow down the styles you are looking for, target a budget and then enjoy your search for the “perfect” pieces to complement your home.


18 — Sunday, Jan. 30, 2011 • How to Guide

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AUTOMOTIVE

Howto Important Things You Should Know... • Tow services and their employees must be certified. • Technology has become a big part of the towing industry • Talk to other people about the reputation of a towing firm. • Be aware of what towing services are used by your local government. It is a good indication of their reliability. • Inspect your vehicle before it is towed so you will know if it becomes damaged in the process. • Be aware of which local wrecker service is the preferred service provider for AAA roadside assistance.

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Choose a wrecker service Knowing about towing saves money

owing is big business. The industry accounts for more than $7 billion in annual revenue. More than 85 percent of all tows involve passenger cars and small trucks. Approximately 60,000 towing companies exist across the United States, many of which are family-owned towing businesses. So when your car breaks down, deciding which towing service to call can be ca major headache unless you know what to look for when choosing a wrecker service. WHO IS RIGHT FOR YOU? Towing and recovery services must follow strict guidelines set by federal, state and local governments. Incident management is a major priority of the Department of Transportation to keep a steady flow of traffic on our country’s highways. Towers play a key part in clearing up accidents to keep the traffic going. The equipment used by towers has changed drastically over the last 20 years. Drivers receive intensive training to use their equipment properly, including hydraulics, car carriers, air cushions, dollies, electric winches, rotators, wheel lifts and computerized equipment. The towing industry has become more technically driven. Towers have become skilled in using computer technology. CHECK FOR CERTIFICATION All drivers must be state certified each year and have

their equipment pass a thorough inspection. Those driving big rigs must receive special training to secure trucks. The drug and alcohol testing used for drivers in the trucking industry also applies to tow truck drivers. When the truck arrives to tow your car, look for the state certification sticker on the left side of the front windshield. Companies with state certification will have a good insurance policy. Choosing which tow service is for you comes down to one thing, reputation. If a company has been in business for many years, then they should be a very reputable organization. Ask around to friends for recommendations. Also, check and see if the company has done any work for the city. If your local government trusts them, they will probably do a good job. Before your vehicle is towed, check for any damage to the front and tell the towing service about this when you call. This way if damage occurs, the company can’t deny it. Also, if you believe your vehicle has been damaged, take it to a different, reputable towing service and ask them to examine it. If your car was damaged during towing, they will be able to tell you about it. By selecting the proper service, your towing experience should be headache free. For more information about the rules and regulations for towing services in the state, visit www.artowing.org.


20 — Sunday, Jan. 30, 2011 • How to Guide

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AUTOMOTIVE

Howto Important Things You Should Know... • All dealers by brand pay the exact same price for cars, so a deal you can make at one dealership can also be made at another. • Do not be deceived by ‘bait and switch’ advertising. • After you pick your brand, visit a local dealership. • Tour the service department. • Buy the vehicle that fits your personality.

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buy a new car Once you make a choice, do your homework

uying a car probably does not rank near the top of your list of treasured moments. Next to a home, a car is one of the larger items you will purchase. Often money is misspent and headaches occur. The average age of cars in the United States is somewhere between seven and eight years. Since most families have two or more vehicles, this means most people end up buying a car or truck every three or four years. Ask yourself each time you are considering a vehicle purchase: • Do I really need a vehicle change? • Why do I need a vehicle change? Sit down with a sheet of paper and write down that first question. “Do I really need a vehicle change?” Then, “Why?” And keep asking yourself the “why” question until you run out of responses. The car business is big, BIG business. The average new car MSRP today is around $35,000. On top of having a wondrous sales price, the car business has a large capital asset barrier to entry, which in theory allows the car makers to sell cars at higher profit margins. These choices are probably good for consumers, provided that consumers stay informed about the choices. It is important to remember here a critical concept: You want to buy a vehicle from someone your trust and someone that understands exactly what you are looking for. And you want to purchase the vehicle you’ve already picked out yourself, preferably in the comfort and convenience of your own home. This idea alone will save you a great deal of time and money if and when you set foot on a car lot. So, before you go thumbing or clicking, take out a blank piece of paper and a pencil and determine your needs. Draw a vertical line down the page from top to bottom -about two inches from the right edge. Inside that two-inch, right-side margin, vertically list these vehicle categories: a. Sub/compact b. Family sedan or station wagon c. Sports car - sedan/coupe/convertible d. Minivan e. Sport utility vehicle f. Pickup truck g. Full-size van or conversion van h. Luxury sedan Next: On the left side of that vertical line, write down your answers to the following five questions: • How many miles a year do I think I’m going to put on this vehicle? (eg. 15,000 miles/year.) • How much time, on average, per day, will you be spending in the vehicle? (Eg. three hours) • What type of driving will the vehicle be used for? (Eg.

60 percent city, 30 percent highway, 10 percent off-road.) • Write down the budget numbers you came up with. (Eg. $5,000 down, with a max of $350 per month over three years.) • Write down all the reasons that you want and need this vehicle. The longer the list, the better. Use the following as a guideline for your potential choices: commute to and from work, carpooling, vacations, daily errands, etc. Now underline the most important points. Then, cross out vehicle groups that don’t fit your vehicle use profile. In other words, if one of your key uses is carpooling the kids then cross out “sports coupes” because these vehicles are designed as two-seaters. This elimination process is very effective in helping match a vehicle group to our needs. Financing A car buyer is best served by lining up financing before buying the vehicle. Go to the phone and call various lending institutions. Start with your own bank and see what kind of terms they offer. When it comes time to make the final decision compare the bank’s terms to dealer financing options. Finance or pay cash? Find out what your monthly payments will be, how much you should put down, what term of loan you should consider, home equity vs. auto loan, and rebate vs. dealer financing. After performing a little due diligence on the financing of your purchase, decide on one source. Often dealers can offer the most attractive interest rates and terms due to their relationships with the lending institutions, so it is important to weigh your options. Negotiate the particulars down to the last detail, and then go with the best “deal” for you. It is that easy. Insurance Another financial preparation many consumers fail to perform is the inevitable insurance question. As with loans, a great place to start is with someone you already know -- your current agent. Give him or her the exact listing of the vehicle you are planning to purchase, so that you can be given a quote on just what your insurance costs will be. Let your agent know your trade-in plans. In that way, you’re providing information on the number of vehicles you own. Question the agent directly on discounts. You may be able to receive discounts based on the trade organization to which you belong, and you may be able to shave off a few dollars from your theft portion if you purchase an alarm system. At this point you’ve prepared and you know all the particulars and you’re in the driver’s seat. You’ve done your homework and you’re ready to make your decision.


22 — Sunday, Jan. 30, 2011 • How to Guide

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MEDICAL

Howto Important Things You Should Know... • There are medical and surgical options to repair sinus problems. • Allergies may be the cause of chronic sinus problems. • Customized treatments are available for allergy sufferers. • Snoring is not funny; it could be a sign of a serious medical problem. • Hearing loss is not something you have to live with, it is treatable.

choose an ENT specialist

Sinus problems Sinuses are air spaces in the bones around your nose and eyes. The sinuses make your skull weigh less and improve the sound of your voice. They also make mucus, a fluid that helps warm and moisturize the air that you breathe. Hair cells called cilia, in the sinuses continually sweep the mucus from the sinuses into the nose. Anything that block the sinus openings or keeps the cilia from moving can cause a sinus infection or acute sinusitis. Allergies, colds, pollution, cigarette smoke, and even hormone changes with pregnancy are among some things that can contribute to these problems. A professional ear, nose, and throat physician can provide outpatient solutions to sinus problems. Antibiotics, antihistamines, and decongestants are often used to help alleviate sinus problems. Irrigation of the nasal cavity with a saline solution has also been shown to be quite helpful. However, there are sinus infections that are resistant to medical management. In these cases, endoscopic sinus surgery can be used to reestablish the normal drainage pattern of the sinuses and relieve the infections. There is now even a method of dilating the sinus opening with a balloon much like the technique used to open clogged arteries in the heart. These offer much less discomfort and recovery time than methods used in the past. Allergy care If you spend a lot of your time sneezing, draining, and congested, or your child has chronic cold, allergies could be the culprit. An ear, nose, and throat physician trained in allergy management is able to diagnose and treat upper respiratory tract problems caused by allergies. Because this physician is also an ENT surgeon and specialist, other non-allergic causes of upper respiratory tract problems can be diagnosed and treated. Medications and even allergy proofing one’s home may be helpful in treating allergies. When needed, testing using the Immunocap blood test can be used to determine the specific offending allergen and tailor immunotherapy either as allergy shots or sublingual drops for treat-

ment. Comprehensive allergy management can often provide lasting relief for allergy problems. Snoring problems Snoring starts when your breathing causes the soft palate to vibrate excessively. Snoring is sometimes a symptom of a more severe problem known as sleep apnea. An ENT physician can treat the soft palate with an outpatient and even in office procedure that can often resolve the problem of snoring. With sleep apnea, the airway becomes obstructed repeatedly during the night. These obstructions may range in duration of a few seconds up to a minute or longer. During these episodes the blood oxygen level can fall to dangerously low levels. This condition markedly increases the risk for heart attacks, strokes, and even car accidents. Diagnosing sleep apnea requires an overnight sleep study. Relief can be achieved using a small mask and machine to help one breathe at night or even surgery to remove obstructing tissue from the airway. Hearing health Because the health of your ears plays a vital role in how you experience the world, you need someone who can properly identify your hearing problems and provide sound solutions. Your medical professional can treat ear infections, perforated ear drums, and hearing loss. A trained audiologist is also available to treat problems with sensorineural hearing loss and tinnitus. Hearing loss associated with aging and noise exposure is a treatable condition using state of the art, digital, programmable hearing aids. The newest generation of hearing aids provides exceptional sound quality and comfort unlike older technology. Head and Neck Surgery Other doctors often refer patients to an ENT professional. ENT physicians are trained to treat problems with tumors or masses in the head and neck, thyroid disease and tumors, hoarseness, swallowing issues, and salivary gland problems.


24 — Sunday, Jan. 30, 2011 • How to Guide

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CONSTRUCTION

Howto N

find and hire a custom builder

othing beats the pride you’ll feel welcoming guests to your unique home, unlike any other. Every day, you’ll enjoy knowing the kitchen is laid out just the way you like it, the windows are the ones you picked and the bathrooms were built just for you. A custom-built home provides comfort, style, a solid investment and a personal statement. You know all the reasons for building your own home, but you probably have heard a few reasons not to. Granted, there are a few builders whose work has sullied the reputations of others in the industry. You can avoid those simply by following a few common-sense steps. First, check out the reputations of prospective builders. Good ones should be willing to provide you a list of recent customers for you to call. Then actually call them. Ask about cost overruns, workmanship and customer service. Don’t stop there. Ask your local Better Business Bureau, licensing agencies and the building inspector’s office about complaints. Even your banker may have some observations since funds are usually doled out after a bank representative makes periodic progress inspections. Of course, you’d like to pick the least expensive contractor. And commercial developers will seek bids, but they also hire architects to evaluate the bidders so that the decision isn’t based solely on price. A top-quality builder can work within your budget, offering choices on where best to economize and where quality is most important. Remember, you’re constructing a home that will shelter your family for years and cutting the wrong corners can be dangerous to both you and your investment. Look for a builder with a track record constructing homes similar to what you want. For example, a multi-story house requires more skill than a single-story structure. Basements and retaining walls demand special care to guard against unsafe cracking and water seepage. Remote locations, extreme slopes and working around trees you want to save add complications that builders of tract homes don’t routinely face. You want a builder who won’t be learning on the job with your money. Experience not only brings the skills to provide quality but also the

know-how that streamlines the construction process -- an important consideration when you’re paying interest on a construction loan these days. As you are getting close to selecting a builder, conduct your own personal interviews to make sure you’re compatible. You’ll be working together very closely for months about countless decisions, and you have to have a frank and open relationship with one another. Consider the variety in doorknobs, bathroom sinks, drawer pulls and other details we normally take for granted in a house. The builder will often be asking you to make decisions, you need his experience to guide you about where top quality will matter and where you can safely economize. Being able to speak candidly will reduce miscommunication and costly errors. Plus, you and the builder should have a rapport that allows him to make suggestions that can improve on the ideas you have in mind for your house design. And the builder should be able to present honest choices to you with the information about how it will affect looks and your budget. Other considerations in selecting a custom builder are financial strength and the availability of a warranty. All of the construction should be warranted for a minimum of a year, but you may want to consider buying a longer warranty. The builder’s financial stability is an obvious requirement. Who wants to be in the middle of construction and have something go wrong or a funding problem on another of the builder’s projects impact his ability to buy materials or hire subcontractors on your house? Don’t hesitate to ask for financial references when you’re requesting professional references. A builder who can’t run his business is likely to make a mess out of your project. Education, professional credentials and affiliation with trade associations that enforce a code of ethics are other pieces of information you should seek before picking a builder. By following these few steps, your dream home can become a reality and even a “homestead” that your family could treasure for generations. And the construction will be as pleasant as the memories you make living it in.


26 — Sunday, Jan. 30, 2011 • How to Guide

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BEAUTY

Howto

Choose a cosmedic medical clinic

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hen choosing a medical professional – no matter the discipline -- research is imperative for a successful outcome. In the world of skin care, positive results can be found at a reputable cosmetic medical clinic. In addition to permanent laser hair reduction, technological advances have made laser skin treatment protocols more effective and safer. In response, several different treatments are becoming more popular for men and women of all ages, and the most current therapies are offered at many reputable clinics for all skin care concerns. Sun damage and environmental pollutants can leave wrinkles and sun spots on your skin. There are now medical laser therapies which can lessen the appearance of these wrinkles and spots. Before embarking on this type of skin care regimen, find out the facts for yourself. Read all you can about the procedure and make sure you understand what it does and does not do. Most importantly, schedule a consultation with a reputable clinic to discuss the laser skin treatment. Make sure the clinic you use has a licensed physician who is trained and experienced in laser cosmetic medicine. This physician needs to be actually present in the practice – meet this physician personally and verify that he or she will supervise your complete regimen of treatments. In addition, make sure the technicians at the clinic are well trained – these support staff members are a valuable part of your skin care team. And before starting treatment, make sure you understand the directions for at-home before and after-care. By setting reasonable goals, you and your physician can reach a mutual understanding as to your desired results. There are multiple laser skin treatments available. There are non-ablative procedures, such as Sciton’s SkinTyte, FotoFacials and BBL treatments. There are more aggressive ablative therapies, such as Sciton’s micorlaser peel and Pro-fractional skin resurfacing procedures. These procedures can be combined to achieve multiple objectives. WHAT TO EXPECT The Sciton resurfacing laser procedures allow your physician to utilize multiple laser and broad band light wavelengths to target different problems.

The Conditions that can be treated with these procedures include: • Wrinkles. • Acne scars. • Solar lentigines • Actinic keratoses. • Hypertrophic scars. • Surgical scars. • Sagging skin • Hyperpigmentation • Melasma Your medical cosmetic team – physician, technicians and you – will work to tailor your treatments to your skin condition, the results you would like to see and the amount of time you have available. Some areas that can be treated with laser treatments include the face, neck, chest and hands. Make sure your physician talks with you about these possible treatment areas and outlines the effects that skin laser peels have in each instance. By asking in advance, there will be fewer problems following the treatments. During the procedure, your eyes will be protected with shields or glasses. Depending on the size of the treatment area and type of treatment, the procedure could take from a few minutes to 90 minutes. AFTER CARE By following appropriate aftercare procedures outlined by your medical cosmetic team, you are more likely to achieve the desired results from any treatment. Follow-up visits will be scheduled on the advice of your medical team. There is no down time after the non-ablative procedures. There is some healing time required after the ablative procedures. This time varies depending on the depth of treatment, the type of skin. The use of a long term skin care regime is very important to maintain the gains obtained from laser procedures. Your medical cosmetic team will be able to help you design an appropriate regime. PUT YOUR BEST FACE FORWARD With the appropriate laser skin treatment, damaged skin can become glowing and vibrant once again. When undergoing a procedure such as this, make sure the clinic you use has a licensed medical cosmetic professional on-site; well-trained technicians; and state-of-the-art facilities offering the latest skin therapy options.


28 — Sunday, Jan. 30, 2011 • How to Guide

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PLANNING AHEAD

Howto Important Things You Should Know... • The funeral ritual helps us focus our emotions and brings a sense of meaning to death. • A pre-planned funeral can prevent your family members from having to make a number of significant decisions when they are confused and upset. • A call to a funeral director is a good beginning in making sure you have covered all your bases in your planning. • Things to discuss with a funeral director include ranging from visitation, the memorial service and alternatives from burial, cremation, or entombment. • Another important component in your plan is to make sure your loved ones know where your recorded wishes can be found.

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Pre-plan your funeral It may be a gift for those you love

t was Ben Franklin who said that nothing is certain but death and taxes. This article does not deal with taxes, but rather, the other certainty of life. It is a fact that the ratio of death to the population is 1:1. Everyone dies, so a discussion of funeral planning is never irrelevant. When someone we love dies, there are varying stages of anger, confusion and numbness. The funeral is one of the most significant means we have of dealing with grief. The funeral ritual helps us focus our emotions and brings a sense of meaning to death. It confirms the reality of death and provides a catalyst for mourners to begin talking about the deceased. Experts tell us that being able to talk about the life of the deceased loved one is one of the first steps toward accepting death. Prearranging Your Funeral Prearranging your funeral is not much different than any other planning you have carried out during your lifetime. You buy insurance in case of fire, flood, theft or death. These coverages are purchased as an act of love and responsibility for those you love in case an unfortunate incident occurs. A pre-planned funeral accomplishes the same goals. A pre-planned funeral can prevent your family members from having to make a number of significant decisions when they are confused and upset. They will have enough on their minds dealing with grief without having to make several important emotional and expensive decisions in a very short period of time. Experts tell us that there are an average of 50 decisions to be made when arranging a funeral. Adding to the need for pre-planning is the fact that our lifestyle is more complex in today’s world. Family members often live in different states, complicating rapid decision making. Further complications stem from frustrations that occur when dealing with government agencies in different states. A solid pre-planning session can prevent these complications which can loom very large during time of pain and sorrow. Often, we have special wishes that others may not be known to even those closest to us. Discussing these wishes with your family permits you to form logical, well thought out plans. Grief counselors say families are comforted by knowing that their loved one’s funeral reflects his or her own wishes. The Funeral Director’s Role A call to a funeral director is a good beginning in making sure you have covered all your bases in your planning. He or she can lead you through a process to ensure that you don’t forget vital information in your plan. Some funeral directors offer free booklets that provide a “punch list” of topics to think through and record your wishes. How To Plan Topics in these guides include funeral details ranging from visitation, the memorial service, and alternatives from burial, cremation, or entombment. These are the obvious decisions, but other important topics include categories that will provide an excellent helping hand to your family. These additional topics include organizations to be notified with phone numbers, persons to be notified, medical history, es-

tate information, banking information, real estate holdings, and insurance policies. Many also include obituary information outlines, personal property inventories, and special instruction and information pages. There may also be information regarding the importance of your will and how to go about ensuring it is accurate and updated. You also need help in prompting answers to several practical questions which will make things much easier on your family members. These questions include: Have you selected a cemetery or memorial location? Are certain religious customs to be followed? Are there any special readings, biblical passages or musical selections you prefer to use in the memorial service? Do you want to have a military service? Do you prefer a specific charity or organization as the recipient of memorial gifts? Do you want to name pallbearers? Do you wish to be buried in particular clothing or jewelry? What type of casket do you prefer? What type of marker or monument do you prefer?

Prefunding your funeral is also an important consideration. Your funeral director can show you the options which will save your family from any possible financial burden later. You may take out a life insurance policy which would cover funeral expenses, or invest in a funeral trust account or final expense insurance policy. In most situations, funds invested today will be sufficient to cover the total cost of the funeral at the time of need, since interest earned by the funds will offset the effects of inflation. Government regulations safeguard your investment so funds will always be available for the intended use. Another important component in your plan is to make sure your loved ones know where your recorded wishes can be found. Each year millions of dollars in government and insurance death benefits go unclaimed because family members do not know where to find the information they need at the time of death. Some considerations that also need to remain in the forefront of the pre-planning agenda: Social Security: Upon death, dependents and survivors may be eligible for certain benefits such as death Payments, Survivors, Benefits, and Medicare. Qualifications depend on several factors such as age, marital status, number of dependents and whether employment was under Social Security. Your Social Security account should be verified periodically to ensure contributions are properly posted. All benefits must be applied for since payment is not automatic. Veterans Benefits: Honorably-discharged veterans are entitled to benefits that may affect decisions about funeral arrangements. For example, veterans may qualify for cometary plot and burial allowances, a headstone and burial flag, as well as pension for survivors. Medicaid: There are provisions under Federal Title 19 that allow an individual to shelter funds to serve the family later by providing for funeral arrangements. Since qualifications vary for each of these options, it is best to discuss your particular situation with your funeral director.


30 — Sunday, Jan. 30, 2011 • How to Guide

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RETIREMENT

Howto A

Choose an Acute Rehab Facility for Seniors

sk yourself, “What is your overall impression of the management, staff, care staff, residents and living environment?” Trust your instincts. If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t the right community for you. Leave no question unasked and no question unanswered. Don’t be afraid to look around and ask questions. This is going to be the rehab of someone very special in your life. Before making your decision, be fully aware of your financial obligations and the level of services you can afford, as well as the facility’s licensure and compliance history and its history with the Better Business Bureau. The top four things you should know before choosing an acute rehab facility are: 1. The type and availability of services on site and in the community. 2. Tour the property and surrounding community. 3. Speak with the staff and residents. Don’t be afraid to ask any question or inquire about any aspect of the operation. 4. Don’t call ahead. Arrive unexpectedly. Take note of how you are greeted. What is it like when an unexpected guest arrives? Other aspects to consider are: --24-hour care services. This assures that scheduled and unscheduled needs can be met, regardless of time of day. These needs may include bathing, grooming, dressing or just lending a caring and comforting hand during an anxious moment. --Medication management. Look for a facility that has the appropriately trained staff to deliver complex combinations of medications in a proper and timely manner. --Nutrition. Your loved one should receive three well-balanced meals a day, plus snacks. The facility

should accommodate special dietary needs for diabetes, hypertension and other needs. --Trained, professional staff. The staff needs to be trained to understand the unique and frequently changing needs of seniors. These professionals include licensed nurses, and should provide care in an atmosphere of respect and dignity. --Need-based services. The facility should be able to provide personalized care to residents based on individual assessment and on an as-needed basis. --Residential atmosphere. Services should be provided in a warm and inviting setting where they can enjoy all the comforts of home. --Activities. Activity programs should go beyond the realm of simple arts and crafts or card games. They should be designed to address the spiritual, emotional and physical needs of older individuals, while enriching the quality of their lives. --Transportation. The facility should be able to take residents to doctor’s appointments, shopping and local events. This will help the resident stay connected to the community. --Housekeeping. Residents should be free of the burdens of everyday chores. The facility should regularly clean the resident’s dwelling, and provide laundry and linen services. Choosing the right acute rehab facility for your special loved one is a major decision. --Therapists – tour the therapy area and don’t be afraid to talk to the therapists and ask them any questions you may have. Take your time, involve other family members, and get the opinions of others. Then, know the peace of mind of having made the right choice at the right time.


32 — Sunday, Jan. 30, 2011 • How to Guide

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RESTAURANT

Howto

Pick a Restaurant

Picking a restaurant you’ll like can be easy and fun

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ating out can be an adventure, but finding a restaurant shouldn’t be a chore. To find a restaurant in a new town, people used to suggest that you “eat where the truckers eat” because these professional travelers supposedly shared tips with their colleagues. But unless you crave truck stops, that advice isn’t very useful any more. Besides, truckers primarily eat where they have room to park. Still, it pays to consider the type of audience a restaurant caters to. Years ago, a Jacksonville, Fla., establishment advertised “the best burgers in town,” which might be tempting to a hamburger lover until you consider the place was a topless bar. How good does the food really have to be to keep their customers happy? One wag claims restaurants are best sized up in the parking lot -- not by counting the cars but by sidling over to the kitchen door. Get a whiff of what’s being cooked for an advance taste. Listen to see if the waiters in the Chinese restaurant really speak Mandarin to the chef. And even open the back door -- by “mistake” -- to peek in to see how clean and orderly it is. Of course, this joker argues that the kitchen should be a little messy, the exhaust fan puffing out greasy aroma, and the kitchen staff arguing loudly to draw his interest. A little fat on the cooks makes him feel better, too, because he claims to never trust a skinny cook who obviously can’t even tempt himself. A news item once reported the arrest of a pizza chef for stabbing another cook in the same shop during an argument over the proper way to cook a pizza pie. Now that’s the kind of passion you hope to find in a kitchen, but maybe with less bloodshed. Short of combing the arrest reports or poking around parking lots, how do you find a place to eat among the 878,000 restaurants in America? First, be open to something new. Even picky eaters should experience varied atmospheres and scenery. A well-run restaurant will have some selections for any pallet or age, regardless of its main theme. Old reliables, like a juicy steak or chicken breast, can be found in just about any restaurant. And often, they are prepared with considerable care since they’re not the routine order. One college student backpacking through Europe ordered spaghetti and meatballs at every stop, from London to Paris to Rome. He never got bored because they were always just different enough, yet familiar enough at the same time. For folks with a broader range of tastes, nothing is more fun than exploring a new menu. One approach is to have each guest in your party pick a different one of the nightly specialties and then ask for extra salad plates so everybody can share. Another plan is to ask the ma?tre d’ about the chef’s signature entree so you can find out for yourself how the reputation was built. A third technique is to order a personal favorite to compare the preparation to your family recipe or with another restaurant. Just as there must be hundreds of versions of stew, there are an infinite number of ways to season, saut? and cook most dishes. After all, there are several cable channels dedicated to the topic. And don’t be shy about asking your waiter or waitress to fix your order your way. Hamburger chains didn’t invent

special orders, they borrowed the idea from traditional made-to-order establishments. Hold the salt or monosodium glutamate. Add extra croutons. Slice the roast beef from the outside where the spices are or from the inside where it’s the most rare. Your dining experience is more enjoyable when you participate. No one would plop down in a barber’s chair and ask for a haircut without explanation. So be just as specific in your restaurant. If you’re on a diet, you no longer have to eat every meal at home. Restaurateurs today typically highlight on their menus dishes that are low in carbs for Atkins Diet followers, dishes that have reduced calories or those that fit diabetic needs. Plus, most are happy to prepare a special order without dairy products, or nuts or salt or whatever you may be allergic to. According to a survey by the National Restaurant Association, seven out of 10 adults agree that there are more nutritious foods available to them in restaurants now than there were five years ago. That means you don’t have to get a “salesman’s paunch” any more just because you eat out a lot. Your social conscience can also feel good since you’ll be patronizing the industry that employs the highest percentage of women and minorities in management positions, according to the association. The number of African-American-owned and women-owned eating-and-drinking-place firms increased at double-digit rates during the past decade. When picking a restaurant, think about what sort of experience you envision. A romantic dinner calls for someplace on the quiet side where children aren’t going to remind you of the consequences of, well, romance. If you’re dining with kids, you want someplace where they’ll be welcome and won’t be bored. Ads and restaurant listings give you hints about atmosphere, but a call or visit is best. That’s because many restaurants have different environments -- candle-lit tables inside for couples, grill rooms for relaxed parties, and scenic gardens perfect for families. It also helps to have a budget in mind. Most guides list average entr?e prices. But an average that seems higher than your budget shouldn’t always discourage you. Perhaps you could be happy skipping the appetizers and dessert. Have a cocktail before leaving home or your hotel room to save money. Also keep in mind that nowadays restaurant portions are usually large enough for a doggie bag that makes terrific leftovers for lunch the next day -- effectively halving the entr?e price since you get two meals. Here’s a tip if you have young children. Stop at a fastfood place first to get them fed cheaply and quickly. They’ll be more settled and patient when you eat in a “grown up” restaurant, and you won’t be paying for a fancy meal they likely won’t eat anyway. If nothing else, it’s sometimes fun to go to a pricier restaurant just for coffee and dessert. You can soak up some atmosphere and enjoy the pampered service without feeling guilty about breaking the bank. The bottom line is, to find your next favorite restaurant, go out and try some. You could wind up with several favorites.


34 — Sunday, Jan. 30, 2011 • How to Guide

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EDUCATION

Howto

choose a college

Plan, research and visit to find the campus that fits

Important Things You Should Know... • Apply as soon as you have your SAT/ACT score. • Focus on a general career field. • Narrow your search by reading and visiting the Web sites. • Keep cost in mind. • Tour your top choices and take lots of notes.

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he best college for you is not always the one with the most recognizable name. It’s not always the biggest, or most popular The best college is the one that fits your personality and career goals the one where you can get the education need to succeed, while feeling most at home and comfortable. Do not underestimate the value of feeling “at home” during your investigation of college, because the place you choose will literally be your home for the next four years. You need to enjoy being part of the daily campus life. Finding the one that most closely matches you involves doing some homework and a little bit of legwork. Start Early When thinking about choosing a college, start planning early. It takes time to gather the information you need, plan visits, apply for admission, and secure housing. While it might all seem like a big adventure (and it is), looking at the process very logically, you are moving into a new phase in your life and literally moving to a new place. You need to be sure you make the right choice so you do not regret your selection a few weeks or months into your first year in college. You should begin applying to any colleges you think you are interested in as soon as you have your SAT/ACT score. That way you know early which ones have accepted you for admission, and which ones haven’t, allowing you to move on and make an informed selection. What Are Your Interests? While many students are unsure about what they want to do for a career, and many change their minds while in college, you still need to think about the kinds of careers that might appeal to you. Explore your interests by visiting your counselor’s office and by asking professionals you know about their careers. You might even visit a career center at a college near you. They have written or computer-driven tests to help you pinpoint the kind of jobs that will help match your strengths and desires. While you are talking with your counselor or other adults about careers, find out what kind of education it takes to succeed in those fields. You should be able to at least identify a general direction of study: sciences, humanities, or business. Narrow the Search Once your general or specific educational goals are in mind, study brochures from colleges you would like to consider. You’ll find plenty of information to help you narrow your search. Virtually every college has a Web page. Explore what each offers. E-mail the admissions staff for more information or to answer your questions. You should find the staff eager to help you and quick to respond. Ask about accreditation. Keep in mind that every school strives to have its programs recognized by accrediting agencies. It’s their seal of approval from the professional world, showing that they offer the kinds and quality of courses you need to be successful after graduating.

Ask about housing. Would you live in a dorm or an apartment? Is the campus spread out, making it tougher to get from place to place, or compact, so you can easily get to classes, meals and recreational activities? Find out about the size of classes. It’s important that they are small enough so you can get to know your professors, and they, you. Are they willing to work with you during office hours or after class if you need help? Does the college offer tutoring, should you need it? If you have physical disabilities, how accommodating is the college? Can you get in and out of buildings easily and find your way around campus? Explore financial matters. Talk with your parents about the cost of college and how much they can help. Then investigate what scholarships or loans are available to help out. Don’t forget that the cost of college isn’t just tuition and fees. There’s also the cost of housing, meals and books. Can you handle a part-time job while going to school? Many students work in local stores, restaurants or offices to help pay for college. Look and Listen After narrowing your choices to two or three colleges that seem appealing, it’s time to take a first-hand look. Contact the admissions office to find out when their tours or visitation days are scheduled. You’re going to learn much more with one visit than all the brochures in the world. Check out the atmosphere of the campus. Is it attractive? Are the people friendly and helpful? Or are you treated like a stranger or an intruder? Be sure to take a look at the town in which the college is located. Is it geared toward students? Are shopping and entertainment easy to access? These issues might not seem so important at first glance, but they can have a dramatic effect on your college life. Make notes! Make lots of notes! Bring along your camera or camcorder so you can relive the experience a few days later. You might not think so, but even two or three visits to places as complex as a college campus can get confusing without good notes about each school. Write down your impressions of everything as you experience them. The college visit should give you a reasonable feel for what it would be like to live on that campus. Ask yourself if you and this college are a good fit. Finally, when your decision is narrowed, team up with your counselor for some help applying for admission and financial aid, if needed. Apply to more than one school, if possible, always leaving your options open, just in case your first choice doesn’t work out. College is a great adventure! Start it with good preparation and it will be among the most exciting and rewarding times of your life.


36 — Sunday, Jan. 30, 2011 • How to Guide

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AUTOMOTIVE

Howto Important Things You Should Know... • Pick a local franchised dealership; this will give you several consumerdriven options. • Tour the service department. Meet the people you will be dealing with. • Check with the Better Business Bureau for complaints against the dealership and how the problems were resolved. • Choose your vehicle wisely. Stay within your budget. • Shop for the best possible financing, APR, monthly payments and number of payments.

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buy a used car Stick with local franchised dealerships.

robably the most notable difference between buying a new or used vehicle from a pricing standpoint is that used cars are not as commodity-driven as the new vehicle market. This means that while a new car buyer is best served by playing identical-make dealers off each other, kind of like bargaining with four grocers for the same Granny Smith apples on the shelf, it’s nearly impossible to play the used car dealers against each other. In the used market, no two cars are exactly alike. Certainly another big difference in the used vehicle market is that some of those used Granny Smith’s come with worms. Yikes, that’s right! When you buy used, you are taking on more risk. Certainly it is possible to buy a new vehicle that is a lemon, but there are laws to protect you if this happens. In the used market, the law is vague at best. A used vehicle is full of risk, because you are buying “as is,” often without any manufacturer to back up the vehicle with a warranty. With more assumed risk, the investor generally expects a greater potential reward. Buyers of used cars are, partly for this reason, entitled to expect a lower initial cost. What does it mean -- that the new vehicle market is a commodity market? It means that it is essentially a supply-and-demand-controlled market. When vehicles are in short supply prices tend to go up, and vice versa. The game is far more complex than that, but any offhand look at incentives that the automakers offer to drive sales reveals that these price cuts are normally on vehicles that are in excess supply. Why? It’s simple. Dealers are business people, they know all about the forces of supply and demand working on their vehicle’s market, so they ask for and get market prices. Thus the market price, the price consumers pay, has very little to do with the sticker price, the dealer invoice price, or even the cost the automaker has put into the vehicle to design, build and sell it. Instead, market price is fixed on the graph at the point the demand line intersects the supply curve. The used vehicle market often follows the new vehicle

market; when prices rise in the latter, they also rise in the former. It may be that used car prices were depressed to start with, but many experts feel that it is a question of supply and demand. The reasoning goes that used car prices have risen sharply because of high new car prices. High prices often lock many buyers out of the new vehicle market, and this creates demand in the used car market. In addition, the longer-lasting, more reliable new cars have created a supply shortage in the used car market. Many experts now feel that the trend will reverse itself, particularly when coupled with a large volume of off-lease vehicles returning to the used car market. Also, higher incentives in the new car market are expected to create less demand for used vehicles. If you are thinking of buying a used car, ask yourself the following questions: • Are you an astute negotiator? • Can you rapidly determine real value in just about any product? • Do you like vehicle shopping? • Do you roam used car lots late at night, and browse the classifieds on Sunday afternoon -- even when you’re not in the market for a vehicle? • Are you mechanically inclined, or do you have ready access to such an individual? If you answered “yes” to all of these questions, you might be an excellent candidate for the used vehicle market. If you answered “no” to one or all of these questions, and can’t afford a new vehicle, don’t despair just yet. You may be a candidate for the “no-haggle” used car market. You also may want to consider the used car lots of new car dealers, which are overflowing with off-lease vehicles that are being re-warranted by the manufacturers. If, however, you answered, “no” to all of the above questions, and you have no cash, and you must drive the latest metal the automakers have to offer, you might be a candidate to lease new. But take your time, the decision is an important one, and remember that you can always change your mind later.


38 — Sunday, Jan. 30, 2011 • How to Guide

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MEDICAL

Howto Important Things You Should Know... • What experience does your surgeon have • What is the cause of your blurred vision and what options are available • What advanced technology is provided by your surgeon • Where will the surgery be performed and what type of follow up regimen is involved • Check with your insurance to find out what type of coverage you have and what out of pocket expenses you should expect

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select corrective eye surgery

ired of wearing glasses or contacts? Is the constant care of corrective lenses limiting your lifestyle or draining your pocket book? Maybe you’ve longed for those days when you had perfect eyesight and you could see well enough to read the labels in the bathroom or line up a shot on the golf course. The human eye is an amazing organ that brings images into focus so we can view our world clearly. Sometimes there is a problem with our vision. With advances in medical technology, vision corrective (refractive) procedures are available for some of the most common vision disorders like cataracts, myopia, hyperopia, and astigmatism. When considering refractive surgery, one must understand the cause of their vision problems, select a qualified eye surgeon, and discuss the different treatment options available that meet the individual’s needs based on clinical data and lifestyle. NORMAL EYE In a normal healthy eye, light enters through the cornea, passes through the natural crystalline lens and is then focused onto the retina. The retina is responsible for transmitting images to the brain. CATARACTS Roughly 20.5 million Americans over the age of 40 or half of all Americans over the age of 80 have cataracts, according to the National Eye Institute. A cataract forms as the natural crystalline lens becomes clouded. Symptoms of cataracts include: blurred vision, faded or dull colors, poor night vision or sensitivity to light. Cataracts are the most common cause of vision loss in people 55 and over. CATARACT SURGERY When the natural lens of the eye becomes clouded due to cataracts, it can be removed and replaced with a lens implant, or artificial lens. New advances in these implants have eliminated or reduced the need for glasses or even bifocals in qualified patients following cataract surgery. Your doctor will perform multiple tests and measurements to determine the need for cataract surgery. During your evaluation implantable lens options will be discussed with you and will be determined by the prescription of your eyes and your lifestyle. Selecting the type of lens implant is a very individualized process and not all patients are candidates for premium lenses, which correct distance as well as up-close vision. Most insurance companies will cover cataract surgery and a traditional lens implant once the cataract has reached a stage that your vision correction is limited even with glasses, however patients who qualify and choose the premium lenses will have to pay the difference in the cost of the lens. Having different options is an especially welcomed development considering that, by age 65, you’ll have a 50/50 chance of having a cataract. NEARSIGHTEDNESS, FARSIGHTEDNESS AND ASTIGMATISM In the United States, about 120 million people wear glasses or contacts to correct for nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism. These vision disorders are the most common of all vision problems in our country. With myopia, or nearsightedness, the cornea is curved too much or the eye is too long, leaving far away objects to appear blurry because they are focused in front of the retina.

Hyperopia, or farsightedness, is the opposite of myopia. Distant objects are clear, and close-up objects appear blurry. With hyperopia, images focus on a point beyond the retina. Hyperopia results from the eye being too short. Astigmatism is a condition in which the uneven curvature of the cornea blurs and distorts both distant and near objects. A normal cornea is round, with even curves from side to side and top to bottom. With astigmatism, the cornea is shaped more like the back of a spoon, curved more in one direction than in another. This causes light rays to have more than one focal point and focus on two separate areas of the retina, distorting the visual image. Two-thirds of Americans with myopia also have astigmatism. LASER VISION CORRECTION Laser surgery reshapes the cornea to help the light focus correctly on the retina. Laser surgery has been approved for the treatment of myopia, hyperopia, and astigmatism. There are a number of surgical options available to your doctor. Surgery to correct vision has been performed since the 1970’s. While the earlier procedures were relatively imprecise mechanical techniques, the latest LASIK (laser assisted in-situ keratomileusis) technology provides customized treatments with improved visual results. With more than 700,000 of these techniques performed each year, it is one of the most common types of surgery in the United States. While LASIK is the most common laser vision treatment used today, other forms are still applied for certain circumstances. Decades worth of technological advances have allowed surgeons to provide more options for those who once did not qualify for laser procedures. It is important to talk with your surgeon about all treatment options and to discuss risk and benefits of laser surgery. SELECTING AN OPHTHALMOLOGIST Not all vision disorders can be corrected by surgery. Only a qualified physician can determine the health of your eyes and the need for refractive surgery. Finding the right one and weighing your options is an important decision. An ophthalmologist has specialized training in surgery of the eyes. Besides the four years in medical school and a yearlong internship, an ophthalmologist will have also spent at least three years in a hospital residency focused on eye care. This advanced education and training permits him or her to perform the delicate, specialized surgical techniques that can change your vision. Selecting an ophthalmologist is much like choosing any doctor. The National Eye Institute offers the following advice: • Get referrals from friends about their eye doctors, and ask your physician for recommendations. • Contact a local hospital’s ophthalmology department for suggestions. • Inquire with the local medical association for names of eye surgeons. • Check your insurance company to make sure the recommended doctors are acceptable. Since eye surgery is elective, you should only agree to it once you find a doctor you are comfortable with and who answers all of your questions.


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