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HOW TO:

CHOOSE A COSMETIC DENTIST • CHOOSE NEWSPAPER ADVERTISING • CHOOSE A PEDIATRICIAN • CHOOSE A MORTGAGE LENDER • PREVENT AN OUTBREAK OF THE FLU • CHOOSE YOUR FLOOR COVERING • CHOOSE A REALTOR® • MAXIMIZE YOUR HEARING POTENTIAL • CHOOSE ANTIQUES • CHOOSE A BANK • FIND AN INSURANCE AGENCY • CHOOSE A LAWN CARE SERVICE • CHOOSE A RETIREMENT COMMUNITY • CHOOSE A COLLISION REPAIR SHOP • SELECT AN ORTHOPAEDIC SURGEON • CHOOSE A FINANCIAL PLANNER • CHOOSE AN ENT SPECIALIST • CHOOSE A JEWELER • FIND AND HIRE A CUSTOM BUILDER AND REMODELER • SHOP FOR FURNITURE • CHOOSE A WRECKER SERVICE • FIND AN ELDER LAW ATTORNEY • PRE-PLAN YOUR FUNERAL • BUY A USED CAR • PICK THE BEST ATHLETIC SHOES • CHOOSE A RESTAURANT • CHOOSE A COLLEGE • SELECT CORRECTIVE EYE SURGERY


DENTAL

How to:

Five factors to consider when choosing a cosmetic dentist It’s worth taking some time to find a dentist that you feel is right for you. “Right” can be based on a number of factors, including expertise in your desired dental specialty, convenience, personality or just an overall gut feeling that the dentist you choose is one that will meet your overall dental care needs. • Reputation - When choosing a dentist, a good reputation echoes throughout the community, so ask around. Ask your co-workers, friends, and family who their dentist is and if they are happy with them. You can also get a recommendation from the American Dental Association or from even a Google search for dentists in your area. Once you have the name of a dental office or dentist, search for their business website. This allows a great opportunity to investigate the practice and even see pictures of the

CHOOSE A COSMETIC DENTIST

office, dentist, staff, and the latest cosmetic dental procedures performed. • Training and Experience - Make sure that you find a professional that has the necessary training and experience to offer you the best dental care possible. Most general dentists perform a variety of procedures to cover your dental needs. Look for dentists that are involved with organizations such as The American Dental Association, The American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, and the Academy of General Dentistry. These organizations provide excellent cosmetic and general dentistry training that allows you to receive the most up-to-date dental care. • Office Environment - Once you’ve narrowed down your search after researching training and experience, you’ll need to call the office to schedule an initial exam or cleaning appointment.

This will allow you to get a sense of your comfort level with the office. Does the atmosphere seem warm and accommodating? Is the dental office staff courteous and friendly? Is the office clean and inviting? All of these factors will affect your overall dental experience. • Connection - After meeting the dentist, you should be able to gauge how comfortable you feel with him or her. Comfort level is a big decision making factor in choosing a dentist because if you don’t feel confident and comfortable with your dentist, you’re less likely to go. If you don’t go to the dentist at regular intervals, your dental health can suffer. People should be aware that there are many great dentists practicing today. You should look for one who strives each day to live up to the highest standards and who treats patients like family. This is the cornerstone to providing outstanding dental care. LOG CABIN DEMOCRAT | HOW-TO GUIDE 2012 • 3


ADVERTISING

How to: Important Things You Should Know... • Newspapers reach the majority of adults daily and on Sundays. • Higher-income-earning adults are more avid newspaper readers. • People with higher education are more likely to read newspapers. • People in higher-responsibility professional positions read newspapers more frequently than the average person. • Newspaper advertising can be targeted by section -- and reader. • Newspaper advertising can target specific geographic locations. • You can select advertising alternatives from preprint inserts to full- or partial-page ads. • With short deadlines, newspaper advertising can be tailored for immediacy. • Newspapers are portable and convenient. • Newspaper advertising builds business credibility and momentum.

CHOOSE NEWSPAPER ADVERTISING

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argeting customers in a mediafragmented marketplace is a continual challenge for many advertisers. The abundance of advertising sources has overwhelmed and divided consumer attention. This means media planners and buyers need the right tools to help them decide on the best allocation of advertising dollars. As advertisers strive for an effective media mix, they should know there is one medium that can deliver strength to advertising and marketing strategies. The newspaper continues to be a powerful medium for reaching shoppers in the market for a broad range of products and services. It is a portable and convenient source of advertising information — helping consumers decide where to shop and what to buy. The newspaper delivers customers unlike any other medium each and every day, reaching an array of traditional and emerging markets with unsurpassed advertising impact. Universal coverage, utility and power are the driving forces behind newspapers. And that is why they add value for advertisers! Newspapers offer advertisers alternatives to reach customers — new and potential — with effective messages for long-term awareness or immediate call-to-action responses. Whether it’s a preprint insert or run-of-paper (ROP) advertising adjacent to select editorial content, newspapers deliver the right message to the right people at the right time. If we combine frequency measures for ROP and newspaper preprints, we have 90 percent of adults who use one or the other or in combination — a powerful pairing. Opportunities in Newspapers ROP: Run of Press advertising means an ad placed on the pages of a newspaper. This best-known newspaper advertising option offers short deadlines and proximity of editorial that enhances visibility. Preprints: Preprinted inserts offer advertisers the flexibility and control of creating and printing advertising that the newspaper distributes.

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Commercial Printing: Newspapers offer customers who need major printing the opportunity and cost efficiency of using their presses to print catalogs, inserts and other commercial print needs. Niche products/special sections: Newspapers offer a myriad of opportunities where a special marketplace is created to help in targeting an advertiser’s best prospects. These products may be inserted into the newspaper or may be distributed in other ways needed to best attract the niche audience. Highlights The compelling facts below underscore the strength of newspapers: • The majority of adults (57 percent) read a newspaper on an average weekday.

• About half of all adults read a newspaper on an average Sunday. • More than six out of 10 adults (64 percent) read a daily newspaper in the past five days. • About three-quarters of adults read a Sunday newspaper in the past month. • Newspaper usage is strong among emerging markets — teens and Hispanics. • Customers for many products and services are also the heaviest newspaper readers. • The newspaper provides advertisers with unique targeting opportunities. • The newspaper is the most-used advertising source for various store categories. • Newspaper Web sites are highly rated for being useful and informative.


MEDICAL

How to:

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earching for a pediatrician for your beloved children is one of the most important searches you will make in your lifetime. You may need a pediatrician to care for your newborn, or you may need to find a doctor after moving to a new town. Whatever the reason, the best thing to do is ask others for recommendations. Ask your friends, your family, your co-workers – anyone who has small children will have an opinion on who is the most congenial, the most caring, the most compassionate pediatrician in town. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, pediatricians are trained to: * Help you determine healthy lifestyles for your child and useful ways to role model your choices. * Offer advice to prevent illness and injuries. * Provide early and appropriate care of acute illness to prevent its progression. * Treat life-threatening childhood conditions requiring intensive care. * Guide you in anticipating your child’s needs from newborn to 21. If you are looking for someone

CHOOSE A PEDIATRICIAN

to care for your newborn, start your search while you are pregnant. Give yourself time to research the options in your area before the baby arrives. You can even ask your obstetrician to suggest names of good pediatricians. Other good sources for recommendations might be your childcare provider, if your child will be attending a day care or nursery, or the children’s minister at your local church. These folks come into contact with parents and children on a daily basis and normally have their ears and eyes open for information. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests visiting with the pediatricians you are considering. Both parents should attend the interviews and take notes, if necessary. Question topics can range from billing matters to how the doctor handles emergency calls. Other recommended questions from the American Academy

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of Pediatrics include “how soon after birth will my baby need to visit,” “are you available by phone and e-mail,” and “who is your backup pediatrician when you are on vacation.” If you choose a clinic with multiple doctors, ask if your child will see the same doctor each time or will it vary upon the doctor’s availability. Also check to see if the pediatrician is certified at the nearest local hospital, and ask where you child would be hospitalized in case of serious illness. Some insurance companies have an approved network of physicians, so you might be required to choose from this list – check early on with your insurance agent. If you have moved to a new town and don’t know many people, you can still ask questions in order to choose the best pediatrician. Hospitals and medical societies will have lists of pediatricians. And don’t feel

ashamed to ask your new neighbors who have children – most parents are glad to share their knowledge in order to keep children happy and healthy. You can also ask your child’s former pediatrician for recommendations. Be diligent in your search for a pediatrician by looking at the credentials of those contending for the job. Pediatricians can be certified with the American Academy of Pediatrics after extensive training, in addition to earning their medical degree at a reputable university. Most importantly, make sure that you feel comfortable with the pediatrician. Does he or she talk to you with words you can understand rather than medical “initials”? Does the doctor seem to be compassionate about caring for those who are ill, no matter the age? If you choose the best pediatrician for your child, he or she will have a friend and advocate for many years to come. By taking your initial search seriously, you can help shape your child’s life in a positive fashion from his or her first days.


FINANCE

How to:

CHOOSE A MORTGAGE LENDER

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efore you shop for a house, see your mortgage professional. Get pre-qualified to find out the amount of a mortgage your mortgage professional says you can afford. Pre-qualifying will determine what — if any down payment will be required. If the down payment is less than 20 percent of the loaned amount, lenders can require private mortgage insurance. The home buyer purchases this to protect the lender in case of default. Determine how much the insurance costs, how much your monthly house payment will be with the insurance and how long you will be required to carry the insurance. Be sure to include this cost with any other costs before making comparisons. As you ask for a comparison, make sure you are speaking with a loan officer and not a receptionist or a clerical person. Interest rates change constantly. The rate may be fixed or adjustable. If the rate is adjustable, ask how your loan payment will vary as the interest goes up or down. Look At Your Options Take a look at the different mortgage options and find out if you qualify for one of them. Special loan packages exist for those who qualify under guidelines set by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), Veteran’s Affairs (VA), or USDA Rural Development (RD). These packages may offer a better mortgage rate, better terms of payment or even money toward the down payment. First-time homebuyers, for example, may be eligible for special incentives, including a lower interest rate, assistance for the down payment and sometimes even employer assistance. Generous income guidelines make this program available to a very large number of homebuyers. A good lender will be able to help you determine if you qualify for one of these mortgage options. Check Out All Costs There are a variety of other costs that may be associated with buying a

home. Charges may include the cost of a credit report, an application fee or an appraisal of the property. Some of these fees must be paid in advance. Other expenses may include the cost of a title insurance policy from a title company, a professional survey by a licensed surveyor, home inspection fees and pre-paid taxes or property insurance on your new home. Some of these fees will be due at the time that you close on your property. As part of your search for a mortgage lender, ask if they will offer you a written “lock-in.” This may require the payment of yet another fee but locks in

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the interest rate for a predetermined period of time. It protects you from increases in rates as your application is processed but also could leave you with a less-favorable rate should rates decline. Keep in mind that the companies you are comparing are required by law not to discriminate against applicants in any way because of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, age, handicap or whether some of the applicant’s income comes from a public assistance program. Under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act and Fair Housing Act, a company

cannot refuse to lend based on these characteristics, charge more for a loan or give less-favorable terms based on such considerations. Review Your Credit Report A good mortgage lender can help you determine some of the things you can do to dress up your credit before applying for a home loan. For example, you might pay down existing debt, close inactive credit accounts, develop a stable employment history and avoid other large purchases such as a new car, according to Consumer Credit Counseling Service.


MEDICAL

How to:

PREVENT AN OUTBREAK OF THE FLU

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t’s morning, and you wake up with a stomach pain, a sniffle or a sore throat. The symptoms expand and worsen as the day goes by. A visit to the doctor confirms your suspicions: you have the flu. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests three steps you can take to prevent an outbreak of the flu in your family. • First, take time to get a flu vaccine. This is a simple step to take to give yourself one huge weapon against this illness, especially if you live in Faulkner County. Each fall, the Faulkner County Health Department holds an all-day flu shot clinic, where people of all ages are able to receive the vaccine free of charge. The Health Department employees and volunteers have this clinic organized down to a fine science, and you should be able to get in and out of the clinic in less than an hour, even at the most crowded times. The clinic is normally held at the McGee Center in west Conway. Keep your eye on the Log Cabin Democrat newspaper or call the Health Department for the dates in 2012. It is recommended that people of all ages who have chronic illnesses (asthma, diabetes, lung disease, heart disease) take a flu vaccine each year. Please check with your primary physician for more information and to set up a time to have the shot. Many health insurance policies will pay for some or all of the cost of a flu shot. Caregivers and those who work in the health-care industry or child-care industry are particularly encouraged to receive a flu shot. • Take every day preventive actions to stop the spread of germs. As a little child, how many times did your parents tell you to wash your hands? It’s a good practice to be in if you want to stay free of the flu. If you come in contact with someone who may have the flu, make sure you thoroughly wash your hands with soap and hot water. When you sneeze, cover your nose with a tissue or sneeze into the crook of your elbow. Promptly dispose of any soiled tissue so others don’t accidentally touch it or use it. Limit your

contact with anyone who has flu, and if you are the one who is sick, limit your contact with others who are uninfected. If you’re sick, stay home from work or school. • Take flu antiviral drugs if your doctor prescribes them. According to the CDC, if you get the flu, antiviral

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drugs can treat your illness. These are different from antibiotics — they are prescription medicines that are not available over the counter. The drugs can give you a milder form of the illness or shorten your sick time. The CDC says it is very important that antiviral drugs be used early (within

the first two days of symptoms) to treat people who are very sick/hospitalized, or are at an increased risk due to pregnancy or age. Visit the CDC web site at www.cdc. gov/flu/protect/preventing.htm for more information about preventing and treating the flu.


FLOORING

How to: Y

ou want to purchase new floor covering and the time is now. Your mind is already shifting into fast forward with issues such as: How do I get the look and feel I want? How do I know what floor covering is appropriate for my family and home? What floor covering allows me to make a good financial decision? Are there “green” options that allow me to do the right thing for the environment or meet my health needs? Sounds overwhelming, but with a little insight it is easier than you may have imagined. Carpet Let’s start with flooring options that are soft. Carpets come to mind. Not all carpets are created equal. Often when homes are first constructed, there is no real emotional attachment from a contractor. The goals are primarily style, color and budget. Therefore, price is often the determining factor in the carpet chosen for new construction. The type of carpet that fits these criteria is PETs (Polyethylene Terephthalate). PETs are made from recycled materials such as plastic water and coke bottles. They are often the most price conservative and environmentally responsible option. The yarn derived from this recycled formula is either a continuous filament or a staple. We won’t get too technical here, but a filament fiber doesn’t fuzz and fill your vacuum cleaner with fibers. While shopping for carpet, be sure to ask if its construction is continuous filament or a staple. For the buyer with concerns about clean-ability, longevity, and expression of individual taste the preferred option may be carpets made from nylon or

CHOOSE YOUR FLOOR COVERING

“Smart Strand”. Nylon fibers are often not recycled but also come in staple or filament. Again, certain styles may lend themselves to a staple construction, but just remember a staple will fuzz a little more. Nylon carpets will come in many different styles and colors. Some nylon carpets will be obviously softer than others. Thus, you may be drawn to how the carpet feels to help your decision. Let’s now talk about DuPont’s latest and greatest carpet fiber: “Smart Strand”. Currently, Mohawk is the sole manufacturer of “Smart Strand”. The fiber is made using a high percentage of bio-fuels from organic materials produced here in the United States, thus liked by those who are “green conscious”. Continuous filament is the only construction method offered in “Smart Strand” and the carpets are extremely soft. Clean-ability and wear-ability are possibly the highest in the industry and the styles and colors are fresh and wide ranging. In 2012, the newest offering from “Smart Strand” marketed as “SILK” promises to be the softest most durable carpet to date. Wood Next up is hard surfaces. Handscraped or sculpted engineered woods are the order of the day. The finishes are made to last and are more durable than the site-finished wood floors of the past. Instead of glue or staple down installation, a fast growing trend offering a more logical installation has recently been employed. This method is to “float” the floor over an existing sub floor. For the “DIYer” a floating floor is just the ticket. This method de-couples the wood from your sub floor allowing the natural

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expansion and contraction of your home to occur without the constant pressures applied to a permanently attached floor. This method will help save on future repairs and also makes for easier removal should styles change or there be some disaster that necessitates the removal of the wood. If choosing a click together floating wood, it is imperative to make sure the floor uses the “Unilin” locking mechanism. For those with an eye to the future take a look at wider plank wood floors that have a floating option. Tile Tile is most often used in kitchen and wet areas of the home. It is typically constructed from ceramic or porcelain. Porcelain tile is harder and more durable. Digital technology has perfected imaging to the point that one would be hard pressed to discern the differences between a well imaged tile and a cut stone such as slate, travertine, and marble. That said the “realistic stone look” is in and should hold its value longer than a tile just based on color. Tiles are getting larger but big may not always practical. Take a look at large rectangular tiles to truly bring your home up to date. Cork Cork is cool. Well actually it’s warm, but people’s thoughts regarding cork are that it looks relevant and cool. Cork is farmed from a renewable source. Thus, it’s environmentally friendly. It is soft to the feel and comes in more and more styles and colors. Cork is self healing and has a natural resistance to germs and fungi that may make our family sick. Easy to clean, installation friendly,

and affordable, what is not to like about cork? Vinyl There are many other types of flooring available to meet your individual taste or your family’s health or economic needs. Other options are vinyl sheet flooring, luxury vinyl tiles or vinyl planks. There are many styles in a wood or tile look, and colors too vast to mention. These vinyls can be permanently attached or floated. Again the trend is to float, but glue down installation is sometimes needed. Ask a trained flooring professional which method is best for you. When shopping for floors it is important to speak with a flooring specialist. It takes many years to gain the knowledge of a real professional, and that knowledge can save you much angst. Keep in mind materials that are environmentally friendly. Also, American jobs should be a priority. Ask where your flooring options are manufactured. What is the cost to our economy if we keep sending our money overseas? Ask if your wood flooring option is “Lacey Act” compliant. Be very careful and skeptical before buying over the internet. Warranties often do not apply and are shortened. Recourse is often impossible. Not to mention, how would you take delivery of a product at your street address that weighs potentially thousands of pounds and is difficult to handle and store? Think of your floors as an investment. Think of how you live and what your expectations and budget are. Then imagine how good it feels to be home enjoying your surroundings and choices.


REAL ESTATE

How to: Important Things You Should Know... • Look for an agent who is a member of the local board or association of REALTOR®s. • An agent should explain and disclose their role and who they represent at the first contact. • The agent should advise you on how to prepare your home for the market, including proper pricing. • The competitive market advantages this agent will give you. • What you can expect in the way of ongoing communication throughout the selling process

CHOOSE A REALTOR®

The sale of your home should involve a professional agent Who Is A Realtor®? The terms agent, broker and REALTOR® are often used interchangeably, but have very different meanings. For example, not all agents (also called salespersons) or brokers are REALTOR®s. As a prerequisite to selling real estate, a person must be licensed by the state of Arkansas either as an agent/ salesperson or as a broker. Before a license is issued, minimum standards for education, examinations and experience must be met. After receiving a real estate license, most agents go on to join their local board or association of REALTORS® and the National Association of REALTORS®, the world’s largest professional trade association. They can then call themselves REALTORS®. The term REALTOR® is a registered collective membership mark that identifies a real estate professional who is a member of the National Association of REALTOR®s and subscribes to its strict Code of Ethics (which in many cases goes beyond state law). In most areas, it is the REALTOR® who shares information on the homes they are marketing, through a Multiple Listing Service (MLS). Working with a REALTOR® who belongs to an MLS will give you access to the greatest number of homes. How To Evaluate An Agent Without any obligation, you can invite local REALTORS® to visit your home and give you a “marketing presentation” describing why they’re the best ones to market it for you. Two to three presentations will probably give you a good opportunity for choice. A marketing presentation includes having the REALTOR® review with you the reasons why you should list with that particular individual, and providing you with information that will assist you in making initial decisions about selling your home. Recent laws in every state have defined the duties of someone specifically retained as a real estate agent includ-

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• Alert you to potential risks. • Comply with the disclosures required by law including lead paint, mold, and property condition disclosures. • Help you prepare for a smooth closing of the transaction.

ing the disclosure of whether they represent a buyer and/or seller. Look For An Agent Who • Is a member of the local board of association of REALTORS®. • Explains and discloses agency relationships (the role of the agent, i.e., who they are representing (the buyer or the seller) early on in the process, • Advises you on how to prepare your home for the market. • Shows some enthusiasm for your property, listens attentively, instills confidence, operates in a professional manner, and has a complementary personality style to yours. • Has already researched your property in the public records and the MLS. • Brings data on nearby homes that have sold (or failed to sell) recently. What a Realtor® will do for you Some of the duties your REALTOR® will perform for you include: • Walk through the process of selling your home from beginning to end. • Providing the prices of other properties that have sold, and analyzing data to gain a true comparison. • Share information about your home through the Multiple Listing service and on the Internet. • Place advertisements for your home. • Field phone calls. • “Qualify” potential buyers to make sure they would be financially able to buy your property. • Negotiate the sales contract.

Selling On Your Own “You can get rid of the broker, but you cannot get rid of the broker’s work” is an old caution for those who intend to offer their homes “For Sale By Owner.” Selling on your own is not an easy undertaking. Often the primary reason (saving the commission) is “hi-jacked” by the buyer who expects the same savings. It requires a significant amount of time to study the process, understand your obligations, and do some of the complicated work that a real estate agent does. In addition, selling on your own requires extra help from outside professionals, such as REALTORS®, accountants or attorneys, for some of the jobs that require specific expertise. Questions To Ask An Agent • Are you a REALTOR®? • Do you have an active real estate license in good standing? • Do you belong to the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) • What have you listed or sold in the area lately? • Do you cooperate with buyers’ broker? • What share of the commission will you offer a cooperating broker who finds the buyer? • What is your marketing plan (i.e. advertising, internet, virtual tours, open houses, etc.)? • Do you prequalify potential buyers before showing the property? • What separates you and your company from your competition? • What is your success rate (also called sales rate)? • Where do you get your buyers from? • What is your list price to sale price ratio • What is your median days on market?


MEDICAL

How to: 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.

MAXIMIZE YOUR HEARING POTENTIAL

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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

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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 indi-

vidual 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.


ANTIQUES

How to: Important Things You Should Know... • An item must be 100 years old or older to be considered an antique. • An item less than 100 years has value commensurate with its desirability to collectors either on the basis of its artistic and historic value, its mass appeal or its association with a famous person, place or event. • Antique dealers who make claims about an item’s authenticity should be willing to back up the claims with a guarantee. • An item’s condition is a key determinant of its value. • Antiques malls provide an opportunity to shop for and compare antiques and collectibles under one roof.

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CHOOSE ANTIQUES

ccording to the producers of the Antiques Roadshow, the popular PBS program that travels to different cities providing appraisals of all types of artifacts, the word antique generally refers to an older object valued because of its aesthetic or historical significance. Antique, collectible defined A more precise term is used by dealers, however, and it was defined by The United States Customs Office in the 1930s. There was no duty on antiques, classified as works of art, shipped into the United States, and importers began labeling many objects as antiques to avoid paying duty. As a result, Customs officials required that an antique be something more than 100 years old. The term collectible refers to objects of value less than 100 years old. One type of collectible is an item that has artistic and historical value, such as a Tiffany lamp. Another type of collectible includes items that were or are mass produced. These collectibles may not have any artistic merit, but they have gained popularity with a segment of the public. Examples of this type of collectible include Beanie Babies and Pokemon cards. Objects that gain value because of their association with a famous person Marilyn Monroe, for example, or an event, such as a world’s fair are a third type of collectible. All collectibles will become antiques when they reach the 100-year mark, but that does not mean that they will increase in value or even continue to be collected. Who can predict the longevity of today’s collectibles, such as Barbie dolls and Mickey Mantle memorabilia? Although highly prized by baby boomers today, they may not survive as collectibles for boomers’ children and grandchildren. Shopping for antiques Books are written on how to shop for antiques. If location, location, location is the mantra of the real estate world, condition, condition, condition is the mantra of antiques buyers.

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For an antique to retain its value, it must be as close to its original condition as possible, given the expected effect of time and normal wear and tear. And as regular viewers of the Antiques Roadshow know, a toy or small item with its original packaging is much more valuable than those without. A piece of furniture that has been refinished, a piece of brass that has been refurbished to a high shine or a doll without its original clothes are greatly diminished in value for the true antiques collector. These items still have value, of course, and are marketable,

but their monetary value is less than for items still in tact with the patina of age. The single most important caveat for would-be antiques purchasers is to purchase only from dealers who will guarantee their claims about the authenticity of an item. That is not meant to imply that dealers are intent on deceiving buyers. It is a reflection of the reality that many items are of disputed origin and even the experts cannot agree on their authenticity. Good reproductions, items made and sold as copies, account for part of the problem in identifying originals. Experts, of course, know about reproductions and know how to differentiate between original works and reproductions. Dishonest individuals have been known to alter a good reproduction so that even experts are misled. For individuals who are looking for antiques as decorative items more than an investment, authenticity may not

be the primary factor in their decision. They are looking for a particular style or a particular piece to enhance the decor in a room. Or they may be looking for artifacts from their own early childhood. This search for nostalgia has led to an increased interest in antiques and collectibles. Consumers can find both and a lot more in antique malls. Antiques malls An antiques mall is a collection of vendors under one roof. Each vendor has an assigned area in which to display items for sale. Items may be heirloom-quality antiques, the contents of someone’s attic, painted furniture, hand-crafted furniture, jewelry old and new, vintage clothing and accessories. Some vendors may deal in new merchandise and collectibles. In other words, an antique mall is a place to browse for an afternoon, find a one-of-a-kind gift, search for decorating accessories for your home or just take a walk down memory lane. In general, vendors lease space in the building and display their wares. The owners and employees of the antiques mall maintain the store, serve customers and collect payments, which are distributed to the vendors on a regular schedule. Mall owners generally also collect a percentage of sales from each vendor. Vendors continually bring in new merchandise, and new vendors are ready to replace those who move out. Because of this constant turnover of merchandise, antiques malls are a favorite haunt of those who want the unique or unusual. There are a number of national associations for antiques dealers. Membership in one or more of these associations indicates the dealer is allied with similar businesses and may adhere to codes of conduct and business ethics: Antique and Collectible Show Promoters Association (ACSPA), Antiques and Collectibles Association (ACA), Antiques and Collectibles Dealers Association (ACDA), National Association of Antique Malls (NAAM) and the National Association of Collectors (NAC).


FINANCE

How to: 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.

S

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

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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.


INSURANCE

How to: 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-year-old 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 22 • LOG CABIN DEMOCRAT | HOW-TO GUIDE 2012

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.


LAWN CARE

How to:

CHOOSE A LAWN CARE SERVICE

A

well-maintained yard can improve your property values, provide wonderful curb appeal, give your family some extra usable living space and bring a relaxed feel to your lifestyle. Maintenance is crucial to keeping your lawn and garden healthy and beautiful. No matter the season, yard work is a part of life every week. Lawn care specialists can set you up on a lawn care program, which will consist of timely applications of fertilizer and herbicides to help control weeds in your lawn and keep it green and healthy. In the spring and summer you may be picking flowers or trimming shrubs. Local professionals can also help you learn which jobs need to be done at which times of the year — caring for flowering plants in the summer and spring and raking leaves and applying pre-emergents in the fall and winter, for instance. Lawn care services can be hired to do as much or as little maintenance as you would like. If you love gardening, have a green thumb and have some free time each week, you might decide you can do the majority of the maintenance yourself. If you have time constraints but still want to contribute some sweat equity, you may want to consider doing the lawn mowing and watering yourself, and hiring a lawn care service to do the mulching, leaf blowing and bagging and tree trimming. Some people may want to just play in their garden and leave all the maintenance to the professionals — and that’s great, too! Keep your family’s busy schedule — and your budget — in mind when determining what maintenance projects you can perform and which ones you need to leave to the professionals. In general, lawns should be mowed no less than weekly and should be cut no more than 1/3 of the blade at a time. That is, if it is 3 inches tall, only cut 1 inch off. By not mowing, weeds become immune to herbicides which can make them impossible to remove. Just like people, lawns need water to keep them hydrated and healthy. If possible, water one inch per week for

best results. By raking leaves, you will keep your lawn beautiful. Leaves can form a barrier between your lawn and the fertilizers and herbicides meant to keep them plush and full. Make sure you ask your lawn care specialist about any chemicals they might use on your lawn. Timely applications of fertilizer and herbicides are necessary to control weeds and keep your yard healthy. There may be regulations on types of

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chemicals that can be used in your city, or on the frequency of applications allowed. Make sure you check with your specialist on these issues, and definitely tell them if you have young children or pets. As with any chemical, it can be harmful to consume them. But, if you allow chemicals to dry before sending your children or pets outdoors, they’ll be safe and free to play. Ask your friends, co-workers and neighbors for recommendations of good

lawn care service providers. If you see a yard with beautiful grass, see if they will give you the name of the company they use. Word of mouth is invaluable in finding good, reputable companies. Many times, several families in your neighborhood will use the same lawn care service because of positive recommendations. Don’t be afraid to ask around, and make sure you find someone who makes you feel confident in their abilities.


RETIREMENT

How to: 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.

T

CHOOSE A RETIREMENT COMMUNITY

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-term-Care 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

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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.


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AUTOMOTIVE

How to:

CHOOSE A COLLISION REPAIR SHOP

U

nfortunately, accidents do happen, and sometimes they involve motor vehicles. Once the initial police reports and insurance claims are filed, it’s time to choose a collision repair shop. When choosing the professional you would like to use, there are many things to consider. You have invested a lot of money and time into your vehicle, so it is imperative to do your homework and find the shop that will best fit your needs. Also remember that your vehicle carries the most important people in your life — your family — throughout the world each day. A decision on who will fix your vehicle is not to be taken lightly. Some insurance companies have lists of shops they recommend to do collision repair on their insured vehicles. This is fine, but don’t let the insurance agency insist on the use of any particular repair shop. Ask your agent how they determined which shops to approve and if they guarantee their work. Also ask if the guarantees will not exist if you use a shop that is NOT one they recommend. By obtaining a list, you may have fewer shops to investigate, hopefully meaning you’ll be on the road more quickly. Visit each shop you are considering and meet the people who will actually be doing the work. Check out the diplomas on the wall for certification of the shop itself and for the individual mechanics. Many shops give their mechanics the opportunity to advance their education, which is a good deal for their customers. Make sure these people know the nuts and bolts of the job they are being asked to perform. Get estimates from each shop, and get the estimate in writing to avoid misunderstandings later. This is important for you, the customer, so you aren’t charged for unexpected work, and also for the auto shop, so they aren’t bombarded with unexpected complaints about the outcome of the repairs. Three or four estimates should be sufficient to find a reputable repair shop. Always ask if there are repairs that need to be done to the car that will not be covered by your insurance agency. If so, get a separate estimate for those so you know what you may need to spend out of pocket. Never make your decision based on price — just because a shop gives you the lowest estimate doesn’t necessarily mean it is the best choice for you. Make your choice based on your visit to the shop, recommendations from friends and even the advice of your insurance agent. Ask co-workers and friends what shop they use; why they use that particular shop; and will they use it again if needed. You can also contact the Better Business Bureau to find out more about the repair shops vying for your business. Check out the National Auto Body Council web site at www.autobodycouncil.org/ for more help on how to choose a reputable auto collision repair shop. LOG CABIN DEMOCRAT | HOW-TO GUIDE 2012 • 29


HEALTH

How to:

Select an Orthopaedic Surgeon

A

s it sometimes happens, your first encounter with an orthopaedic surgeon may be in the hospital emergency room after you have sustained an injury — a fractured ankle, for example, or a sprain. But how do you find an orthopaedic surgeon when there isn’t an emergency and you need a specialist to check out that sore knee or chronic shoulder pain? Here’s a look at what orthopaedists do and how to choose the one that’s right for you. According to the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons, “an orthopaedic surgeon is a physician devoted to the diagnosis, treatment, prevention and rehabilitation of injuries, disorders and diseases of the body’s musculoskeletal system. This system includes bones, joints, ligaments, muscles, nerves and tendons. While orthopaedic surgeons are familiar with all aspects of the musculoskeletal system, many orthopaedists specialize in certain areas, such as the foot and ankle, hand, shoulder and elbow, spine, hip or knee. Orthopaedic surgeons may also choose to focus on specific fields like pediatrics, trauma, reconstructive surgery, oncology (bone tumors) or sports medicine.” Some orthopaedists may specialize in several areas and may collaborate with other specialists, such as neurosurgeons or rheumatologists, in caring for patients. There are many musculoskeletal conditions that can be treated without surgery through the use of medication, exercise and other rehabilitative or alternative therapies. Who does an Orthopaedic Surgeon Treat? “Orthopaedic surgeons treat patients of all ages — newborns, children, athletes, baby boomers and the elderly — with conditions that range from bone and joint disorders and fractures to diseases or tears of the muscles, ligaments and tendons in all regions of the body. It is essential that patients and their families develop partnerships with their physicians. This will help ensure that decisions about medical treatments honor the patients’ wants, needs, preferences and values. Orthopaedic surgeons respect the value of diversity

and are committed to serving communities and individuals with unique needs.” (AAOS, tyyp://www.6.aaos.org/about/ public/definition.cfm) Things to Consider when Choosing an Orthopaedic Surgeon One of the first things to consider is the doctor’s level of education. An orthopedist may have completed up to 14 years of formal education, including four years of undergraduate education, four years in medical school, five years of concentrated study in an orthopaedic residency at a major medical center, and an additional year of specialty training. After becoming licensed to practice medicine, an orthopaedic surgeon completes board certification. To become board certified, an orthopaedic surgeon must undergo a peerreview process, and then demonstrate his/her expertise in orthopaedics by passing both oral and written examinations given by the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery. It is important to visit orthopaedic surgeons who are either board certified or in the process of becoming certified. Because orthopaedic surgeons complete a rigorous re-certification process every 10 years, they spend many hours studying and attending continuing medical education

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courses to maintain current orthopaedic knowledge and skills. Next, make sure the orthopaedist you choose has experience in your injury or condition. Chances are your primary care physician has already diagnosed your problem and has made the referral, but when you contact the orthopaedic clinic make sure to ask for the orthopaedist with experience for your problem. If your primary care physician hasn’t made a referral for you, ask for a recommendation of the best local orthopaedists. Talk to your friends. For common conditions, such as arthritis, ACL surgery, carpal tunnel, etc., you are likely to have co-workers, friends or family who know a good orthopaedist and will have firsthand experience. In addition, an excellent source of information is the AAOS website: www. aaos.org. Once you have made a selection, think about what you want to ask the doctor. During the course of an appointment, an orthopaedist will obtain a complete medical history, prescription drug/medication inventory, and description of the problem. Orthopaedists are skilled in the diagnosis of an injury or

disorder, prescribing treatment, recommending rehabilitation, and offering information on prevention. But, it’s still important to ask questions. Consider bringing a friend or family member with you to help you remember questions. Don’t be afraid to ask about your doctor’s credentials and experience. Here are some questions recommended by the American Association of Hip and Knee Surgeons: • Do you have written materials or videotapes about this surgery that I can review? • How much improvement can I expect from this surgery? • What is your experience doing this type of surgery, and how many have you done? • Are you board certified? • What are the risks involved? How likely are they? • What type of anesthesia will be used? What are the risks? • What type of implant will be used? What is the track record for this type of prosthesis? • Will I have to stop taking any of my medications before surgery? • What options are available to avoid a blood transfusion? • How long will I have to stay in the hospital? • How much pain is normal to expect and how long will it last? Will I receive medication for the pain? • When will I start physical therapy? Will I need home or outpatient therapy? • Will I need to arrange for some assistance at home? If so, for how long? • What limits will there be on activities, such as driving, bathing, climbing stairs, eating, etc.? • How long will I need to be off work? • How often will I need to return for follow-up visits? • What complications, if any, can arise after surgery? What are the signs to look for? Look for an experienced, well-regarded surgeon. Meet your orthopaedist to make sure you can work well with him/ her. Trust your instincts. If a meeting with a doctor does not go well, it doesn’t mean he/she is a bad doctor or you are a bad patient. It simply may mean the two of you are not a good fit.


FINANCE

How to: Important Things You Should Know... • Consulting a personal financial planner may be indicated at various times in a person’s life, for people in specific financial categories and for anyone within 30 years of retirement. • No specific education levels, licenses or certifications are required to become a financial planner. • Planners can seek and obtain certifications • Planners who offer investment products for sale may be required to obtain state licenses to perform such tasks. • Ask friends and colleagues for recommendations, and interview a prospective planner as you would an accountant, attorney or other professional who will be handling confidential financial information.

CHOOSE A FINANCIAL PLANNER

Complex financial decisions require professional assistance

F

inancial decisions have become more complex for most individuals. Two-income households, increasingly complex tax laws, financial deregulation and a greater variety of saving and investment options have increased the number of decisions an individual or family must make and the difficulty of those decisions. Today both middle- and upper-income families may have a need for a financial planner either at specific times or throughout the life span of the family. Personal financial advisers - also called financial planners or financial consultants - generally assess the financial needs of individuals and provide them with a wide range of options, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Handbook, 2002-03 Edition. Personal financial planners are professionals who design an overall strategy to meet specific financial objectives. Some of the issues they address are retirement planning, estate planning, tax law changes, funding for college and general investment options. Most planners are generalists and offer advice on a wide range of topics. Some specialize in areas such as estate planning or risk management. When to consult a planner Major life changes, such as a new job, a raise, marriage, parenthood, divorce, widowhood, or substantial inheritance or other windfall, are events that may prompt consultation with a financial planner. If you are within 30 years of retiring, a financial planner can help you plan for adequate retirement income. Or, if your financial affairs seem generally disorganized and without direction, a financial planner can help you measure where you are now, help you decide where you want to be and design a plan with options to meet your goals. Generally, single persons with an annual gross income more than $30,000 and married couples with a combined income of $40,000 or more may find a financial planner useful. If you earn substantially more, it is likely a financial planner could help you coordinate the advice you receive from other professionals and consultants such as your stockbroker, accountant and/or attorney.

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The planner’s job An adviser’s work begins with a consultation with the client, where the adviser obtains information about the client’s finances and financial goals. Based on the information provided by the client, the adviser draws up a comprehensive financial plan that includes an identification of problem areas and recommends steps to improve the financial status of the client. The plan will contain the adviser’s description of investments that would help the client meet goals, taking into consideration the client’s tolerance for risk, long- and short-term goals and current financial status. The plan may be discussed verbally, but most often it is presented to the client in writing. Financial advisers recommend an update at least once a year to evaluate the success or shortcomings of the plan and to review any changes that may be indicated. Normal and unexpected events in the client’s life can affect the overall plan, as can changes in the viability of the investments. According to the Department of Labor’s job description, personal financial planners may be involved in buying and selling financial products, such as mutual funds or insurance. Some also assume the management of their clients’ investments. Education and certification A college degree is not a prerequisite for becoming a personal financial adviser, although many in the profession hold bachelor’s degrees or post-graduate degrees. Certification is not required, but obtaining certifications, such as certified financial planner (CFP) or chartered financial consultant (ChFC) designations, can enhance professional standing. Certifications also assure prospective clients that the planner has extensive training and has demonstrated competency in the area of financial planning. The certified financial planner designation is issued by the CFP Board of Standards, which reviews relevant experience, education requirements and performance on a comprehensive examination. The certifying board also requires adherence to an enforceable code of ethics. The chartered financial consultant designation is issued by the American College in

Bryn Mawr, Penn. This designation indicates that the planner’s experience and completion of an eight-course study program have met the board’s requirements. Both designations carry a requirement for continuing education for maintaining standing with the certifying boards. There are no requirements for licensure for personal financial planners who limit their professional activities to evaluating their clients’ finances and making recommendations to reach financial goals. Financial planners who sell stocks, bonds, insurance or real estate as part of their professional activities often are required to obtain professional licenses from the state in which they practice. Fees Generally, financial planners charge the client an hourly fee for services, or they may charge a specified fee for the specific service performed. A fee for a comprehensive plan may vary depending on the complexity of the plan. When a planner manages a client’s assets, the fee for services may be a percentage of the assets under management. The purchase of any stocks, bonds, insurance, real estate or other investment instruments is a charge incurred by the client in addition to service fees. Selection process Selection of a personal financial planner requires the same careful process as choosing any professional service provider. Solicit recommendations from your friends and colleagues. Schedule an introductory appointment with at least two professionals so you will have a basis for comparison. Ask about education, experience, specialties, fees and scope of services provided. Assure yourself that the person you select is someone you trust and with whom you feel comfortable discussing personal financial matters. Conduct an interview in much the same way you would conduct an interview with a prospective employee. In effect, this individual, although an independent contractor, will be working for you. After you have selected your personal financial planner, continue to monitor your investments and financial status, working with your planner to evaluate your progress toward your goals and to make adjustments if necessary. In the final analysis, it is your money, your decision and your future.


MEDICAL

How to: 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 inuses 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.

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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 up36 • LOG CABIN DEMOCRAT | HOW-TO GUIDE 2012

per respiratory tract problems caused by allergies. Because this physician is also an ENT surgeon and special-

ist, 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 treatment. 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.


JEWELRY

How to: Important Things You Should Know... • Make sure your jeweler is the owner of the store. • The staff should be willing to educate and help the store’s customers. • The work should be done on the premises. • The store should handle well-known lines of watches and jewelry. • The store’s staff should be able to help you design and create fine jewelry.

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CHOOSE A JEWELER

Find someone you feel comfortable with who is willing to work with you.

isiting a jeweler can be an overwhelming experience because most shoppers simply don’t know enough about the intricacies of gemstones and precious metals to make their choices easily. That’s why finding a reputable and competent jeweler is so important. Any jeweler should be willing and able to show customers a variety of gemstones and jewelry in different shapes, sizes and qualities and should stock a broad selection of ring styles to enable you to decide which best fits your pocketbook. Your jeweler also should be able to help you learn to see with your own eyes why some diamonds of similar size differ greatly in value, or from a practical perspective — how you might reasonably select from a variety of different sizes, all priced similarly to fit your budget. All of us like to feel that we receive a good value when we make a major purchase. Take time to find what you want and where you want to buy it. Diamonds, for instance, can be confusing. Even if two diamonds are the same size, color and clarity, differences in the way they were cut, their finish and fluorescence can cause one to be worth much more than the other. Buying Gemstones Gemstones have been sought after and treasured throughout history. They have been found in ruins dating several thousand years. They are valued as gifts symbolizing love. Generally, the price of any gemstone is determined by size, cut, quality — which includes color, clarity, and treatments — and type. Here are some simple questions to ask about quality: • Has it been heat treated? • Is the stone natural or synthetic? • Are there any noticeable scratches, chips or inclusions? • Is the color even throughout the stone? • How strong is the color? Is it vivid?

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• If you are buying the stones for earrings or cufflinks, are the stones wellmatched? Simple Advice to Protect Jewelry Try to protect any jewelry from scratches, sharp blows, harsh chemicals, extreme temperatures and sunlight. Here’s some advice about how to keep your jewelry in good condition: • Store jewelry separately so it doesn’t scratch other jewelry. • When doing household tasks such as gardening and cleaning, be certain to remove rings. • Put your jewelry on after washing or bathing and applying any makeup or hair spray. • Never wear jewelry while swimming in a swimming pool. The chlorine can cause damage to various gemstones and gold. • Avoid storing your jewelry next to a heating vent, window sill or on a car’s dashboard. Store jewelry away from sunlight (sun may fade the gemstones). • Always store bead necklaces (such as lapis, pearls, etc.) flat; silk stretches over time. Do not store pearls in plastic bags. • Gemstones may become loose in their settings (and possibly fall out). Be certain that stones mounted in rings are not loose and don’t rattle. The prongs of a ring can and do wear down. If the

prongs wear down too much or break, you can lose the stone. Prongs are easily “retipped” by most jewelers to keep the stone secure. • Most jewelers will restring necklaces or reset stones (for a fee). • Sterling silver will polish up by rubbing or buffing it with a soft cotton cloth. Store silver in plastic bags with an interlocking seal to make it less prone to tarnish. Remember, also, that the hardness of stones plays into how they can be treated. Hardness is based on a gemtrade standard called the Mohs Scale. The higher the Mohs Scale number, the harder the stone. The highest Mohs Scale rating is 10, for diamonds. Anything rated less than 7 on the scale can be easily scratched -- coral, lapis lazuli, opal, pearl, turquoise, for instance. Gold, silver and platinum are at the soft end of the scale. Keys to a Fine Jeweler When you’re searching for a jeweler, remember that you may spend thousands of dollars over time at this business. It’s imperative to find someone you feel comfortable with and someone who is willing to work with you when you have questions about jewelry, repairs or perhaps special orders. Find a store where the owner is the jeweler, someone who works in the store on a regular basis and who knows his clientele and the business. Your chosen store should be able to design and create fine jewelry. The staff should be happy to spend time with customers to educate them about jewelry and what’s currently available on the market. Work should be done on the premises. After all, you’ve chosen your jeweler because of his or her expertise. Look for well-known jewelry and watch lines while you’re shopping. Your jeweler should offer free gift wrapping, in-town delivery and above all superb customer service combined with an expert staff.


CONSTRUCTION

How to:

FIND AND HIRE A CUSTOM BUILDER AND REMODELER

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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 or your new addition 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. Even your banker may have some observations since funds are usually doled out after a bank representative makes periodic progress inspections. 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 knowhow 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. 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

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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.


FURNITURE

How to: 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 illfitted 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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SHOP FOR FURNITURE

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

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

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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 man-made. Laminate: A laminate is a manmade 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.


AUTOMOTIVE

How to: 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.

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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 familyowned towing businesses. So when your car breaks down, deciding which towing service to call can be a 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

• Be aware of which local wrecker service is the preferred service provider for AAA roadside assistance.

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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.


LAW

How to: Important Things You Should Know... • Clarify your objectives to better match your needs and expectations with the right attorney for you. • Use the referrals of personal and business acquaintances and the state Bar Association to make a list of potential candidates. • Narrow your list by finding out about attorney specialties and reputation and experience. • Interview potential candidates by including your discussion questions about their experience and success with cases of a similar nature, as well as fee structures and costs generally associated with your kind of case. • Feel confident in your decision, knowing that you have researched the options open to you thoroughly!

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FIND AN ELDER LAW ATTORNEY

The right one can assist you with estate planning needs

electing an attorney who can effectively represent your personal or professional interests is one of the most important decisions you will make. Naturally, you will want to be able to trust your attorney with some of your most significant and sometimes sensitive issues; your confidence in the attorney you choose is critical. Having a clear understanding of your objectives is an integral part of finding the attorney who is best equipped to help you achieve your desired results. By keeping a few general guidelines in mind, you could be well on your way to making the most informed choice possible. How do I know if I need an Elder Law Attorney? The area of law referred to as “Elder Law” is a quickly growing and constantly changing area of the law. In addition to the traditional estate planning work, an Elder Law attorney will also assist clients with Medicaid Planning, Veterans Benefits, Guardianships, End of Life planning, Retirement planning, and health related planning. Most law firms have basic estate planning as a service, but very few focus their practice on elder law. If you (or a loved one) is in need of legal advice having to do with end of life planning, an Elder Law attorney is a must. In any case, you should first evaluate your specific needs and objectives and then seek to match those requirements with an Elder Law attorney who has the appropriate qualifications and with whom you feel comfortable. How Can I Find an Attorney who can help me? Once you have clarified your objectives, you are ready to make a list of potential candidates. This list can be compiled using information based on personal referrals from others you know who currently have or have had needs similar to your own. If you are already acquainted with an attorney, ask for his or her recommendations.

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Today, many attorneys utilize advertising as a means of “getting the word out” about their skills and area of specialty. Additionally, you can research attorneys who have established a presence on the worldwide web. Bear in mind that, as with any brochure or paid advertisement, Web sites promote the services of a specific attorney or firm and may contain information of a semi-objective nature. Another valuable resource is the Georgia Bar Association. Although the Bar Association does not provide referral sources, the organization can provide you with a list of attorneys who specialize in the area of emphasis for which you need expert advice. You Have Your List. Now What? Now that you have a list of candidates you can begin the process of choosing the right attorney for your purposes. You have already researched the attorneys and firms on your list using the resources at hand such as brochures, personal/ professional references and web sites. Armed with that knowledge, you should begin contacting the attorneys in whom you are most interested and schedule interviews with them. The interview process is the appropriate time for you to ascertain the particulars of your potential working relationship, should you choose that attorney or firm. As you detail your needs and expectations, firms should be able to let you know such things as the name of the attorney who will be charged with handling your affairs, the last time a similar case arose as well as its outcome and how the firm stays up-to-date in that area of the law. Be mindful that experience matters in important legal issues. Additionally, if more than one attorney will be assigned to your matter, ask to speak with all the members of the team who will be of counsel. Further, ask for a general timeline for the expected resolution of matter of the kind for which you are seeking services and convey your

expectations for being updated periodically during the process. Finally, be sure to discuss the fees and costs associated with the type of work you are requesting. Many attorneys and firms bill hourly, while others utilize a flat-fee payment arrangement. For some cases, a retainer fee (a lump-sum payment) is required; thoroughly investigate the costs covered by a retainer agreement so there are no surprises down the road. Other costs of which you should be aware include long-distance phone, copy and deposition charges as well as mailing or expert witness fees. Do not be alarmed if an attorney cannot provide you with an exact, to-the-penny cost; however, do ask him or her to identify the types of services your case generally requires. Other attorneys only charge on a contingency basis and charge a percentage if they actually win a lawsuit on your behalf. Choosing the Right Attorney At this point, you have conducted your research and met with prospective firms and attorneys. Hopefully, you have been able to gather enough information to make a selection with which you can be completely satisfied. The time that you have invested in finding the right attorney to handle you needs is about to pay off. As you make your decision, you will want to keep in mind such things as your budget, your timeline for resolution if applicable, the number of similar cases with which your prospective candidate has experience and success, and the rapport you established during the interview process. All of these aspects will combine to help create your level of confidence in your chosen attorney’s abilities and will hopefully result in a mutually advantageous relationship. Now that you have made the most informed choice possible, you can enjoy the benefits of having selected an attorney who meets all of you needs.


PLANNING AHEAD

How to: 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 to 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 clos-

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est 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, estate 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 cemetery 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.


AUTOMOTIVE

How to: 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.

P

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 supplyand-demand-controlled market. When vehicles are in short supply prices tend

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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.


EXERCISE

How to: Important Things You Should Know... • Pick shoes that are designed for your sport. • Pick comfortable shoes that fit. • Pick shoes within your budget

PICK THE BEST ATHLETIC SHOES

R

egardless of what sport or exercise activity you participate in, shoes are of crucial importance. After all, they are the only thing separating your toes from the pavement. It’s important to remember that different sports and exercise activities require different shoes. The most common athletic shoes are hiking boots, running shoes, walking shoes, basketball shoes, tennis shoes, football cleats, golf shoes and softball/baseball cleats. The following information will explain the difference in shoes and why they are necessary in certain activities. Hiking Boots: If you plan on walking along mountain trails or doing extensive hiking, hiking boots are a necessity. Hiking boots provide plenty of cushion and ankle support, crucial to protect your body from those sneaky tree roots that trip us the best of us. Cleats: • Football cleats, not only provide cushion and some ankle support, but also protect players from slipping on field turf. The sharp, pointy spikes keep players upright while they drive toward the goal line. • Softball/baseball cleats are similar to football cleats, but they are not interchangeable. Generally, softball and baseball cleats have chunkier, plastic spikes.

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These spikes help baseball and softball players push off the base and gain top speed. These cleats are available in high and low-top versions. High-top cleats, obviously, provide more ankle support. • Golf shoes are, in fact, a type of cleat. The spikes in golf cleats, again, protect a golfer from slipping on the golf course. While driving the ball, golf shoes are particularly important in maintaining proper balance. Many courses now require soft spikes, so make sure those are what you buy. Basketball Shoes: The casual basketball player may not see the importance of buying basketball shoes (originally referred to as court shoes). Basketball shoes provide ample cushion and ankle support. The cushioning is very important in basketball due to constant running and jumping in the game. Unlike running shoes, basketball shoes have smooth tread. Tennis Shoes: Another type of court shoes, tennis shoes also provide ankle support and cushioning required because of the constant changing of directions and stopping and starting in the game. Walking Shoes: Similar to running shoes, walking shoes have tons of cushioning and ankle support, but minimal tread. Walking shoes are great for neighborhood evening strolls or short hikes on flat, smooth surfaces.

Running Shoes: Like other types of athletic shoes, running shoes have evolved dramatically throughout the past twenty years. Motion-control shoes are designed to provide maximum rear-foot support. Meanwhile, cushioned and stability shoes provide support for runners that do not have stride problems. Finally, racers or runners focused on speed work generally prefer lightweight trainers. Now, how do you pick the best athletic shoes? Step 1: Decide what function the shoe will be used to meet. If you plan on playing basketball, select a pair of basketball shoes. Step 2: Do your shoe homework. Try to research the type of shoe that you are interest in buying. Look on the internet or in health magazines. Often health magazines such as Runner’s World rate the top 10 best shoes in certain categories. By doing your homework, you’ll know what shoes are duds. Step 3: Comfort. If the shoe is not comfortable, don’t buy it. Many shoes stores have a track or area to run or walk around. If not, walk around the store and jump around to test the support and cushioning. Be sure to test the shoes before you buy them; don’t settle for an uncomfortable shoe. Step 4: Price. Price should not be your primary concern. Everyone has a budget, but the old adage of “you get what you pay for” is often true. Many local sporting goods or shoe stores have great sales, especially on last year’s model. Just make sure that these shoes are comfortable to you, providing the support that you need. Step 5: If the shoe fits, wear it. Make sure that the shoes fit properly on your foot. Sometimes people buy shoes that are too small or big. Small shoes will make blisters on your feet, while shoes that are too big won’t provide proper support. Step 6: Style. Generally, teenagers and children are the most obsessed with style. But, style costs. If you must have the season’s latest style, expect to pay a higher cost. Style should be the least important factor in selecting athletic shoes.


RESTAURANT

How to: E

CHOOSE A RESTAURANT

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

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 54 • LOG CABIN DEMOCRAT | HOW-TO GUIDE 2012

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 maitre 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, sauté 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 entrée 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 entrée price since you get two meals. Here’s a tip if you have young children. Stop at a fast-food 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.


EDUCATION

How to:

CHOOSE A COLLEGE

W

e make thousands of decisions every day, but few of them are more important or more life changing than deciding where you should go to college. With over 100 colleges and universities in Arkansas alone, the process of choosing where to further your education can be a bit overwhelming. Just because a college is the biggest or most popular, it doesn’t mean that it will be the best fit for you as a student. There are many factors to consider insuring that your college experience is the most beneficial to you and your career goals. The criteria for choosing a college is different for every student, but luckily every college is different as well. It may take some time, but eventually everyone should be able to find a college that fits them perfectly. The important part is that you start early. There are a lot of decisions to be made, people to talk to, campuses to visit, and paperwork to fill out. The sooner you start, the easier and more stress-free the process becomes. One of the primary concerns for students when choosing which college to attend is location. Some students prefer to stay close to home so they can be near their families or continue working at their current jobs. For those students, there will usually be a 4 year university or community college nearby. Just because you want to stay close to home for college doesn’t mean that you can only consider the college that is closest to your house. Sometimes a slightly longer commute is worth getting the type of education you want. Other students want to experience living in a new place so they will look for schools far away from home. While new experiences can sometimes be an important part of your college experience, you will need to take additional things into consideration when living away from home for school. How much is the cost of living in the new town? Is on-campus housing an option? If you plan on working while you are attending that school, you will need to make sure there will be job opportunities in the area. What are your transportation options? Another big concern for potential students is the size of the campus. Some

will want a huge campus with large classes, renowned sports teams, Greek life, extracurricular activities and tons of new people to meet. Others may prefer a smaller school with a small campus, fewer students, and a more relaxed atmosphere. Keep in mind that these traits aren’t always consistent with campus sizes. For example, sometimes small schools have great sports teams and sometimes large schools may have a lot of students but still have smaller class sizes. You will want to have an idea in mind of what you would like to study. Each college will vary in which degrees they offer. If you know what you would like to study while in college, you will want to look for a school that has a strong program in that field of study. Whether or not you have decided on what you would like to get your degree in, you should look to see what the schools have to offer. The last thing you want to do is be in your second year of school and realize that you aren’t really interested in any of the degrees that school has to offer. You might even discover a degree that interests you that you didn’t even know existed. Did you know you can get a degree in things like Golf Course Management, Bakery Science, Comic Book Art, or Petroleum Technology? One unavoidable obstacle in choosing where to continue your education is the cost. While each school will offer a great education, private colleges tend to cost more per semester than a state-funded university, and two-year colleges are almost always the most affordable option. Even though the costs of college can be expensive, it shouldn’t stop you from

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going where you want to go. Schools offer many different kinds of financial aid like scholarships, grants, and loans to help you overcome the price of tuition. Once your educational goals are in mind, you will be able to start narrowing down your choices. During this process, it is very important to take a lot of notes. After looking at just a few colleges, they will all start to blend together and you will want to make sure that you have a list of notes about things you like and don’t like from each school that you can use as a reference when it comes down to the decision- making process. If you are just finishing up high school, you have probably already started receiving information from schools. This is a great place to start, but you shouldn’t limit your options to just these schools. For anyone looking for a college, the internet is by far your best resource to begin narrowing down schools. Start by visiting the websites for colleges that interest you. From the website you should be able to find where the school falls in each of the preferences you chose from the options mentioned above. Don’t be influenced by who has the most interesting or fun website; instead, use the website for information gathering. Another big resource on the internet is social media. This will be your best option for hearing about a school from the students. This is important because most of the information you gather directly from the schools will be what the school wants to show you. Social media will allow you to hear thoughts and opinions from students who actually attend that school. If the school has a Facebook page, blog, or some other social

media outlet, use it. Ask the students what they think. You might be surprised at the positive or negative things you will hear. If you have a resource like Facebook or Twitter available to you, ask your own friends and followers if they have opinions on specific schools. You may have friends that already go to a school you are considering or they may have a suggestion for a school you hadn’t even thought about yet. Once you have narrowed your choices down to three or four schools, it’s time to go see the school first-hand. Contact the admissions office at the school and schedule a day to come visit. Most schools have the option to take a tour or have specific visitation days. Bring a camera, take pictures, ask questions, and remember to keep taking notes. Have a list of any questions you might have so you don’t forget to ask them. Even if the tour is only an hour or so long, plan on spending a full day on the visit. This will allow you time get a true feel for what campus life will be like, eat in the student cafeteria, talk to students, take a second look at places that interested you on the tour, and to soak in the overall atmosphere of the school. Be sure to take a look at the town in which the college is located. Is it geared toward students? Are restaurants, shopping and entertainment easy to access? All of these things may seem like small details, but even the small details become important when you are talking about spending the next several years of your life there. After all of that, you should have a clear picture of which schools you would like to attend, team up with your counselor or the campus’s admissions office for help applying for admission and financial aid, if needed. It helps to apply to multiple schools if possible. That way, if your first choice doesn’t work out, you will have more options available to you. College can be an amazing and wonderful experience as long as you took the time and care in choosing which school is right for you. If you are wondering when would be the best time to start, the answer to that is “Right now.” It’s never too early to begin searching for a place to start one of the most meaningful journeys of your life.


MEDICAL

How to: 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

T

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

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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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