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PRICELESS

BFOHEALTH.COM

DECEMBER 2020 • ISSUE 74

6 Foods to Help Fight Depression Feeling blue lately? A tad blah? You’re not alone. According to findings from government-funded COVID Response Tracking Study released in June, Americans are the unhappiest they’ve been in 50 years. Writer Anne Palumbo presents six foods that show promise in helping improve mood and fight depression. P. 10

Multivitamins really are magic pills for your health, a new study contends — but just not the way you might think. P. 9

How a Writer’s Family in WNY Has Been Affected by COVID-19 Writer Catherine Miller discuss how COVID-19 spread among her family members, including her grandson Jack. Page 5

Are the Benefits of Multivitamins All in Your Head?

Boost Vitamin C with Portable Clementines P. 11

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Great Gifts for Healthcare Providers P. 13


Positive For COVID-19? Isolate, Tell Friends and Household Contacts To Quarantine “We can stop community transmission of COVID-19, but we need your help.”

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ew daily COVID-19 cases in November have been the highest seen within Erie County since the start of the pandemic, with few signs of slowing down soon. Erie County Department of Health (ECDOH) contact tracers are working through a caseload that can only be described as crushing. “Our epidemiology team has added staff and shared some contact tracing tasks with the New York State Department of Health,” said Commissioner of Health Gale Burstein. “But even with that, there is a delay between when some people find out they have a positive COVID test result, when we can call them to explain isolation, and when we can notify their close contacts of the need to quarantine.” Individuals who have been told of a positive COVID-19 test result by their physician, pharmacy, health care facility or laboratory must isolate for 10 days past the onset of symptoms or 10 days past the date of

their positive test sample collection (if no symptoms). Close contacts and household members of an individual with a positive test results must quarantine for 14 days past the last date of exposure. Close contacts of a positive case should have a diagnostic COVID-19 test about five days after their last date of exposure. A negative diagnostic COVID-19 test does not end or shorten the quarantine period. Call 716-858-2929 to schedule a free test through ECDOH. Call 1-888-3643065 to schedule a free test through the New York State Department of Health at a site in downtown Buffalo. Other local sites are listed on a searchable online map at www.erie. gov/covidtestsites.  “ECDOH is asking physicians, pharmacies, healthcare organizations and any site that provides COVID diagnostic testing to help us,” Burstein said. “Educate your patients about how to safely isolate and quarantine, and why it is important for their household’s health and for the health

of our community.” “Isolation and quarantine are designed to separate an individual from other people during a time when they could transmit disease,” explained Burstein. “This is among the most important tools we have to break the chain of transmission in a community, and right now Erie County is seeing evidence of uncontrolled community transmission. We can stop community transmission of COVID-19, but we need your help. We have to work hard to reduce the number of new infections.” “Right now, we are asking employers whose employees tell them that they need to isolate or quarantine to give them the benefit of the doubt, and allow them to complete a full 14 days of quarantine,” said Burstein. “And please, do not encourage or suggest that employees come to work when sick. If you are sick, stay home from work, school and other activities.” If you are in isolation and quarantine, take extra care if you live with individuals who are at high risk for COVID-19 complications, including older adults, individuals with chron-

ic medical conditions, and individuals with disabilities.   Call your doctor with questions about your own health and for advice on managing symptoms. If you are having trouble breathing or are experiencing severe symptoms, call 911. Notify 911 that you are in isolation or quarantine for COVID-19.   Support for Basic Needs Staying at home for an extended period, especially if one or more people in a household are ill, can make accessing basic needs like food and medicine a challenge. If you are in isolation or quarantine and need help with basic needs, call 211(www.211wny.org). or the Erie County COVID-19 information line at 716858-2929. People who are unable to safely isolate or quarantine should call 716-858-2929 to ask for assistance. Submitted by Erie County Department of Health.

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f it feels like the pandemic is dragging on endlessly, you are not alone. That feeling is ubiquitous in fact that it has been dubbed “COVID fatigue.” Though not a clinical diagnosis, the term describes a common feeling of resulting from life changes resulting from the pandemic. Wearing masks, little or too much work, changes in schooling, fear of the virus striking, lack of socializing and entertainment, shortages of goods or services and remote everything all add up to COVID-19 fatigue. It may seem immature to some people that the pandemic has caused stress for people not sickened by it; however, Anna Shurmantz, licensed clinical social worker and owner of Shurmantz Counseling, LCSW, PC in Cheektowaga, wants people to feel validated in their emotions about the pandemic. “Life changed for the entire world on a dime,” she said. “We know that for the vast majority of people, when something changes in your life that you did not want to see changed, you go through a grieving process. People are angry. People are isolated. They miss the life they had expected to have this year.” It won’t be the usual big holiday gathering, office party and other familiar traditions this year. It is fine to feel sad about that. Reminders of “be grateful it’s not worse” tend to minimize and dismiss real emotions sparked by the pandemic. For those with existing mental health challenges, the restrictions caused by the pandemic add further strain. Shurmantz mentioned seasonal affective disorder as one example. Isolation, changes in routines and uncertainty can exacerbate some mental health issues. “A lot of people are feeling socially isolated,” Shurmantz said. “Reach out to friends, family and support systems. Facetime and Zoom aren’t the same as face to face, but it’s better than nothing.” Shurmantz also thinks getting

outside can be helpful in relieving stress. Staying isolated and indoors can become wearisome. Shawn Marie Cichowski, life coach and owner of Western New York Life Coaching in Williamsville, said that “people need to prioritize their self-care.” That especially includes boosting the immune system through proper rest, diet and stress relief. Thinking about what is in one’s control can help drive a healthy purpose in life. “Have plants indoors and water them,” Cichowski said. “Fill your bird feeders. Make your bed. Have these self-care rituals. Exercise and enjoy your pets. “Be creative. Put your energy toward something.” Tackling home repair, organization or craft projects can bring a sense of accomplishment. Cichowski warned against holing up and isolating, especially while skimping on self-care. “That’s when people turn to maladaptive ways like abusing drugs and alcohol,” she said. “Find support. That’s what I encourage the most.” Connecting with loved ones through Zoom, texting or phone calls can help fight off loneliness. Never assume that no one cares. Others feel lonesome, too. Cichowski also encourages giving back to others in a physically safe way. Many charities have curtailed their fundraising events and could use assistance. Consider donating items they need or helping financially, if possible. Reaching out to therapists for help is important. Most therapists offer remote sessions. While some may not find it as helpful as in-person therapy, it can still provide much benefit. Anyone who contemplates self -harm or harming others should seek emergency help.

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IN GOOD HEALTH – Buffalo & WNY’s Healthcare Newspaper

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Buffalo subspecialty. Tell us more about that. Cheektowaga Niagara Falls Cheektowaga A: My training is mainly dealing Lockport Niagara Falls with urologic oncology. We do a bit Niagara Falls Friday, August general 2020 urology, but our main Lockport of14, Lockport focus is urological cancers and their

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patients? A: Some of the most common issues are urine leak and issues with urination. This can be from bladder dysfunction after certain types of sur gery or a benign enlargement of the prostate, which can happen as men get older. In some situations, it can significantly affect quality of life or Call (716) 986-9199 Ext. 5907 to schedule an even the ability to make plans. You can come toof us for a candid discusappointment for this day ahead time. sion about what’s going on, and we can offer you solutions to help you your health and confidence. Free giveaways and healthregain information! Q: How treatable are the types of sexual health issues? Like us on Face Book! A: Basically, the range of treatments can vary widely. We can start with physical therapy and then, if we need to, add medication. So we might start with exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor muscle. We even have an app that helps instruct the patient in how to do the exercises in the right way and monitor their progression. We’re also running studies on urine control using just exercises over time. Q: What sort of options are available for patients who are having these issues? A: There are medications erving estern ew ork we can use, particularly for sexual dysfunction. The A monthly newspaper published by medications are very tolerable and most patients imLocal News, Inc. Distribution: 32,500 prove after taking them. The copies throughout more than 1,500 response to the medications high-traffic locations in the region depends on the patient’s age, and the baseline sexual function. In Good Health is published 12 times a year by Local News, Inc. If the patient didn’t have good sexual functioning prior © 2020 by Local News, Inc. All rights reserved. to a surgery, then the 3380 Sheridan Dr., # 251 • P.O. Box 550, Amherst NY 14226 chances of them Phone: 716-332-0640 • Fax: 716-332-0779 • Email: editor@bfohealth.com recovering Editor & Publisher: Wagner Dotto • Associate Editor: Lou Sorendo • Writers: Deborah J. sexual function Sergeant, Jim Miller, Gwenn Voelckers, Anne Palumbo, Chris Motola, George W. Chapman, after a surMichael J. Billoni, Catherine Miller, Nancy Caridllo, Julie Halm gery become Advertising: Anne Westcott, Amy Gagliano • Layout & Design: Dylon Clew-Thomas less. In that Office Manager: Nancy Niet case, they may need No material may be reproduced in whole or in part from this publication without the express written

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IN GOOD HEALTH – Buffalo & WNY’s Healthcare Newspaper • December 2020

Lifelines

Position: Urologic oncologist at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center Hometown: Cairo, Egypt Affiliations: Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center; Mount St. Mary’s Hospital Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center Education: Cairo University Medical School, Cairo, Egypt; Royal College of Surgeons, United Kingdom Organizations: American Urologic Association; Society of Urologic Oncology Family: Married, one daughter Hobbies: Basketball; jogging; reading

more treatment in addition to education. And the final thing that matters with regard to sexual function is our ability to preserve nerves during the surgery. In most cases we’re able to perform nerve-sparing surgery. If the medications don’t work, we kind of take it to the next level, with options such as injections or even a vacuum device. Q: One of the other issues you see is erectile dysfunction — what can cause that? A: In addition to surgery, even more common is cardiovascular disease. An early sign of cardiovascular disease can be erectile dysfunction. We advise patients to start exercising, watch their diet, stop smoking — all of that is to improve their cardiovascular health, which in turn reduces your chances of having erectile dysfunction. At the very least, it can help avoid the more invasive treatments. Q: It sounds kind of like it can be a multidisciplinary problem. Is that the case? A: Yes. Your side effects do not have to be permanent. Addressing men’s sexual health issues in cancer care is as vital as physical therapy, mental health, and pain management. We often work with experts across all disciplines — from primary care to cardiology and psychiatry.


Baby Jack, Catherine Miller’s grandson, not a happy camper after contracting coronavirus. Many in Miller’s family tested positive after

How a Writer’s Family in WNY Has Been Affected by COVID-19

‘The virus spread like wildfire ... my husband and I, my son and daughter, four other family members from various households — we all tested positive’ By Catherine Miller

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y family found out the hard way that the spread of the coronavirus happens quickly, easily and the virus is often spread before symptoms occur. When my father died Tuesday before Halloween (not related to COVID-19), a few close friends stopped by to offer condolences. Three nights later I joined my siblings and cousins in an informal get-together in memory of my father. While I was feeling fine that Friday night I awoke Halloween morning feeling sluggish, congested and overall just “under the weather.” My daughter had a cold two weeks earlier and I attributed my illness to the same. I was unaware that I had been exposed to the coronavirus the prior Tuesday from a friend who was asymptomatic. As a result, I then exposed others to the virus that Friday evening despite being asymptomatic myself. That Halloween evening my son and his wife stopped by briefly to show off my two grandkids in their costumes. I kept a distance as to not share “my cold.” By then it was too late. The following Wednesday, eight days after initial exposure, I lost my sense of smell — a tell-tale sign of COVID-19. On the same day, the friend who had visited the prior Tuesday told me that she had tested positive for the virus. My husband left work and he and I immediately went to get tested,

as my husband had just begun to feel ill. My daughter, a recent college graduate living at home, had no symptoms and immediately packed a bag and moved to a friend’s house to avoid further exposure. Regardless, the virus spread like wildfire. As the next two weeks unfolded, my husband and I both received positive results, my son and daughter contracted the virus, and four other family members from various households from our Friday night event also tested positive. From that point many of their families were exposed, and more have shown signs and symptoms of the virus and are awaiting test results. In turn, each of the exposed persons working outside the home exposed their co-workers at their places of employment. In my husband’s instance each person working with him from the time of his exposure to the onset of his symptoms was sent home to quarantine. Deep cleaning was conducted at each of the offices he worked at, and two of the offices had to close for several days due to staffing issues. We had set off a domino effect. As I work from home my exposure was limited to the family. My symptoms consisted of two days of feeling like I was hit by a truck and two weeks of fatigue. I never had a fever or experienced the standard cough that has been noted with the virus. The lack of smell was the oddest symptom, and my appetite

was nearly non-existent. Overall, my symptoms were minimal. My sisterin-law was not so fortunate. She was diagnosed with pneumonia, experienced extreme nausea and suffered with her symptoms for over two weeks. Since the onset of COVID-19 in our family, we have learned that vitamin C, vitamin D and zinc can aid in boosting the immune system and minimizing symptoms. Testing at the first sign of symptoms helps to identify positive cases, but from what our family experienced if you know you were exposed to the virus assume you are positive until you get a negative test result, and quarantine once exposed. People in the same household with an exposed person should wear a mask and avoid common areas with that person until test results are obtained. It is difficult to look back at the course of events and say what I would do differently to avoid the spreading of the virus. I was exposed and exposed others before symptoms surfaced. Once my exposure was known I immediately informed all those I was in contact with of their possible exposure. As of my first symptom though I should have avoided all contact with those outside of my home. If you are experiencing symptoms or think you were exposed avoid others and get tested immediately. The WellNow Urgent Care

December 2020 •

Clinics and MAC Centers in our area offer COVID-19 testing. Additional sites can be found on the Erie County website at www2.erie.gov. The WellNow facility I visited was quick and efficient, and they called me to relay my positive test result. A member of the Erie County Health Department contacted each family member after we received a positive test result and asked a myriad of questions regarding our contact with others and if we had notified all others of our test result. One suggestion from the health department was to download its “COVID Alert NY” app, which can be used on your phone. It is a mobile contact tracing app that is anonymous, voluntary, and can alert you to potential exposure risks of people you have been in the immediate area of, whether at a restaurant, store, or work environment. The system will notify you if you have been in the vicinity of someone that has tested positive, allowing you to take immediate action. In the words of It’s a Wonderful Life, “Each man’s life touches so many others.” This is true in the good times as well as the bad. Despite all best efforts to control the coronavirus, exposure will happen. We can limit it and try to avoid it but, this season, it is part of our lives. Wear your mask, keep a distance between you and others, and avoid crowds. And realize that just because you feel fine doesn’t mean you are. Assume you can pass on the virus and plan events accordingly. And when you do spend time with others — cherish each moment. Catherine Miller is a contributor writer to In Good Health. She lives in Buffalo with her family.

IN GOOD HEALTH – Buffalo & WNY’s Healthcare Newspaper

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Live Alone & Thrive

By Gwenn Voelckers

Practical tips, advice and hope for those who live alone

In COVID-19 Times: Uplifting Gift Ideas for Those Who Live Alone

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his column is for all of you who have friends or family members who live alone. In December, most folks look forward to joyous holiday time filled with family gatherings, laughter, cheer and gift giving. This year will be different for all of us, but it promises to be particularly challenging for those who live alone or are temporarily isolating due to COVID-19. Feelings of loneliness and anxiety will likely be more pronounced. What can you do to add a little “merry” to the holidays for those who live alone? You can give the gift of time together — probably the most welcome and cherished gift of all — with phone calls, video chats and Zoom gatherings. You can also give a thoughtful gift to lift a spirit, safeguard a loved one and warm a heart. Below, I’ve compiled a list of gift ideas for you. Some are practical, others personal, all are designed to put a smile on the face of someone who lives alone.

For Fun

• A subscription to online lessons, classes, workshops and tutorials. Do you have a single friend who

aspires to play the ukulele? Check out online music lessons. A divorced sister who eats supper directly from the take-out container? Consider a virtual cooking class. Or a widowed mother interested in life-long learning? A continuing education course might delight her. There are so many possibilities! • A “Be my guest!” gift certificate (for the future) to a movie, concert, art opening or theater production. And, when things open up, insist on doing the driving. • A bottle of Champagne and invitation to join you and others on New Year’s Eve for a virtual party. This can be a challenging night for those who are newly divorced or widowed. Years ago, after my divorce, I popped the cork with my sister and her husband. I was deeply grateful for their invitation to spend the evening together. It got my new year off to a great start.

For Safety

• An AAA membership. I don’t leave home without it. A flat tire, an empty tank, a lost key — I’ve been there. Just last week, I locked my keys in the trunk of my car. AAA was there within the hour to pry my

s d i K Corner

Is the Pandemic Harming Kids’ Mental Health?

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window open, unlock the door and release my trunk latch. This is a gift worth its weight in gold. • Handy tools for emergencies or life’s unexpected moments. Consider a compact “no-battery” wind-up flashlight/radio with a hand crank. Or a Johnson & Johnson All-Purpose First Aid Kit. These are two of my prized possessions. • How about a Swiss Army knife, complete with a screwdriver, scissors, toothpick and tweezers? It even comes with a nail file and a highly coveted corkscrew. • A front-entrance motion sensor light that will illuminate your front porch after the sun goes down. This energy-saving device will light the way for visitors (a new suitor?) and may also scare off intruders and critters. Those who live alone will appreciate the peace of mind. • A gift certificate for car washes. While not necessarily a “safety gift,” I always feel better when my car is clean (and that can’t help but make me safer on the road). Who doesn’t enjoy a clean, sparkling car? Choose a car wash near your recipient’s home or work place. 

For Pampering

• An opportunity to be “treated like royalty.” How many of your friends who live alone indulge themselves in luxury services? My guess is not many, if they’re like me. But that’s what makes this the perfect gift! Why not surprise her with a spa certificate for a massage, facial, manicure or pedicure? Or make his day with a certificate for a gentleman’s facial or deep tissue/sports massage. Note: As I write this spas and salons are open with mask and social distancing requirements. Check for updates. • For women in particular who live alone — fresh flowers delivered. Do you know a single woman who lives by herself? When’s the last time

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ince last April, hospital emergency rooms across the United States have seen a sustained surge in visits related to the mental health of school-aged kids, a new report reveals. The findings suggest the COVID-19 pandemic is taking a toll on children because of disruptions to their everyday life, anxiety about illness and social isolation. That conclusion comes from a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention review of data on hospitals in 47 states. Those hospitals account for nearly three-quarters of emergency department visits nationwide. The study tracked emergency visits involving children under age 18 who sought care for a mental health issue between Jan. 1 and Oct. 17, 2020. “Our study looked at a composite group of mental health concerns that included conditions that are likely to increase during and after a public health emergency, such as stress, anxiety, acute post-traumatic stress disorder and panic,” said lead author Rebecca Leeb, a health scientist at the CDC in Atlanta who is part of its COVID-19 Response Team. “We found that from March through October, the proportion of mental health-related emergency department visits increased 24% for children aged 5 to 11, and 31% among teenagers aged 12 to 17 years,

IN GOOD HEALTH – Buffalo & WNY’s Healthcare Newspaper • December 2020

she got flowers? It’s probably been years ... don’t I know it. Consider sending a bouquet of roses or tulips — red for love, yellow for friendship, pink for appreciation, and white for sympathy. • And speaking of deliveries, check out gift of the month clubs. Coming home alone at any time of year can feel a little empty, but it can really feel lonely during the holidays. Discovering a package on the doorstep can change everything. Go online and check out gourmet gifts and food clubs. You won’t believe the variety of delicious items that can be delivered on a monthly basis: chocolates, hot sauce, cheese, tea, cigars, wine, beer, pastas, olive oil, cookies, popcorn, pancakes or entire meals. I love this idea so much, I might treat myself.

For Inspiration

• A donation to a good cause. Making a charitable contribution in someone’s name is a gift you can both feel good about. Think about your friend or family member who lives alone. What do they care about? Choose an organization that supports his or her values. • A subscription to “In Good Health” or “55 Plus” produced by editor and publisher Wagner Dotto. Both periodicals are filled with inspirational articles and trusted health information. Consider a gift subscription for someone you love. Chances are good your holidays and theirs will be the healthier and happier for it. Gwenn Voelckers is the founder and facilitator of Alone and Content, empowerment workshops for women, and author of “Alone and Content,” a collection of inspiring essays for those who live alone. For information about her workshops, to purchase her book, or invite her to speak, visit www. aloneandcontent.com

compared to 2019,” Leeb said. Pediatric mental health visits actually dropped off dramatically from mid-March to mid-April, when stay-at-home orders were in effect in much of the country. Since then, however, such visits have steadily increased, according to the report. But Leeb said interpreting the numbers is not straightforward. On the one hand, she said even the large jumps seen in the report likely underestimate the total number of pediatric mental health emergencies. “Many mental health care encounters occur outside of emergency departments,” Leeb explained. But additional research indicates emergency department visits as a whole dropped significantly between January and October. And that, Leeb said, might mean that “the relative proportion of emergency department visits for children’s mental health-related concerns may be inflated.” Regardless, Leeb said the findings show that many kids’ mental health was sufficiently concerning to prompt ER visits at a time when the public was being discouraged from using emergency departments for anything but the most critical care. As such, the findings “highlight the importance of continuing to monitor children’s mental health during the pandemic to ensure access to mental health services during public health crises,” Leeb said.


‘If you have been diagnosed with COVID-19, are at risk of exposure or have been exposed, have symptoms or are awaiting test results, you should not attend in-person holiday events, period.’

Many families with out-of-town relatives have been doing this for years, but opening gifts together via Zoom is a great way to bring the family together safely

How to Make the Most of a COVID Christmas By Nancy Caridllo

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he Christmas holidays will certainly be celebrated differently this year, as we are in the midst of a pandemic and flu season. But you can still have yourself a merry little Christmas if you listen to the health experts, who stress the key word for this holiday season is “little.” Large, in-person events pose varying levels of risk for spreading the coronavirus, so the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that before deciding to host or attend any holiday gathering, you assess the level of risk based on the size and location of the event and the availability and use of mitigating strategies. For example, consider the current rate of infection in the community in which the event will be held. Indoor events pose more risk than outdoor gatherings, and indoor gatherings with poor ventilation pose an even greater risk. What is the duration of the event? How many will attend? Will attendees travel from different places? Will there be social distancing? Will the wearing of masks be enforced? Will hand washing/ sanitizing stations be available? Of course, if you have been diagnosed with COVID-19, are at risk of exposure or have been exposed, have symptoms or are awaiting test results, you should not attend in-person holiday events, period. But if you do plan to attend any holiday event — large or small, indoors or outside — be smart and follow these tips from the CDC and the Erie County Department of Health to reduce your risk of being exposed to, contracting or spreading the coronavirus: • Practice safe social distancing • Limit close contact with others (stay at least two arms’ length apart) • Wear a mask when around people who do not live in your household • Limit contact with commonly touched surfaces or shared items • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth • Wash your hands often with

soap and water for at least 20 seconds (hand sanitizer is good — it should be at least 60% alcohol), but doesn’t replace hand washing for the best possible protection) • Be safe around food and drinks (bring your own if possible) While this might not be the year to go over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house, there are still many creative ways you can celebrate “with” family members and friends and continue the traditions that mean so much during the holidays.

Here are some ideas: • Decorate! Even if you won’t be entertaining to the extent you usually do, make your home festive! Pull out all those ornaments you’ve collected over the years, put up that tree and deck your halls with lights, greens, music and candles. Don’t forget to decorate outside, too! Maybe this is the year you put up outside lights … lots of outside lights. Get the entire household involved and then enjoy your efforts as you sip mulled cider or hot cocoa. Or pile the family into the car and drive around and enjoy festively decorated homes in your community — just like you did when they (or you) were little. • Send holiday cards. Many people stopped sending cards during the holidays because “it’s just too much work.” Well, we all have a lot more time on our hands this year, so let’s resurrect that wonderful tradition of reaching out to loved ones via a card or picture postcard. Be sure to include a short note letting recipients know how much they mean to you, or get creative and include a humorous (short!) letter. It’s a great way to stay close to those we can’t, well, actually be in the same room with this year. • Shop online. If you want to avoid going into stores or malls, online shopping can be a huge help. But it’s not all about Amazon — many local stores, such as Anna Grace, Blue Table Chocolates, the TreeHouse Toy Store and Thin Ice —

have online shopping options so you can support your community while finding unique gifts for everyone on your list. Hint: shop and ship early to be sure your gifts arrive on time! Visit www.usps.com/holiday/holiday-shipping-dates.htm for the recommended deadlines for domestic, international and military shipping. • Go car caroling. Rather than go door to door caroling, get a few of the neighbors together, decorate your cars, open the windows and sing out as you drive around. Be sure to spend a few extra minutes in front of the houses of neighbors who are quarantined, elderly or homebound. • Make family food favorites. Just because the entire extended clan can’t get together this year, there’s no reason you can’t still enjoy grandma’s cookies, Aunt Sally’s scalloped potatoes or Uncle Fred’s fudge. Serve up a delicious holiday meal for the household, full of family favorites. Put together some goodies to take to elderly or vulnerable neighbors — they’ll appreciate your thinking of them. Or drop off a pizza, cookies or other treats to your local fire department, nursing home or hospital (be sure to call ahead and make sure it’s OK to do so). • Enjoy a virtual visit with Santa. Since most stores are foregoing having Santa on hand to personally make his list and check it twice, here’s a creative way for your kids to make sure Santa knows exactly what’s on their Christmas wish list. Go to one of several websites, such as www.jinglering.com or www. mrkringle.com, for a magical chat or visit with Santa, direct from the North Pole. • Open gifts together via Zoom. Many families with out-of-town relatives have been doing this for years, but opening gifts together via Zoom is a great way to bring the family together safely. Of course, it means being organized: you have to shop, wrap and send the gifts so they arrive in time (don’t forget to tuck in some of your homemade holiday treats)! Make it more festive by requesting everyone wear a Christmas sweater or socks or Santa hat (include the family pets if you can!). And be sure to consider relatives in different time zones when scheduling your Zoom unwrapping. • Attend virtual worship services. Many of us have been worshipping online all along during the pandemic; well, Christmas is no different. While many houses of worship have reopened for in-person services – and many will still hold midnight mass – most offer live stream services via Zoom, You Tube, Facebook and other platforms. Check with your local church or diocese. You might not be able to celebrate Christmas this year exactly as you have in years past, but that doesn’t mean Christmas 2020 can’t be special in new and different ways. It’ll certainly be one we all remember.

December 2020 •

Happy holidays!

Tips for a Healthier Holiday Season

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ive your heart the gift of healthy eating this holiday season, the American Heart Association suggests. “It’s easy to get off track from making healthy choices during the holidays, and the pandemic may add to the stress,” physician Anne Thorndike, chairwoman of the American Heart Association’s (AHA) Nutrition Committee, said in a heart association news release. “Eating healthfully during the holidays doesn’t mean depriving yourself; it’s about eating smart and looking for small, healthy changes and swaps you can make so you continue to feel your best. For example, choosing vegetables instead of crackers or chips at lunch may not seem like much, but those little changes add up over time,” said Thorndike. She’s an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and director of the Metabolic Syndrome Clinic at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. You don’t have to sacrifice taste when eating healthy, according to Bridget Wojciak, director of nutrition and dietetics at Kroger Health, a national sponsor of the AHA’s Healthy for Good program. “Find the delicious, nutrient-packed foods you love,” Wojciak said. “Not everyone likes broccoli, and that is OK. There are so many varieties of fruits and vegetables to try, and so many healthful ways to prepare them. See what works best for you, and who knows? You may have a new holiday recipe to add to your table.” Here are some suggestions for healthy eating during the holidays: • Reduce sodium/salt by using more herbs and spices such as rosemary and thyme to flavor meals. • Choose nutritious snacks, like popcorn. • When grocery shopping, look for products with the AHA’s Heart-Check mark. During the holiday season, it’s also important to find opportunities to practice gratitude and meditate. Managing stress benefits your mind and heart.

IN GOOD HEALTH – Buffalo & WNY’s Healthcare Newspaper

Page 7


Obamacare Helped More Americans Spot Cancers Early: Study A s the Affordable Care Act faces scrutiny once more from the U.S. Supreme Court, new research shows it may be helping to save American lives otherwise lost to cancer. The study found that expansions of health insurance coverage through Medicaid — a feature of Obamacare — appeared tied to a rise in the number of cancers spotted via screening when they were still early in development. Cancers are much more treatable in their early stages. Over the same time period, there was a decline in diagnoses of latestage cancers, said a team from the

University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public Health. “Our study adds to the literature demonstrating the positive health effects of Medicaid expansion,” senior study author Coleman Drake, assistant professor in Pitt Public Health’s department of health policy and management, said in a university news release. “This is another case where, depending on the Supreme Court’s ruling, the beneficial effects of preventive care provided by Medicaid expansion could disappear.” The new research was published online Nov. 11 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. In the study, Drake’s team looked at numerous state cancer registries to track the

rate and type of diagnoses before and after the Affordable Care Act allowed expanded Medicaid coverage. Within a year of widening coverage, the number of early-stage diagnoses began to rise, the Pittsburg team found, while there was a slight decline in more dangerous late-stage cancers detected. According to lead author Lauren Lin, a medical student at Pitt School of Medicine, “An increase in early-stage cancer diagnoses means that people who didn›t have health care before the Medicaid expansion got a chance to see a primary care physician and get screened.” Physician Wasif Saif is medical director at Northwell Health Can-

cer Institute in Lake Success on Long Island. Reading over the report, he agreed that “it is expected that expansions of health insurance may lead to early detection of cancer, thereby reducing the diagnoses of cancer at advanced stages.” Overall, the study “conveys very clear messages that provision of public health coverage can improve the illness and death related to cancer,” he added. “Screening tools — either a mammogram or colonoscopy — save lives,” Saif said, “and provision of public health insurance allows and encourages the public to undergo these diagnostic tools.”

Healthcare in a Minute By George W. Chapman

Big Pharma Wins if Senate Remains Controlled by Republicans

A

Democratic president will have minimal to no impact on any attempt to reign in drug prices if Republicans retain control of the Senate. The bill authorizing Medicare to negotiate just a couple dozen drug prices will probably continue to languish on Senate leader Mitch McConnell’s desk and not be brought up for a vote. The Big Pharma lobby, via hundreds of millions in contributions to political campaigns, will retain its grip on Congress. The industry continues its mantra that the power to set prices is paramount to innovation and the viability of the industry. Physicians and hospitals may establish prices, but Medicare determines what they are actually paid. Commercial carriers tend to mimic Medicare. Insured consumers rarely end up paying the price charged by hospitals and physicians. Congress has denied providers the power to set their prices to maintain their innovation and viability. Congress (Medicare) does not seem overly concerned about the viability of our providers.

COVID-19 Vaccine

Pfizer, without federal funding, has broken ahead of the competition with a vaccine that is 90% effective. It will be available for distribution by the end of this year. Any approved vaccine will be critical to defeating the coronavirus; but as with any other vaccine like the flu vaccine, not everyone will choose to take it. What remains to be seen is how long the pandemic will be prolonged if millions of us refuse the COVID-19 vaccine and then what will be the related death rate among those who refuse the vaccine. If you look at the seasonal flu, there isn’t a lot of reliable data on how many unvaccinated adults die of the annual flu. It is not a reportable death. But there is data on how many unvaccinated kids die of the flu because it is a reportable death. The CDC reports 90% of children under 18 who die of the flu were not vaccinated. In a typical year, 50% of kids go unvaccinated. To keep perspective, between 100 and 200 children die from the seasonal flu each year and, as with COVID-19, about half had complicating conditions. The point is, many of Page 8

those deaths could have been prevented.

Hospital Price Transparency

By executive order, hospitals must indicate their prices and charges for a mandated list of procedures established by CMS by Jan. 1, 2021 or face a fine of $300 a day. The executive order does not constitute a national healthcare plan nor will it save consumers millions as recently touted by the New York Post. This ill- advised executive order will only create more confusion and consternation among consumers shopping for the best deals. In a well-intentioned effort to help consumers make informed decisions and to create real price competition among hospitals, Medicare requires hospitals to post their “standard charges” which include: gross charges, discounted cash prices, payer specific negotiated rates, de-identified  minimum negotiated charges and de-identified maximum negotiated charges. Hospitals are also required to post their charges and payer specific negotiated rates for 300 “shoppable services.” (Did you get all that?) Besides fueling consumer confusion and suspicion

about healthcare costs, this rule will be a nightmare for hospitals to comply. Shopping prices in healthcare sounds good, but it will be a wasted effort if your physician does not have admitting privileges at your selected hospital or your health plan considers your selected hospital out of network. Also, prices do not reflect outcome. Since most hospital admissions are elective, your physician, for a lot of reasons that have nothing to do with price, will have strong preferences for a particular hospital for your particular procedure.

     Biden Assembles Pandemic All- star Team

His transition team is virtually stacked with several healthcare heavy weights. Former US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, M.D., and former FDA Commissioner David Kessler captain the team. Several highly qualified, respected and renown physicians round out the team. (It should be noted, none are radiologists.) Rick Bright, M.D., an expert in virology and immunology, who recently resigned in protest from Trump’s undermanned pandemic team, has been reappointed by Biden. Luciana Borio. M.D., is the former director of the FDA’s office of counter terrorism and emerging threats. Ezekiel Emanuel, M.D., is vice provost of medical ethics and health policy at the University of Pennsylvania. Also on the team is author Atul Gawande, M.D., who teaches health policy and management at Harvard. We need an all-star team to defeat the heretofore unchallenged opponent once and for all. We are at nearly 200,000 new cases a day (as of Nov. 13) and approaching 250,000 deaths.  

ACA Back in Court

For the third time in eight years

IN GOOD HEALTH – Buffalo & WNY’s Healthcare Newspaper • December 2020

the Affordable Care Act returns to the Supreme Court. The case, California v. Texas, is brought by a cadre of Republican governors arguing that since the individual mandate (you pay a tax for not having health insurance) has been declared unconstitutional, the entire law should be scrapped. The timing couldn’t be worse as over 20 million Americans depend on the ACA in the midst of a pandemic. At stake is: discounted commercial premiums to eligible indigent recipients; the inclusion of pre-existing conditions in all policies; expanded Medicaid eligibility; caps on commercial insurance profits with excess profits being rebated to employers or individuals; standardization of benefits to make comparison shopping simpler; a platform from which improvements can be made. Neither the Republican governors nor the current administration has an alternative plan. At the time of this writing, the Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments from both sides. So far, conservative judges Roberts and Kavanaugh have questioned the logic of tossing the entire law. (And speaking of rebates, it looks like commercial carriers will owe members over $2.5 billion after this year is finalized. About 11 million of the commercially insured will receive an average $219 rebate.)  George W. Chapman is a healthcare business consultant who works exclusively with physicians, hospitals and healthcare organizations. He operates GW Chapman Consulting based in Syracuse. Email him at gwc@gwchapmanconsulting.com.


Are the Benefits of Multivitamins All in Your Head?

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ultivitamins really are magic pills for your health, a new study contends — but just not the way you might think. The health ‘benefits’ of multivitamins might just all be a trick of the mind, researchers say. U.S. adults who regularly take multivitamins self-reported 30% better overall health than people who don’t use the supplements, results of a federally funded survey show. However, a comprehensive medical history — assessing dozens of physical and mental illnesses — revealed zero actual health differences between people who did or did not take multivitamins. “Users of multivitamins and nonusers don’t differ in any of these clinically measurable health outcomes, but they report at least feeling about 30% better in their overall health,” said lead researcher Manish Paranjpe, a student at Harvard Medical School in Boston. About one-third of Americans routinely take multivitamins in the belief that they contribute to good health, the researchers said in background notes. But prior studies have found little evidence to support any benefit from multivitamins for an array of health problems ranging from heart disease to cancer, Paranjpe said. To see whether they could establish any benefit from the supplements, the researchers analyzed data on more than 21,000 people collected as part of the 2012 U.S. National Health Interview Survey. Participants were asked about their use of complementary medical practices, which included taking vitamin supplements. Nearly 5,000 people said they regularly took multivitamins, while more than 16,000 said they didn’t. Regular multivitamin users were significantly older and tended to have higher household incomes; they were also more likely to be women, college graduates, married and have health insurance. Participants were also asked about myriad health problems that might affect them. The researchers assessed them, based on their responses to survey questions about: • Their subjective assessment of their own health. • Their need for help with routine daily activities, which serve as a measure of disability. • Their history of 10 long-term health problems, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, asthma and arthritis. • Their bouts with 19 common ailments over the past year, including infections, memory loss, neurological dysfunction and musculoskeletal problems. • Their degree of psychological distress, which could indicate problems with depression or anxiety. Multivitamin users tended to judge themselves more healthy than nonusers, but the nitty-gritty medical details revealed that they really weren’t, the study authors noted. The strong belief that multivita-

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mins work might trick people into feeling healthier than they actually are, Paranjpe and his colleagues said. It also might be that folks who take multivitamins are “in general, or just naturally, more positive people,” Paranjpe suggested. Reacting to the findings, Andrea Wong, senior vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs at the Council for Responsible Nutrition, a supplement industry trade group, cited problems with the study’s design. The results “in no way discount the multivitamins’ many benefits in combating insufficient nutrient levels and promoting optimum health, nor does it provide basis for consumers to reconsider their decision to take a multivitamin or to take one in the future,” Wong said. Wong noted that the study was based on survey data that did not ask which specific multivitamins people were taking or how often or how long they’d been taking them. As such, it can’t prove a cause-and-effect relationship and leaves many questions unanswered. The primary role of a multivitamin is to fill nutritional gaps and make sure people get their daily allowance of underconsumed nutrients like vitamins A, C, D, E and K, calcium, magnesium, dietary fiber, choline and potassium, Wong said. “The conclusions of the study are a disservice to the public and should not influence consumers’ decision to take a multivitamin or other dietary supplement product,” Wong said. Paranjpe said these results shouldn’t be interpreted to say that all supplements are a waste of money. “There are certainly legitimate uses of vitamin supplements,” he said. “For example, during pregnancy folic acid is commonly prescribed to prevent neural tube defects in the child.” But, Paranjpe added, for the general population who have no specific condition that would require a multivitamin or specific vitamin supplement, “we really have no evidence to suggest that taking a daily multivitamin helps in any way.” The real concern is that people are wasting money on multivitamins that would better benefit their health if spent elsewhere, Paranjpe said. “We believe that money could be better spent on things that we do know have a positive health benefit, such as eating a healthy diet,” exercising or socializing, he said. The findings were published online Nov. 9 in the journal BMJ Open.

In Good Health Holiday 2020_4.79x3.35.indd 1

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IN GOOD HEALTH – Buffalo & WNY’s Healthcare Newspaper

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Page 9


6 Foods to Help Fight Depression

inflammation and toxic free radicals. A recent study published in JAMA Psychiatry linked specific depressive disorders — feeling down, no motivation, trouble sleeping — with brain inflammation. Speaking of sleep, this healthy green boasts decent amounts of magnesium, an essential micronutrient valued for its role in supporting deep, restorative sleep. Moreover, research has found that magnesium may help reduce stress and anxiety.

By Anne Palumbo

Dark Chocolate

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eeling blue lately? A tad blah? You’re not alone. According to findings from governmentfunded COVID Response Tracking Study released in June, Americans are the unhappiest they’ve been in 50 years. From health worries to economic woes, social isolation to pervasive fear, many of us are struggling to stay positive. But here’s something to smile about: Growing research shows that simply making changes in what you eat can significantly boost mood and improve symptoms of anxiety and depression. In a recent study of people all diagnosed with depression, those who consumed a healthy Mediterranean-style diet rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, lean protein and olive oil showed fewer symptoms of depression after three months than those who ate an unhealthy diet of sweets, processed deli meats and salty snacks. The study further revealed that more than a third of the healthy eaters no longer even met the criteria for being depressed. As promising as this and other studies sound, however, the scientific community does acknowledge that there is still much to learn about how our diet influences moods. And while experts in the field recognize that there is no single food or nutrient that can prevent depression, they do have some strong clues about what’s good and what’s not. Let’s take a look at six foods that have shown promise in helping to ease stress, relieve anxiety, improve mood and fight depression.

Fatty Fish Ever since studies found that Page 10

depression is less common in nations where people eat large amounts of fish, researchers have cast their investigative nets toward the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, especially fatty fish. Many have speculated that omega-3 may have a positive impact on mental health because of two important factors: they lower brain inflammation and they alter brain chemicals associated with the uptake of dopamine and serotonin, the feelgood neurotransmitters that affect our moods. Examples of fatty fish that contain high levels of omega-3s include salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring, and sardines.

Eggs

Some say an egg a day may keep bad moods at bay and here’s why: Eggs are uniquely rich in two mood-boosting nutrients that may ease depression — vitamin B12 and selenium. Since vitamin B12 helps synthesize both dopamine and serotonin, eating foods that are high in this essential nutrient may lift our spirits. Multiple studies, in fact, have found that people with lower levels of vitamin B12 were more likely to have depression or anxiety. Selenium, on the other hand, works its mood magic by helping to keep our metabolism running smoothly and by wielding its antioxidant wand to suppress inflammation and oxidative damage to the brain, both of which can contribute to the development of depression. If you’re not an egg fan, many boxed cereals come fortified with B12, selenium, and other important vitamins and nutrients that contribute to mental health.

How wonderful that science backs what we have known all along: Chocolate really does make you happy! In a study conducted at the Nestle Research Center in Switzerland, researchers found that eating about 1.5 ounces of dark chocolate every day for two weeks reduced the stress hormone cortisol in people who were highly stressed. According to experts, chocolate boasts a cascade of mood-elevating compounds, from inflammation-busting antioxidants to serotonin-boosting tryptophan to anxiety-reducing magnesium. Just be sure to enjoy it in moderation, as the calories in that tasty chunk of dark chocolate could contribute to a whole new stress: weight gain.

Bananas Good news, banana-lovers: Regularly eating America’s favorite fruit may turn a frown upside down, research shows. Experts point to a banana’s high concentration of vitamin B6, which helps make the “happy hormones” — dopamine and serotonin. This portable fruit also contains tyrosine, an amino acid that helps produce dopamine, too. Last but not least, one large banana delivers 16 grams of sugar and 3.5 grams of fiber, a beneficial pairing that allows the sugar to be released slowly into your bloodstream. Takeaway? Stable blood sugar levels often translate into better mood control and less irritability.

Spinach

Spinach and other dark leafy greens consistently make mood-boosting lists because they teem with folate, another B vitamin that helps increase serotonin levels. Studies have found that those who suffer from depression tend to display lower blood levels of folate. Spinach is also loaded with antioxidants, which protect brain cells from

IN GOOD HEALTH – Buffalo & WNY’s Healthcare Newspaper • December 2020

Yogurt

While many dairy products can be beneficial for depression because they are rich in nutrients that keep us satiated and promote relaxation, yogurt is especially beneficial because of its probiotics. Probiotics keep our gut healthy, and a healthy gut, according to research, may reduce levels of anxiety and depression. In a recent review published in Annals of General Psychiatry, researchers noted that the majority of studies found positive effects of probiotics on depression symptoms. Since it is estimated that 90% of your body’s serotonin is produced in the digestive tract, a healthy gut may be the ticket to better moods. Other fermented foods that are rich in probiotics that benefit gut health include kimchi, kefir, kombucha and sauerkraut. More food for thought: When you’re feeling down, it can be tempting to turn to junk food to lift your spirits. There’s growing evidence, however, that this sort of unhealthy food can bring you even lower. So try adding some mood-boosting foods to your daily diet. The six listed here are but a few of the many nutritious foods that may brighten your outlook.


SmartBites

Helpful tips

The skinny on healthy eating

Boost Vitamin C with Portable Clementines

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othing says nutritious snack quite like a bright, cheery clementine. A cross between an orange and a mandarin, these seedless darlings burst with healthboosting vitamins and nutrients. Often called “Christmas orang-

es” because they’re in season during the winter months and are a traditional stocking stuffer, low-cal clementines provide a welcome respite to the heaviness of holiday eating. Like most citrus fruit, clementines teem with vitamin C, with one

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small fruit delivering around 50% of Serves 4 Adapted from our daily needs. Well known for its Jeanetteshealthyliving.com immune-system support, vitamin C also improves skin health and may 1 tablespoon olive oil even help prevent certain cancers by ¼ cup fresh clementine orange disarming harmful free radicals that juice damage our cells. Another amazing 1 shallot, minced vitamin C benefit: Eating foods rich salt and pepper, to taste in vitamin C increases the absorption 4 clementines, peeled of non-heme iron, the type of iron 2 avocados, cut into chunks found in plants like spinach. 1 cup radicchio, sliced A single clementine contains a ½ walnuts, toasted and chopped little over 1 gram of fiber, which is 4 tablespoons crumbled cheese: notable given the fruit’s low-calorie feta, goat or gorgonzola count: 35. High fiber intake encour4 tablespoons pomegranate seeds ages healthy digestion by making 6 cups mixed baby greens stools easier to pass and has also been linked to lower body weights, To make dressing, whisk together according to multiple studies. All oil, clementine juice, minced shallot told, clementines’ attractive combiand salt and pepper to taste. nation of dietary fiber, high water Place a handful of baby greens content, and low calories makes them on a salad plate. Arrange clementine an ideal snack to support a healthy slices, avocado, radicchio, walnuts, weight or weight loss. crumbled cheese and pomegranate Fiber also slows the digestion of seeds on top. sugar, allowing the natural sugar in Just before serving, drizzle dressclementines to provide a sustained ing on top. and substantial boost of energy without spiking blood sugar. It’s why Anne Palumbo is a lifestyle columathletes often reach for fruit! Most nist, food guru, and processed foods with added refined seasoned cook, who sugars — like doughnuts, cookies, has perfected the art of soft drinks — don’t contain fiber, preparing nutritious, which causes rapid insulin spikes calorie-conscious and moments-later hunger pangs. dishes. She is hungry Clementines abound with phytofor your questions nutrients — health-promoting comand comments about pounds found in plant foods, such as SmartBites, so be in fruits and vegetables. Citrus flavatouch with Anne at nones, the particular phytonutrients avpalumbo@aol.com.

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Look for fruits with a bright orange color and a heavy feel. Clementines will keep at room temperature for up to a week or in the refrigerator’s crisper drawer for up to two weeks. To prevent bruising, don’t store clementines in overcrowded conditions. Like grapefruit, clemetines may interfere with certain drugs: be sure to discuss concerns with your doctor.

found in clementines and oranges, have been widely studied for their possible role in the prevention of cancer, heart disease, and age-related macular degeneration. A pop-in-your-mouth snack that may promote fruit consumption in children, clementines — with only 7 grams of sugar and 9 carbs — are also a good source of folate, thiamine, and potassium.

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IN GOOD HEALTH – Buffalo & WNY’s Healthcare Newspaper

Page 11


Career in Healthcare

Wound Care: A Medical Specialty By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

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o an extent, medical professionals know how to care for wounds and ostomies; however, wound care also represents a medical specialty. Extra training and education in wound care can augment any medical professional’s resume and help segue into leadership roles. “It’s always nice to have something like that when you have a high population of people in the community who come home from the hospital with wounds,” said Rosa Kowalczewski, clinical director Willcare in Buffalo. The organization, owned by LHC Group, also has New York locations in Jamestown and Wellsville. She looks for wound care certification on resumes because it’s helpful for her team and crucial for her clients. “We have two wound care certified nurses on staff and we use them for diabetic patients and elderly,” Kowalczewski said. “We have some assisted living facilities who call on us and know that in the past, we’ve had very good results in healing difficult or ‘non-healing’ wounds that

have lasted a year or more or continued to have an infection. They call us for those nurses. It’s a big asset to have someone with wound care certification.” She believes it’s “absolutely worthwhile” for care providers to seek the extra training because of the employment advantages, though it is costly. The Cleveland Clinic’s online program for wound care, ostomy and continence takes about five months to complete. Some programs focus only on wound care; others include ostomy and continence because urine or feces remaining on skin for extended periods breaks down the skin. Wound care specialists tend to serve many older adults, since their skin does not heal as quickly as younger people, and who are more likely to have conditions that raise their risk of pressure ulcers. Diabetics are also frequent patients of wound care specialists. The Cleveland Clinic’s wound care, ostomy and incontinence program costs $6,000. Other organization such as Wound Care Institute offer

WNY Agencies: Dramatic Drop in HIV Testing in Upstate Officials expect greater spread of HIV this year By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

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or people at risk for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection, receiving regular testing and prompt test results can help reduce their chances of spreading HIV. Since the pandemic began last spring, testing and prompt results have been disrupted. According to Planned Parenthood of Central and Western New York, which maintains offices serving the Rochester, Buffalo and Syracuse areas, testing for HIV has decreased dramatically since the local onset of the pandemic. The agency facilitated 4,644 tests from Mar. 1, 2019 through Oct. 1, 2019. During the same period in 2020, the number of tests plummeted to only 2,403. That is 51% fewer tests. The reasons vary behind why testing has declined so dramatically. “I think that is directly related to our patients not wanting to come in,” said Amy Hsi, nurse practitioner for Planned Parenthood of Central and Western New York in Rochester, Buffalo and Syracuse. “In general, it’s because of the risk of COVID and having to adjust for safety reasons.” The healthcare industry underscored the seriousness of COVID-19 by suspending non-emergency services for weeks during the panPage 12

demic’s onset. Although on April 1, Planned Parenthood announced expansion of telehealth, testing for HIV through Planned Parenthood requires a physical presence. “Most healthcare providers are offering telehealth services so people can get care, but for HIV testing, you have to go somewhere,” Hsi said. “They need to come in or we could order it and they could go to a lab.” The agency does not provide home-based tests for patients to take or mail to a lab. Home tests are available at pharmacies such as CVS and Rite Aid for about $35 to $45. Oral tests offer accurate results in minutes; however, they are only accurate if the test is taken after three months of the exposure incident. For people who frequently engage in risky activity, waiting that long for test results can contribute to the spread of HIV. Although healthcare providers have opened back up for seeing more patients, the social distancing rules mean fewer patients can be admitted in offices at a time. That can hamper providers’ ability to offer services in a timely fashion. Hsi said that periodic surges in COVID-19 infection numbers continue to keep many wary patients away. She thinks that the pandemic

online classes. David E. Balliette, program director of The Center for Wound Care & Hyperbaric Medicine at Clifton Springs Hospital & Clinic, said that nurses and doctors with wound care certifications are preferred for his organization. “It teaches protocols, how to work with other primary care providers, as well as the modalities and advanced therapies we use,” he said. “When that patient is done with treatment, there’s definitely a connection where the patient is thankful for how they were treated. Their case manager is their coach for the healing processes.” He added that the extra training may mean a higher paycheck, depending upon the organization, but the real perk is that working in wound care means regular work hours, without on-call or weekend work. He thinks that wound care will continue to grow as a specialty area. Tara Weedar, RN and clinical nurse manager Clifton Springs Hospital, said that nurses can attend

weeklong classes at Healogics in Jacksonville, Florida, to receive extra wound care treatment expertise. Weedar said that completing coursework “would open more opportunities for them to provide services to their patients. Being in a wound care center, we have all the advanced modalities they can use. With the partnership with Healogic, our success rates outstrip any other facility.” She said the care involves assessing wounds, understanding antimicrobial treatments, knowledge of devices for pressure ulcers and dressing wounds. “When I look for staff, I look for someone with good bedside manner,” Weedar said. “Our patients come in weekly. Being able to connect with patients is important. We not only heal their wounds but we get to know people.” She added that anyone can learn the technical aspects of wound care, “but the soft, bedside manner skills are not replaceable.”

may cause greater spread of HIV compared with previous years. At this point, it is difficult to tell. “If people really are self-quarantining and not getting out as much, they may not be doing at-risk activities,” Hsi said. “Then again, maybe people at home are having more unprotected sex without knowing their HIV status. If people can’t get condoms and PrEP, it puts them more risk.” Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) is a daily medication that can prevent people at high risk for HIV from contracting the infection. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “In the United States, HIV is mainly spread by having sex or sharing syringes and other injection equipment with someone who is infected with HIV. Substance use can contribute to these risks indirectly because alcohol and other drugs can lower people’s inhibitions and make them less likely to use condoms.”

HIV. “It’s a significant concern,” Zuppelli said. “We’re starting to see an increase of new COVID infections. I suspect that people seeking testing services will decline again.” At Evergreen Health in Buffalo, Matthew Crehan Higgins, associate vice president of specialty care, said that the number of tests performed has increased because in March, the Erie County Department of Health began focusing on COVID-19 testing and routing sexual health patients to Evergreen. “We’ve seen increases across all sexually transmitted infection testing,” Crehan Higgins said. He takes pride in the main office of the organization remaining open throughout the pandemic, although some sites and outreaches have had to close and tweak their hours and policies. “Nonavailability of services leading to more transmission is one reason we felt committed to stay open,” he said. “During this time period, we felt the need to be here as much as we could. Virtual doesn’t work for everybody. There are plenty of people who don’t have access to technology or own a smartphone. We had times where a staff member wasn’t here but the person came here to use a phone.” The state provides a Home Test Giveaway (HTG) program which offers consumers a free home HIV test kit as needed. The request form for the New York State Home Test Giveaway is at https://survey.alchemer.com/ s3/5977532/HHTG-Fall-2020-Eligibility-Survey-Live.

Number of Tests Up at Evergreen Health Trillium Health, which serves Buffalo and Rochester, offers HIV testing among its services. Ashley Zuppelli, senior director of strategic service lines, said that the organization has seen a decrease from 200 HIV tests per month in 2019 to about 125 per month since the pandemic began. Part of the reason is that Trillium is not accepting walk-in patients. Completing fewer tests may mean that more people who are unknowingly infected could spread

IN GOOD HEALTH – Buffalo & WNY’s Healthcare Newspaper • December 2020


Sterling Silver Stethoscope Necklace by AOBOCO ($29.99) features simulated birthstone crystals set in sterling silver. It can be found on Amazon.com

ShopCraft (773 Elmwood Ave., Buffalo) carries bath and body products by Spruce Up Soap Co. Also look for a large variety of textile-based gifts and more.

Great Gifts for Healthcare Providers By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

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his season, thank a healthcare provider in your life with a thoughtful gift that demonstrates how much you appreciate their hard work.

Slippers

After a long day on their feet, any healthcare provider would appreciate comfortable footwear, like Isotoner Women’s Terry Slip-In Clog ($18.20 to $26.90, www.amazon.com, item: A96035ASH6). Featuring memory foam, and comfortable arch support, these plush slippers offer relief for painful feet. Available in a variety of colors and in sizes 6.5 through 10, the slippers are washable. Treat a male healthcare worker to RockDove Men’s Nomad Slipper with Memory Foam ($27.95, www. amazon.com, item: B07WKJQGY1). The sherpa fleece lined and covered slippers cradle feet in cozy comfort with memory foam and arch support. The sewn side seams ensure years of wear. Machine washable and available in a variety of colors.

Apparel

Know a healthcare worker who enjoys a good dad pun? Give the “I Found This Humerus” T-shirt from Ann Arbor T-shirt Company ($15.95, www.amazon.com, item: B07JN78F3N). The silk-screened shirt is an original design and is sure to elicit a chuckle from medical personnel who enjoy wordplay. Pre-shrunk 90% cotton, 10% polyester jersey knit in gray, available in medium through 3x-large. Good Luck Sock Women’s and Women’s Medical Socks in Grey ($9.95, www. amazon.com, item: 3171 women’s; 1388 men’s) feature a zany print of medical images, from lungs to stethoscopes to bandages. They fit adult shoe size 5 through 9 for women and 7 to 12 men, and are made from 85% cotton, 10% polyester and 5% spandex with a reinforced heel and toe and a low to mid-calf fit.

Accessories

Poke a little fun at doctor handwriting with the pouch inscribed,

“A Wise Doctor Once Wrote” followed by an illegible scrawl. The zippered pouch ($11.99, www.amazon.com, item: B08K3GQDMH) may make nurses chuckle too as they have struggled to make out their doctors’ handwriting, the bag is a good size for a travel cosmetic bag. Offer a classy gift with this Navy Blue Stripe Caduceus Necktie Tie ($34.95, www.amazon.com, item: B01F4EM2F2). In 100% finely woven silk, the tie features in small print the ubiquitous medical symbol, the caduceus in gold print, alternating with thin horizontal burgundy and gold stripes. The size is 3 7/8 inches wide by 56 inches long with a wrinkle-resistant lining. Stainless Steel Stethoscope Cufflinks add a classy touch for any man dressing up ($14.90, www.amazon.com, item: AC1211 U). Arriving pre-boxed, the cufflinks are 0.39 X 0.94 inch in size and made from 316L stainless steel. A subtle nod to her career choice, the Sterling Silver Stethoscope Necklace

by AOBOCO ($29.99, www.amazon. com, item: B07SR6XYN8) features simulated birthstone crystals set in sterling silver. The pendant is a stethoscope that forms a heart, showing the calling where her passion lies. The pendant comes on an 18-inch chain. Let your doctor know that “The influence of a great doctor can never be erased” as stamped on this elegant Doctor Keychain ($13.89, www. amazon.com, item: B07V588N2S). The hand stamped sentiment is on a lead-free and nickel-free stainless steel keychain measuring 15 mm. by 17 mm. and comes in a velvet pouch for giving. Treat a physician to a Hippocratic Oath Scarf ($29.99, www.amazon. com, item: B08KHRD5WQ). Elegantly printed in black with the famous doctor’s oath of ethics on tan 100% polyester, the scarf measures a generous 13.27 by 9.65 inches and features a fringe on each end.

Bath & Body

ShopCraft (773 Elmwood Ave., Buffalo) carries bath and body products by Spruce Up Soap Co. Also look for a large variety of textile-based gifts and more.

Topical Treatment for Head Lice Approved for OTC Use

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klice (ivermectin) lotion for treating head lice was approved for over-the-counter (OTC) use in a process known as prescriptionto-OTC switch, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced in November. Sklice 0.5% was first approved in February 2012 for prescription use in the treatment of head lice infestation in patients ages 6 months and older. The OTC use approval of the single-use lotion with ivermectin 0.5% as the active ingredient is approved for topical use in the same patient population. It should only be used on the scalp and dry hair, according

to label directions. The lotion will no longer be available as a prescription treatment. For prescription-to-OTC switches to be approved, the manufacturer needs to provide data that show “that the drug is safe and effective when used as directed in the proposed labeling. The manufacturer must show that consumers can understand how to use the drug safely and effectively without the supervision of a health care professional,” the FDA notes. The approval was granted to Arbor Pharmaceuticals. December 2020 •

IN GOOD HEALTH – Buffalo & WNY’s Healthcare Newspaper

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were socially distant when they took off in smaller groups and throughout the process, we were in constant communication with the Erie County Department of Health to make sure we were safe.” Q: Did the re-imagined Turkey Trot adversely affect the YMCA finances and how have they been hurt in other ways because of the pandemic? A: “We created a three-day virtual race with online registration for $35 for anyone to participate from around the world, complete with information on tracking their times and for those here, packet pick up information. We still sold sponsorships and the 125 runners who raised at least $1,000 were our actual runners. We are so thankful for the additional sponsors who came forth to support the YMCA and with our decreased expenses due to not having to shutdown that portion of the city along with so many other expenses, we surpassed our goal of $300,000. We had to close on March 16 to members for a couple of months, but our childcare service remained opened.” Q: How is the registering for lap swimming going in your clubs? A: “Swimming has always been our most popular service and now that we are offering registration for lap swimming, all of our lap times are filling up quickly. We offer 45-minute time blocks, and they can be reserved a week in advance. That gives us plenty of time to clean and sanitize that area after each swimmer.” Q: How big is childcare in your business model and what is involved? A: “Typically, our childcare is school-aged children and in a typical year we would have upwards to 50 sites. Right now, we have 40 sites and partnerships with 46 schools to provide childcare. We have a mix of schools offering hybrid or distance learning. Either way, it is affecting the number of children we are serving, and those numbers are down.”

Q A &

with John Ehrbar

CEO of YMCA Buffalo Niagara discusses the upcoming virtual Turkey Trot, swimming classes and the upcoming summer camp season By Mike Billoni

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ohn Ehrbar, president and CEO of YMCA Buffalo Niagara, a native of Cleveland, moved here 18 months ago after serving as the chief operating officer at the YMCA in Spokane, Washington, for six years. The YMCA Buffalo Niagara has six membership branch locations and Page 14

two summer camps. Its membership pre-COVID 19 pandemic was 60,000 and since the branches reopened 164 days after a mid-March closing, it is now at 40,000 and growing. Its budget for 2020 was $27 million and Ehrbar expects to finish the year with $18-$20 million in the bank. It had a

pre-COVID-19 staff of 1,000 and since returning, it is now at 450. Q: Because of COVID-19, what went into the decision-making process for this year’s 125th annual Turkey Trot? A: “We had a lot of exciting ideas for this year’s 125th annual Turkey Trot but all of that changed in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Once everything began to shut down back in March, we held many meetings to determine our best route for this year’s 8K event. As I was told by so many people and then saw first-hand, this truly is an amazing community, and the Turkey Trot has become a very big event for so many on Thanksgiving morning. We came up with an exciting virtual event and after many conversations with the city, we received permission to have 125 runners that morning so we could keep the tradition of the oldest consecutively run footrace in the world alive while doing the race in a safe way. We normally have 12,00014,000 serious runners, amateurs and team competitors and, quite honestly, we could register many more but that is the limit for the post-event party in the Buffalo Nagara Convention Center. We made sure our 125 runners

IN GOOD HEALTH – Buffalo & WNY’s Healthcare Newspaper • December 2020

Q: What is the history of YMCA summer camps and what are the future plans as a result of COVID-19? A: “We run 22 day camp locations and we own two resident camps. Last summer, the state required that number be cut in half and we are hopeful we can get back to our normal procedures next summer.” Q: The YMCA has been considered a leading voice in WNY on health and well-being. What went into that initiative and what does it entail this year? A: “Health and well-being is one of the YMCA’s three impact areas in the United States and for us, under healthy living, we look at chronic disease and workplace wellness options where we can offer their employees options on wellness programs. We are also working on these areas: water prevention where we work to make sure kids in all areas are safe around water, whether we teach them at our Y pools or they learn at community pools and Combatting hunger and food insecurity in our community. We are always looking for opportunities to bring the YMCA outside of our walls.” For additional information, visit YMCABN.org.


Vision Loss? Experiencing Experiencing Special Vision Loss? Vision Loss? By Jim Miller

How Seniors can Save Money on Prescription Eyeglasses Dear Savvy Senior, What tips can you recommend for finding affordable prescription eyeglasses? I used to have vision insurance through my work but lost it when I turned 65 and signed up for Medicare.

Need Spectacles Dear Need, Unfortunately, in 2020 it’s still true that original Medicare does not cover vision services, which includes routine eye exams and prescription eyeglasses — unless you’ve just had cataract surgery. While there’s no one solution to this common need, here are a few tips that can help you save.

Medicare Advantage While original Medicare doesn’t cover vision services, there are Medicare Advantage plans that do. Medicare Advantage plans, which are sold through private insurance companies, cover all the same medical and hospital services that original Medicare does, but many of them also provide vision as well as dental, hearing and prescription drugs too. To locate Advantage plans in your area that provide vision coverage, go to Medicare.gov/plan-compare or call 800-633-4227. But before enrolling in a plan, check the benefit details to ensure the plan’s vision coverage includes routine eye exams, eyeglass frames and lenses. If you are currently enrolled in original Medicare you can switch to a Medicare Advantage plan each year during the open enrollment period, which is between Oct. 15 and Dec. 7. Or, if you already have an Advantage plan that doesn’t provide adequate vision coverage, you can swap to another plan between Jan. 1 and March 31. If, however, you don’t want to change your Medicare plan, you can still get coverage by purchasing a vision insurance policy — see eHealthInsurance.com. Vision policies typically start at around $11 to $13 per month for an individual, but before signing up make sure your savings potential is worth the cost of the monthly premiums and required copays.

Discount Stores Purchasing eyeglasses from discount retailers is another way to save. Costco Optical is one of the best discount stores for good eyewear and low prices. Eyeglasses cost an average of around $184, but to shop there you have to pay a $60 annual

membership fee. Some other good retail options for low prices include Sam’s Club Optical and Walmart Vision Centers. You also need to find out if you are eligible for any discounts. Some retailers provide discounts to membership groups like AARP and AAA. AARP members, for example, can get 30% off a pair of glasses (frames and lenses) at LensCrafters and Glasses. com, and you save an additional $10 on a complete pair at Target Optical. AARP also offers $55 comprehensive eye exams (dilation included) at participating eye doctors. See AARPVisionDiscounts.com for more information.

Buy Online Buying eyeglasses online can also offer huge savings. Stores like ZenniOptical.com, and EyeBuyDirect.com sell prescription eyeglasses for as little as $6 and $7. These sites let you upload a photo of your face, so you can see what you’d look like in different frames. Or, for a snappier choice of frames see WarbyParker.com, which offers single-vision glasses starting at $95. They even offer a free program where you can request up to five pairs to try on at home for five days. To purchase glasses online, you’ll need a valid prescription from an eye doctor (typically no more than a year old), plus your pupillary distance number, which is the distance, measured in millimeters, between the centers of your pupils in each eye.

Low-Income Assistance If your income is low, depending on where you live, there may be some local clinics that provide free or discounted eye exams and eyeglasses. Put in a call to your local Lions Club to see what’s available in your area. See Directory.LionsClubs.org for contact information. You may also be able to get free eyeglasses through New Eyes (NewEyes.org, 973-376-4903), a nonprofit organization that provides free eyeglasses through a voucher program to people in financial need.

Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior. org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.

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Be Clear On Your Medicare Options

Medicare Annual Enrollment Runs

Oct. 15 - Dec. 7

No One Can Explain Medicare Better Than Clarity Group Whether you are new to Medicare or you want to learn your options for 2021, Clarity Group is here to help. We are a local, independent agency that specializes in Medicare. We work with multiple carriers to help find the plan that is right for you.

Medicare Is All We Do And Our Services Are Complimentary

Call 716-393-3437 or visit

ClarityGroupNY.com

‘You will be directed to a licensed sales representative.’ Clarity Group does not represent the federal government or the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services. (CMS)

December 2020 • Clarity IN GOOD HEALTH – MECH1.indd Buffalo & 1WNY’s Healthcare Newspaper GA049 Print Ad 4.79 x 6.69 Resize

• Page 15 10/16/20 11:18 AM


Ask The Social

Security Office

From the Social Security District Office

WNY COVID-19 Group: Consensus Statement On Mask Usage

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group of more than 20 healthcare and healthrelated organizations has recently released a statement on the importance of mask wearing in healthcare settings, and on masks as an effective tool to control the spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory diseases. The statement includes: • The working group recommends that individuals wear face masks to protect the people around them. • All healthcare providers should wear masks at all times in all healthcare settings. • All patients and visitors entering any medical facility or office

Colon Cancer Screening Should Start at Age 45

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verage folks should start being screened at age 45 to prevent colon cancer, five years earlier than is now recommended, the nation’s top preventive medicine panel says. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force currently recommends that people aged 50 to 75 be regularly screened for colon cancer, one of a handful of cancers that can be prevented outright. But new data suggests that screening earlier could save even more lives, said task force member, physician Michael Barry, director of the Informed Medical Decisions Program in the Health Decision Sciences Center at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. “We have epidemiologic data that the risks of colorectal cancer are

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should wear a mask, unless there is a strong medical contraindication, or they are less than 2 years old. • The effectiveness of masks increases with the percentage of the population using them. To increase mask use, healthcare providers should not tell patients that masks are not important. • All providers should actively educate their patients on the effectiveness of masks and strongly encourage their use. • Individuals should wash their hands before putting on a mask. The mask should cover the nose, mouth, and chin, and should fit snugly to the side of the face.

increasing before age 50, particularly in that 45- to 49-year-old age group,” Barry said. Computer models suggest that about 25 colon cancer deaths are prevented for every 1,000 Americans between 50 and 75 who are screened, Barry said. The earlier start is expected to prevent at least one more death per every 1,000 screened, Barry said. Under the Affordable Care Act, health insurance companies are required to cover the full cost of any screening test recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF). The task force is an independent, volunteer panel of national experts in prevention and evidence-based medicine. This guideline covers people at average risk for colon cancer, Barry said. People with factors that put them at higher risk – for example, a strong family history of colon cancer – might need to start screening even earlier, and should discuss it with their doctor. Colon cancer almost always develops from precancerous polyps that form in the colon or rectum. These screening tests detect the presence of these polyps, so they can be removed before they turn into cancer. Colonoscopy is the most widely known colon cancer screening method, but it’s not the only one, Barry said. “There are a whole group of tests that can reduce the risk that someone will die of colorectal cancer,” he said. For example, people can have their stool tested for the presence of tiny amounts of blood, which can indicate the presence of either cancer or polyps.

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Sign up for Medicare Part B Online

or many people, signing up for Medicare Part B doesn’t require you to leave the comfort of home. Please visit our Medicare Part B webpage at secure.ssa.gov/acu/ ophandler/loginSuccess if: • You’re enrolled in Medicare Part A. • You would like to enroll in Part B during the special enrollment period. You can complete form CMS-40B (Application for Enrollment in Medicare — Part B [Medical Insurance]) at www.cms.gov/Medicare/CMSForms/CMS-Forms/CMS-FormsItems/CMS017339 and CMS-L564 at www.cms.gov/Medicare/CMSForms/CMS-Forms/Downloads/ CMS-L564E.pdf (Request for Employment Information) online. You can also fax the CMS-40B and CMS-L564 to 1-833-914-2016; or return forms by mail to your local Social Security office. Please contact Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) if you have any questions.

Q&A Q: How do I earn Social Security credits and how many do I need to qualify for benefits? A: We use your total yearly earnings to figure your Social Security credits. The amount needed for a credit in 2021 is $1,470. You can earn a maximum of four credits for any year. The amount needed to earn one credit usually increases each year when average wages increase. You must earn a certain number of credits to qualify for Social Security benefits. The number of credits you need depends on your age when you apply and the type of benefit application. No one needs more than 40 credits for any Social Security benefit. You can read more about credits in How You Earn Credits at www. socialsecurity.gov/pubs. For more information, visit our website at www.socialsecurity.gov. Q: I’m trying to figure out the best time to retire based on my future earnings. How can I calculate my own retirement benefit estimate? A: We suggest you use our Retirement Estimator at www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator. Our Retirement Estimator produces estimates based on your actual Social Security earnings record, so it’s a personalized, instant picture of your future estimat-

IN GOOD HEALTH – Buffalo & WNY’s Healthcare Newspaper • December 2020

Note: When completing the forms: • State, “I want Part B coverage to begin (MM/YY)” in the remarks section of the CMS-40B form or online application. • If your employer is unable to complete Section B, please complete that portion as best you can on behalf of your employer without your employer’s signature. Submit one of the following types of secondary evidence by uploading it from a saved document on your computer: • Income tax returns that show health insurance premiums paid. • W-2s reflecting pre-tax medical contributions. • Pay stubs that reflect health insurance premium deductions. • Health insurance cards with a policy effective date. • Explanations of benefits paid by the GHP or LGHP. • Statements or receipts that reflect payment of health insurance premiums.  Please let your friends and loved ones know about this online, mail, or fax option.

ed benefit. Also, you can use it to test different retirement scenarios based on what age you decide to start benefits. For example, you can find out your estimated monthly payments if you retire at age 62, 70, or any age in between. Try it out now at www. socialsecurity.gov/estimator. Q: How do I terminate my Medicare Part B (medical insurance)? A: You can voluntarily terminate your Medicare Part B (medical insurance). Because this is a serious decision that could have negative ramifications for you in the future, you’ll need to have a personal interview with a Social Security representative first. The representative will help you complete Form CMS 1763. This form isn’t available online. To schedule your interview, call us at 1-800-7721213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) Monday through Friday from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., or contact your nearest Social Security office. For more information, go to www.medicare.gov. Q: I want to sign up for a Medicare Part C and D plan, but I’m not sure which plan I want. Is there a resource to help me find a plan? A: Yes. Medicare.gov has an online plan finder and instructions available on how to use this tool. To access the Medicare Plan Finder, please visit www.medicare.gov/finda-plan/questions/home.aspx.


Image from the “Today Was A Good Day” documentary. Image features Caregiver KaTania Brown and her mother, Bessie.

Content Series Aims to Shed Light on Caregivers’ Journeys By Julie Halm

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roviding care to an older family member can be stressful, complicated, challenging and isolating. It can also be rewarding, gratifying and fulfilling. While it is a complex task to take on, it is one that is not discussed openly nearly enough, according to Amber Slitcha, vice president of programs for the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation. It was with that in mind that the foundation recently launched a content series on the topic named “Tight Knit,” which features two short documentaries and eight podcast episodes. The documentaries and podcasts explore the day-to-day lives of caregivers and their loved ones, bringing to light both the joys and challenges of the task. The experience is one shared by many. According to a release from the foundation, there are 41 million Americans currently providing unpaid care for older adults. Slitcha noted that in the broadest sense, a caregiver is simply someone who helps take care of another person who isn’t able to do things that they once were, or perhaps needs assistance with tasks they were never able to complete on their own. “We’ve really honed in on caregivers of older adults,” she said. “As some folks get older, they’re not able to do everything they once could.” While the series has narrowed its field of focus somewhat, Slitcha noted that from the start, caregivers of older adults are likely to experience

widely varied journeys. “There are what I would call acute challenges, and then there are challenges that creep up,” she said. For some, a traumatic event, such as a stroke, suddenly necessitates a caregiver being present in a loved one’s life. For others, degenerative ailments, such as Alzheimer’s and

dementia, create the need for caregiving on a slowly evolving scale. There are common threads, however. A group of anthropologists who recently studied the experience found that while caregivers experience plenty of hurtles, most said that they would gladly do it again. In situations where the need for caregiving accumulates over time,

December 2020 •

Slitcha noted that many in the role don’t realize how much stress and isolation build up as well. She also noted that a sense of pride or even a bit of stubbornness as well as an aspect of fear can also compound the issue, making it difficult for caregivers to reach out and ask for help. The stressors can also transfer over into one’s professional life, with certain stigmas making it difficult for caregivers to speak to their employers about the need to leave work to attend to certain obligations. “I think our whole purpose in doing this is to really generate conversations and to really talk about being a caregiver and really make it something that’s OK to talk about,” said Slitcha. She added that other responsibilities outside of the workplace, such as caring for children, tend to be much more commonly accepted and openly discussed. These topics are among those addressed in the content series which was originally slated to launch earlier in the year but was delayed until Aug. 4 due to COVID-19. According to Janelle Greene-Todd, communications associate, a live event was originally planned but was not able to be executed, so a later, digital launch of the series was enacted. While the content of the series was already set before the pandemic hit and did not change as a result, Slitcha said that the current situation may make the content all that more valuable. “Everybody is facing new and unique challenges,” she said. “It could be good for people just to be able to see that there are other people out there experiencing the same thing and maybe it even gets them to reach out.” For more information, visit www.ralphcwilsonjrfoundation.org/ our-focus/caregivers/.

IN GOOD HEALTH – Buffalo & WNY’s Healthcare Newspaper

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H ealth News ONY Biotech announces milestone in surfactant therapy ONY Biotech, a small privately-held neonatology pharmaceutical company based in Buffalo, recently announced the results of a clinical trial on its aerosolized surfactant for newborns with respiratory distress syndrome, a disorder caused by lack of surfactant that can result in collapsed lungs. ONY Biotech’s aerosolized surfactant turns liquid surfactant into a fine mist, which allows a baby to breathe it in instead of having to be intubated — an invasive process that’s associated with various complications in premature infants. Administered via a modified pacifier, this new method is non invasive, and study results show it has the potential to reduce the need for intubation by 50%. “This is the most significant milestone in surfactant therapy since 1998, when we were first granted FDA approval for Infasurf (calfactant) — the very surfactant we are now aerosolizing,” said Randy Burkard, president and CEO of the company. “At the end of the day, and frankly at the beginning of every day, this isn’t and never was about us. It’s about premature babies and providing important treatments in their most critical hours”. The study’s groundwork was laid by ONY Biotech’s founder, chairman, and chief scientific officer, physician Edmund Egan, and spearheaded by James Cummings, ONY’s Chief Medical Officer. Conducted in 22 neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) across the country, its findings have been published in Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. With results in print, the aerosolized surfactant will now undergo review by the FDA.

Independent Health recognized for Medicare Advantage Independent Health has been named to U.S. News & World Report’s annual list of the best health insurance companies offering Medicare Advantage coverage in 2021. This is the second consecutive year Independent Health received this honor from U.S. News & World Report. U.S. News & World Report created the “Best Insurance Companies for Medicare Advantage” list by analyzing each plan’s Medicare star rating for 2021. The star ratings were

designed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to help Medicare beneficiaries assess the quality, value and performance of every Medicare Advantage plan throughout the nation. Independent Health was recently recognized as a 4.5 star rated Medicare Plan1 by CMS for 2021. This marks the 11th consecutive year that Independent Health’s Medicare HMO plan has received a 4.5 star rating and the sixth straight year that its Medicare PPO plan has achieved this rating. “Independent Health is proud to again be the only health plan in Western New York to earn 4.5 stars for both its HMO and PPO Medicare Advantage plans for 2021,” said Cathy Aquino, director of government sales, Independent Health. “Our consistent Medicare star ratings and national recognition from U.S. News & World Report are a testament to our long-standing commitment of providing outstanding customer service and working with health care providers to ensure our members receive the coverage and care they need and deserve.”

ECMC president and CEO joins state panel The New York State Department of Financial Services (DFS) and the New York State Department of Health (DOH) announced recently that Erie County Medical Center (ECMC) Corporation President and CEO Thomas J. Quatroche Jr., Quatroche Ph.D., has been appointed to the 25-member Health Care Administrative Simplification Workgroup. Quatroche joins health care industry stakeholders and others on the workgroup from across New York State. According to the announcement, the “…workgroup [will] study and evaluate methods to reduce health care administrative costs and complexities through standardization, simplification, and technology.” “I was honored to be asked to serve on this committee created as a result of the governor’s budget initiatives to ensure healthcare dollars continue to be focused on patient care and not unnecessary administrative processes designed to keep dollars from providers,” said Quatroche. “Ultimately, it is my hope patients

will benefit by reducing unnecessary prior authorizations, improving access to care, and ensuring healthcare dollars are invested to improve their care.” The workgroup will issue a report to the superintendent of DFS, the Commissioner of Health, and the New York State Legislature in October 2021.  Areas to be examined by the workgroup include: Claims submission and attachments; preauthorization practices; provider credentialing; insurance eligibility verification; and access to electronic medical records.

Rosa Coplon Living Center among best nursing homes

U.S. News & World Report recently released the ratings for its Best Nursing Homes 2020-21 list. Weinberg Campus was recognized this year with a “high performing” rating for its Rosa Coplon Living Center facility in Getzville. Each year the ratings are based on U.S. News’ in-depth analysis of publicly available data. A “high performing,” “average,” or “below average” rating is assigned to shortterm rehabilitation as well as longterm care facilities across the U.S. Nursing homes receive badges based on the ratings given, and Weinberg Campus’ Rosa Coplon Living Center is among only 21% of U.S. nursing homes that earned at least one badge. “We are honored to have been recognized as a high performing nursing home facility,” said Weinberg Campus President and CEO, Bob Mayer. “This honor is a true testa-

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or a third consecutive year, Erie County Medical Center (ECMC) Corporation and Tim Hortons restaurants partnered to support the institution’s stateof-the-art KeyBank Trauma and Emergency Department, raising this year $135,879. In 2019, the joint effort raised $167,498 and in 2018 it raised close to $95,000 for a three-year total of $398,377.  As in previous years, 100% of proceeds from Tim Hortons annual Smile Cookie campaign throughout Western New York, running from Sept. 14 – 20, will go again this year to ECMC’s trauma and emergency

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HEALTHeLINK named data aggregator by CMS HEALTHeLINK has been named the comprehensive primary care plus (CPC+) data aggregator for the greater Buffalo region by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). CPC+ is a national advanced primary care medical home model initiative that aims to strengthen primary care through regionally based multi-payer payment reform and care delivery transformation. “HEALTHeLINK has consistently demonstrated expertise in aggregating clinical data from health care entities across the community and working with that data to help health care providers most efficiently and effectively treat their patients,” said Dan Porreca, executive director, HEALTHeLINK. “With claims data from our local health plans and now CMS for Medicare fee-for-service (FFS) beneficiaries added on top of the clinical data already a part of HEALTHeLINK, we are in a unique position to provide a comprehensive patient quality of care reporting capability. Having the most current and comprehensive health information where it’s needed, when it’s needed, leads to better patient care.”

Tim Horton Smile Cookie check presentation to ECMC.

Special Women’s Issue

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ment to the dedication and commitment of our team, who work tirelessly to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our residents 24/7.” Weinberg Campus offers a variety of residential communities and services for seniors, including apartments, assisted living, skilled nursing care, inpatient and outpatient physical therapy and rehabilitation, and home care services.

IN GOOD HEALTH – Buffalo & WNY’s Healthcare Newspaper • December 2020

department capital campaign. ECMC broke ground June 1, 2018 for its state-of-the-art KeyBank Trauma and Emergency Department and opened the new facility in June. ECMC’s $55 million KeyBank Trauma and Emergency Department doubled the size of the previous 40-year old facility and features state-of-the-art technology and equipment. Originally opened in 1978 to accommodate 45,000 patients annually, the previous facility processed approximately 70,000 patients in 2019, and patient volumes are expected to reach over 75,000 annually by 2024.   ECMC and Tim Hortons Partner to support New KeyBank Trauma & Emergency Department


The greater Buffalo region, encompassing Erie and Niagara counties, is one of 18 regions nationwide currently participating in CPC+. In addition to CMS, this public-private partnership includes 69 primary care practices and support from BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York and Independent Health. “BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York has a longstanding history of supporting organizations and initiatives that strengthen physicians’ ability to provide well-coordinated, high-quality care to our members, and are proud to be aligned with HEALTHeLINK,” said physician Thomas Schenk, executive vice president, chief medical officer, BlueCross BlueShield of Western New Yok. “As the first health plan in the region to share claims data with HEALTHeLINK, we remain committed to finding new ways to support the health of our community, and are excited to provide this enhanced reporting capability to our primary care partners.” “Continued evolution of health care delivery to population health, value-based approaches hinge upon robust and timely data,” said physician Anthony J. Billittier IV, executive vice president and chief medical officer, Independent Health.

BlueCross BlueShield’s Blue Fund Grants $100,000 to Say Yes Buffalo

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n response to growing needs for students and families in Buffalo public and charter schools, BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York Blue Fund awarded $100,000 to Say Yes Buffalo to expand and enhance the organization’s successful health home care coordination program. BlueCross BlueShield has invested more than $1.4 million to support the work of Say Yes Buffalo since 2012. This includes a $298,848 grant in 2018, to pilot the Say Yes Health Home Care Coordination. The program provides school-based comprehensive care coordination, health promotion, patient and family support and service referrals to local students in need. Building on the success of the program, which is currently at capacity, these latest funds will enable an additional team of Say Yes Health Home Care Managers in K-12 Buffalo public and charter school buildings. The funding will also support a pilot

partnership with local campus-based College Success Supervisors to support additional students with chronic health conditions as they transition into postsecondary programs. “This pandemic has exposed some serious fault lines in our community around health-care access and equity,” said David Rust, executive director of Say Yes Buffalo. “We’re honored to receive the continued support from BlueCross BlueShield’s Blue Fund, and we’re humbled to know that its leaders can count on our team to deliver these absolutely crucial services directly to families who need that extra layer of support to achieve better health outcomes. A healthier community is one that can realize its true potential for educational success.” Since BlueCross BlueShield launched Blue Fund in July 2018, its awarded more than $5 million to organizations and initiatives that work collaboratively to address key health areas and demonstrate enhanced measurable outcomes for Western

New York. The community-based, not-for-profit health plan pivoted its traditional 2020 Blue Fund grant cycle to support the most critical and immediate community needs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This included a $1 million grant to the WNY COVID-19 Community Response Fund. “As the region’s largest not-forprofit health plan, we’re committed to supporting initiatives that strengthen and enrich our community,” said David W. Anderson, president and CEO, BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York. “This Blue Fund grant builds on our longstanding partnership with Say Yes Buffalo to support Buffalo Public School students’ greatest health needs.” Blue Fund grants, funded from the health plan’s strong reserves, are awarded in addition to the health plan’s current corporate partnerships and sponsorships, which saw investments of more than $2 million in Western New York in 2019.

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Our ECMC family is incredibly grateful for the doctors, nurses, specialists, and staff who are working tirelessly to care for our community with undeterred dedication. Amid the challenges of the pandemic, you are fighting COVID-19 head-on. Even when we’re through this chapter, your courage and sacrifices will always inspire our community.

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