Sunday, June 30, 2019

TIP: Why a sandwich is a great meal idea


 A sandwich is pretty much a perfect meal.  Sandwich ingredients come in a wide variety so you can make many different types of sandwiches that include whole grains, protein, and vegetables or fruits.   They also are automatically portion controlled, with one sandwich being a sensible amount for one meal.  Because sandwiches offer the three fundamentals of meal planning (balance of basic food types, variety within each food type, and moderation of amount), you might want to include more (and more types of) sandwiches in your meal planning.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Making Decisions When Disability Affects Employment

More Than One Way

 Perhaps you acquired a sudden disability due to an accident or illness.  Or possibly a progressive disability has gotten to the point that it is affecting your capability at work.  Or maybe it’s a combination of aging and a chronic illness.

Whatever the reason, many of us will face complex and painful decisions about our employment status.

Disability symptoms that can impact employment include:
  • fatigue
  • pain
  • cognitive changes
  • vision changes
  • anxiety or depression
  • reduced mobility
Other factors to consider are a sense of decreasing quality of life or a work-life imbalance.

Your employer or supervisor may notice that you have high absenteeism, which can be due to an increased need for medical care or for symptoms that cannot be managed in the workplace.  You may also be getting less positive performance reviews or negative feedback about your work products.

Before making any changes in your employment status talk with your doctor about symptoms that affect your work.  It is possible that a change in your symptom management plan or your prescriptions can provide all the accommodation you will need to stay in the same position.

If not, you will next want to consult a vocational rehabilitation counselor who can evaluate how your symptoms are affecting your work and suggest options for accommodation.  You will probably want to check with your doctor and the vocational rehabilitation counselor before your employer or supervisor calls you in for “the talk.”

It may be possible to stay in your current position with modifications of your job as defined in the Americans with Disabilities Act.  This US legislation required employers with over 15 employees to provide “reasonable accommodations” for qualified employees whose disability impacts their work.

If you decide to invoke the ADA and ask for workplace accommodations, you will want to be sure that the accommodations provided do in fact improve your effectiveness at work.  If not, or if your symptoms continue to change and require additional accommodations, there may come a point where you feel you must give up your job.

In making this momentous life decision, be sure to do some careful financial planning.  Evaluate your health insurance coverage.  Will you need to work part time to maintain coverage under your employer’s plan?  Do you qualify for insurance under Medicare or Medicaid?  Do you have a disability insurance policy or long-term care policy?

Create a reasonable monthly budget based on your projected income from all sources (savings, spouse’s income, disability support, etc.) and your expenses.  You’ll probably need to think about ways to cut expenses.

You will also need to consider costs in the longer term.  What about the costs of modifying your home to make it more accessible as you age or become more disabled?  Would it be wiser to move now to a smaller, more affordable, more accessible place?

You will also want to think about the social and emotional impact of leaving your career.  Because adults tend to identify with our jobs, you may suffer grief at the thought of becoming “medically retired” (AKA, unemployed).  You may feel a loss of a sense of purpose.  You may feel that your family will suffer from your lack of income.  Your self-worth may be impacted since you are no longer a “contributing member of society.”

The change from career to non-working requires both adjustments and acceptance.  You will recognize that job-related social activities and friendships fade over time.  You will miss the weekday routine.  You may feel you are becoming isolated and depressed.

However, the emotional impacts of stopping work are not all negative, it’s important to remember.  Trying to achieve work goals that become increasingly difficult to meet creates harmful stress.  Leaving your job can offer you more time to spend with friends and family, and you may have more energy to accomplish household tasks or devote to your hobbies.

As part of your adjustment to your new non-employed status, be sure to involve your family members in deciding changes in roles and responsibilities in the home.  Reach out to your friends and support network.  Create some daily structure that will keep you active.

Your vocational rehabilitation counselor is also a good source of information about volunteer positions in the community.  Volunteering keeps you involved mentally and socially if you do have to stop being a paid employee.  It can also be a source of new friendships.

Always remember, if your disability is impeding your career, your life is unbalanced.  Sometimes the best way to obtain a quality life balance is to quit the job and move on to a new phase of your life.

Leap Of Faith for Better Opportunity

Monday, June 17, 2019

Cooking Meat Safely


1.  Proper meat cooking for safe results begins with purchasing the meat.
  • Purchase fresh meat and poultry last before checkout.
  • Meat should feel cold in the store. Any meat product that feels warm has not been properly stored and could be unhealthy.
  • Look for packages that are tightly wrapped with no tears or punctures in the wrapping. If the product is vacuum packed, be sure the seal has not been broken and the package is not leaking.
  • Avoid packages with excessive liquid around the fresh meat, or ice around frozen meat. This might mean it had been stored improperly.
  • Check the sell-by date on the package to ensure freshness. If you buy meat or poultry on or right before the sell-by date, be sure to freeze it as soon as you get home or prepare it that day.
  • Wrap the meat package in a plastic bag before you put it in the grocery cart to avoid leaking meat juices onto other food products.
  • If the grocery store is more than 30 minutes from home, transport purchased meat products in an ice chest or cooler.
2.  Store the meat carefully before preparation.
  • Refrigerate purchased meat and poultry as soon as you get home from the store.
  • Keep meat cold in the meat compartment or coldest part of the refrigerator to inhibit the growth of bacteria that cause spoilage. Be sure the temperature of your refrigerator is 40 degrees F (4 degrees C) or lower.
  • Keep refrigerated meat packages on a tray or in a plastic bag so the meat juices do not leak onto other food.
  • If you freeze meat or poultry for use within a week, do so in its original store wrapping. If you plan to keep the meat in the freezer for more than a week, it should be removed from the store wrapping and rewrapped securely in freezer paper or plastic freezer bags.
3.  During preparation, it is important to avoid contamination of meat and other foods.
  • Wash your hands carefully in hot soapy water before and after handling fresh meat and poultry.
  • Keep fresh meat and poultry and their juices away from other foods, both in the refrigerator and in the preparation area.
  • If the meat was frozen, the safest way to defrost it is by letting it sit in the refrigerator. Never defrost at room temperature, as that allows harmful bacteria to grow.
  • To defrost a package of meat more quickly in cold water, leave it in its original packaging or in a leak-proof bag if the packaging is not air-tight. Submerge the package completely in cold water. 
  • Change the water every 30 minutes so the meat stays cool while it thaws.
  • Some microwaves come with a defrost feature. This works quickly but can begin to cook the meat in random areas. These spots become warm enough for bacteria to grow, so microwave-defrosted meat and poultry should be cooked immediately.
  • As soon as meat and poultry has been prepared for cooking, wash all cutting surfaces, utensils and counter tops with hot soapy water. If possible, use a special dedicated cutting board only for fresh meat and poultry.
  • Never put cooked foods on the same board, tray or platter that was used for fresh meat or poultry before it was cooked. When grilling, use separate plates to transport fresh and cooked meats.
4.  Meat should be cooked to the correct internal temperature. This will kill harmful bacteria that might be in the fresh meat.
  • The best way to know if meat is cooked thoroughly is to use an instant-read or ovenproof meat thermometer, which can help you avoid both undercooking and overcooking. Insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the meat, but do not let it touch bone. If pieces of meat are irregular in size, check a few of them to be sure they are all cooked to the appropriate temperature.
  • Slow cookers or crockpots are very safe ways to cook fresh meat and poultry. These kitchen tools will keep meat and poultry at a safe temperature as long as they are operating.
  • Frozen meat and poultry may be safely cooked in the oven, grilled, or on the stove without defrosting, although the cooking time may be up to 50% longer for the meat to come to the correct internal temperature.
  • It is not safe to cook frozen meat and poultry in a slow cooker or crockpot.
5. After serving your meat dish, if there are leftovers to be used in a later meal, proper storage is again important.
  • Chill leftover meats quickly before storing in the refrigerator or freezer to hinder bacterial growth. Spread large amounts out in a shallow container or divide large quantities into several smaller portions.
  • Ensure proper airflow around leftover containers in the refrigerator or freezer. Do not pack them tightly. This helps maintain the proper temperature in the compartment.
  • Label the leftover container with the date it was put into the refrigerator or freezer. Cooked meat and poultry will be safe in the refrigerator for 3-4 days; it will last in the freezer up to 4 months. If you are unsure how long the cooked food has been stored, throw it out.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Make Charitable Contributions Safely

When you donate money to a charity, you want to be sure that it ends up furthering the cause you intend to support. Here are six steps to take when donating to ensure the charity delivers on its promises.

1.    For your donation to be tax-deductible in the US, the charity must be a registered, qualified non-profit. Search for the organization’s name in the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) database of tax exempt organizations.

2.    Check out the organization’s website. Look for the organization’s mission statement, then find evidence of outcomes or impact of the organization’s work that align with its mission. Is the information updated and current?

Does the organization publish an annual report or other documentation of its claims of effective use of funds? Read accounts by persons served by the organization, but also look for statistics.

Check the staff’s contact information. Is it possible to identify actual persons you could call or email? Read their biographies to get a feel for the types of people intimately involved in the work of the organization.

3.    How do others feel about this organization? While you do not necessarily have to agree with people who offer either glowing testimonials or scathing negative reviews, it is useful to read both.

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) issues reports based on 20 Standards related to governance, finance, effectiveness, and informational materials about organizations for which they have received complaints. (Charities can also request a BBB evaluation. Those which meet all 20 Standards are then display the BBB National Charity Seal.)

Several independent organizations monitor the spending patterns of charities. It is felt that reasonable organizations spend no more than 30% of their income on running the business (salaries, office expenses, fundraising, and marketing). The charity should put at least 70% of donations toward the organization’s mission. Here are places to check how the charity you plan to donate to will use your dollars.

Charity Navigator shows the percentage of the organization’s budget spent on everything not related to its mission for organizations on their alphabetical listing. The website has a separate list of charities their experts have various levels of concerns about.

Charity Watch is like Charity Navigator but is organized by category rather than alphabetically. This can be helpful if you look for alternatives to the charity you were originally thinking of.

GiveWell is a VERY picky site. They create an annual short list of top global charities in the healthcare and poverty reduction arenas that are evidence-based and under-funded. This is useful if you want to donate where funding would be most effective.

GuideStar is perhaps the best-known source of information about charities. Free registration offers you tons of information on nonprofit organizations.

4.    From your research in steps 2 and 3, write a list of questions you would like answered about the organization.

Charity Navigator has a great list of questions that each organization should be able to answer, either through online documentation or by phone call or email.

5.    Contact a real person by phone or email and get answers to your questions. Follow up if you don’t understand an answer or need more depth.

6.    If you are planning to donate online, take these extra safety precautions.
·         Don’t ever consider giving your financial information through a website unless it is “secured.” You can identify a secured website by the letters in front of its URL. Secured websites begin with “https” where the “s” stands for “secured.”

·         Give directly to your desired charity instead of to a third party who is collecting donations “to be sent to” it.

·         Protect your personal information. Read the website privacy policy. Find out how the charity says it will use the information you provide. They should give you an “opt in” choice to allow them to disclose your information to other organizations. Find out if they place “cookies” on your hard drive.

·         Print out a paper record of the confirmation screen (or confirmation email) that your donation was received. Put this with your tax records.

Most charities are reputable and strive to improve the human condition. Don’t refrain from donating to charities. They need our support. Just be sure you donate safely.

Friday, June 7, 2019

Safe Gardening in June (and Every Other Month)

Gardening is a great hobby if done safely. It can provide both relaxation and exercise. Your garden might make your environment prettier or provide you with veggies and fruits for your meals. But you will want to follow these six tips to be sure that you are safe while working in your garden.

1. Get the best tools for gardening

Back and knee pain is the most common problem caused by gardening, so invest in a garden stool or knee pad to kneel on. If the handles of the tools you have are too short to use without stooping, you can get extensions to lengthen them. Or you can purchase new tools with longer handles with ergonomic easy grips on the ends.

The Arthritis Foundation asked accessibility experts to test various gardening products. The ones that work the best for persons with physical limitations are given their Ease of Use Commendation logo. Look for that symbol when shopping for gardening tools. Wear gloves to protect your hands and fingers. Any puncture or opening in the skin, no matter how tiny, offers a way for germs to get in and start an infection. Leather gloves will protect you from insect bites, thorns, and poison ivy.

2. Prepare the area where you will grow your garden

Remove all stones, debris, and unwanted plants from the area. You do not want any trip hazards for the gardener and the garden plants do not need competition.

Remember, a garden does not have to be at ground level. You can grow flowers and vegetables in container gardens or large pots, and herbs on the kitchen windowsill. You could make raised bed gardens which are great for gardeners who use wheelchairs and others who have trouble getting down to and up from ground level. It is even possible to garden in hanging baskets or on a vertical frame, if that works better for you.

3. Start small

Choose easy-to-grow plants that won’t need a lot of care. Try to limit the size of your garden to what you can care for in about a half hour, so you don’t expend more energy than you have available. Gardening is one hobby that is easy to make too big to handle!

4. Maintain good posture

Learn the proper technique for using a shovel. Use large muscle groups when possible since they are usually stronger. When lifting, bend your knees, grasp the object, hold it close to your body, and raise up using your leg muscles. Don’t bend over and lift through your back muscles. Get help with really heavy or awkward objects.
Twisting to shovel dirt or pull weeds can lead to problems with the spine and hips. Try to avoid twisting, and hinge straight forward from the hip joints (watch the video to find out what it means to “hinge”!).

5. Alternate activities and take rest breaks as needed

Keep your body safe while gardening. Avoid repetitive motion injuries by switching hands on tools and tasks.

Stretch before and after a gardening session. Stretching is a multi-purpose activity. It acts as a warm up for the muscles prior to a physical activity, a relaxation during the activity, and a cool down afterwards.

Pace yourself. Gardening can be done in short bursts rather than one long session.

Be sure to stay properly hydrated. It is generally recommended to drink a half liter or more of water each hour you work outdoors, but this amount will vary with temperature, activity level, and personal characteristics. Drink again when you are done gardening.

6. Keep your gardening tools clean and sharp

Wipe soil off tools and store them in a dry place to keep them from rusting. When the blades or edges of shovels, trowels and other digging tools get dull, sharpen them carefully or have them professionally sharpened. Sharp garden tools work better and will make your gardening less effortful. Take proper care of garden tools and they will help keep you safe while gardening.

Store garden chemicals like fertilizer and herbicides properly. Read the label and any warnings carefully before safely using these chemicals.

Here are some more tips and suggestions for safe gardening:

National Safety Month

Did you know that June is National Safety Month? This blog will celebrate by sharing tips and articles concerned with safety in all venues: at home, on the road and at work, online, financially, during storms, dealing with medical issues, and of course safety with regard to disabilities. We will share information, suggestions, and resources.

National Safety Month was initiated by the National Safety Council, which works to reduce the leading causes of injury and accidental death. They share many excellent resources on their website:

Join Virtual Ability as we celebrate safety throughout the month of June. We hope our readers will improve their safety year round by being more aware of potential hazards and knowing how to deal with them.