Tuesday, October 20, 2020

A home care check-in for Check Your Meds Day

A home care check-in for Check Your Meds Day

By Fatima Shell-Sanchez, Registered Nurse, Visiting Nurse Service of New York

Wednesday, October 21st is National Check Your Meds Day, and that is an excellent reminder for older New Yorkers and their family caregivers to spend a few minutes thinking about the medications they are taking, and make time to review them with your doctor or pharmacist.

Picture your elderly father living alone and seeing a doctor for several chronic conditions, and his latest checkup has you troubled. His high blood pressure has been creeping up again, chronic pain seems unmanageable and, concerned about keeping diabetes under control. The doctor has prescribed new medications. When you stop by for a visit with your dad, you encounter unopened prescriptions and over-the-counter medications, half-empty containers of outdated drugs and an assortment of loose pills you cannot even begin to decipher.

For many, caring for an older loved one with several chronic conditions, this scenario might be heart-breaking and familiar. With more than 83 percent of people over the age of 65 taking prescription medications, the possibility of mismanagement—including overdose or under dose—is a growing concern for family caregivers. Although balancing several medications can prove difficult for anyone, risks for the elderly can be complicated by memory loss as well as vision and hearing impairments.

The average senior takes more than five different pills daily, not including over-the-counter drugs or supplements, which can leave them more vulnerable to adverse reactions. In fact, researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that senior citizens are twice as likely to visit the emergency room because of adverse drug reactions as their younger counterparts.

My colleagues and I at the Visiting Nurse Service of New York work closely with those in our care and their family caregivers to reconcile all medications after a doctor’s appointment or trip to a specialist. You can help your loved one manage medications safely, too. Here are a few guidelines to help navigate medication adherence with family members and their doctors or pharmacist:

1. Make a list. 

Keep a personal record of all the meds your loved one is taking, including the name of the medication, the dosage instructions, the reason it was prescribed and the name and number of the doctor who prescribed it. Don’t forget to include over-the-counter meds and herbal supplements, too. 

If your loved one’s medication regimen is too complex to keep track of, ask your doctor if a service such as MedMinder, which sends caregiver alerts when a dosage is missed, might be something to try.

2. Take all medications to all of your doctors. 

An estimated 100,000 older Americans are hospitalized for adverse drug reactions yearly, and three of the most commonly prescribed drugs— insulin, the blood thinner warfarin (aka Coumadin) and the heart drug digoxin—are most often the cause, according to a study by researchers at the CDC published in the New England Journal of Medicine. If you or your loved one is unsure about any prescriptions, put everything in a bag and take them to your doctor. 

Ask for help figuring out what you are taking and why, to avoid taking medications incorrectly. Being knowledgeable about your meds is the first step in preventing medication errors. Most importantly, don’t leave the doctor’s office without an updated list of all your meds. The doctor might have changed or discontinued a prescription, and it is easy to forget such changes by the time you get home. For added assurance, share the list with your pharmacist, who can help keep track of and adjust medications, too.

3. Ask questions. 

Don’t be afraid to speak up. Every time a new med is recommended or prescribed, ask the physician and pharmacist these key questions: Why has this drug been prescribed? How does it work? How can I tell if the drug is working? What are the possible side effects? Is this drug safe to take with other prescriptions and over-the-counter drugs? I also recommend asking about the risk of taking medications with different foods and drinks. Something that seems innocent may cause an adverse reaction. Grapefruit juice, licorice, chocolate, alcohol and other food and beverages are known to increase side-effect risks with certain medications.

4. Change dosage. Overwhelmed? 

Ask your prescribing physicians about possibly lowering the number of different pills taken throughout the day. Studies show that the more pills a person takes, the less likely they are to adhere to the schedule and dosage.

5. Store smart. 

Don’t keep your meds in the bathroom or the kitchen. Many people are unaware that moisture and heat in these areas can affect medication potency. Knowing how to properly take and store your medications not only helps them work more effectively but also could save your life.

And remember, It’s OK to ask for help! According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, family caregivers spend an average of more than 24 hours per week solely providing care! It’s not a sign of weakness to ask for help. 

Speak with your doctor if managing medications is becoming a problem. In addition to the solutions mentioned here, you may be eligible for assistance from a licensed home care provider such as VNSNY or Partners in Care. Even a home health aide who comes once a week can provide helpful reminders for forgetful loved ones—and that can bring everyone peace of mind.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

We Can Work to End HIV/AIDS in the Bronx Latinx Community

Reduce the fear - Talk about sex, ways to curb HIV

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By Cariane Morales Matos, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Albert Einstein School of Medicine and Attending Physician, Infectious Diseases, Moses Division

Many people feel sex is a taboo topic and hesitate to discuss it with their healthcare providers. Starting a conversation about HIV can feel just as nerve-wracking, if not worse! While you might feel nervous, the real danger is not discussing HIV prevention. Today we have medicines that can protect you before and after a possible exposure.

From 2009 to 2018, there was a 43% decrease in new cases of HIV in New York State. Despite these great strides in the mission to end the AIDS epidemic, new infections still happen daily. The most recent available statistics from December 2018 show more than 108,000 New Yorkers were living with HIV. More than half of those newly diagnosed (64%) were in people under 40, with Black and Hispanic people diagnosed at a disproportionately higher rate.

On October 15 each year, the CDC recognizes National Latinx AIDS Awareness Day to raise public awareness of the HIV epidemic in Hispanic/Latinx communities in the USA. In the Bronx, approximately 4 out of every 10 people living with HIV are Hispanic. While it may seem hidden, HIV/AIDS effects our community – our brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles. Awareness and new forms of prevention and education can help us stop AIDS.

Although there is currently no cure for HIV, we now know from several studies (HPTN 052, PARTNER), that if an HIV infected person is diagnosed and receives treatment promptly, the virus can be controlled and won’t be transmitted another person. In addition, the progression of the infection can be stopped to prevent AIDS, helping many with HIV live long, healthy lives.

If you are sexually active, using condoms consistently is your first step in protecting yourself against HIV. HIV testing is the second most important tool. Knowing your results will empower you to make informed choices for you and your partners’ health.

New medications like PrEP (pre exposure prophylaxis) can prevent you from getting future HIV infection and PEP (post exposure prophylaxis) can help if you think you have been exposed to HIV.  In some cases, you can take one pill a day to stay healthy and live a full, productive life.

Start a conversation with your doctor to help keep yourself and your community healthy this October.

You can visit the Montefiore Oval Center for sexual health services including HIV testing as well as medicines for before or after an HIV exposure. Call 718-882-5482 for more information and to set up an appointment. 

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Organ/Tissue Donor Enrollment Day

Organ/Tissue Donor Enrollment Day
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By Leo Trevino, MPA, MDiv Manager, Organ/Tissue Donation Montefiore Medical Center

October 8th is national Organ/Tissue Donor Enrollment Day. Montefiore Medical Center will again be participating in this annual event with one goal: to register – in a single day - as many New Yorkers as possible to be organ, eye and tissue donors. 

The initiative is committed to bringing hope to the nearly 9,500 New Yorkers currently waiting for a lifesaving organ transplant.  

In the Bronx, there is a great need for organ and tissue donation. People suffering from organ failure, and those who have an organ that has been damaged by disease or injury, come from near and far to Montefiore to receive lifesaving care.

In addition, as of September 2020, there were over 100,000 people in the United State on the organ registry list waiting to receive the gift of life - and on average, nearly 20 people across the United States die every day from causes that are treatable with organ transplant. 

By taking simple steps to register, each Bronx resident can join the more than 5.6 million people who have enrolled in the New York State Donate Life Registry. Doing so can help potentially save up to eight lives through organ donation and enhancing many more through tissue donation.  

If you are interested in registering to be an organ and tissue donor, note these important and easy to follow steps:

  • Let your family members and doctors know that you want to be an organ and tissue donor.

  • Designate yourself as an organ and tissue donor when you get or renew your driver’s license.

*Enroll online through: donatelife.ny.gov/ref/LiveOnNYDD177

The choice to donate is the ultimate gift – please consider enrolling on October 8th (or any day). 

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

One step at a time: A physical therapist’s guidelines for better “PT”

Guidelines for Better Physical Therapy

Guidelines for Better Physical Therapy

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By Sonia Rapaport, Physical Therapist and Rehabilitation Instructor, Partners in Care

When recovering from a crippling injury, a stroke, a major surgery, or a debilitating condition, help is necessary to regain strength, coordination, and balance.

As a Physical Therapist and Rehabilitation Instructor at Partners in Care, the home care organization where I work, and its affiliate, The Visiting Nurse Service of New York (VNSNY), my colleagues and I work closely with our clients to combine the latest medical knowledge and the most up-to-date technologies with hands-on care. We also develop goals for recovery and create a plan of care that helps our clients develop the skills and confidence they need to regain independence.

In recognition of National Physical Therapy Month, here are a few pointers about the many ways physical therapy can be of benefit, and how your physical therapist can work with you to provide optimal rehabilitation at home.

Assess Safety 

First and foremost, your physical therapist will assess the safety of your home environment. This means ensuring that the space of your home is clear of obstruction and screened for falls risks–a safe recovery or rehab cannot be made in a danger zone!

Do You Need a Mobility Device? 

Your physical therapist will then determine if a mobility device, such as a walker or cane, is needed to assist your recovery and provide you with additional support when necessary. Mobility devices can prevent falls and further injury, and can also be helpful in regaining strength, coordination, and independence.

Develop a Care Plan 

A care plan based on your physical therapist’s recommendations and your personal goals will be developed to make certain that a clear line of communication is open, priorities are aligned, and rehabilitation is optimized.

Instruct Proper Body Movement and Positioning 

Excessive strain on joints and muscles while rehabilitating can initiate further damage and stunt the recovery process. Through physical therapy, you will be instructed on gait, learn how to conserve your energy, and avoid putting pressure on certain parts of your body which are not equipped to endure any weight.

Encourage Physical Activity 

A body in motion stays in motion! Keeping active is an essential part to recovery, and one of the most significant challenges that your physical therapist will help you overcome safely. Your physical therapist will develop exercise programs to target trouble areas, enhance balance and coordination, build up strength and stamina, and maintain muscle mass.

Educate on Proper Care 

Your physical therapist will instruct you and your caregiver on proper around-the-clock rehabilitation, which may include introduction of an exercise schedule, a list of things to avoid, and what to do if additional assistance is needed. Mental knowledge can be just as vital as physical strength when it comes to healing. 

Observe Progress

With each session, your physical therapist will track your progress and assess whether your care plan needs to be rearranged or accelerated. Close observation is key to proper care and full recovery. When undergoing physical therapy, it’s natural to feel discouraged by challenge, or lack of independence, but observing your progress will show you how far you’ve come–one step at a time.

Sonia Rapaport is a physical therapist and rehabilitation instructor with the Visiting Nurse Service of New York and its private pay affiliate Partners in Care. For more information please visit www.PartnersinCareNY.org or www.VNSNY.org, or call 1 (800) 675-0391. 

Friday, September 25, 2020

Social Anxiety Can Still Affect Teens in a Virtual World

Social Anxiety Can Still Affect Teens in a Virtual World
Dr. Hina Talib, Adolescent Medicine Specialist, Children’s Hospital at Montefiore

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By Dr. Hina Talib, Adolescent Medicine Specialist, Children’s Hospital at Montefiore

For teens who spent the summer months social distancing and the months prior to that under stay-at-home measures, the new school year may reignite feelings of anxiety.

Even in the new virtual world where most teens will be learning, at least in part, via remote or virtual instruction, interacting with classmates and teachers on video may leave teens feeling fearful, embarrassed or awkward.

Some teens may struggle more than others to adapt to these new circumstances. Teens who suffer from social anxiety disorder may need extra support, especially when these feelings cause distress or lead to avoidance of social settings. If these behaviors persist for more than 6 months, this is considered social anxiety disorder Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health conditions in children and up 15% of teens may have social anxiety disorder, most of which are not recognized or treated. 

Social anxiety disorder is commonly seen in pre-teens and tweens, more often in girls and in children with other mental health disorders or family members with anxiety disorders.

Social anxiety disorder is an intense fear of social or performance-type situations. They may feel alone during virtual class and unable to connect with friends and teachers. They may express intense fear of doing or saying something embarrassing online, of asking questions or of being asked a question over the platform. They may appear shy, introverted, restless or inattentive on camera. Some will be reluctant or unable to independently “log on” to class or enable their cameras so they can be “seen.” Physical symptoms like racing heart, feeling faint, nausea, shaking and sweating may be present and may be harder for teachers and parents to notice remotely than when in-person.

Returning students who feel anxious or conflicted about back to remote school should be assured that these feelings are entirely normal in these uncertain times. Social skills over remote technologies are not the same as in-person; they require orientation, practice, troubleshooting and acceptance of the limitations. Coping skills, preparation and practice are key for overcoming social anxiety in teens. The goal is to help them move from avoiding uncomfortable parts of the remote school day, to facing the fears and practicing “working-through it.” 

Teens can try breathing exercises and remember that no-one can tell on camera that they are doing it. Mindfulness or meditation practices help too. Chair yoga or scheduled movement breaks can help ease stress as well. Additionally, role-playing a virtual lesson or planning a virtual study-date with a smaller group of peers or having tweens volunteer to go first or answer questions, may relieve the discomfort of waiting to be asked and be a good way to get comfortable with this new environment. 

We know that teens thrive on social connections and adolescence is a key time to develop life-long relationship building skills, so we need to validate their concerns, help to alleviate worries and provide tools for a successful and rewarding school experience. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Aging with HIV/AIDS: ‘You CAN Modify the Aging Arc’

Aging with HIV/AIDS: ‘You CAN Modify the Aging Arc’

To mark National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day on September 18, Arthur Fitting, LGBT Program Director at the Visiting Nurse Service of New York, is interviewing key experts on this wide-ranging topic, looking at what people with HIV, partners, caregivers, communities and the health care industry can do to help expand knowledge, reduce HIV stigma, and promote healthy aging. Today’s conversation is with Stephen E. Karpiak, PhD, Director of GMHC’s lead researcher on HIV and aging and Director of the National Resource Center on HIV & Aging.

We invite you to add your insights and experience to the conversation.

Arthur Fitting: What are the most important issues that people should know about aging with HIV?

Stephen Karpiak: Older adults living with HIV carry with them a number of other risk factors, which can include a history of substance abuse and smoking, high levels of depression, poor diet and a habit of being sedentary. Many people aging with HIV are on Medicaid and have limited resources. That’s a risk factor, too, as is being Black or Latino. All these risk factors contribute to inflammation in the body, and therefore increase their likelihood of having more comorbidities or more severe incidents of those illnesses. 

AF: Can you expand on the role inflammation plays in aging, particularly aging with HIV?

SK: Inflammation (overstimulation of the body’s response system) is the common pathway through the disorders of aging. If you’ve lived 60, 70, 80 years, you’ve gone through a lot of inflammatory episodes, many of them unbeknownst to you. Smoking, depression, eating processed foods, drinking too much alcohol—all those things cause inflammation that can imperil your health.

A lot of people with HIV think, “Okay, I’ll take my pills for the rest of my life and that’s the only thing I need to change.” No, it’s not. Treating the HIV is the easy part. The anti-retrovirals tamp down the inflammatory response considerably. But, on the other hand, if you smoke, have Hep B, remain sedentary, eat poorly—that contributes to the inflammatory cascade. 

So yes, you should take your pills. But you should also eat better, exercise, do not socially isolate. If you have mental health issues, don’t let them go unaddressed. These are the social determinants of health that make a huge difference in the lives of older people with HIV.

AF: How do people with HIV build on the knowledge they have of their illness to learn more about their health as they age? 

SK: Their concern for so long has been the virus, but now they should begin to understand: they’re aging. None of us are prepared for aging, as far as I’m concerned. We have to be preemptory, and that’s not the kind of medicine we practice in this country, preventive medicine. We wait until a plane falls out of the sky; we do nothing preemptively. 

With HIV/AIDS, the sole goal has been viral suppression. We’re obsessed with it, and I get why: for the benefit of the patient and to stop the spread. I certainly get it. But that’s not the only thing that’s important about this person—this is a whole person. We’ve totally relegated other risk factors, especially mental health, to tertiary issues. COVID has elevated that issue again. When we screen for depression, the numbers are always 3 to 5 times higher in people with HIV than in a similarly aged control group. And the average rate of PTSD is 35%. For me, that’s untenable. Suppression is treatable. But we have to expand the scope of what we treat.

AF: How should people navigate their health care as they get older? Should they seek to involve a geriatrician in their treatment along with their primary care provider?

SK: It’s generally conceded that the only physicians who know how to manage multiple morbidities are geriatricians or people who understand geriatrics. Certain HIV units are literally retooling care standards within the HIV clinics to include the methodologies of geriatrics. The geriatrician is aware of function, that your quality of life depends on how functional you are, how independent you are in your own home. Chronological age is a poor measure of aging. One of the challenges of geriatrics is how do you meaningfully measure age.

There aren’t enough geriatricians in this country. The model now is if you think you have an issue related to aging—frailty, pre-dementia, limitation of ADLs (activities of daily living)—your primary care physician refers you to a geriatrician, who does a workup and sends recommendations back to your PCP. And that’s if you can find a geriatrician.

AF: What is the age breakdown of the U.S. HIV population today?

SK: In New York City, out of 127,000 people with HIV, 60% of them are age 50 or over. Nationwide, out of 1.2 million, 63% are 50+, and 15% are 65+. HIV patients might not be considered old but may have all the symptoms of being old. 

AF: How do you find health care access is for people aging with HIV, and for the older LBGTQ+ population in general? The Visiting Nurse Service of New York, where I work, has provided SAGE training to every employee for LGBT cultural issues, sensitivities and best practices around sexual orientation and gender identity. But SAGE reports about 20 of LGBT people avoid medical care for fear of discrimination.

SK: There’s still a lot of bias in the health care system. Your PCP may see HIV-positive patients all the time, but as you get older, you may be referred to a rheumatologist, cardiologist, nephrologist, or another specialist who doesn’t see HIV people all the time. They and their staff are not ready for that person, and the stigma of HIV is alive and well today. They may say or ask something injurious to the patient, who then gets turned off and never goes back to the doctor. I know home visitors at VNSNY are trained to avoid those pitfalls, but not everyone is. 

AF: The old adage is you can’t stop aging. But you’re saying that’s not true. We can slow down the aging process if we pay attention to our health and get the care we need.

SK: Absolutely. You can modify the aging arc. It’s always better to do it sooner rather than later. If you’re 75, you’re not going to behave like you’re 30—your body doesn't have those kind of reserves—but there are all kinds of things you can do to practice good preventive medicine. Eat right, exercise, stop smoking, avoid stress and attend to your mental health.

AF: Thank you Steve for this interview and all you are doing for our community, and thanks too for supporting the work we are doing at VNSNY in the areas of LGBTQ+ home health care.

Monday, September 21, 2020

Preparing to Have a Healthy School Year

Preparing to Have a Healthy School Year

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With the new school year upon us, parents can help their children stay healthy and strong. In a school year in which children will be learning in person, remotely, or through a blended model because of COVID-19, here are some important topics to keep in mind:

*Annual checkup: During an annual checkup, a pediatrician can help detect health problems early, when they are easiest to treat.

Even during the COVID-19 outbreak, it’s important for your child to keep having regular checkups, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Now is a good time to call your child’s pediatrician to ask about making an appointment for a checkup or needed care. Before the next visit, whether by telehealth or in person, write down any questions you may have. 

*Immunizations: Follow your pediatrician’s advice and keep your child’s immunizations, including seasonal vaccines like the flu shot, up to date. The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly supports continuing to give children their shots during the COVID-19 outbreak.

*Hand washing: Hand washing is one of the most important ways to reduce the spread of germs, including the virus that causes COVID-19.

Children should wash their hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and running water for at least 20 seconds each time. It’s especially important to wash hands before eating, and after blowing their nose, coughing, or sneezing; using the toilet; touching animals or their food; or playing outdoors.  

*Healthy lifestyle: A lifestyle that includes regular exercise and good nutrition can strengthen your child’s immune system. Make sure your child eats enough fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and avoids saturated fats. Also, incorporate physical activity in their daily routine.

*Bedtime routine: The recommended bedtime routine has three key parts: brush and floss teeth, read a book, and make sure children have the same bedtime each night.

To help your child get used to waking up earlier during the school year, you can build the bedtime routine one part at a time, move the bedtime slowly to the desired time, and limit the use of electronic devices. Sleeping enough each night leads to improved physical, mental, and emotional health in children, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Fidelis Care is focused on children's health and wellness, and providing support and resources to parents as a new school year begins. We provide quality, affordable health insurance coverage to children and adults of all ages. To learn more, call 1-888-FIDELIS (1-888-343-3547; TTY: 711) or visit fideliscare.org/everychildcovered.

Friday, September 11, 2020

Amid a Global Pandemic, Immigrant Families Face Even Greater Health Care Insecurities

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By Angel Rosario

At EmblemHealth, I lead a dedicated team that’s embedded in our neighborhoods to help families answer questions about health care coverage and services. 

For some, we are the first people that patients have spoken to about whether they qualify for coverage, if they can get the preventative care they need, or how to deal with chronic conditions. We frequently encounter deep-rooted fears and a reluctance from immigrants and their families about how they can access health care.
Their fears are directly linked to the “public charge” rule, which is a new federal regulation that gives federal immigration officials the ability to deny applications for green cards and visas for those new to the country who have used certain government assistance programs. The rule, and confusion surrounding it, have led many to delay obtaining health care or avoiding it altogether; often resulting in people going  to the hospital or worse, watching loved ones die. From a public health and community perspective, we all must ensure this doesn’t happen.

When we talk to people about health insurance, many emotions are exposed, including concerns about qualifying for health coverage. Every day, I watch people walk away from no-cost health insurance because this new rule makes them feel targeted and exposed.

During this uncertain time, where more than 5 million people have confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S, there’s an especially crucial need to ensure all who need it, have access to health care. Yet, uncertainty runs high for many in migrant communities, unsure  if they can enroll in health insurance and if doing so will designate them as a “public charge”.

Last week, a federal appeals court blocked this proposed rule from being enforced in Connecticut, New York, and Vermont. Unfortunately, the court action has not alleviated anxiety. Individuals  are worried that applying for health care assistance will result in denial of a green card, visa renewal, or US citizenship, or even deportation.

Everyone has a vested interest in this debate; because the more people with coverage helps protect our communities from disease. The facts are New Yorkers can be fully covered. The public charge rule only affected Medicaid, not other coverage, such as the Essential Plan, Child Health Plus, or Qualified Health Plan. Furthermore, even prior to the court action, the federal government exempted pregnant women and children under 21 seeking Medicaid coverage from the public charge rule. Now the court has made it possible for families to seek coverage for others not previously exempted under Medicaid.
This is a confusing time, and we are here to help. If you or someone you know is worried about getting access to health coverage, please call us at 888-432-8026 where you can get answers. Getting coverage helps you protect your family, ultimately making communities safer.

Angel Rosario is the Vice President of Marketplace Sales at EmblemHealth, a New York nonprofit health insurance plan that serves over 3.2 million New Yorkers and nearly half a million patients through AdvantageCare Physicians (ACPNY), where more than 70,000 of its patients are insured through Medicaid.

Children Need to Go Back to School- Parents Say

In-Person Learning Can’t Be Replaced

In-Person Learning Can’t Be Replaced

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By Monet Elzey and Lude Bonnet, Parents of New York City School Children

It’s been 179 days since New York City schools closed due to the pandemic. Some of those days have felt like weeks, while others have passed with the blink of an eye. But as parents, one thing has remained constant: our devotion to the health and well-being of our children.

The shift to remote learning in March was an incredible feat by teachers, students, and families. Countless hours have been poured into keeping our children on track over the past six months, and the resiliency of our communities has been a beautiful thing to witness. We made it through some of the toughest days in our City’s history, during the height of a crisis no one could have ever prepared for. 

Today, we’ve made it through the worst of that crisis—and we’re uniquely positioned as the only major school district in the country able to safely send our children back to school in the fall. Our children, their education, and their futures can’t afford to wait.

As parents and educators, we know there is no substitute for the experience of being in a classroom. Our children have so much to gain from being in-person with their teachers, peers, and friends during this critical time. One of us has a son whose eyes light up when he talks about going back to his high school to start his junior year. He can’t wait to be back with his friends and a step closer towards graduation. The memories of when he first began his educational journey are still clear as day. It breaks my heart to think about a world in which he spends his last moments as a New York City student in our apartment every day, away from his friends, and separated from the teachers who want him to succeed.

Being in school is an experience that can’t be replaced. And that’s why we are so hopeful we can make blended learning work. It’s a chance to get our children back to their classrooms, where they learn best with one another.

As of now, the majority of students will begin the school year in a blended learning model, where they will be learning in-person in their own school buildings part of the week and learning remotely during the remaining days. Our schools play such a critical role in our communities, and hundreds of thousands of New York City parents are ready to safely get their kids back to their classrooms.

Are we nervous? Of course, we’re parents. We lie awake at night thinking about our kids, especially our youngest children. How can we help them understand that they can’t hug their friends? Will they remember to wear their masks all the time? None of it will be easy. Our young ones are dealing with the change, confusion, and even trauma the pandemic has brought into their lives. The social and emotional support of educators, friends, parents, and loved ones is needed more than ever for all developing young minds. We are so grateful for the wrap-around care that is already being planned out in our school communities.

Planning for the school year is never easy, but this fall has required far more preparation than ever. We’ve seen first-hand the work our teachers, principals, and even our Mayor and Chancellor have put in to keep our schools and classrooms safe. A later start to school is allowing educators and families more time to thoroughly prepare for the start of a school year like no other, and mandatory testing will help keep our communities safe and healthy.

We refuse to put our children in harm’s way. One of us has a daughter who was diagnosed with Lupus and making sure she’s healthy has caused many sleepless nights. So, safety is absolutely non-negotiable. Knowing that day-in and day-out, there are teams disinfecting the hallways, spacing out classrooms, ensuring adequate ventilation, and taking every precaution necessary for our children provides a little bit of peace during this turbulent time. Health and safety are leading the way as schools prepare a safe and supportive learning environment for our children, and we know school leaders are doing everything they can to start the school year strong.

As parents, we’re reassured. But above all, we’re hopeful. We believe we can make this work, and that we can give our kids the kind of learning experience they can only get in a classroom. During this unprecedented moment, we want nothing but the best for our children – and we know every New York City parent wants the same for their child. That’s what we owe our young people. Let’s do all we can to make that a successful reality this year.

How EmblemHealth is Supporting the Health of The Bronx

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During these uncertain times, questions about health care can be confusing and overwhelming. Many individuals don’t know where to turn, and what they should ask of their provider or their health insurer. 

For more than 80 years, EmblemHealth has worked to make quality health benefits accessible and affordable to all New Yorkers. Along with our physician partners, AdvantageCare Physicians (ACPNY) and community practice partners like BronxDocs, we offer a wide range of services and resources to our community members, including the following:

Removing Barriers to Care with Neighborhood Care

Navigate the health care system, making the most of your health insurance benefits and having access to local and community resources is important to your health. Through EmblemHealth Neighborhood Care, we provide in-person and virtual customer support to help you gain access to the care and resources available in the community. With numerous health wellness programs, we’re here to help the Bronx community learn and keep healthy behaviors. Our trained professionals offer personalized support in multiple languages, including English and Spanish.

Receiving Local Care from BronxDocs 

Bronx residents deserve access to high-quality, coordinated and culturally competent care. Our community practice partner, BronxDocs is a top-notch medical practice offering care at multiple locations throughout the Bronx community. 

You can schedule an appointment at any location by calling (646) 680-5200. BronxDocs is committed to delivering care that is patient-centered, compassionate, and quality-driven at in-person or virtual appointments. 

BronxDocs can care for your whole family, with a full suite of health care services including: Cardiology, Cardiovascular, Family Medicine, Gastroenterology, Gynecology, Internal Medicine, Laboratory, Ophthalmology, Orthopedics, Pediatrics, Physical Therapy, Podiatry, Pulmonology, Urology, and more. BronxDocs offers a special focus on senior care for Medicare patients. 

You can count on BronxDocs to provide access to the right type of appointment at the right time either in-person, via telephone, or through virtual video appointments and all Medicaid, Commercial and Medicare insurance plans are accepted. BronxDocs offers primary care and pediatric appointments within 24 hours and appointments with specialists are available within one week of your call. Providing high-quality, convenient care is the highest priority during these times, and Bronx residents deserve continued access to high-quality care.

Scheduling Virtual Visits

During these unprecedented times, EmblemHealth is working to ensure members can have access to medical appointments using convenient virtual provider visits. 
Now, you can use your tablet, computer, or phone to schedule appointments for urgent, primary or specialty care. If you are feeling anxious or experiencing grief or depression, you can use these virtual visits to access behavioral health specialists. People in the Bronx wanting to schedule a virtual visit with BronxDocs should call (646) 680-5200. 

Protecting City of New York Employees

EmblemHealth has been serving New York families for over eight decades. We’ve supported our members through the Great Depression, and in the aftermath of 9/11. Today, with the health and economic challenges facing our country and our city, we remain dedicated to ensuring City of New York employees have access to safe, quality care. After all, City of New York employees are the heart and soul of New York. 

For those workers, many of whom have been on the frontlines of the COVID-19 crisis since the beginning, our commitment to limiting exposure to COVID-19 while still caring for this critical workforce and their families remains a top priority. To that end, we are pleased to provide prescription drug delivery services, among other options.

In addition, City of New York employees have access to EmblemHealth’s City of New York HMO Preferred Plan, which combines a personalized health care experience with affordable coverage for city workers. These benefits include concierge health coaching service offered at no additional cost to our City of New York HMO Preferred Plan members, through our dedicated “Gold Line.” 

For more information on how EmblemHealth is supporting the Bronx, visit emblemhealth.com/bronx.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

How to Help Kids Cope with Unusual School Year

How to Help Kids Cope with Unusual School Year
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With all the changing plans and confusion during this back-to-school season, it is unsurprising that many students will be feeling more intense back-to-school jitters. In fact, with all the turbulence and disruption of the last school year, many more children could be feeling anxious about how this school year will go. And parents and caregivers are in the same boat. 

Dr. Zubair Khan, child psychiatrist at the Montefiore School Health Program, advises that families need to have open and honest conversations ahead of the start of school, and continue these conversations often throughout the year. 
How to Help Kids Cope with Unusual School Year

“The first thing to do, which is very important, is to acknowledge that it’s going to be an unusual year,” says Dr. Khan.

According to health professionals, the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on the mental health of many children, with heightened feelings of loneliness, isolation, anxiety and depression. Everyone wants children to have the best school experience and get a quality education, while being able to cope with the challenges that will likely continue throughout the year. Dr. Khan offers these simple tips for families to keep in mind during these uncertain times:

*Be honest: 

Help kids understand what they are walking into, and reinforce that the new environment is intended to keep everyone safe and healthy.

*Explain that things may change – and that’s ok. Explain that everyone will need to be flexible and accepting.

*Maintain a schedule at home – Children thrive on a routine: make sure they are getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet and getting physical activity every day.

*Manage expectations – Recognize that both children and adults may feel worried and stressed, but model positivity and reassure yourself and children that it will be ok.

*Practice and teach mindfulness techniques to help everyone cope with moments of stress or anxiety. Deep breathing exercises are easy and effective for children of all ages, as well as adults.

*If caregivers are concerned about their child’s changing behavior, consult with your pediatrician for further guidance.

Undoubtedly, the school year ahead will present challenges as children try to adjust and many families learn how to navigate teaching and working from home. 

Dr. Khan reminds families to have an open mind, share feelings with each other, and trust that the guidance from teachers and schools is intended to protect children’s safety and ensure they continue to learn and develop academically.