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Watching your health can be complicated. With the Individual Health Insurance Mandate portion of the Affordable Care Act kicking in you will have to think through your options. If you already have insurance, or are signing up with the Health Insurance Marketplace, some preventive services will be covered with no copay. But what do you really need to do to watch your health and catch big health issues?
If you opt out of mandatory health insurance or are deciding to go for catastrophic, high-deductible or “consumer-driven” care which provides only minimal visits per year and carries high deductibles, here are some tests you should try to squeeze into your healthcare budget:
1. Blood pressure screening – Home blood pressure cuffs are readily available so you can track this yourself.
2. C-reactive protein test – This protein can indicate the level of inflammation in the body and has been recognized as a useful adjunct to traditional cardiovascular tests like cholesterol and blood pressure.
3. Colonoscopy – Colon cancer is the third most common cancer in men and women so screenings beginning at age 50 are critical.
4. CYP450 test – This test can monitor the efficiency of your liver based on the availability of the right enzymes to process medications, allowing doctors to prescribe exactly the right dosage for your body.
5. Diabetes risk tests – With type 2 diabetes on the rise, a simple blood glucose test can tell you whether you may be at higher risk for diabetes.
6. Lipids panel – Still recognized as a key indicator of cardiovascular disease, newer lipid tests including the VAP (Vertical Auto Profile) test can provide more detailed information about the state of your cholesterol.
7. Pap smear – This test is recommended for all women who are 21 or over and/or sexually active.
8. Prostate specific antigen (PSA) – Establishing a baseline number for men is essential to long-term tracking of the health of their prostates and early warning for potential issues down the line.
9. Skin cancer exam – Skin cancer rates have been rising and you should be checked every year for unusual growths or changes to your skin.
10. Stress test – Used to determine the likelihood of coronary artery disease, this is especially recommended for those over age 50.
Of the tests listed above the ones that will be covered include blood pressure screening, colonoscopies, diabetes screening (only if you have high blood pressure), cholesterol screening and pap smears (HPV DNA test. This means if you want a baseline PSA test, a more informative cholesterol test or think you may be at a higher risk for type 2 diabetes, even if you don’t have high blood pressure, you’ll have to go shopping for the best price on your own. When you are on a budget, the last thing you need are price surprises. Choose a lab testing company with transparent prices on the front end so you know how your proactive care will fit into the budget.
These tests are available at independent lab testing facilities and do not require a doctor’s order or prescription. With a Flexible Spending Account most of the costs can be covered using your pre-tax dollars. Do your research and make the most of your options.
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In the last few years we have gained awareness of the various needs that individuals with mental health issues need in order to achieve overall well-being. Many times, we talk about the importance of medication, individual counseling, family counseling, and, socialization.
Those are all of extreme importance when it comes to mental health but the one service that seems to be forgotten is care management. A lot of people attribute care management services to individuals who are aging or who have chronic medical conditions. Although, care management can be very helpful for those issues, we also see a huge need for intense care management for individuals who have a chronic mental illness and cannot get access to any services. It is not a secret that severe and persistent mental illness like schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder, and major depression can require intense care management and advocacy.
Just as a refresher, the duties of a mental health care manager include:
- Acting as a connector between the individual and the community resources
- Advocating on behalf of the individual so that he or she gain access to needed quality services
- Overseeing the care of an individual including medication management, doctors' appointments, therapy, psychiatric services, and anything else related to their care
- Connecting the client's family to support services such as individual, family, or group counseling
- Being an advocate if there is need for hospitalization to ensure the safety of the client and their family members
- Facilitating access to needed benefits
- Assisting the individual with navigating all the different services so that it does not become overwhelming for them
- Crisis intervention
- Alleviating family members of some stress regarding the care and wellbeing of their loved one
- Coordinating for advanced planning for the individual
- Connect individual with social services and programs
- Any service that the person may need the care manager will make that connection.
As professionals in the field of mental health, we see that families with loved ones living with a mental health condition often want an immediate and instant "fix" for their family member. It is important for them to keep in mind, that a mental illness is a lot like a physical illness that needs constant care. This is not to say that you cannot live a "normal" life with a mental illness however extra care is needed. In addition, as family members it is important to remember that you also have a vital role in the recovery of your loved one. The more involved you are, the more likely your loved is to recover.
There is a lot of value in having a care manager involved in the care of your loved one with a mental illness. A care manager will initially do a full initial assessment of your loved one's needs and wishes and will explore what services can add value to the life their life. They will explore the physical, psychological, social, and emotional well-being of your family member and will assess for possible gaps that need to be filled. For example, your family member may be living with schizophrenia and has been in and out of the hospital while being non -compliant with medication. Once this happens we know that your loved ones has probably had many psychotic episodes resulting in severe impaired functioning. Therefore. he or she may need home care services to assist with activities of daily living such. However, every case is different some more severe than others.
Another common case for care management is one that your adult child has recently been diagnosed with a mental illness and you as parents / family members do not even know where to start. In cases like this, the care manager steps in and coordinates for all initial care. When this occurs we often see a sense of relief in our family members as they often will say "I do not even know how I would have started this process without you". A care manager is also a huge support system for the individual as they now know that they have an advocate overseeing their needs and wishes.
It is important to remember that living with a mental illness or having a family member with a mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of. In addition, the diagnosis of a mental illness does not mean that the person's life is over as many people mistakenly think. We have worked with many individuals and their families as they cope with diagnoses like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depression, generalized anxiety disorder, agoraphobia, and many others. The beginning of the process is usually made up of what we like to call growing pains full of discomfort. It is important to note that many of our clients with these diagnoses live normal lives but are able to do so because they gained access to the resources in the community. One very important step is accepting the presence of this new diagnosis and what it may mean. Another important step is realizing that you may need the help of psychiatric and / or home care services. It is important to act as early as you can, as early intervention can lead to the best results.