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Avoid the flu this season: Tips for keeping your employees and business healthy

  • Written by BPT

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), last year’s flu season began four weeks earlier than expected, resulting in the earliest flu season in a decade.

While the early arrival proved to be tough on families, it was especially difficult for small businesses and start-ups that rely on their staff to stay profitable and productive during the holidays and tax season.

The CDC estimates that each year the flu results in 75 million days of work absences and 200 million days of diminished productivity for businesses nationwide. Cumulatively, the flu costs businesses an estimated $6.2 billion in lost productivity each year, with small businesses proving to be no exception.

To keep your staff healthy and business booming, Sam’s Club and the Sam’s Club Pharmacy offer the following tips to avoid catching the flu this season:

• Encourage employees to get immunized

Immunizations are a simple and effective way for adults and businesses to protect themselves from catching and spreading the flu. The CDC recommends getting an annual flu immunization as the first and most important step in protecting yourself against the flu.

Get immunized early and persuade your staff to do the same.

Encourage your staff to get immunized by taking them out for lunch and immunizations.

Find a location near you that administers the flu shot. This year, your local Sam’s Club Pharmacy offers scheduled and walk-in immunization appointments for all adults age 18 and over - no membership required. Sam’s Club has also implemented additional options for adults to increase flu protection convenience including increased inventory, trained pharmacists to administer immunizations and a privacy screen at each pharmacy for a more comfortable experience.

• Stop the spread of germs

In addition to getting the flu immunization, simple daily measures can protect you and those around you from getting sick.

Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing.

Wash your hands regularly with soap and warm water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth to prevent the spread of germs.

• Stay home when sick

If you or a staff member begins to exhibit flu-like symptoms, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from spreading the flu and infecting others.

If you are sick with a flu-like illness, the CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities.

Additional information about the flu, last year’s outbreak and how to avoid catching the flu this season can be found on the CDC website or by visiting SamsClub.com/healthyliving.

New nonprofit at ‘Forefront’ of suicide-prevention efforts in state

  • Written by Melanie Eng, UW News Lab

Leah and Scot Simpson lost their son to suicide in 1992.

Trevor Simpson, 16, was a promising and seemingly well-adjusted teenager at Edmonds Woodway High School: popular, charismatic, an honors student and star member of the varsity football team. But one night in January, he left home in the Chevy Nova he bought with the savings from his paper route and never came back. The next day, the Simpsons would find out their son had killed himself.

"We couldn’t believe it," Leah said. "We kept asking ourselves, how did this happen? What did we miss?"

It’s a question too frequently asked by loved ones left behind when someone takes his own life. And when hindsight kicks in, so does rampant self blame. Off-kilter comments, misinterpreted as benign morbidity at the time, seem like obvious warning signs in retrospect. Like when Trevor told one friend just days before his death that "he wanted people to wear purple to his funeral." 

But Trevor’s parents, classmates and teachers weren’t taught how to look for and properly address the signs of suicide.

It was a taboo subject that nobody wanted to talk about – much less address head-on. Gathering together after his death, Trevor’s community realized they shouldn’t be asking themselves what they missed, but why they missed it.

"We weren’t educated," she said. "Trevor might still be here if we were."

Driven to fix the gaping hole in suicide-specific community education, the Simpsons spearheaded the creation of the Youth Suicide Prevention Program (YSPP), then funded by the Washington State Department of Health. The program continued as an independent nonprofit in 1999 and has since burgeoned into the state’s leading suicide prevention organization.

YSPP aims to raise suicide awareness, improve parent/teacher education and implement peer-to-peer "Question, Persuade and Refer" training curriculums in secondary schools across the state. The Northshore School District does not currently use YSPP curricula, but Woodinville High School hopes to introduce it this school year.

According to the YSPP website, an average of two youth die by suicide every week in Washington state, while an average of 17 young people per week are hospitalized overnight for non-fatal attempts. That’s excluding any emergency room admissions, which remain unquantifiable under Washington state law. It is the third-leading cause of death in young people ages 10-24, and the second-leading cause in college students in particular, according to YSPP.

Scot and Leah Simpson use an interesting metaphor to explain this disturbing trend. "Suicide is like a slot machine," Scot said. "When you have all ‘7s,’ there’s a suicide or an attempt."

Scot said different psychological, biological, sociological and existential risk factors must all be present at once for someone to attempt suicide – a perfect storm that, like numbers lining up on a slot machine, is pretty uncommon. But he said young people face the added risk of hormone-fueled emotional instability during what is often a "socially traumatizing" point in their lives. Combine this with common mental health disorders, like Trevor’s possible attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (which is linked to low serotonin levels), and the results can be devastating.

"For some kids, one or two of these slots are always filled," he said.

Today, Scot serves on the board of directors of Forefront, a new nonprofit based at the University of Washington. While YSPP works directly with schools and students on a case-by-case basis, Forefront aims to bolster prevention training and education through big-picture legislative action.

Retired YSPP executive director Sue Eastgard and University of Washington Social Work Professor Jennifer Stuber started Forefront to carry out the policies of the Matt Adler Suicide, Treatment and Management Act of 2012. This groundbreaking piece of legislation was coauthored by Stuber and named for her late husband, who killed himself two years ago.

Stuber, who believes early detection and treatment would have saved her husband’s life, was inspired to take action after learning that many health-care professionals in Washington state are never trained in suicide assessment and treatment.

Eastgard said there were no classes on suicide intervention when she was a student at the University of Washington School of Social Work.

"The field has really neglected this as a core competency," she said.

The Matt Adler Act, the first law of its kind in the nation, requires all mental health professionals and social workers to now receive six hours of suicide-specific training every six years in order to retain their licenses.

According to Eastgard, Forefront members are currently organizing to make sure all 26,000 health-care professionals impacted by the new law have access to the training they need.

Forefront is also brainstorming the development plan for a second law it helped pass in June, following the success of the Matt Adler Act. It will require all Washington state public schools to adopt a comprehensive crisis-response plan for the prevention, intervention and "postvention" of suicidal emergencies by the 2014-2015 school year.

"Most schools do have a general crisis plan, but those only cover what to do if there’s an earthquake, or a bomb threat, or a shooter on the school grounds," Eastgard said. "Of course, this happens much more often."

The new law will force all public schools to create concrete procedures for dealing with the reality of teen suicide and depression. Leah Simpson said many schools would otherwise refuse to address the issue of suicide at all, too afraid of "stirring stuff up" and admitting there is a problem.

"It’s a taboo many people don’t even want to talk about," she said.

It will also ensure schools that already voluntarily participate in suicide prevention programs - like the YSPP program Woodinville High School plans to adopt - continue meeting minimum standards, even with future teacher and administration turnaround.

The law will further mandate that all public school counselors, nurses and new school teachers (certified after August 2014) undergo a training program on how to competently recognize and respond to suicidal behavior in students.

Eastgard said schools will ideally craft comprehensive plans that focus on educating all "gatekeepers" – including parents, teachers, counselors and peers.

"If your English teacher is worried you might take your own life, he or she will know what to do," she said. "If there’s a child cutting themselves in the bathroom, the school will know what to do. If a child dies by suicide, there is a procedure about how to handle that."

As Forefront works to carry out these macro-level changes, a recent grant facilitated the organization’s launch of "Husky Help + Hope," a campus-wide outreach program geared specifically toward college students at the University of Washington.

"The UW provides counseling and other services to students in need, but, until now we have not had the resources to implement a large scale prevention and education program like that promised by Husky Help & Hope," said Ellen Taylor, UW Counseling Center director, in a press release.

The three-year HHH plan includes improving resource accessibility, partnering with student groups for mental health promotion, and creating mandatory suicide-assessment training programs for graduate students about to enter the fields of health care and social work.

"Education is the key word," Scot said.

 

(MELANIE ENG is a student in the University of Washington Department of Communication News Laboratory.)

Your Legacy... How to Write Cherished Memories for Family and Friends

  • Written by Barbara Koshar

We all have fabulous essays of how we lived, laughed and loved. Some humorous — others — poignant. Will your children wonder what you saw when you pressed your nose against the window of your childhood home? When you were seven, were Saturday mornings a time for play or chores? What’s the story behind Aunt Kay’s crazy elephant collection? Here are a few tips to inspire you to share a unique gift — your engaging stories.

Begin with an idea.

• Describe your childhood best friend and a favorite activity.

• Tell a story about when you got into trouble. What did you learn?

• Complete these sentences: The most joyful day ever was when ...

Just for fun I…

This time I followed my heart…

• Describe meeting your spouse for the first time.

• Share something profound you learned from a child, a pet, a complete stranger.

• Share an inspirational story of an answered prayer or divine intervention.

• Reflect on something you’ve put off, will you accomplish it in the next year?

Begin by simply putting your history on the page. Don’t worry about being eloquent. Don’t worry about punctuation or grammar. Just get your thoughts down.  Write what you saw, what you heard, and how things smelled. Include your emotions. Be authentic. And, use these writer’s principles to make your stories memorable.

#1 Show, don’t tell.

Using sharp verbs and showing action brings stories to life. For example, instead of saying Dad arrived home in a happy mood (telling), you write, "Dad burst through the garden gate with a generous smile and a bouquet of crimson dahlias in his hand."

#2 Make each word, the right word.

When writing a magazine article, I wanted to describe an angry teenager. But the word angry didn’t fit the situation well.  I looked in my thesaurus but still couldn’t find the right word.  A few days later I was reading Readers Digest’s Word Power and came across sullen. That was it. I jumped up and turned on my computer and replaced angry with sullen which means resentful, sulky and sour. Perfect! 

Finding the best word to describe a mood or action can be a challenge. Words have textures, tints and shades. Take the time to check a dictionary and thesaurus to find the right one for the picture you are painting. For example, when describing color use navy, periwinkle or sapphire instead of blue. Find interesting words, but don’t use long or difficult words—just to use long and difficult words. Most readers won’t dust off their dictionaries to read your story; they will lose interest quickly if they don’t understand you.

#3 Clear the clutter.

Next, you can improve your writing by eliminating words that clutter. Instead of: She replied in a very soft manner; use, she whispered. And watch for redundancy; it is not small in size, it’s small. Also avoid wordy expressions. William Zinsser in his classic book, On Writing Well says, "There’s no need to say, ‘At the present time we are experiencing precipitation.’ " How can we simplify? It is raining, or possibly it is drizzling, or maybe we’re in a downpour. 

#4 Edit.

Set your work aside for a day or two and then read it out loud and ask, "Does my writing sound pleasing and natural? Have I included interesting details and chosen the best words possible? What can I eliminate?" You may wish to read to a friend and ask for advice. Then rewrite and reread. Now is also the time to look for and correct punctuation mistakes.

#5 Share.

Perhaps you’ll write several stories and put them together with photos for a gift loved ones will cherish. Or maybe like me, you’ll write a story each year and send it along with your Christmas cards. If you wish, you can self-publish your own book online. You hold a wonderful treasure — a  library of  fascinating history, humorous anecdotes and life lessons. Why not share; you’ll entertain and encourage your family and friends in their life’s journey.

When not writing or doing Saturday chores, Barbara is showing (not telling) Fairwinds-Brittany Park visitors all the benefits of living in a vibrant retirement community. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ©2013

Barbara Koshar

Ready to write your legacy? Brittany Park will be hosting a writer’s group soon. Please call if you have an interest in joining us.

(425) 402-7100

From Arts to Zumba: Northshore Senior Center will help you realize your expectations

  • Written by Northshore Senior Center

Hey you seniors! Do you need to sharpen your computer skills so you can communicate with your grandchildren? Dozens of your colleagues are learning the nuances of Windows 8, Facebook and other special websites at the Northshore Senior Center’s computer learning lab in Bothell. 

According to the NSC interim director, Danette Klemens, "We help over 100 seniors a month become truly computer savvy – and no longer fear the advanced tablets and notebooks. Plus, they’re learning at a non-competitive pace with other seniors – and receive individual assistance too."

In case you weren’t aware, the Northshore Senior Center located at Riverside Landing (Riverside Drive) in Bothell, is one of the premier senior organizations in the nation.  Klemens pointed out, "it earns and maintains the recognition, primarily for the breadth and depth of its activities; always adding new programs tailored to a senior’s community needs.  We offer numerous physical and mental improvement classes including the venerable ‘Tai Chee’ and Quigong (Chee kung), Yoga and the energetic Zumba dance and resistance training.  It’s quite common to see retirees who are approaching 90 move through numerous advanced programs to keep their mind and muscles in top form."

Meeting the expectations of the 2,800 senior members – from newly retired baby boomers to those of pre-401k – requires continuous evaluation. Many programs embrace the Advanced Wellness concepts of body and mind; such as Brainfitness. Many retirees welcome the center’s family caregiver programs and state approved Adult Day Care Health where chronic conditions are treated with compassion. It serves those who experience physical, mental or social problems associated with a wide variety of disabling conditions. Participants don’t have to be seniors and the center cares for them five hours per day for up to five days per week.  Often senior parents or other family of younger retirees are enrolled - thus offering respite for the younger caregivers. Caregiving training is a big part of NSC’s curriculum.  

Other courses embrace activities where the member is already somewhat proficient, or wants to be; like creative writing, guitar and piano workshops, a variety show and band or outdoor and recreation groups that bicycle, hike, golf and fly-cast. You name the activity and the center likely can accommodate you! The center’s quarterly catalog is loaded with so many classes and activities the offerings resemble that of a large community college. 

The Riverside Drive Campus operates in two buildings. In the Health and Wellness Center on the north side of the street, there is a well-appointed fitness center.  Once qualified, members have access to treadmills, stationary bicycles, ellipticals and special training equipment. The Adult Day Care program meets in a large space that also accommodates wedding receptions and corporate gatherings, served by a commercial kitchen.

Across the street, the Senior Center is a beehive of activity with numerous classes and group exercise running simultaneously. It too has a great room space and a commercial kitchen serving weekday lunches. A cozy coffee shop serves up the renowned home-made pies and cookies, including sugar free, made by the volunteer "pie-ladies." And twice a month there is a sumptuous pancake breakfast.

Annually, the center hosts the Holiday Craft Market, the "Ransacked Attic" – yard sale, that draws hundreds of shoppers, and the "Karaoke Bingo Nights."

Klemens points out, "It’s our volunteers who furnish the energy needed to accomplish these multiple events. Just getting the daily hot lunch on the table requires a dozen volunteers. A big event such as the "Ransacked Attic" yard sale needs more than 100 to make it happen. And our senior volunteers are the faces you’ll be greeted by at our Bothell, Kenmore and Mill Creek centers."

The NSC motto: Welcome – come get active with us and enhance your quality of life!

As you’ve seen, the NSC is far more than a place to keep older people busy.  The new members become volunteers who bring their friends, build interest in special activities, call others to become involved, attract new and skilled volunteers and help their programs grow. 

Senior power is the NSC banner and it has made the center into one of the largest and most active in the country.  Have a question? Call the Bothell Center at (425) 487-2441.

Fraud alert: Grandparent scam continues to

  • Written by BPT

Imagine being woken by a phone call in the middle of the night. It’s your crying grandchild, who is asking for money because of an accident. Of course you want to help your loved one, so you do whatever you can in this emergency situation. You open your wallet without hesitation.

Unfortunately you’ve just become a victim of a scam that is happening across the country. Known as the "grandparent scam," this type of fraud involves bogus calls from people claiming to be relatives in trouble. The personal nature and urgency of these calls causes people to let their guard down, and act quickly without verifying the validity of the call.

"Criminals often target older people, but in reality anyone of any age can be a target of a scam," says Phil Hopkins, vice president of global security with Western Union. "With more people sharing personal information online, such as through social media websites, it’s easier for criminals to learn details of personal relationships so they can imitate loved ones by name. Newspapers and obituaries are also good sources of personal information, providing detailed relationship information."

Con artists may also impersonate attorneys, police officers or bail bondsmen to create a sense of urgency and legitimacy. Add in loud background noises, muffled voices or fuzzy phone lines, and it’s easy to believe someone is calling from jail or a remote location, where he or she may be in trouble.

In addition to calling victims, hackers use similar strategies to target victims through email. Tapping into a person’s address book, scammers send emails or instant messages directly from the person’s email account alerting friends and others of the "emergency" and requesting funds. Do not respond to the email and confirm the situation by contacting the person by phone or other means.-

"Awareness is the best defense against emergency scams," says Hopkins. "These scams can be convincing, but it’s important to keep a few things in mind before you rush to help."

Hopkins recommends you follow these tips to avoid becoming a victim of the emergency scam or other types of fraud:

1. If you receive a phone call or email claiming a friend or family member needs cash, take a moment to review the situation. Does it make sense? Can you verify the emergency?

2. Call the person at a known telephone number, not a number given to you by the caller. Or, call a mutual friend or another relative and find out if he or she is aware of the situation.

3. Let your friend or family member know that you have received a call or email from the person requesting help. If the request turns out to be fake, contact the police immediately.

4. Regardless of whether you are contacted by phone, email or some other means, be suspicious of requests to send money to "help a friend or family member out" unless you can verify the information you’ve been given with 100 percent confidence.

5. If you did send a money transfer through Western Union, and then realize that it was for a scam, contact the Western Union Fraud Hotline at 1-800-448-1492. If the transaction has not been picked up, it will be refunded to you.

6. Never send money to someone you have not met in person.

7.For more information on scams or for more tips on how to help protect yourself from scams, visit www.WesternUnion.com/stopfraud.