About Angel

I am a Client Services Specialist here at MSAA. I hold both a Bachelor's and Master's Degree in Counseling from schools outside the Philadelphia area. I love reading, movies, going to concerts and traveling. Favorite place I've been so far---Disney World!

Pamper Yourself

This month some people will find themselves celebrating Valentine’s Day, a holiday that celebrates love, warmth and thoughtfulness. The day isn’t made just for couples but for all who wish to rejoice in caring and kindness—whether it be with family, friends, or finding time to care for yourself. You can use Valentine’s Day as a reason to stop and consider what you can do just for you; with no schedule or agenda to follow, just an opportunity for a little ‘me’ time. Now this doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to break the bank spending money on material things to make yourself feel pampered. There is no gesture or act too small when it comes to caring for yourself. Approach it with the question ‘I have time to do something for myself, what would make me happy?’ You may find the list of possibilities longer than you thought and that you’re overdue for some much needed self-care.  In case you need a few more ideas, here are some ways you can pamper yourself, not only for this upcoming Valentine’s Day but throughout the whole year.

  • Devote an amount of time for your favorite hobby or activity that you don’t do very often
  • Check out that book, magazine, show or movie you’ve been interested in
  • Take a day off—from a daily routine/schedule or from work but don’t schedule any other commitments, unless they’re fun and for your own benefit; remember, this is ‘me’ time!
  • If you feel the urge to spend a little money, treat yourself to some flowers or a small trinket you’ve had your eye on
  • Make time to listen to music, or take a walk/ride. Sit outside or look out the window and take notice of things that you don’t usually take the time to see
  • Relax! I know this is a foreign concept for many but try to make the conscious effort to rest your body and mind. Let your shoulders relax, pay attention to your breathing and feel your body unwind (this isn’t always easy to do so it may take some practice, be patient with yourself)

What are some ways you pamper yourself?

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Stick to YOUR OWN agenda

During this month’s blog posts we’ve had discussions relating to resolutions, changes, and goals for the new year ahead. While many people work hard to create their own plans and generate new goals to achieve, some individuals try to impose their own agenda onto others—with the expectation that the objectives they envisioned for that person will automatically be met.

Some of us are not complete strangers to this situation; especially if during your childhood or adolescent years you had parents or other figures hold you to complete certain tasks and require the execution of specific goals. This is usually not done in malice, but rather people wanting the best for others and for them to perform at their highest level of potential. However, for individuals experiencing an illness or disability, these anticipations can be overwhelming and burdensome at times, especially if they don’t match with their abilities and skillsets. Everyone is different and is capable of different things.

Even though it’s done with good intentions, others expectations can sometimes take over one’s own agenda completely, leaving their own goals and aspirations on the sidelines. It’s difficult trying to meet others’ goals for what you should or should not be accomplishing, and it can be downright exhausting trying to satisfy others in this manner. That’s why it’s important to stick to your own plans and agenda—to realize your abilities or limitations and to strive forward with this thoughtfully in mind. You can take others suggestions, if asked for, to take into consideration when you’re forming your objectives, but they should be your own and done on your own terms. It’s hard to please everyone, but if at the end of the day you are comfortable with the decisions you’ve made and the feats you’ve conquered, I’d say to chalk that up as a win!

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Here’s To a New Year!

When the clock struck midnight on December 31st, it symbolized the beginning of a brand new year for us to embark on! 2016 is here and it brings with it hope and light and aspirations that will optimistically fill the year ahead. The year of 2015 brought many different types of happenings; some dark, others bright, but also the chance to look ahead to a new time with different opportunities to seize and novel goals to set.

The new year represents new beginnings and a fresh start, a time to look ahead and think about what it is you’d like to do with your time in the coming year. This new time can mean different things to everyone—we are all unique so the things we set out to consider and do in the year ahead will be diverse. There’s no wrong resolution to set or incorrect goal to carry out; what you plan for yourself in the days ahead is up to you.

So what are some the things you’d like to do in the new year? I’ll get this discussion going: I’d like to take a class of some kind, maybe a cooking course (those skills would be welcome in my kitchen, haha).

How about you?

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Some invaluable lessons (from some unlikely sources)

It’s that time of year when the holidays are upon us in full force. With the celebrations of Hanukkah starting last week and the arrival of Christmas and Kwanzaa in a bit under two weeks, the season is in full swing. It’s during this time of the year when many people find themselves taking moments to reflect on the year and what they found important, meaningful, challenging or inspiring. Certain experiences, teachings and life lessons are frequently pondered during the holiday season as people recount what they’re grateful for, things they’d like to learn, and notions they are still trying to grapple with. It’s funny to admit but during this time of year especially there are some very invaluable lessons that can be considered and reflected upon from influences around us. Granted most of these influences may be in the form of animated figures and storytellers, but their lessons are still valid and appreciated as guideposts of direction and conscience.

Take for example the beloved, though mostly outcast, Charlie Brown Peanuts character. Even though his actions of choosing an at first glance unattractive looking Christmas tree to use as a prop for his friend’s Christmas play were ridiculed and contested, in the end it gave way to a most memorable and impactful speech explaining the true meaning of the holiday and what ‘Christmas is all about.’

Lesson: It’s the meaning of the season and why it’s celebrated that matters most, not material items or commercialism.

Another recognizable figure during this time is Dr. Seuss’ the Grinch character. Now he had the most learning to do of all – with his heart two sizes too small. Again he thought the season was just about material possessions and how much the Who’s had. It angered him to see how they reveled in the holiday celebration and thought that by taking away their belongings this would dampen their spirit. But the Who’s blatant joy and celebration despite their loss taught the Grinch more, of course, that ‘perhaps Christmas doesn’t come from a store.’

Lesson: The holidays are a time for appreciating who and what you have in your life that brings you happiness and realizing what you’re grateful for, and being together, even perhaps singing a little ‘Fahoo-dores.’  

And lastly, perhaps one of the most influential, historical characters during this time of year? Why yes, it’s Mr. Ebenezer Scrooge himself, the feisty curmudgeon who could really suck the spirit out of the holiday season – if you let him. Scrooge’s memorable and extraordinary tale of being visited by three spirits on Christmas Eve really captures multiple lessons of the season. By redeeming himself and changing his ways by the end of the tale, which we can only hope continued even after the story ended, he was able to ‘keep the spirit of Christmas close to his heart’ and celebrate all year through.

Lessons: Think and consider those who are less fortunate than you, and when able, spread prosperity (in any form) to others. Think about your actions – they can affect others too, not just yourself. Gratitude and appreciation can go a long way. Keep the meaning and spirit of the holidays close to you always.

Now not everyone may recognize or know these characters mentioned above, but the message remains the same. No matter what time of year, you deserve to think about what’s important to you, what you enjoy, and how these things influence your day to day. Values and lessons are important to consider—not only during the holiday season, but the whole year through.

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Giving Thanks

V2-2015-MSAA_Thanksgiving_Cards5This week many individuals around the country will celebrate Thanksgiving, a national holiday symbolizing the notions of graciousness and appreciation. This holiday and others represent different things to different people and hold varied meanings for all who celebrate them.  But a concept that can be universal and celebrated all year through is that of gratitude. Finding what you’re thankful for, no matter how big or small or different, is a part of this holiday tradition. Expressing your gratitude can help pay it forward and inspire others to do the same, and to hopefully further inspire acts of appreciation and kindness across our society. Celebrating the holiday can simply mean appreciating and reflecting on the words themselves-‘Thanks’ and ‘Giving.’

Please note that MSAA’s offices are closed for the Thanksgiving holiday on Thursday, November 26th and Friday, November 27th.

From all of us here at MSAA, please enjoy a safe and happy Thanksgiving!

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Insurance Open Enrollment Begins!

It’s that time of year again when individuals can enroll in a Marketplace health insurance plan. The open enrollment period to sign up for 2016 health insurance coverage begins November 1, 2015. For those who are uninsured, this marks the time when you can search for insurance plan options and assistance that may be right for you within the Marketplace. You may even qualify for lower costs on insurance premiums depending on your household information. Be sure to review the deadlines to sign up for insurance coverage to ensure that you are covered on a plan beginning January 1, 2016.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Affordable Care Act is working and continuing to increase access to healthcare. Millions of people were able to obtain healthcare coverage through the Marketplace as of March 2015 and this has decreased the rate of those uninsured. Insurance affordability has increased also, with the eligibility to qualify for lower premium costs, the expansion of Medicaid coverage and additional plan options to choose from being key factors in this act.

While this open enrollment period is a significant time for those uninsured, it marks an equally important time for those who have previously purchased health insurance through the marketplace as well! If you are not satisfied with your current plan purchased for 2015 and would like to make a change, now’s the time to do so! During open enrollment you can review other insurance plans to see if another plan better matches your needs.

For those currently enrolled in marketplace plans, you may receive a letter from your insurance company explaining if the company will either automatically re-enroll you for 2016 coverage, or if you will not be automatically re-enrolled. If your insurance company plans to automatically re-enroll you for coverage but you would like to make a change, it’s important to review other policies during the enrollment period and take action to change it by December 15th to ensure coverage beginning January 1st.

Whether you’re notified that you’ll be re-enrolled in your current plan or not, you do have to update your expected income and household information for the 2016 coverage year. This ensures that your premium tax credits are correct and you will receive the appropriate coverage costs and plan options. A letter from the health insurance marketplace is also sent out to individuals currently enrolled that better explains the actions needed to receive the accurate premium tax credits for 2016.

Besides updating your own income and household information, be sure to take the time to review the different insurance plan policies and prices for the new 2016 coverage year as these do change. MSAA has resources that can help you in the decision making process with the My Health Insurance Guide and The Affordable Care Act and Multiple Sclerosis brochure that provides an overview of the insurance planning process and steps to help you PLAN ahead.

Sources:

https://www.healthcare.gov/lower-costs/

https://www.healthcare.gov/marketplace-deadlines/2016/

http://www.hhs.gov/healthcare/facts-and-features/fact-sheets/aca-is-working/index.html

https://www.healthcare.gov/keep-or-change-plan/

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Social Wellness

As our blog theme for the month will focus on various concepts of wellness, I wanted to emphasize that wellness does not necessarily mean just in the physical sense with diet and exercise. Wellness can encompass many different factors, including spirituality or social well-being. As with many notions and ideas we have, wellness too can be perceived differently by individuals, and there’s not only one right way of looking at it.

Social wellness can be just as important as other types because of the impact it can have on one’s body and mind. Taking care of yourself physically is vital, but taking care of and being mindful of your social needs is equally essential. Human beings are meant to connect to others to find fulfilling emotional and thoughtful interactions. Reaching out to other people to make ties that create happiness and contentment is one of the most basic human instincts. Of course there can be interactions and relationships along the way that don’t always bring this sense of fulfillment or joy. But again, it’s part of our nature to either work through these obstacles to work on trying to change and repair these ties, or to dissolve them if they are causing increased stress and harm. The latter decision can be very difficult, but it’s important to know when a relationship is not providing positive benefits but rather draining energy and support.

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There are different ways for people to get socially connected to one another. Joining something like an art or education class, or attending social events in your community are some of the ways to increase connections. Throughout the MS community there are various internet group forums and discussions online, an MS Friends telephone line, support group settings and MS educational events. The form of communication can vary in social circles too, as some may feel more comfortable interacting online or may have access issues to physically attending outings. No matter the method, having affirmative social bonds can help to increase positive wellness.

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Finding Peace

Did you know that September 21st is known as the International Day of Peace, or World Peace Day? A day that encourages peace and the strength of positive ideas and movements, this internationally observed time is celebrated throughout countries across the world.

In a society that’s currently faced with some troubling and distressing times, it’s important to reflect on the idea of peace and what it means to you. It doesn’t have to look the same from person to person because everyone is unique in their own thoughts and feelings. It’s about carrying out behaviors and actions that can increase positivity and optimism and a sense of tranquility.

The things that can endorse and increase peace do not have to be grand gestures. It can be personal and private moments where you find strength from certain actions, or it can be doing good deeds for others and promoting positive thinking. The possibilities of peace can be endless because the gestures and concept behind it are endless.

You can find peace through meditation, songs, books, your relationships with others and yourself. You can choose to get involved in community activities or ask others to join events that help promote peaceful and positive thinking. No matter the task, the idea of peace can be translated in many different forms and its message remains everlasting.

What brings you peace?

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All I Really Need to Know I Learned In…..

So this week marked the time for many students across the country to head back into the classroom to begin a new school year. School supplies being emptied on store shelves, heavier morning traffic caused by school zones and bus stops, and the sun rising a little differently in the mornings all represent this significant time of year. It makes me think of the book by Robert Fulghum, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.

The book highlights some very important and notable lessons we need throughout life that were actually taught to us in our earliest phase of education. It may not have seemed like it at the time, as we were having snack, playing with classmates and enjoying circle time, but values were being engrained in us that we would use for years to come. Remembering to share, to say you’re sorry if you hurt someone, and to be aware of the world around us were just some of the imperative teachings we learned amidst play time. It got me thinking though, what other times throughout life are we taught these and other significant lessons? The answer: every day.

It’s true. We learn important life lessons every day, for those younger and older, in school or not, there are constant teachings around us every day that continue to instill life’s lessons and morals in us. We hear about other people’s experiences and we look at them as examples, to model or not. We see good and bad and find our place in where we wish to be amidst the chaos. We strive to continue learning and to be vulnerable to new experiences and feelings. We try to remind ourselves of who we are and what we learned years ago and how it can still have meaning now.

People show interest in the world around them every day, even if it’s just by watching the news—again, to be aware of what’s out there and what’s bigger and different. So while many of life’s important lessons were learned as tots on those first days in the classroom, life itself continues to be the classroom; with continuous trainings and encouragement all around.

What lessons have you continued to learn about or have tried to teach others?

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What To Do If You’re Uninsured

We know that life can be very unpredictable at times and no matter how much we try to anticipate obstacles and changes, there may be times that we find ourselves in unfamiliar territory, not knowing how to navigate the shift. With these changes sometimes come circumstances where one might find themselves without health insurance coverage for much needed medical care. It’s important to know where to go to try and find help with continued medical care needs.

If you’ve experienced some type of life change, like the loss of a job, moving to a new location, or getting married or having children and you find yourself uninsured, you may qualify to enroll in a Special Enrollment Period through the Health Insurance Marketplace to see if you can obtain healthcare coverage outside of the open enrollment deadline.

Local hospital systems sometimes offer financial assistance programs called ‘charity care’ to help those who are uninsured with medical costs accrued through the hospital. You can contact the hospital’s financial billing office for information on this assistance to see if you qualify to receive care from doctors and services provided through the hospital.

You can also try to access primary/general medical care follow up through federally qualified health centers in your area that work with individuals who are uninsured. These centers offer different services that include primary healthcare, dental care, women’s health services and routine immunizations, and physical exams. For those without insurance, a sliding fee scale payment option (based on your income and ability to pay for services) is sometimes available through the centers.

For possible help with medication costs, you can contact the manufacturer of the medication directly for information on any prescription cost assistance programs they provide. The MS Disease Modifying Therapies also have patient assistance programs that help uninsured clients by providing information and guidance for cost assistance they may qualify for with the treatment. By working with these different resources, uninsured individuals can try to continue maintaining their medical care and follow up.

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