About Angel Blair

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!

It may look a little different this season…

I don’t know about you, but I can’t believe we’re already stepping into the holiday season. It’s bizarre to think that this year is almost over. I think many will be glad to see its end, as 2020 has for sure brought so many changes and ups and downs. In what has become a most unconventional year, the holidays may rightfully look a little different too. But that’s not to say that they will have any less meaning or celebration. This holiday season may just have a uniqueness unlike years before.

In this context, different doesn’t have to mean non-existent or absent. Maybe it means just having to tweak or modify the way the holidays are celebrated. It may not be the same nature of holidays past, especially with large gatherings and mingling. But you can still connect, still rejoice, and reflect. I always believed this time of year held special beliefs and a bit of magic. That does not have to change.

So instead of large family gatherings with everyone being in the same place at once, maybe celebrations are broken down into smaller groups at a time—much smaller groups. Weather permitting, maybe dinners and activities are held outdoors this year. And heaters and fire pits can be used in chillier climates, unless MS heat sensitivity is an issue, then the colder temps may be welcome. There’s also the possibility to find community traditions and events still being held in your area this season too. Again, with some changes, but still bringing a sense of festivity and merriment for this time of year.

Virtual connection remains a strong, ongoing theme of 2020, and throughout the holidays it will be more important than ever for many. Still being able to talk to and see one another, even if miles apart, will help keep holiday spirits alive. Whether it’s having virtual game nights and mealtimes, watching holiday movies or reading/telling stories to one another. The holidays can still create happiness and cheer. Especially after what this year has brought. Not celebrating the season would be an added sting that we don’t deserve. Staying connected through the holiday season is what’s going to keep beliefs strong, and joy possible.

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Medicare Open Enrollment 2021

We’ve entered that time of year again when insurance changes and decisions are upon us. And during what has been a very challenging and different, (to say the least), year, these decisions are more crucial than ever.

Medicare open enrollment begins tomorrow, October 15th, and will last until December 7th. During this time period, individuals can review their current Medicare plan and make changes if needed. You do not need to sign up for Medicare each year but reviewing your plan and making adjustments and changes as needed to make sure your healthcare needs are met, is essential.

Some new changes to note for the 2021 coverage year include lower premium costs and increased benefits and plan options for Medicare Advantage recipients. Premiums will be at their lowest rate since 2007, and extra telehealth and supplemental benefits, such as in-home support, will be offered as well. But it’s important to review out-of-pocket costs with these plans, even though premiums could be low, as well as making sure your providers are in the coverage network. These plans are very localized as well, so review what options are offered in your specific area/zip code for coverage. *Medicare Advantage plans are a type of Medicare health plan offered by a private company that contracts with Medicare to provide Part A and B benefits.

Medicare beneficiaries who have a Medicare Advantage plan or Part D plan should receive paperwork called “Evidence of Coverage” or “Annual Notice of Change” letters from your health plan showing coverage outlines and any changes that will occur. It’s very important to review these materials to make sure of any changes in the plan’s costs, providers, benefits, drug formularies, etc. so that if something is changing with your plan, you are aware of it and can make changes to your coverage if needed. These plans can change their benefits so it’s crucial to review your policy and any upcoming changes.

According to Medicare, you can make the following changes during the open enrollment period:

Also, if you are not satisfied with your Medicare Advantage Plan, you can disenroll from that plan and join Original Medicare during the Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period. This disenrollment period is open from January 1st to February 14th of each year.

The Medicare website offers a Medicare Plan Finder where you can search for and compare health plans, benefits, coverage and estimated costs. You can also contact Medicare directly at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) for information and questions.

You can also receive assistance and guidance in choosing coverage through your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP). This resource provides one-on-one insurance counseling and support regarding Medicare benefits. Visit https://www.shiptacenter.org/ to find your local office.

MSAA’s My Health Insurance Guide is a helpful source for the MS community to find more information about insurance options and resources, in addition to the Medicare Planning and Multiple Sclerosis brochure that helps to outline important parts and questions about Medicare coverage.

This is an important time to review your plan’s policy and make changes if needed to ensure that you have the appropriate coverage for your healthcare needs.

 

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Yes, it’s common with MS, and you are not alone

On the MSAA helpline we are often asked the question if depression and anxiety are common with MS. Those diagnosed and/or their loved ones reach out wondering about these symptoms and if others experience them too. The answer is yes. These symptoms can be very common with MS and are experienced by many with the disease. Questions about why and how, are ones still being researched to this day. And in a year like we’ve had, will probably be highlighted even more so moving forward.

There are many factors that connect these symptoms to MS and the disease course. MS can affect parts of the brain that help to control and regulate emotions and behaviors. Side effects of medications, other symptoms, and changes in the body due to MS can also contribute to depression and anxiety. And let’s not forget the general life stressors and daily changes encountered all the time.

Learning that depression and anxiety are common with MS and happens to others can help to alleviate some of the stress and burden felt when questioning the symptoms. And though that doesn’t always necessarily make it easier to cope with or manage, finding validation and support are definitely helpful keys. The first step is talking about it. Finding someone trusted to confide in and disclose what you’re feeling is an action you owe yourself to take. There may be things that are out of your control when it comes to MS. But your ability and strength to share what you’re feeling is not lost.

If you’re experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety, or even if you’re really not sure what it is that you’re feeling, talk to your doctor. Be open and honest about what’s going on. If you or others around you have concerns or questions, bring them up. And if you feel embarrassed or ashamed to talk about symptoms with certain people in your life, then choose that one person you know will listen without judgment and that you would trust. Whether that’s a medical professional or starting the conversation with someone close to you. Do yourself that justice and reach out for support. There are many ways that depression and anxiety can be treated and managed, and you deserve to have it be so.

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And The Beat Goes On…

We are a just a few months shy of seeing the end to 2020, and I don’t know that that’s necessarily a bad thing. To say that we’ve encountered our fair share of change this year is a massive understatement. The entire world shifted, and we essentially had to alter how we live and interact with one another. It was a change we didn’t see coming, but one that we had to adjust to quickly. We were given no choice and had to modify our day to day and try to make the best of an unpredictable and uncertain situation. Not unlike Continue reading

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Needed Now More Than Ever

Stress. One tiny word that packs a big punch. With everything that’s been going on in the world, this little term has been doing its part in wreaking havoc. Maybe it’s not all bad—some stress can be good to help with productivity in certain situations. But overall, stress can really take a toll on the mind and body. And finding ways to reduce stress that works for you may take some time. To be honest, I often find it hard to relax and decompress. Just thinking of ways to try to relax can sometimes Continue reading

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Some things aren’t easy to see

When it comes to MS symptoms, there is a real variety in what individuals experience. This is one of the reasons why making an MS diagnosis is so challenging. Its symptoms can look different from person to person. No two people have the same MS disease course. This can make it hard to understand exactly how the condition impacts someone. Its uniqueness acts as a detriment at times when trying to explain or educate others about MS. It is assumed that symptoms will look the same and that outcomes will match, but this is not always the case.

One of the most common symptoms of MS can be cognitive challenges. This wasn’t always Continue reading

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A Different Kind of Summer

We are midway through the year, and what a year 2020 has been so far. We haven’t seen one like it before, and let’s hope the second half of the year brings better things. But each day we are now seeing the world slowly start to open back up. That helps instill hope, I think. Like maybe there’s light at the end of this winding, unpredictable tunnel. And while people are re-entering workplaces, stores are reopening, and beaches are populated again, hopefully safety measures and precautions will help keep people safe. Regardless, it looks like Continue reading

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Passing The Time With Some Classics

With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to affect people and places all around the world, many of us are still staying at home and socially distancing from others. This has provided some people with more time they wouldn’t normally have at home. And honestly, a little boredom can come with that too. By staying home we’re doing our part to flatten the curve of the virus, which is great, but maybe just a little different from what we’re used to. So, trying to find Continue reading

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We’re In This Together

It’s quite the understatement when I say that things across the country and around the world are very distressed right now. With the COVID-19 pandemic still impacting lives and dominating most news headlines, the virus has left most feeling anxious and concerned. We’re left with questions and fears. And to top it off, have mostly been confined indoors to socially isolate ourselves for safety. With many things unsettled and unknown, I find comfort in knowing we’re all in this together. Continue reading

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Caring For Your Mind and Mental Health

A common misconception with MS is that the disease affects the body mostly in just the physical sense. This can be true for many diagnosed. However, one’s mental health may be impacted as a result of MS too. MS and its unpredictable nature can create a roller coaster of emotions, changes, and ups and downs for those affected. That kind of ride can impact all parts of one’s mind and body. Understandably so.

It’s not always easy to recognize or bring attention to Continue reading

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