Medicare Open Enrollment 2021

The medical expenses associated with MS can be costly, so finding an insurance plan that is appropriate for your healthcare needs is crucial. As such, MSAA would like to remind everyone of two important enrollment deadlines for 2022 health insurance coverage.

Medicare

Open enrollment for 2022 Medicare coverage ends on Tuesday, December 7th. To enroll or review your current Medicare coverage, visit Medicare.gov.

Health Insurance Marketplace

Open enrollment for private insurance through the Affordable Care Act’s Health Insurance Marketplace ends on Wednesday, December 15th. To enroll or review your current Health Insurance Marketplace coverage, visit HealthCare.gov.

You can also find information on both websites regarding medical coverage and COVID-19.

Coverage for both Medicare and Health Insurance Marketplace plans begins on January 1, 2022.

This is an important time, so please be sure to enroll in a health insurance plan that is right for you! If you have any questions, please feel free to call MSAA’s Helpline at (800) 532-7667, ext. 154 or email us at MSquestions@mymsaa.org.

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Cinnamon Apples

What a perfect side dish to make in September!  Maybe you could even go apple picking.

These Cinnamon Apples are a quick and a terrific way to add a fruit to your table this fall season. Great to top on ice cream, waffles, and granola.

Ingredients

  • 2 Tablespoons of butter
  • 5 Medium apples peeled and diced
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons ground cinnamon

Instructions

  1. In a large skillet melt butter.
  2. Add in medium apples and coat with butter.
  3. Sprinkle in the sugar and cinnamon and stir.

Cook on medium heat for 10 minutes until the apples become soft.

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Ask the Expert – MS Relapses

Featuring Barry A. Hendin, MD
MSAA’s Chief Medical Officer

Question: How do you determine when a relapse is severe enough to be treated with IV steroids versus waiting to see if the relapse will go away on its own? Also, if a patient does not receive IV steroids, what other treatments or changes in lifestyle may be recommended for a less-severe relapse?

Answer: Clinicians vary widely in their threshold for using steroids for relapses… and patients vary widely in their desire to be treated with steroids for relapses. The most common use of steroids is for a relapse that interferes with function. For example, severe vertigo, weakness, or gait dysfunction are common symptoms that can greatly interfere with function.

However, it’s important to know what steroids can and cannot do for a relapse. Steroids shorten the recovery period, but do not significantly change the outcome of the relapse. Steroids also have a wide variety of potential side effects, including annoying symptoms such as insomnia… or more severe side effects such as gastrointestinal bleeding and aseptic necrosis of the hip (aseptic necrosis is a serious condition that weakens the bone). So, as with all medications, the potential risks need to be balanced with the potential benefits. In addition, while steroids given orally or intravenously are the most common treatment for relapses, ACTH and plasmapheresis may be used as alternatives in certain instances. 

Whether or not steroids are used, relapses are disconcerting. This a time to emphasize rest and stress reduction. Also, it’s important to discuss any relapses that occur, with your clinician, to determine the right course for you. It is a time to consider not just the treatment for the relapse itself, but whether your disease-modifying therapy (DMT) is working optimally. Taking into consideration the severity and frequency of your relapses, your neurologist can advise you on whether or not it is time to consider a different DMT for your MS.

Barry A. Hendin, MD, is a neurologist and Director of the Multiple Sclerosis Center of Arizona. He is also Director of the Multiple Sclerosis Clinic at Banner University Medical Center and Clinical Professor of Neurology at the University of Arizona Medical School.

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Funny, Not Funny

By Lauren Kovacs

OK so there is nothing funny about a chronic illness. Injecting a little bit of humor can go along the way. Don’t force it.

Yeah, the fire breathing dragon on my path to a decent night’s sleep is not funny. His blow torch breath on my arm for hours kinda sucks. But, maybe he can get a part on Game of Thrones instead of being part of my nightly nerve pain.

So my right leg identifies as a tree log. A very heavy log. It is my Barbie Leg. The Floppy Fish Foot is a special added MS gift. 

If I can’t manually bend Barbie Leg, Floppy Fish Foot steps up and makes movement extra hard. It gives 110%. It really knows how to increase the difficulty.

I left many things behind when my boys became teens. Not so much in reality. I load my van for a trip with as much stuff as when my boys were little. Only now my bed rail has replaced the pack and play. My wheelchair replaced the stroller and protein powder pushed out the baby food.

Ah, to be young again. Wait… my special fork replaced baby spoons and my water bottle with a straw replaced sippy cups. At least I am accustomed to needing lots of stuff.

Try and find a wee bit of humor in things. Not everything is funny though. I spend many moments in frustration tears. Take something you deal with and turn it around. The back of my thighs are starting to burn a bit.  Nothing big or painful yet. Getting ready to turn that around with humor.

Yes, my right leg is spastic, but I turned it into something silly. I can laugh most of the time. Plus I am finding people understand a Barbie leg better then spasticity. Make your descriptions as simple as possible for everyone. Your silly analogies can clarify things for people.

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30 Things that Give Me Hope

By Doug Ankerman

Fitting with this month’s theme, here are 30 things that give ME hope…

Falling asleep before the legs begin to dance
Elastic waistbands
Good hair day
Stoplights turning green
Summer shade
Kohl’s Cash
Puppy licks
Slippers on a cold morning

Zippers with large pulls
Curbside pickup
Low threshold doorways
Laxatives
Red sky at night
Slow news day
Finding money in a pocket
Automatic toilet that doesn’t flush five times
Staying awake past 9:00
Open drive-thru lane at the bank

Getting one final squeeze from the tube
Opening chip bag without ripping
Springtime
Coming Attractions
Food I can cut with a fork
“You May Already Be A Winner”
Air conditioning
Inaugurations
Zip closure bags that stay zip closed
A vaccine
Working shake machine at McDonalds

And finally…

Bathroom scale that is “light” (but you don’t know it)

Did I leave something out? Leave a comment by sharing what gives YOU hope.

*Doug is a member of the MS class of 1996.  He writes silly stuff about multiple sclerosis and other junk on his humor blog at myoddsock.com.

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Holiday Assistance

The holidays can be a magical time of year. There’s a different feeling in the air—of wonder and joy, that feels unique compared to any other time of year. Though the season can evoke much happiness and excitement, it may also create stress and challenging expectations for some. Financial stressors and limitations can be especially difficult this time of year.

Holiday celebrations can symbolize something different to each person. Special traditions and pastimes may not center around gifts or feasts. The holidays can be what you make of them. But it’s important to know that for those who may need a little extra help in carrying out their holiday activities, there are resources available to help.

  • Salvation Army
    • Offers seasonal services and holiday assistance programs to help families in need with holiday dinners, toys, and clothing.
  • The United Way
    • Provides information and referrals for holiday assistance programs in the community.
  • Toys for Tots Program
    • Distributes new, unwrapped toys during the holidays to children in need through community outreach and support efforts.
  • Catholic Charities Services
    • This group and other local religious organizations may offer seasonal assistance based on location. Contact groups directly to inquire of services available.
  • Lions Club organizations may also have holiday assistance programs available in the community.
  • County department offices of family/social services may have additional holiday assistance and resources.
  • Local schools in the community may know of holiday assistance programs for families.
  • Community food banks may also be able to offer holiday assistance programs in the area during the season.

Many community assistance programs have specific application deadlines and requirements in order to receive holiday assistance by a certain time. Be sure to reach out to the resources to see what’s available in your area and how to apply.

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My Mother’s Advice on MS Diagnosis… from Heaven

By Alene Brennan

Today marks the third year of my mother’s passing after a 10-year battle with cancer.

Just six weeks after she passed, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

It was hard enough to grieve the loss of her absence in my daily life. But now having my own diagnosis to process, I needed her more than ever.

I was scared.

I was angry.

I was overwhelmed.

And she was my person.

She always Continue reading

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Intimacy and Family Planning with MS

Couples living with multiple sclerosis (MS) can often experience challenges in their relationships, levels of intimacy and changes in roles and expectations. Join MSAA, as we present a new webinar on relationships and MS:

“Intimacy and Family Planning with MS”
Tuesday, March 5, 2019
8:00 pm (Eastern)

To help strengthen and foster healthy relationships, MSAA invites couples affected by MS to Continue reading

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Anyone else out there…?

As we’ve just finished a very active MS Awareness Month here at MSAA we wanted to take some time to talk about support networks and positivity for this month’s blog theme. When dealing with an illness like MS, its helps to create and focus on connections to others within the community, to know that one is not alone in what they’re experiencing. From our Ask Me Anything events in March we saw lots of similarities in what others were asking when it came to their MS symptoms and disease course. On MSAA’s Helpline we often receive calls from clients asking ‘Am I the only one who’s experienced this?’ ‘Is this normal for MS?’ ‘Does anyone else have this issue?’ And we consistently find ourselves validating all of these questions and concerns, because the fact is that individuals are not alone, as there are many others out there wondering the same things.

I think the feeling of knowing you’re not alone in a challenging experience can help to quiet the fears, concerns and anxieties that accompany it. Asking if there’s anyone else out there going through the same thing and learning that there is, can make someone feel more validated and less isolated. This is why having a support network is so vital, and not only to connect with during difficult times but also to share good times with as well. It’s comforting to vent, cry or scream in times of strife and have others listen, but it’s also important to relay positive experiences, humorous moments and celebratory occasions with those in your circle. Life will have its ups and downs as these inevitably come with the ride, so sharing in the ups when they do occur can help combat the downs. If you find yourself feeling alone and asking questions just keep in mind that you’re not, and there are others out there asking too.

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Gratitude and Thankfulness

By Susan Russo

The holiday season is once again fast approaching. I honestly feel like I just finished boxing up all my decorations from last year. This is a time when everyone tells us to be thankful and to be grateful. But why are these sentiments so pressured into us at this time of year? Why not all year around? I don’t actually have an answer for you except for what these graces mean to me in my own life and why I choose to celebrate all year long.

I remember when I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Was I grateful and thankful for this disease at the onset? Absolutely not! I was angry and frustrated and in a serious “why me” phase. But, as time seems to heal all wounds, over the following months, my heart softened and I started appreciating MS for what it is; a disease that can crush you or build you up. I chose the latter.  MS taught me a strong lesson about gratitude and being thankful, I promise you.

I am a single lady with no man to date as far as the eyes can see. My son is grown and my family lives out of state. So when Thanksgiving arrives, I tend to feel really sad and lonely. It’s a time for families to celebrate. And I’m reminded it’s just me.

I try to chalk it up as just another Thursday in a world of Thursday’s. But the season itself reminds me I am alone. Many people are alone. I get that. I can choose to wallow in self pity or I can choose to see what is all around me.

I have a home which did not flood during Hurricane Harvey. I have people who love me. I have a strong faith in Jesus. My son has grown up into an amazing man. (I raised him by myself; jus’ sayin’). I can still walk and when I can’t, I’ll buy myself a purple scooter. I’ve always wanted one anyway. And purple is my favorite color.

My point is this: being thankful and grateful are a choice. It’s not easy to be appreciative of life when all around us, our world is falling into pieces. But here’s the thing: choose to take a long hard look at all you have in your life. I am certain there is always something to be grateful for. If you feel stuck, begin a life of service to others. I did, and this one choice completely changed me for the better.

About a year ago, I became a member of the Pearland Citizens Police Academy Alumni Association. I volunteer to serve our officers and believe me, if anything will teach you to be thankful, it will be the police officers and their stories of courage and strength against all odds. These men and women leave their homes every day to keep us safe, not ever knowing if they will come home. But they do it anyway. This choice alone has made me eternally grateful for our men and women in blue.

Here’s the thing: becoming a police officer was never a choice for me, but serving them and my community are; MS was not a choice. But becoming healthier in mind and spirit was a decision I happily made. Being alone at the holidays is not my choice. But giving back to others is something I have grown to love. Not having a decent, God-fearing man to share my life with is not my choice. But believing God will one day answer my prayers, well, that truly is my choice.

And baking apple and pecan pie is not my choice either, but eating every single one in sight until I disappear into a sugar coma, well, now that’s a decision I never regret.

Until I stand on the scale…

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