Graceful Health: Need basic resources? I can help

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It's getting cold out there. This is the time of year when people stockpile wood, fill their oil or propane tanks, and put extra food in their cupboards and cellars. With winter coming on, everyone has resource challenges that need to be addressed.

Winter also brings on health challenges, as colds and flu go around, and slippery conditions make accidents more likely.

Peace of mind comes with having needed resources in place, and peace of mind is important to your health.

Are you prepared for winter? If you have any questions about how you'll meet your health and household needs this winter, if you live nearby or are a Grace Cottage patient, I want to talk to you. I work at Grace Cottage in Townshend as part of the Community Health Team, and my job is to help people get the resources they need to live healthy lives.

There are lots of ways to stay healthy. Sometimes that means going to the doctor when you are sick. I can help you enroll for health insurance. The open enrollment period for Vermont's Health Connect system is Nov. 1 through Dec. 15 for a Jan. 1 start date, so now is the time to do this.

It can be overwhelming to sort through the various options on your own, and I'm happy to provide assistance. All you need to get started is proof of your income level and of your Vermont residency. We can collect any other information that will be needed as we go along. Together, we will sort through the available health plans to see what fits your situation best. The premiums are pro-rated, based on income, so there is a way to make this affordable for everyone.

For senior citizens, this is also the time to sign up for a Medicare D prescription-coverage plan. If you already have one, it's a good idea to revisit your choice every year, as your medications and/or the prescriptions covered by your plan may have changed. I can help with sorting through the choices. Medicare D open enrollment is now through Dec. 7.

Everyone needs both food and heat. Please don't think you have to choose between these two! I have information about places where food is available even if your finances don't cover what you need. For example, Grace Cottage hosts a free food drop every month, and there's a food resource center in Townshend that's open every Monday. I can also help with filling out food assistance forms. Food is essential to your health, so don't hesitate to reach out.

It's important for me to say, however, that I never push people to take something they don't want. I am a Resource Advocate, and as such I provide information but never pressure you. You are always the one in charge. I offer you choices, and you choose what you want to do with them.

My main goal is to make sure no one goes without because they don't know what resources are available. I'm also here to help with the paperwork required, which admittedly is sometimes quite daunting when faced alone. Because I do it all the time, it's much easier to get it done as a team of two. Fuel assistance, reduced utility rates, affordable housing, and more - these are just a few of the programs that can help. If you have a need, don't hesitate to call me, and we'll work on it together, or I will give you a referral to an agency that can assist you.

Before I go, I want to make sure I mention Grace Cottage's reduced fee application. Even if you do have health insurance, it can be difficult for some people to pay the required deductibles and co-pays. Grace Cottage and other hospitals have programs so that these charges can be pro-rated based on the patient's income. I can help with filling out the application forms for various local medical facilities. If you have medical bills piling up at home and are feeling stressed because you don't know how to pay them, reach out to me. I can help.

If you think about it, solving these problems helps everyone in your community. If you get sick because your house is too cold, or you can't afford to eat healthy food, or you are afraid to go to the doctor for fear of the bills, everyone around you suffers. The best thing is for all of us to stay as healthy as possible. I can help you to find the resources you need to do that.

Jane Wheeler has served as Grace Cottage's Patient Resource Advocate since 2014. She is a certified Vermont Health Connect application counselor, and she holds a master's degree in counseling psychology. Prior to employment at Grace Cottage, she worked at the Brattleboro Retreat and for Senior Solutions.

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