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Experts discuss health and wealth amid Covid-19

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RichnerLive and Herald Community Newspapers presented “50 Plus Health and Wealth,” a virtual event featuring speakers from the healthcare, wellness and elder law sectors, on Oct. 14.

In 2018, RichnerLive launched Senior Health Expos, which invited the community to meet with health experts at venues in Nassau County every few months. Due to Covid-19, the event was modified to fit an online platform, and attendees participated through Zoom.

Cassena Care, Ronald Fatoullah & Associates, Comprehensive Audiology and UnitedHealthcare sponsored the event. Experts spoke about the changes in their field, including George Zaharioudakis, vice president of SNF operations of Theradynamics at Cassena Care; Ronald Fatoullah, Esq., founder of Ronald Fatoullah & Associates; Dr. Esther Fogel, owner and director of Comprehensive Audiology; Robert Harper, Esq., partner at Farrell Fritz, P.C.; Josiane Peluso-Tomczyk, medicare sales director for New York City and Long Island at UnitedHealthcare Government Programs and Ashley Straw, founder of Flow and Restore, a holistic wellness practice.

Skye Ostreicher, of RichnerLive and Herald Community Newspapers, moderated the event. She announced prizes awarded to several attendees and took questions from viewers.

First, Straw led participants through a breathing exercise of lengthening exhales — by pushing more air out than normal — to deepen the breath.

Then, Ostreicher kicked off the conversation and asked the speakers about how Covid-19 has impacted their services.

Cassena Care, a line of nursing homes in New York and Connecticut, had “very large challenges to overcome,” Zaharioudakis said, including handling admissions, discharges, acquiring PPE and controlling the spread of infection through isolations.

“It took a lot of coordination and communication,” he said. “A lot of people in the communities stepped up and came up with creative ideas to solve these problems.”

In all fields, workers and patients have had to adapt and, in many cases, switch services to a virtual setting, which in many cases, has been a benefit. People can now get documents like wills and Medicaid trusts signed, notarized with witnesses and approved all from the comfort of their own home.

“Since March, we’ve been doing as many consultations as we can through Zoom or Facetime, whatever someone feels comfortable with,” Fatoullah said. “As an elder law attorney, our clients range anywhere from 40s and 50s to last week, we had a client that was 107 — but we’re doing Zoom. It’s wonderful.”

Harper agreed — his firm has been holding virtual conferences via Microsoft Teams and Skype, other video call apps that have become useful during the pandemic. “Options that one never would have thought about months ago are now readily available in our field,” he said. “Clients are saving travel time. These are efficiencies that we didn't have before the pandemic.”

Peluso-Tomczyk noted that the pandemic has also caused more people to apply and stay on Medicaid. More people are becoming unemployed and applying for Medicaid; plus, the yearly recertification process has been delayed so people will not lose their coverage during the pandemic.

Though many of these logistical aspects of health and wealth have seen improvements, those 50 and older are at higher risk of more severe illness when contracting Covid-19. Fatoullah said that his longtime secretary and brother have both died from the virus. “It’s affected my firm and me personally,” he said. “It’s been tough in that respect.”

Covid-19 has caused many to stay at home more than they typically would to avoid catching the virus and become ill. The panel discussed the implications of that and how to combat some common health issues.

Fogel spoke about how the pandemic has brought new struggles to those with hearing loss. In isolation, many rely on phone calls with friends and family to stay connected, but those with hearing loss cannot always rely on the telephone for communication. Even when those with hearing loss leave the house, masks can muffle the sound of people’s voices and make it harder to hear, she said.

“If you’re stuck at home and you want to communicate with friends and family, we recommend using some sort of video communication,” Fogel said. “Being able to see their face makes it easier to have a conversation. We also offer free captioning phones for our patients.”

Fogel’s audiology office is offering both in-person and telemedicine appointments for those who need a screening or repairs to their hearing aids.

The panel also discussed fall prevention for seniors. “Falls are the leading cause of fatal and non fatal injuries in the elderly, which can lead to avoidable hospitalizations,” Peluso-Tomczyk said. “We want to see our seniors in the best health possible.”

Zaharioudakis noted that things like handrails, a bar to grab in the shower and proper lighting are all things to look at in a home to prevent falls. He also noted that rugs should be stabilized and layout and placement of all everyday items should be checked to ensure a healthy flow of movement.

Fogel acknowledged that hearing plays a part in balance, which is related to fall prevention. Taking care of any hearing problems early on can also help prevent future loss of cognitive functions, she said.

There are also exercises that can support balance, and Straw led a movement to stretch the spine to close out the event.

“Enough cannot be said about the health benefits of movement,” she said. “Exercise increases the flow of chemicals called endorphins to the brain that lift our mood. Movement through the body encourages important energy strengths like circulation and the lymphatic systems to do their job in clearing out toxins in the body.”

For more information about RichnerLive’s virtual events, visit richnerlive.com/virtualevents.