USE YOUR GIFT CARDS NOW


If you received gift cards for Christmas, now is the time to use them. You may be tempted to squirrel them away in a drawer, but that would be a big mistake.

The two most common kinds of gift cards are retail gift cards and bank gift cards. Retail gift cards are only redeemable at a specific retailer or restaurant. Bank gift cards such as American Express gift cards or MasterCard or Visa can be used at any location that accepts that card.

Why should you use your gift cards as soon as possible? Michael W. Frerichs, Illinois State Treasurer, warns that the value of the card may be eaten up by fees if the card is not used promptly. In his January 2018 E-NEWSLETTER at Michael.Freichs@llinoistreasurer.gov, he explains, “Remember that while money on a typical bank gift card cannot expire for at least five years, depending on the circumstances, inactivity fees could begin in as little as 12 months. Therefore, it is possible that inactivity fees could consume the cash value of a bank gift card before the five-year window has expired.”

“Under Illinois’ Consumer Fraud Act, most gift cards sold in Illinois that are usable only at a specific retailer or restaurant are not allowed to incur inactivity fees.”

There are other reasons for using your gift card now. For example, if a retailer or restaurant closes, you will not be able to redeem your gift card. Imagine your disappointment if you have saved a $50.00 gift card which is now worthless!

Remember that your gift cards are the same as cash. If your gift card is lost or stolen, report it to the police. Then contact the issuer of the card (e.g., Mastercard) to determine if it is possible to get a replacement card and what the cost would be to get it.

If you are sitting around with a stack of unused gift cards, you are not alone. An article entitled “$1 billion in gift cards go unused every year-here’s how to avoid that” published January 1, 2018 on marketwatch.com, stated, “Consumers spent more than $130 billion on gift cards per year, according to advisory company CEB Tower Group, but roughly $1 billion went unspent.”

What can you do with this stack of unused gift cards? Here’s an obvious solution. Use them for online shopping. Almost every major retailer has a website with online shopping. You could buy a new outfit or LED light bulbs. You could even order a pizza and have it delivered to your house!

Whatever you do, use your gift cards now.

— by Karen Centowski

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

If you have ever bought a house, you have probably heard the real estate agents’ mantra: “Location, location, location.” According to an article in the balance called “What Location, Location, Location Means in Real Estate,” the phrase means that identical houses can increase or decrease in value due to location. The word “location” is repeated three times for emphasis.

A number of factors can make one house more desirable than an identical house in another location. You can probably name four or five of these factors. For example, families with children will often want a house in a top-rated school district. The fact that a house is in a top-rated school district increases the value of the house.

Homes on lakes or rivers often command top dollar. By its very nature, riverfront property is limited. Building almost any house on riverfront property automatically increases the value of the house.

Did you know that a house in the middle of the block is considered more desirable than the same house on a corner lot? Why? The homeowner in the middle of the block feels less vulnerable. He doesn’t need to worry about auto accidents at the intersection, drivers cutting across his lawn, etc. Likewise, a house in the middle of a subdivision has more value than the same house backing up to a busy road at the edge of the subdivision.

The economic health of a city can influence the value of properties within the city. If a city has a vibrant economy with good paying jobs, people want to live there. By contrast, if a city’s economy is depressed and people cannot find work, the value of homes declines.

The physical location of a house can decrease its value. For example, houses under flight patterns at O’Hare and Midway suffer from noise pollution. Although more than 10,000 residences and 8,000 homes have been provided soundproofing tactics under the Residential Sound Insulation Program, other homes are not eligible because they are outside the boundary.

In like manner, houses built along railroads are less desirable because of noise. The noise level of a train passing through a residential neighborhood is extremely high. The blaring of the horn, the clacking of the wheels, the vibration of the ground is an annoyance during the daytime and interferes with night-time sleep.

Houses built along freeways suffer from both traffic noise and air pollution. Built as walls along a freeway, roadside barriers can help reduce traffic noise. Studies show that barrier walls and proper roadside vegetation can improve near-road air quality. Nevertheless, the value of nearby properties is negatively affected by the freeway.

If you are in the market for a house, remember the famous mantra: “Location, location, location.” You can remodel a kitchen. You can add an extra bathroom. You can install new carpeting. The one thing you can’t change is the location.

— By Karen Centowski

SCHOOL BUS EMERGENCY

Each morning the small, yellow school bus picked up special needs children and took them to school. One child, Jimmy, was accompanied by a private duty nurse who would attend school with him. Jimmy had a trach, and he was comforted by having his nurse with him. Without her, he would not have been able to attend school.

One morning, the children were on the school bus going to a summer camp outing. There were two camp counselors on the bus along with Jimmy’s nurse and the driver. Suddenly, another child on the bus had a seizure and was in respiratory distress. Can Jimmy’s nurse help out? What if the scenario was different? What if another child besides the one the nurse was assigned to on the bus arrested, and there were no other personnel except the bus driver? Can the nurse administer CPR?

This is a scenario posed by a nurse, not a report of a real situation. However, it addresses several important issues. Does the nurse have any moral or ethical obligation to help the child in distress? If she tried to give CPR to the child, would she be liable if the outcome was not a good one? Should the bus driver attempt to drive the bus to the nearest hospital? What, indeed, would be the best response?

First, let’s consider the legal aspects of the situation. On July 1, 2006, a law went into effect in Illinois protecting Good Samaritans currently certified in first aid by the American Red Cross or the American Heart Association from being sued for helping someone who is seriously injured. On January 25, 2007, Governor Rod Blagojevich extended the same protection to people who received such training from the National Safety Council.

Does the nurse have a moral or ethical obligation to help? Absolutely! She has a moral obligation to initiate CPR and to assist in whatever way she can, providing she does not do something beyond her scope of expertise such as surgically trying to place a ball point pen into the child’s neck as a trach tube.

How could the nurse respond? First, advise the bus driver of the situation. Tell him to call for assistance. The driver should NOT attempt to drive to the nearest hospital. The driver should stop the bus in a safe place and allow the emergency personnel (paramedics) to come to the bus.

Second, assign the bus driver to watch your client while you attend to the victim and try to stabilize the child. Third, ask the two camp counselors to supervise the other children on the bus.

A private duty nurse who is employed by American Home Health has a support system at the office. Day or night, supervisors and administrative staff are always available in case of an emergency.

If you or a member of your family is needing home health services, consider American Home Health. For more information, go to www.ahhc-1.com or call (630) 236-3501.

— By Karen Centowski

STRENGTH IN NUMBERS

If you are a fan of football, you know the rules about the composition of the team. For example, you know that, in the NFL, teams are only allowed to have 53 players on their active roster. This includes quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, tight ends, offensive linemen, defensive linemen, linebackers, and defensive backs. Of these, 24 are offensive players, and 26 are defensive players.

You are also well aware of the value of the reserve players on the team. If a first-string player is sick or injured, a reserve member can be brought in to take his place.

If you are a parent of a child who needs private duty nursing, you could choose to employ a single individual to care for the child. You would be counting on that one individual to come to work each day, rain or shine. You are assuming that the individual will never be sick and unable to come to work. If the nurse goes on vacation, you would need to take over the care of the child.

On the other hand, having a contract with an agency such as American Home Health provides greater coverage and less anxiety. Since the agency has hundreds of RNs,.LPNs, and CNAs scattered throughout its service area, the agency is usually able to provide coverage if the regularly scheduled nurse is unable to work. This is an example of strength in numbers. As Merriam-Webster defines the phrase, strength in numbers “ is used to say that a group of people has more influence or power than one person.”

American Home Health’s service area covers fifteen counties in Northern Illinois. This includes Cook, Lake, McHenry, Boone, Winnebago, Ogle, Lee, DeKalb, DuPage, Kane, Kendall, LaSalle, Grundy, Will, and Kankakee counties.

If you or a friend or relative in the Chicago area is needing home health services, consider American Home Health. The agency is over twenty-five years old and has hundreds of employees. It is licensed by the State of Illinois and accredited by the Joint Commission. For more information about American Home Health, go to www.ahhc-1.com or call (630) 236-3501.

— By Karen Centowski

A BOOK ON EVERY BED

Sunshine streams through the bedroom window. A small child, dressed in Superman pajamas, wakes up. He yawns, stretches, and sits up on the edge of the bed. He surveys his room. Everything looks the same, but wait. There is a wrapped package at the foot of his bed!

The wrapped package is part of a program called “A Book on Every Bed.” Developed by the advice columnist Amy Dickinson together with Ithaca, New York’s Family Reading Partnership, the program fosters literacy and the special bond that develops between a child and an adult when they read a book together.

As Amy Dickinson wrote in her nationally syndicated advice column, “In the morning, the children in your household will awaken to a gift that will far outlast any toy: a guided path into the world of stories. And as our friends at Reach Out and Read remind us: give not just the gift of the book, but also provide a caring adult to share reading it aloud. An adult’s interaction with a young child over a book is what brings the story alive and gives reading the immense power it has to build brain circuitry. No amount of access to the latest screen or gadget can equal the powerful intimacy of sharing a book.”

Amy Dickinson acknowledges that this idea was “stolen” from Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David McCullough, author of the books Truman, John Adams, and The Wright Brothers. McCullough once related that every Christmas morning during his childhood, he and his siblings awoke to the gift of a wrapped book on their beds, delivered in the night by Santa.

When could YOU put a wrapped book on a child’s bed? The activity is not limited to Christmas. You could do this on any holiday. You could do this on the child’s birthday. You could do it any day of the year for no reason at all. The book could be new or used. For suggestions on excellent books for children, go to www.reachoutandread.org.

Does the book have to be gift wrapped with store bought wrapping paper? Absolutely not! Be creative. Use the comics from the Sunday newspaper. Use the colorful Jewel ad from the inserts in the newspaper. Cut up a brown paper grocery bag and use it to wrap the book. Use the ACE Hardware flyer. Almost any paper will add to the mystery and excitement.

Amy Dickinson estimates that over one million children have been the recipients of a book as a result of the program, “A Book on Every Bed.” Many American Home Health pediatric duty nurses already read to their young clients. Here’s an opportunity to add an element of surprise and delight to a child’s day.

—By Karen Centowski


To read a newspaper column by Amy Dickinson in which she describes the program, “A Book on Every Bed,” go to facebook.com/adickinsondaily.