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One fall with osteoporosis can completely change your life

(NC)-For a person with osteoporosis, even a minor fall like a slip on the stairs or fall from a seated position can cause a bone to break, leading to decreased independence and even death.
 

Within the first year of suffering a fracture, one in five women will die of complications related to the fracture. Of those who survive, 40 per cent will suffer from disability. In this case, prevention is the best medicine.
 

The good news is that it is possible to make simple changes inside the home to reduce risks of falls, like this:
 

Living rooms and hallways
 

• Keep hallways clear and free from clutter and obstacles by moving coffee tables, plant stands and magazine racks away from high-traffic areas.
 

• Choose non-slip rugs or add a non-slip pad under all area rugs.
 

• Anchor electrical cords close to the walls and ensure there are no loose extension cords.
 

Stairwells
 

• Wooden staircases should have a carpet runner for traction.
 

• Ensure there is handrail that is sturdy and easy to grip.

Kitchen
 

• Keep the kitchen organized so that everything is easy to access.
 

• Wipe up liquid, grease or food spills in the kitchen immediately.

Washroom
 

• Use non-slip bath mats to absorb splashes and add slip-resistant stickers to the tub.
 

Outdoors
 

• Install outdoor lights at all entrances to the home and ensure the lighting is bright enough to see clearly at night.
 

• During winter months, ensure the driveway and entrances are shoveled and salted.
 

More information is available by talking to your doctor, or online at www.healthandbone.ca.

What to look for in your next smartphone


Most phone purchases come with a two-year contract. That means consumers need to think carefully before they buy, make sure they’re taking advantage of technology that will help them the most and look beyond the hype to focus on what’s most important.

Here are five questions to ask when you’re thinking about a smartphone purchase.

1. Is the phone you’re considering taking advantage of the latest technologies?

Over the course of the next few years, Near Field Communications (NFC) will offer new ways to exchange data and make payments. Before you sign your two-year contract, make sure your next device has NFC capabilities.

2. Will your new smartphone allow you to respond quickly and accurately to incoming messages?

Before you buy a device, make sure you try out the keyboard. Not all keyboards - virtual or otherwise - are created equal. Make sure the keypad spacing facilitates precision. The new touchscreen BlackBerry Keyboard, for example, learns your writing style and suggests words to help you type faster, more accurately and with the least amount of effort. Response is not just about typing; it’s also about being able to count on your browser to quickly give you what you’re looking for. Make sure your new phone is taking advantage of the latest browser technology to provide you with answers when you need them.

3. Will your new device allow you to capture the important moments?

As innovation in mobile camera technology is accelerating, why capture moments in grainy pictures where everyone has their eyes closed? With advanced camera features on today’s devices, you can take pictures in rich, brilliant detail where perfect smiles are captured for every person in every photo.

4. Will this new phone allow you to multi-task?

How often do you want to look at an email, while tracking Twitter and viewing a video? For true multi-taskers who are always on the move, the answer to that is all the time. Be sure your device is up to the challenge and can easily switch between multiple apps and media without the dreaded churn. With messaging inboxes like the Hub on the BlackBerry Z10, you can stay close to what’s important and keep everything that matters to you in one place by peeking into the Hub from any app with just a single swipe.

5. Will your new phone keep you organized?

Most smartphones have a calendar, email, memos and tasks. Having all that information spread across multiple data silos on your device doesn’t necessarily keep you organized. In fact, it can do the opposite as you exhaust search capabilities across apps to find what you need. Make sure your new device can keep all your important details organized for quick reference so you aren’t spinning wheels drilling for information that should be readily available.

More than ever, today’s consumers are depending on smartphones to manage their daily lives. And smartphone technology continues to evolve to meet the ever-changing mobile lifestyle. Before you jump to make your next mobile purchase, think carefully about the features that will best help you keep moving through every day.

Using employee engagement surveys to boost customer satisfaction and loyalty


It is almost always best to start by focusing on your employees first. Highly satisfied and engaged employees are essential for achieving high levels of customer satisfaction, retention and long-term loyalty. Start by listening to your employees and taking action based on their ongoing feedback.

Conduct an employee survey / employee engagement survey to gather information, suggestions and insight from your employees. Ask them what it is they like about working for your company and what can be done to help them do their jobs more effectively, as well as do a better job of taking care of customers. Include questions about the effectiveness of internal communications, business processes, teamwork and how employees feel about your company’s direction.

Make sure your employee surveys / employee engagement surveys also include questions about effectiveness of supervisors and managers, empowerment, ability of employees to make suggestions, effectiveness of rewards and recognition, fairness of compensation, adequacy of employee benefits, treatment of diverse groups and fear in the workplace. Include questions about quality, customer service and ways to increase productivity. Ask questions about anything that may be positively or negatively impacting employees’ and customers.

Don’t be surprised if you end up identifying a very large number of challenges and opportunities. If challenges and problems exist, you need to know about them, prioritize them and take action. There is no single silver bullet. Identifying and addressing the top three problems is not enough, especially when there are many more problems that are impacting your employees and customers.

It is important to do a thorough and objective job of analyzing the survey findings. It is then equally important to create a comprehensive action plan and to do a good job of getting everyone involved and executing the plan effectively. This requires communicating the results of surveys so that employees know that you listened to them and that you are committed to making needed changes based on their feedback.

Your goal should be to use the employee survey results to achieve large-scale increases in employee engagement and satisfaction, with a much greater focus on your customers and meeting or exceeding their expectations.

To ensure that you are achieving success, conduct employee attitude surveys annually to measure progress and to identify any new challenges and opportunities that surfaced since the previous employee survey. Your focus on and commitment to continuous improvement will ensure continued customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Once you start to achieve positive results, you should also conduct customer surveys to assess customer satisfaction levels and to see how your customers feel about your company, your employees, your products and services and other key issues that drive customer satisfaction and retention. Don’t be afraid to ask customers about things you know you are not doing well. You need to learn about how customers feel. Guessing isn’t good enough. Your customers are probably also buying from your competitors. It is important that you learn first-hand how they compare your company, products and services with those of your competitors.

In summary, take good care of your employees, set the right direction, provide good leadership, identify problems and opportunities, take action and measure ongoing progress. This will enable your company to attract and retain customers and to be competitive and profitable.

Take advantage of tax credits to stretch home improvement dollars

(BPT) - Warm weather heralds home improvement season. It’s also the season of high electric bills as air conditioners hum to life in response to rising temperatures across the country. When you’re making summer upgrades to your home, improvements that make your house more livable and attractive are even more rewarding when they also help put money back in your pocket.

What better way to get money back than to save on your taxes? A host of energy-efficient home improvements are eligible for federal tax breaks. You may also find your state or local government, or local utility company, has programs to reward homeowners who make energy-saving upgrades.

If you’re planning summer home improvements, here are some facts about energy efficient upgrades and available tax credits:

* The federal government offers tax credits for qualified improvements in five categories, according to EnergyStar.gov: biomass stoves; heating, ventilation and air conditioning; insulation; metal and asphalt roofs; non-solar water heaters; and windows and doors. The credits are available only when you make qualified improvements to your primary residence, and are set to expire at the end of this year. It’s anyone’s guess if the government will extend them or introduce some other incentives.

* Other federal tax credits are available for geothermal heat pumps, small residential wind turbines, and solar energy systems. These credits refund you 30 percent of the cost of both the product and installation, and with no upper limit. The credits apply to both principal homes and second residences, both new and older homes. Rentals do not qualify.

* Energy Star rates products for their energy efficiency, but not all products or home improvements will qualify for a tax credit. Check out EnergyStar.gov for a more complete list of products/improvements and a more thorough explanation of the tax credit program.-

* While many energy-efficient home improvements such as solar water heating systems may initially cost more than less conservation-minded options, these upgrades ultimately pay for themselves by helping save money on your utility bills. And if you use photovoltaic collectors (PV) to generate power - in addition to solar thermal collectors for heating water - you may actually make money off the PV system by selling excess power you generate back to the local electric company.

While some energy-efficient improvements might seem obviously deserving of a tax credit - such as adding insulation or replacing older, inefficient air conditioning units with Energy Star-rated ones - other upgrades may surprise you. Making these improvements not only stretches your dollar in the form of a qualifying tax credit, they can also enhance the beauty and livability of your home.

For example, a wood-burning stove adds ambiance and comfort, while reducing your dependence on costlier fuels to heat your home. It also may qualify for the federal tax credit, according to EnergyStar.gov, as a biomass stove. Biomass-burning stoves with a thermal efficiency rating of at least 75 percent may qualify for up to $300 in tax credits.

Skylights and efficiency-enhancing accessories such as blinds can also qualify under the windows and doors category. By installing a new skylight, or replacing an older, existing one with a new Energy Star-qualified one, you can save on your tax bill while reducing utility costs. Natural light minimizes the need to spend money powering artificial lights.

The savings add up even further if you choose to install skylights that rely on solar power to operate the motor that opens and closes them. Skylights equipped with automatic rain sensors and accessories like designer solar-powered blinds, qualify for the 30 percent product and installation credit given solar energy systems.

These daylighting and fresh air systems can improve a skylight’s overall energy efficiency by up to 37 percent, according to skylight manufacturer Velux America. You can find a tax calculator that will show you the benefits of new or replacement skylights at www.veluxusa.com. There’s also a skylight planner app there to show you how skylights and blinds will look in your own home.

In addition to the federal tax credits, many states offer their own programs for homeowners. You can find information about tax credits and incentives available in your state by logging on to energy.gov/savings. And you should always consult a tax professional if you have questions regarding eligibility.

Quick tips for getting the most out of your smartphone camera


Smartphone cameras are quickly replacing basic digital cameras for snapping photos on the go, and for good reason. Capturing a memorable moment is easy with your cellphone at your side, but if you aren’t sure what you’re doing, you may end up with fuzzy, dark or distorted pictures. To help you get the most out of your smartphone’s camera capabilities, Stephen Sneeden, Xperia product marketing manager at Sony Mobile Communications, offers some expert tips:

Tip No. 1: Get to know your device
 Most new smartphone cameras offer multiple camera functions, effects, settings and options. It’s important to learn what’s available on your phone so you don’t miss a beat. Visit the manufacturer’s website or check out tutorial videos on YouTube - many phone makers now make these available to consumers for free.

Tip No. 2: Know when to use certain functions - and when to turn them off
 While your smartphone camera may have a flash, zoom and other features, sometimes those functions won’t be optimum for the conditions in which you’re shooting. For example, turning off the flash may help prevent glare, bright spots and red-eye in certain situations. Zooming may cause an image to degrade or blur; you may want to shoot the entire image and then use editing software to crop it for the portion of the image you want to focus on.

Tip No. 3: Consider an upgrade
 Technology is ever-evolving, and smartphone cameras are constantly being improved. If you’ve had your phone for a while and aren’t happy with the photos it takes, it may be time for an upgrade. When shopping, analyze key camera elements like megapixel count, sensor quality, user interface and ease of use. Most smartphones have 8 megapixel, primary cameras. The Xperia ZL from Sony outshines that standard with a 13 megapixel camera and HDR (high dynamic range) for photos and videos.

Tip No. 4: Make the most of HD technology
 High resolution capabilities are a significant advantage for smartphone videographers. Look for cameras that offer Full HD recording. This function gives you the ability to capture details that translate well on larger HD screens like that of a TV.

Tip No. 5: Download free photo apps
 Enhance your phone’s photo capabilities with some of today’s best photo apps that cost absolutely nothing. The award-winning application Snapseed (iOS, Android) allows you to adjust saturation, color levels, brightness, contrast as well as edit and enhance styling with a variety of filters. Quickly crop, edit and fix flaws with Adobe’s Photoshop Express (iOS, Android). Of course, social media junkies love Instagram (Android, iOS) because it’s a snap to share photos across social networks like Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter.

Tip No 6: Don’t forget photo basics
 The principles of good picture-taking remain the same, no matter what kind of camera you use. That means it’s important to keep the lens clean, carefully frame the shot, fill the frame with your subject, make sure the image is in focus, pay attention to lighting, and when photographing kids and pets get on the same level as your subject.

Easier mortgage processes, positive attitudes inspire renters to buy


Thirty-two percent of American households are renters, according to the National Multi Housing Council. Generally, more people younger than 30 occupy rentals, while the percentage of people who own their home increases with age, NMHC statistics indicate. People decide to buy a home for many reasons, but the recent real estate market downturn caused many Americans to rethink their assumptions about renting and owning.

Even with many real estate experts predicting the market will continue to improve, it pays to carefully evaluate how home ownership does - or doesn’t - figure into your long-term financial goals. If you’ve been renting and wondering if it’s time to apply for a mortgage and buy your own home, consider these points:

1. Renting isn’t always the cheaper option, and comparing your monthly rent payment directly to a mortgage payment won’t give you a clear picture of the financial impact of either option. Online calculators, like Guaranteed Rate’s rent vs. buy online calculator, can give you a better understanding of the comparison. With mortgage rates consistently low and rental markets competitive across the country, real estate experts agree that in most major metropolitan areas it will still be cheaper in the long run to buy than continue to rent.

2. While the days of zero-money-down mortgages are essentially over, it’s a misconception that you need a huge amount of money to buy a house. Yes, you’ll almost certainly need a down payment, but different lenders will require different percentages. Research your mortgage options before you begin house hunting so you’ll know how much you’ll need to save in order to secure a mortgage - and the home of your dreams.

3. Although the mortgage application process is detailed, it doesn’t have to be drawn out and tedious. Many lenders now allow you to initiate the process online, and Guaranteed Rate has recently overhauled its website to allow borrowers to apply for a loan, track the approval process and receive their home loans all online. The eighth-largest retail mortgage company in the U.S. allows customers to choose and customize their loans, submit an application and receive an official approval letter all at www.guaranteedrate.com. Automating the application process compresses the traditional time frame from days - sometimes, even weeks - into minutes. As part of the process, applicants also receive the credit reports from all three major credit bureaus.

4. Buying a home affords you the opportunity to really grow your roots, but the flipside is that in order to get the most out of your investment, you need to stay put for a while. If you anticipate being in your current job and living in your current town for at least five years, the long-term investment of buying a house will make more sense for you. If you anticipate a job change or a move within a few years, you may want to hold off on buying a house. The good news is, doing so gives you more time to save toward a down payment so you’ll look even more appealing to lenders when you are ready to buy.

While only you can decide if homeownership is right for you and your family - and if now is the right time to buy - keep in mind a few statistics from Trulia.com: 42 percent of renters say they regret not having bought a home, and 31 percent say they want to buy a home in the next two years.

Final Walk-Through: What to Expect at your Final Walk-Through before Closing

Final Walk-Through: What to Expect at your Final Walk-Through before Closing
It’s smart to perform a final walk-through before closing. It’s your last chance to make sure the home you’re about to buy is in the condition you’re expecting. Here’s some great tips that you may not have thought of in preparing for your final walk-through.

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Financing: Advice for Homebuyers

Financing: Advice for Homebuyers

This YouTube channel, provided courtesy of Chase, offers the ins and outs of mortgages, how the loan process works and how to select a lender. Worthy of viewing regardless of whom you select as your lender.


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Staging your Home: Advice for Sellers

Staging your Home: Advice for Sellers

Ten inexpensive real estate staging tips to help create a ‘mood’ or ‘emotion’ to entice and connect with potential home buyers.


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First-Time Homebuyer Tips: Things to Know when Buying your First Home

First-Time Homebuyer Tips: Things to Know when Buying your First Home

First-time homebuyers need to keep their ownership goals in mind and make sure to not rush into decisions or feel pressured. This video offers some great lessons from real first-time home owners.


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5200 McDermott Rd. Suite #135
Plano, TX 75024


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The information contained within is believed to be accurate but not warranted to be so. Not intended to solicit properties already listed for sale.