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HOW TO CHOOSE A guide to products & services in the Golden Triangle

Auto Repair....................... 46 Financial Advisor................ 4 Lawn Tractors................... 44
Building Supply Store...... 50 Financial Planner................ 8 Motorcycle/ATV................. 42
Cardiologist....................... 28 Funeral Home.................... 38 Nursing Home................... 34
Counseling Service.......... 32 Granite Countertops......... 52 Pediatrician....................... 14
Credit Union........................ 2 Hearing Aids..................... 30 Physical Therapist............ 24
Dentist............................... 16 Hospital............................. 22 Private School................... 10
Dermatologist................... 18 In-Home Care.................... 36 Tractor Dealer................... 40
Eye Wear........................... 20 Interior Designer............... 54 University.......................... 12 Sunday, January 24, 2021
Family Clinic..................... 26 Investment Firm.................. 6 Wine................................... 48

arge banks and financial institutions are times each month.
often the default choice for many when it If you are in the market for a specific loan,
comes to deciding where to house our mon- research to see if the loan is issued by the credit
ey. They’re convenient and offer a wide variety union. Once you have found several credit
of services, but they can also seem impersonal. unions offering that type of loan, compare

If your seeking more personal service from interest rates and specials to see who has the
a consumer-owned institution, credit unions my best deal.
be the perfect fit. Of course, convenience is something to
Credit unions are cooperatives in the truest keep in mind. Check for availability of online
sense of the word. They have existed for more services, weekday and weekend hours, where
than 100 years, springing from the idea that branches and ATMs are located.
4 serving a group of unserved or underserved You should also understand any fees associ-
4 people as a group could prove economically ated with ATM or debit card usage. If you use
4 feasible and offer an alternative to traditional ATMs frequently, those charges can add up fast.
A credit 4
banks. Today, they rank among the best mi-
cro-finance organizations available to large
Some credit unions belong to a nation
network of credit unions for shared services.

union 4 swaths of the population. It might mean more access to ATMs and other
Unlike big banks, which are owned by share- services in case you move or go on vacation.
4 holders or conglomerates, credit unions are If you have children attending college in other
4 typically nonprofit operations owned by their cities, this can be useful.
4 members. Credit unions charge fewer and lower Once you have completed your research,
4 fees than for-profit banks. Ans any dividends go make a list of the advantages and disadvantages
4 to the members instead of shareholders. of each credit union. You can easily compare
4 In short, credit unions are a good deal. them.
They usually offer better interest rates on Upon choosing your credit union, visit the
4 savings accounts and competitive rates on branch so you can understand all of the ser-
4 various loans. You might get a fantastic rate on a vices. Learn more about the benefits of member-
4 student loan, mortgage, auto loan or credit card. ship.
4 And, like bigger banks, the federal gov-
4 ernment ensures credit union deposits up to
4 $250,000.
4 The first step in selecting a credit union is
to research those in your community and their
4 membership requirements. Some credit unions
4 are available to employees of specific compa-
4 nies, groups of public service or school employ-
4 ees. But offers extend eligibility to anyone will-
4 ing to follow their membership requirements.
4 You may be asked to join a food co-op or other
organization in order to qualify for membership.
4 A simple internet search is an excellent
4 starting point. Develop a list of credit unions
4 in your area. Then narrow your possibilities by
4 researching eligibility, services offer and fees
4 charged by each credit union.
4 Verify the current interest rates on their
accounts. If you can’t find the rates online, call
and ask them for the percentages
4 Find out if there are any fees associated with
4 the accounts you want to open. As with tradi-
4 tional savings and loan banks, you might be
4 required to pay a fee if you fall below a minimum
4 balance.
4 Check about other requirements. You might
need to use your debit card a certain amount of

orking with a professional financial advisor experience will play a vital role. Has your advisor
could be the best investment you’ll ever weathered previous economic slowdowns? Do clients
make. The best planners can help you thrive in bleak environments? Or have clients taken
meet your financial goals now and in the future, multiple hits to their portfolios?
bringing into play an experienced, objective perspec- You should be wary if clients appear to be doing

tive to advise you on how best to save, invest and too good during tough times. Someone with an
spend your money. They can also suggest avenues of extraordinary success rate might be too good to be
money management that hadn’t occurred to you, help true.
lower your taxes and guide you through uncertain
financial times.
To find a reliable financial advisor, start by asking
Fees or commissions
4 Inquire about how your advisor is paid for ser-
your social network. Friends and family may have vices. Most offer fee-based or commission-based
4 some suggestions. services. It will greatly influence your selection.
4 Research online for advisors in your area. Your
A financial
A commission-based advisor is prone to suggest-
4 local newspaper will likely have advertisements for ing financial products that offer a professional com-
4 local advisors. Remember to research each advisor mission. It could needlessly increase your exposure

advisor 4 with an eye toward your own situation and goals. to risk. Only use a commission-based advisor if he or
Once you have a list of three or four possibilities; she has a proven track record of success and also has
4 look closer at each choice. It might be a good idea to your best interest in mind.
4 pick a financial advisor who is a certified financial When you need someone who puts your best
4 planner. A certified financial planner has passed interests first, go with a fee-based advisor. He or
4 rigorous exams in order to obtain a certificate. she will be compensated only for the time spent on
4 Once you have discovered each advisor’s qualifi- serving your portfolio.
4 cations, contact the certifying organizations to find
out if there have been any complaints against each
4 professional. If so, find out how the complaints were
4 Once you have narrowed your prospects to two
4 or three possibilities, schedule a meeting with each
You can request a list of satisfied clients who have
professional. During this consultation, communicate
4 goals comparable to yours. Contact them to talk
your goals honestly and clearly. A financial planner
4 about their experiences.
should be someone who will guide and inform you.
4 He or she will continually increase your knowledge
4 Areas of expertise about your current financial situation and how to
4 Financial products can contribute to your well-be- improve it.
ing and peace of mind. Some common investing
tools include bonds, mutual funds, stocks and
4 commodities.
Put it in writing
4 Once you have narrowed your list to one or two
Weighing risk is essential. Some products will
4 advisors; ask each to write a plan for moving you
undoubtedly be better for your portfolio than others.
from where you are to where you want to be. Get a
4 An experienced financial advisor can customize a
written copy of this proposal.
4 portfolio especially for you.
This document should have your short-term and
4 You can also do some research to find a seg-
long-term goals, and also state who else will profit
ment of the market that might be a good fit for your
4 from the proposal.
situation. Then look for an advisor who specializes
4 This plan should be written clearly so you com-
in that investment. For example, if you want to invest
4 pletely understand it.
in commodities, your potential advisor should have
4 some experience in that market.
Once everything has been completed to your
4 satisfaction, you can choose a financial advisor. Then
4 Rate of success you can comfortably relax and know that your mon-
4 Success rates will also play a prominent role in ey and future are in good hands.
4 your decision. Look at the rate of success for each ad-
visor. Has the rate of return on his recommendations
4 outpaced the average market rate of return over
4 time? An advisor with a solid rate of return conducts
4 research to strengthen his clients’ portfolios.
4 During tough or stagnant economic times,

hen you work hard for your money, you which investment firms they use and what their
want to find an investment firm that experience has been.
works just as hard as you do to grow
and protect it.
Here are some things to consider when

One of the most important aspects of choos-
choosing a company to help you invest your ing an investment firm is gauging how well they
money wisely. listen and respond to your needs.
Every person has different goals, objectives
Trustworthiness and risk tolerance — and all those things can
The first thing to judge is whether the firm be constantly changing as you age. Finding
4 deserves your trust. The Financial Industry an investment company that understands your
Regulatory Authority (FINRA) recommends changing needs, and will be able to effectively
4 you ask the potential investment firm a series of listen and respond to them now and down the
questions: road, is a key part to the decision.
4 n What experience do you have working
4 people who are like me? Proven process
investment 4
n What licenses do you currently hold? Are
you registered with a state, the SEC, or FINRA?
If so, in what capacity?
Finally, the firm should have a proven, tested
process for getting results for its clients.
The best firms will have a track record they
4 n What relevant professional designations do
4 can point to that has helped their customers
you hold? through all kinds of market conditions — bull
4 n Do you have any special areas of expertise? markets, bear markets, rising interest rates,
4 n How long have you been with your current falling interest rates and more. They’ll have the
4 firm? Where did you work before? consistency and experience to help see you and
4 n What investment products and services do your money through changing — and some-
4 you recommend to your clients? Why? times nerve-wracking — times.
n• Are there any products or services you If you can find a firm that checks all the right
4 don’t recommend? Why? regulatory boxes, listens closely to your goals
4 n How much will I have to pay for your ser- and has a long-term track record that gives you
4 vices? What is your usual hourly rate, flat fee, or peace of mind, you’ll have found an investment
4 commission? firm worth keeping for the long haul.
4 n Are you compensated any other way for
4 handling my account? If so, how and how much?
4 n Do you or your firm impose any minimum
account balances? If so, what are they? And what
4 happens if my portfolio falls below the mini-
4 mum?
4 n How frequently will we meet to discuss
4 my portfolio and the progress we are making
4 toward my investment goals?
4 n How will you communicate investment
performance results to me?
4 n For brokerage firms, is your firm a mem-
4 ber of SIPC?
4 n Who else in your office will handle my
4 account?
4 n Have you or your firm ever been disci-
4 plined by the SEC, FINRA, a state securities
regulator, or another federal or state financial
4 regulator?
4 n Have you ever had a professional license
4 revoked?
4 All those questions will help you get insights
4 about the firm, but it’s not the only way. You can
4 also ask your friends, family and co-workers

hoosing the best financial planner financial planner. Sometimes professionals are
involves some research. You need an ad- paid a flat rate, while others will receive a per-
visor right for your situation so you won’t centage from any profits made on investments.
waste time and money paying for services you These matters must be openly discussed,
don’t need. Budgeting for a financial planner so you can understand how his or her compen-

makes double sense — you’re taking strides to sation may affect his investment recommen-
control your finances and choosing an advisor dations. Some unscrupulous experts could
you can afford. Don’t think you can’t afford advocate risky investment strategies for their
a good financial planner, because these days own financial gain.
there’s an advisor for every budget. Taking the time to research will help you
Budgeting, money management and even select the best financial planner in your area.
4 crafting investment strategies are a few of the You will be on your way to a healthier financial
4 things a good planner can help you complete. future.
4 Planning professionals will guide and inform
A financial 4
you on how to prevent cash-flow problems.
They might even prevent future bankruptcy.

planner 4 With the right questions and research, you

can find a financial planner you can trust.
4 Seek referrals from your friends, family and
4 trusted individuals who have built substantial
4 financial reserves. If their modest portfolios
4 have become bigger over time, a skilled finan-
4 cial planner likely played a role in that success.
4 Look at the educational and professional
background of each recommendation. Find
4 out if that person has worked with people who
4 match your financial circumstances.
4 Financial planners who have undergraduate
4 degrees in finance or business show a dedica-
4 tion to this work.
4 Verify that each prospect has the right certi-
4 fications. Financial planners must have specific
certifications in order to legally practice in
4 the field. Credentials vary according to the
4 location and advising type, but all must have
4 formal training.
4 Once you are ready, meet with several finan-
4 cial planners to gauge their trustworthiness.
4 Integrity is one of the key qualities in a good
financial planner.
4 During the meeting, honestly explain your
4 financial goals. Wealth building should be a
4 goal. Minimizing risk and maximizing returns
4 will help grow your resources.
4 Whether your desired outcome is to launch
4 a small business or send your kids to college,
share these thoughts with your financial plan-
4 Also, don’t be shy about detailing your debt
4 level. It is essential that the professional under-
4 stands all aspects of your financial situation.
4 It could motivate the planner to make your
4 money work harder so you can break free from
4 debt.
Finally, discuss compensation with any
10 SUNDAY, JANUARY 24, 2021 The Dispatch • HOW TO CHOOSE GUIDE

very parent wants the best education for their ever will — so ask around to see what people in
children. For some that requires and advanced your community think of the school’s teachers and
academic curriculum and a rich assortment of administrators.
classes that appeal to various interests, such as art,
music and theater. Students

Many parents look past public schools to private Before you pick a private school, you should plan
schools to fulfill these educational needs because on making at least one in-person visit for a day. Sit in
the provide a more personalized education and on a few classes and watch how the students behave
to prepare them for higher education, but also to and how the school’s staff deals with any discipline
reflect their personal values and beliefs. problems.
Not all private schools are equal. Some will have Parents of current or former students should be
4 better facilities and more qualified teachers than able to give you the inside scoop about any concerns
4 others. Additionally, tuition cost from school to that exist among the student population, so ask
4 school can vary widely.
A private
around. No school has perfect students, obviously,
4 Here are some things to consider if you’re shop- but some do a better job dealing with problems than
4 ping private schools for your children. others.

school 4
4 Values
One of the reasons to send your children to a
Whether the school uses a strict disciplinarian
approach or a more laid-back style, you should be
confident that your child will be in a safe, comfort-
4 private school is to reinforce a set of values — both able learning environment at all times. Watching
4 from the educators and faculty members who teach how the students interact during and after school
4 them and from the other students your child will be can give you some insights about it.
4 growing up with. Shared values can be a powerful
4 thing.
That means the first step is finding a private
The opportunities
4 If you’re thinking about sending your child to a
4 school that values the same things you do. private school, chances are it’s ultimately to give
You’ll want to know whether the school is asso- them more opportunities in life.
4 ciated with a certain religion or denomination, of The specific school you pick can have big impli-
4 course, but also look in depth at how much religious cations on which opportunities will open up to your
4 teaching is done at the school. Some private schools child later in life, from college entrance to extracur-
4 include religious classes and worship services as ricular activities such as music and sports.
4 part of the curriculum; others are less formal about Ask if the school has any data about the percent-
4 their religious affiliation, focusing on providing a age of its students that are accepted into college.
very high-quality secular education and less on Some private schools have a long track record of
a specific church or belief. Some private schools preparing students for prestigious universities later
4 aren’t affiliated with a religion at all. in life.
4 Keep in mind that values cannot be judged You should also pay close attention to both the
4 by written statements alone. Look at the way the extracurricular activities that are available now and
4 school’s employees and students live their lives — the ones that will be available in the future.
4 including the school’s reputation in the community Your third-grade child may not think much
4 — to make your decision. about athletics right now, for example, but a soccer,
4 football or basketball team could become very
4 Staff important to them as they get older. A private school
Private schools can vary widely in the staff they that offers a lot of well-run extracurricular activities
4 employ. Some have credential requirements that will open up more options for your child in the mid-
4 go above and beyond what public schools require; dle-school and high-school years.
4 others have looser requirements for education and By looking closely at the values, staff, students
4 training. and opportunities that are offered, the choice for
4 If it’s important to you, you should ask about the your child’s education should become clear.
4 teaching staff’s credentials. Know where they went
to college and what degrees they hold, along with
4 whether they have any certificates and ongoing
4 training on the courses they teach.
4 Again, the school’s reputation will tell you a
4 lot — perhaps even more than paper credentials
HOW TO CHOOSE GUIDE The Dispatch • SUNDAY, JANUARY 24, 2021 11
12 SUNDAY, JANUARY 24, 2021 The Dispatch • HOW TO CHOOSE GUIDE

here’s no question that higher education you will likely need to have elective courses in
leads to greater job opportunities. But your schedule.
attending a university also means experi- These classes allow you to study something
encing an advanced understanding of the world that will be beneficial and meaningful. They can
as well as interaction with peers and instructors also add a dimension to your work and perhaps

who can influence your life for decades to come even give you another hobby. You might even
and touch all aspects of your life. enjoy your electives so much that you decide to
Choosing the right college, then, is no small switch majors. Before applying to a college, view
matter. It’s vitally important to spend a great a list of possible electives.
deal of time on all aspects of selection that take
into consideration your grades, your budget,
the quality of education, its physical location,
Alumni connections
Don’t forget to think of alumni connections
4 alumni, athletic and extracurricular activities. in your family or circle of friends. A letter of rec-
4 But ultimately it is you who will endure this chal-
An university
ommendation or contact with others in your pro-
4 lenging part of your life bridging high school spective field of study can advance your career.
4 with your eventual life and career. Colleges look kindly upon people with alumni
4 But there are more than 4,000 colleges and connections. These professionals could also give
universities in the United States. So how do you you insight into avoiding pitfalls and how to best
4 know which one is right for you? use your degree after graduation.
4 On one hand, the right college or university
4 will help you achieve your professional or mone-
4 tary goals. On the other hand, the wrong choice
Social activities
Extracurricular activities and social events
4 could leave you buried in a mountain of tuition
are another element to consider when choosing
4 debt.
a college. Connections you make outside of the
Here’s how to pick the right school for your
4 needs.
classroom are very important. Some universities
4 are famous for their sororities and fraternities.
4 Others colleges have excellent sports programs.
Large or small school? Any school activities can help you network
Ask yourself if you learn better in an intimate and make new friends. Students even develop
4 setting or a large classroom. Some schools have lifelong friendships this way. The culture of your
4 a small student-to-teacher ratio while others prospective university should be a strong factor
4 have auditoriums filled with students listening in your decision.
4 to a lecture. As you begin your research, be
sure to look for information on class sizes and
student population.
Online classes
4 When you have outside commitments or you
4 prefer to learn at home, consider taking online
Areas of specialty courses. Internet classes can save you money,
The reputation of a university or college is especially when it comes to transportation.
4 very important. It can open or close doors in Online courses may allow you to work at a
4 your career. Most colleges are renowned for a faster pace than traditional university classes.
4 handful of majors. Does the learning institution Working at your own speed can assist you in
4 specialize in your area of interest? Attending a graduating quickly or tend to your active life.
prestigious university or college will give you If you are thinking about choosing an online
4 opportunities and resources. The possibility of
4 school, be sure to check their academic creden-
employment after graduation also dramatically tials and reputation. Also pick an institution in
4 improves when your school has good name good standing.
4 recognition.
4 Choosing an institution for higher education
4 Minors can seem like a difficult, daunting decision. But
4 Once you have decided upon a major, think once you understand your academic and life-
4 about your other areas of interest. Many col- style needs, you can find a school that is perfect
4 leges offer students the choice of adding a for you.
double major or minor to their plan of study.
4 Even if you are going to pursue only one major,
HOW TO CHOOSE GUIDE The Dispatch • SUNDAY, JANUARY 24, 2021 13
14 SUNDAY, JANUARY 24, 2021 The Dispatch • HOW TO CHOOSE GUIDE

uring your baby’s first year, you will likely is open-minded about alternative medicine. Be
be taking your child to a doctor many sure to find out if your doctor is receptive to this
times for checkups and unplanned visits. idea.
But the cold, clinical world of medical offices
can be unsettling for anyone, least of all new The visit

babies. Fortunately, pediatricians are trained not If you haven’t chosen a pediatrician before
only in medical treatment for children but how giving birth, bring your child along for this
to make them most comfortable during their vis- meeting. It will help you gauge their interaction.
its. Welcoming, child-friendly waiting and exam The doctor should make your child feel at
rooms, along with a caring, easy-going manner ease. He should be patient, tolerant and friendly.
work wonders on youngsters. You must feel comfortable with this medical
4 If you’re looking for a pediatrician for your professional as well. He should take the time to
4 child, here’s how to get started. answer your questions thoughtfully.
Inquire about their emergency policy. Does
4 Recommendations the office accept walk-ins? If your child gets sick
4 Family, friends and acquaintances will likely in the middle of the night, can you call the pedia-

pediatrician 4
have recommendations about good pediatricians
in your area. Parents will be happy to share
about their experiences at the pediatrician’s
trician or nurse? Find out about office hours and
when you need to visit the hospital instead.
Is the office decorated with children in mind?
4 office. Is it a safe, inviting atmosphere? Does the prac-
4 You can also check with your family doctor tice use modern equipment? Are exam rooms
4 or OB/GYN who delivered your baby. They will clean?
4 have informed recommendations to help you Many pediatricians now offer separate wait-
4 select the best doctor. ing rooms for children who are not sick. These
4 Don’t just collect one or two names. Ideally, “well child” waiting areas help stop the spread of
4 you should have a list of at least three profes- viruses. If your child is there for a checkup, it is
sionals. It will help you compare and made the a bad idea to have him sit next to another child
4 right selection. who has the flu.
4 Insurance With this strategy, you should have an easier
4 Next, look at your insurance policy. Find out time selecting a pediatrician. Choosing well now
4 if any of the people on the list are part of your will save you time and trouble in the future.
4 network plan. Remember that children visit the
4 doctor more frequently than adults because they
4 catch a lot of viruses while building up their
immune systems. Doctors not covered by your
4 insurance should be crossed off your list. You
4 might also reconsider your insurance policy, if
4 possible.
4 Narrowing the list
4 It is time to arrange a meeting with each
4 physician so you can find out who will work best
4 with your child.
Look at their office locations. They should be
4 in a convenient location, not far from your home.
4 You will probably visit this doctor quite often, so
4 convenience is a big factor.
4 When you meet with the doctor, focus on his
4 or her philosophy. Some physicians prefer to
4 run lots of tests. Others have a more relaxed and
4 homespun approach.
Parents who follow a wellness philosophy
4 might have to look harder to find a doctor who
HOW TO CHOOSE GUIDE The Dispatch • SUNDAY, JANUARY 24, 2021 15
16 SUNDAY, JANUARY 24, 2021 The Dispatch • HOW TO CHOOSE GUIDE

e’re taught from a very young age right away, while others may have a three-week
that caring for our teeth will save us a wait time.
lifetime of pain and costly procedures. Your prospective dentist should accept your
That’s true, so choosing a dental professional dental insurance. If don’t have dental insurance,
you can trust, along with scheduling regular inquire about payment plans. The office should

care and cleaning can result in just that — a give you an estimate before performing any
lifetime of beautiful, healthy teeth. work.
If you don’t already have a regular dentist,
choosing the right dental health professional is
essential to helping you maintain your health
Office visit
When someone meets all of your require-
and appearance in addition to helping you avoid ments, visit the office. The staff should be
4 nasty dental problems down the road. professional and friendly. Every dentist should
4 Find a dentist who makes you feel comfort- be willing to answer all of your questions.
4 able and explains every procedure in an under-
A dentist
Some people are afraid of dentists or of pain.
4 standable way, and you’ll be in good hands. If you have any concerns, communicate with
4 Finding a dentist near your home or work- the staff and dentist. Many professionals are
4 place will help you make your appointments on willing to go above and beyond to help you work
time. When searching for a dentist, make sure through these issues.
4 the office hours work for your schedule. A basic oral health history should be taken by
4 Whether you’re moving to a new area or the dentist or staff. They should tell you about
4 haven’t made time find a regular dentist, here’s a future treatment and prevention options. A qual-
4 few tips on how to start your search. ity dentist will help you feel comfortable during
4 your visit.
4 Ask around The best dentists offer friendly, non-threaten-
4 First, ask your social network for recommen- ing dental experiences.
4 dations. Friends, family and colleagues can be a Teeth are extremely important to your overall
great resource. health. They can also help or hinder your ap-
4 Searching on the internet for dental offices pearance. Finding a good dentist is like finding
4 in your area will also help. Professionals often a friend who consistently brings out your best
4 have their own websites, which include the back- smile.
4 grounds of those working there. The website
4 may also tell you about how they handle proce-
4 dures and appointments, as well as specialized
services they offer.
Your local newspaper will likely have adver-
4 tisements from local dentists. Oftentimes you
4 can find specials and discounts.
4 Interview dentists
4 Once you have gathered a list, begin call-
4 ing each prospective dentist. You can talk to a
4 receptionist or other staff person if the dentist is
4 Check to make sure the dentist earned the
4 necessary degree from a reputable school and is
4 current on all licensing and continuing educa-
4 tional requirements. Ideally, he will be familiar
4 with the latest dental technologies and trends.
4 Ask if the dental office provides emergency
4 services. If you break a tooth or need to have a
root canal done right away, you will want to use
4 your chosen dentist. You don’t want to have to
4 search for a dentist when you are in pain.
4 Lead time for appointments is another consid-
4 eration. Some offices might be able to see you
HOW TO CHOOSE GUIDE The Dispatch • SUNDAY, JANUARY 24, 2021 17
18 SUNDAY, JANUARY 24, 2021 The Dispatch • HOW TO CHOOSE GUIDE

hat is the body’s largest organ? give you some insight into their style of practice.
If you said skin, you’re correct.
While some may be surprised, skin
is an organ and to protect it from disease and
Find out what certifications the dermatologist
infection — and to keep it looking smooth, clean

holds. You can often find that information on the
and fresh — you may need the help of a derma- doctor’s website, and you can also double-check
tologist. it with the American Academy of Dermatology
These medical specialists care for the skin, online at
hair, nails and mucus membranes and protect it The AAD keeps a database of dermatolo-
from more than 3,000 conditions and diseases, gists who are certified to practice in the United
such as acne, rosacea, eczema and psoriasis. States. You can check that your doctor is board
4 If you have skincare issues, choosing a der- certified and see a listing of their specialties by
4 matologist for treatment is your first step. You searching online.
4 should plan on spending plenty of time doing re-
A 4
search about skincare professionals in your area
to get a good understanding of their specialties
If you’re going to the dermatologist for a

dermatologist 4 and track record dealing with patients.

specific procedure, you should look for a doctor
Here are a few things to consider:
4 who has plenty of experience in it. Some of the
4 best dermatologists will do the same procedure
Specialties several times per day, keeping their skills sharp
While all dermatologists specialize in and making them experts at performing it.
4 treating skin conditions, their work can fall into You should also ask who is going to perform
4 many sub-specialties that may or may not match the procedure. In some cases, a nurse or assis-
4 your health needs. tant will perform it under the doctor’s supervi-
4 All certified dermatologists earn their sion. In other cases, the doctor will personally
4 medical degrees and undergo three more years perform it with their own hands.
of post-residency specialty training helping You should know up front who will be doing
4 patients with skin, hair and nails. Many derma- the procedure so that you’re comfortable with
4 tologists have general practices and are open your decision.
4 to seeing patients with a wide variety of skin
4 concerns, from acne to facial wrinkles.
4 Many other dermatologists, though, focus
4 their attention and training on narrower aspects
of dermatology such as cosmetics, surgery or
conditions that affect children.
4 Consultations
4 Most dermatologists will be willing to consult
4 with you on your first visit for a flat fee, and they
4 may be willing to apply this fee toward a pro-
4 cedure if you decide to move forward with it. It
4 doesn’t hurt to ask.
At your consultation, you’ll want to learn
4 more about the dermatologist, including person-
4 ality, experience level and aggressiveness about
4 procedures and treatments. Some doctors will
4 have different plans of action, particularly for
4 cosmetic issues, so it’s a good idea to let them
4 know your concerns and see what path they
4 recommend for you going forward.
Listening is the most important thing you can
4 do during a consultation. You may have inter-
4 est in a particular procedure that you had read
4 about in magazines or on the internet, but let the
4 doctor make a recommendation first. This will
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20 SUNDAY, JANUARY 24, 2021 The Dispatch • HOW TO CHOOSE GUIDE

rotecting your vision is a sensitive and vital like the look and feel of plastic frames.
element of your health care. Opticians will adjust the fit of your frames so
If your eyes are healthy and you just re- they are not too tight or loose on your face. If
quire check-ups, you can use either an optician your current glasses are leaving red marks on
or an ophthalmologists. Both can perform rou- your face, they need to be adjusted. The glasses

tine exams and identify symptoms of disease. should not feel awkward or bothersome on your
Opticians are not doctors, but more frequently nose or behind your ears.
use prescriptions written by an optometrist or If you have contact lenses, you should feel
an ophthalmologist. comfortable wearing them. Proper cleaning is
You’ll most likely encounter an optician in crucial. Your optician can help recommend the
your community who fills prescriptions at a best products that will help maintain your con-
4 retail store with all types of lenses and frames. tact lenses. An assistant will likely demonstrate
4 They can examine your eyes and help you dis- the proper cleaning technique.
4 cover the right fit and style of eyewear, includ- Anyone who wears glasses or contacts knows
Eyewear 4
ing contact lenses, as well as offer a variety of
the importance of eyewear. Along with your eye
doctor, an optician is an important part of the
4 Here’s how to find a quality optician in your team who will care for your vision. Make the
community. time and effort to choose the right one.
4 Certification
4 Filing vision prescriptions is a complex job
4 that requires frequent training. Lens materials
4 and manufacturing procedures are constantly
4 changing and improving. A certified optician
4 should be abreast of industry standards.
4 Ask what certifications your optician holds in
your state, along with what kind of training he
4 or she has received. Certified opticians under-
4 stand they are in a high-precision job, but not all
4 states require certifications or licenses. They
4 should appreciate that you are taking the time to
4 ask questions.
4 Selection
4 Take a look around their optical displays. A
quality optician will have a large variety of glass
4 frames and contact lens choices across a range
4 of price points.
4 While budget is always important, you might
4 find that an upgrade will be worth the additional
4 money. Consider how frequently you will use
4 your eyewear. It’s a good idea to ask about the
advantages of various features — from color
4 changing lenses, scratch-resistant coating for
4 glasses to various brands of contacts. Think
4 about what will work best for your lifestyle.
4 If you have a favorite brand or designer, call
4 ahead to see if your optician can provide them.
4 Comfort
4 The best opticians will guide you toward
4 products that are easy to use and maintain.
Comfort levels vary according to each person.
4 Some people prefer metal frames, while others
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22 SUNDAY, JANUARY 24, 2021 The Dispatch • HOW TO CHOOSE GUIDE

t’s not a subject that comes to mind often, but be accredited with the Joint Commission, an
choosing a hospital is a critical decision for organization that verifies specific standards of
anyone facing an operation, illness or long- care within medical facilities.
term medical treatment. You may not be aware Accreditation means that they are passing
you have choices, much less spent time compar- frequent performance reviews. You can be confi-

ing quality, safety and costs. dent you are receiving quality care.
Even if you’ve just learned of this require- Awards and other certifications indicate that
ment, it pays to take time to find the best hospi- a hospital offers consistent care. The Magnet
tal available. After all, you’ll want the finest care program recognizes excellence in nursing care
— ideally a modern campus stocked with the and other aspects of hospital work.
lasted technology, staffed by the most qualified Not all hospitals are Magnet certified. In fact,
4 personnel. So taking time to look at different this award is only given to a select few facilities
4 facilities in your area today, before you need the in the country.
4 help, can aid you when you most need help. Hospitals often have several areas in which
A hospital 4
A great hospital will have all these qualities,
as well as striving to reduce infection rates, pre-
they specialize. For example, two hospitals in
the same city may offer care, but one special-
4 vent mistakes and ensure open communication izes in gastroenterology, while another has an
between staff, patient and families. advanced cardiac unit.
4 Here are some factors that can help you Choosing the right hospital for your proce-
4 choose the best hospital in your city. dure will ensure you receive the highest level
4 of care. In fact, some hospitals will transfer
4 Location patients to another facility if it has better equip-
ment and specialists.
4 Location will play a large role in your choice.
4 The hospital should be close to your home or
workplace. Determining the highest quality hospital for
4 your condition will help you achieve the best out-
4 Some people will only have one hospital in
their area. Choosing a facility that’s out of the come during instances of illness or injury. Since
4 way will not only add to travel time, it is simply hospitals offer a variety of care and service
4 not practical. After all, when an emergency hap- types, be sure to analyze all the options before
4 pens, you will need to get to qualified personnel you decide.
4 as soon as possible. By knowing the facts and keeping your own
4 But if you have a medical condition and an priorities in mind, you will make a wise choice
alternative facility farther away specializes in it, when selecting the hospital that is best for you.
that hospital might be a good choice.
You will have to balance convenience with
4 your personal circumstances.
4 Doctor privileges
4 Your preferred doctor should have privileges
4 at the facility you choose. Physicians send pa-
4 tients to specific hospitals because it is conve-
4 nient for them. They are familiar with the site
and can use the equipment there. Check with
4 your doctor about where he can practice.
4 Insurance carriers will pay some of the cost
4 of services from a preferred provider, including
4 hospitals. Verify which hospitals are in your
4 carrier’s network. If you choose a facility that is
4 not covered by your policy, you run the risk of
4 incurring significant charges.
4 Accreditation and certifications
4 Another consideration is what other features
a hospital may offer. For example, a hospital may
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24 SUNDAY, JANUARY 24, 2021 The Dispatch • HOW TO CHOOSE GUIDE

ecovering from injuries or surgery often Also, contact your state board of physical
requires more than rest. In fact, recovery therapy to see if any complaints have been filed
is sometimes hard work and requires the against the professional you are considering.
assistance of a physical therapist. The best physical therapists will provide emo-
A good physical therapist will help you better tional support as well. Treatment and recovery is

understand your body and offer advice and guid- very hard work, especially for patients in severe
ance on routine exercises and lifestyle changes pain. When you feel exhausted, the physical
that could help relieve your pain. therapist will provide motivation. She will not
But because physical therapy is a combina- allow you to make excuses.
tion of science, experience and art, it’s import- Instead, a physical therapist will push you to
ant to choose the right physical therapist. While your limits, which will aid in your full recovery.
4 the majority have the proper training and offer The therapist will inspire you to regain your
4 good care, most specialize in specific injuries full independence. This is especially important
4 using a variety of healing techniques. for elderly people who have problems getting
A physical 4
People with back pain, for instance, can
receive physical therapy to strengthen the core
around on their own.
It is important that you feel comfortable with

therapist 4 muscles in their back. Not only will they feel whichever physical therapist you choose. This
better, patients may also emerge from physical professional may have to examine sensitive
4 therapy with a restored, functional body. areas of your body to check for swelling or heat.
4 If you think you could benefit from physical She may also massage your muscles as part of
4 therapy, first talk to your doctor. therapy. You should feel at ease and safe during
4 Insurance companies often agree about these this process.
4 benefits. Most companies require patients to try The physical therapist will likely provide you
4 physical therapy before turning to expensive with follow-through exercises at home. It is very
surgery to fix the problem. In fact, physical important you act on her recommendations. It
4 therapy can actually negate the need for surgical will help you recover faster.
4 treatment. With the assistance of a good physical ther-
4 After surgery, physical therapy might serve apist and your own hard work, you can often
4 as part of the aftercare and recovery process. make recover fully and enjoy life again.
4 For example, when you have surgery to repair a
4 rotator cuff, a therapist can play a huge part in a
4 successful recovery.
People with degenerative disc problems in
4 their backs will benefit from a physical therapy
4 regimen. It can help ease pressure and pain in
4 their lower back. Normally, a problem like this
4 requires surgery, but physical therapy can help
4 patients regain a full range of motion.
4 Physical therapists also provide the best
remedy for other injuries. Someone with a
4 reattached finger will need to practice with a
4 physical therapist to regain feeling and move-
4 ment. A person who has been incapacitated for
4 an extended period may need physical therapy
4 to regain their functionality.
4 Insurance companies will likely have require-
ments. You may have to choose a therapy that
is in-network, rather than out-of-network. Your
4 insurance may also limit the amount of visits
4 they cover.
4 Once you have narrowed your search to a few
4 potential candidates, inquire about the physical
4 therapist’s previous work history. Don’t be afraid
4 of asking directly about their success rates and
potential problems.
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26 SUNDAY, JANUARY 24, 2021 The Dispatch • HOW TO CHOOSE GUIDE

eeping your family healthy is one of the most schooling. Some offer limited weekend hours, too.
important tasks you can undertake, and You should look into how difficult it is to sched-
picking the right family medical clinic can ule an appointment in two ways: both for sched-
make it easy. uled checkups that can be planned and booked far
How do you find the right one? Here are some in advance, and for any last-minute appointments

tips for finding a clinic that fits perfectly into your for unexpected health issues that crop up.
life. Some clinics make it possible to book same-
day appointments, while others may not have
Your family’s needs openings for weeks. It’s important to know their
availability for same-day or next-day appoint-
First, it’s important to evaluate your family’s
needs to make sure they’re a good fit for the ments before the need arises.
4 If members of your family have any serious or Interaction
A family
unusual health conditions, finding a doctor with The best family medical clinics make it easy to
4 experience treating those issues should be at interact with them at every level.
4 the top of your list. It may require a specialist for A very professional staff, of course, is key to

clinic 4
ongoing treatments, or perhaps a family practice
doctor can handle it with less expense and hassle.
The same thing applies for anyone very old or
this. The physicians, medical professionals and
office staff should all have good listening and
communication skills. The office itself should
4 young in your family. The clinic’s scope of prac- seem organized, clean and managed well.
4 tice and definition of “family” may not include tiny Increasingly, though, the way you interact
4 infants or the elderly, so find out whether the clin- with the clinic’s technology can play a role in
4 ic’s strengths line up with your family’s makeup. your health care. Look for a clinic that offers
4 easy-to-use technology if you prefer to book ap-
4 Preventative care pointments, have virtual doctor visits or see your
medical records and test results electronically.
4 When you’re looking for a clinic to handle
4 health care over the course of a lifetime — not
4 just for an emergency or urgent need — it’s espe- Location
cially critical to find a clinic that does a good job Depending on your family’s needs, doctor vis-
4 preventing medical problems down the road. its may be a frequent part of your life. The more
4 Preventative medical care is one of the most often you’re going to be needing medical appoint-
4 cost-effective ways to help improve your family’s ments in your family, the more important it is to
4 health over the long term. If you can make chang- find a clinic with a convenient, nearby location.
4 es to your diet or physical activity, or catch small If you can find a clinic that offers outstanding
4 medical problems before they develop into big care within easy driving distance of your home or
ones, you can potentially live a longer, healthier office, the convenience will mean less of an inter-
4 life. ruption to your life for routine medical needs. Just
4 Find out what ways the clinic can help your like when buying real estate, location matters.
4 family not only take care of urgent, infrequent
4 needs, but also help you eliminate or mitigate
health risks before they become a serious prob-
4 Finally, one of the most important consider-
4 lem. ations is whether the clinic accepts your insur-
4 ance coverage.
4 Schedule Check with your insurance company to see if
Modern families often have busy lives. Be- the clinic is on their list of in-network providers.
4 tween school, sports and extracurricular activi- Choosing a clinic that’s not in your insurance
4 ties, parents, children and grandparents can have plan’s contracted network can make visits much
4 very packed schedules. more expensive, so it’s good to know what your
4 That’s why an important consideration is how out-of-pocket costs will be up front.
4 well the medical clinic can work into your existing With some careful shopping and a few ques-
4 schedule. tions, you can find a quality family medical clinic
4 Some clinics offer extended hours that make that provides outstanding care in a way that fits
it easier for children to get their medical appoint- your family’s unique needs.
4 ments booked without missing too many hours of
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28 SUNDAY, JANUARY 24, 2021 The Dispatch • HOW TO CHOOSE GUIDE

ore than 600,000 people die of heart dis- doctor can help you sort it out and pick the best
ease each in year in the United States, cardiologist for you.
according to the Centers for Disease Also consider the cardiologist’s specialty.
Control, accounting for 25% of deaths of both Some cardiologists become experts at one par-
men and women. ticular procedure by performing and perfecting

Heart attacks come to mind first but are not it over many years. They’ll earn a reputation for
the only form of heart disease. Others include being experts in that narrow field. Others will
congestive heart failure, coronary disease and diagnose and treat a wide range of heart prob-
high blood pressure. Diseases of the heart are lems and diseases.
numerous and complicated, and caring for them Your personal heart health needs will deter-
is key to your cardiovascular health. mine the kind of cardiologist you should see.
4 Treating these heart-related diseases is the
4 specialty of the cardiologist. Cardiologists can Resources
4 also help you take preventative care of your
Many cardiac procedures require regular vis-
4 heart by explaining what heart troubles you are its to check on the condition of your heart over
4 most risk of developing and giving you a plan to time. And the help and support you get after any

cardiologist 4 protect your bodies busiest muscle. heart procedure is important.

If you’re looking for a cardiologist, here are a You may need to eat a healthier diet, get
4 few things to keep in mind: regular exercise, quit smoking or lose weight
4 to improve your heart health. These things can
4 Referrals be aided through a support group or specialized
4 Usually, a referral from your primary care health program to keep your cardiac rehabilita-
4 doctor is the first step in visiting a cardiologist. tion on track. Your cardiologist can help facili-
4 If you have a regular doctor, they should have tate these services after your initial treatment
4 all the information they need to recommend the and provide valuable resources to help you care
4 right heart specialist depending on your con- for yourself.
cerns. Your doctor will also make sure that the Your unique situation will determine which
4 cardiologist is apprised of your medical history. cardiologists you choose. But getting the right
4 one is vital to ensuring you enjoy your best heart
4 Word of mouth health for years to come.
4 Talk to your friends, family and colleagues
4 about their experiences with local cardiologists.
4 They’ll be able to tell you the good and bad
4 things they experienced from their cardiologist
4 and can help give you insights that can only
come from a first-person testimonial. This will
4 be the best way to learn whether the cardiologist
4 has a friendly staff and a good bedside manner.
4 Area of expertise
4 What’s most important, however, is whether
4 the cardiologist has the right training, qualifica-
4 tions and experience.
4 Cardiologists must first be certified in inter-
nal medicine and then earn an additional certi-
4 fication in cardiology prior to practice following
4 medical school and residency. So, you’ll want to
4 be sure yours is board certified.
4 The American Board of Medical Specialties
4 has set up a website,,
4 where you can search to see which board certifi-
4 cations a doctor holds.
A cardiologist will have different board cer-
4 tifications than a cardiac surgeon. Your regular
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30 SUNDAY, JANUARY 24, 2021 The Dispatch • HOW TO CHOOSE GUIDE

ccording to the World Health Organiza- Expert care
tion, 466 million people worldwide suffer Perhaps the most important aspect of choos-
from disabling hearing loss. It’s hard to ing a hearing aid is choosing the audiologist
understate the impact hearing impairment can who tests for hearing loss and fits the device.
have on day-to-day life, and choosing a hearing

Audiologists spend years studying how to
aid isn’t easy for most. prevent, treat and diagnose hearing loss, some-
Hearing aids come in all sizes, shapes and thing that can have many root causes and differs
colors and are designed for specific hearing loss from individual to individual. That means a good
conditions. Some don’t mind if others notice audiologist can help select, fit and customize a
them; others want to be more discreet. In either hearing aid that will provide the best outcomes
case, a properly fitted and selected hearing aid for each patient — something that takes a very
4 can enable people suffering from hearing loss
4 personal approach.
to enjoy more of the things they love — whether The best audiologists will not only have the
4 it’s engaging in hobbies, succeeding in a job,
A hearing aid
right licensing, training and experience to work
4 learning in the classroom or spending quality in your area, but they also will be completely
4 time with friends and family. committed to getting the best result for each
4 individual patient. They’ll take the time to prop-
4 Basic or premium erly diagnose your hearing loss, recommend
Today’s simplest digital hearing aids require a course of action, and help you clearly under-
4 making manual adjustments to the instrument stand the pros and cons of various hearing aids
4 such as changing the volume or choosing the that would be appropriate for your needs.
4 correct listening program for a given situation.
4 A premium hearing aid, in contrast, can Maintenance
4 make these changes automatically. The more Hearing aids are complex, high-tech instru-
4 technologically advanced aids will automatically ments with small parts, which means repairs
4 respond to changes in the listening environ- and maintenance may be necessary from time
ment, including selecting the right mode and to time.
4 adjusting the volume, without the wearer having
4 When selecting a hearing aid, find out what
to do anything. kind of warranty it comes with and who will do
the repairs when they are needed. Your audiolo-
4 Styles gist’s office may be able to handle minor repairs.
4 Today’s hearing aids also come in a wide For major repairs, the hearing aid will need to
4 variety of styles, some of which are practically be returned to the manufacturer to be fixed.
4 invisible to the people around you. Buying your hearing aid from a provider with
4 Invisible in-the-canal (IIC) hearing aids are a long track record in your community and repu-
tiny enough and are seated deep enough inside tation for excellent customer service can provide
4 the ear canal that no one will know you’re wear- peace of mind — both that you selected the best
4 ing them. Their ability to boost your hearing in instrument and that you’ll have the support you
4 a completely discrete way has made them a pop- need in the months and years to come.
4 ular choice for many people with hearing loss.
4 In-the-canal (ITC) instruments are slightly
4 larger, which can give them advantages such
as a longer battery life and more directional
4 control of the sound. Full shell in-the-ear (ITE)
4 instruments fill the whole bowl of the ear, again
4 slightly larger to allow for more controls and fea-
4 tures, including a larger battery for some people
4 experiencing severe hearing loss.
4 Behind-the-ear models — including some
4 with slim tubes and tips, along with ear molds to
make them more comfortable and less notice-
4 able — can also do an excellent job and come
4 with some distinct advantages, including a more
4 natural, “open” feeling that allows freer airflow
4 into the ear canal.
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32 SUNDAY, JANUARY 24, 2021 The Dispatch • HOW TO CHOOSE GUIDE

f you’ve never seen a mental health provider n Ask trusted friends, family or clergy.
before, you may not know how to find one n Check to see whether your company’s
who suits your specific needs. Here are some employee assistance program (EAP) or student
things to keep in mind as you search for a men- health center offers mental health services, or
tal health provider. ask for a referral.

What type of mental health provider do you n Contact a local or national mental health
need? organization by phone or on the internet, such
Mental health providers are professionals as the National Alliance on Mental Illness
who diagnose mental health conditions and (NAMI).
provide treatment. Most have at least a master’s n Search the internet for professional
degree or more-advanced education, training associations that have directories of mental
4 and credentials. Be sure that the professional health providers, such as the American Medical
4 you choose is licensed to provide mental health Association, the American Psychiatric Associ-
4 services. Licensing and services depend on the ation, the American Psychological Association
Counseling 4
provider’s training, specialty area and state law.
Consider these factors when choosing among
or the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive

services 4 the various types of mental health providers: n Check phone book listings or search the
n Your concern or condition. Most mental internet under categories such as community
4 health providers treat a range of conditions, service numbers, counselors, psychologists,
4 but one with a specialized focus may be more psychiatrists or social service organizations.
4 suited to your needs. For example, if you have an What should you look for in a mental health
4 eating disorder, you may need to see a psycholo- provider?
4 gist who specializes in that area. If you’re having When choosing a mental health provider,
4 marital problems, you may want to consult consider these issues:
a licensed marriage and family therapist. In n Education, training, licensing and years in
4 general, the more severe your symptoms or practice — licensing requirements vary widely
4 complex your diagnosis, the more expertise and by state
4 training you need to look for in a mental health n Areas they specialize in and specific ser-
4 provider. vices they offer
4 n Whether you need medications, counsel- n Treatment approaches and philosophy
4 ing or both. Some mental health providers are n Which insurance providers they work with
4 not licensed to prescribe medications. So your n Office hours, fees and length of sessions
choice may depend, in part, on your concern and Don’t hesitate to ask lots of questions. Find-
4 the severity of your symptoms. You may need to ing the right match is crucial to establishing a
4 see more than one mental health provider. For good relationship and getting the most out of
4 example, you may need to see a psychiatrist to your treatment.
4 manage your medications and a psychologist or (Reprinted with permission from Mayo Clinic.)
4 another mental health provider for counseling.
4 n Your health insurance coverage. Your in-
surance policy may have a list of specific mental
4 health providers who are covered or may only
4 cover certain types of mental health provid-
4 ers. Check ahead of time with your insurance
4 company, Medicare or Medicaid to find out what
4 types of mental health services are covered and
4 what your benefit limits are.
How can you find a mental health provider?
To find a mental health provider, you have
4 several options:
4 n n Ask your health insurance company
4 for a list of covered providers. Many insurance
4 companies make a list of providers they cover
4 available on the internet.
4 n Seek a referral or recommendation from
your primary care provider.
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34 SUNDAY, JANUARY 24, 2021 The Dispatch • HOW TO CHOOSE GUIDE

here’s no more important step than assist- ask questions and address special needs of the
ing a loved one who needs ongoing care prospective patient.
for medical or mental condition in finding Possible questions might include availability
a quality nursing home. Some choose nursing of physical and occupational therapy, accom-
homes to recover after a hospital stay, but most modation of appointments outside the facility

require constant care. and access to barbers and beauticians for the
A nursing home can provide a comfortable residents.
living environment for your loved ones while
ensuring that all of their needs are met. As an
added bonus, you can rest assured knowing that
Talk with others
You might have a chance to talk with a rel-
quality medical care is always nearby to meet ative of a patient who is currently living in the
4 any medical emergency that may arise. You nursing home. Don’t be afraid of asking them
4 can’t put a price on peace of mind. for honest opinions about the facility.
4 Placing a loved one in such a facility is never
A nursing
Query them about the staff and quality of
4 easy, but the choices can be made easier by care received by the residents. Solicit their input
4 making some basic decisions on what is import- on whether you should place your own loved one

home 4 ant — nursing care, meals, physical therapy, a in this facility.

religious connection, hospice care, or special These relatives are usually eager to share
4 care units for dementia patients? Do you want their experiences with you. Hearing their
4 a place close to family and friends so they can impressions will help ease your own anxieties
4 easily visit? These are all important criteria to about this important decision.
4 consider.
Here are a few more things to think about if
you believe someone you love could benefit from
Ask the doctor
4 If you are still unsure about your decision,
nursing home care.
4 or if you have reservations about the facility,
4 discuss the matter with your loved one’s prima-
Visit the facility ry care physician. This professional should also
Take a tour of the potential facility. You be able to recommend good nursing facilities in
4 should intuitively feel warmth and safety in this your area.
4 environment. Your visit will also provide clues The doctor may suggest additional facilities
4 about the general atmosphere and morale of not on your original list. When your loved one
4 the residents. There should be lots of natural has special needs, the doctor will know which
4 light, cheerful colors, bright wall art and hints of facility or center can best meet these require-
laughter from the staff and patients. ments.
Focus on the cleanliness, staffing levels and Deciding to put a family member or loved
4 the appearance of other residents. Is the air one in a nursing facility is never easy. Carefully
4 fresh and free from unpleasant odors such as weigh the expectations of your family member
4 urine, feces and stale food? Are there enough with your impressions and the recommenda-
4 nurses and attendants on duty? Are residents tions of others.
4 appropriately dressed? Do they seem clean and This is one of life’s most difficult decisions.
4 freshly bathed? Taking the time and doing the research will
Bring the prospective resident along for the result in a better quality of life for your loved one
4 tour. This facility may become home. Your loved and peace of mind for yourself.
4 one deserves to have a voice in selecting the fa-
4 cility. Feeling welcomed are cues that this could
4 be a positive living experience.
4 Socializing is important. Are there opportu-
4 nities for residents to meet each other? Regular
activities such as music and crafts or an outdoor
4 area for enjoying the sunshine will enhance
4 quality of life.
4 Most nursing home facilities are happy to
4 provide a tour of the building. Once you see
4 the environment, ask for a consultation with a
4 staff member. This is an opportunity for you to
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36 SUNDAY, JANUARY 24, 2021 The Dispatch • HOW TO CHOOSE GUIDE

inding home care for an elderly loved one With a competitive market for in-home care ser-
can be challenging but ultimately reward- vices in most areas, only the best ones will stay
ing. In-home care means seniors can remain in business for a long period of time.
in their homes rather than a nursing facility, You should also find out as much as you can
which can make a huge difference in quality of about the firm’s workers. Ask about how much

life. supervision they get, what their qualifications
But it’s important to determine needs in are and how long they’ve worked for the service.
advance of looking for a provider. Services vary
from basic assistance with simple daily needs,
such as getting dressed and minor chores and
Making a plan
Because every person’s needs are different,
errands, to more advanced nursing care and find out what kinds of plans will be a good fit.
4 medical treatment. From the frequency of visits to the types of ser-
4 Here are some tips to keep in mind when vices offered, you need to find a good match for
4 shopping for a home service provider.
In home care
your exact situation.
4 If the in-home service will be helping with
4 Medical care any medical needs, your doctor ought to be
4 It’s important to know is what level of medical involved with making the plan. Most home care
4 care, if any, will be provided. services will be able to coordinate with your
Senior service providers vary widely in the doctor or hospital personnel to come up with a
4 types of help they offer people. Some are staffed plan of care.
4 by nurses or other licensed health-care provid-
4 ers, which is important if you’re looking for any Reputation
4 actual medical care as part of your needs. Finally, ask around to learn whatever you
4 But for many seniors who don’t necessarily can about the service’s reputation. Your doctor,
4 need medical services in their home, there are friends and family may be able to tell you their
4 other providers that focus on helping with day- experiences with certain service providers
to-day needs like cleaning, cooking and personal in your area — good or bad — so try to find
4 grooming. They’re more like personal assistants first-person experiences to make a good choice.
4 to help seniors live a great life, not necessarily The best home health providers will have a
4 offering any nursing care. long track record and lots of happy customers,
4 Make sure you know the difference and ask so a good reputation in your community is a sign
4 exactly what kinds of services will be provided. that you’re making the right pick.
4 For medical needs, always talk to your doctor
to get advice about what would be best for your
4 The staff
4 Different companies handle staffing in
4 different ways. Most likely, you’ll be assigned a
4 regular person who you can get to know and be
4 comfortable interacting with. Inviting someone
4 into your home is a big responsibility, so it’s
important you find someone you can trust and
4 enjoy spending time with.
4 What happens when your regular staffer
4 can’t visit, though? Vacations, illness and other
4 conflicts mean sometimes you’ll need to have a
4 different person do the job, so ask your provider
4 how they handle substitutes when needed.
4 Track record
4 Find out how long the home care service has
been in business. Usually when a company has
4 been around for a long time, that’s a good sign.
HOW TO CHOOSE GUIDE The Dispatch • SUNDAY, JANUARY 24, 2021 37
38 SUNDAY, JANUARY 24, 2021 The Dispatch • HOW TO CHOOSE GUIDE

he circumstances are never easy and funeral director can be a major deciding factor
may be emotionally crippling. Facing the when you choose whether or not to use this
death of a loved one requires planning particular company to handle the funeral of
that may be difficult. But there are ways to your loved one.
make this difficult decision a little bit easier on A caring and professional funeral director

you and your family. and staff will take the time to explain all your
People often select a funeral home because options in an empathetic way so you can make
it’s nearby or has been recommended by a better choice when choosing a funeral home.
someone they trust. But by limiting the search If the director seems short or uninterested
to just one funeral home, you may risk paying in your needs or makes you feel like you and
more than necessary for the funeral and any your deceased loved one aren’t important, you
4 additional goods or services offered. won’t want to choose this facility to handle the
4 Here are some tips to help make choosing funeral of your loved one.
4 the right funeral home less stressful. While dealing with the death of a loved one
A funeral 4
4 Compare prices
is hard, choosing the right funeral home can
help relieve you of some stress.

home 4 If you have had to make funeral arrange- If you want your loved one to receive the
ments in the past, you may be tempted to just proper funeral he or she deserves, following
4 the above listed tips should help you make the
go with the funeral home you have experience
4 with. While this may be a smart option for right choice.
4 some people, it’s not always the right option.
4 Depending on how long it’s been since you
4 needed to make funeral arrangements for a
4 loved one, the price of that particular funeral
4 home may have gone up. That’s why it is wise
4 to shop around and compare the prices of the
various funeral homes in your community.
Ask for recommendations
Even if you have never had to choose a fu-
4 neral home in the past, you may have a friend
4 or two who has. Ask these friends if they would
4 recommend the services provided at the funer-
4 al homes they have used.
4 They may be able to share valuable infor-
mation about the staff, facility and prices of a
4 specific funeral home.
4 Ask about packages
4 Whether your deceased loved one had a
4 specific list for their final wishes or you have to
4 make these decisions for yourself, it is import-
4 ant that you ask a potential funeral home what
4 types of packages they offer.
You will find that not all funeral homes
4 are created equal, and each offers their own
4 different ways of handling a service. No matter
4 what type of requirements you have, it is best
4 to choose a funeral home that will cater to your
4 specific needs in order to make this difficult
4 situation a little less daunting.
4 Caring staff
When visiting a potential funeral home, the
HOW TO CHOOSE GUIDE The Dispatch • SUNDAY, JANUARY 24, 2021 39
40 SUNDAY, JANUARY 24, 2021 The Dispatch • HOW TO CHOOSE GUIDE

wning a farm comes with huge re- designed as flexible platforms that can be used
sponsibilities, not the least of which for all kinds of jobs, so check on the acces-
is upkeep and maintenance. Fields sories and tools that are available with each
require mowing, fences fix and large piles that model, even if you don’t plan on purchasing
require moving and disposal. Choosing the them yet. You may appreciate the choices in

right tractors and farm equipment can make the future.
these duties less of chore.
That’s why you want to make sure you’re
getting the highest quality bang for your buck
The warranty
Every manufacturer of farm equipment says
when purchasing tractors and other farm they’re built to last, but how many of them
equipment. You want to get a good deal, but back up their claims with a solid warranty?
4 remember that cheaper isn’t always better. The warranty term and coverage can be one of
4 After all, you’re making an investment in a the most critical considerations you weigh as a
4 valuable asset you’ll be using around the farm
A tractor
4 for decades to come. Not only will a great warranty help you if
4 Here are a few keys to consider. your equipment has a malfunction down the

dealer 4
4 Durability
Tractors are engineered to do a very spe-
road. It’s also a sign of how much faith the
manufacturer has in their products. Strong
warranty coverage usually corresponds with
4 cific task, and their longevity and durability products that are designed with toughness and
4 usually — but not always — will vary with the durability in mind.
4 cost.
4 That’s why it’s important to find the right
tractor to fit the job you’re doing. Buying equip-
The dealer
4 Finally, finding a good farm equipment deal-
4 ment that isn’t built to last will end up costing er is an essential part of the shopping process.
4 you more in the long run. Look for an experienced retailer with a long
The brand’s reputation should factor into track record of happy customers. The best
4 your decision. Look for online reviews and talk ones will have lots of positive references in the
4 to farmers you respect about the brands they local farming community, so just ask around
4 use. for which farm stores people in your area trust.
4 Also, visiting a retail location and talking to The best retailers will be interested in build-
4 knowledgeable salespeople will also help you ing a relationship with you for the long term.
4 narrow down your choices. You can count on them to deliver great service
Keep in mind that while there are plenty of before and, more importantly, long after the
low-end, affordable tractors out there, few have sale is complete.
4 a reputation for durability over the long haul.
4 It’s more economical in the long run to choose
4 a well-built model from a reputable manufac-
4 turer.
4 The right fit
4 Tractors and farm equipment come in a wide
range of capabilities and price points, from
4 affordable models designed for home use to
4 multimillion-dollar, state-of-the-art automated
4 machines. In between those extremes, you’ll
4 find a vast mixture of features and capability.
4 You can select the right model by asking
4 yourself how you’ll use the equipment. The
4 size of your farm is important, of course. Big-
ger farms need larger, more capable equipment
4 to operate at the highest level of efficiency.
4 Remember, too, that when you buy a trac-
4 tor, you’re committing yourself to a whole line
4 of equipment. Most of today’s tractors are
HOW TO CHOOSE GUIDE The Dispatch • SUNDAY, JANUARY 24, 2021 41
42 SUNDAY, JANUARY 24, 2021 The Dispatch • HOW TO CHOOSE GUIDE

utdoor utility and sport vehicles, aka the styling.
ATVs, used to be solitary pursuit. But Remember, pretty graphics can’t get you out
with the rise UTV, popularly known as of the mud.
Side-bySides, these four- or six-wheel all-ter-
rain vehicles are a common sight on fields, Where you ride

campgrounds and anywhere there’s wide-open The type of riding you do can also inform
space. These off-roaders feature bucket or bench your decision. If you want to use it like basic
seating with enough room for up to six riders, transport around a farm or ranch, almost like a
and many come with 4WD or all-wheel drive rugged golf cart, look for cargo space, tie-downs
capabilities. and special features that can make it more
Typically wider than most quads, a side-by- useful.
4 side can still be a blast to tear through tough If you do more extreme off-road driving,
4 terrain, with the added benefit of carrying a whether as a sport or just for pleasure, you’ll
4 passenger right next to you to share in the fun.
A motorcycle
want to find a side-by-side that’s up to the chal-
4 Many of them look almost like a tiny Jeep, with lenge and engineered for high-speed off-road-
4 squared-off body panels and aggressive wheels ing.

or ATV 4 pushed to the corners.

Side-by-side models are all built differently
4 and handle differently from four-wheelers,
Roll cage
4 One advantage of side-by-sides is that they
though, so keep these factors in mind when
4 can potentially offer more protection from a
dreaded rollover accident — one of the most
4 dangerous risks of off-roading.
4 Know the laws Many side-by-sides offer some kind of roll
4 Few vehicles blur the line between cars, bar for protection, either built into the design
4 motorcycles and ATVs like the newest side- or available as aftermarket equipment. If you’re
4 by-sides. While they’re designed primarily for doing extreme off-road driving, it’s especially
off-road driving, every state sets their own rules important to understand the details of the roll
4 for where you’re allowed to ride them. bar and how well you can expect it to protect you
4 Some states treat side-by-sides like motor- in a rollover accident.
4 cycles, letting you legally drive them on public
4 streets when you’re in between trails. Some
4 states require special aftermarket kits to make
Finally, the best side-by-side models come
4 them street legal. And some other states say
from companies with a long track record of mak-
they’re not allowed on public streets at all.
4 ing quality products. They’ll have lots of happy
Before you make a decision, make sure you
4 customers.
know the rules and regulations for wherever
4 While reviews of specific models are easy
you’ll be riding.
4 to find with a simple Google search, the most
reliable information will come from people you
4 Chassis and engine know who already own the product.
4 When comparing different side-by-side mod- If you’ve got friends who own a side-by-side,
4 els, the chassis and engine can make a dramatic ask what they like and dislike about it. First-per-
4 difference. It’s the easiest way to tell how good a son experiences can help you make a decision.
side-by-side feels when you drive it. When you find a side-by-side that meets your
4 Engineering a tough, rugged vehicle isn’t
4 needs — including from both a manufacturer
easy, but the best models will be durable enough and retailer with a great reputation in the indus-
4 to take a beating for hours off the pavement try — there’s just one thing left to do: have fun
4 without quitting or getting noticeably damaged. riding.
4 The metal the chassis is made from — whether
4 it’s heavy or lightweight, along with how it’s
4 built — can make all the difference when push-
ing a side-by-side’s performance to the limit.
4 Different suspension designs and ride heights
4 also can help it perform better in certain situa-
4 tions, so pay closer attention to the mechanical
4 and structural pieces of the vehicle than you do
HOW TO CHOOSE GUIDE The Dispatch • SUNDAY, JANUARY 24, 2021 43
44 SUNDAY, JANUARY 24, 2021 The Dispatch • HOW TO CHOOSE GUIDE

f you have a large lawn or substantial piece of become affordable for the average homeowner.
property to take care of, you’ll need the right Zero-turn mowers are particularly useful
equipment to not only mow and seed but carry when mowing close to homes, playground equip-
supplies and tow attachments. ment and other tight areas.
Lawn tractors are the upgrade you need to

navigate the terrain with the power and capa-
bility to maintain your land. These workhorses
The longevity of your lawn tractor is also an
make quick work of taming acres of land and important consideration.
can even perform other tasks such as clearing The brand’s reputation should weigh heav-
snow. ily when you are making a decision. Research
Choosing the right lawn tractor depends on consumer reviews and talk to your friends and
4 several factors, such as the size of your proper- family members about the best brands of lawn
4 ty, towing capacity and, of course, price. products.
4 Here’s some guidance to help you pick the
A lawn
Also, visiting a retail store and talking to
4 right tractor for your needs. knowledgeable salespeople will also help you.
4 There are plenty of low-end, affordable riding
The right fit
tractor 4
4 Lawn tractors come in a variety of capabilities
and price points which can range from $1,000
mowers out there, but few have a reputation
for durability. It is economical in the long run
to choose a well-built model from a reputable
4 for a simple, basic model to $10,000 or more for manufacturer.
4 a fully-featured, commercial-grade tractor. In Inspect the construction of each lawn mower
4 between, you will find a vast mixture of features careful to verify that it will meet your needs.
4 and quality. While you probably don’t need the extreme engi-
4 Select the right model by asking yourself how neering and high price of a commercial-grade
4 you will use the lawn tractor. Lawn size is an im- model, you ought to buy the best model you can
4 portant factor to consider. For a bigger lawn, you afford and follow the maintenance directions
may need a wider mowing deck. Do you have closely. It will help you get the most usage for
4 any other planned uses for your tractor such as your money.
4 hauling garden supplies of plowing the drive? Finding a good dealer is an essential part of
4 High-end lawn tractors are more like piec- the process. When you locate an experienced
4 es of farm equipment than traditional ride-on local retailer with a long track record of happy
4 mowers. You can purchase accessories for them, customers, you will be well on your way to se-
4 such as baggers, trailers, powerful tillers and lecting the right lawn tractor for you.
You are not only buying a lawn mower. These
4 tractors are platforms that can be used for all
4 kinds of jobs. So check on the accessories that
4 come with each model, even if you don’t plan on
4 purchasing them yet. You may appreciate the
4 choices in the future.
4 Speed and maneuverability
Most people want to finish the job in the least
4 amount of time.
4 While it is true that large mowing decks will
4 cover more ground with each pass, there are
4 other things to consider as well.
4 The transmission and speed is also a factor.
4 How easy is it for you to change gears and turn
4 in different directions?
The zero-turn mower is another popular
4 option. These vehicles can turn quickly and pre-
4 cisely to cut lawns of all sizes and shapes. While
4 they have been used for years by commercial
4 lawn crews, only recently have these mowers
HOW TO CHOOSE GUIDE The Dispatch • SUNDAY, JANUARY 24, 2021 45
46 SUNDAY, JANUARY 24, 2021 The Dispatch • HOW TO CHOOSE GUIDE

reality of auto ownership is that at some not cover, so be sure to check.
point it will need repairs and upkeep. n Are the auto technicians certified by a
Some new car owners may naturally grav- specific car manufacturer, the National Institute
itate toward their dealers to follow scheduled for Automotive Services or Automotive Science
maintenance to keep their vehicle in top shape. Excellence? Is the shop approved by the Ameri-

Older cars will likely need more attention. That’s can Automobile Association? If so, this indicates
why it pays to develop a relationship with a quali- a customer approval rating of 90% or higher and
fied, reliable and professional auto repair shop. the ability to adequately perform the services
Developing a relationship with an knowl- advertised.
edgeable mechanic or auto repair shop early n Compare the services and fees of each
on in your vehicle’s life can prove invaluable. shop in the area to find out the average price
4 Talented, honest mechanics can extend the life ranges.
4 of your car and help you avoid costly repairs. Don’t pick a shop based on cost; poor repair
4 And if the unexpected occurs — an accident or work will mean higher costs in the long run.
Auto repair 4
a major malfunction — that relationship can be
the difference between hundreds and thousands
You’ll also want to ask about the shop’s warranty
policy. Imagine spending hundreds on a repair
4 of dollars. only to learn the work isn’t guaranteed.
Even if your car is new, at some point it will Once you have found a shop you trust, estab-
4 need tires, oil changes or even a new engine. If lish a good working relationship and try to use
4 you have a relationship with a good auto repair the shop for all of your automotive needs. Your
4 shop, you won’t sweat it when these things come mechanic will come to know you as a depend-
4 up. able customer and always be sure to provide you
4 If you haven’t had a regular mechanic is the highest level of service.
4 recent years, now is the time to find one.
Here are a few points to consider:
4 n Less than 40 percent of new customers in
4 auto shops are walk-ins. That means word of
4 mouth is still king in the industry. Find a shop
4 that gets rave reviews from family and friends,
4 and you’ll be in good hands.
4 n The Better Business Bureau can inform
4 you about the repair shop’s performance and
4 n If you travel often, consider a shop that
4 offers a national warranty. For instance, a
4 warranty of 12,000 miles or 12 months is handy
4 for issues that keep cropping up, particularly in
4 older cars.
4 n Ask about the shop’s range of services.
They will need the latest technology to diagnose
4 problems with newer cars. For example, can
4 your prospective shop handle brake systems,
4 electrical components and warranty repairs?
4 Does the shop provide a loaner, rental car or
4 shuttle service while your car is being repaired?
4 n Look around the shop. Is the equipment in
good condition? Is it clean, well-lit and orga-
nized? These factors all contribute to a level of
4 professionalism.
4 n Look for brand names and proper certifica-
4 tion. Does the auto repair shop use brand-name
4 parts? These parts are engineered to meet the
4 manufacturer’s specifications and will likely
4 come with a warranty. Shops may use remade or
generic brands which your insurance policy may
HOW TO CHOOSE GUIDE The Dispatch • SUNDAY, JANUARY 24, 2021 47
48 SUNDAY, JANUARY 24, 2021 The Dispatch • HOW TO CHOOSE GUIDE

hoosing a good wine is completely sub- to change over time. However, if the thought of
jective. How each person defines a good drinking a sweet wine makes you cringe, that
wine is unique to them and their taste doesn’t necessarily mean you should jump to
buds. Whether you prefer delicate, bold, sweet, reds. Instead, opt for a dry white or rosé. Begin-
tart or even spicy flavors, it is possible to find a ning with a lighter-bodied wine can be a step to

wine you adore. These essential characteristics learning to enjoy a variety of wines.
that define each variety of wine can be helpful to Reflect on other flavors you enjoy. Wine
keep in mind as you navigate picking a bottle. flavors are unique, but that doesn’t mean the
Sweetness: Wine labels often use the terms flavors you enjoy in other drinks and food don’t
“sweet,” “semi-sweet” or “dry.” A dry wine will influence what you’ll consider a good wine.
not be sweet at all. Do you prefer apple juice or grapefruit juice?
4 Acidity: Wines with high acidity will be Apple juice lovers are more likely to enjoy sweet
4 more tart, whereas low-acidity wines will taste white wine, while grapefruit juice enthusiasts
4 rounder or richer. will likely find their match in dry white wine.
Wine 4
Tannin: Tannins are phenolic compounds in
the skins of grapes. When tannins are naturally
Does your favorite dose of caffeine come in
the form of a latte or black coffee? Black coffee
4 present in the winemaking process or added drinkers are more likely to fall for an Old World
through aging, the wine will have a more bitter wine — that is, wine that comes from one of the
4 taste. Because tannins also tend to dry out your places where winemaking first began, such as
4 mouth, people often confuse the tannin level France, Italy or Spain. If you prefer a latte, try
4 with the “dryness” of a wine, which actually re- a New World wine, such as something from the
4 fers to how sweet or not sweet a wine is. The red United States, Australia or South Africa.
4 winemaking process incorporates more tannins, Consider the occasion. Are you selecting a
4 giving some red wines a distinctively dry and wine for yourself to enjoy, or are you sharing
bitter finish. with friends? Will you be pairing your wine with
4 Body: Wines get characterized as having a a meal or using it to prepare a recipe? Wines can
4 light body, full body or somewhere in between. serve different purposes, and different occa-
4 The “body” of the wine refers to how heavy or sions can influence how you choose a wine.
4 light it feels in your mouth. Generally, red wines Don’t stress over the age of the wine. Only
4 have a fuller body than whites, as do wines made some wines taste better with age, and different
4 from grapes grown in warmer regions, rather wines are best after different aging periods.
4 than cooler ones. Properly aging wine depends on many factors,
Alcohol: The higher the percentage of alco- including the region the wine is from and the
4 hol in your glass of wine, the more it will warm amounts of tannins, sugars and acids it con-
4 your throat and the back of your mouth. Mea- tains. In general, aging is more important for
4 sured in percentage of alcohol by volume (ABV), red wines than white wines, but any wine you
4 most wines contain 11 to 13 percent alcohol, but purchase at the store will be ready to drink. In
4 can range from 5.5 percent all the way up to 20 fact, most wines are not meant to be aged, and
4 percent. you should consume them within five years of
Everyone will have different preferences for purchasing them.
4 each of these characteristics of wine, but with Don’t write off bottles with screw caps!
4 the right care, you can find a bottle that fulfills While wine bottles with screw have a bad repu-
4 your taste preferences. tation, they can still hold delicious wine. Many
4 great wines have opted for screw caps because
4 Tips for picking a good bottle of wine they can be more convenient. How many times
4 Since “good wine” is so subjective, knowing have you forgotten the corkscrew? Don’t worry
how to choose the right wine means consider- we sell those too.
ing several factors — including occasion, flavor
4 preferences, labels and price points. While the
4 combination of these factors is different for each
4 person, the tips below will help anyone in search
4 of that perfect bottle of wine.
4 If you are new to wine, start with a white wine
4 or rosé. Just as your food preferences evolve as
you mature, the wines you enjoy are also likely
HOW TO CHOOSE GUIDE The Dispatch • SUNDAY, JANUARY 24, 2021 49
50 SUNDAY, JANUARY 24, 2021 The Dispatch • HOW TO CHOOSE GUIDE

quality building supply store is your first by customers, you will not receive a high level of
step in beginning a home-improvement service. You might consider looking elsewhere.
project. Other signs of poor customer service include
Well-stocked stores with a knowledgeable long checkout lines, out-of-stock products or a
staff can make the task ahead that much easier cluttered and dingy store. If you feel treated like

by having all your supplies and any advice or a criminal because you had to return something,
recommendations you many need. then find another store that treats you better.
Reliable customer service is one of the factors Convenience will also have an impact. Hours
that will help you choose between a local store of operation, driving distance, and parking will
and a big-box retailer. figure into your decision. If it takes a lot of effort
Consider smaller projects you have success- to make a purchase, you should find another
4 fully completed. Ask the staff at each store for store.
4 their input on the best way to complete the task The right building supply store will have what
4 you have in mind. Progress to a more complicat- you need when you need it. They will stock tools
A building 4
ed project and ask for advice again. Note which
employees provided the most helpful answers.
and materials, and sell them at a reasonable
price. A knowledgeable and friendly staff will

supply store 4 During your visits, look around various de- have answers if you need them.
partments. Determine which store has the best When you find that store, you can complete
4 high-quality tools you might need in the future. your building projects with confidence and feel
4 The best stores will sell top-quality lumber, less stressed when it comes time to take on new
4 paint, fasteners, roofing materials and fixtures work.
4 to complete your construction project — all at
4 a wide range of price points depending on the
4 finish you need.
Make a note of additional services, such as
4 equipment rentals, classes and referrals to area
4 professionals. After all, if you can’t handle a
4 complex project, they might be able to point you
4 in the direction of someone who can.
4 Pricing is another aspect to consider. A store
4 with the lowest prices isn’t necessarily the
4 best. They might be cutting corners. On the
other hand, if you know a lot about lumber and
4 are interested in purchasing fencing for your
4 backyard, the cheapest store might be best. The
4 most expensive store in town might be best if
4 you are purchasing lumber to make a piece of
4 furniture. Always consider quality as well as
4 price.
If you are still undecided, then let customer
4 service be your guide. For hardware and home
4 improvement stores, customer service will help
4 you when you most need it.
4 Good customer service starts as soon as you
4 enter the establishment. If you are warmly wel-
4 comed, this is a step in the right direction.
High employee turnover is not a good sign.
It is best to establish a working relationship
4 with people in your building supply store. It is
4 difficult to do that if you are greeted by a differ-
4 ent person every time you enter, and employee
4 stability is a sign of good management.
4 Understaffing is another problem in some
4 building supply stores. If it is difficult to locate
someone, or associates are always surrounded
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52 SUNDAY, JANUARY 24, 2021 The Dispatch • HOW TO CHOOSE GUIDE

urability and almost limitless options in choices are almost endless because any slab has
color and style make granite countertops the potential to look good in it. But for smaller,
a popular choice for new or replacement darker kitchens, your choices will be a bit more
counters. limited because dark countertops can make the
Real estate agents often cite granite counters space feel gloomy and hemmed-in.

as a major selling point for homes and it remains You should also look for a color that contrasts
an almost-standard surface for both kitchens and pairs well with your cabinet materials.
and bathrooms in new and remodeled homes. Depending on the look you’re aiming for, dark
If you’re in the market for new countertops, colored granite can look amazing when paired
you should definitely consider granite. Here are with lighter stains of wood cabinetry.
some things to keep in mind. The other colors in your decor will play a role
4 in your choice, too, from the flooring to the paint
4 Educate yourself on the walls and even the kitchen hardware
4 and appliances you’re using. Some countertop
All granite is not created equal. While all
4 granite around the world is produced naturally companies will even offer the experience of a
4 from the same geologic processes, resulting decorator to help you make the right choice.

countertops 4 in a variety of colors interspersed with quartz If you think you might sell your home in the
crystals, there is quite a wide variation in the near future, you should think about what poten-
4 tial buyers might think about the countertops
material itself.
4 Choosing your granite purely from pictures you select. You wouldn’t want to choose some-
4 in a catalog or from small samples could result thing that could fall quickly out of style or be a
4 in disappointment. So you should visit a home particularly strong, polarizing color if you might
4 store in person. Seeing the selection in person be selling the house soon. Conservative choices
4 can inform you about all the types of granite should win out in this case.
available and how they vary in color and mineral Be careful with your selection and educate
4 yourself about the wide variety of granite styles
4 composition.
and products on the market, and you can add
4 beauty and value to your home for years to
4 Is it granite? come.
The popularity of granite has skyrocketed in
4 the past decade; so have the alternative products
4 that are designed to have a granite-like look.
4 The countertops you assumed were granite in
4 a hotel or at a friend’s house could have actu-
4 ally been a man-made material. Some of these
4 materials are designed to be less expensive or
more durable than natural stone, but a good
4 countertop company can help you understand
4 the strengths and weaknesses of every type of
4 material on the market.
4 Fitting your design
4 Depending on where it comes from, granite
4 can range in color from black to white, and
4 every shade of brown, blue and red can be
found in granite slabs. There is also tremendous
4 variation in the veining and crystal composition
4 of each slab.
4 While picking the right stone can be a matter
4 of personal choice, there are some basic rules to
4 follow.
4 Just like with paint colors, lighter stone colors
4 can make a small room look bigger and more
open. Likewise, dark colored granite can make a
4 small kitchen feel even smaller.
4 If your kitchen is big, roomy and well-lit, your
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54 SUNDAY, JANUARY 24, 2021 The Dispatch • HOW TO CHOOSE GUIDE

ou’ve decided to update your home, office may opt to work on an hourly basis.
or business and you have ideas of what The second payment option is cost-plus.
you’d like but no idea where to begin. A When interior decorators purchase items for
good interior decorator can help bring those your home, they simply add a percentage to the
ideas to life. cost. If the decorator uses this method, be sure

Interior decorators will not only clarify your to discuss your overall budget with them. They
vision, they’ll also save you time and money will welcome your honesty.
using their professional contacts to access paint, The third choice is a combination of by-the-
fabrics, furniture and installation. They may hour and cost-plus.
also save you from design disasters.
Here are a few things to consider if you think
an interior decorator could benefit your living or
Certification and training
Currently, 26 states require interior decora-
4 work space. tors to be certified. The National Kitchen and
An interior
Bath Association and the American Society of
4 Know your personal taste Interior Design oversee these certifications.
4 First, think about your personal tastes. Leaf These professional organizations have their own

designer 4
through magazines and clip out designs that
appeal to you to get an idea of what is available.
You could also look on the internet and print
requirements. By their rules, decorators must
have at least an associate’s degree, serve an ap-
prenticeship, and then pass an exam to become
4 out specific looks you like. Put them in a three- certified. Once a decorator has passed an initial
4 ringed binder or file folder with a comment exam, professionals can continue their educa-
4 about why it attracts you. Seeing your prefer- tion to prove mastery in specialized skills.
4 ences will help the decorator understand how to
4 fulfill your needs.
It is also a good idea to learn some interior
4 The best interior decorators have strong
4 design terminology so you can speak the same personal design philosophies. You will see it in
language as the designer. Do you know the their portfolios and when you speak to them.
4 difference between a club chair, armoire and The ideal professional will have an ability to
4 highboy? Studying the words they use will help understand and reflect your style. After all, you
4 you avoid disappointment later. are the person who will live in your home.
4 They should fit in with your style, not the
4 Locate interior decorators other way around. Find someone who is flexible
4 The National Kitchen and Bath Association and communicative. If the person doesn’t take
4 and the American Society of Interior Design criticism well, that is not a person you want to
4 have a list of interior decorators in your area. work with.
Check with your family and friends as well. In Once you have interviewed three interior
4 particular, if you know someone whose home decorators, choose one you have a connection
4 you adore, ask who did the work. with. Continue discussing time frames, costs
4 Choose three interior decorators to interview. and other details about the project. Do not make
4 Typically, these meetings occur in their offices, payments until you have a contract.
4 but sometimes a prospective interior decora-
4 tor will want to meet in your home. He or she Finding an interior decorator might seem like
might want to see the house in order to provide an overwhelming task. Through research, com-
4 specific details. Other decorators prefer to hold munication and staying true to your own style,
4 interviews in their offices so you can see their you can find a decorator who will transform your
4 previous work and look at samples. house into a true home.
4 Cost of an interior decorator
4 Ask about how bills are handled. Usually
4 there are three methods of payment.
4 The first is by-the-hour. The interior designer
4 will ask that you pay for a minimum number
of hours. Once those hours are gone, you may
4 choose to purchase more time in bulk or they
HOW TO CHOOSE GUIDE The Dispatch • SUNDAY, JANUARY 24, 2021 55
56 SUNDAY, JANUARY 24, 2021 The Dispatch • HOW TO CHOOSE GUIDE

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