By Janet Groene, F47166
Despite its freedoms and joys, full-timing also presents its share of challenges and problems. Here are some solutions that might work for your life on the go.
The prescription puzzle
Necessary prescription drugs can be costly for many full-timers, but the pharmaceutical industry has some good news. Most major drug manufacturers have one or more patient assistance programs to aid people who cannot afford medications they need. Some programs are available to anyone; others are income-based. Assistance from some programs must be requested by a doctor, while others can be applied for by the patient with a doctor’s approval. Best of all, they can be used anywhere, unlike programs that require you to stay in one state or receive the medication from the same group of pharmacies.
To find out whether such programs may work for your situation, first you must know the name of the company that manufactures your medication(s), not just the name of the drug itself. You can ask your physician or a pharmacist, or glean the information from the Physicians Desk Reference, available at any library, which also includes phone numbers of pharmaceutical companies.
You also can learn about patient assistance programs by calling the pharmaceutical company directly. Or, phone the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (800-762-4636) and request a publication titled “Directory of Prescription Drug Patient Assistance Programs.” It’s free. Just record your name and mailing address when calling this automated number. If you have Internet access, you can find the same information at the group’s Web site, www.phrma.org.
Simply find the company that makes your medication and note its contact information, eligibility requirements, and other details of its patient assistance program. Many pharmaceutical companies have a special, toll-free number for your health-care provider to use. Merck & Co. Inc., for example, looks at requests on a case-by-case basis, seeking ways to lend temporary assistance to patients who have exhausted all other options including Veteran’s Assistance, their insurance or HMO, and Medicaid. The company has separate patient assistance programs for their drugs Aggrastat and Crixivan. Ortho Biotech has a program to make sure those who need it can get Procrit or Leustatin. Organon has a program for patients who need Remeron. As of this writing, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America had listings for 48 companies that offered some type of patient assistance programs for one or more of their drugs.
Such programs require you to do a lot of paperwork and follow-up, and it may take some time for your case to be evaluated, so they aren’t suitable for medications you need immediately. Still, if you’re on a tight budget and need prescription medications for the long term, there may be a program that can lend some assistance.
The poison puzzle
At one time, full-timers had to know the phone number of the poison control center nearest to their campsite, but now one national number is available for callers who have questions about a possible human or pet poisoning: (800) 222-1222.
The green thumb puzzle
When full-timers are asked to list the things that they miss most from their stationary lives, gardening tops the list. Yet there are many ways you can exercise that green thumb on the go.
You can grow more than a dozen edible sprouts by yourself. Try mung beans; tangy radish sprouts; wheat and alfalfa sprouts; and much more. Most grow to eating size in a few days, and they’re loaded with nutrients. Visit a health food store for starter seeds and sprouting supplies. You also don’t need 40 acres and a mule to grow fresh mushrooms. Mushroom “patches” are sold through specialty catalogs such as Fungi Perfecti, P.O. Box 7634, Olympia, WA 98507; (800) 780-9126; www.fungi.com. Just keep them moist and dark and you’ll have fresh mushrooms for weeks. Another Web site for mushroom lovers is www.cropking.com/mushroom.shtml.
In small, easy-to-transport containers you can grow dwarf flowers such as cacti or miniature roses, or vegetables such as baby carrots, lettuce and cress, and tiny, jewel-like tomatoes and hot peppers. Web sites that may be helpful for container gardeners include www.my-container-garden.com and www.gardenguides.com. Container gardening can be infectious. It’s easy to start slips, pots, or small dish gardens to give to campground neighbors.
The income puzzle
Will your Social Security benefit be enough to fund your full-timing years? To calculate your future benefits, go to www.ssa.gov/planners and click on the “Calculators” link. You can enter various scenarios to see how much you might receive per month if you work so many years earning so many dollars per year. Your Social Security benefit is based on earnings in your 35 highest-paid years. If you did not work for 35 years, you’ll be credited $0 for the non-working years and your benefits will be based on the 35-year average.
The packrat puzzle
Do you sometimes have to go several days before you can off-load trash from the motorhome? A manual compacter called the Trash Masher is available through camping or marine stores for approximately $40. A compacter is built into the lid, which seals well to keep odors from escaping. The container measures approximately 19 inches by 12 inches by 9 inches. Simply shut the lid, lift the handle mechanism, and you can compact the trash to one-third its former size without making personal contact with the garbage. Home improvement stores and camping suppliers carry a large choice of trash storage systems that make the most of whatever space you have available. New designs are always coming on the market.
At each new campground, note how its trash and recycling system works. At some campgrounds, everything goes into one large receptacle; others have elaborate recycling bins for different colored glass and separate containers for newspaper and other types of paper. The more we cooperate by minimizing, sorting, and separating trash, the better campground owners will be able to keep costs down.
The delivery puzzle
When ordering something that will arrive by FedEx or UPS, it’s essential that you provide a correct street address. Address correction fees charged by these services are $10 and $6, respectively. Even such a small error as listing an address as Smith Road instead of Smith Lane could result in a charge.
Remember that package services cannot deliver to a post office box. Even though you may have no other address, you must provide a physical address to receive a shipment from FedEx or UPS.
Books for travelers
Dave Hunter’s annual guide, Along Interstate 75 ($21.95, Mile Oak Publishing), is now in its 12th edition, covering the route from Detroit to the Florida border. It’s one of the most valuable guides for those who travel any portion of this interstate. Like previous editions, it includes history, natural history, mileage, and thousands of tidbits such as where to find the nearest golf course, veterinarian, diesel fuel, LP-gas, 24-hour gas station, hospital, Wal-Mart, and much more. One quirky new addition this year is a list of places to get free coffee along the entire highway. The book can be found in bookstores; through online booksellers; in Ohio AAA offices; in Ontario, Canada, at all CAA offices; at www.i75online.com; or by calling (800) 431-1579.
If you’re looking for the perfect pet to have along during your full-timing adventures, one that desperately needs a home, go to www.petfinder.com. Using the site’s Quick Pet Search feature, you simply input the type of animal, breed, age, size, gender, and your own zip code or city/state/province. Click “Go” and you receive a list of the adoptable animals in your vicinity that match your criteria, along with a contact link that lists a phone number, e-mail address, or Web site for more information.
A free guide to facilities at Texas state parks is available from Texas Parks and Wildlife at any of the Department of Transportation’s state travel information centers, at all state parks, most convention and visitors bureaus, online at www.tpwd.state.tx.us/parkguide, or by calling (800) 792-1112.
If you have limited access or no access to the Internet, are you frustrated by the increasing number of businesses that list only a Web address and no longer provide a toll-free number or mailing address where you can request information, place an order, complain to a customer service representative, or make reservations? Please let me know your thoughts by e-mailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or write Janet Groene, c/o Family Motor Coaching, 8291 Clough Pike, Cincinnati, OH 45244.