How to shake a cold

“A warm house won’t give you shelter from the colds” [Nov. 29], on how to avoid/manage colds and flu, was fine as far as it recycled well-known (but worth repeating) information and advice. Why, however, do you never include an additional recommendation: Don’t shake hands. You may observe proper hygiene but your contact may not, and it is less awkward to avoid the shake than to whip out the hand sanitizer.

I used to tell people that I “didn’t” shake hands, which put me in the eccentric Howard Hughes category. Now I just say I can’t, which is true enough as I have severe arthritis in my right hand. Besides, as you age, society allows you a few quirks.

Elinor Constable, Washington

Picking apart Medicare

I have worked in the Medicare program for more than 40 years. A very important point that was not brought out strongly enough in “To get the most from Medicare, pay close attention to the rules” [Dec. 6] is that everyone should sign up for Medicare’s Part A program (hospital insurance) whether or not they are working or have other insurance. Unlike other parts of Medicare, there is no premium to be paid for signing up for Part A, and the decision is really a no-brainer. The decision to enroll in Part B while still employed or having other coverage is more difficult. If people opt out of Part B when eligible, they will face a premium penalty and an enrollment delay if they should try to enroll in Part B in the future.

The article also says, “Basic Medicare also doesn’t cover extended stays in nursing homes . . . .” It is important to note that Medicare does not cover any nursing home stays. It does cover 100 days of care in a benefit period in skilled nursing facilities, but these are not nursing homes. Rather, they provide either skilled or rehabilitative care after a hospital stay of at least three days. Too many people think that Medicare covers nursing homes; they need to learn that Medicare does not do that before they or their loved ones need to go into a nursing home.

Paul Elstein, Columbia