All posts by Vantage Point

Our Washington monthly e-column on health and insurance subjects written by our community liason.
Surviving the Sandwich Generation

Vantage Point: The Importance of Support While in the Sandwich Generation

My husband and I are starting to talk about future property purchases, which has led to many conversations about what we would want in a house or property. I want land. He wants something that he doesn’t have to fix up. Our conversations have swung from a giant, ridiculous wish list to then coming back to reality about what’s on that wish list.

One theme that I’ve been consistent with in all of our talks is that I want a place to take care of my parents when they get older in the future. This is so true for my mother, as her family has often lived into their 90s.

This notion of caring for them on my property has been solidified even further with how unsure Medicare is, how expensive the healthcare system is, and the fact that I want them to have the best care while staying close to family. I figure I can achieve this by buying a property that’s big enough to parcel out a place for my parents.

I haven’t really thought of all the logistics, but the plan is stuck in my mind, and it’s framing what kind of property and home I want. This type of thinking has also led to conversations with my father about what he thinks they would like and need, if and when the time comes for them to sell their home and live with us.

When this happens, if not a little before, I’ll officially be smack dab in the classification of the sandwich generation, the people who are responsible for not only caring for their own kids, but also for their aging parents. According to the CDC, as of 2008, there were 34 million unpaid family caregivers in the United States. I’m sure that figure is much higher now.

I saw my mother do this with her mother, so I’m not afraid of the season when it comes; I just want to be prepared. Being prepared means thinking now about what will make life easier for all of us in the future.

It’s also about knowing and looking out for the pitfalls. I’ve heard from many others that this season of life can be so rewarding while you’re in it, but it can also be very taxing, so it’s important to be extra vigilant in taking care of yourself. In order to keep loving others, we have to keep loving ourselves.

This means that sometimes you need a break! This break could be a spa day, a long walk, a furious cardio kickboxing session, or just talking to others who are in similar situations. It takes a village, right?!

I’ve compiled a list of some support groups for those who are in this situation. Some support groups are local, and some are virtual, but they are all there as resources for support. And if you want something more local that fits what you’re going through, you can always start your own support group. There are tons of advice and tips online on how to make a new group successful. I think the best advice I saw when researching this article was to keep it simple and to feel accomplished even if only 1 or 2 people show up.

Local Support Groups

Memorial Hospital’s support groups

Alzheimer’s Association Caregiver Support Groups

Granger – For Spanish-Speaking Caregivers – Starting Soon
Estela Ochoa
Call 206-529-3877 before attending for location, time, and further details.

Yakima – For Caregivers
Location: St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church
4105 Richey Rd.
Yakima, WA 98908
Meeting Time: 2nd Thursday of the month, 1 to 2:30 p.m.
Contact Elaine Krump at 509-969-3615 before attending.

Yakima – For Spanish-Speaking Families
Call Manuel at 509-833-3334 before attending for location, time, and further details.

Online Support Groups

Caring.com has a broad list of caregiving groups for you to choose from. Access to these groups requires a free member account.

AgingCare.com has some groups for you to choose from, and you don’t have to become a member to access these groups.

Caregiving.com has online caregiving support groups, daily caregiving chats, and blogs written by family caregivers.

 

Breck Obermeyer is a community liaison with Health Alliance Northwest, serving Yakima County. She is a homegrown girl from Naches and has a great husband who can fix anything and 2 kids who are her world. When not attending community events or providing Medicare education throughout the Valley, she can be found indulging in her hobbies of homesteading, pioneer cooking, and learning new survival techniques. She also has a strong love for all things Halloween.

Sharing Personal Histories

Vantage Point: The Importance of Our Personal Histories

Recently, I was sitting at a local senior center, talking to several retirees. I asked what professions they were in prior to their retirement, and one gentleman’s answer struck me hard.

He said he was a cartographer, or map maker, but that his skill and history were no longer relevant. I found this most interesting and asked him to give me an idea of what his job was like.

He started to tell me and then said, “But I am no longer relevant to this day and time due to technology.” My first reaction was pure shock and then sadness. This man, who had worked more than 30 years as a cartographer, thinks that he is no longer relevant.

Many of us sitting at the table found this to be the most interesting profession of everyone in the conversation. And as he started to tell us what he did in his job, I could only think how awesome it would be for our younger generation to hear his story.

As he finished up his story, I asked him why he thinks he’s not relevant anymore. He said, with today’s technology, few humans are needed in the creation of maps since they have drones and computers now to do what he and others did “back in the day.”

I reminded him that his history and knowledge were valuable and needed by our younger generations. The skillset needed for his job when technology was scarce needs to be heard. The history of cartographers is still vital and very important, even with the advanced technology that we have.

Everyone at the table agreed with me and joined in my admiration of his profession and knowledge.

Through my work, I have met teachers, chefs, firefighters, coaches, doctors, and now a cartographer. They all have great stories infused with history, skill, and knowledge. It’s also obvious that they loved what they did and want to share their story.

Remembering that we all have value in every part of our lives is important, whether it’s when we are young and working, or when we get older and retire. Our histories are relevant no matter where we are in our lives, and they need to be shared, remembered, and heard by all.

Joy Stanford is a community liaison with Health Alliance, serving Thurston County. She’s been involved with Medicare for 20+ years and truly enjoys it. She enjoys gospel, R&B, and country music, and she owns over 100 pairs of shoes.

Making a Difference on Every Call

Vantage Point: Making a Difference

As our Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) came to an end, I sat back and thought of all of the work our team had done. Each year, prospective members call in to get information to determine if Health Alliance is the right fit for their needs.

Of course we go over the basics, like monthly premiums, copays, and out-of-pocket maximums, but that is all very black and white, and not every situation is the same or so simple.

At Health Alliance, the expectation is to go the extra mile for our members and prospects. Our potential members rely on our expertise to guide them in the right direction.

This past AEP, I had someone call in asking if our plan covers a certain medication that’s given at the doctor’s office. My immediate response to the caller was, “I don’t know, but let me research that for you.”

I wanted to make sure they were making the right choice by switching to our plan. After doing some research and calling our pharmacy department, I called them back and shared the details I’d gathered.

Later, I got the chance to meet the potential member to go over our plans in person. They could not thank me enough for gathering the information and told me my phone call back was a nice surprise. We gained credibility and their trust by taking the extra step to respond to their particular situation.

I was actually surprised because I didn’t feel like I had done that much, but after thinking about it for a while, I realized it really is the little things that count the most to our members. This is a perfect example of why our role as liaisons is so important for our community and what sets Health Alliance apart.

As liaisons, we go out of our way to give our members the most accurate information we can and to take away the pressure of those difficult and complex questions. Our job is to simplify and educate. We’re making a difference every day, no matter how big or small.

Jessica Arroyo, born and raised in Wenatchee Valley, is a Medicare community liaison for Health Alliance, serving Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Okanogan counties in Washington. During her time off, she enjoys spending time with her husband and infant son.

School Lunches Done Right

Vantage Point: Eating Like a Grown-Up

With the holidays fast-approaching, I think fondly of my mother. She was a private and commercial cook for over 40 years and was very good about making our family eat balanced meals. Of course, she included my school lunches in that quest as well.

Like every kid, I wanted a lunch just like my friends’. Their menus consisted of:

  • Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
  • Bags of chips
  • Carrots (only a few)
  • A Twinkie or Hostess cupcake

My mother had other ideas. Here’s an example of what my lunches consisted of:

  • Meatloaf sandwich
  • Cut-up celery
  • An apple or pear
  • A box of raisins

To a sixth-grader, this was so not cool. I pleaded and begged with my mom to change what she was putting in my lunches, to no avail. By high school, I was buying lunch, and she never knew what I ate.

Fast forward to my lunches as an adult. Most days, I eat leftovers from dinner the night before, which works out great because they are well-balanced meals. However, on those days when I am on-the-go out of the office, it’s a little bit more work to eat a balanced meal. I sometimes feel like I am channeling my mother, or she’s haunting me.

I think all of our tastes develop and get more complex as we get older. And with that, healthier eating gets easier, especially if we make the choice. I find myself making that choice by looking for places to eat where the food is served fresh, well-balanced, and healthy.

And every once in a while, I still find myself wanting a Twinkie or a Hostess cupcake, well…just because I can.

Joy Stanford is a community liaison with Health Alliance, serving Thurston County. She’s been involved with Medicare for 20+ years and truly enjoys it. She enjoys gospel, R&B, and country music, and she owns over 100 pairs of shoes.

Protecting Your Loved Ones with Caregiving Planning

Vantage Point: Looking to the Future

Meet Jessica Arroyo of Wenatchee

Being born and raised in the small town of Wenatchee, surrounded by my family, has been such a blessing.

I grew up seeing my mother and father go out of their way to take care of my grandparents, taking them to doctor appointments, picking up their prescriptions, and making sure they always had everything they needed. Fortunately, my parents have never been in the position of having to make life-changing decisions for my grandparents.

As I get older and my parents start to age, I know it will be my duty to care for them as well. And now that I have a child of my own, I think of the future more than ever.

We don’t like to think about bad things happening, but they still happen. And once an unexpected event happens, our world as we know it can start to disappear. The future is coming for each of us, and we all need to have a plan. We can help you start making that plan.

At my first event at the Central Washington Health and Wellness Expo in September, I got to share our Planning Ahead Guide. This is a wonderful resource for everyone, but especially for our Medicare members. This guide has answers about Washington’s living wills and power of attorney to help you plan for all situations.

I also had the pleasure of meeting another great resource for our members, local ombudsman Shawna Pringle from Aging and Adult Care of Central Washington. As an ombudsman, she works to protect, defend, and advocate for residents of long-term care facilities.

Doing the research you need to plan ahead is an important first step, but focusing on setting these plans into motion is key to preparing for the future.

Meet Joy Stanford of Olympia

After my father had lived in California for more than 60 years, I moved him to Washington in 2008. It was somewhat traumatic for him and for my husband and me.

Not knowing a thing about caring for the elderly, we spent many hours on research. One day, a friend of mine reminded me that my dad has veteran benefits. It turned out, he could live at the veterans’ home and be well taken care of. However, we still had concerns and wanted to know who we could turn to if we thought he was not being cared for. We were given information about the Washington State Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program.

The Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program ensures the rights, dignity, and well-being of individuals living in long-term care today and in the future. One of its duties is to investigate concerns brought forward from anyone on behalf of the resident.

This program is focused on advocating for residents’ rights, including being fully informed on all aspects of their care, like cost or even changes in rooms or roommates. Residents have the right to complain, to participate in their own care, and to make their own choices, even if that means making choices others think are bad. They also have the right to confidentiality, dignity, respect, and freedom.

Whether it’s in-depth research, word of mouth, or a friendly referral, there are plenty of great resources in our community to help you and your family navigate this situation when you need it most.

Meet Breck Obermeyer of Yakima

The local Statewide Health Insurance Benefits Advisors (SHIBA) office is a great resource here in Yakima that you may not know about. SHIBA is a free service that provides unbiased and completely confidential help for those with Medicare, as well as help with healthcare choices for people of all ages and backgrounds. It’s run by volunteers and has locations statewide.

According to the Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner, the SHIBA office can help you:

  • Figure out your healthcare coverage needs
  • Check your eligibility for healthcare coverage programs
  • Compare health insurance plans and programs
  • Enroll in Medicare
  • Speak with Medicare on your behalf
  • Find other helpful agencies and programs
  • Report fraud complaints

Here in Yakima, you can talk to Debra Wilson, Mary Pacheco, or Sirena Phillips at the Retired & Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) SHIBA office. They have a new number and a new location to serve you! Their new phone number is (509) 902-1115, and their new location is 107 S. 7th Ave., Suite 206, Yakima, WA 98902. Remember, these services are free and completely unbiased, which means you’re getting great information and help that’s the best for you and your needs.

AEP Medicare Shopping

Vantage Point: Let’s Shop

I’d seen all the cell phone carrier TV ads and billboards. I’d received offers to change in the mail and had friends and family share better coverage experiences, but I was stubborn. I convinced myself I was just being loyal, but the truth was, after 20 years with the same carrier, I was resisting change.

Entering the ultra-busy cell carrier’s store, I was approached right away by a super professional greeter. “How may I help you?” he asked, keeping eye contact while also using a hand-held tablet to address my needs.

As I waited for a sales agent, the greeter invited me to look around and told me I would be helped shortly. Not even 2 minutes later, while browsing phone choices and tapping along to the upbeat music, Marco introduced himself with an outstretched hand. I told him I had moved to a remote canyon, where my old cell carrier didn’t have good enough service. He offered me a solution and set my new plan up, right on the spot.

My new carrier’s bills are easy to read, and the website to manage my account is so user-friendly that I can now better understand my usage. Because of that, I’ve changed my plan 3 more times, saving me tons of money. Best yet, I never miss a call. I am now a big fan of comparison shopping.

October 15 to December 7 is the Annual Enrollment Period (AEP), when Medicare beneficiaries also get a seasonal opportunity to comparison shop. During the AEP, Medicare-eligible people can change from supplement plans, also called Medigap, to a Medicare Advantage plan, can change prescription drug plans, and can compare all the Medicare plans available in their county. They can and should check their current plan to see if anything new was added or, if due to health changes, it’s still the right fit.

Medicare beneficiaries get bombarded with ads. Some of it’s confusing, and some of it’s scary. Insurance is a very serious and important choice. We can’t compare all plans against each other, but at our customer service office at 316 5th St. in Wenatchee, we can sit down with someone in person and give them all the time and help they need to better understand. Whether they choose us or not, it’s a good feeling to know the personalized value we gave helped them to pick the right Medicare plan to fit their health needs.

Shannon Sims was a Medicare community liaison for Health Alliance, serving Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Okanogan counties in Washington. During her time off she enjoys spending time with her family and riding horses.

Mexican Folk Dancing

Vantage Point: Celebración de Culturas

We have a real interest in the people who make up the communities we serve. And while NCW is known for its many recreation activities and variety of agriculture, it’s also known for its diversity of people.

This month, we will help celebrate Mexican values and culture by participating in the Fiestas Mexicanas event on September 9 and 10. Fiestas Mexicanas is a nonprofit, all-volunteer organization and a partner of the Wenatchee Valley Museum & Cultural Center. Each year, it celebrates Latin American Independence Day with a family-friendly event that features traditional Latin food and great entertainment from local groups and groups coming directly from Mexico.

The event not only attracts the Latino community, but it also brings in people of all ethnic backgrounds, raising community awareness and education about the history, lifestyle, and people of Mexico.

Jessica Arroyo, our Wenatchee office’s member service representative, remembers performing Mexican folk dances at this event throughout grade and middle school.

Jessica wore traditional folk dresses, which have different designs and colors depending on the region of Mexico they represent. Bright colors like purple and red represent the inside region, white the coastal region, and black the lower regions of Mexico. Girls also wear their hair slicked black in buns with yarn braids, red lipstick, bright eye shadow, and big gold earrings.

Authentic Mexican folk dances have been handed down for generations, so for Jessica, born and raised in Wenatchee, Fiestas Mexicanas is about coming together with a community of people who share a common background.

Uriel Perez, who joined Jessica in representing Health Alliance at the 2015 celebration, says the best part of the event for him was the food vendors that created quality, authentic dishes that represented the best cuisine of Latin and Central America.

But for Uriel, just like other community events we participate in throughout the year, the biggest takeaway we can give people is that we have a Wenatchee customer service office that can provide face-to-face help with Medicare questions year-round.

Fiestas Mexicanas is dedicated to the preservation of family, friendship, and history, and a big part of the event is giving away scholarships and recognizing those who serve others. Health Alliance shares that value and invites you to learn more about the event.

Shannon Sims is a Medicare community liaison for Health Alliance, serving Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Okanogan counties in Washington. During her time off she enjoys spending time with her family and riding horses.