Category Archives: Engagement

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.

National Bake for Family Fun Month

National Bake for Family Fun Month

It’s National Bake for Family Fun Month, so we have some healthy family favorites to help you get in the kitchen with your kids.

First up are Clean Triple Chocolate Scones that the whole family will love.

Clean Triple Chocolate Scones
Image and Recipe via Amy’s Healthy Baking

 

Satisfy your sweet tooth with this Healthy Banana Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting.

Healthy Banana Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
Image and Recipe via Running with Spoons

 

Cinnamon Roll Oatmeal Cookies are the perfect after-school snack and activity.

Cinnamon Roll Oatmeal Cookies
Image and Recipe via Amy’s Healthy Baking

 

Make breakfast ahead of time with Healthy Raspberry Chocolate Chip Banana Bread.

Healthy Raspberry Chocolate Chip Banana Bread
Image and Recipe via Baker by Nature

 

These Clean “Elvis” Peanut Butter Banana Cupcakes will be a hit with your kids.

Clean “Elvis” Peanut Butter Banana Cupcakes
Image and Recipe via Amy’s Healthy Baking

 

Make everyone happy with these Best Healthier Brownies in their lunchboxes.

Video and Recipe via Chelsea’s Messy Apron

 

Get baking on the weekends with these One-Bowl Blueberry Banana Oatmeal Muffins.

One Bowl Blueberry Banana Oatmeal Muffins
Image and Recipe via Running with Spoons

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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.

Time for Self Care

My Healthy Journey: Putting Self-Care First

It’s a new year, which means it’s time to re-evaluate and set new healthy goals. For me, that always means trying to refocus on self-care.

As those of you following along know, I always have a hard time prioritizing the little things. So far, I have 3 big self-care goals that help with that for 2017.

Get Organized for Self-Care

Planning in Writing

I always have a planner for scheduling our company’s social media because I like to have it in writing. But this year, I took it a step further and bought myself a Passion Planner.

If you haven’t heard of Passion Planner, it combines a lot of things, like keeping a bullet journal, setting goals, imagining your future, and reminders to take care of yourself. Here’s a peek at what that looks like:

Weekly View of Passion Planner

It’s built to help you track time, workload, and to-do tasks for your personal life and goals, and it even makes you find the good in your week.

Finding Time

In an effort to fight off my workaholic tendencies, I’ve been thinking a lot about time and time management. There’s one TED talk in particular that has had me thinking for weeks:


Video via TED

This idea that there is enough time for the things that matter to you, even if you live an extremely busy life, feels so wonderful. Not only do I have no doubt that she’s right, it’s also an idea to live your life by.

For me, I’m adding a third-column to-do list to my Passion Planner, which is the self-care to-do list Laura recommends in that video. Too frequently things like my chipped toenail polish are such a low priority that I never make time for them (and I can only imagine this just gets worse as you have kids).

By putting them on my list, I give myself permission to make those little things a priority, to make time for them, even when they seem selfish or stupid. I can make time for reading a book, checking my personal email, playing with my dogs, anything. This is how I plan to make self-care a priority.

Soon, I will use the pages at the end of each month to evaluate how the first month of this is going, how my goals went, what was good and bad this month, and more.

Evaluating for Self-Care

Meal Planning and Tracking

I’ve been trying to make healthy meal plans and grocery shop in advance each week, which again, requires I make time for it.

This great video series of bento box lunches from Mind Over Munch, one per day in January,  has really been helping me to get inspired with each day’s meals. (She also has a digital cookbook of these if you need more than 30 days of inspiration!)

How I Meal Plan

To meal plan, I’ve been using a lot of tools to make it happen, which makes it a lot more fun for someone like me who loves checking things off.

First, I have a lovely Wonder Woman list that I write down meals for the week on, organized by breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I try to choose at least one recipe for a nice big breakfast on the weekends, at least one recipe for a few lunches (something I can make multiple times or a big batch of something, like soup), and then 5 or 6 dinner ideas that I’ll make over a week and a half or so (taking leftover days off from cooking). And finally, at least 1 dessert because I have a huge sweet tooth. I label where each recipe is coming from and use it as a weekly menu, marking off things I make as I go along.

Meal Planning Tools

From there, I make a grocery list on the lovely Wunderlist, which is my favorite because it syncs across devices, but there are lots of other grocery shopping apps you can try.

And I use that whiteboard beside my Wonder Woman list to keep track of all the meal prep I need to do, like boiling eggs, making homemade salad dressing or sauces ahead of time, or prepping veggies and snacks for the week.

Then, I keep a calendar whiteboard on my freezer with dinners scheduled out. It helps me plan which days I’m eating leftovers, which ones I need something easy, or when I’m going out.

Monthly Meal Calendar

I also keep a more thorough list in my planner of what I eat for each major meal.

Meal Tracking by Month

I’ve also just been trying to find little things that make my life easier in the kitchen, like my new knife block, which swivels to hold a cookbook or tablet while I’m cooking:

Kitchen Recipe Holder

Tech and Digital Organization

Finally, on the organization front, I’m trying to clean up from a digital standpoint. This means a lot of things. I got a wireless speaker for Christmas. Syncing it to my cell phone lets me play music wherever I am in the house without needing a stereo or getting my computer close to water, like while I’m cooking or showering.

I’ve also been trying to clean up my digital presence, like organizing my iTunes, consolidating multiple Netflix and Hulu profiles I’ve had on different accounts, organizing all my bills online, backing up files like my writing on Google Docs, keeping track of my different passwords and profiles, and more.

I’ve also been taking the time to use digital solutions to solve some of life’s inconveniences, from the Tile on my keys to organizing all of my loyalty cards and memberships with Key Ring and  tossing all of those business cards without guilt by backing them up in CamCard.

It’s amazing how satisfying throwing away all that clutter can be.

(Looking for more ways to clean out your wallet?  This Real Simple article can help! It even has handy suggestions for using the leftovers off all your gift cards!)

Reading Challenge as Self-Care

There are all kinds of reading challenges all over the internet, practically one for every interest you could have. Popsugar’s yearly challenge is always a good general challenge, but looking at it, I just kept thinking about all the books I already know I want to read.

So instead, I’m making my own reading challenge. I used a Christmas Amazon gift card to buy a big stack of books that have been on my list for a while and combined them with a handful I’m in the middle of or have been hoarding,

Reading List Start
(Why yes, that is a dog toy “hidden” on top of my books…)

On my self-care list, I’m forcing myself to dedicate at least 15 minutes a day to reading a book. Not the news, not my phone, a physical book.

And once I’ve forced myself to sit still and focus for those 15 minutes, I inevitably find time for at least 15 more.

Healthy Eating Self-Care

In keeping with all that self-care and meal planning, I have to follow through with making those healthy meals too.

For Christmas, I also got 3 cookbooks, which are keeping me going. Both of Skinnytaste’s cookbooks and The Dude Diet cookbook.

My New Cookbooks

Skinnytaste

Skinnytaste’s cookbooks have a variety of recipes to make up for my comfort food favorites, from chicken enchiladas, chicken parm, and baked potato soup to staples like homemade marinara, which I’m trying to avoid buying at the store.


Chicken enchiladas with homemade enchilada sauce and lime cilantro rice.


Teriyaki pork chops, with homemade teriyaki sauce, and spicy pineapple salsa.


Oven-fried chicken, which tastes a lot like Shake ‘n Bake, with cheesy cauliflower mash.


Baked potato soup, which is filled with hidden cauliflower.

The Dude Diet

And, you may not know it from looking at me,  but nachos, bar nachos especially, and chili cheese fries are my top 2 favorite foods. (Closely followed by all things sweet, mostly candy, but that’s beside the point.) So The Dude Diet is perfect for me.

It has all kinds of healthier takes on hearty classics, even going so far as to have Taco Bell copycat tacos. (Be still my beating heart!)

So far, from simple Pad Thai, where the weirdest ingredient I needed was Sriracha, to truly bar-worthy BBQ chicken nachos, this cookbook has yet to disappoint.

Chicken Pad Thai
I substituted chicken for shrimp in The Dude Diet shrimp Pad Thai recipe.

BBQ Chicken Nachos
Drool-worthy spicy, baked BBQ chicken nachos.

Using these cookbooks, I’ve been slowly tasting my way through their wonderfulness, and it’s making a difference! Not only can I see it, but I can feel it. And the best part is I’m not sacrificing anything. These recipes are delicious and doable.

Build your own group of recipes that you trust and love, or start exploring healthy cookbooks yourself. Enjoying what you’re eating is the only way you’ll be able to make a healthy lifestyle feel achievable.

Do It Yourself

Not sure how to get started setting your own goals? Our wellness tool, Rally, can help you set food, exercise, organization, and even reading goals.

Follow us on Pinterest for more healthy recipes, or find us on Instagram to see my progress and what I’m cooking up.

And join me in setting your own healthy goals for 2017. Let’s make this our healthiest year yet!

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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.      

Reliving Summers Past

Long View: Summer Memories

It’s been quite a summer hasn’t it? We’ve faced state budget issues, unreliable weather, and rising prices every time we turn around. By the way, when will we be done with the ragweed pollen? There seems to be a never-ending parade of things to worry about, and I’m worn out.

This summer does not fit with my memories of my favorite season. My main worries used to be how to get the frisbee off the roof and finding the next bag of Fritos. It seems I didn’t have much to worry about. But wait a minute, I was a kid, so it was my parents’ job to worry.

My mom and dad would leave my younger brother and me at my grandparents’ farm for a couple of weeks in the summer, and we had a great time. We were a little spoiled, to say the least, and at the time, I felt like we had no rules.

We could eat anything we wanted, as long as we cleaned up our plates at mealtime. We could stay up as late as we wanted, but we usually turned in early because we were exhausted from playing all day. We could go wherever we wanted on their property, as long as there was a grown-up or older cousin within shouting distance. Best of all, we could watch as much TV as we wanted, but there always seemed to be too many distractions on a working farm.

The day before my parents would come to pick us up, our grandfather would take us into town for haircuts at the same barbershop he had used since the Great Depression. The morning of my parent’s arrival, we were scrubbed and polished, from our fingernails and neck to our ears, and dressed in our traveling clothes. It was hard to leave, but I think we were ready to get back to our routines, our friends, and the start of the school year.

One of the nicest parts about talking to our Medicare members is hearing their memories. I think the stories and experiences they share enrich us and give us a better perspective on the present. Try asking an older family member or friend about their favorite summer. I bet you get a smile and hear a wonderful story from their past.

Looking back, maybe this wasn’t such a bad summer after all. There might even be kids today who will look back on the summer of 2016 as the best one they can remember.

Patrick Harness is a community liaison with a long history of experience in health insurance. If you ask him to pick a color, he always chooses orange, and he is known for his inability to parallel park.