Category Archives: Series

Reduce Traveling Stress

My Healthy Journey – Traveling Stress

The end of April and beginning of May might be the craziest month-long stretch I’ve ever planned for myself. I will be battling traveling stress each week with almost no downtime in between.

First, I spent a weekend with loved ones around Indy, going to the zoo and shopping. Then, my mom, sister-in-law, and I went on a big weekend trip to New York City to see a Broadway show. The next weekend, I’m headed to Chicago to visit some old friends. The 2 weekends after that, I’m driving home for events, and then the weekend after that, I’m off to Seattle.

No matter what, traveling is stressful, so to get through it, I’m trying to plan ahead, stay on top of things, make the healthiest decisions I can on the go, and enjoy the moments of fun that are the whole point of traveling in the first place.

Planning Ahead to Avoid Traveling Stress

While tickets and such have been booked ahead of time, the planning never ends there.

Clean Before

First, I spring-cleaned my apartment like crazy so that it could survive the coming month without looking like a wasteland.

Spring Cleaning List

I pulled tons of great tips to make this list from the helpful resources we shared in our Spring Cleaning for National Cleaning Week post, like using rubber gloves to wipe dog hair off my furniture, freshening up my garbage disposal, and more.

Organize, Organize, Organize

I’ve been making a list of all the things I need to do before each trip, so I don’t do something silly and forgetful, like making myself late by forgetting to put gas in my car before driving to the airport.

And this list doesn’t just include the things I need to pack but also the things I need to do around the house and the errands I need to run first.

NYC To Do List

This helps me stay on track and not forget all the little things that have to be pulled together at the last minute.

Pack Early

I try to pack as much as I can ahead. The key to-do’s I can mark off in advance:

  • Buy or organize travel liquids if I’m flying.
  • Check the weather forecast.
  • Plan versatile outfits, like things that can mix and match and fit the weather and planned activities, including shoes because I get blisters easily.
  • Organize or switch to a purse better for travel.
  • Never forget essentials, like headphones, a book, sunscreen, bandaids, gas in the car, and meds.
  • Pack snacks.
  • Plan driving times and routes.
  • Charge devices.

Packing Ahead

Then, at the last minute, I can just add in the things I’m still using, like my makeup bag, toothbrush, and phone charger, and avoid all that last-minute packing stress.

Planning for Work

Another important key to planning ahead is making sure work is ready for me to be completely unavailable.

Usually that just means talking to my co-workers in advance and making sure anything that takes place on the weekends, like social media for the next week, is done early.

One of the easiest ways to ruin your vacation is to have to drop everything for work, so make sure you’ve talked to your co-workers and set boundaries for when you’ll be available.

Then, stick to those boundaries because vacations are an important part of avoiding burnout. If you’re only going to check email once a day, stick to that and do it at a time when it won’t ruin your day.

Staying on Top of Things to Avoid Traveling Stress

No matter how much planning you do, it can all fall apart while you’re there if you focused on the wrong thing.

Planning Activities

I like to make plans for each day with loose free time around them. You never want to have to be too many places in one day, so one meal with reservations and one event or activity that requires tickets in advance per day is probably plenty. You can munch or discover something new when you’re actually hungry the rest of the time, which can help you avoid overeating on a trip. And you’ll have more time to focus on something you love instead of rushing off to your next activity.

I also like to have extra time planned in so that if I’m exhausted, I can take a nap, shower after a hot outdoor activity, or simply enjoy downtime by watching a movie or grabbing an appetizer with my loved ones.

Get Your Bearings

Another key can be knowing your location and how to get around. I’ve lived in New York and Chicago, so I know my way around the neighborhoods and how the subways work, and pulling up a location on my phone is more than enough for me to find my way in either place.

However, I’ve never been to Seattle, so looking at maps and familiarizing myself with what’s where will be a much more important part of planning that trip so I don’t end up lost when I get there.

Identify what you need to focus on in preparation for each trip for a smooth journey to avoid hiccups in the moment.

Start the Day Off Right

Each morning of your trip, it’s a good idea to review your plans with everyone. Not only will it put you all on the same page, but it will help you remember which important tickets, confirmation numbers, or reservation details you need to bring along that day for your planned activities.

Making Healthy Choices to Avoid Traveling Stress

Traveling stress skyrockets for me when I feel guilty about it, so I’m trying to make healthy choices wherever I go.

A few weeks ago, I bought a Ringly ring. Ringly is a fitness tracker that syncs to your phone but looks like jewelry. I’d been wanting a tracker for a while, and the design of these adorable pieces made me finally get on board.

You charge it in a ring box and manage it from an app on your phone, and no one would ever know from looking at it that it’s a tracker.

Ringly Box Ringly Ring

Because of this new tracker, I can see how much walking I’m doing each weekend. The weekend in Indy, I walked 9.2 miles. And in NYC, we planned in time to walk the High Line and the bottom half of Central Park. We ended up walking 25.5 miles total!

I also try to choose healthier food choices most of the time without sacrificing the experience.

Enjoying the Moment to Avoid Traveling Stress

Finally, the stress-busting key for me is enjoying the fun parts of traveling. Those moments have to outweigh the stress, or it’s not worth it!

In NYC, we:

  • Ate at Bobby Flay’s Gato
  • Saw the new show Amélie
  • Spent a day at Chelsea Market
  • Walked the High Line
  • Had a ball at Waitress, including the perfect-serving-size, tiny Key Lime and Marshmallow Pies at intermission (And they raised $20,000 dollars in a little auction at the end of the show for charity!)
  • Indulged in the special Easter brunch menu at Tom Colicchio’s Craft
  • Explored Central Park

With more crazy weekends ahead of me, I hope my planning helps me stay sane!

Tips for Your Travels

If you need more tips to make it through your next trip and traveling stress, these can help:

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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.

Aging with Your Pets

Long View: Aging With Our Pets

My grandparents had a Chihuahua that lived to be 20 years old. Suzy had her own knitted sweaters to wear when she went outside. Every night, Grandma cooked and cut up liver in tiny, bite-sized pieces for Suzy’s dinner.

I’m not sure what the life expectancy and living arrangements for most dogs were in the 1950s and 1960s, but I would wager that Suzy’s life was particularly plush for that era. When I came along in 1968, my parents gave me the middle name of Sue. I often wondered if this was a happy coincidence or a tribute to that beloved Chihuahua.

Today, I have a yellow Labrador retriever puppy named Harvey. Grandpa’s name was Harvey. Touché.

Americans love their pets. Take a stroll through your local big-box pet supplies chain, and the number of things a person can buy for their animals will amaze you. Strollers, raincoats, probiotics, gluten-free and vegan dog food, and even memory foam mattresses. Within just a few miles of my house, Harvey can go to a doggy day camp, swim at an indoor pool just for pooches, and later have his hair and nails done at the pet spa.

Your pet pampers you in different ways. Owning a pet lowers stress, reduces blood pressure, and raises mental sharpness. A study from the University of Missouri-Columbia showed that petting a dog for 15 minutes releases the feel-good hormones serotonin, prolactin, and oxytocin, while also lowering the stress hormone cortisol.

Pets can open up a lonely world and get you out of bed in the morning. Walking a dog (or a cat, if you are particularly brave and the cat is extremely cooperative) is good exercise. Those of us with an empty nest find a new sense of purpose. And nurturing a beloved animal gives us unconditional love in return.

An older person with a pet companion can be a heartwarming love match. I reached out to Stacey Teager, from the Quad City Animal Welfare Center, for some advice for those who are looking to add a pet to their home in later years.

  • Make sure your pet gets regular checkups and immunizations. Have your animal spayed or neutered.
  • Never give your pet “people” medications. Always consult a veterinarian before medicating your pet.
  • Have a plan in place with your family or close friends for caring for your pet should you become sick and need to be hospitalized or stay in a nursing facility.
  • Match your pet with your physical capabilities. My 50-pound Labrador retriever puppy can drag my mother down the sidewalk. This is dangerous for both her and the dog. A quieter, smaller animal is a better choice for her to walk around the neighborhood.
  • Despite my grandmother’s loving intentions, don’t feed your pet table scraps or human food. Animals can get overweight and unhealthy with just a few added ounces. If you like to bake, there are lots of recipes for animal treats that use ingredients found in your pantry.

Lora Felger is a community and broker liaison at Health Alliance. She is the mother of 2 terrific boys, a world traveler, and a major Iowa State Cyclones fan.

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.

Getting Older with Grace

Long View: How Do You Know You’re Getting Older?

When I started working in the Medicare department, I was ignorant about Medicare and insurance of any kind. It seemed like a growth industry, and I was blessed with 7 family members over the age of 75.

15 year later, I have a much more personal interest in the subject. This aging thing is not as easy as I thought it would be. Things change.

I’ve made progress in the meantime. I used to think being online and connected was not that necessary. Now I couldn’t live without it.

Please note, the perception that older people don’t like to use technology is false. According to Nielsen research published in 2009, 89% of people 65+ have personal email and use it regularly. And as of 2015, Pew Research Center reports 59% of those over 65 go online, and 35% of everyone over 65 uses social media, approximately 16 million people.

I used to take extra time getting ready for a big event. When I was done, I would look in the mirror and say, ”You look good.” Now, when I go through all the same steps, I look in in the mirror and say, “You look clean.”

When did I stop hearing, “You look great,” and start hearing, “You look great for your age”? Probably around the same time folks went from saying, “I like your new glasses,” to “Your new glasses take 5 years off your face.” Ugh.

I’ve learned not to ask anyone how old they are unless they are under the age of 12. Even then, I would think twice about it. If anyone forces you to guess how old they are, make a fair guess, and then subtract 15 years. No one ever complains.

From 2014 to 2060, the older population, people age 65 and older, in the United States will more than double from 46 million to over 98 million. More surprising, the oldest of the older population, people over age 85, are the fastest growing segment, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Aging is tough. Often we have to forgo many of the activities of our youth such as:

  • Driving a car
  • Living independently
  • Eating anything you want
  • Staying up all night
  • Getting a haircut
  • Worrying about the small stuff (Oh wait, that’s a good thing.)

Personally, as I navigate this process of maturing, I try to remember we are all getting older. It’s not always an easy process, so I hope my friends and family help me do it with grace and dignity.

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.

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.

Marking Milestones

Long View: Making the Most of Milestones

As a culture, we recognize milestones. We count the years with class reunions, wedding anniversaries, or years logged since a cancer diagnosis. It has been a few months, but I bet the majority of readers can tell me how many years it had been since the Chicago Cubs had last won the World Series.

As parents, we carefully record that first step, first tooth, first time rolling over. At least we do for the first baby; the second, third, fourth… maybe not quite as detailed. This month, I’m celebrating a birthday that ends in a 9.  This is a milestone in a way, a preamble to a new decade. To be completely honest, it’s more about clinging to the final year left in my current decade.

My sons had a great-grandfather who was meticulous in keeping track of each great-grandchild’s birthday. He carried a pocket calendar around and recorded every date in his precious, shaky handwriting, making sure to not miss a single date for each of his 12 great-grandkids. It was so touching to me, and I made sure to never miss that World War II veteran’s birthday either.

Today we are reminded of birthdays and anniversaries through social media. Facebook has made me a much better friend because I never would have put all of those dates into a traditional calendar. I could not keep up with sending something as old-fashioned as a card via something as truly antiquated as the mail. With just a few clicks, I can send a birthday cake emoji with a couple of exclamation points through cyberspace and am on top of things.

Some milestones can be bittersweet, like the first holiday after a grandmother passes away or a 75th wedding anniversary that never happened because one of the spouses is no longer with us. I toasted the 100th birthday of my grandmother even though she left us at 94 years old.

Do you reach out to your elderly family and friends when special dates pop up on the calendar?  These dates don’t have to be completely solemn occasions. Reaching out to remember a wedding anniversary with a widower can bring back happy memories of a beautiful marriage, not to mention the fact that you have taken the time to call or visit with this person and recognize the importance of the day.

You may not want to just send an emoji to your great grandmother. Take the time to send a card and handwritten note or better yet, stop by for a visit.

Can you imagine how you would feel at 29, 39, or 49 if your important milestone wasn’t important to anyone else?  Someone 79, 89, or 99 feels exactly the same way.

Here is an idea. This February, make an elder your valentine.

Lora Felger is a community and broker liaison at Health Alliance. She is the mother of 2 terrific boys, a world traveler, and a major Iowa State Cyclones fan.