Category Archives: Vantage Point

Making the Most of a Senior Center

Vantage Point: Not Your Grandmother’s Senior Center

Have you been in a senior center lately? Well, I’m here to tell you, it is in no way like you’d think it would be. Hip, active, and happy people are taking classes, having a laugh at the welcome table, or volunteering behind the desk. Bingo? Sure, they still have bingo, however they have much more than that these days.

Senior centers bring older adults together who want to gather, socialize, and continue to learn. Before working in the Medicare healthcare industry, I’d never ventured into a senior center. Fast forward several years, and it’s where I may spend part of any given day and where I learn the most about our senior population.

Olympia Senior Center is one such center. It is a thriving, bustling, happy place. The welcome table is where you can find me, along with an eclectic group of awesome, interesting, and vivacious older adults who are always ready to welcome a new person to the center or to the community.

I regularly attend the community awareness meetings that take place at the center every Wednesday. Each Wednesday of the month is different. One meeting provides valuable information on various subjects, activities, and projects around the Thurston County area.

Once a month, a community member presents a travelogue about their trip to an adventurous destination. They show a presentation with vivid pictures and give great details about the points of interest from their trip, plus the details of costs, transportation, and accommodations.

This month, the travelogue’s destination was Vietnam, presented by DJ Marks. She is an excellent presenter and kept the group engaged throughout her presentation. While it would not be the first choice for some of us in the group, we all agreed that it was a spectacular look into the culture and history of the country.

On another Wednesday, the group views TED Talks, which are short, powerful videos on various topics. We’ve explored many themes and subjects over the past few months, like money, fear, political divides, and reforming the American justice system. All of these topics have evoked emotional, professional, and spiritual ideas and opinions during discussions.

I asked Sara Rucker-Thiessen, who coordinates these Wednesday meetings, what makes this center different from people’s expectations of a senior center. She said, “We go way beyond leisure activities and incorporate continuing academic learning and discussion of current social issues, along with the fun activities like dances and bingo.”

Other centers around Thurston County incorporate many of the same activities as the Olympia Senior Center; however, what’s great about Olympia is how it’s tailored its center to fit the countless members who show up every day to stay active, be motivated, and get inspired.

I have learned many things from these well-versed and well-lived individuals. One of them being, don’t think you know what’s going on in the senior center until you go in and find out for yourself.

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.

Your Bond as a Mother

Vantage Point: Mother Knows Best

“Mother knows best” is a phrase I heard all the time growing up. As a young child, I thought of Mom as the person you would run to after getting hurt to get hugs and kisses. Mom was the one who gave me good night kisses and woke me up with a gentle touch on my forehead.

I never thought how all of these actions benefited me in the future. Of course, being a kid means you are always correct, and Mom has no idea what she is talking about.

As a child, I would start jumping back and forth on furniture, and I would hear my mother say, “Stop jumping. You are going to get hurt.” As a teenager, I would arrive home past my curfew to my mom awake with a worried look on her face. She proceeded to tell me how one day I would understand, when I had my own kids, and I’d have the same worried feeling when I didn’t know where they were.

That day has arrived. I now have a child of my own, and I understand where my mother was coming from 100%. The motherly instinct has kicked in, and I want to keep my child safe all the time. I want to know what my child is doing all the time. I want my child to think of me when he gets hurts. I want to kiss my child good night and wake him up with a gentle touch.

Actions I thought nothing of, I now know were life lessons only a mother can instill in her children. Now, when my child won’t listen to me, I will sound just like my mother: “You’re going to get hurt,” and “One day, you will understand how I feel.”

May is the month when everyone recognizes their mother. We go out and buy her flowers, get the perfect card, take her out for lunch, and pamper her for the day. But why wait for a certain day to pamper our mothers? We have 365 days to let them know how much we appreciate all of the advice and guidance we received and still do receive.

Nowadays, Mom and I love to sit down and laugh at the silly things I did as a kid, as well as the trouble she got into as kid. After all of that, my mom still sits back and says, “Mother knows best.”

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.

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.

HappyHappy, Healthy, Medicare New Year!

Long View & Vantage Point: Steps to a Happy Medicare New Year

Winter preparations are all done, and winter festivals and end-of-the-year holiday celebrations have ended. Just when you think you can sit back and relax, there is still one last item you may need to consider.

If you made any changes to your Medicare plan during the Annual Enrollment Period, here are some actions you can take to help you have a happy Medicare New Year:

  1. Make sure you’ve received your new plan’s member ID card.

If you joined a Medicare prescription drug plan (PDP) that works with Original Medicare, you’ll get a separate card to use when you fill your prescriptions, but you’ll still use your Medicare card for hospital and doctor services.

If you joined a Medicare Advantage plan, like a Health Alliance plan, you’ll get a new card to use when filling your prescriptions and for hospital and doctor visits.

If you need medical care or need to fill a prescription before you receive your ID card and your new coverage has already started, you may be able to use other documents as proof of coverage, like the welcome letter you got from the plan, or even your enrollment confirmation number and the plan’s name and phone number.

  1. Show your new member ID card to your doctor’s office and pharmacist on your first visit of the new year.

If you have stayed with the same insurance company, be sure to replace last year’s card with your new card. If you changed companies, be sure you’re always using your new card.

  1. If you chose to have your plan premium withheld from your Social Security check, don’t be alarmed if you don’t see it deducted right away. It can take up to 3 months from when you made this request to start seeing it withheld from your Social Security payment.
  1. Remember that your deductibles start over at the beginning of the year, so normal copayments won’t start until all applicable deductibles have been met for the year.
  1. Take advantage of your annual wellness visit. This free preventive benefit is designed to help you take charge of your health, learn about preventive services you might need in the future, and establish a baseline for personalized care.
  1. Take advantage of any gym membership benefits from your plan. Many plans offer gym memberships or access to fitness activities, at no cost to you. Our Be Fit benefit helps pay you back for your gym membership or fitness classes, so you can get fit at the gym of your choice.

Wishing you all a happy and healthy 2017!

Sherry Gordon-Harris is a community liaison at Health Alliance. She is a wife and mother of 2 boys and enjoys traveling, collecting dolls, and hosting princess parties and princess pageants.

Breck Obermeyer is a community liaison with Health Alliance, 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.

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.