Category Archives: Community

A Healthy A1C Level

Long View: What Does A1C Mean to Me?

Our community liaison team has never met a health fair or expo they didn’t love! Health fairs and expos are great places to learn about the abundance of services available in our communities to support seniors and their families.

With brightly colored, free shopping bags in hand, visitors gather pens, lip balms, and hand sanitizers, along with informational brochures and contact information for everything from beautiful, new living communities to financial planning. I’ve never seen so many butterscotch hard candies in one place since my grandmother’s candy dish in the 1970s.

Many health fairs and expos offer free checkups for various parts of your body and health. Participants aren’t the only ones taking advantage of a little free TLC. So far this summer, I’ve had the kinks rubbed out of my neck, the skin on my face analyzed for sun damage, and my blood pressure checked.

But one of the most interesting tests I’ve done recently came from my friends at Memorial Hospital in Carthage, IL. They measured my A1C level.

“What is A1C?” I asked, with a donut in one hand and a cup of coffee with cream in the other.

A1C is the measurement of the average blood sugar levels for the past 3 months, they told me. “Oh no,” I said. “I can’t get that done today. I’m eating a donut!”

The kind nurses assured me to sit down and relax. No fasting is required. In the blink of an eye, my finger was (painlessly) pricked, and a small amount of my blood slipped into a tiny little tube. The tube took a 5-minute spin in the centrifuge, and bingo, my A1C for the past 3 months is…. I’ll keep you in suspense until the end.

The National Diabetes Education Initiative recommends that diabetics have the A1C measurement taken at least twice a year. Everyone else should measure A1C once every 3 years. The nurses from Carthage recommended that most people should have measurements below 5.7%, since measurements between 5.7 and 6.4% indicate a greater risk for becoming diabetic.

The daily measurement of glucose levels is very important for diabetics who need to keep their levels within healthy ranges. Knowing your 2- to 3-month average can help you determine your overall glucose health, which in turn can help you make healthy choices throughout each day, like about sleeping, playing, working, eating, and more.

And if you don’t have diabetes, knowing if you have a higher than average A1C level can be a valuable piece of information to help you make healthy changes to curb your chances of getting diabetes at some point in your life.

Those who are already diabetic should strive to lower their A1C to at least 7% when possible. This could be a struggle for those who suffer from the disease, but the research points toward a much lower risk of developing diabetic complications like eye, heart, and kidney disease the closer you can get to 7%.

To tell you the truth, waiting for my blood to spin around for those 5 minutes in the centrifuge had me sweating a little. This could be the year my chickens come home to roost. I’ll be having one of those special birthdays next year where everyone wears black. I’m not exactly the healthiest eater. Leggings and stretchy-fabric pants have become my best friends.

This A1C measurement was an important wake-up call for me. The good news is that I measured well below 5.7%.

While I could have spiked the football, declared myself invincible, and grabbed a second donut, I didn’t. I decided to really pay attention to this information and be grateful for my health today, maybe take an extra walk around the block every week. Next year, I’m setting my sights on something in the high 4s.

Pass the kale.

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.

Shoe Choices

Long View: My Dad’s Shoes

In honor of Father’s Day this month, I wanted to take some time and talk about my dad’s shoes.

My dad (and my grandpa before him) owned the funeral home in the small Illinois town where I grew up. He wore a suit and tie every day, which required a men’s leather wingtip shoe to complete the outfit. My hometown was a blue-collar, working man’s town. Most dads went to work in steel-toe boots and flannel shirts.

I was pretty active in sports, and at my games, you could always pick out my dad from the sea of other fathers in their jeans and flannel. His size-12 wingtips made a certain slapping sound walking across the wooden basketball court that other dads’ shoes didn’t make.

Thinking back, it was a comforting sound. It meant he was a busy guy, but he still had time to make it to my games.

Like most teenagers, I thought my father’s fashion sense was ridiculous. I can’t recall ever seeing him wear a pair of blue jeans and athletic shoes. The man mowed the grass in his wingtips!

The only pair of casual shoes I can recall was a pair of white flat-bottomed canvas basketball shoes that Dad said were sacred. They were his beach shoes, his “go-on-vacation” shoes. He claimed to have owned the same pair since high school. I suppose if you mow the grass in your wingtips, you don’t wear out and stain your white canvas basketball shoes.

My Dad's Shoes

As the years went by, even a well-loved pair of basketball shoes eventually falls apart. One day, they did. Dad walked out into the ocean and came back out without the soles. We buried the shoes on the beach that afternoon. Dad said a few words and shed a slight tear. I kind of did too. Those were the shoes Dad wore when he was playing—playing with us on the beach, in the water, taking time to be with just us kids.

Dad is retired now, and I haven’t seen him in wingtips since. He does have a pair of leather sandals that he’s quite fond of. They are fine by themselves, but when he puts his wool white socks on with shorts, my mother and I both cry foul.

Dad sees no reason for all the commotion. He’s comfortable with who he is and how he looks. As a retired and respected businessman, I guess he’s earned the right to dress whatever way makes him comfortable. He’s a good dad; I’ll cut him some slack. At least he doesn’t mow in wingtips anymore.

As is the case with many fashions throughout the years, canvas flat-bottomed basketball shoes have come back into fashion. The most popular brand is called Chuck Taylor or Chucks, named after a basketball player who started wearing them in 1917.

I recently bought a pair for myself in navy blue. I wear them on the weekends or when I feel like acting like a kid. I bought my dad a pair for his 70th birthday. I haven’t seen him wearing them yet.

I wonder if he thinks my fashion sense is ridiculous. Maybe.

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.

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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.

Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week

Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week

Last week was Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week. Olympians Michael Phelps and Allison Schmitt helped raise awareness about children’s mental health.

Happy, Healthy Children

 

Your children may seem healthy, but you never know what’s happening in their heads.

 

Community members can help young adults by knowing the signs.

 

You can help a young adult with mental health issues by being a source of support.

 

Communicating with your doctor and family about your mental health is an important lesson to teach your kids. Teach them to share their feelings.

Children and young adults with mental health problems need real care and support.

 

Social health, which could include friendships and bullying, is an important part of your kids’ mental health. Learn more and talk to them.

Their Emotional and Social Support System

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.

Mother Knows Best

Long View: Mother Knows Best

Picture it, jumping back and forth on furniture, hearing a mother say, “Stop jumping. You are going to get hurt.” Or hearing a mother say, “Finish your vegetables, and drink your milk.”

Or as a teenager, arriving home past curfew, while Mom waits awake with a worried look on her face. And then she says, “One day you will understand, when you have your own kids. You will feel worried when you don’t know where they are.”

Now that I am a mother, I know exactly what she meant.

“Mother knows best,” is a phrase I think we all heard while growing up. And isn’t that the truth at any age?

Mothers are often who we turn to for big and small things going on in our lives; they’re the ones we celebrate with and mourn with. They share stories of the past to help us learn more about the future. And when I go to my mom’s, or when I would visit my grandmother, I don’t know what it is, but I can sleep there better than anywhere else. I guess it is because it’s where I feel safe and loved for all that I am, no matter what. That’s my experience at least.

My mom has become one of my best friends in my adult life, someone who will always advocate for me, lift me up, and be there in happiness and tears. And I do the same for her.

Now, I have an 18-year-old daughter, and we have developed a similar relationship. Just like they say, time sure does fly, but motherhood has been one of the most rewarding parts of my life. I always want my daughter to feel safe, loved, and supported. I hope pain is limited in her life, but I always want her to know I will be there for her, no matter what the age, if she needs me.

She graduates from high school this month, and that will be an emotional day. When she turned 18 in February this year, she said, “Well, it is my last birthday.” I didn’t quite understand why she was phrasing it that way.

In her mind, it was the reality of becoming an adult, and she felt like that was the last time someone would focus on her special day because she was an “adult” now. Not sure why as adults we think we are less important to focus on, but I will celebrate her and my mother anytime.

May is the month when people recognize and celebrate their mother. Everyone does things a little differently. Maybe they go out and buy flowers, get the perfect card, go out for lunch, and pamper them for the day. Mothers deserve celebrating, and maybe you have something special planned too.

Outside of this special, dedicated time in May, it is also important to appreciate and spend time with them throughout the year to let them know how much we appreciate all of the advice and guidance we receive and to continue to learn more of those “mother knows best” moments!

Terra Mullins leads the community outreach team at Health Alliance. She is a wife, a mother, and has two really cute Mal-Shi pups! She loves nature and learning new things.

National Library Week

National Library Week

It was National Library Week, and libraries transform minds with free access to books and online resources for your community.

Celebrate National Library Week

 

Tuesday was National Library Workers Day. Story hours and events for your kids are a great time to get involved and thank your librarian.

Thank Your Librarian

 

Wednesday was National Bookmobile Day. Your local library might be using one, or find stops near you on the Digital Bookmobile’s national tour.

Find a Bookmobile

 

Thursday was Take Action for Libraries Day. Learn more about protecting libraries and their funding.

Take Action for Libraries

 

Not sure where the local libraries are in your community? Enter your ZIP code to find libraries near you.

Finding Libraries Near You

 

Reading can have many positive effects on you. Here are 10 reasons you should stop by your library and grab a book.

Reasons to Read

 

Reading to your kids is not only a memorable experience, it’s also good for both of you.

Kids & the Benefits of Reading