Category Archives: Outreach

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.

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.

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.      

National Child Support Awareness Month

National Child Support Awareness Month

This week is National Child Support Awareness Month, and we have resources to help you and your kids.

Back-to-school can be expensive. Check out this local, free back-to-school haircut event.

Need help with back-to-school supplies? Find free school supplies in Illinois.

Back-to-School Creativity

 

Want to give back to help students in Illinois with supplies? Give to Operation Backpack.

Getting All Kids to School

 

Need help finding childcare? chambanamoms.com’s local guide can help you.

In Smart and Safe Hands

 

Find family-friendly events, including free ones, by following chambanamoms.com.

Free Fun for All

 

Child support resources in Illinois for parents, employers, and even lawyers are just a click away.

A Guiding Hand

 

Find fun ideas for spending time with your kids as a father and much more.

Father-Daughter Day

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The Human Experience and Cancer

Vantage Point: To Know the Road Ahead, Ask Those Coming Back

Sometimes it’s little celebrations, like your first haircut after you’ve lost it all, and sometimes its big, like circling the day of your last chemo treatment on the calendar.

My friend who was diagnosed with cancer always wished for just one more normal day. She never got it, but she taught us all bravery through her journey. Cancer doesn’t play fair. But despite its devastation, it can also reveal the true beauty, valor, and resilience within us.

In Grant County, one organization stands up to support cancer patients by offering encouragement, hope, and support beyond the medical course of treatment. The Columbia Basin Cancer Foundation (CBCF) identifies individual needs, providing help throughout the process of diagnosis, treatment, and recovery. The board consists of local volunteers and courageous staff committed to caring for their clients with a true measure of grace.

Common services include gas cards to help garner access to life-saving care, wigs and head coverings, outdoor chore services, family photographs to inspire hope for recovery, cutting edge educational materials, and dietary information to combat side effects, like loss of appetite, changes in smell, sore mouth, nausea, and fatigue.

According to Angel Kneedler, executive director of the foundation, “It takes a village,” and a profoundly important aspect of the foundation is its human connection. CBCF has the ability to expedite the decision-making process and partner with other local agencies. Such was the case when it helped a recently widowed woman, living in a hospice situation in agricultural housing with little time to spare, get herself and her 6 children to her sister’s house in Colorado so she could pass among family. This helped grant her last simple wish, that her children be taken care of and not institutionalized.

“To know the road ahead, ask those coming back,” is a Chinese proverb that I think illustrates the resolve needed to battle cancer. Health Alliance supports the Columbia Basin Cancer Foundation as it goes above and beyond to help our neighbors in this fight. If you would like to do the same, join us at the Annual Country Sweethearts Dinner, Dance, and Auction on Feb 6. This fun event celebrates milestones achieved, and the money raised goes back to our local Grant and Adam counties. For more information, visit their website or call 509-764-4644.

Shannon Sims is a Medicare community liaison for Health Alliance, serving Chelan, Douglas, Grant and Okanogan counties in Washington. She has four sons and two grandsons. During her time off, she performs as part of a rodeo drill team on her horse, Skeeter.      

 

A Happy Ending from Your Decisions

Vantage Point: Life Is Not Like The Brady Bunch

Growing up watching The Brady Bunch, I loved how when there was a problem, like Jan getting a bad perm, Greg having his first fender bender, or Marcia getting braces, it was always resolved in a happy ending by the end of the episode.

I didn’t think to question how Mr. and Mrs. Brady could afford to raise 6 kids and pay for a maid and the mortgage on a tri-level house. I know now, from raising my own kids, that braces are really expensive, and so is adding teenagers to your car insurance. Real-life decisions don’t always end as positively as a Brandy Bunch episode.

In my work, I counsel people who made a choice that costs them later. For example, if you don’t pick up prescription drug coverage when you first become Medicare eligible and then realize you need to add it later, you’ll get charged a late enrollment penalty. Many times in these cases, members have sadly told me that they didn’t know or that no one had told them. They’ve truly taught me the importance of staying informed.

Recently, I had the chance to meet with Callie Klein from COUNTRY Financial, and we found that we share a mutual desire to learn about each other’s professional services.

We know Medicare can be confusing, so we do our best to help people make sense of their options. Retirement planning can also be confusing, but Callie helped me to understand how choices like life insurance and long-term care can affect your financial future. Callie pointed out that people are living longer, and some people can spend just as many years in retirement as they did on their career. That’s what makes it so important to plan ahead, so your resources match your longevity.

As we enter a new year, I am reminded how fast time goes and how important it is to give some thought to your future now. Set some long-term goals rather than just short-term resolutions.

If you haven’t already and need help, I encourage you to seek out a professional like Callie. She showed a genuine concern for her clients and a desire to guide them toward the decisions that will help them attain their future retirement goals. Professionals like her can help you at least become educated and stay informed.

Most importantly, though, I wish you happiness in 2016, and I hope that, like an episode of The Brady Bunch, your biggest problems are resolved quickly and with a happy ending.

Shannon Sims is a Medicare community liaison for Health Alliance, serving Chelan, Douglas, Grant and Okanogan counties in Washington. She has four sons and two grandsons. During her time off, she performs as part of a rodeo drill team on her horse, Skeeter.

Give Back Christmas Wishes

Give Back for the Holidays

This week, we’re helping you find ways to give back this holiday season.

Donate a homemade scarf to the Orphan Foundation of America’s Red Scarf Project and give foster teens in college a way to stay warm.

Donate a Red Scarf

 

Toys for Tots collects new, unwrapped, or your homemade toys to give to kids in need. Find a drop-off center.

Donate new, gently used, or homemade coats to those who need them with the Warm Coats & Warm Hearts Coat Drive.

Giving Warmth

 

Send a thoughtful holiday card to American service members, veterans, and their families with the American Red Cross’s Holiday Mail for Heroes program.

Reaching Out for the Holidays

 

Fill a shoe box with handmade or bought gifts to send a personalized present to a child in need through Samaritan’s Purse’s Operation Christmas Child program.

Give a Personalized Gift

 

Donate your old cell phone to Cell Phones for Soldiers and give the gift of communication to our troops and their families.

Give Your Old Phone

 

Give the gift of a good holiday meal to a family that might otherwise go without through a food bank near you.

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