Category Archives: Series

Time for Change

Long View: Is It Time for a Change?

“Everyone appreciates the long, light evenings. Everyone laments their shortage as Autumn approaches; and nearly everyone has given utterance to regret that the clear, bright light of an early morning during Spring and Summer months is so seldom seen or used.”

This was written by a London builder named William Willett, who proposed daylight saving time from an idea conceived by Benjamin Franklin.

“Spring forward. Fall back,” was how I learned it! I remember daylight saving time when I was a child was a big deal. The Saturday night before the official time change would take place, my entire family worked together to make sure that all the clocks and watches in our household were set, not to mention the clocks in my parents’ cars. It never failed. There was always that tiny clock on the top of our stove that we would miss. My mom always caught it when she went to set the oven timer!

Then, once the clocks were all set, my sister and I pondered whether we lost or gained an hour of sleep. We always had to sit there for a minute or 2 and do the math before coming up with the answer.

For most of us today, time changes are not nearly as complicated as they used to be. Our world is much more hurried, and automation is everywhere. It’s accepted that almost every clock, watch, appliance, iPhone, and computer is programmed for daylight saving time. We really don’t have to worry about making sure all of our timepieces make the change. With our schedules so full, we don’t even realize we’ve gained an hour or lost an hour of sleep.

Just like the time change happens each November, Medicare’s Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) happens each October. Medicare beneficiaries can review their current plan and make any changes they feel are needed from October 15 through December 7.

Every year, the AEP is a good time to check your drugs and review upcoming services with your doctor, then make sure the plan you’re on is still the best fit. You might even want to get your family together to make sure you didn’t miss anything.

Some resources available to help you this AEP include Medicare.gov, which is easy to navigate and packed with information, and Illinois’ very own Senior Health Insurance Program (SHIP). The Illinois Department of Insurance offers this free, impartial counseling service for people who are Medicare-eligible. Visit Insurance.Illinois.gov or call them at 1-800-548-9034. You can also find the nearest SHIP office in this directory, or, in Iowa.

And don’t forget to check out your current insurance info at HealthAllianceMedicare.org. If you need to research plan options, you can “fall back” on us! We’re ready to help with any questions you may have for the upcoming plan year.

Mervet Adams is a community liaison with Health Alliance. She loves her grandson, family, nature, and fashion.

Answers to Your Health Insurance Questions

Vantage Point: Time to Answer Important Health Insurance Questions

It’s that time of year again. My husband comes home with a huge packet of healthcare information. Yep, it’s open enrollment for his employer health plan. It’s time for us to look at the options and choices that best suit our family in the coming year.

Every year, Medicare beneficiaries get this kind of event too. It’s called the Annual Enrollment Period (AEP). Each year from October 15 to December 7, they have the opportunity to look at the options available in their service area and choose which plan is the best for them and their health.

This is an important time for everyone. As we age, our health may change too. Understanding and knowing what coverage is best for you can be a daunting task, so you should ask yourself some very important questions each and every year.

Am I happy with my current plan? What’s changing for the new year? Is the premium going up on the plan I currently have? Do I need more coverage?

I understand that as Medicare members, you’re sent an enormous amount of marketing material during this time of year. All the Medicare Advantage, Medicare Supplement, and prescription drug plan companies are trying to get your attention and your business.

How do you weed through all the material? And even more important questions come up for you each year. Do I know the difference between Medicare Advantage and Medicare Supplement? Is the prescription drug plan I’m currently on the best value for the prescription drugs I’m taking? Finding the answers can be confusing and frustrating.

The answers you seek can be found quickly and easily. Visit our website or call us directly for answers to your health insurance questions. There are also independent brokers available to you, like GHB Insurance located right in Olympia, to help you with all the plan information you receive. In the Thurston County area, there are also SHIBA (Statewide Health Insurance Benefit Advisors) representatives who volunteer their time to help you understand Medicare and all the parts associated with it. They can be found at both the Lacey and Olympia senior centers.

So never fear, your Medicare questions can be answered here. Or at least, we can assist you in getting the answers you need. Remember, you have resources available to you. All you have to do is use them.

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.

Waiting for Fall

Vantage Point: Waiting for Fall and Enjoying the Present

It’s finally September, which means back-to-school and a return to the routines of a new school year. I often find myself mildly enjoying September. The weather starts to cool, and fair time is right around the corner. But I often want to rush through September to get to October, which is the month I really love.

I love the fall, and the entire month of October is literally my favorite time of year. I love the crispness in the air. I love the changing of the colors in nature. I love going to Thompson’s Farm in Naches with my family, getting a fresh, hot pumpkin donut, and maybe even taking a hay ride. I love carving pumpkins with my kids. I also love the flavors of fall.

I pretty much love anything and everything fall.

But as I was reflecting to write this piece, a thought came to my mind: enjoy where you’re at. This caused me to pause for a few minutes and to really reflect on what this means. I want to rush to the fall, but maybe I need to enjoy the end of summer.

Maybe I need to take my kids to the local fruit stand and get the end-of-summer harvest of peaches, apples, or watermelon before fall starts in the Valley. Maybe I need to plan a summer picnic or outdoor activity before it gets too cold outside to really be comfortable in the evening. Maybe we need to take one last camping trip or go fishing. Maybe I need to actually enjoy the season or time that I’m in instead of wanting it to be another one.

I think so often we are rushing or waiting for the next event or milestone (or season for me), that we don’t enjoy where we’re at right now. We are just rushing, trying to get through, and I don’t know if that’s really the best thing to do.

For me, I need to slow down and enjoy the month at hand, and not wish I were in another month, time, or place. Now, I’m actually excited that September is here, that summer is still here, and that I can still take in all the goodness of the summer’s ending with the ones that I love.

And I can still be excited for the coming of fall.

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.

Busy Defining You?

Long View: Busy, Busy, Busy

One of the advantages of having an e-column is that once in a while, I get to rant. This is such an occasion.

Seems every time I ask someone how they are doing they answer, “Busy, you?”

I think it’s a given that we are all swept up in the relentless pace of modern-day life, but I wonder if that is what is defining us, the busyness, instead of what we are busy with?

I hear things like, “I am slammed at work,” or “swamped,” or my current favorite, “underwater.” None of these seem to refer to a joyful work-life balance, but I understand we shouldn’t judge others.

I asked some friends out to dinner, and they started listing all the times they were not available and all the fabulous activities they had planned. Yes, I admit it was a jam-packed schedule, but their monologue didn’t address my original question. We eventually agreed to an early-evening supper 2 months out. It was a very enjoyable occasion; however, I don’t think I needed to know all the details it took to get there.

I offered an acquaintance, a friend of a friend, some hostas from my yard. (I was separating them, and she had a new house in need of plants.) She agreed to a tentative time to come by and get them, but somehow, it just didn’t work out for her. The next attempt, she texted me a proposed time and canceled it 15 minutes later. On our final attempt, I got a text saying something had come up at work and she would be about an hour late. I replied, “Frankly my dear,” and haven’t heard from her since.

The next time someone asks me how I am doing, I am going to relate one joyous thing in my life and ask them to do the same. Maybe that will start the conversation on the right foot. I will come up with some better suggestions when I have a spare moment

By the way, I intentionally made this column shorter than usual, so that I could give you back a minute of your life. Please put it to good use.

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.

Moving to Seattle

My Healthy Journey: Welcome to Washington

It’s been a little while since I mentioned a move. Since then, I’ve trotted across a few more states. (Am I actually insane? Perhaps.) After about 9 months in Indiana, my boyfriend and I just made the leap to the Seattle area in June. And moving has been taxing, as always.

I’d love to say that we planned perfectly to move across the country with ease and grace. Unfortunately, when military bases are involved, like they are for my boyfriend, there isn’t always time for perfect planning.

 In the span of about 2 weeks, we:

  • Found an apartment
  • Packed our old apartment
  • Rented a truck
  • Drove across the country
  • Unpacked
  • Bought and assembled an apartment’s worth of new IKEA furniture

It was more the whirlwind version of moving.

Seattle
I didn’t take this, but I just drove through it for the first time last week. Gorgeous!

Moving Your Whole Life Across the Country Recommendations

Get Help Finding an Apartment

Because we were moving to a state we’d never even visited, we did some research about areas we’d like to live, and then we hired a company to help find and show us apartments in those areas.

Between not having to rent a car on our visit and saving time before and during, it more than paid for the day of him driving us around to a bunch of apartments. And he picked the place we chose in the end.

I cannot recommend a service like this more when moving blindly. It made our lives so much easier.

We also loved our guide and are planning a double date with him and his girlfriend, so win-win-win.

Seriously Consider Movers

We did not seriously consider movers, and we are still a little sad about that. After loading the truck in Indiana, picking up my remaining belongings at home in Illinois, and driving over 12 hours a day for 3 days, my back was out when we got to Washington, and needless to say, it was a really rough way to unload a truck.

My mother was kind enough to come on this journey with us and help, but the 3 of us unloading our floppy king-size mattress alone was enough to make it worth hiring movers. I wish I had a video to prove to you that you should never accidentally bring this fate down upon yourselves, but alas, I do not, so instead, I like to think it looked a lot like this:

Reaction GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Combined with the floppiness of this:

Mattress GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

And this small child’s linebacker skills:

Football GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

 

Seriously, hire movers. We will next time.

Splurge and Take Extra Time Off

I only took off a few days for us to drive across the country, and then I hopped back online on Monday. I really wished I’d taken off the whole week.

Poor Matt assembled almost an entire apartment’s worth of IKEA furniture without much help from me while I was working. And it took a lot longer to have any functioning TVs or food in our fridge because I wasn’t available to help.

You will need more time than you thought you would to unpack and settle in a move across the country compared to a state or even just a few miles away. Trust me.

Plan to Grocery Shop

We didn’t plan time to grocery shop early on, and while our kitchen was the first thing unpacked, we couldn’t really use it for about 5 days. We’re lucky to have a grocery store, Starbucks, Panera, Chipotle, and more across the street, so we didn’t live off just fried food for days. But it was still not fun or good for us. 

When you eat every meal out for 8 days in a row, you’ll understand that it’s expensive and exhausting. Plus, you’ll feel really gross by about day 3. So plan to be able to cook or at least throw together cereal or simple salads early.

Protect Your Skin and Hair

Even though our local water board just sent us a report about how great our water is, and I’d been living with extremely hard water in Indiana, better water might still wreak havoc on you.

I’ve had more breakouts in the last 2 months than I did at any point going through puberty or bouts of extreme all-night cramming in college. My normally happy combination skin has taken a full nose-dive into adult acne territory, and my boyfriend’s wasn’t doing too well at first either.

I know it sounds crazy, but Google it. I’m not the only one. Lots of people who have moved across the country or move regularly, like those in the military, have hit this issue.

There are many factors in a move that can take a toll. From the stress of the move, to different water, to adapting to a city without air conditioning and much more sweating than normal (no really, apartments pretty much never have air conditioning in Seattle), to a change in climate, they can all affect your skin. These changes can also be hard on your hair.

My skin’s finally starting to get used to the new digs, but you can save yourself by being prepared. Digging out my normal skincare routine and regularly sticking to it during 2 weeks of moving and unpacking wasn’t high on my list of priorities, and obviously, it should’ve been.

If you don’t take care of yourself during the move, you will regret it later. Wash your face in the morning and before bed, and be prepared to adapt your old routines. You might need a new lotion or conditioner for suddenly dry skin or hair or to change your old products while your skin and hair adapt.

Work on Patience and Understanding

While you’re moving, it’s extremely high stress, and it opens the door to fighting. My mom and I already have the tendency to bicker, but my boyfriend and I are usually very level-headed.

In a twist of fate, my mom and I did a pretty great job, and the bickering mostly bubbled up with my boyfriend, probably partially because we were trying to make serious life decisions on barely any sleep while being completely physically exhausted, all with the added bonus of an extra witness there to see us duke it out.

I’ve had some not-great relationships in the past, which at times made it feel like I had a free pass to be mean if an argument required it. But my current boyfriend is wonderful and one of my oldest friends, and he doesn’t deserve that. As a result, I’ve really had to work on my patience and understanding in the middle of arguments.

One of the best rules I can recommend is don’t fight while you’re exhausted, hungry, or triggered by something else, like work. But when you’re exhausted, hungry, and triggered by moving, which you’re doing all of together, some fights have to bubble up. It’s fate.

Tips to Be More Patient for a Fair Fight 

What you can do is be ready. Try to practice patience with some deep breaths, some gratitude for the other person, and maybe just by embracing the uncomfortableness of what’s going on together.

Then, when you can’t avoid that fight, fight fair:

  • Recognize the other person’s concerns and feelings.
  • Listen, listen, listen.
  • Never mix meanness for the sake of meanness or other issues in your relationship into an argument they don’t belong in.
  • Don’t say things like ultimatums you don’t mean. If what you’re arguing over isn’t a relationship deal breaker, don’t taunt that it is in the heat of the moment.
  • Know your own and each other’s limits. My boyfriend likes to talk things out right away. I like time to cool off so I don’t lash out. We both know that about each other and try to make arguing work for both of us, even when that’s hard to do.
  • Pick your battles carefully and get comfortable with compromise. Instead of arguing over a soap dispenser, wait and find one you agree on because it’s just a soap dispenser. If you don’t really care what color that side table is, but your partner really cares, give them the win. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did after the 800th snap decision you have to make in the middle of IKEA.
  • Always bring it back to a place of love and respect, even while you’re arguing. Never forget that you’re partners in this, even if (when) they’re driving you crazy.
  • Forgive easily. Moving is too stressful to hold every meltdown against the other person, and with a huge move, there will definitely be some meltdowns.

Take Time to Relax

Luckily for us, we got our big move in right before a big vacation to Hawaii, so we had a built-in break about a month after the move.

Hawaii was gorgeous, and having never been that close to the equator before, a great reminder of the value of sunscreen

But you should plan time to explore your new home or get away if you need to, even if it’s only for a date night, a weekend, or a massage.

And don’t beat yourself up over the occasional splurge during this time. If there were ever a time to have some real ice cream or a steak, it’s when you’ve just picked up your whole life and dropped it nearly 5,000 miles away.

And for fun, because, Hawaii…

Appreciate Your New Home

After about a month of craziness, hopefully your new home will be in decent shape. At which point, you need to take a step back and give yourselves a big pat on the back.

This will be the second time I’ve moved across the country blindly, once with nothing but a couple suitcases, and this time with everything I own. It’s scary, and stressful, and so worth it. Don’t forget to appreciate what you’ve built.

I’m finally taking a second to admire my gorgeous apartment in a brand-new building, my wonderful puppies, our gorgeous surroundings, my boyfriend who calmly spent about 10 hours in an IKEA with my mom and I and built like 15 pieces of furniture, and the awesome job that let me move across the country and keep working for them remotely, saving me from a frantic job search at the same time. #Blessed, am I right?

And I live about 25 minutes away from this. Seriously, how can you stay burnt out living anywhere this gorgeous!

Snoqualmie Falls

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Taking Time to Relax

Vantage Point: It’s Time to Relax

Relaxation is the state of being free from tension and anxiety. When I think of relaxation, I imagine myself having no to-do list, sitting back, and watching my son play. Now that I’m raising a family, I understand the importance of taking time to just relax.

On the weekends, I tend to clean my house top to bottom. I get so focused on these tasks that by the time I’m done with my chores, I realize it’s already 5 o’clock on Saturday evening. I get so upset with myself because I spent a whole day cleaning instead of taking a stroll in the park, going on a hike with my family, or just sitting in the backyard and enjoying the nice summer weather.

Then, I rush to get myself together to go do something “fun” before night falls. This defeats the whole purpose of relaxing because I’m so tired by the end of the day, I don’t even get to enjoy the activities with my family.

I now more than ever see why it’s so important to take time to relax. Time and time again, I hear about all of the benefits of relaxation, like lowering blood pressure, increasing blood flow to major muscles, improving sleep quality, and much more. I need to be the best version of me so I can be around and have a good time with my family.

This summer, I am trying something new. I’m giving myself small tasks to do at home every day after work, so when the weekend comes around, my workload isn’t so big. I’m also giving myself a set time frame to clean each Saturday morning. When I’m all done, it’s usually time for my son to take a midday nap, which gives me some dedicated “me time.” When he wakes up, I’m relaxed and ready to have some family fun.

So far, I’m really enjoying my new approach to handling my time. Sometimes, relaxing is much harder than setting up a new plan. There are a lot of reasons you might need a new plan too, like a diagnosis that requires you to try a different approach.

When that happens, our case managers are here to help you make your new plan work in lots of way. They can provide motivation, tools, and lifestyle skills to help minimize your risk of complications and share resources that are available in your community.

So get started finding a plan that works for you, and don’t forget to take some time to relax this summer.

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.
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.