Category Archives: Series

Helping Your Loved Ones with Advance Directives

Long View: Helping Your Loved Ones Even After You’re Gone

I have been very self-directed for quite some time, which is one of the reasons I recently got all my advance directives in place. It took some education and investigation, but I feel comfortable with the decisions I’ve made. I was relieved to be done with it until a longtime friend asked, “Hey, what about your obituary?”

Ok then. It took some consideration, but I started to realize it was my opportunity to share what was important in my life — the special people I have known and loved and what I was passionate about. Maybe everyone didn’t know my favorite color was orange but might think it’s okay if they found out after the fact.

This was also my opportunity to suggest where donations, if any, should go and why I felt a particular charity warranted their attention. Many of you can guess it would be food-focused in nature.

I would also get to share all the places I have lived, including Mobile, AL, Eugene, OR, and Perth, Western Australia, among others. Listing these remote locations would make it seem that I was slightly more fascinating in life than most people would have suspected.

I also made arrangements to have my earthly remains (ashes) sent to family in Mobile to be scattered into the Gulf of Mexico, which is close to the place where I was born. I understand there may be laws that prohibit this activity, but my family is resourceful and will honor my wishes I am sure.

In short, I am comforted to know that my wishes will be known and respected after I am no longer concerned with such issues. These types of directives are most useful to those we leave behind. Relieving a little of the burden from your loved ones is probably one of the kindest actions you can take now. All it takes is a little planning, information, and forethought.

Patrick Harness is a community liaison with a long history of experience in health insurance. He is known for his inability to parallel park, and if you ask him to pick a color, he always chooses orange (and he paints!)

Changing with the Seasons for AEP

Covered Bridge: It’s That Time Again: AEP

There is a lot of publicity to remind folks to check their smoke detector batteries when daylight saving time is over. It makes sense to tie that chore to something that occurs on a regular basis (why not Valentine’s Day?), but I almost always forget to do it.

It seems there are always other more pressing duties on the to-do list, like finishing up in the yard, switching out those summer clothes, or putting up the storm windows (if you are unlucky enough to still have storm windows).

Another reminder comes along this time of year. Medicare-eligible individuals’ mailboxes are bombarded with mail for the Annual Enrollment Period (AEP). While it can be annoying and overwhelming, it’s incredibly important for them to review their healthcare coverage every year to see if their current plan still meets their needs. The days of one-size-fits-all are over.

If you are a caregiver, a change in your loved one’s situation may indicate the need for different coverage. Have they started traveling more? Less? Have their medication needs changed, like new prescriptions or treatments for a chronic illness? Did their primary care provider retire or relocate? Did their current plan change, and does it still suit their needs? It’s time to explore their options.

We know you are busy, so let’s look at a few resources.

A great one is Medicare.gov. This site is easy to navigate and packed with information. You can check the plan’s Star Rating while you’re at it.

Another great resource is your state’s Department on Aging. It offers impartial counseling services for people who are Medicare-eligible.

Your local Area Agency on Aging is a gold mine. Find one near you at n4a.org.

HealthAllianceMedicare.org is also easy to navigate and gives a nice overview of the options we offer in your county.  

The AEP for 2019 is October 15 through December 7. The sooner you review your needs and gather information, the better equipped you will be to make an informed choice. When you’re done, you can move onto something really important, like cleaning out the junk drawer in the kitchen (like that’s going to happen).

Morgan Gunder is a community and broker liaison for Reid Health Alliance. Born in the South and raised in the Midwest, she is a wife and mother with a passion for traveling, learning, and technology.

Join the Fight

Vantage Point: Join the Fight

As days go by, we never really notice change until we sit down to reminisce and look back at our past. Every couple of years, I look back at old family pictures and home videos and realize how much has changed. This triggers memories and further discussion on that particular time in my life.

As we go through our lives, we meet so many people. It can be hard to remember all their names, well at least for me, but I always remember faces for some reason. I love to see people I remember, even if I don’t quite remember their names.

In this line of work, I get to see so many people with different backgrounds, and unfortunately, with different illnesses. When I first encountered Alzheimer’s disease, I wasn’t sure how to approach it or even how to act. It was not an obvious sign. Instead, it was very subtle. I really had to pay attention and see the different demeanor this person had.

After that encounter, I started to do my research on what happens when a person gets diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. I came across the Alzheimer’s Association. I learned so much on its website and realized how Alzheimer’s is so common. Did you know that Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States? The disease also accounts for 60–80% of all dementia cases.

This illness takes away so many of our loved ones, neighbors, and friends. So what is being done? How can we stop this terrible disease from taking so many memories away? One thing to keep in mind if you are going through this, you are not alone. The Alzheimer’s Association has walks all over the county each year to raise awareness and funds for the research of an Alzheimer’s cure. The main reason for the walk is Alzheimer’s care, support, and research.

Here in the Wenatchee Valley, the walk will take place on September 8, from 8:30 to 10 a.m. at Pybus Public Market. In Grant County, the walk will be September 15, from 8:30 to 10 a.m. at Moses Lake High School. The Yakima walk will also take place September 15, from 8:30 to 10 a.m. at Sarg Hubbard Park.

To join the fight, join the Alzheimer’s Association at one of these walks. It’s an opportunity to be the change and the voice for those who are no longer with us.

 Jessica Arroyo, born and raised in the 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.

Remember September

Long View: Remember September

Try to remember the kind of September when life was slow and oh-so-mellow.

Many of you may remember this Andy Williams song from years ago. For me, it rekindled some fond memories of a younger time. Did you read the lyrics, or sing them (as I did)?

September is a time when we welcome autumn and say so long to summer. Living in the Midwest for most of my life, I love the change of seasons, especially this one! The shades of nature are a mixture of both summer and fall.

It’s a fun time in fashion when colors start to pop as wardrobes transition. It’s perfectly acceptable to wear plum opaque tights with a pastel-colored summer frock, a cozy navy sweatshirt with those favorite khaki shorts, or even a pair of gray light wool pants with some snazzy, strappy sandals! (Is white OK after Labor Day these days?)

One of the most prominent colors of the season that you will see displayed this month is purple. Did you know that purple is the official color of the Alzheimer’s movement?

September is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, and here at Health Alliance, we participate in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s in many of our communities throughout Illinois. These wonderful walks are intended to raise awareness of the disease and to raise funds for care, support, and research. Alzheimer’s is an irreversible disease that progressively and slowly destroys a person’s memory and mental skills to the point of not being able to carry out the simplest task.

Finding a cure for this disease is the focus of Walk to End Alzheimer’s, and developing prevention along with treatment is part of the process. Check out the dates and towns for the 2018 walks near you. It’s a nationwide annual event, with more than 600 communities across the United States participating.

There are many way to help, even if you don’t want to walk. Take your first step and go the official website at Act.ALZ.org/Walk.

Here are some of the 2018 local walks where you may spot Health Alliance:

  • Champaign – September 22
  • Decatur – October 6
  • Mattoon – September 29
  • Bloomington/Normal – September 15
  • Peoria – October 13
  • Rockford – September 15
  • Springfield – September 22

Come up with your own transitional outfit to wear (maybe add a splash of purple,) and hope to see you at a walk!

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

Enjoying the Present

Covered Bridge: Waiting for Fall and Enjoying the Present

It’s finally September, which means kids are officially 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 winter 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 one of my favorite times of year. I love the crispness in the air. I love the changing colors in nature. I love going to the orchards 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 that 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 and we don’t have that option. 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.

Morgan Gunder is a community and broker liaison for Reid Health Alliance. Born in the South and raised in the Midwest, she is a wife and mother with a passion for traveling, learning, and technology.

Down the Rabbit Hole to Play

Long View: Disappearing Down Rabbit Holes

A few years back, some friends and I were camping just after Halloween at Indian Cave State Park in Nebraska.

The prior weekend, the park had hosted a “haunted” park drive-through where ghouls and ghosts good-naturedly jumped out to scare you in good, old-fashioned Halloween fun. While hiking on some trails high up above one of the park roads, we came across a straw-stuffed witch on a broom tied up by a rope to a tree. Untying the rope let this funny-looking witch fly out over the road and spook any car driving by. You can guess what happened next.

Brenda and Cathy (both grandmothers, by the way) agreed to be lookouts for approaching cars from around the bend. Vicki and Jackie lay down on their stomachs in the weeds to hide and relay the “get ready” sign. My buddy Fara and I held tight to the rope waiting for the “go” sign. When a car came up the road, we let our witch fly, shrieking with glee like 8-year-old naughty little boys and waving furiously at the cars we’d managed to scare below. Later, Fara marveled that she had not “played” like that in years. That statement has stuck with me all these years.

Why don’t adults play anymore? We pay money to take yoga and tai chi classes to try and clear our minds of the clutter of life. Self-help gurus tout their books about “living in the moment” or striving to “be present.” Really, isn’t that just playing? To me, playing is a special state of being where one loses all track of time and disappears down a rabbit hole that has nothing to do with lists, responsibilities, or errands. Playing definitely has nothing to do with CNN, the newspaper, or our Facebook page. Playing is the single-minded pursuit of something that does nothing but make us happy or relaxed or at peace.

I recently traveled down a rabbit hole on a Sunday afternoon and found myself wandering through a small-town cemetery looking for the graves of my great-grandparents Benjamin Hugo and Millie. I didn’t wake up with that idea on my agenda. I actually woke up that Sunday with no agenda at all. My yellow lab, Harvey Benjamin (named after my grandfather), and I had a lovely afternoon just wandering up and down the rows looking at names and noting dates and family connections. Happily, I not only found Benjamin Hugo and Millie’s graves but also the grave of my great-great-great-grandfather Hans Detlef, who was born in Germany in 1800 and died in Iowa in 1887.

No timelines, no reasons, just hanging out in a cemetery, which is probably weird to some, I agree, but it was a special day spent thinking about nothing much for me. It felt wonderful. It was like those worn-out areas of my brain that have to plan and decide and be a grown-up got a chance to power down for a while, to rest and recharge while running on power save mode in the background.

The amazing thing about it was I was deep into writer’s block at that point. I had no idea what I was going to write about for this monthly column. While that part of my brain was running on power save mode, the topic presented itself. Isn’t that cool? I also think my next dog might be named Hugo, although I recently found some ancestors in my tree named Ichabod and Wubba, so I might need a lot more dogs.

There is actual science behind the value of adults taking the time to play every now and then to reduce stress and improve their overall well-being, so let’s start playing.

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.

Declutter Your Life

Covered Bridge: Downsize and Declutter for Safety

The month of August has this great week called the National Safe At Home Week, August 26 to 30, and that got me thinking about things that people could do to keep their home safer.

Did you know that our local Area Agency on Aging, LifeStream, has a program called “Safety Solutions” that not many within their newly expanded service area in Indiana know about? This program allows individuals to send a referral to LifeStream to assess the needs of someone on safety item(s) that may need fixed to make their living environment safer.

When I think of Safe At Home Week, what came to me instantly was to declutter! I must admit that I am a bit of a clutter bug when it comes to paperwork. I somehow have a hard time parting with things I might need down the road.

I’m finding myself getting a tad bit anxious when the papers seem to be too much to keep organized or in place. I need to make a change, and I’m sure I’m not alone in this. Why not use this month, or a week in this month, to get the clutter bug under control? I think you might thank yourself later when you have more peace, maybe more money in your pocket (hey, the summer is a great time for a yard sale), and a safer environment that is less cluttered. (I don’t really believe in the notion of being “clutter-free,” but I think we can work to have less clutter in our lives.)

Reid Health Alliance has great presentations about a whole host of topics that we share with the community, and one of them is called Downsize and Declutter. It gives practical advice on how to start the declutter and downsize process, how to stick with it, and the possible rewards of getting through the process, along with other helpful tips. If you’re interested in having an outreach liaison, like me, present this to your group, please email me at Morgan.Gunder@healthalliance.org to schedule a time. Happy decluttering!

Morgan Gunder is a community and broker liaison for Reid Health Alliance. Born in the South and raised in the Midwest, she is a wife and mother with a passion for traveling, learning, and technology.