Health Alliance On-Call for You

Like New Nurse Line, This Director is Always On-Call

Jane Elliott lives and breathes Health Alliance. She has for years.

“My work is my hobby. We have so many great things going on. Leading efforts to help members doesn’t feel like work to me,” said Jane, Quality & Medical Management director.

Jane also loves our new 24-hour Anytime Nurse Line. Beginning July 1, all Health Alliance members can call 1-855-802-4612 to get help:

• Deciding if they need to see a doctor right away or set up a visit
• Coping with diabetes, asthma, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and more
• Finding health care resources

Jane also played a key role in enhancing our wellness benefit. But, she and her team want members to know that if they go in for a wellness visit, they could still get a bill. Adding non-wellness needs into this appointment could result in costs.

”Your doctor might ask, ‘Do you have other things you’d like to talk about?'” she said. “This may lead to topics  that aren’t part of the free wellness benefit.”

To make sure your visit is covered as part of the free wellness benefit, Jane says be clear with your doctor about this appointment up front.

“Tell your doctor you want to focus on your wellness needs. If non-wellness needs come up that aren’t urgent, you can set up a follow-up visit,” she said.

Jane also knows wellness means a healthy work-life balance, even if  the lines blur when she works outside standard work  hours.

“I’m very family-focused, and I feel Health Alliance and our members are part of my extended family,” she said.

Blood Sugar Maintenance

Tips for Managing Your Blood Sugar

Stress and Your Blood Sugar

Everyday stress can make your diabetes  worse by triggering hormones that change blood sugar. Plus, when you’re stressed out, you’re less likely to practice good self-care.

According to Livestrong, stress causes blood glucose to rise by releasing two hormones, cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones increase your glucose in order to help reduce your stress.

Stress can make you emotional, which for many people can lead to binge eating. People usually turn to foods filled with sugar and carbohydrates for comfort, which raise your blood sugar.

To cope with stress and reduce its impact, try to:

  • Breathe deeply. Practice breathing slowly and deeply at least once a day to calm yourself.
  • Move more. Even simple exercises like a quick walk or dancing around the living room can make you feel better.
  • Focus on the positive. Find something you enjoy that takes your mind off whatever is causing your stress.
  • Practice good self-care. Eat right, exercise, and get plenty of sleep.

Move More

Outdoor play helps keep your blood sugar in check. It’s also a great way to have fun with your friends and family.

Do something you love or would like to try. Here are some ideas to get you started!

  • Go fishing at a local lake.
  • Try hiking in a nearby state park.
  • Plant a family garden in your backyard.
  • Ride your bike through your neighborhood.
  • Go roller skating, walking, or running with a friend.
  • Play a backyard sport like basketball or catch with your family.

Remember to check your blood sugar before starting. You might need to eat an extra snack if it’s too low.

If you’re leaving home, pack testing gear, meds, extra snacks, and water. Wear your medical ID bracelet and bring contact numbers and a copy of your emergency plan.

Diabetes shouldn’t stop you from having fun. Just plan ahead so you have what you need, and always take a break right away if you start feeling dizzy.

Planning Ahead

You can never be too prepared with your diabetes. Take time to pack a diabetes emergency kit now before an emergency strikes. Here are some important items for packing the perfect kit:

  • A 3-day supply of:
    • Medicines, marked with their name and correct dose
    • Insulin
    • Insulin pump
    • Lancets
    • Syringes
  • Extra batteries
  • Alcohol wipes for cleaning the injection area
  • A cooler for storing insulin and meds
  • Flashlight, in case you lose power
  • Medical ID bracelet to help first responders quickly know your needs. Your tag should have:
    • Your name
    • Diabetes, insulin pump, or insulin dependent
    • Known allergies
    • Medicines
    • Emergency contact numbers
  • A list of your meds and doses
  • A blood sugar log to help you keep track of your numbers in an emergency
  • Drinks and snacks like water, juice, fruit cups, and hard candies
  • Your doctor’s name and contact information
  • Emergency contact information with cell and work phone numbers, emails, and home addresses

Be sure to update your kit with new meds and supplies as things change. Also, mark on your calendar when your supplies and meds will expire.

There is no better time than now!

Work Up a Sweat with a Workout Buddy

Sweat Glands Work Better in Pairs

There’s something special about being part of a group. Spoken or unspoken, you rest easier knowing, “We’re in this together.”

You experience that feeling when you exercise in groups, too. Research shows those who sweat socially, like with a workout buddy, are more likely to stick with their fitness plan and see success.

In a Baylor University study, after teaching 53 female college students a specific weight-training workout, the researchers told them to do it on their own 3-days a week for 6 weeks.

Can you guess what happened? Every single one of them quit the study.

A workout buddy doesn’t guarantee success, but it makes success more likely, a review of 87 studies on 50,000 people found this link to be clea).

Still not convinced? Here are 5 more reasons to think about grabbing a friend and workout buddy before hitting the gym:

  1. Time flies. This isn’t to say your 60-minute workout will be easy, but instead of constantly watching the clock, you can catch up on each other’s lives between sets, laugh, and have fun.
  2. No more Debbie Downer. Who likes canceling plans with a friend? If your workout partner is counting on you to be there, you’ll be less likely to bail.
  3. Share a babysitter. If your gym doesn’t have a kid center, share the cost of a sitter.
  4. Keep perspective. Most of us are hard on ourselves. When you have workout buddies, they can help you see your progress and remind you of how far you’ve come.
  5. Stay on track. Not only do friends help you see how far you’ve come, they also keep you thinner. Harvard University researchers found that a person’s risk of becoming obese goes up by 2% for every 5 obese friends or family members he or she has. Yikes!

Give social sweating a try, and let us know what you think.

And if you’re looking for a gym to join, check out our Fitness Discounts section.

Who Can You Call? 2-1-1

Long View: Who You Gonna Call? Think Three Little Numbers

I have a good friend at Carle who seems to have all the answers. Let’s call her Sue. Sue is a great resource for me any time I have a question about Carle. She knows the department heads, where the various offices are and how things really work. She is a seasoned and respected contact for me (and many others, I am sure). It makes me wonder where average Joes can turn when they need information and resources.

It turns out there is a place to call – 2-1-1.

The program in Central Illinois is run by PATH, Inc. (Providing Access to Help), which provides services for seniors, people who are homeless and people in need of all ages. Their offices are located in beautiful Bloomington. The PATH website describes the 2-1-1 system this way: “United Way 2-1-1 is for times of crisis, as well as for everyday needs. 2-1-1 call specialists are available 24/7 to help individuals locate health and human services in their area—from mortgage, rent, and utility assistance to food, clothing, emergency shelter, counseling, and much more.”

I spoke to Jennifer Nettleton at PATH. She is the 2-1-1/Crisis Services program manager. Many times when we need help, we need it fast.

Nettleton told me, “2-1-1 helps stop the run-around between social service agencies. Rather than calling every agency in the phone book to find out if they have the services you need, you can now call one place to help get you that information.”

Funding for the program is provided in part by United Way organizations around the state. Our local service area covers 12 counties and one city with another 20 in the pipeline. Many other states have this program in place, so Illinois is making up for lost time.

Find out more about the program. I think many people in need, perhaps some of them Health Alliance Medicare members, will be comforted to know a resource is available 24/7. Of course I could just give Sue’s phone number to everyone, but I fear she might not be my friend anymore.

Honoring a Veteran

Vantage Point: Serving Those Who Served Us

“Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.  – John F. Kennedy

I have three sons who served in the armed services, one who is still an active-duty Marine. Every word of that quote means a tremendous amount to my family. We understand how the rigors, values and experiences of serving in the military shape a life. What I did not realize—until talking with Patti Strawn, RN, CHPN, of Central Washington Home Health and Hospice—was how that service influences how a veteran faces serious illness and the end of life.

There are currently 22 million U.S. veterans, and 1 of every 4 people who dies is a veteran. 20% of Confluence Health hospice patients are veterans, and understanding how to care for them seems the least we can do to repay them for their service.

A friend is a Vietnam vet, and even when going out for dinner he always chooses a seat facing the room and an exit. Many veterans cannot stand the thought of laying flat, and for some it takes a long time just to get into bed because of feelings of being trapped or confined.

Imagine that person in a nursing home, hospital, or hospice situation.

Each veteran’s needs are unique and can be influenced by a number of factors, like which war they fought in, rank, branch, enlisted or drafted, prisoner of war and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. For some veterans, the pride of serving their country is a source of comfort at the end of life. For others, hard memories may bring up pain, emotional issues, and the need for forgiveness. The military culture of stoicism, “big boys don’t cry” and guilt for making it back when others did not can also present hurdles—especially when the inability to express those long-hidden feelings prevents a peaceful passing.

It is never too late to welcome a hero home. In celebration of Memorial Day, Health Alliance Medicare encourages you to honor veterans still with us by acknowledging their brave and selfless service, and by encouraging them to register with their local Veterans Affairs (VA) office. The VA works to make sure every single veteran has compassionate end-of-life care.

Visit WeHonorVeterans.org for additional information or resources.

Your Pets and Asthma

Your Pets Breathing

You’re not the only one who sometimes has trouble breathing, your pets do too. Cats, dogs, and even horses can have a hard time catching their breath.

It might sound strange, but their triggers and symptoms look a lot like yours:

Pets Triggers

  • Smoke
  • Cleaning products
  • Dust (in the house, litter, or barn)
  • Trees, grass, and mold

Pets Flare-ups

  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Panting

62% of American households have pets. 95.6 million people own cats, and 83.3 million have dogs. And just like you, staying away from triggers and taking meds can help control animals’ breathing problems.

“We manage your pet’s triggers and use all the same human drugs to treat them, and that really helps,” says Dr. Brendan McKiernan, a board-certified veterinary internal medicine specialist and University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital director. He’s practiced for more than 40 years and is known around the world for his work on cats’ and dogs’ breathing diseases.

If you notice your cat or dog is having trouble breathing, and it’s more than the occasional hairball, take your pet to the vet. If it’s serious, take them right away.

Even though you have things in common, don’t ever share your meds with your pets. Even though their troubles might look like yours, Dr. McKiernan says, “You have to be careful. It’s like a little 10-pound baby.” You can really hurt pets with too much medicine which could make them much sicker.

Fried Chicken Diet

Long View: Why the Fried Chicken Diet Doesn’t Work

I am guessing many of you are in the same boat as me—wondering what to do about that pesky winter weight.

It’s a common problem, and I know I should do something about it. I get inspired with the first nice days of spring, but it seems by wintertime, I am adding another layer of winter warmth, so to speak.

I know many fad diets don’t work long-term. I have heard about the Paleo Diet, but I can’t picture myself eating like a caveman. The Grapefruit Diet worked for me, sort of, but only because I hate grapefruit.

Probably not the way for me to go.

When I have a question, I go to an expert, and we have one here at Health Alliance. Her name is Karen Stefaniak, and she is our wellness program administrator. She told me many diets don’t work long-term because people limit what they eat but don’t make behavior changes.

“Unfortunately most people on restrictive diets eventually gain back the weight they lost and possibly a little more,” she said. “It’s a shame to go through all that effort to end up where you started. Changes in a person’s behavior are the only way to ensure a long-term success.”

She continued: “The key to successful weight loss is to set specific goals you can reach. For example, rather than saying you are going to lose 20, set a goal to lose one pound a week. Each week, pick  a couple of things you can do that will help you lose that pound, like exercising more, limiting sweets or cutting down on snacks after dinner. Success breeds success.

“Reaching the goal of losing that first pound in week one will motivate you to keep going. You’ll begin to lose the weight slowly and at the same time learn behavior patterns that will help you keep the weight off. As always, talk with your doctor before starting any type of diet or exercise program.“

Well, Karen shared some do-able suggestions for starting a weight-loss plan. You could recruit a friend or coworker to start the journey together. I will give it a try, but I’m still hoping someone will come up with The Frito and Fried Chicken Diet. Oh wait, I am on that one now.

UA-45064957-1