Tag Archives: challenges

Older Driver Safety Awareness Week

Older Driver Safety Awareness Week

It’s Older Driver Safety Awareness Week, and the ability to drive safely can be affected by changes in our physical, emotional, and cognitive health. Although these changes are part of normal aging, they can affect each individual at different rates.

Just as one plans for retirement, it’s important to plan for your transportation needs.

Planning for Future Transportation

 

December is the perfect time to have a conversation with loved ones as you come together for the holidays.

Talking to Family About Driving As They Age

 

When an older driver decides it’s time for a check-up, useful driving fitness education tools can help identify challenges and help them adjust.

Evaluate Your Ability to Drive As You Age

 

Driving intervention plans, drawn up between a client and therapist, can help older individuals drive safely for as long as possible.

When someone needs to adjust to keep driving or can no longer drive, family and friends can help with resources for independent transportation in the community.

Planning for a Future Without Driving

 

Exploring alternative types of transportation can help older adults stay independent. Options can include community networks, public transit, and ride sharing apps.

Resources to Stay Independent

 

Vision problems and certain medications can also cause issues driving early. Talk to your doctor to get help.

Health Issues and Driving As You Age

Epilepsy Awareness Month

Epilepsy Awareness Month

It’s Epilepsy Awareness Month, and epilepsy is the 4th-most common neurological disorder.

While epilepsy is a spectrum of many kinds of seizure types and levels of severity, misunderstandings of the disease from others can cause challenges sometimes worse than the seizures.

If you’ve ever had a seizure or seen someone have a seizure, they can be scary. Learn more about how they work.

Understanding Seizures

 

If you see someone having a seizure, knowing what to do can save a life. Know how to respond.

Seizure First Aid

 

Adults living with active epilepsy are more likely to have unhealthy behaviors or other chronic health problems, which can worsen the symptoms of epilepsy. A healthy lifestyle can help.

Healthy Lifestyles and Epilepsy

 

Many states have varying laws about driving with epilepsy, and transportation can be a challenge for those living with epilepsy. Learn more.

Epilepsy and Transportation

 

An important part of having and caregiving for epilepsy is knowing how it affects independence and day-to-day living. These resources can help.

Living Independently with Epilepsy

 

If you’re living with epilepsy and have suffered from discrimination, you have legal rights. Learn more about these and getting legal help.

Epilepsy and Legal Protections

Your Home Accessibility as You Age

Long View: Making Your Home More Accessible

A beloved family member is aging rather rapidly, not that we’d mention it of course. He already has arthritis in both knees and his left hand. His vision is not as good as it used to be, and we notice his agility just isn’t there anymore.

The problem is that his home has incredibly steep stairs, and the bedrooms and bathrooms are on the second floor. The furnace is in the cellar, which is only accessible through heavy metal doors and down another steep flight of stairs. And of course, the front door has stairs, too. The bathroom needs a lot of work. There’s no shower, just a huge slippery clawfoot tub. Home modification would be great, but a hundred-year-old house will always have its challenges.

These days, some builders are making structures with Universal Design, which focuses on providing maximum accessibility, regardless of a person’s ability to maneuver. Wider doorways, flat thresholds, and grab bars are a few of the tools that can make a home or commercial building more convenient for all of us.

My friend Therese Cardosi is the executive director of the Options Center for Independent Living in Bourbonnais. The mission of these centers (there’s also a location in Watseka) is to provide services, support, and advocacy to enhance the rights and abilities of people with disabilities in order to help them more actively participate in their communities and live self-determined independent lives.

“We are all in the process of creating the future for ourselves and our children, “ Therese said. “We don’t know what that future will bring, but we can predict that many of us will eventually need accessible places to live. The statistical projections are staggering.”

The National Association of Area Agencies on Aging’s mission is to “build the capacity of our members so they can help older adults and people with disabilities live with dignity and choices in their homes and communities for as long as possible.”

Sadly, their many services can’t make up for a home that doesn’t accommodate someone with limited mobility or sensory loss. For those of you who haven’t figured it out, I am the “beloved family member” mentioned at the beginning.

There seems to be some movement in the right direction, but will it be enough or fast enough to support the statistical crush of the Baby Boomers? Probably not, but at least some folks are starting the conversation, and I want to be a part of it.

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.

Love Story through Alzheimer's

Chasing Health: Member’s Love Story of Caring for Wife with Alzheimer’s

As a writer, I get to interview all kinds of people about all kinds of topics, and sometimes I come across a story that gives me goosebumps.

Earlier this year, I interviewed Cary Ulrich, a member who lives in Washington, for the spring issue of House Calls, one of our Medicare newsletters. This former drafter and current fire photographer was kind enough to share his heartfelt story with me.

Cary’s wife was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s a few years ago and passed away after we published this article. But for nearly three years, Cary was her primary caregiver, a tough task for a person watching someone he loves suffer from a disease that does not yet have a cure.

I don’t know if I could handle it, but Cary did. And he even found a way to make something positive out of it. Today, Cary leads caregiver support groups and is writing a book to capture how grateful he is for the time he spent with the love of his life.

November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month, and with Thanksgiving coming up, I think it’s the perfect time to share Cary’s story of being grateful while making sacrifices. Maybe it’ll inspire you to join the cause to end Alzheimer’s or thank a caregiver.

Take a Minute to Care about Caregivers

Cary Ulrich, a second-year Health Alliance Medicare member, likes a challenge. The one-time drafter and surveyor at an engineering firm went from designing layouts for Wenatchee Valley’s buildings and subdivisions to taking photos on the frontlines of wildfires.

The toughest challenge he faced wasn’t learning the art of drafting by hand before the drafting world went digital, and it wasn’t going out on his first fire call to take pictures of people putting their lives on the line to save others. It wasn’t even a challenge he enjoyed, but it was his most important, being a caregiver for one of the people he loves most, his wife.

Sharon Ulrich was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s (a type of dementia) after showing some confusing symptoms, like having visions of everything from Old English-style visitors to spies and people trying to break into her home.

At first, doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong. Was it depression? Dementia? And if she had dementia, what kind was it? At 63 years old, she seemed too young for that.

While doctors looked for answers, Cary stayed by his wife’s side. From her earliest symptoms and first diagnosis in March 2010 to moving her to an adult home in February 2013, Cary was a caregiver. And he quickly learned that being a caregiver can take its own toll.

“I was on the outside going through everything,” he says. “I was very frustrated and angry at the situation, not at her. I had all those feelings, and no one seemed to care about me.”

He watched his wife’s health get worse while knowing he couldn’t help her get better. The woman who’d walked past his back-row church pew almost two decades ago, the one he thought was way too classy to ever even talk to him, now needed him to be her caregiver.

Cary and Sharon

“It’s a hard process,” he says. “I don’t exactly know how I did it, but I’ve gotten to the point where I’ve had to let go of what was and just totally accept her for the person she is now.”

Cary never backed down. Instead, he used his experience of caring for a loved one with dementia to help others do the same, turning his negative situation into something positive.

Today, Cary helps run two caregiver support groups, one specific to dementia at the Grief Place of North Central Washington and a more general one at Aging and Adult Care of Central Washington in East Wenatchee. In both groups, Cary gives support and tips to other caregivers because he believes it will help them feel better and make smarter choices about their own loved ones.

“The more you know when these things happen, the more you can kind of accept them,” he says. “You know you’re going to have to change because your loved one has changed and can’t go back the other way.”

He also talks to nursing classes at Wenatchee Valley College and to first responders in different fire districts to help them know how to work with people with dementia and the family and friends who care for them.

Cary takes on other challenges, too, like helping put on the annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s in Wenatchee. Last year, he lined up sponsors, set up, and took photos for the 2-mile event that raised money and awareness.

Wenatchee's Walk to End Alzheimer's

Cary’s selflessness shines through in everything he does, and the man who likes to take on challenges and still goes out on fire calls hopes to make caregivers’ lives less challenging in the future.

“As a caregiver, you have the memories of what was, but all you have is what is. It’s a very difficult place to be. I know what these caregivers are going through, though. And I want them to know they are valued and can still enjoy life.”

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Reading and Writing for Your Mind

My Healthy Journey: Reading and Writing for Your Health

Reading for Your Health

I’ve said it before on here, but I’ve always loved reading and writing, and I’m not always very good at making time for it. I read a lot of news but not that many actual books anymore. Funny, because I don’t have any furniture in my apartment, besides the books on books.

Book CollectionAll the books on the floor are going to go on a shelf that’s not here yet… (Tootsie, my dog, was really confused as to why I was taking pictures of this mess.)

It’s been one of my goals to make it more of a priority again. In the past month, I’ve read both Mindy Kaling’s book, “Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?” and Amy Poehler’s “Yes Please” (which has really wonderful and funny advice for young women), and I just started Stephen King’s “On Writing,” which makes me want to stop everything and write.

But there are lots of reasons to read and write every day. Rally, our wellness tool, has challenges for just that, so you can make your brain a priority. In one, it challenges you to read for 20 minutes, and in another, to write in a journal every day.

So what’s this doing for your health?

Reading has been shown to slow memory loss, increase concentration, and reduce stress. Not to mention, one study found that reading helped improve your social skills, your ability to understand others and their emotions, and your ability to feel for others. Reading can literally help you treat other people better!

Not to mention that taking 20 minutes a day to read with your kids can make an amazing difference in their education and development.

Read Aloud 15 Minutes InfographicReadAloud.org

Not sure where to start? This 2015 Reading Challenge from Popsugar gives you goals without locking you into a set of books you wouldn’t choose for yourself.

Popsugar's 2015 Reading ChallengeSo far I’ve got a funny book, a memoir, a mystery or thriller, and a book from an author I love that I haven’t read yet checked off for the year. What can you check off?

Writing for Your Health

And there are LOTS of reasons to keep a journal. Don’t believe me?  Here are 101 reasons.

I’ve never been much of a journal writer (my writing brain drifts toward fiction), but as I’ve said here more than once, I love lists.

And that’s the beauty of keeping a journal! There’s always a way to make it work for you. Here are some alternatives to the traditional “Dear Diary” format.

  • Don’t want to write about your feelings? You can keep a journal without it being personal. Keeping a work journal can help you stay organized and productive.
  • A bullet journal helps you organize and categorize your tasks, events, notes, and ideas quickly with lists.
  • Do you want to mix things up in your writing? If you want to paint a picture one day and write fiction or poetry another, there are creative journal tips to help you.
  • If you’re more of an artist than a writer, guess what?! Doodling boosts memory and creativity. And believe it or not, it’s a thing some companies are actually paying to teach their employees. Here’s why, how, and what you should be doodling.

I’ve been keeping a form of a bullet journal in my fitness binder on that handy grid paper I told you about. It’s really just a record of the most important things that happened to me that day that I can easily find later. I use other elements of this in my work to-do list and in organizing things like the social media topics I’ve done in the past. Below is a taste of what mine looks like, or this blog has really good examples of this in action.

Bullet Journal(Don’t mind the ghost talk in the middle there if you can read it. That’s just me noting  a plot idea for a fictional horror story.)

This lets me keep lists instead of trying to write a paragraph about things that don’t need any emotion or explanation. And my favorite part is it helps me organize things like character and story ideas, something I am known for jotting on anything around me until I have a strange collection of crumpled notes on things like napkins, CD sleeves, or even mail.

Head over to Rally, take your health assessment, and start meeting your goals for strengthening your mind!

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Fitness Binder

My Healthy Journey: Rally and My Fitness Binder

My move is complete! While I have no furniture outside my bedroom (partly from a very trying, calorie-burning, failed attempt to get a couch through my front door) all of my things and my dog have successfully made the transition.

A new kitchen and plenty of living room space for yoga (because falling down is a lot easier in a room with no furniture) have made it time to refocus on my healthy journey.

Right now, I’m working on small steps. I’ve bought some running shoes, and now that the weather has finally gotten up out of sub-arctic temperatures, it’s time to take action.

If you’ve followed my journey, you’ve heard about our wellness tool, Rally. Rally helps you evaluate your health with an easy test and then has you pick challenges in order to earn coins, which you can use to enter drawings for rewards.

Rally is a great way to hold yourself accountable to your goals each day, and I’m going to help connect you to ways to make your Rally goals happen. I’ve done a few of the challenges before, and while I’m not going to do all of them permanently, I am going to spend all spring testing them out and connecting you to resources to meet your goals.

The first two challenges that I’m going to test out and help you with are cooking at home more and tracking what you eat.

I had tracked what I ate before with a handy app called MyPlate. I still recommend it, but I’ve taken a different route this time.

I’m a writer at heart. I’ve been saying I was going to be a writer since I was 4, when I wrote my first book, which was about bears. (I realize this might make me sound like Dwight to you lovers of The Office, but my bears weren’t eating beets. They were being ballerinas and astronauts. You know, real bear stuff.)

While humiliating myself is always a fun side effect of blogging about my life, I bring this story up for a reason. I like writing things down, and I’ve always liked writing things down. There is nothing so satisfying as putting a physical check mark beside a task. I work on the Web team, and I still keep a physical planner and to-do list.

So I’ve decided that maybe I stopped keeping up with the app (conveniently right around the holidays) because there was no satisfaction or memory in it for me. If I write something down, I feel it and remember it. If I just select an item out of a digital list, I will not remember how many calories those Skittles are costing me every day.

So I’ve made myself a My Healthy Journey fitness binder. I’m using it as a one-stop, life-hub of organized information. It’s amazing.

I started with supplies. I bought a beautiful binder that I can live with carrying around every day.

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Then I gathered office supplies:

  • Plenty of paper (for printouts).
  • Grid paper, which is perfect for making lists. All of the little boxes make perfect check boxes right alongside your tasks.
  • Binder dividers, a three-hole punch, and a large variety of highlighters, pens, and markers.
  • Plus my laptop, grocery list, and coffee because no morning project unfolds well in my house without coffee.

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The first thing I did was waste a lot of time on Pinterest looking at fun, inspirational typography. As a writer and designer, I’m a font geek, and I decided that I would start each month of my binder with some hand-drawn, cute, inspirational quotes. My dog and I worked on this in bed while watching documentaries. (She hated it because it meant I wasn’t petting her…) While it might sound like a waste, it has truly made me love my binder. My beautiful binder and I have formed a loving bond through hours of coloring. I definitely recommend it.

Then I printed some things that are actually useful. First up is a weekly printable meal planner. If you search for that online, you can find tons of free downloadables, both with and without grocery lists. Or you can try the one I chose or this colorful other option. I opted for a simple planner and to continue to use my awesome Wonder Woman grocery list. Choose whatever works for you.

Then I printed off some calendars. I have a planner for work, but I don’t like to put personal stuff in it because not only do I sometimes show it to people when scheduling social media plans, but I also don’t look at it outside of work. So this calendar will have things like my dentist appointments, the dates my prescriptions run out, and the dates all my different bills are due. I naturally color-coded all of this with highlighters, like an organization geek.

The last important piece of the puzzle is a printable daily food log. Again, there are lots of these to download for free on the Internet. This blog inspired me to make the binder and has a log you can download, or WebMD has an especially good Food Journal. With a little computer magic, though, I made my own, which combined spaces for food, calories, and exercise and has a water section to remind me to drink more water. The best part about making it yourself is you can add anything you want. Do you want a space for vitamins, medicines, or even reminders for things like flossing? Add anything that you think a physical reminder will help you stick with. You can also download My Healthy Journey Food Journal (it’s two pages, so you can print it double-sided!)

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I’ve only been doing it for a week, but so far, I’ve noticed that I remember how many calories are in my food far better when I’m forced to calculate and write it down myself every single day. You really think about your choices when you know you have to add that candy onto your day’s calorie total. The menu planner also forces me to sit down at the beginning of the week and plan out meals. While I haven’t stuck to it perfectly, it really does make grocery shopping and cooking much easier to plan for.

And just in case you need some ideas when you sit down to plan, here are 50 Healthy Dinner recipes you can try, or follow us on Pinterest for new healthy recipes all the time.

And follow me on Instagram, where I share inspiration and my healthy journey, mostly through food.

Here’s a taste of the day in the life: bright green Pea Pesto Pasta, Raspberry Sorbet (a go-to dessert at just 120 calories a serving), and Pineapple-Lime Salsa Chicken Tostadas with Corn Guacamole for just 380 calories. (The chicken is of my own invention. I just put 2 chicken breasts into a crockpot with a small can of chopped up pineapple tidbits, a quarter jar of salsa, and the juice of a lime and cooked it on low for 8 hours. Then I shredded it for delicious, sweet and savory tacos.)

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Join me there in making cooking and health more fun, one image at a time!

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Bond Missions

My Healthy Journey: Your Missions, Should You Choose to Accept It…

We’re diving back into Rally this week, and I’m picking my missions. But first, an overview of some of the things that you can do once you’ve registered on Rally.

Once you’ve taken your health assessment and are in Rally, there are four major categories to explore.

The first is missions. Missions are little challenges meant to help you make healthier life choices. There are really amazing options on here, and they’re still making more. Based on your assessment, some are recommended for you specifically, and then there’s a whole list of other ones you can explore.

Missions cover a wide range of options. From eating or exercising, to managing your medicines, cutting your tobacco use, getting enough sleep, to having a healthy and fulfilling social and personal life. This is great because it means you don’t have to start too big! It means that maybe you start exercising by stretching or dancing during the week. Or maybe you try going meatless on certain days, or using a smaller plate before you dive into a diet.

The second category is challenges. Challenges are when you compete against other Rally users. They move you along virtual courses and let you unlock achievements and earn coins (we’ll get to those.) Right now, there is a challenge going on called SF Stomp. As you keep track of your steps, you travel a virtual course across San Francisco. Leaders reveal interesting facts on a real-time map. If you’re a competitive person, this is a fun way to get started being active.

The next part is the communities. Communities are a place you can talk to others about causes and treatments for issues and to just get support. There are ones for depression, women’s health, pregnancy, parenting, diabetes, smoking, and many more. It is always comforting to know that others know what you’re going through, even if they can’t actually help. I’ve struggled with depression in the past, and it’s nice to know that if I need someone to talk to, I just have to hop online.

The last category is the fun one, rewards. Every time you log on and work on missions, even when you take your assessment, you can earn coins. Once you have coins, you can use them to enter sweepstakes for real prizes. Right now there are gift cards for Whole Foods and Amazon available, or the UP by Jawbone, which is a wristband that tracks your movement, and sleep with an app, or even an iPod nano to keep you moving while you workout.

So now that you have a good idea of how everything works, I’m going to tell you about what missions were recommended for me. Rally recommended that I focus on fruits or vegetables, avoid processed foods, cook at home more, run 30 minutes, walk three miles a day, work up a sweat three times a week, dance anytime, or bike for 20 minutes a day. These all sound great, but so do a lot of the ones that weren’t recommended for me.

I’m going to pick two to start working through. Because I’m also working on some other things, I’ve decided to start small with one that was recommended for me and one that wasn’t, each lasting for a month. This way I feel set up for success. If I feel really comfortable before that time’s up, I will start adding to them.

The first one I’m going to do is Dance Anytime. Its description: As the saying goes, if you can walk, you can dance! It’s awesome cardio, feels great, and you can do it anytime – try putting on music and moving for 20 minutes after dinner!

I chose this one for a few reasons. First of all, my dance moves could really use some work. I also didn’t want to start with too big of a fitness mission and fail miserably. But right now is also an extremely busy season for the Communications department at Health Alliance, so I also wanted to do something that was going to decrease my stress, not add to it. And I’m sure it will drive my dog crazy, so I will probably get a good dose of laughter in too.

The second mission I’m choosing is Track What You Eat. Its description: Are you aware of everything you are eating? Track it! You can take pictures of meals with your phone, jot down notes in a little book, or use an app. The results might surprise you.

Even though I think I could’ve handled adding more fruits and vegetables to my plate, I chose this one first for a reason. I rarely eat real meals. I usually eat a real lunch. Usually. The rest of the time, I munch. I eat a breakfast bar here, a smoothie there, a thing of candy as a snack, and when I worked at Starbucks I lived on straight coffee and milk. I have been this way for years, and it’s a real problem. I will consciously skip eating dinner if I know it means I can have a cupcake later. Instead of rewarding myself once in a while, I deprive myself so I can have things that are bad for me anytime I want.

This is not a good system! Not only am I hungry a lot of the time, I also probably don’t save myself very many calories in the long run, and I skip healthy foods not because I don’t like them, but because they aren’t as snackable.

So I’m hoping that by keeping track of what I’m eating every day, I will be forced to think about that instinctive bag of chips instead of justifying it later by skipping a meal. And once I see it all written out, I bet I will realize that I’m still eating just as much by skipping meals, but more of it is bad for me. I fully expect to be a little horrified.

I’m also going to try a different method of tracking my meals each week. So while I can test out which method works best for me, maybe that can help you if you start your own food tracking in the future.

So starting tomorrow, I’m keeping track and I’m dancing, and I will be keeping you updated every step of the way. Join me on my healthy journey.