Tag Archives: community

Up-Serving Together

Vantage Point: Up-Serving is a Win-Win

Most people have heard of up-selling, but what about up-serving? Up-serving is doing more for people than they expect. As the community liaison for Health Alliance Medicare, I have been fortunate to work with many people who continually go above and beyond to improve our communities.

I am nearing my one-year anniversary at Health Alliance Medicare and have been thinking of all the amazing things we’ve accomplished together. I’m so thankful for the chance to work together and enhance the lives of North Central Washington seniors, be it holding a health fair, promoting education, providing resources, or volunteering.

The fun social activities inspire me, like being invited to two-step and waltz at the Okanogan Senior Center dance or attending Friday’s senior coffee and chat at the Wellness Place. How nice to have no agenda except to gather and enjoy each other’s company! There I met Lois, who showed me the scars she still has from floating down the Wenatchee River on an inner tube, and 92-year-old Don, who randomly breaks out in song.

I have met and worked with so many wonderful people, including one of our members who oversees the Cashmere museum. When he saw what the combined spirit of a community could accomplish, he could not help but volunteer.

Recently Les Schwab had a “Do the Right Thing” contest, and I nominated a local dentist. When he heard one of our members needed dental care but couldn’t afford it, he graciously volunteered his services. Upon winning the monetary award, the dentist then paid it forward to community causes he supports.

At Health Alliance Medicare we strive to up-serve by going above and beyond for our members.

Our homey Fifth Street office in Wenatchee is purposeful in its role to provide truly local customer service, but also personal as our members can come in to get face-to-face help. Per one of our members, “It is just reassuring to know it is there.”

I want to personally say thank you for allowing me to partner in the ideas, energies, and resources to improve the communities we serve. I am excited to see what our continued collaboration can accomplish. When we up-serve, we all win.

Wowed By Washington

Wowed by Washington: The Wild and the Wilderness

Emily Beach, a Health Alliance employee in the Communications Department, visited Washington to learn more about the members we serve and what it’s like to live in North Central Washington. Read about the first part of her trip.

My next day in Washington was as busy as the day before. After grabbing a quick breakfast at the hotel, Ericka and I headed to the Town Toyota Center for a tour and a meeting with some folks with the Wenatchee Wild. We can’t say too much now, but keep your eyes and ears open come hockey season!

Next we visited the Wenatchee Senior Center. I got to watch a S.A.I.L. (Stay Active and Independent for Life) class in action and had just started to immerse myself in the bustling thrift store when I was reminded of our next appointment. My wallet thanks our tight schedule.

The next stop was in Leavenworth, with a drive through Cashmere. Shannon made sure to take me along the charming Cashmere main street and past the Aplets & Cotlets factory. In Leavenworth, we visited the beautifully updated Cascade Medical Center. It almost looked like a cabin with the gorgeous mountain view and natural light. I wish all waiting rooms looked like that one!

Leavenworth

 

We stopped for a delicious lunch at Fresh Burger Café, just down the street. We ate outside to enjoy the sunshine and killer view. Being from the Illinois flatlands, I could just stare at the mountains all day. But that would mean I would have missed exploring Leavenworth. The town is filled to the brim with quaint shops, flower boxes, and wooden signs that bring to mind Bavarian Germany.

Fresh Cafe

The most exciting moment for me? The pretzels! I am from Freeport, Illinois, and our high school mascot is the Pretzels. I have pretty intense Pretzel Pride.

Pretzel Case

Pretzel Shop

Pretzel Decoration

 

Shannon also took me a little way into the Cascades outside Leavenworth. This looked more like the Washington I knew from Olympic National Park. I wish we had time for a full hiking adventure, but I was grateful to be able to snap this roadside photo along the Tumwater Canyon. Views like this inspire me!

Tumwater

 

Sound like a full day? You only know the half of it!

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Fighting Hunger Through Food

Long View: Solving Hunger One Bite at a Time

It seems I might be a little fixated on food. A number of friends and family members seem to think I live mealtime to mealtime, which may explain my recent weight gain. As many of us enjoy Central Illinois’ bounty, it’s important to remember many of our neighbors are not so lucky.

In Illinois, we are fortunate to have access to food banks across the state. Julie Melton is the director of Marketing and Development at the Eastern Illinois Foodbank (EIF). They distribute millions of pounds of food to over 100,000 individuals across their network of more than 220 sites. She told me, “Based on our Hunger in America Study, a full third of the seniors in the Eastern Illinois Foodbank’s service area experience food insecurity rates of 15 percent to 41 percent. In some areas, more than 42 percent of seniors are food insecure, which is among the highest rates of senior hunger in Illinois.”

You can help fight food insecurity, which means someone doesn’t have reliable access to nutritious, affordable food.

“Every $1 donation can buy $10 worth of food or provide 6 meals for neighbors in our community,” Melton said.

Jim Hires, executive director at the EIF, said, “Older American food insecurity is a growing problem. Addressing senior hunger has become an increasingly major concern and focus across the nation, and especially in our 14-county region. The Eastern Illinois Foodbank and our agency partners are committing more of our resources to this issue in the coming months and long term.”

Donating and volunteering at your local food pantry or soup kitchen are better ways to give. Your nearest food bank will be thankful for any support you offer. Search for one nearby at FeedingIllinois.org.

Solving hunger won’t happen overnight. But we can all help one small bite at a time. There are people in all of our communities who don’t have enough to eat. After seeing these statistics, I am more thankful for my food. I bet you will be, too.

Washington Beauty

Wowed by Washington: Illinois Native Trades Cornfields for Orchards

Emily Beach, a Health Alliance employee in the Communications Department, visited Washington to learn more about the members we serve and what it’s like to live in North Central Washington.

I was overjoyed at the chance to visit North Central Washington and learn more about the area and the Health Alliance Medicare members we serve.

I had been to the Olympic Peninsula, but knew the other side of the mountain held experiences untapped. My 3-day tour featured a first-time health fair, tours of everything from hockey rinks to senior centers, and a run along the Columbia River.

It was important for me to visit Washington because I knew the population was as diverse as the geography. Health care and coverage isn’t one-size-fits-all, and it’s so important for us to know our members. My goal wasn’t just to see the beautiful sights, but to see what is important to the people living in North Central Washington.

And my goal now that I’m back in Illinois is to translate those hopes, joys and lessons into our communications with Health Alliance Medicare members to support our employees who live and work there, too.

My first day in Washington was cut short. Travel woes struck me and my travel partner, Ericka Williams, who leads the Health Alliance Medicare sales team. A couple flight delays and a missed connection put us in Wenatchee after midnight. The next morning, with the help of some coffee, we headed to the Wenatchee YMCA for the first local National Senior Health & Fitness Day event.

We were both thrilled with how well the Health Alliance Medicare event came together. More than 100 visitors tried new fitness classes, got a health screening and talked with a variety of vendors. Shannon Sims, our community liaison, worked so hard to make the event a success. And we couldn’t have done it without the help of the Wenatchee YMCA.

SS Class

Event participants enjoy a SilverSneakers class at the Wenatchee YMCA.

Emily and Shannon

Shannon and I representing Health Alliance Medicare at the first local National Senior Health and Fitness Day.

HA Booth

 

After the event, we walked to McGlinn’s for lunch. I tried the famous beer bread and enjoyed a white garlic pizza. The pub was inviting and fun, and the food delicious! We were also excited to hear our waitress was a Health Alliance Medicare member. I love hearing what our members have to say about how much they like their plans from us. I’m glad she spoke up on seeing our Health Alliance shirts and badges!

McGlinn's

 

Shannon was the “hostess with the mostess” for the whole trip.

Her passion for the community is truly infectious. She inspired me to kick my jet lag after lunch and head over to Quincy. I loved seeing the orchards along the way. Shannon explained how to tell the difference between cherry and apple orchards and pointed out the signs labeling the different types of apples. I was also surprised at how quickly the landscape changed from the desert cliffs in Wenatchee to the fields of Grant County.

And there were tumbleweeds! My previous trip did not prepare me for that.

After our drive through Grant County, Shannon got me back to Wenatchee, where Ericka and I grabbed some grub at Pybus Public Market. Public markets are not common in Illinois, and I loved the fresh air and atmosphere. I truly think spaces like that bring communities together. We ate at South, where I enjoyed a shrimp burrito with a kick!

Pybus

I loved visiting Pybus Public Market. The open space with local roots is perfect for building community.

Though fatigue was definitely knocking, I knew I had to squeeze in a run on the Loop Trail along the Columbia River. I didn’t brave the full 13 miles, but I enjoyed a nice three-mile jog and sunset on the river. What a beautiful place!

Columbia

How could I not enjoy a run with a view like this?!

This was just day one! Check back early next week for more stories from my trip!

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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.

Moving Day

Long View: Tough Talks Now Can Save Hurt Feelings Later

Did you ever notice how much stuff you have packed in your house? It seems to have a life of its own! There was a point where I thought, “If I bring one more thing home, something will pop out of an upstairs window.” The thought of moving with all these treasures in tow is daunting. Imagine if you had to do so without notice or against your wishes. That would be a nightmare.

Sadly, some of our older friends and family members find themselves in that situation. They need to transition suddenly from independent living to a group or assisted-living facility, whether the move is short-term or permanent.

It seems talking about this tough situation ahead of time could save a lot of pain later.

There are some early signs that it is time to talk about moving options. Trouble getting dressed or not being able to make food are a couple of warnings that a change is in order. Sudden changes in behavior or severe forgetfulness are more alarming, and require fast action to protect your loved one.

Rosanna McLain is the director of the Senior Resource Center at Family Services of Champaign County. She advises, “Get your family member to his or her doctor so the cause of the changes can be determined, and then develop a plan of action. It’s best to talk about their wishes before the need is there.

“It’s tough to bring up sometimes, but our family members should be the drivers of their lives and make their wishes known ahead of time. Remember, you can find caregiver support programs at local senior centers and Area Agencies on Aging. Experienced specialists can help guide you through difficult times like these, so give them a call.”

There you have it. It wouldn’t hurt for all of us to plan for the future. Simplifying our lives and possessions as we go along is probably the best plan. I intend to clean out the junk room this spring. Of course I’ve had the same plan for the last three springs. Wish me luck tackling those treasures.