Tag Archives: Douglas

You're Not Alone

Vantage Point: Choosing Hope

The surrounding orchards could not have been more green and vibrant as they readied to grow fruit. The river ran brilliant blue, reflecting a sky filled with puffy, white clouds. The sun shone brightly, arousing hope as only a perfect NCW spring day can. But it took a tragic turn for the worse as I received the call. A dear family member, known for his gentle heart, had tragically committed suicide.      

Suicide is one of the leading causes of death that could be prevented in the United States across groups, including seniors. Locally, rates have steadily risen in Chelan and Douglas counties since 2012, and Okanogan County has one of the highest rates in the state.

Washington state has recently declared that suicide prevention is a statewide public safety issue and is requiring MDs, DOs, APCs, nurses, and rehab staff to complete 6 hours of suicide prevention training as part of their licensure. This will help them gain the tools and knowledge to recognize at-risk patients, communicate with them, and take the appropriate steps for follow-through.

Reaching out to Carolina Venn-Padilla, MSW, LASW, of the Catholic Family and Child Service’s Suicide Prevention Coalition of North Central Washington, I shared my lack of knowledge and understanding.

Carolina was truly sorry to hear of my loss. She said it’s important to promote hope, connection, social support, treatment, and recovery to help with suicide prevention.

The public seems to think that suicide is a response to stressful situations and that suicidal thoughts may lead to death. It is important to combat this view with positive messaging that shows actions people can take to prevent suicide and stories that show prevention works, that recovery is possible, and that programs, services, and help exist.

This does not mean we should minimize the very real stories of struggle. For my family, that beautiful spring day changed our lives and saddened us to depths we may never recover from. I’m not close to having the answers to what we could have done differently, but I have chosen not to dwell on the negative. Instead, I will honor our loved one by calling attention to suicide and encouraging other families struggling to choose hope.

Help is never far away:

Shannon Sims 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 family and riding horses.        

Team Up for Greatness

Vantage Point: To Be A Star

There is a patch of I-5 South, just as you turn the bend, where The Tacoma Dome comes into view, and the sight always makes my heart jump into my throat. Opened in 1983, The Dome has hosted major concerts, professional sports competitions, and events. Most importantly for me, it’s also the place where Washington state high school athletes compete at the championship level.

My boys got to experience the honor of standing up among their peers as a part of a team of excellence on December 7, 2008, when Cashmere won the 1A High School Football State Championship. It’s a memory that I, and most of the town, which filled one whole side of the dome, will never forget.

This accomplishment started with the players, who had been honing their skills since grade school. It also took a school backing them with quality equipment and coaching, a town believing in them, and parents dedicated to supporting their goals. The second-string players, who only got a few seconds on the field that day, were just as important as the starters. In practice, they were the ones who helped the starters sharpen their skills. To say the least, they were all stars that day.

I am fortunate in my professional work to also be part of an amazing team. A team, which I say with great pride, whose Washington Medicare plans just earned 4.5 out of 5 stars from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.*

These Star Ratings measure more than just customer service. They also measure help managing chronic conditions, member complaints, working with providers to help members stay healthy, and members’ overall experience with the plan.

This achievement means a lot. It validates our efforts at Health Alliance and lets us know we are taking good care of our members. But just like a championship football team, we respect this is not an individual endeavor, and we appreciate all of you for sharing access to your resources and welcoming us into your communities. There is no way we could have accomplished this without your support and collaboration. As we share this esteemed recognition with you, please know, we sincerely count you as a member of our team, and we couldn’t have done it without you.

Shannon Sims is a Medicare community liaison for Health Alliance, serving Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Okanogan counties in Washington. She has four sons and two grandsons. During her time off, she performs as part of a rodeo drill team on her horse, Skeeter.

 

*Medicare evaluates plans based on a 5-Star Rating System. Star Ratings are calculated each year and may change from one year to the next.

In Case of Emergency: FAST

Vantage Point: Act FAST

Due to its beauty, 4 distinct seasons, diverse recreation opportunities, and 300-plus days a year of sunshine, North Central Washington is a paradise to many. Living here helps to promote a healthy lifestyle and positive attitude.

For several years, North Central Washington has also been known for the inevitability of summer wildfires. And last year, with the towns of Carlton and Pateros burning, and this year, with the town of Wenatchee on fire, it’s put a whole new meaning on how devastating, scarring, and unpredictable wildfires can be and how important it is to act fast when one occurs. The same can be said for a stroke.

A stroke is an often unrecognized, true emergency, cutting off vital blood flow and oxygen to the brain. Strokes are the second-leading cause of death for people 60 years or older worldwide, the fifth-leading cause of death in the United States, and a leading cause of serious long-term adult disability.

Strokes can happen to anyone, at any time, regardless of race, sex, or age. Risk factors include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, atrial fibrillation, smoking, diabetes, poor circulation, inactivity, obesity, and family history. You can learn more by visiting the National Stroke Association’s Stroke Awareness website, but the best action you can take is to get regular checkups with your primary care doctor, so together you can formulate your own prevention plan.

There are two types of strokes, ischemic and hemorrhagic, and during a stroke, 2 million brain cells die every minute, increasing risk of permanent brain damage and disability. Therefore, recognizing symptoms and acting fast to get medical attention can save a life and limit disabilities. The sooner you call 911, the better chance there is of recovery. So remember, “FAST” stands for:

  • Face, look for an uneven smile.
  • Arms, check to see if one arm is weak or unable to move.
  • Speech, listen for slurred speech or inability to speak.
  • Time, call 911 at the first sign.

Like natural disasters, many times, health concerns such as strokes come with no warning or time to prepare, so it’s important to have adequate health insurance coverage. Our expert and local customer service representatives are always here to help our members understand all their health insurance benefits, especially in the case of an emergency, so they can worry less and focus on what is most important, enjoying the North Central Washington good life.

Shannon Sims is a Medicare community liaison for Health Alliance, serving Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Okanogan counties in Washington. She has four adult sons and two grandsons. During her time off, she performs as part of a rodeo drill team on her horse, Skeeter.

Blind Prespective

Vantage Point: Local Organization Puts Struggles of Blind in Plain Sight

During my outreach travels for Health Alliance Medicare, I’ve been blown away by the beauty of the sun rising over the cornfields of the Columbia Basin and eagles nesting along the Wenatchee River. Recently meeting Jodi Duncan of Samara’s Foundation for the Blind and Visually Impaired, however, inspires me to never take my sight for granted.

Jodi founded Samara’s, named after her daughter who developed juvenile diabetes at age 9 and began losing her vision in her early 20s. Before passing from the disease in 1995, Samara asked her mom, “How come they can’t help people like me?”

In Jodi’s grief, she took that question to heart.

The foundation’s mission is to give people with sight impairments the opportunity to improve their quality of life and further learning through advocacy and technological support. Samara’s work includes providing audio crosswalks, Braille printers, magnifying equipment, teacher training programs, and camp opportunities for all ages. Samara’s outreach within Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Okanogan counties relies on funding from events that Jodi’s small army of volunteers organize and facilitate.

One of the biggest myths about Samara’s foundation is that a person in need has to rent the equipment. All equipment is loaned free of charge, and 100 percent of the money Samara’s raises stays local. Some fundraisers include a quilt raffle or a “Dinner in the Dark,” where participants eat blindfolded.

For information or for ways to support Samara’s, please call 509-470-8080 or visit Samaras.org.

Through my work at Health Alliance Medicare, I regularly get the opportunity to help connect people to valuable community resources. But in meeting Jodi, I could not help but be especially touched as tears still well in her eyes while talking about her daughter. This showed me the foundation named in Samara’s honor is more than just a non-profit—it is the work of a mother’s eternal love.

Senior Centers Visiting

Vantage Point: Senior Centers Offer More Than You Think

In my role at Health Alliance Medicare, I’ve had the pleasure to work with senior centers in Chelan, Grant, Douglas, and Okanogan counties.

The word “center” means a source of influence, action or force. The first senior center started in New York in 1943 to provide education and recreation. Today’s senior center is an oasis, providing familiarity in an ever-changing world for long-time members, while carefully evolving to attract the new energy and ideas of those aging in.

The senior centers I visit are very different. Some are limited on space. Others boast grand dining and dance halls. Some are open select days. Others host a full calendar of events.

Still, they all have people who go above and beyond to make life better—either working as staff or volunteering. It is remarkable how in even the smallest towns, senior center members share meals, dance or play cards. Gathering fills the centers’ walls with a camaraderie that is authentic and intoxicating.

Through senior centers visits, I have met those with cool confidence that only comes from experience. I have felt privileged to shake the hands of veterans from every branch of the military. I met a farmer turned cowboy poet. I enjoyed wonderful lunches with even more flavorful stories. I even met “Elvis” during one event—but was more inspired by the women who helped their friend dance without the use of her walker.

Before my visits, it is fair to say I had an old-fashioned idea of senior centers.

I realize now they are as diverse as the people who frequent them. Senior centers provide a space where everyday moments bring a sense of purpose, fulfillment and harmony. All share a common goal of helping people age gracefully and independently.

I believe they hold our communities’ richest treasures.

The challenge is getting people to overcome perceptions and walk through the door. If you take those first steps, you might find a room full of friends you just hadn’t met yet.