Tag Archives: Health Alliance

Long View: What is a “Wakey Wake” Anyway?

With May being the month for Mother’s Day, it brings so many memories, and I think enough time has gone by that I can share a little about our experience now.  Along with celebrating those still with us, it reminds us of those who are no longer with us and how we can continue to honor them and their memories.

My mother-in-law passed away on March 24, 2016, and we miss her. She pops up in our day in different ways. Smells, songs, movies, memories, foods. The flood of tears comes now and then, oftentimes when least expected. We think that is her reminding us to find joy in each moment. She was always good at that. She was the spark and light of my husband’s family, my “milly” (mother-in-law), and she was always a happy, funny (and at times, sarcastic) lady. She had beautiful eyes. The kind that smile at you when you look into them. Those are the best kind of eyes.

We miss her dearly. She got sick, and it was cancer. We were lucky, and the initial prognosis of 6 months to live turned into almost 4 years that we got with her.

My husband and I then embarked on the caregiver and advocate journey. Sometimes when things are new, they can feel like a maze, but in fact, if you partner with the right people, there are so many support systems out there to help you.

I am blessed to work for Health Alliance and knew the team to ask to find out what resources were available to her. The community outreach team and care coordination team helped point us in the right direction. Sometimes just having someone to talk with to know where to go is the starting point.

Your doctor’s office, health plan, and social workers can help you find resources when you need them. Health Alliance collaborates with many community resources to help you know where to turn and to share resources, like the United Way 2-1-1 or something similar depending on the area of need.

Now, back to what I was sharing about my mother-in-law. When we learned her time with us was nearing the end and our glimmer of hope for a cure changed to trying to create peace for her final days, we shifted the focus to doing things that kept her smiling as long as we could. We didn’t want to focus on the end being an end but instead focusing on what she wanted and what made her at peace with what was going on.

We started to talk about the food people serve at funerals. She was a foodie, so it was important to make sure the food would be what she wanted. While she was talking about it, she decided all the food sounded too good, so instead of planning a funeral, we decided to plan a “Wakey Wake!”

It was a celebration, sort of a wake while being awake. To us, it was our chance to say goodbye while she was with us instead of after she passed away. It was intimate, special, and exactly what she wanted.  It left us all with a memory of her that was bright and cheery. People shared so many sweet words with her, and it lifted her up. We had it in late January, and she passed away in late March.

We didn’t have a full-fledged plan made in advance, but we moved quickly to make sure things were taken care of in a way that respected her wishes. It’s important to take that step so you can be in the moment when the time comes, and it doesn’t have to be a dreadful thing. Think about it like writing a story and figuring out how you want it to end.

That reminds me of my grandmother, who had a different plan. She was such a spunky, strong woman.  She was a leader in her small town and an advocate of many things. She had her end-of-life arrangements all planned out with every detail outlined in her spiral notebook.

To some of our family, it seemed overwhelming to think about, but I tell you that there were no family fights, no arguments, and nothing to take the focus away from where it needed to be during a time of transition.

She had it all spelled out, all the way down to who was going to say what at the funeral, what songs she wanted played, and who the pallbearers would be. It was a true blessing to have that to reference and to know it was what she wanted. No guesses, no guilt, no asking ourselves if we are doing it right. It very much eased the stress that could come along with someone passing away.

It makes you really think about having that out of the way, already figured out so you can be present in each moment, celebrate each part of life, and choose what makes you happy at each phase.

Every phase is different for different people. If things change with your health and you would rather have a “Wakey Wake” instead of a funeral, then do it. If you would like your ashes to be in a tree urn so you can grow into a tree (that’s what I want), then do it.

I cannot thank a dear family friend enough for something she said to us at just the right time during our grief process.  She taught us that there are no rights, no wrongs, and no sorry in living and dying.

Pause and say that to yourself for a minute. Did you feel that? It takes so much pressure out of the grieving process. It’s OK to make decisions in the best interest of the living and the deceased in that moment. Do you have good intentions? Yes. Does it harm anyone? No. Then it’s OK. It’s also OK to talk about your wishes (and to get it documented somewhere).

Make sure you complete your Planning Ahead booklet from Health Alliance or refer to Five Wishes. You can also get similar copies from your doctor’s office, Health Alliance, your attorney or estate planner, and other community resources. The main point is to make sure you write down what you want to see happen if something happens.

 

Terra Mullins manages the community outreach team at Health Alliance. She is a wife and mother and has two really cute Mal-Shi pups! She loves nature and learning new things.

New Horizons on My Healthy Journey

My Healthy Journey: New Horizons

As many of you might remember, I moved to Washington about 2 years ago. What you don’t know, the reason I haven’t been posting much about my journey in 2018, is that I got a new full-time job in the tech community in Seattle last year. I’ve stayed on at Health Alliance part time, working on social media and the blog until now. But it’s finally time for me to fully say goodbye and look to new horizons.

Health Alliance has been a home for me in a lot of ways over the last 5 years. I’m leaving working with my father, my mentor, and many friends behind. Health Alliance gave me one of my best friends in Washington, professional relationships that have helped me build a career, and an amazing set of experiences. But most importantly, Health Alliance gave me a new outlook on life.

Growing a Career

When I came to Health Alliance, I was in a position that will sound familiar to many millennials. I’d just finished college in a recession with a journalism degree and no job prospects.

My boss had faith in me from the beginning, and he gave me the chance to jump into web content with both feet. I’m lucky to have had the opportunity to work with our amazing members and teams across Health Alliance at every turn.

Now, I’ll be moving forward in technology in Seattle with the skills I need to succeed because of those opportunities and the supportive community of our team and department.

My Healthy Journey

My role at Health Alliance has also been a blessing to my health. In your teens and early twenties, your health frequently isn’t your top priority or concern. Transitioning into my late twenties while working at this company has helped me stay incredibly informed about a variety of health and insurance topics.

Since working for Health Alliance, I have:

New Horizons

I turn 30 in a few months, and I’m happy to say that my professional and personal life are on track because of my healthy journey with Health Alliance.

While the portion of my journey that’s been with this company by my side is coming to a close, none of it would’ve been possible without the last 5 years with them. Thank you to so many wonderful people that work here and to our members. It’s been a pleasure.

So long and thanks for all the fish!

Blaze a Trail as You Age

Vantage Point: Blaze a Trail

An excerpt from North Central Washington Museum’s “The History of a Thriving Anomaly” describes how the local community thought the Wenatchee Valley Clinic, which opened on April Fools’ Day 1940, wouldn’t last 6 months. They couldn’t have been more wrong.

The tiny clinic was founded by a surgeon, Albert Donald Haug, a radiologist, Lloyd Smith, and an internist with a knack for keeping patients happy, Lumir Martin Mares, and it brought together specialists at a time when most doctors worked alone.

Haug and Mares believed that their little clinic could meet the same standards as those in the East, and they brought together a range of specialists and cutting-edge equipment and training to become the second-largest clinic in the region.

“We knew it would grow,” Dr. Smith said, “but none of us had any idea it would grow to what it is now.”

The clinic brought together its doctors then, and it brings together patients and doctors now. Because of their dream, its nearly 170 doctors treat people from around the world today.

In 1963, President John F. Kennedy decided that every May, we would honor older Americans and their contributions to our communities and country. This year’s theme, “Blaze a Trail,” celebrates older adults who are taking charge of their health, engaging in their communities, and positively impacting the lives of others, just like Wenatchee Valley Clinic’s remarkable founders.

Health Alliance will honor older Americans this month by partnering with Confluence Health to hold an educational event about the treatment and prevention of hypertension and strokes on May 25 and by teaming up with community agencies and businesses in planning the 3rd annual senior-focused health fair at Pybus Public Market on June 4.

Health insurance can be challenging, but as I think about those trailblazing doctors, I remember that hard work, progressive thinking, and the camaraderie of partners like you can help turn the dream of making a positive impact through quality care within this wonderful place we all live a reality.

 

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.

National Influenza Vaccination Week

National Influenza Vaccination Week

This week was National Influenza Vaccination Week. The flu shot is the best tool to protect you and your family.

Struggling Through the Flu

 

The flu causes millions of illnesses, hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations, and thousands of deaths every season. Get your shot today!

Avoid Getting Sick with the Shot

 

More than 132.7 million people have already gotten their flu shots. If your kids are over 6 months, protect them now!

Protect Your Kids From the Flu

 

Flu shots are the best way to avoid seasonal doctors’ visits, missed work and school, and to prevent hospitalizations.

Avoid Flu Season Woes

 

The flu can be a serious danger to your health, especially to those under 6 months old, pregnant women, and the elderly. Protect yourself now!

Our blogger overcame her fear of the flu shot. Let her story remind you why you need yours.

As a Health Alliance member, your flu shot is covered, so there’s no reason not to get yours today!

You're Covered, So Feel Better!
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.

Composing for Medicare Annual Enrollment Period

Long View: It’s Annual Enrollment Time

The Medicare Annual Enrollment Period starts on October 15. It’s the time of year when you can make changes to your Medicare Advantage plan. Plans can change premiums, copays, and formularies every year, so it’s important to review your coverage and see if it still suits your needs.

Medicare.gov is a great resource, as is your local senior center. You can also call Health Alliance at 1-888-382-9771 or TTY 711 (8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily from October 1 to February 14 and weekdays the rest of the year) or go to HealthAllianceMedicare.org for insight. Because I know this subject can be a little dry, I turned it into a poem from our vantage point. I hope you enjoy!

The chaos starts in mid-October.
Medicare says, “Think it over.”
The plan choice that you made last year,
It may be time to change and steer.

You stay at home most all the year.
Your children want you safe and near.
You dislike the awful weather.
HMOs might suit you better.

Maybe you’d like a PPO.
The freedom helps the snowbirds go,
To warmer climes away from ice.
So bon voyage! (It must be nice!)

Supplements can come in handy.
If you’re mobile, they are dandy.
Great if you like to get away,
If you are active day by day.

We brace for those who wait ‘til later.
Here’s our next procrastinator,
Frantic, stricken, and full of fear.
(Showing up late year after year.)

My co-workers have lost their voices.
December 7 ends your choices.
(And why’d they pick Pearl Harbor day?
It’s odd, I know, I just can’t say.)

We’re done, all is signed and dated.
You now feel somewhat elated.
No need to worry and have no fear,
We will be back again next year.

 

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.

 

Health Alliance Medicare is an HMO and PPO plan with a Medicare contract. Enrollment in Health Alliance Medicare depends on contract renewal.

Washington Wildfire Season

Vantage Point: Service in Times of Crisis

As I stopped for gas in Cle Elum on my way to Seattle, the store clerk asked me, “How’s the smoke outside?”

“I’m from Wenatchee,” I said.

“So sorry,” she genuinely replied.

The word “sorry,” I have expressed it too many times during this summer’s devastating wildfire season. Everyone at Health Alliance has felt helpless, halfheartedly going about their day-to-day duties, distracted by worry for our friends and neighbors suffering to the north.

One person who’s not feeling helpless is Cindy Marshall, a registered nurse and Health Alliance’s utilization review coordinator. She took the time to become a Red Cross disaster nurse volunteer to help in these kinds of emergencies.

She told me the recent fire crisis has been extremely unique and challenging because the volatile, unpredictable winds keep shifting the fire danger, affecting many towns and causing new evacuation orders.

And it can be hard to help in these conditions. The Greater Inland Northwest Chapter of the American Red Cross has 11 stations spread over a large area right now, and many times they have set up a station, only to have to tear it down to move it to safety when the winds change.

Red Cross stations serve as a hub of activity during an emergency, but Cindy described entering a station to volunteer as anything but chaos. She knows exactly where to check in and which duties are most important. The station lead does a tremendous job of organizing priorities and reporting changes, and the team is experienced in troubleshooting solutions to issues as they arise.

Cindy is perfect for this role, as it’s much the same as what she does for Health Alliance. When one of our members has a healthcare emergency, Cindy is also there for them.

But the thing that makes Cindy truly exceptional, what keeps her volunteering weekends and evenings for the Red Cross and successful in her role at Health Alliance, is her caring and humble heart.

“So many people are doing so much more than me,” she said, crediting the firefighters who are putting their lives on the line and breathing in the heavy smoke.

To our members, community partners, and providers affected, please know that the word isn’t enough. We are more than sorry. We empathize with you through this crisis, and we will be here to support you in recovery.

Cindy expressed it best. “My number one priority is taking care of a person’s immediate safety and health care, but afterwards, sometimes the only thing you can do is hug them and let them cry.”

 

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.