Tag Archives: Health Alliance

Protectiion From Traumatic Brain Injuries

Long View: Play It Safe to Help Avoid Traumatic Brain Injuries

Many years ago, I really looked forward to our high school homecoming. Looking back, we were involved in a number of hazardous activities, but at the time, they were the norm.

We pressed in around an enormous bonfire with little or no supervision. We rode on the back deck of a convertible, and sometimes the driver would tap on the gas just to give us a thrill. We consumed enormous quantities of high-fat, high-sodium foods – no wait, we did that all year. And to top it off, most of these activities were at school, which could have been full of asbestos. Our hard-charging football team was known for its defensive rushing, and the crack of the helmets could be heard above the roar of the crowd.

Traumatic brain injuries can be caused by injuries from all kinds of sports, especially the high-impact ones, like soccer, boxing, football, baseball, lacrosse, skateboarding, and hockey, particularly in youth.

Cognitive symptoms can include:

  • Memory or concentration problems
  • Mood changes or mood swings
  • Feeling depressed or anxious

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

“The long-term impact of all types of traumatic brain injuries is an area that is receiving a lot more attention and research,” Dr. Jim Burke, a senior medical director at Health Alliance, told me. “The key focus now should be on prevention and treatment options for current patients with this diagnosis.”

Bob Slesinski works in Purchasing at Carle Foundation Hospital. One of his passions for the last 20 years has been coaching high school basketball teams.

“Attitudes have changed since we were playing basketball in high school,” he said. “With prevailing research, we are much more attuned to the symptoms of traumatic brain injuries, and it seems proceeding with caution will be the best course.”

“Carle Foundation offers a seminar for area coaches that helps us be more aware of methods to avoid traumatic brain injuries and gives us useful tips on what to do when we suspect there has been a concussion during a game or practice.”

As usual, the more you learn, the more you know. It was once common not to wear seatbelts, too. It’s hard to believe that was the norm at one time.

 

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.]

Pre-Planning for the End of Life's Stroll

Vantage Point: Pre-Planning Is Key Part of Life’s Stroll

There is nothing like a summer evening stroll—the sounds of people reminiscing on front porches, American flags flapping in the warm breeze, birds chirping, and children’s laughter. Smells of barbecue and freshly mown lawns tickle the nose as eyes feast on the sights of gardens overflowing with flowers and kids riding bikes as their wet swim trunks leave a trail of water from the city pool.

I think back to summers past and family celebrations. These are the nights I want to remember when the days turn shorter, darker, and colder. Walking past the town cemetery, I think about a recent visitor in our Health Alliance office. A distraught spouse tearfully informed us of an unexpected passing. She seemed so lost, not knowing what to do next, and looking over the tidy headstones, I decided I don’t want that experience for my loved ones.

Reaching out to Beth Pent, continuing family care and pre-need counselor at Jones & Jones-Betts Funeral Home, I learned funeral planning can be a lot like wedding planning. There are seemingly unlimited choices to reflect your expressed wishes and unique style, and planning ahead provides peace of mind. Everyone will need to have final arrangements someday, and if you don’t take care of it, the burden of planning and funding it will fall to the grieving next of kin.

Even if you choose not to have a service, there is still a long checklist of responsibilities and state- and county-required documents survivors must take care of, in addition to the transportation and handling of the body. Some choices require authorization, so pre-planning can record everything you think the executor of your estate will need to know to carry out your wishes.

Consulting with a trusted resource, like Beth, not only helps you determine your pre-made decisions, such as final resting place, but it also helps relieve family members from having to guess and possibly argue over what you would have wanted. Pre-planning encourages you to consider your loved ones and is a way you can help them through their grief.

Funerals can be a celebration of life, and I want mine to serve as my last gesture of love by taking care of everything I can ahead of time. I want it to feel like a midsummer-evening stroll that evokes a sense of family, friends, and community.

 

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.

Health Checklist for Summer's End

Summer Health Checklist

Your kids probably just kicked off summer vacation, but between the trips to the pool, family vacations, and summer sporting events, there are a few things you should add to your to-do list to get your kids ready for next school year. This back-to-school health checklist can help!

Shots

Many schools won’t allow any students to come to school without their immunization record. Immunizations, or shots, help expose your kids to a tiny dose of a disease so that their bodies will already know how to fight off a bigger dose if they come in contact with it again.

These shots protect them from all kinds of diseases, from measles to cervical cancer. And they’re safe!

Kids get different shots at different times, so these handy charts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) can help you figure out what they need this year:

Health Alliance covers most immunizations, including flu shots. 

Vision

As many as one in 20 kids can’t see out of one of their eyes. But if they’ve been living without vision in that eye all along, they might not even know something is off.

Expressing that they have trouble seeing can also be difficult for young children, and it can be just as hard for parents to realize their kids are having trouble seeing.

Seeing well is key to learning to read and write and doing well in school. So there’s no better time than back-to-school season to get your kids a vision checkup to see if they need glasses or an updated prescription.

Talk to the School

One of the most important parts of this time of year is talking to your kids’ school. Making sure the school has up-to-date information could save your child’s life.

  • Is the emergency contact information correct for your family? Can the school reach you or your family if something happens?
  • Does the school have a full list of all the medications your child takes? Even if he or she doesn’t take them at school, it is important the school knows what your child is on in case of an emergency.
  • Does the school know of all the health problems it might have to deal with? For example, does the school know what your child is allergic to, like peanuts or bee stings?
  • Does your child have any physical restriction, like asthma or a heart condition? Are there sorts of activities he or she should avoid?

Little Things That Make a Big Difference

Before school starts again, there are also some little things you can help your kids do to feel good and succeed in school.

  • Pick a backpack that is safe for them. Backpacks should never weigh more than 10 to 20 percent of your child’s weight.
  • Help them get enough sleep. A sleep schedule can help your kids get into a routine and stay alert all day long. Growing kids need at least 8 hours a night, and teens need even more.
  • Make sure they have a healthy breakfast for all-day energy.
  • Help them know their healthy options. Vending machines are always tempting. But you can help them know what choices are healthy and will keep them going all day and how to limit things like chips and candy.
  • Encourage exercise. Whether it’s P.E., playing a sport, or riding their bike to school, just one hour of activity a day can help kids feel less stressed, stay healthy, sleep better, build their self-esteem, and grow healthy muscles, bones, and joints.

Talk to your kids’ pediatrician if you have more questions about their health this summer.

Annual checkups with your doctor are perfect at this time of year. Kids can get their shots, a routine checkup, and a sports physical all at once if they need it!

Zucchini from the Garden

Long View: You Don’t Have to Be an Expert Gardener for Homegrown Taste

A few years ago, I moved into a house that could support a backyard vegetable garden. I decided to give it a shot. After all, I had watched many how-to shows on PBS for resource material, and all four of my grandparents were farmers. I cleared out a sizable space and then went to buy the plants.

Most of you know that eight zucchini plants are more than enough for a small town, not to mention a backyard plot. I over-bought cherry tomato plants, too. They got away from me early in the game.

The bugs were another challenge. I guess I never noticed them before, but they sure noticed my tender, young plants and considered them a fresh buffet planted just for them. I voiced my frustration to my neighbor, and she said, “Why don’t you just go to Urbana’s Market at the Square? It’s right next to your Health Alliance home office. How could you not know about it?”

Urbana’s farmers market began in 1979 and has grown considerably since its inception. Thousands of visitors attend it every Saturday morning from early May until early November. Fresh produce is just one of the attractions. Per its website, it also features a variety of other products—from “meat and dairy products, prepared foods, plants, and flowers to jewelry, pottery, wood workings, candles, body care products, garden décor, clothing, and more!” Whew.

I especially like being able to talk to the producers face to face. Almost all of them are quick with a story or a smile, and they remember their regulars. One producer puts back a box of new potatoes if I get to the market a little later than usual. She doesn’t make a big deal about it, and neither do I.

There are always some nice opportunities for socializing. I see lots of people I know, and my visit always takes longer than I expected. Folks just seem to be in a good mood, so why not enjoy it?

You may have a similar resource in your community. You can search on the Illinois Department of Agriculture website. People new to our community and many mature family members make good shopping companions. I think I have found a great way to support our local economy and purchase products that were grown or created in our area. The produce is spectacular. Funny thing though, in all these years, I can’t remember buying a single zucchini.

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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.