Tag Archives: people

A Happy Ending from Your Decisions

Vantage Point: Life Is Not Like The Brady Bunch

Growing up watching The Brady Bunch, I loved how when there was a problem, like Jan getting a bad perm, Greg having his first fender bender, or Marcia getting braces, it was always resolved in a happy ending by the end of the episode.

I didn’t think to question how Mr. and Mrs. Brady could afford to raise 6 kids and pay for a maid and the mortgage on a tri-level house. I know now, from raising my own kids, that braces are really expensive, and so is adding teenagers to your car insurance. Real-life decisions don’t always end as positively as a Brandy Bunch episode.

In my work, I counsel people who made a choice that costs them later. For example, if you don’t pick up prescription drug coverage when you first become Medicare eligible and then realize you need to add it later, you’ll get charged a late enrollment penalty. Many times in these cases, members have sadly told me that they didn’t know or that no one had told them. They’ve truly taught me the importance of staying informed.

Recently, I had the chance to meet with Callie Klein from COUNTRY Financial, and we found that we share a mutual desire to learn about each other’s professional services.

We know Medicare can be confusing, so we do our best to help people make sense of their options. Retirement planning can also be confusing, but Callie helped me to understand how choices like life insurance and long-term care can affect your financial future. Callie pointed out that people are living longer, and some people can spend just as many years in retirement as they did on their career. That’s what makes it so important to plan ahead, so your resources match your longevity.

As we enter a new year, I am reminded how fast time goes and how important it is to give some thought to your future now. Set some long-term goals rather than just short-term resolutions.

If you haven’t already and need help, I encourage you to seek out a professional like Callie. She showed a genuine concern for her clients and a desire to guide them toward the decisions that will help them attain their future retirement goals. Professionals like her can help you at least become educated and stay informed.

Most importantly, though, I wish you happiness in 2016, and I hope that, like an episode of The Brady Bunch, your biggest problems are resolved quickly and with a happy ending.

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.

Preventing Drowning

Water Safety

Summer’s in full swing, and it’s important to remember some water safety tips before you hit the pool.

Never leave kids unsupervised around water! Make sure you or a trained lifeguard are watching them at all times.

Supervision in the Pool

 

Knowing CPR could help you save a life! Carle has free CPR and first aid classes.

Protecting Your Family in the Water

 

Many people, especially kids, can be allergic to the chemicals in pools, so always wash off your skin after!

Kids and Pool Chemicals

 

Interested in becoming a lifeguard and helping others with water safety? Check with the YMCA or American Red Cross for classes.

Learning to Lifeguard

 

Invest in flotation vests and devices, which are a great way to protect your kids, but are also great for adults when boating or doing water sports.

Adults and Water Safety

 

Check with local pools, the YMCA, or the American Red Cross for swim classes to teach your kids water safety.

Swimming Safety

 

The good news is that technology is hard at work to prevent children from drowning. Learn more about what’s being done.

Save

Safe Food Prep

Preparing Your Food Safely

Safe food prep is key to cooking at home. As we’ve talked about before, storing your food correctly and washing it well are both important parts of safe cooking, but food prep is actually where it’s easiest to accidentally contaminate your meal.

Tip #1

Always wash your hands before and after dealing with food and after each time you touch raw meat (before you touch anything else).

Tip #2

Make sure everything is cleaned correctly and that all bruises or rotten spots have been cut off of your fruits and veggies.

Clean the lids off the top of cans before you open them. You never know how many people or things have touched that can before it touches your food!

Tip #3

The fridge is the best place for slow, safe thawing, especially if you thaw out meat unattended while you’re at work or busy during the day. Make sure that thawing meat juices don’t drip on other foods. You can refreeze meat you’ve thawed in the fridge if needed.

You can also put meat in a sealed Ziploc bag and submerge it in cold tap water for faster thawing. You need to change this water every 30 minutes and cook as soon as you’re done thawing it.

If you thaw meat and poultry in the microwave, always cook it right after that.

Don’t just set food out on the counter to thaw!

Tip #4

Don’t cross-contaminate. This is when it’s easiest to accidentally cause sickness!

Keep raw meat, its juices, and eggs away from other food. Use separate cutting boards and knives for raw meat and veggies.

After cutting raw meat, wash cutting boards, utensils, and countertops  with hot, soapy water or a bleach cleaner (1 tablespoon of bleach per gallon of water).

Tip #5

Marinate meat in a closed dish in the fridge. Don’t reuse marinade that has touched raw meat unless you bring it to a boil first.

Up Next:

Make sure you’re always cooking your food to a safe temperature.

Fight the Common Food Allergy

Food Allergy Awareness Week

It was Food Allergy Awareness Week, so we had more info each day.

Find ways you can help raise awareness!

FARE_Poster_No_Crop
Image via FARE

 

Millions of people suffer from different kinds of allergies, and there are a lot of myths around them. Get informed on the facts:

Allergy Myths Dispelled
Image via Allergy Be Gone

 

This handy app, LifeCafe Healthy Pantry, can also help you find out what allergens are in your food. Search for it in your app store!

Peanuts are one of the most common food allergies for kids, but there are other nut butters you can try!

Nut Butter Alternatives

 

Eggs are another common food allergy, but there are easy substitutions you can try while cooking so you won’t even notice they’re gone:

Egg Substitutions
Image via Swanson Health Blog

 

If you’re allergic, or just avoiding added sugar, these are some of the best sugar alternatives to try.

Sugar Alternatives

 

Still adapting to a new food allergy? Or never found a good alternative? This chart can help you find options when you’re cooking:

This for That Chart
Image via eReplacementParts.com

Save

Fresh Fiddlehead Ferns at Your Farmers Market

Making the Most of a Farmers Market

There are lots of reasons to get out to your local farmers market, but going to a farmers market for the first time is very different than going to the supermarket. We can help make sure it goes smoothly with these tips from a farmers market veteran:

1. Prepare.

  • Illinois has a Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program that gives you a free booklet of checks that you can use at local markets. Check it out on the Illinois Department on Aging’s site for details and participating counties and markets .
  • Many vendors only take cash (and some take SNAP and WIC benefits). Some booths only take small bills, 20s and smaller.
  • Many vendors don’t offer bags, so it’s a good idea to bring a few cloth ones you can use.
  • Most markets don’t allow dogs, so leave them at home.
  • Have an idea of what is in stock at that time of year, so you know what to expect. Use this map to find out what’s in season where you live.

2. Check the info booth first. If your market has an info booth, check there before you start shopping. The people working can let you know if there are any special things going on that day, like cooking demos.

Certain markets, like the new Champaign Farmers’ Market downtown, have special deals for SNAP users, so it’s always good to check with the info booth. At their market, they will double up to $20 of benefits per person while funds last when you bring your Link card to the market booth!

3. Go early or go late. If you go early, you will have first pick of the freshest and largest selection. If you go late, some farmers will offer discounts to clear out their stock before heading home.

4. Take a lap. Unless you know your market really well, don’t just buy the first things you see. By walking a lap through the market first, you can get the lay of the land, compare prices and selection, and taste samples.

5. Talk to the farmers. The farmers can answer questions about how the food was grown and harvested, talk about why their produce is or is not organic, offer recipes, give info about something you’ve never tasted, or recommend their favorites.

6. Be mindful. It’s considered rude to squeeze stone fruits, like peaches, plums, or tomatoes, because it can bruise them. And it’s considered rude to open husks of corn before buying them, which can actually make them less sweet. Also, look for whole produce, meaning veggies like carrots and beets with their green tops still whole. These will stay fresh longer, and you can make things like pesto sauces with the greens.

7. Take a risk. Sometimes you find things that are new, different, or even strange at the farmer’s market. This is the perfect opportunity to try something new because the farmers can usually give you advice on how best to use it.

8. Bring a friend or the family. Grocery shopping, unlike the farmers market, can feel like a chore. Take people with you to talk and walk with outside, and the farmer’s market instantly becomes a more fun activity. And you can always save money and split certain produce.

9. Keep it simple. When you’re cooking your food at home, go for simple recipes. Because you bought such fresh produce, you should let it shine. Put fresh wild strawberries over a salad or in a breakfast parfait instead of baking them into a cake. If you’re worried you won’t be able to use all of something you bought you can always freeze it and use the rest later. Use this guide from the FDA to make sure you’re storing and washing produce correctly.

10. Find the right market. Many areas have more than one farmers market within driving distance. If you can, test them all. Large farmer’s markets have a lot of energy, selection, and sometimes even dining options, but smaller markets often have good deals. Find the one that works best for you.

Find farmer’s markets near you. Learn more about which ones take SNAP and WIC, or check out this list of all the farmer’s markets that take Illinois Link Benefits.

Up Next:

Do you really understand what you’re getting when you buy organic? We break it down in Organic 101.

And make sure you’re cleaning your fresh fruits and veggies the right way to keep your family safe.

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!

Save

The Holiday Season

Long View: Did You Thrive or Survive this Holiday Season?

Here at Health Alliance, we’ve made it through another holiday season. Most years I’m stressed from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day. Add in Medicare and Individual enrollment seasons, and it’s easy to wish the holidays away. Here are some ways I managed to thrive, not just survive, during the holidays.

I need to say no sometimes.

I didn’t attend every activity I was invited to, and I am a better person for it. Most years, I cause a lot of my own stress by trying to fit too many things on the calendar. Setting aside some time to relax and reflect became an important part of this round of celebrations. Try it. You might enjoy the things you agreed to do a little more.

I need to get over myself.

I don’t have to be involved in every decision. All the adults in my life are capable of selecting a turkey or picking up family from the airport. My involvement is not only unnecessary, but sometimes unwelcome. That realization took stress off me and my family!

I will not whine.

The grocery stores seemed to be crowded every time I needed to shop. Long lines, people rushing around, tempting candy displays—you know the scene. Every time I was close to whining, I remembered almost 20 percent of the population in Champaign County doesn’t know where their next meal is coming from. We can all stand in line without complaining. This gave me a much better attitude throughout the holidays.

I will not mention how cold it is outside.

I need to hunker down and stop focusing on the weather. We live in Illinois, not Hawaii. The weather is no surprise. I’m trying to focus on the warmth of the holidays, not the cold outside.

These little steps helped me have a more enjoyable holiday season. We’re also using them to get through our Health Alliance busy season with great results. Give them a try and you can thrive during the holidays, too.