Tag Archives: Seniors

Making Holiday Memories Together

Vantage Point: Making Precious Holiday Memories

Holiday memories can be such a precious thing for so many people. I have fun and fond memories of numerous holiday eves and mornings with my family. When I was growing up, the night before a holiday consisted of sharing the holiday evening at a relative’s house, surrounded by aunts, uncles, cousins, and maybe other family members, if they were able to attend.

When a holiday eve memory conversation starts up, we still to this day like to remind our parents how us 2 older kids (my cousin and myself) were always last to open presents, and how much we objected to that rule.

My holiday memories, however, are an ‘80s throwback when I recall them. I would often wake up before my parents (Hello! What kid didn’t do that!?), and spy on all my presents. I would then run into their room and wake them up, bursting with anticipation because I couldn’t wait to open my presents. This gleeful anticipation then turned into longing as I waited for my dad to put together “The Camera.”

“The Camera” was the typical, large and in charge, RCA camera of the ‘80s. We are talking VHS recording here. It often reminded me of a news camera, complete with the giant, blinding light. It seemed like it would take my dad literally forever to set this up in order to film my holiday morning memories.

My mother would finally call my name, after waiting what seemed like forever, and I had to play it like I had just woken up to a holiday present wonderland. (And like the camera had been placed there, all put together, from Santa himself…) So not only did I get to open presents (Finally!), but I also got this great memory of the most ‘80s camera, which we still laugh about.

Memories are so individualized to us, and not everyone has the same experience. This time of year, it’s important to look out for those who need a helping hand when resources may be tight and food insecurity is high.

There are food programs available in the area for seniors here in the Yakima Valley, such as Meals on Wheels. They have many site locations throughout the Valley. You can help give the gift of great holiday memories.

The holidays make me want to share my memories of holiday fun with family, snow, presents, and a large camera with a bright, white light that could probably land planes in our living room if we tried. I know that it’s a rather odd and really random memory, but it’s my family’s, and I still giggle over it to this day.

Now that I have kids, I hope that their memories are as fun and silly and original as mine, and that they look back on them with fondness. What fun holiday memories have you made or would like to make in the future?

Breck Obermeyer is a community liaison with Health Alliance Northwest, serving Yakima County. She is a homegrown girl from Naches and has a great husband who can fix anything and 2 kids who are her world. When not attending community events or providing Medicare education throughout the Valley, she can be found indulging in her hobbies of homesteading, pioneer cooking, and learning new survival techniques. She also has a strong love for all things Halloween.

A Healthy A1C Level

Long View: What Does A1C Mean to Me?

Our community liaison team has never met a health fair or expo they didn’t love! Health fairs and expos are great places to learn about the abundance of services available in our communities to support seniors and their families.

With brightly colored, free shopping bags in hand, visitors gather pens, lip balms, and hand sanitizers, along with informational brochures and contact information for everything from beautiful, new living communities to financial planning. I’ve never seen so many butterscotch hard candies in one place since my grandmother’s candy dish in the 1970s.

Many health fairs and expos offer free checkups for various parts of your body and health. Participants aren’t the only ones taking advantage of a little free TLC. So far this summer, I’ve had the kinks rubbed out of my neck, the skin on my face analyzed for sun damage, and my blood pressure checked.

But one of the most interesting tests I’ve done recently came from my friends at Memorial Hospital in Carthage, IL. They measured my A1C level.

“What is A1C?” I asked, with a donut in one hand and a cup of coffee with cream in the other.

A1C is the measurement of the average blood sugar levels for the past 3 months, they told me. “Oh no,” I said. “I can’t get that done today. I’m eating a donut!”

The kind nurses assured me to sit down and relax. No fasting is required. In the blink of an eye, my finger was (painlessly) pricked, and a small amount of my blood slipped into a tiny little tube. The tube took a 5-minute spin in the centrifuge, and bingo, my A1C for the past 3 months is…. I’ll keep you in suspense until the end.

The National Diabetes Education Initiative recommends that diabetics have the A1C measurement taken at least twice a year. Everyone else should measure A1C once every 3 years. The nurses from Carthage recommended that most people should have measurements below 5.7%, since measurements between 5.7 and 6.4% indicate a greater risk for becoming diabetic.

The daily measurement of glucose levels is very important for diabetics who need to keep their levels within healthy ranges. Knowing your 2- to 3-month average can help you determine your overall glucose health, which in turn can help you make healthy choices throughout each day, like about sleeping, playing, working, eating, and more.

And if you don’t have diabetes, knowing if you have a higher than average A1C level can be a valuable piece of information to help you make healthy changes to curb your chances of getting diabetes at some point in your life.

Those who are already diabetic should strive to lower their A1C to at least 7% when possible. This could be a struggle for those who suffer from the disease, but the research points toward a much lower risk of developing diabetic complications like eye, heart, and kidney disease the closer you can get to 7%.

To tell you the truth, waiting for my blood to spin around for those 5 minutes in the centrifuge had me sweating a little. This could be the year my chickens come home to roost. I’ll be having one of those special birthdays next year where everyone wears black. I’m not exactly the healthiest eater. Leggings and stretchy-fabric pants have become my best friends.

This A1C measurement was an important wake-up call for me. The good news is that I measured well below 5.7%.

While I could have spiked the football, declared myself invincible, and grabbed a second donut, I didn’t. I decided to really pay attention to this information and be grateful for my health today, maybe take an extra walk around the block every week. Next year, I’m setting my sights on something in the high 4s.

Pass the kale.

Lora Felger is a community and broker liaison at Health Alliance. She is the mother of 2 terrific boys, a world traveler, and a major Iowa State Cyclones fan.

Safe Bathroom Play

National Bath Safety Month

January is National Bath Safety Month. Bath safety for kids and seniors is key.

Never leave children under 4 years old alone in the tub. Accidents can happen in an instant.

Protecting Little Ones at Bath Time

 

Always wait until the tub is finished filling before putting your child in because the temperature can change as it fills.

Safe Bath Temps

 

Beware of sharp edges, especially with kids. Use a rubber cover for the faucet and avoid hard bath toys.

Bathrooms are one of the places seniors suffer the worst falls. Prevent them with no-slip strips or mats in the bottom of your shower.

No Slipping in the Shower

 

Install safety handles in the tub or shower and by the toilet to make getting up and down easier.

Simple Bath Safety Hacks

 

Keep a no-slip rug or bathmat beside the bathtub or shower to avoid falls.

Preventing Slips

 

Vision issues increase your fall risk, so make sure you have bright lighting that’s easy to reach.

Bright, Safe Bathrooms

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Fight Caregiver Fatigue

Long View: Nobody Is an Island – Recognizing and Addressing Caregiver Fatigue

The holidays are supposed to be a time for family gatherings, parties, traveling, and opportunities to laugh and relax with the ones you love. For some, though, the holidays have different associations, like stress, anxiety, and isolation.

Caregivers can often feel stressed during the holiday season. While others are enjoying this time of year, caregivers may feel isolated as they focus on the care of a loved one. Caregivers selflessly provide around-the-clock, unpaid care to seniors and people with disabilities. They are tasked with accompanying their loved one to medical appointments, managing their medications, and handling their financial affairs, all while balancing their own obligations.

Caregivers also often overlook their own mental, emotional, and physical health. As a result, they can feel a sense of isolation, like they’re alone on an island. This feeling is called caregiver fatigue.

Mitchell Forrest, a social worker at Central Illinois Agency on Aging in Peoria, provided insight into caregiver fatigue. “Caregivers who feel a sense of hopelessness, are socially withdrawn, not sleeping, and experiencing illness and weight loss, may be suffering from caregiver fatigue and should seek out supports to help them manage their stress,” he said.

If left untreated, caregiver fatigue can take such a physical and mental toll that they can no longer care for their loved one.

But caregivers can find a network of encouragement through support groups. National organizations, like the Alzheimer’s Association, offer local support groups for caregivers of people with different diagnoses.

Respite services can be another vital resource. For a fee, nursing homes and adult day services offer a safe, supportive environment where the loved one will be in trusted hands for a few hours or longer, so the caregiver can rest. In-home personal aides can also provide additional assistance to the caregiver.

While no resource is a remedy for the anxiety of caring for a sick loved one, caregivers should know that they are not alone. Talking to someone is invaluable, and there are many counselors who specialize in the needs of caregivers.

Area Agencies on Aging offer resources and referrals to support seniors, people with disabilities, and their caregivers. If you feel alone on the island, send a signal and help will find you.

Chris Maxeiner is a community liaison with Health Alliance. His background is in the fields of healthcare and government programs. His favorite superhero is Batman, and he is an avid Chicago sports fan (Bears, Bulls, Blackhawks, and White Sox).

Legal Advice: The Right Time for a Professional

Long View: Leaving Some Things to the Professionals

I have to admit the health insurance business is complicated and often difficult to understand. So many regulations are involved, and then there are the exceptions, annual plan changes, and the wide variety of policies that are available.

We help our Health Alliance members navigate the wonderful world of health insurance every day. Another arena that seems especially complicated to me is the law.

In central Illinois, there are resources for people who need legal advice for civil cases (not criminal), which are provided at no cost to those who qualify. One of these is called Prairie State Legal Services. Its mission is “to ensure equal access to justice and fair treatment under the law by providing legal advice and representation, advocacy, education, and outreach that serve to protect basic human needs and enforce or uphold rights.”

Adrian Barr is the Managing Attorney for Prairie State. He told me, “The legal system is a very difficult place to navigate for people who do not have attorneys. It is almost as if we in the legal community speak and write in a different language.”

“Having the opportunity to consult with an attorney about one’s legal situation can be an invaluable resource,” he said. “Prairie State will discuss a person’s legal situation with them and provide legal advice. Prairie State will also provide representation for important legal issues, including those that affect a person’s finances, safety, housing, or their health.”

Lora Felger is my co-worker in Iowa. She is very sharp, but knows legal questions are best left to the professionals. Lora suggests Iowans start with their local Area Agency on Aging. Iowa’s 6 regional Area Agencies on Aging partner with Iowa Legal Aid to offer free legal services to eligible seniors with the Legal Assistance Program. This program “serves persons 60 years of age and older by providing legal advice and representation, information and education, and referrals in civil legal matters throughout the state.”

I think I will have to be satisfied with my expertise in the field of health insurance. I feel justified in my decision to let the professionals handle any legal question that might come up. My personal experience also tells me it would be prudent to use a professional electrician whenever the need arises. I accidentally created an arc welder one time, but that’s a subject for another column.

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.

Cooking Together for a Healthy Diet at Any Age

A Healthy Diet as You Age

National Nutrition Month has been going on all March long. And while it would be great for everyone to commit to a healthy diet,  it’s harder for some people to bounce back from bad food choices than it is for others.

For older adults, those sugary and salty snacks can add up to a problem quickly. But you can help certain problems that get worse with age by making smart food decisions when you’re young and even when you’re older.

Eating better can make a huge difference in your overall health. Studies show a healthy diet can reduce the risk of osteoporosis, high blood pressure, heart disease, and certain cancers.

Here are some things for older adults and their caregivers to keep in mind.

1. Choose healthy foods that help you eat a balanced diet, and always drink plenty of water. Foods and drinks with empty calories, like soda and chips, don’t do you any favors nutritionally and don’t help you feel full.

2. Your food choices affect your entire body. Choosing whole grains, fiber, fruits, and vegetables and drinking plenty of water can help you stay regular and keep good digestive health.

3. If you have a specific medical condition, make sure you check with your doctor about foods you should include, like foods high in calcium, or things you should avoid, like those high in salt.

4. Don’t let your teeth or dentures stand in the way of eating meat, fruits, or vegetables. Visit your dentist to check for problems or adjust the fit of your dentures so mealtime is easier.

5. If you feel like food is getting stuck in your throat, you may not have enough spit in your mouth. Drink plenty of liquids when you eat for help swallowing, and talk to your doctor to see if a condition or medicine you’re on could be causing your dry mouth.

6. Make cooking and eating fun. Invite friends for a potluck where you each make and bring one part of the meal. Try cooking a new recipe with a friend or stage a cook-off to see who makes the better dish. Plan a date with your loved one where you cook a meal together. Have dinner at a senior center, community center, or religious organization for an affordable way to meet new people.

Follow us on Facebook and on Pinterest to find healthy recipes.

A Helping Heart

Vantage Point: Have a Helping Heart this Valentine’s Day

“There is no exercise better for the heart than reaching down and lifting people up.”  – John Holmes

Valentine’s Day is a time to celebrate loved ones. But what about seniors in our communities that don’t have a sweetheart? Winter can bring on depression and feelings of isolation, especially if one is living on a small fixed income that, if no other catastrophe happens, barely covers basic needs.

What if during this year’s season of love, we gave the gift of time and attention to someone who has nothing to give back but gratitude? If this call speaks to you, look to the Catholic Family and Child Volunteer Chore Service Programs, run by Amber Bryant in Wenatchee and Tammy Huber in Moses Lake.

The volunteer program, funded by federal grants, the United Way and Serving Wenatchee, is based on volunteer hours. It can be direct services, such as cleaning a senior’s home, shoveling snow, delivering a hot meal, or providing transportation, or indirect services such as clerical work or, like Health Alliance staff did this winter, donating winter coats, blankets, and hand sanitizer.

If you are interested in volunteering, a coordinator will ask the amount of time you can give and ask what kind of tasks you’re comfortable with. Both Amber and Tammy have many creative ways they can utilize volunteer hours.  One successful idea is enlisting groups, such as coworkers from an office or members of a club. Many hands make light work and volunteers are more comfortable entering someone’s home in a group setting. Plus, the project helps groups work as a team.

One misconception about the program is that you have to be Catholic to volunteer. This is not true and you don’t even have to share your religion. Beyond finding people to volunteer, coordinating the program presents many challenges including serving the mentally ill, those living in extreme poverty, and those with adult children who reside in the home. I am in awe of Amber and Tammy’s passion, as they both volunteer in addition to coordinating the program.

If you are someone who has time and a helping heart, please contact Amber at 509-662-6761, abryant@ccyakima.org  or Tammy at 509-765-1875, thuber@ccyakima.org . They will find a way to match you to a client or project that can create great joy for all involved.