Tag Archives: services

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 Travel Each Step of the Way

Safe Travel

Summer travel season is upon us, and preparing for safe travel is important, especially if you have an illness.

First, learn about your destination to check for any local health notices or immunizations you might need first.

Safety Wherever You Go

 

Think about your health before you book. From illness and surgery recovery to pregnancy, check if you’re safe to fly.

Fly Smart

 

See a doctor before you take off to make sure you’re up-to-date on key shots or healthy enough for planned activities.

Vaccines for Travel

 

Pack carefully to protect yourself, especially if you need medicines or care while you’re traveling.

Pack for Your Health

 

Be prepared for the signs and what to do if you know you’re at higher risk of health issues while traveling.

Healthy and Prepared on Vacation

 

Make sure your family or friends (and government entities depending on where you’re traveling) know your travel plan.

Share Your Travel Plan

 

Know you’re covered with a copayment or coinsurance for ER and urgent care if you get sick while traveling.

And check out Assist America, which helps connect you to services when you get sick while traveling.

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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.        

Your Home Accessibility as You Age

Long View: Making Your Home More Accessible

A beloved family member is aging rather rapidly, not that we’d mention it of course. He already has arthritis in both knees and his left hand. His vision is not as good as it used to be, and we notice his agility just isn’t there anymore.

The problem is that his home has incredibly steep stairs, and the bedrooms and bathrooms are on the second floor. The furnace is in the cellar, which is only accessible through heavy metal doors and down another steep flight of stairs. And of course, the front door has stairs, too. The bathroom needs a lot of work. There’s no shower, just a huge slippery clawfoot tub. Home modification would be great, but a hundred-year-old house will always have its challenges.

These days, some builders are making structures with Universal Design, which focuses on providing maximum accessibility, regardless of a person’s ability to maneuver. Wider doorways, flat thresholds, and grab bars are a few of the tools that can make a home or commercial building more convenient for all of us.

My friend Therese Cardosi is the executive director of the Options Center for Independent Living in Bourbonnais. The mission of these centers (there’s also a location in Watseka) is to provide services, support, and advocacy to enhance the rights and abilities of people with disabilities in order to help them more actively participate in their communities and live self-determined independent lives.

“We are all in the process of creating the future for ourselves and our children, “ Therese said. “We don’t know what that future will bring, but we can predict that many of us will eventually need accessible places to live. The statistical projections are staggering.”

The National Association of Area Agencies on Aging’s mission is to “build the capacity of our members so they can help older adults and people with disabilities live with dignity and choices in their homes and communities for as long as possible.”

Sadly, their many services can’t make up for a home that doesn’t accommodate someone with limited mobility or sensory loss. For those of you who haven’t figured it out, I am the “beloved family member” mentioned at the beginning.

There seems to be some movement in the right direction, but will it be enough or fast enough to support the statistical crush of the Baby Boomers? Probably not, but at least some folks are starting the conversation, and I want to be a part of it.

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.

The Human Experience and Cancer

Vantage Point: To Know the Road Ahead, Ask Those Coming Back

Sometimes it’s little celebrations, like your first haircut after you’ve lost it all, and sometimes its big, like circling the day of your last chemo treatment on the calendar.

My friend who was diagnosed with cancer always wished for just one more normal day. She never got it, but she taught us all bravery through her journey. Cancer doesn’t play fair. But despite its devastation, it can also reveal the true beauty, valor, and resilience within us.

In Grant County, one organization stands up to support cancer patients by offering encouragement, hope, and support beyond the medical course of treatment. The Columbia Basin Cancer Foundation (CBCF) identifies individual needs, providing help throughout the process of diagnosis, treatment, and recovery. The board consists of local volunteers and courageous staff committed to caring for their clients with a true measure of grace.

Common services include gas cards to help garner access to life-saving care, wigs and head coverings, outdoor chore services, family photographs to inspire hope for recovery, cutting edge educational materials, and dietary information to combat side effects, like loss of appetite, changes in smell, sore mouth, nausea, and fatigue.

According to Angel Kneedler, executive director of the foundation, “It takes a village,” and a profoundly important aspect of the foundation is its human connection. CBCF has the ability to expedite the decision-making process and partner with other local agencies. Such was the case when it helped a recently widowed woman, living in a hospice situation in agricultural housing with little time to spare, get herself and her 6 children to her sister’s house in Colorado so she could pass among family. This helped grant her last simple wish, that her children be taken care of and not institutionalized.

“To know the road ahead, ask those coming back,” is a Chinese proverb that I think illustrates the resolve needed to battle cancer. Health Alliance supports the Columbia Basin Cancer Foundation as it goes above and beyond to help our neighbors in this fight. If you would like to do the same, join us at the Annual Country Sweethearts Dinner, Dance, and Auction on Feb 6. This fun event celebrates milestones achieved, and the money raised goes back to our local Grant and Adam counties. For more information, visit their website or call 509-764-4644.

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.      

 

Learning About Your Health for Health Literacy Month

Health Literacy Month

October is also Health Literacy Month, which helps people find info and services in health situations. Learn more.

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Community organizations help educate and support. Find education and resources.

Computer and Book

 

Are you a doctor or organization? Improve your ability to help with health literacy training.

Working at conference

 

Talk to your doctor to learn about protecting your health through prevention, and know what’s covered.

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Learn more about your disease, behavioral disorder, or treatment.

doctor hands holding white pack and pills

 

Do you understand insurance terms? They play a big role in taking care of your health. We can help.

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Honoring Our Veterans

Long View: Remember Veterans this Independence Day

Independence Day is almost a month away, but I am already looking forward to it because—you guessed it—the food. Barbecued chicken and ribs, potato salad, and deviled eggs, all in the same meal? It’s almost too good to be true. However, the holiday also moves me beyond just my stomach.

To mark the day, I hang the American flag on the front porch if it’s not raining. This simple act always reminds me of the many service members who have helped defend our nation. Being in the military must be a very challenging experience, so I am thankful there are resources available to military personnel after they serve. One such resource is the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

Local veteran service officers can help veterans navigate the many useful programs offered in their area. The resources they offer include help finding employment, starting or continuing an education ,or launching a small business. The U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs also helps people who are transitioning from active duty to civilian life, which can be a complicated process.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website features an easy-to-navigate section on health topics. Some are of general interest (like cataracts), while others are topics of specific interest to service members (like readjustment counseling). One of the department’s more pressing challenges is to provide support for homeless veterans or recently discharged service members. The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans estimates that about 12% of homeless people at any given time in the U.S. are veterans.

One local group that’s fighting homelessness is C-U at Home. Executive Director Melany Jackson and her dedicated volunteers support our most vulnerable homeless citizens. Their annual fundraiser, One Winter Night, encourages public service figures, community leaders, business leaders, academic leaders, and other community members to spend the night outside in a cardboard box.

“The percentage of homeless veterans has not diminished in recent years,” Melany told me. “They typically face complex situations that need to be addressed. We strive to match them with the many services available in our area. The public awareness and donations generated by our event helps us fund this very important work.”

I know many of you have served in the military or have friends and family who have served. Health Alliance Medicare thanks all those who have protected this country and allow us to continue celebrating Independence Day. This year I plan on being more about the flag and less about the food.