Tag Archives: volunteers

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.      

 

Finding Medicare During the Annual Enrollment Period

Vantage Point: The Season for Informed Choices

It’s October, and folks living in North Central Washington are looking forward to beautiful fall colors and freshly picked apples. For those on Medicare, it’s also the start of the Annual Enrollment Period (AEP), when beneficiaries can shop for their 2016 coverage. It runs October 15 to December 7. But because of confusing plan changes and choices, some dread the AEP rather than looking forward to it.

But there are people who can help make these decisions easier. A trusted resource for Medicare eligibility throughout the year is the Statewide Health Insurance Benefits Advisors (SHIBA) program. The SHIBA program was formed to help consumers understand Medicare and their options for supplementing it. SHIBA counselors keep client information 100% confidential, and their main mission is to help clients see Medicare plan comparisons so that the client can choose using unbiased and accurate information.

At educational presentations in the past, I’d learned a lot from Dick Anderson, a certified SHIBA counselor, and recently had the pleasure of meeting with him one-on-one. Hearing Dick describe some of his stories captured what a valuable service he and other advisors provide. Counseling to help others by these trained volunteers truly comes from the heart.

Dick says there’s no Medicare plan that’s right for everyone, so instead he tries to get his clients to talk about their individual needs. This helps him determine what’s most important to them, so they can make a measured choice that meets their personal needs.

The rewards for this work are illustrated by Dick’s powerful stories of people from all different backgrounds, incomes, and educational levels who have come to him heavy with feelings of helplessness and confusion and after meeting with him, left with their cloud of anxiety lifted.

At Health Alliance, we strive to have quality, sustainable Medicare plans, but we agree with Dick that there’s no perfect plan for every person’s needs. Therefore, we value and respect the work SHIBA volunteers do to help people make informed choices.

For current Health Alliance members, we’re holding special meetings the first week of October in Wenatchee, Moses Lake, and Omak about our 2016 benefits and to answer any questions.

If you want to meet with a SHIBA counselor, you can make an appointment by calling Community Choice at 1-888-452-0731 or Aging and Adult Care at 509-886-0700.

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.

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.

Blind Prespective

Vantage Point: Local Organization Puts Struggles of Blind in Plain Sight

During my outreach travels for Health Alliance Medicare, I’ve been blown away by the beauty of the sun rising over the cornfields of the Columbia Basin and eagles nesting along the Wenatchee River. Recently meeting Jodi Duncan of Samara’s Foundation for the Blind and Visually Impaired, however, inspires me to never take my sight for granted.

Jodi founded Samara’s, named after her daughter who developed juvenile diabetes at age 9 and began losing her vision in her early 20s. Before passing from the disease in 1995, Samara asked her mom, “How come they can’t help people like me?”

In Jodi’s grief, she took that question to heart.

The foundation’s mission is to give people with sight impairments the opportunity to improve their quality of life and further learning through advocacy and technological support. Samara’s work includes providing audio crosswalks, Braille printers, magnifying equipment, teacher training programs, and camp opportunities for all ages. Samara’s outreach within Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Okanogan counties relies on funding from events that Jodi’s small army of volunteers organize and facilitate.

One of the biggest myths about Samara’s foundation is that a person in need has to rent the equipment. All equipment is loaned free of charge, and 100 percent of the money Samara’s raises stays local. Some fundraisers include a quilt raffle or a “Dinner in the Dark,” where participants eat blindfolded.

For information or for ways to support Samara’s, please call 509-470-8080 or visit Samaras.org.

Through my work at Health Alliance Medicare, I regularly get the opportunity to help connect people to valuable community resources. But in meeting Jodi, I could not help but be especially touched as tears still well in her eyes while talking about her daughter. This showed me the foundation named in Samara’s honor is more than just a non-profit—it is the work of a mother’s eternal love.

Senior Centers Visiting

Vantage Point: Senior Centers Offer More Than You Think

In my role at Health Alliance Medicare, I’ve had the pleasure to work with senior centers in Chelan, Grant, Douglas, and Okanogan counties.

The word “center” means a source of influence, action or force. The first senior center started in New York in 1943 to provide education and recreation. Today’s senior center is an oasis, providing familiarity in an ever-changing world for long-time members, while carefully evolving to attract the new energy and ideas of those aging in.

The senior centers I visit are very different. Some are limited on space. Others boast grand dining and dance halls. Some are open select days. Others host a full calendar of events.

Still, they all have people who go above and beyond to make life better—either working as staff or volunteering. It is remarkable how in even the smallest towns, senior center members share meals, dance or play cards. Gathering fills the centers’ walls with a camaraderie that is authentic and intoxicating.

Through senior centers visits, I have met those with cool confidence that only comes from experience. I have felt privileged to shake the hands of veterans from every branch of the military. I met a farmer turned cowboy poet. I enjoyed wonderful lunches with even more flavorful stories. I even met “Elvis” during one event—but was more inspired by the women who helped their friend dance without the use of her walker.

Before my visits, it is fair to say I had an old-fashioned idea of senior centers.

I realize now they are as diverse as the people who frequent them. Senior centers provide a space where everyday moments bring a sense of purpose, fulfillment and harmony. All share a common goal of helping people age gracefully and independently.

I believe they hold our communities’ richest treasures.

The challenge is getting people to overcome perceptions and walk through the door. If you take those first steps, you might find a room full of friends you just hadn’t met yet.