Picture of a person sitting at a kitchen table working at a laptop.

Tips for Working From Home This Summer

Many employers have made it official: Their employees will be working from home this summer. Now that you know the plan for the next couple of months, here are some things to think about.

Take time off

Remember to use paid time off to enjoy time away from work. “You need to do this,” said Melissa Gardner, senior vice president at Excellus BlueCross BlueShield. “I encourage the folks on the team I lead to enjoy a long weekend or take a Wednesday off to break up the week.”

Set up your workspace

Maybe you’ve been making do with a corner of the kitchen table or the couch. With at least a couple of months ahead of you, it may be time to figure out if you have what you really need. Do you have a keyboard and mouse, a large enough monitor, a comfortable chair? Make your set up work for you.

Check out the video below for more tips on setting up an at-home workspace:

Get outside

Take advantage of being at home this summer. Work outside if you can or sit near an open window. Schedule breaks to sit in the sun for 5 minutes to get some Vitamin D.

Take a walk or run

Stretch your legs by walking or jogging around the neighborhood at lunch. Take a walk for meetings where you don’t need to be on screen. “Nobody will know if you are sweaty when you login to a meeting,” said Gardner.

Check out the video below for more tips on being physically active at home:

Assess your workday

Be mindful about taking breaks, stepping away from the computer and getting up to move about during the day. If you find this hard to do, schedule reminders on your phone or write a note by your computer that gets your attention.

Stop working

Set an end to your work day. Being home doesn’t mean you have to be on call 24/7.

Talk about what you need

Talk to your leader, colleagues, or anyone else to share what you are feeling and to find what is working for others. Don’t be afraid to talk about how you are handling your work/life balance.

Find replacements

If there are things you’ve been wishing to do once things open up, find a new way to do them now. “If the first thing you want to do is go out for a nice dinner, find a great restaurant that is offering takeout, set your table, light a candle and make it an experience now,” advises Gardner.

Stop apologizing

Stop worrying about your appearance when you’re on a video conference. Gardner reminds her team members that they are not alone in being unshaven, wearing glasses, not wearing makeup, or being on screen with a messy mop of hair. “Be comfortable with who you are and make no apologies,” she preaches.

Share what’s working for you

Let your colleagues know about your at-home success and failures and listen carefully to theirs.  “We’re all in this together,” said Gardner.

Mother sitting with her two children in front of a computer

Don’t Let Distance Get In The Way of Connecting

You’ve likely heard this before: staying connected is important for our health.  But have you really thought about why and how, especially during this time of physical distancing?

“We are wired for social connection,” said Amy Hernandez Gamboa, BSW, a medical services care management trainer with Excellus BlueCross BlueShield. “Our new way of living has tested our ability to go long periods of time without seeing friends, family, being able to hug, or enjoy physical gatherings,” Amy said.

That lack of social connection can have a negative impact on how we feel both physically and mentally. “Right now we are feeling the barriers that are getting in the way of the benefits,” Amy said.

The Benefits of Social Connection

Science backs up the importance of social connection. In fact, social ties might be the single most important predictor of wellbeing.

Some of the positive impacts of social connection on physical health:

  • Strengthens the immune system;
  • Quicker recovery from disease;
  • Increases longevity;
  • Sharper memory;
  • Can help reduce stress and blood pressure when pregnant

There are mental health benefits of social connection as well:

  • Lower rates of anxiety and depression;
  • Higher self-esteem;
  • Greater sense of empathy;
  • Improved mood;
  • Increased trust and cooperation;
  • Increased ability to support others

Quality, Not Quantity

Social connection looks different for everyone, but there are four key elements, according to Amy:

  1. Having meaningful relationships. It’s about quality of relationships, not quantity.
  2. Making regular connections. For some, that may be a daily connection and for others, it is less often.
  3. Feeling a sense of belonging. Have you heard the expression “find your tribe?”
  4. Having shared experiences. Sharing experiences with others can enhance that feeling of connection.

5 Ways to Encourage Connection

“If you’re like me, you may find yourself missing your connections and needing to find creative ways to stay connected,” Amy said. “Social connection can occur without physical connection.”

Amy recommends five themes and thought-provoking questions to consider in order to encourage connection:

  1. Grace – be forgiving of yourself and others. Find time and make it a priority to stay connected. Social connection is going to look different today than in the past. Ask yourself: how can I let go of prior expectations and create space for myself and others to connect today? What are my one to two priorities today?
  2. Technology – it allows us to go places we may not have been able to go before via virtual tours, such as museums and zoos. Use social apps to connect for a virtual book club or virtual walk with a friend. Ask yourself: where do I want to ‘go’ today? When can I set up a video chat with a friend or relative today? Technology helps us break through the barrier of physical distance.
  3. Intention – be intentional in your connections. Who do you want to connect with and how today? Determine how you’re going to spend your time.  This can help address any barriers you may have. Think about a one-word intention that can help you strengthen connections this week, maybe it is “gentle” or “try.”
  4. Creativity – think outside the box. What creative idea can you share with a friend or family member today?  What inspires you today?
  5. Generosity – socially connect by thinking about others. Ask yourself: who might need to hear from me today or how can I support others?

Choose Your Own adventure

Choose to make your social connections an adventure.  This is especially helpful if negative thoughts begin to take up too much thought.  You can:

  • Remember the past. Reminisce on fun, shared experiences with friends or go through mementos.
  • Embrace the present. This allows you to appreciate today. A fun idea shared by Amy is to meet up for ice cream with a friend and enjoy from the safe distance of your cars.
  • Plan for the future. Make a bucket list. Think of all the future holds for you!

What ways have you stayed in touch while staying apart?

Share your tips in the comments section below.

Sources:

 

Picture of someone in a hospital bed with medical professionals around them

COVID-19 Crisis Reveals The Importance Of eMOLST

Most people who are near the end of life lack the ability to make their own decisions about the life-sustaining medical treatments they wish to receive or avoid. For patients with advanced illness and frailty, the most important means of ensuring their preferences are honored is to have a properly completed and accurate electronic version of Medical Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (eMOLST) available in their electronic medical records through connections with the New York state eMOLST Registry.

Peace of Mind For Those With Advanced Illness

eMOLST is for patients with serious health conditions who want to receive or avoid any or all life-sustaining treatment, who reside in a long-term care facility or require long-term care services, and/or who might die within the coming year. In New York state, eMOLST, and its predecessor, the hard copy MOLST, are the only authorized ways to legally document both nonhospital Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) and Do Not Intubate (DNI) orders that Emergency Medical Services can follow. eMOLST also documents additional specific medical orders that are recognized and honored in all health care settings, including preferences regarding hospitalization. In hospitals, hospice, nursing homes, and the community, eMOLST is used to issue orders concerning preferences for resuscitation and life-sustaining treatment.

COVID-19’s impact on the frail elderly illustrates the important role eMOLST has in the way preferences for care, recorded as medical orders, are communicated. The importance will be intensified if predictions for a second and third wave of the virus are realized. eMOLST allows frail older adults to write their own final chapter and relieve loved ones of any anxiety that comes with making end-of-life health care decisions on their behalf.

eMOLST is not intended for healthy people, or for people who have a chronic condition or multiple chronic conditions but have a long life expectancy. Those individuals should complete a health care proxy and discuss their wishes for care with family and loved ones.

How to Complete eMOLST

Patients should ask their providers if eMOLST is right for them, and if so, complete the electronic form. If a hard copy MOLST already exists, the COVID-19 crisis would dictate that it be reviewed and updated and converted to eMOLST so that it is in the registry. If a patient lacks the ability to make end-of-life decisions, the health care agent or surrogate should speak with the provider. The tools and features in the eMOLST system ensure that a standardized process is used for conversations, and the completed eMOLST is 100 percent accurate.

Licensed physicians and nurse practitioners have the authority and accountability for accurate completion of MOLST and eMOLST under the Public Health Law. As of June 17, 2020, physician assistants also will have that authority and accountability. Only licensed physicians can complete MOLST and eMOLST orders for patients with intellectual or developmental disabilities who lack capacity to make medical decisions and cannot complete a health care proxy.

When an authorized health care practitioner signs the eMOLST, a copy of the medical orders and the discussion automatically become part of the statewide eMOLST Registry that is available as a public health service in all settings, as patients move from one care setting to another across New York. The physician, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant also will print a copy of the eMOLST on prominent, bright pink paper that will physically travel with the patient.

Additional Resources and Education

Excellus BlueCross BlueShield led the development of two free community websites.  CompassionAndSupport.org has information on advance care planning, free downloadable health care proxy forms and instructional videos. MOLST.org has COVID-19 guidance on MOLST, how to have thoughtful MOLST discussions, and instructions for obtaining urgent access to eMOLST.

Picture of an unmade bed

When Counting Sheep Doesn’t Work: Tips for Calming a Busy Mind and Getting Sleep

It was while I was lying awake at 3:00 a.m. again that I realized something was not right.  I am usually an early riser, but 3:00 a.m. is really early, even for me! The pandemic had brought about a lot of changes to my life, including a significant reduction in sleep!

A Vicious Cycle

I work as a Workplace Wellness Coordinator at Excellus BlueCross BlueShield. My job is to educate others on the importance of sleep, but I am not immune to having issues myself.  I know how detrimental inadequate sleep can be, with problems ranging from impaired memory, to obesity, to greater likelihood of car accidents. That knowledge only raised my stress levels! And like a vicious cycle, the more I stressed about not sleeping, the less I slept.

I decided to get help

One night, stuck in another vicious cycle of not sleeping, I decided to get help. I was already registered with MDLIVE, the telemedicine service affiliated with my health insurance. I decided to schedule an appointment with a Licensed Social Worker, who was available within a couple of days.

During my appointment, she explained that I was feeling so stressed that my brain was too “busy” to shut down and sleep properly.  She gave me some activities to try such as meditation and breathing techniques.  She told me to work to make small improvements, even an extra 20 minutes at night is a start.

6 Habits for Better Sleep

Sleep problems are common, according to Greg Carnevale, M.D., chief medical officer and sleep specialist with Excellus BlueCross BlueShield. “There are 50-70 million people in the U.S. that suffer from one or several sleep disorders that result likely in not getting enough sleep. The cause and solution can vary for each person,” Carnevale said. Health experts recommend getting at least seven hours of sleep each night.

“As a society, we need to recognize the dangers of trying to get by with fewer hours of sleep and wake up to the health benefits of a good night’s rest,” Carnevale said. He offers the following tips for improved sleep:

  • Keep bedroom quiet, dark and cool.
  • Avoid large meals, caffeine, nicotine and alcohol before bed.
  • Stick to a consistent sleep schedule, including on weekends.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Establish a relaxing bedtime routine.
  • Turn off electronic devices at least 30 minutes before bed.

Seek Help When You Need It

I’ve been listening to the advice of the social worker and thankfully, it is helping. I really wish I had called sooner. But, it is never too late to seek help.

“There are sometimes very easy and simple steps to improve on your sleep, and sometimes you need a professional, such as your doctor, to help,” Carnevale said. “Trying to navigate the misinformation out there alone can have deleterious effects to you and your health.  Don’t wait to seek help,” he added.

View and download an Excellus BlueCross BlueShield infographic on ways to improve sleep at ExcellusBCBS.com. For more help with sleep, talk with your doctor or sleep specialist.

Picture of a variety of fruits and vegetables

Helping Our Community – One Meal At A Time

Food banks across New York state are helping families put healthy meals on the table, obtain personal care items, baby food, diapers and household cleaning supplies, and take-home fresh items like meat, cheese, eggs and produce. Now more than ever, with school closures, job losses, and health risks, millions of people have turned to food banks for much-needed support.

A food bank is a non-profit organization that collects and distributes food to hunger-relief charities like the dozens of food pantries in our communities. Food banks act as food storage and distribution depots for smaller frontline agencies.

“Feeding people facing hunger is about more than simply providing food. It’s about providing wellness, stability, and nourishment,” said Jessica Renner, regional president of Excellus BlueCross BlueShield in the Southern Tier.

Partnering for Better Health

Food insecurity is known to impact health status, including putting individuals at greater risk for chronic diseases, such as diabetes, obesity, hypertension, and kidney disease.

Furthermore, studies have shown that individuals struggling with food insecurity experience more difficulties managing their health, leading to more health complications, frequent emergency room visits, and hospital stays.

Now more than ever, food banks are helping to increase access to food and other social needs in our communities.

Rochester: Foodlink

In the Rochester region,  Foodlink serves more than 200,000 people each year across a 10-county service area. Foodlink provides services to a wide network of 190 emergency agencies (pantries, soup kitchens, shelters) and provides food resources to more than 300 area partners. These partners include community centers, clinics and affordable housing developments.

Excellus BCBS is proud to support the following services that Foodlink provides to the community:

  • A mobile food pantry truck that makes emergency food deliveries to undeserved areas in and around Monroe County.
  • Cooking Matters education program that empowers families with skills, knowledge and confidence to make health and affordable meals.
  • A curbside market truck that links low-income areas in the Rochester community with nutritious, fresh, and affordable produce.
  • The Lexington Avenue Community farm, which serves more than 60 local refugee families.
Foodbank mobile food pantry truck

Foodbank mobile food pantry truck

Volunteers are also a necessity at Foodlink. Hundreds of Rochester-based Excellus BCBS employees have consistently volunteered their efforts at the Foodlink’s food distribution center. Volunteers help by packing food products, sorting food items and distributing food to area partner agencies.

To learn more about Foodlink, visit  https://foodlinkny.org/

Southern Tier: Food Bank of the Southern Tier

In the Southern Tier region, the Food Bank of the Southern Tier is increasing access to healthy food and helping to build a strong, healthy, vibrant community. The Food Bank of the Southern Tier serves Broome, Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, Tioga and Tompkins counties. The organization is at the forefront of community collaboration around the  social determinants of health, like  food access and transportation.

“There’s really been a movement to focus on the social determinants of health. And, access to healthy food is right there at the top of the list,” said Jessica.

Excellus BCBS is proud to support the following services that Food Bank of the Southern Tier provides to the community:

  • A mobile food truck upgrade
  • A kids’ farmers market
  • The Selfless Elf 5K, currently scheduled to be held in mid-December

In addition, Southern Tier-based Excellus BCBS employees have also helped pack boxes of food or deliver food boxes to remote areas.

To learn more about Food Bank of the Southern Tier, visit: https://www.foodbankst.org/

CNY and Utica: Food Bank of Central New York

In the Central New York region, the Food Bank of Central New York serves as the main food distribution center for the counties of Cayuga, Chenango, Cortland, Herkimer, Jefferson, Lewis, Madison, Oneida, Onondaga, Oswego, and St. Lawrence. The organization partners with local agencies, including food pantries, soup kitchens, and emergency shelters that distribute the food to families in need.

Food Bank of Central New York’s Mobile Food Pantry

Food Bank of Central New York’s Mobile Food Pantry

Excellus BCBS is proud to support efforts to nourish the community through Food Bank of Central New York’s Mobile Food Pantry (MFP). MFP is an effort to reach communities and individuals in areas of unmet need. It is a practical distribution method to work around food access obstacles and food deserts. While the MFP program initially only operated in Oneida County, the program has recently expanded into several other areas including Onondaga and Oswego counties.

To learn more about Food Bank of Central New York, visit: https://www.foodbankcny.org/

COVID-19 Impacting Food Relief

Even before the COVID-19 outbreak, 37 million people in the U.S. struggled with hunger, according to Feeding America.

Now, people who have not previously relied on food relief are also struggling and in need. That has caused a strain on food supplies.

Today, some food banks are reporting that they are running low on staples. Therefore, some food banks have had to supplement or ration some of the more popular food items.

Food banks have also had to change their procedures in order to provide food in the age of social distancing. Many food banks and pantries have moved to low-contact, drive-thru food distribution. They’re also now providing food at temporary community “hub” locations, such as schools and community centers, to help reach vulnerable populations.

Food banks don’t just need donations. They also need volunteers to sort and pack food boxes or to help make phone calls for donations. Now during the pandemic, many pantries are holding mobile no-contact distribution, but they still need help setting up the food and raising awareness.

If you are looking for a way to help, check in with your local food bank:

Picture of a man and woman

Introvert, Extrovert… or Both. How Social Distancing Has Impacted Us All

Social Distancing is an Introvert’s Dream Come True Right?

Not exactly. Patrick McDaniels, a self-described introvert and Excellus BlueCross BlueShield program analyst, dug into this question. He interviewed three individuals to explore how introverts and extroverts are experiencing this extended period of physical distancing.

“I am most comfortable going for a walk with my dogs and wife, jumping into a home improvement project, putting my headphones on and exercising, or catching up with my tight-knit group of friends,” Patrick said.

Picture of a man and a woman each holding a dog

Patrick McDaniels with his wife Byrn, and their dogs Rosie (sweater) and Tucker.

Similarly, Paula Miller, who is an introvert and Excellus BCBS program analyst, says, “It’s not that I don’t enjoy the company of people, it’s just that I expend energy when I’m around a lot of people.”

No one is 100% introverted or extroverted

Patrick explained that there are many misconceptions about introverts, such as that they are shy or don’t enjoying being in social situations. However, that just isn’t the case.

Angel Alvarez, a self-described “ambivert” and Excellus BCBS sales consultant says, “I kind of prefer smaller groups. However, in the same breath, I enjoy being a DJ outside of work and performing in front of crowds.”

Sady Fischer, on the other hand, describes herself as an extrovert. Sady, director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at Excellus BCBS says, “I’m definitely energized through brainstorming and talking things out. It’s just part of my nature. But honestly, I also believe we all have a variety of different traits and that, over time, we’re able to flex and stretch, especially based on work experiences and even our personal experiences.”

Click on the links below to hear the full interviews from an introvert (Paula Miller), an ambivert (Angel Alvarez) and an extrovert (Sady Fischer) as they all uniquely navigate these challenging times.

Introvert: Paula Miller

Ambivert: Angel Alvarez

Extrovert: Sady Fischer

How do I find out what describes my personality best?

Curious about where you fall on the spectrum of introversion or extroversion? Here is an easy assessment tool you can access from Ideas.Ted.Com that can give you an idea based on a few short questions. Questions include: are you quiet and reflective or talkative and outgoing; are you most comfortable out in front of a group or in the background; and are you more productive in a quiet room or public place like a cafe? Learning about your own preferences can help you find better ways to cope with stress or approach problems.

Challenge Yourself to Overcome Biases

Learn to understand others and challenge your own biases. Do you have an unconscious preference for introverts or extroverts? For instance, is your circle of friends, family or co-workers made up of folks who are more like you?

Sady says that personality assessments and similar tools are helpful in terms of learning about broader groups of people and experiences. But, she also cautions:

“As with any grouping of people, it is easy to fall into the trap of making assumptions or stereotypes about people. All introverts and all extroverts are not the same. Plus, we all fall within a range of those two categorizations. Remember that everyone is an individual. The best way to learn about preferences in communication, learning, and work styles is to simply ask: What do you need?

If you’d like to learn more about this topic, check out  The Power of Introverts – TED Talk by Susan Cain.

Picture of a family on top of a mountain

Get Outdoors: Nature for Stress Management

Whether it’s hiking Bald Mountain, kayaking on First Lake, or just relaxing by the fire at their Old Forge camp, Eve Van de Wal, who resides in Oneida County, has found that being outdoors in nature does her mind and body good.

“Just a walk, a hike, or snowshoeing at a leisurely pace is amazing exercise,” she explained. “You don’t even feel like you are working out because it’s so beautiful and so enjoyable.”

There are many aspects of a healthy lifestyle that you can include and promote by simply stepping outside.

Get Busy Relaxing

For Eve, her husband, Dale, and their family, escaping into the Adirondacks to enjoy the benefits of nature has been a family affair. It started for Eve when she was a young girl born and raised in the Utica area.

The tradition of visiting the mountains, forests, and streams in the Adirondacks, with its vibrant blend of public and private lands, created wonderful memories for the Van de Wals as they enjoy all that nature has to offer.

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“There is never a time that we are bored or can’t find something to appreciate outside when we are there. We keep busy with the boat, fishing, walks, hikes… but it’s a busy that always feels relaxing,” she explained.

Nature for Stress Management

In fact, the Adirondack High Peaks and hundreds of miles of diverse waterways have had such a positive impact on Eve that she has also noticed an improvement to her physical health.

“I have high blood pressure and try to take care of myself, and stress management is part of it. I never feel like I am stressed, but as soon as I get in my car and head to Old Forge, I can feel a difference in my overall wellbeing with the tension relaxing in my neck and shoulders.” Eve explained. “The time I spend hiking or just relaxing outside with a book is something beneficial that I do for myself without even realizing it.”

Research supports exactly what Eve and her family have experienced, said Amanda Shanahan, RD, Employee Wellbeing Manager, Excellus BlueCross BlueShield.

Contact with nature recharges our brain allowing us to better cope with the stresses of life,” Amanda said. “Our brains and bodies are often overtaxed with the everyday demands of modern life. Our brains don’t have to work the same way to pay attention to nature which allows time for restoration. The result can mean improved mood, creativity, concentration and stress relief.”

Other benefits of being outdoors:

Protect your bones – Sunlight hitting the skin eventually leads to the creation of vitamin D in your body.  Something we all need to protect us against osteoporosis and other diseases. Just 10 – 15 minutes a few times a week with the sun hitting your arms and legs is all that is needed.  If you’re going to be out longer, put on the sunscreen!

Age gracefully – Older people that get out every day stay healthy and functioning longer.  Studies have shown that those who have contact with nature have fewer complaints of aches and sleep issues along with other health-related problems.

Enjoying the Outdoors with Care

While busy enjoying the benefits of the sunshine and fresh air, Eve said she is always mindful that there are dangers to keep in mind. She said it’s important to follow certain preventive measures.

“It’s important to take steps to prevent diseases associated with the outdoors like Lyme Disease and skin cancer,” she said.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that, in 2018, New York state had close to 2,500 confirmed Lyme disease cases. Lyme disease is a bacterial disease transmitted by an infected tick. When caught early, Lyme disease can be treated with antibiotics. The best way to fight tick-borne illnesses is by preventing them in the first place. Dr. Nicholas Massa, medical director at Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, offers these simple, yet effective, tips to avoid getting this disease:

  • Wear long sleeves and pants outdoors
  • Use insect repellent
  • Check everyone, including pets, when you return, and quickly remove any ticks you find

Dr. Massa also warns of the dangers of skin cancer, the most common cancer of those in the United States. Keep these tips in mind provided by the Skin Cancer Foundation and CDC when outdoors:

  • Seek shade under an umbrella, tree, or other shelter before you need relief from the sun
  • When possible, long-sleeved shirts and long pants and skirts can provide protection from UV rays
  • For the most protection, wear a hat with a brim all the way around that shades your face, ears, and the back of your neck
  • Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from UV rays and reduce the risk of cataracts. They also protect the tender skin around your eyes from sun exposure
  • Apply broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 15 before you go outside, even on slightly cloudy or cool days

Nature is all around you

Eve and her family have created countless memories in the Adirondacks. What are your favorite outdoor locations in New York state? For some it may be the beautiful Letchworth State Park, renowned as the “Grand Canyon of the East”  and one of the most scenically magnificent areas our area. Perhaps it’s Buttermilk Falls State Park, which takes its name from the foaming cascade formed by Buttermilk Creek as it flows down the steep valley side toward Cayuga Lake.

Comment below and share with us where nature takes you!

Picture of two adults sitting at a table talking.

Advance care planning is more important than ever

The COVID-19 pandemic is shedding new light on the often-abstract concept of advance care planning. Advance care planning is where individuals document what matters most to them, and then select the right health care agent to make decisions on their behalf if they are unable to speak for themselves. During this pandemic, many people have had the heartbreaking experience of making medical decisions for loved ones who were unable to communicate.

Advance care planning gives patients peace of mind in knowing that health care decisions will be made on their behalf by a person they trust. For the person selected to be someone’s health care agent, advance care planning gives them the confidence to make decisions based on their loved one’s stated values and beliefs.

Advance Care Planning: For all Adults Ages 18 and Older

All adults ages 18 and older should start advance care planning conversations with their health care providers, family members and trusted friends. Then, they should complete a health care proxy to formally name a health care agent.

Completing or updating a health care proxy can be done at an office visit to the individual’s physician, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant. The practice of social distancing may require this to be done with a telehealth visit via telephone or by using video conferencing technology such as Skype.

The health care proxy form requires two witnesses to the signature. This can be accomplished in person, or by using video conferencing technology. A photo of the signed health care proxy can be mailed to the health care provider or uploaded to the medical practice’s secure patient portal. Individuals also should email a copy to family members.

If video conferencing is unavailable, speak with your health care provider about the process for verbal consent.

Read special considerations on how to complete a health care proxy during the pandemic by visiting CompassionandSupport.org.

MOLST: For those with an advanced illness

Individuals with an advanced illness or advanced frailty are advised to reach out to their physician or nurse practitioner to discuss the Medical Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (MOLST). MOLST reflects a patient’s preferences for treatment, including resuscitation, respiratory support on a ventilator, and hospitalization. It is based on a thoughtful discussion  about the patient’s current health status, prognosis and goals for care.

MOLST is not an advance directive and is not for healthy people. It is a set of medical orders signed by a physician or nurse practitioner that must be followed.

Learn More and Start The Conversation

Excellus BlueCross BlueShield led the development of a free community website, CompassionAndSupport.org, that includes information on advance care planning, free downloadable forms and instructional videos. MOLST.org has COVID-19 guidance on MOLST, eMOLST, and how to have thoughtful MOLST discussions.

An educational poster “Who Will Speak For You If You Can’t Make Your Own Health Care Decisions?” is available to download at ExcellusBCBS.com.

Picture of a boy in a box

My Happy Place: Organization

Each time I have felt anxious, stressed or just overwhelmed, the answer is a messy drawer or closet away. Organization is my happy place. I have always found solace in making my home less cluttered and more controlled.

During the past few months of social distancing and working from home while educating my seven kids – I say that very loosely – organization has been a go-to for me. Everyone’s coping strategy is different. But for me, whenever the world outside feels out of control, I turn inward. My small, at-home projects don’t cost a dime and they also keep my mind busy. As a type-A planner, this all helps me feel better by knowing things are in order.

Cleaning Clutter for a Clear Mind

I am glad to find I am not alone. Many of my co-workers and friends have shared that they have also found this time has helped them get that much overdue yard work done, refrigerators cleaned out from years (yes, years) of unused condiments, or finally sort through that tall stack of unread mail.

Just this past weekend, I tackled a closet that had clothes bursting out of it, with things that my husband hadn’t worn since he was in his 20’s… he is now 42. Putting on some fun tunes – my go to is “Alexa, play Justin Timberlake” – and getting to work was the best mind-clearing activity I could ask for as the snow was falling outside in May. *Heavy sigh*

Picture of a before and after of a messy closet organization project

Before and After pictures of Aida’s closet project (photo courtesy of Aida Byrne)

The reward was that my mind was clear after a few hours of organization; his closet looked fabulous, if I don’t say so myself, and it turned out to be a family activity as my kids helped me fold jeans, stack shoes, and fill bags with those Hawaiian shirts to donate.

What can organization do for you?

Studies have shown that our physical environments significantly influence our cognition, emotions, and behavior. Working in or living in an unorganized space can negatively impact our stress and anxiety levels, both at work and at home.

A 2009 study of mothers in the U.S. found that mothers who said their home environment was cluttered experienced higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Another study found that individuals who felt overwhelmed by their “stuff” were more likely to procrastinate. Other researchers found that disorganization can trigger coping and avoidance strategies like watching too much TV or binge-eating a pint of ice cream.

On the other hand, according to the National Association of Productivity and Organizing, getting organized may help:

  1. Boost your energy
  2. Lead to better eating habits
  3. Improve your sleep habits
  4. Reduce stress and make us happier

Start Small

“If getting started feels overwhelming, choose one small project, such as a drawer that annoys you every time you open it,” said Amanda Shanahan, RD, Employee Wellbeing Manager, Excellus BlueCross BlueShield. “Or make a list of potential projects and prioritize them by time, cost, necessity or benefit. This can help to organize your organization.”

There is also practicality in home organization. When spaces are organized, less time is spent searching for things like that favorite black sweater or keys to the car. Your kids may be more likely to grab a healthy snack if there is a well-stocked snack bin or an organized refrigerator that displays some healthy options.

“Creating an environment which supports making healthy choices easy is key to maintaining good mental and physical health,” Amanda said.

What works for you?

Home organization may not be a coping strategy for everyone. There are many activities that can help you the way this helps me, such as exercise, gardening or reading. Find an activity that brings you to a happy place.

For me, there is plenty still to do in a home where nine people live. I’m already looking forward to the weekend, taking a deep breath, and thinking of what I can tackle next.

What is your happy place? Tell us in the comments how you keep busy at home.

Hidden Gems: Audubon Community Nature Center

Spending time in nature can enrich us physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. That’s the motto of the Audubon Community Nature Center (ACNC).  Looking for a new place to take in the great outdoors? Consider visiting this hidden gem in western New York’s Southern Tier.

The Highlights

ACNC is in Jamestown, N.Y., about 60 miles south of Buffalo. Established in 1957, this nature preserve includes close to 600 acres of wetland and forest ecosystems which are home to a variety of native plants, animals, and insects.

Visitors can enjoy hiking on more than five miles of trails, which are easily navigable for people of all ages. Wander through a native tree arboretum and explore educational gardens. Audubon Community Nature Center’s trails remain open throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. ACNC asks that visitors practice safe social distancing when they encounter others on the trails. The trails are made accessible to the public, free of charge, from dawn until dusk daily.

The Nature Center building, which houses the additional animals as well as interactive exhibits, is temporarily closed due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Many of ACNC’s programs have been moved online or have been rescheduled. For more information visit www.auduboncnc.org .

The Details

  • Location: 1600 Riverside Road, Jamestown, New York 14701
  • Hours: Trails are accessible daily from dawn till dusk. For information on the hours of the Nature Center building (when open), click here.
  • Admission: Use of the trails is free year-round. For information on the admission to the Nature Center building (when open) click here.

For more info: Visit https://auduboncnc.org/ or call (716) 569-2345

Don’t Miss

ACNC is home to ‘Liberty’ a non-releasable Bald Eagle, as well as a variety of other live animals that are cared for by Nature Center staff and volunteers. You can find Liberty in her enclosure near the Nature Center Building.

Picture of a bald eagle

Liberty, the bald eagle (photo courtesy of ACNC)