Posts Tagged ‘Aspen Club’

By Nicole Caputo

Think about your most memorable conversation. Does it bring back fond memories? Leave you with a certain feeling?

Me, my dog Brady and my dad on a wooded trail in rural Minnesota. Have you had a life-changing meaningful conversation?

Me, my dog Brady and my dad on a wooded trail in rural Minnesota. Have you had a life-changing conversation?

My dad and I are strolling along a forest path, the morning fog is clearing over the treetops and, with a prideful tone, he tells me his secrets to living a meaningful life. It is a conversation I’ll never forget and, more importantly, one I won’t need to wish we had when he’s gone.

Many conversations define our lives. But one topic we shy away from is talking about what happens when a loved one dies. It’s not a comfortable topic to think about let alone discuss. But important? Hugely. And when the time comes, what may have been hard decisions will come more easily.

Like learning secrets to a meaningful life, it is one conversation we don’t want to wish we had after our loved ones pass away.

Why have the conversation?

Statistics show that most of us don’t want to burden our family with tough decisions after we die. The best way to ease that burden is to sit down and talk. Whether you’re a parent or the child, don’t wait to have the conversation. Sit down over a cup of coffee and talk.

The unanswered questions that arise after a loved one dies can lead to stress, and even anger among family members. When a loved one passes, family members want to carry out last wishes, not fight amongst themselves on what those wishes may have been.

According to The Conversation Project, an organization that is dedicated to helping people talk about their wishes for end-of-life care, each conversation will empower you and your loved ones to live and die the way that you choose.

The conversation should include all your desires, from the contents of your will and the affairs you still need to get in order, to where you want to receive care and what kinds of aggressive treatment you may want (or not want).

Before you have the conversation with your kids about your end-of-life wishes think about these questions. Write down your answers and have them by your side during the conversation(or send these questions to your parent(s) so they can think about them before you talk):


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  • What do I value the most?
  • Do I have any particular concerns about my health?
  • Are there any disagreements or family tensions I’m concerned about?
  • What matters to me at the end of life?
  • How long do I want to receive medical care?
  • What role do I want your loved ones to play?

Here are some useful tips for everyone to think about during the conversation:

  • Be patient. Some people may need more time to process information.
  • Let the conversation happen naturally. Don’t steer it with specific talking points.
  • Don’t judge. A “good” death means different things to different people.
  • Nothing is set in stone. You and your loved ones can always change your minds as circumstances shift.
  • Every attempt at the conversation is valuable.
  • This is the first of many conversations; you don’t have to cover everyone or everything right now.

The hardest part of starting the conversation is making time. Pick the next family birthday party or major holiday to sit down and chat. One conversation won’t solve everything, but it will allow you to share what matters most to you. It will be a conversation that helps define your life.

The University of Colorado Health Aspen Club has adopted principles from The Conversation Project and is hosting a series of classes and events (The Conversation Project and Death Cafe’s) to help you start the conversation.

To learn more, go to UCHealth’s Aspen Club or The Conversation Project.

 This blog was written by Nicole Caputo, marketing strategist for University of Colorado Health.

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It’s a beautiful fall morning. You finish your morning coffee, read the newspaper and walk the dog through your favorite park before begrudgingly moving on to the piles of paperwork on your dining room table.

It’s Medicare season.

Whether you’ve been receiving Medicare for years or are a newcomer, the paperwork, constant changes and rules can be daunting. A great way to get through the confusion is to simply ask for help.

Get help with SHIP

The State Health Insurance Assistance Program, SHIP, offers one-on-one counseling and assistance to people with Medicare and their families. The SHIP program is offered through the Colorado Division of Insurance.

Through federal grants, SHIP sites provide free counseling and assistance via telephone and face-to-face interactive sessions, public education presentations and programs and media activities.

Colorado has seventeen local SHIP sites. University of Colorado Health’s Aspen Club is one of those sites. Aspen Club has been a SHIP site for 24 years. Its counselors provide personalized, objective assistance beyond what people can get through the Medicare help line.

Aspen Club Medicare Team

The Aspen Club Medicare counseling team offers objective solutions to your questions and concerns.

Aspen Club’s counselors help both new and existing Medicare recipients. They advocate and offer support for recipients who may have filled out paperwork without seeking help and ended up in tough, costly situations. Aspen Club counselors also work with local businesses to help employees near retirement or who are over 65 and still working.

For those who would rather not seek one-on-one counseling, counselors offer a Medicare 101 class on a regular basis. This class is great for those who are new to Medicare.

“Without a light, it’s hard to find your way through a dark tunnel. That is what many feel like when making decisions about Medicare,” said Eileen Hendee, UCHealth Aspen Club Medicare coordinator. “Our trained Medicare counselors work tirelessly to make sure people in our community have objective and up-to-date answers for all their Medicare questions.”

Counselors offer free, objective help and resources for:

  • Understanding basic Medicare coverage.

  • Supplemental policies.

  • Medicare Advantage Plans.

  • Medicare prescription drug plans.

  • Medicare and employer/retiree coverage.

  • Medicare appeal filing assistance.

In 2012, the Aspen Club counselors helped more than 3,500 people understand their Medicare benefits. Those who asked a counselor for help with their prescription drug plans collectively saved over $430,000 by making changes.

Asking for help can truly reduce your stress and let you enjoy all the good things about fall.

Medicare counseling doesn’t just save your bottom line, according to an Aspen Club survey, those who sought help also showed a significant decrease in stress after visiting with a counselor.

For more information about free Medicare counseling through UCHealth’s Aspen Club, please call 970.495.8560.

This blog was written by Nicole Caputo, marketing strategist for University of Colorado Health.

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Let me summarize. This is a blog about way back when house calls were made by doctors in horse-drawn carriages. About congress and healthcare reform. About paramedics today. About keeping people healthy in their homes. And about the future…

Health care in the coming years will look considerably different than it does today due to healthcare reform legislation passed in March 2010 by congress.

One major improvement will be the reshaping of the current model where hospitals are set up to keep patients coming in for service. In the future, the model will shift to the goal of keeping people out of hospitals by helping them maintain their health. That’ll be a huge improvement in the way of approaching health care!

Members of our Community Paramedic Program: Lisa Beard (left), Julie Scott, Sharon Lowry (right), and Julie Bower (in front).

Poudre Valley Health System is already moving in that direction. We have a free Nurse Is In program where each month our community health nurses go to three northern Colorado locations to help people monitor blood pressure, answer medical questions and offer basic health information. Our Aspen Club sponsors many free or low-cost preventive programs for older adults, while our Healthy Kids Club focuses on the health of youth. We also have many other community-based programs and public classes on wellness topics.

One of our efforts that recently received public attention is the Community Paramedic Program. The Coloradoan in Fort Collins, Colo., published a lengthy feature article about the free program Feb. 10 and followed up with a Feb. 12 editorial. In addition, Style Magazine in Fort Collins will soon publish an article about the program.

The program is among the first wave of changes in the way paramedics and emergency medical technicians throughout the nation conduct their work.

Traditionally, paramedics and EMT focus on responding to emergencies, but, since there typically aren’t medical emergencies going on constantly, they sometimes have periods of available time.

Much to their credit, our emergency responders decided to use these periods to develop the Community Paramedic Program to offer basic health screenings to people in their own homes.

The paramedics and EMTs provide in-home blood pressure checks and flu vaccinations. They also do risk assessments designed to help keep people from falling in their homes. In addition, they assist people who have questions about medications.

While all of these are great benefits, for some people the social interaction with the emergency responders is just as important. In some cases, people are home-bound and something as simple as a visitor’s smile and kinds words can help with health. The social interaction also gives emergency responders the opportunity to assess if a person’s mood or mental state have changed.

“We do what we can to help people remain healthy in their homes where they are more comfortable,” said Ted Beckman, a paramedic shift supervisor who is the program’s coordinator. “Preventive programs similar to ours are the future of health care throughout the United States.”

The Community Paramedic Program isn’t meant to replace home-visits by nurses or therapists or a visit to a doctor’s office or the need to call 911. Rather, the program is an excellent option that can save people from unnecessarily leaving their homes.

Our emergency responders launched this program in the fall of 2010. They estimate the program could have prevented up to 18,000 emergency room visits to Poudre Valley Hospital and the Medical Center of the Rockies in 2011. This would have been a significant, positive impact on the two ERs that treated a total of 52,000 patients last year.

Four emergency responders conduct our Community Paramedic Program. They will receive additional training this month in preparation of providing 24-hour coverage. They do the program in conjunction with the Aspen Club, which helps them identify persons who may want to participate. (Community members interested in receiving home visits should contact the Aspen Club, 495-8560.)

When I think about our program, thoughts of the old days to come to mind—back to when doctors in horse-drawn buggies rolled up to the porch steps and the doctor climbed down, black medical bag in hand, to do a home visit.

Those days are long-gone, of course. But some important vestiges remain.

Horse-drawn buggies have been replaced by ambulances that come visiting without emergency lights and sirens going—but the enthusiasm to care for people in their own homes remains.


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During the weekend, the Greeley Tribune published a package of staff-written news articles and guest editorials that focused on health care in Greeley and Weld County. I was asked to write a guest editorial that looked at the future of Poudre Valley Health System’s involvement there.

Simply put, the future is exciting and full of additional healthcare benefits and options for the people we serve.

PVHS will continue to provide high-quality care that is easily accessible for Greeley and Weld County residents. Our commitment to high quality and easy access is also the same for the other people we serve in the large region that PVHS covers in northern Colorado, Wyoming and southwestern Nebraska.

I have to say, though, that it is critically important to look at the recent past and what’s happening now in the Greeley medical scene to be aware of what may happen in the future.

Because my guest editorial had the usual 600-word limit for guest editorials in the Tribune, I was unable to delve into the historical perspective that I believe is critical. In my editorial I asked readers to come to my blog to learn more of the details about all that is happening in Weld County.

During the last 10 or 12 years, I have received phone calls from dozens of physicians who practice in different medical specialties in Greeley. They all had a similar concern, a major one.

They believed they were being disenfranchised by the Greeley medical establishment—specifically by Banner Health, which manages North Colorado Medical Center and has corporate headquarters in Phoenix—and this, they told me, resulted in their careers, their lives and their families being turned upside down. Many physicians revealed to me that they felt like they were being driven out of the community.

For several years I referred these physicians back to Greeley medical leaders hoping they would promote a solution.

During this same period, Poudre Valley Health System focused on finding collaborative ways to work with local physicians in Fort Collins and Loveland to provide high-quality patient care in our region.

Our collaborative efforts resulted in Poudre Valley Hospital, Fort Collins, being named in 2000 as the first Magnet Hospital for Nursing Excellence between Los Angeles and Minnesota. Today PVH is one of only 17 hospitals to have received the designation three times in a row. Our Medical Center of the Rockies, which opened in 2007 in Loveland, received the designation nearly the moment the hospital was eligible.

Additionally, during this time PVHS started the first American College of Surgeons-verified level II trauma center in northern Colorado; began the first robotic surgery program in our region; and developed the region’s busiest heart program.

PVHS also became the first recipient and remains the only two-time recipient of the Colorado’s highest quality award, the Peak Performance Award presented by the Colorado Performance Excellence Program. In mid-January, PVHS became the only Colorado-owned and -operated health system to be selected as one of the nation’s top 15 health systems.

The most notable honor was when the President of the United States announced that Poudre Valley Health System was selected to receive the nation’s highest quality award, the prestigious Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. PVHS is one of only 15 healthcare organizations ever to receive that honor.

While PVHS was distinguishing itself locally, regionally and nationally, the issue of physician disenfranchisement in Greeley continued.

Of course, you don’t have to take my word for it. I encourage you to find any physician who has practiced in Greeley for more than a decade and ask if my assessment is accurate. I believe the chances are excellent that you’ll receive an answer similar to what I wrote above.

A few years ago the physicians with the Greeley Medical Clinic, the largest and oldest multi-specialty medical group in northern Colorado, realized they faced irresolvable issues with Banner Health. They began an exhaustive and objective search for a partner which they believe would work with them to put their patients first.

So that’s how GMC and PVHS linked up. We had fruitful talks and discovered mutual hopes and dreams and goals for high quality care for Greeley and Weld County residents.

In a comparatively short period of time, it became clear that the visions of GMC and PVHS were identical: Patients must come first and the care they receive must be extremely high quality … and the best way to achieve this is to maintain local control over healthcare decisions.

After many in-depth discussions and planning sessions, GMC physicians and PVHS leaders agreed to an affiliation.

This decision led to PVHS expanding its world-class care to Greeley and Weld County. In partnership with the outstanding physicians and staff of GMC in Greeley, we have continued to expand by developing new services, opening medical facilities in Windsor, bringing the Aspen Club and Healthy Kids Club into Greeley, and employing 1,100 Greeley and Weld County residents.

While PVHS has continued to offer more healthcare services to Greeley and Weld County, some vocal and very uninformed pundits have suggested that PVHS began serving the city and county solely to “steal away” or “cherry-pick” patients from Greeley.

Some pundits have said this even as we grow and expand services in Greeley.

Our most recent addition—a full service emergency room and one-day surgery center—will be completed in west Greeley by the fall of this year. We are excited that this project will enhance care and accessibility, and create even more healthcare options for Greeley residents without their having to travel very far from their homes.

The new medical facility is an example of the exact reason why GMC chose to affiliate with PVHS. Their decision was not about market share or budgets or filling patient beds. Instead, it had everything to do with GMC physicians wanting to be decision-making members of an organization that works closely with physicians to accomplish mutual goals for providing high-quality care for their patients.

During these last two successful years since the GMC-PVHS affiliation was formed, the same ill-informed pundits have continued to criticize PVHS by incorrectly portraying us an outsider bent on stealing away patients.

Such an accusation does a great disservice to 79 years of service to Greeley and Weld Country by the Greeley Medical Clinic. If GMC is not Greeley-born and -bred…who is, then?

The process that resulted in GMC stepping away from Banner Health seems to have played itself out all over again last spring, this time with an even more abrupt change.

This occurred when the long-experienced and very distinguished emergency physician group in Greeley was suddenly and surprisingly dismissed from practicing at North Colorado Medical Center. The service these highly skilled physicians provided was nationally ranked and medically respected.

So, once again, a significant number of physicians felt disenfranchised from work and life in Greeley. I heard from many of them.

To continue living in or near Greeley and to remain true to their commitment to serve local patients, many of these physicians elected to join Emergency Physicians of the Rockies, an independent physician group in Northern Colorado. These highly qualified physicians will staff the emergency services part of our center under construction in west Greeley, once again providing the same outstanding emergency services that have distinguished them for years. And they will provide this service while continuing to live and work and raise their children in Greeley…just as GMC physicians have done for generations.

Because the medical leadership of Greeley’s air ambulance was also imbedded in this group of emergency physicians, we elected to ask them to continue providing their outstanding service by creating our own helicopter program. For many years PVHS used the air ambulance service at NCMC because it provided a high quality and trusted service. Our service will now continue with those same medical leaders who have lived and worked in the Greeley community.

PVHS has moved ahead on the air ambulance program because we see a great need and opportunity for regionalized services. Our program, which will start this spring, will feature a helicopter specially designed to safely transfer patients out of such high-altitude areas as Rocky Mountain National Park.

Collaboration with regional providers is the type of relationship that we have always tried to develop and foster. Last year I approached NCMC leaders with the hope that we could also find a way to work together and avoid duplication on the many medical services needed in Greeley, Weld County and the rest of northern Colorado.

Unfortunately, I was told that they were unwilling to meet if the local Greeley physicians were involved. Of course, that type of attitude appears to me to be a driver behind what has happened to physicians in Greeley. Just so you know, we—PVHS—will always work first with physicians in trying to create healthcare solutions in the region.

To return to the focus of the Tribune’s news package … What is the future of health care in Greeley and Weld County?

The answer:

PVHS is there now…and GMC has been there for longer than most of us have been alive. We will continue to work closely with local physicians who have cared for generations of Weld County and Greeley patients. Care will be provided in Greeley and, for Windsor-area patients, in Windsor.

We will provide high quality care. We will make sure patients come first.

We will be there today, tomorrow and far beyond.


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One of the fun privileges that I have as president and CEO of Poudre Valley Health System is meeting new people.

Hardly a day goes by without my chatting with new folks. Of course, we usually talk about health care, but many times I get the honor to learn more about people.

One such occasion was when I met Cheryl and Ron Lipka, who are the 19,000th and 19,001st members of the PVHS Aspen Club, our association for the older (and, naturally, wiser!) population in Fort Collins and Loveland.

Cheryl and Ron moved in 2008 to Colorado from New Jersey. Ron is a retired house builder and Cheryl is retired from sales, but, like Ron, she’s one of those people who find retirement is more fun if you just don’t settle back into the sofa and become a couch potato. She is the vice president of the Fort Collins Newcomers Club, a volunteer organization that helps new residents make friends through special interest groups and social activities.

Ron and Cheryl Lipka, and me when I greeted them as the 19,000th and 19,001st members of the Aspen Club

Cheryl and Ron have the right attitude about the need to stay active to help you remain in good health. (Staying active is good health tip for anyone of any age!)

Both remain vigorous by hiking and snowshoeing—activities they didn’t do until they moved to Colorado. Ron also plays golf, and they both keep their minds sharp through such fun activities as playing Scrabble and cards.

Cheryl and Ron heard about the Aspen Club through the Fort Collins Newcomers Club. They joined the Aspen Club because they were interested in the many available services, such as health screenings and the program that offers advice about Medicare.

So I’d like to welcome Cheryl and Ron to the Aspen Club and wish them many, many active and enjoyable years in Fort Collins.

By the way, I don’t know which was which. That is, was Cheryl the 19,000th member or was she member 19,001? Or Ron?

Regardless of whether it’s 19,000 or 19,001, it’s a membership record for the Aspen Club. Congratulations to the Aspen Club staff for their excellent program that serves our communities so well!


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