Sixteen employees with Sampson Home Health gathered at the Sampson County Cooperative Extension office Thursday evening to participate in a new series of health and safety classes designed specifically for them and the work they do.
Coordinated and instructed by Lethia Lee, the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) assistant, the classes are a new addition to the Cooperative Extension’s offerings, having just started this past August.
“I saw a need,” Lee said simply when asked how the series of classes came to be. “We talk about food safety and how to care for the elderly which is a lot of what they do. We talk about sterilizing everything and wearing gloves because you don’t want to get an elderly patient sick. It’s about how to keep them and their patients safe.”
“A lot they already know, but they’ve said to me, ‘We know these things but we think about them more now,’” Lee added, stressing that it doesn’t hurt to be reminded of the safe and healthy way to do things.
The classes are typically broken up into three parts, pointed out Lee. “We usually do that day’s lesson then go outside and walk for 15 minutes then sample a healthy recipe.”
In previous lessons, the group discussed food safety, going over how to properly prepare foods, especially meats, and how to clean-up after cooking, leaving behind the least amount of bacteria and germs possible.
“We went over how it doesn’t help to wash chicken. Chicken can have salmonella and the only thing that will kill that is heat,” explained Lee. “We also we talked about how to clean the counters with Clorox because that’s the only thing that will kill bacteria.”
During Thursday’s class, the lesson focused on how eating right isn’t all that’s involved in healthy living; it’s also important to be physically active.
The group learned that physical activity has numerous benefits including relieving stress, helping to maintain a healthy weight, having more confidence, and even helping to fend off some types of cancers, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
Lee then shared with them some easy ways that they could incorporate more physical activity into their everyday lives, such as walking, doing chores, dancing, parking further away, taking the stairs, using the drive-thru less by parking and going in, playing with children, stretching during commercials or while waiting on laundry, washing the car at home by hand, walking to the store or walking kids to school, walking in the mall on a rainy day, walking while talking on the phone, working in the garden, and mowing grass with a push mower.
Another recommendation was to take a walk during lunch, but many in the group shared that they didn’t feel like they had enough time to walk then.
“Take just five minutes to walk,” urged Lee. “The more you do, the better for you…If you don’t care, who else is going to care?”
Showing the group that they have lots of options when it comes to exercise, Lee gave each Sampson Home Health employee a stretch band and showed them simple exercises they can do when they can’t get outside to walk because of adverse weather or when their time is simply limited.
To drive home the point that physical activity is a must and that small changes in one’s lifestyle can lead to great results, Lee shared with the group that taking the stairs for just two minutes can burn 19 calories versus taking the elevator which only burns three.
It’s information, Lee pointed out, that the employees can apply in their own lives as well as use with their clients.
“Your clients probably need to move more too,” she said, explaining that movement helps keep elderly joints loose. ” Even if it’s just moving their legs while sitting.”
As they apply it to their own lives and share it with their clients and clients’ families, Lee emphasized that “attitude is everything” and that enjoyment can play a big role in how successful one is in making — and keeping — physical activity a priority.
“Focus on play and enjoyment,” she advised. “Choose activities that you can enjoy for a lifetime because you’re not going to do it if you don’t enjoy it. If you’re doing something that you like, it won’t be hard for you.”
It also helps to plan to exercise and to set some goals, Lee pointed out, reminding the group how easy it is to say you’re going to walk in the morning before work but how difficult it can be to actually do when you don’t make any real plans for it, like forgeting to set the alarm clock a few minutes earlier.
“Start slow,” Lee also stressed. “Don’t start out saying I’m going to walk ten miles today. You’ll only get discouraged. Walk as far as you can and then try to increase it each day.”
Before class ended Thursday, the group learned how to make a quick, easy, and healthy recipe — chicken and broccoli quiche — which they prepared and sampled.
“I’ve really enjoyed it and learned a lot,” attested Yolanda Troublefield of the class as she tasted the quiche. “I’ve already lost four pounds.”
“We’ve learned a lot about safety with food, like what temperature to cook meat at and foods, like fruit, that you need to clean but may not think about,” fellow employee Linda McClenny shared.
“I’ve liked learning how to cook quick, easy, simple, healthy meals,” added Linda Hall. “It’s really ideal when you work.”
Martha Owens noted that what the group is learning is “information that we can share with our clients and let them know that this way is more healthy for them.”
Also in the class, the group’s boss Deborah Herring, R.N., was thrilled to hear their positive responses and raved about the class series herself.
“I think it’s really going to help,” she said, explaining that as an aid service, some of the work the employees do involves food preparation and grocery shopping. “They can use this for themselves and for their patients and I think it’s just going to be a wonderful thing. We really appreciate them (Cooperative Extension) providing this for us.”
“They’re a good group to work with. These young women ask a lot of questions,” added Lee who also thanked Four County Electric and State Farm Insurance for donating $100 each to provide the group with meat and refrigerator thermometers to use in their work.
Lauren Williams can be reached at 910-592-8137, ext. 117 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.