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Tools for Living

MountainView's Women's Resource Center gives Las Cruces-area women ages 45 and up the information they need to manage their health and lives—and, through them, reaches men as well.

Story and photos by Jessica J. Savage

 

Visitors to the Women's Resource Center are greeted by a tastefully decorated room in hues of green, with an overstuffed couch, deep purple-accent walls and the warm friendly face of a young woman. Nestled on the fourth floor of the MountainView Medical Plaza in Las Cruces, the center's warm, inviting interior was intentionally designed to stand in contrast to the starkness and sterility of a medical facility.

Charlotte Tallman can find just the information clients need among her brochures and other resources at the center.

 

It's a place that's meant to be soothing and relaxing for a woman who may have just been told she has to have a hysterectomy or has a life-threatening illness like cancer, says Charlotte Tallman, who runs the center.

Many of the center's clients have developed a close relationship with Tallman, she says, because of the nature of the discussions concerning personal health issues. The atmosphere of the center is meant to facilitate that. "Most of the time, if they have privacy, I'll see their eyes brimming with tears as they speak with me," she says.

Trained as a journalist, Tallman sees her role running the center as that of chief resource specialist. As a former newspaper reporter, Tallman says she was already well-connected with various community resources. "There's a wealth of information that's hard to track down," she says. "If they don't know what and where something is, then they can't use it."

Sponsored by MountainView Regional Medical Center (MVRMC) as a completely free community resource for health education, the center is not necessarily just for women patients. "Women make health-care decisions in the home," Tallman explains. "They're the ones that are going to come in and get resources for everyone in the home."

This month Tallman is coordinating a Men's Health Fair, sponsored by and held at MVRMC, and every September the center hosts a well-attended men's prostate screening. "The women register for their men," Tallman says.

 

After surveying the community and discovering there were already lots of programs for women of childbearing age, planners decided to focus on women ages 45 and over. The need for programs for this age group was partly evidenced by high attendance at the Red Hot Mamas menopause support group, a chapter of the national organization that's also coordinated by Tallman, which meets at the medical center. Planners also took into account the many retired women moving into the area with unique health and life issues.

Taking up where the childbearing roles end and the quality of life issues begin for middle-age women, the center holds a series of free classes that vary slightly month to month. Held primarily during the lunch hour, ranging from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., many classes target working women who come and have lunch while listening to a speaker.

It's the classes that draw people to the center, Tallman says, although initially physician referrals were expected to be the driving force.

"The classes are terrific," says regular attendee Sandy Abernathy. Initially drawn to the center by classes on care giving for aging parents and financial planning for retirement, Abernathy says she now primarily attends fitness and nutrition classes, which have helped her deal with fibromyalgia.

"It's a wonderful service to the community," says Ellen Gambling, who in the few months that she's been in Las Cruces has become a center regular. "The classes are very well advertised." While attending a class on retirement income planning, Gambling says other classes have addressed things she is currently dealing with such as her parents' health, her own health and financial issues. "They're for everybody," she says, adding, "More men need to come."

Among the recent class topics men would find relevant are prostate cancer awareness, caring for a loved one with dementia or Alzheimer's disease, advance directives, paying for long-term care and estate planning. While financial planning has traditionally been the domain of the male head of the household, more and more women are finding the need to know about these issues for themselves.

Many times widows come into the center with questions about financial and estate issues, Tallman says. "They're scared and looking for an answer."

Not only do they find information, but they also receive support from Tallman and have formed social groups with other class attendees. Some of the women have become friends and engage in group activities outside the center such as walking and going to lunch. "It's amazing how many ways the center can touch someone's life," Tallman says.

 

Referring to her speakers and presenters as "dedicated," Tallman says all of them volunteer their time and many have called and offered to be part of the class series. "They have a love of the community."

The Women's Resource Center will sponsor a men's health fair on June 17 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. It will feature information for men on topics such as diabetes, prostate cancer, smoking cessation and colon cancer. It will be held in the MountainView Community Education Room and Cafe, 4311 E. Lohman. For more information, call 556-6890.

A family service counselor at Hillcrest Memorial Gardens, Charlotte Prossen says she wants her presentations to be about living. "I talk about quality of life issues, the celebration of life," she says.

Her topics change each month, with titles such as "What's Your Time Zone: Meaningful Usage of Time," "Alone but Never Lonely" and "Knowing Your Significance." Prossen says, "I want the titles to reach everyone."

An ordained Unity Minister, Prossen says she finds participating at the center rewarding. "It helps me keep my edge."

Attendees at Roy Ward's "Income for Life" presentation always have two questions, he says: "How much money do I need to retire?" and "How long is my money going to last?"

Associated with Grindell & Romero Insurance Agency and ECA Companies, Ward, a certified retirement financial advisor, gives a presentation on the Income for Life Model that allows people to create income from retirement savings. One class attendee who became a client told Ward she was relieved to have a plan. "It gives them a system," he says.

Once a person comes into the center for classes, Tallman says she has an opportunity to introduce them to the "wealth of information" the center offers through packets of handouts, a brochure and reading rooms. Following a well-attended exercise class for arthritis, for example, pre-registered attendees are handed a folder with more information on the center and handouts for further reading on the class topic. Pre-registering also puts them on the list to receive the center's monthly schedule by email plus special mailings.

Many of the class topics are focused on wellness and prevention, and dealing with quality-of life issues. But classes are also targeted to particular diseases and conditions such as breast cancer, menopause and dementia. Recent attendees at a celiac disease class received a free CD, as well as advice on working with various health-care providers.

Tallman has pre-made packets of information on specific diseases and conditions, and she can lead people to local support organizations. Among her most popular titles are diabetes, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), fitness and nutrition, menopause and the Red Hot Mamas organization, HPV/ovarian cancer, reproductive issues and prostate and breast cancer.

One of the first items seen in the packet called "Understanding Diabetes" is a flyer for Southern New Mexico Diabetes Outreach, which offers classes and support groups at 7 p.m. on the first and second Monday of each month, and the third and fourth Tuesday at MVRMC. Also included are handouts on blood sugar levels, walking, diet and recipes.

Among the other community support groups the center refers to are a breast cancer group that meets at the YWCA, Mesilla Valley Hospice, La Piñon for sexual assault recovery, Kids Talk hotline for teens, and the Alzheimer's Association.

Also, the MVRMC Web site (www.mountainviewregional.com) has a section on health topics that rivals national sites such as WebMD. "The hospital is turning to preventive medicine more and more," Tallman says. "They're a community leader and advocate."

Waving her outstretched hand, she turns towards the furnishings in the center, Tallman says she proud to be associated with the medical center. "Look what they've given me—a really nice office that we offer to the community for free. They've never asked us to make financial gains. I feel really privileged."

The Women's Resource Center is located on the fourth floor of MountainView Medical Plaza, 4351 E. Lohman Ave., Suite 404, in Las Cruces. For more information, call 556-6890, email charlotte.tallman@triadhospitals.com or see www.mountainviewregional.com/womenresource.php.

 

Frequent Desert Exposure contributor Jessica J. Savage
recently won six Communications Awards from the
New Mexico Press Women's Association, four of them for articles
published in our pages, including second place for health columns
for her contributions to the Body, Mind & Spirit section.

 

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