Spotlight: Jessica Downs, Clinical Operations

HealthStar’s Corporate team is a very diverse mix of all walks of life. Today, we are nurses (like Jessica), medical billers, and office support staff. But many winding paths have converged to bring this team together. With history in auto maintenance, real estate, finance, marketing, teaching, and even some folks who moved to the continental US from abroad, we really keep things interesting!

We are all problem solvers in one way or another, but the thing that really brings us together is our love of caring for others. We may not be direct, hands-on care staff, but we show our helping hands in other ways. There are lots of treats and shared meals, plenty of “feelings Friday” discussions where we show our support for each other, and lots of inside jokes. There are no cliques – we all get along. No, seriously! It’s not always easy, but because we truly care about each other, we give each other grace and try to understand where others are in their own unique battles.

As awesome as Corporate is, if you really want to see what makes HealthStar shine, what sets us apart, and what we are all working for every day – you’ll need to look outside our colorful and multi-angled Corporate walls. Look out into “the field,” where the rubber meets the road. Can you see our clinicians, our practitioners, and our front-line caregiving staff? Maybe you also see our service office locations and some of our Clients – they’re the reason Corporate exists! We work to serve, and we work hard to make sure that we serve well!

Who else do you see?

While you’re looking out there, do you see a blonde? Not just any blonde, but a blonde who really OWNS IT? Maybe you see her climbing out of a big pickup truck with her hair flowing in the wind. Her broad, radiant, feel-good smile touches everyone she walks past. That blonde hair is a statement, and the shoes and smile are the exclamation point. Her red shoes reflect her true passion – love for all people, and a strong desire to take care of those who need it. Watch out, now – she’s a hugger, but her hug melts your worries away and leaves you feeling lighter. Just who is this happy, high-heeled hugger, you ask? I’m proud to say, this bright and bubbly blonde is Jessica “Jess” Downs, HealthStar’s Director of Clinical Operations.

Talk about winding roads to HealthStar Corporate – prior to her decision to become an RN, Jessica had worked as a CNA in HealthStar’s Duluth office. Jess even once considered becoming an attorney! We’re sure glad she didn’t go that route. Instead, while working as a CNA in a nursing home, Jess was encouraged by a mentor to pursue a career in nursing and decided to give it a try.

What a great fit for her caring personality! After getting her degree, Jessica’s career in nursing kicked off in her home town of Duluth, MN, working in a surgical center and hospital. She later worked in Wisconsin, Nevada, California, and Arizona, in a variety of clinical roles including corrections nurse, hospice case manager, and Director of Nursing. Then, in 2014, Jessica’s winding road led her full-circle right back to HealthStar. Some things are just meant to be! Because we are in the “month of love,” we thought it would be a great time to tell you a little more about Jessica and her big-hearted ways. Jessica Downs, the HealthStar spotlight is on you!

Happiness is contagious

One of the first things that I noticed about Jessica is that she always seems So Happy. It’s an overwhelming happiness, like I imagine it would be if everyone’s Facebook self was real. She projects positivity and happiness into the world in front of her, like a blinding pink tractor beam, daring sadness to cross its path. If ethereal auras were visible, Jessica’s would be pink and fuzzy, and it would probably sparkle in the sunlight.

Cass Lake 2018 Holiday Party.
Left to Right: Barb J, Michelle C, Julie S, Jessica D, Jean B.

Her happiness is wonderful in meetings, which are otherwise often dull and boring. Jess has a great laugh, bursting straight out of her heart; it is the glorious sound of freedom, a bird’s song of warm sunshine and wind ruffling his feathers as he soars through the open sky. Try to be stressed and frustrated in front of Jessica, I dare you. When you start to explain your problems, they suddenly won’t seem so bad any more. She’ll tell you “it’s OK, we’ll get through it.” And, poof – she’s right. It’s that simple. We will get through it.

Shine on, Jessica!

It’s easy to understand Jessica’s success in hospice, and as a nurse in general. A ray of sunshine in a cloudy and often difficult time, she’s exactly the type of personality to lift everyone’s spirits. Picture her sweet-talking her patients and showing them there’s nothing else that matters in the world. To Jessica, that’s the truth! She loves our HealthStar clients and pours her heart and soul into making sure that our team has the tools to deliver the best possible care!

While similar care is provided in both hospice and home care, there is a much more personal aspect to home care, because of the need for service to be provided in the Client’s living space. Jess has a great understanding of what this means to Clients. She expresses gratitude and compassion toward HealthStar’s Clients and says that she is honored to be invited into their homes. Her humility and friendliness help set Clients at ease.

Flexibility, much?

Some things are critical to a successful career at HealthStar. A sense of humor, I say. A love of food? Probably. The gift of patience? Can’t hurt. How about the ability to roll with the punches, to re-prioritize when a target shifts, or to “be the willow,” as our long-time employee Cathy Rivas-Carballo says. In my opinion, this is critical. HealthStar staff have an informal motto: “Give it a minute, things will change!”

Cass Lake 2018 Holiday Party.
Left to Right: Michelle C, Karen M, Jean B, Jessica D, Julie S.

Why is flexibility important? Take Jessica’s HealthStar history as an example. In her RN role, she started at HealthStar shortly after our transition from PCA/HMK agency to Medicare-certified agency. In the time Jess has been with us, the layout, structure, and focus of HealthStar’s branch offices, the organizational chart, and even our office addresses have changed. We have added and subtracted service offerings, and we have changed software programs many, many times. Staff have come and gone, sometimes more than once. (We joke about a revolving door. In a good way!) Throughout all these changes, Jess and the rest of our Corporate staff have flexed and sometimes flailed in the wind, but with flexibility on our side, we haven’t broken. We almost never make jokes about having a new priority. Instead, we come together as a team, again and again, and figure out how to continue.

But wait, there’s more…

Jess has also ridden the wave of change in her personal journey at HealthStar. Not including her time as CNA, Jessica first worked at Corporate, transferred to Duluth, transferred back to Corporate, and now lives in the Duluth/Cloquet area but still represents the Corporate office. Wait, what? Don’t worry about the details; the moral of the story is, she’s plenty flexible, and she goes with the flow. Jessica’s humility and “true to your roots” attitude make her approachable, and she always talks us down off the branches when things get a little too windy in that willow tree.

Open heart, open mind

Something that not everyone may know about Jessica is that, in addition to being an RN, she embraces a very unique skill set of healing. She is a Certified Level II Reiki Practitioner and says that blending western medicine and alternative medicine helps her to treat people holistically. Reiki has been around for thousands of years and is sometimes called “the laying of hands.” In practice, Reiki focuses on the transfer of healing energy from practitioner to patient, to revitalize the healing energy in the patient.

Maybe this explains why Jess has such grace and love for all of us – by sensing the energy around her, she sees more than just a single facet of a person, giving her a greater understanding of what makes us all tick. By keeping an open mind, and trying something different, Jessica is bringing a new perspective to HealthStar. There is something different about Jessica, and maybe this explains a little bit of that difference. There’s a lot that we can’t fully understand, but instead of dismissing those things, Jessica has embraced possibility and puts healing energy to great use.

But what about those shoes?

Yes, Jessica has some of the cutest shoes that I’ve ever seen. With my big clompers, I won’t be wearing anything like her shoe wardrobe. She’s not shoe crazy, she just has good taste. I know, this is four things, and usually I only do three, but this one is short. Great shoes. Hardly counts as a fourth.

By the way, Jess – how do you drive that big pickup truck with those fashion forward shoes on? And do you still wear heels when you go ice fishing?

Thanks for the positivity!

Corporate is lucky to have Jessica’s happiness, positivity, flexibility, and open mind on our side. Her love of HealthStar’s Clients shines through in every meeting. She is absolutely a strong advocate and spokesperson for the Client’s perspective and needs in receiving care. Jessica has brought a wonderful attitude of love and acceptance to HealthStar Corporate, and she has extended that attitude to the branch offices and to all of our Clients. We can’t wait to show you the benefits of this sense of love and caring!

Spotlight: Holly Eide, AZ/NM

It’s that time of year again. I sit at my desk, surrounded by white noise and plagued by static cling. My humidifier is straining to compete with the drying effect of my space heater, and I’m caught in the middle, coated in a thick layer of chap-stick and hand lotion, like an electrically-charged paper maché statue of myself. Yes, there are great things about winter. Sledding, holiday decorations, warm apple cider, and a cozy fire in the fireplace are all wonderful at times. But this is also the time of year when a few sneaky jealous thoughts might creep in toward Holly Eide, Area Manager of our HealthStar/Circle of Life Home Care offices to the south (WAY south) in Gallup, New Mexico and in Casa Grande, Arizona. Our Circle of Life Home Care snowbird manager is lucky to find herself in the land where weather-wise Northland retirees find gentler temperatures for their winter months.

Holly knows what the weather is like up north and down south. She started with HealthStar in MN in 2010, and then transplanted down to AZ in fall of 2016. This holiday season, as we celebrate Holly’s 8th year with HealthStar, we thought it would be a great time to learn a little bit more about her!

A little history

Holly has seen so many changes at HealthStar since she first started, and her background is as full of changes as her time with HealthStar has been. From court reporter, to stock market, to owner of an indoor park – which do you think gave Holly the most applicable experience for HealthStar? If you’ve guessed indoor park, you are correct! HealthStar is a lot like an indoor park some days, which is why we must remember to slow down in the corners and keep our chins tucked – we don’t want any bonked heads!

Holly Eide and Daniel Roebuck at the His Neighbor Phil premier party

After testing the waters in the billing department, Holly sprang into action mode when HealthStar needed a manager for its second Minneapolis office. From there, Holly made a bold and daring move to Arizona, where she is currently watching another new office take flight. She is our official HealthStar/AZ Circle of Life snow bird, although she is much younger than the traditional snow bird, and she rarely returns to the land of 10,000 lakes these days. Holly also watches over the Gallup Circle of Life office, so between those two warm states, she keeps plenty busy! Let’s find out more about what makes Holly tick – here are three things that I’d love to share about Holly. Holly, the HealthStar spotlight’s on you!

Sense of humor

Holly has been known to pull a prank now and then. Her signature move is the “gift of condiment” where she’ll sneak a salt or pepper shaker into your purse when you’re not looking. Really, I think she’s just being considerate – who couldn’t use a little extra spice? There’s less opportunity for these “gifts” with Holly several states south of Corporate, but she knows how to use the mail! Every package has a special item to give Corporate a laugh. Corporate knows how to use the mail, too – sometimes Holly gets a package full of glitter, or a box of 500 stress balls when things get really tough.

Holly Eide presenting Normal Aging vs. Dementia

Holly has been around long enough to have a bunch of tales to tell about “the old days” at HealthStar – if you ask her, you’re sure to have a chuckle! Ask her about the “just fired” car wrapped in saran wrap, or the Motel 8 ice bucket shipped lovingly to Katie Wagner at Corporate. She can tell you about the HealthStar Harlem Shake, ripped pants, eating doughnuts off strings, and the great 24ECC glitterbomb of 2017. Together, we took the Corporate office by storm during the office Olympics in 2012, and we witnessed the yoga planking craze later that year. Even from afar, Holly continues to make things a little lighter in our offices, helping us remember not to take things too seriously, and giving us plenty of memories to smile about.

Positivity

Ever need someone to help you look at the bright side of things when you’re feeling down? Holly is the one for the job! She sees the best in people and isn’t afraid to say it. Her optimism is contagious and helps to keep everyone around her moving! Holly doesn’t get bogged down when things are frustrating – she keeps on pushing toward the goal and has the vision of success in mind. Determination is key for Holly! Knowing it will be tough just makes her drive even harder for success. Competitive? You bet, but it’s all for a good cause. Well, I suppose for fun, too. Can’t forget about fun.

Holly Eide, Connie Stone, and Shannon Mackenzie at the MN State Fair one year later after discovering a lemon-sized brain tumor

One of the highlights that Holly has had with HealthStar was the time she spent working on HealthStar’s MN State Fair memory screenings. It was a huge undertaking, planning a booth and getting everything in place to complete memory screenings there. But Holly’s determination, and her belief in the project, got the team on board. The high point of the screenings was in 2016, with a very special visit from a woman who had failed a screen in 2015. It turned out that she had a lemon-sized brain tumor! Luckily, after the failed screen, she was instructed to see her doctor and followed through on that advice! Holly is still driven by this story today – she knows that this is the difference HealthStar can make in the lives of those we touch.

A Rolling Stone

If there’s one absolute truth I have learned about Holly over these years, it is that she Never. Stops. Moving. She is a true rolling stone, and she has gathered no moss. She thrives in an ever-changing environment, and she doesn’t back down from a challenge. Remember all the twists and turns from her business-life? Well, she doesn’t just take those corners at work – she’s also a wild and crazy careening force in her home life. She’s got 2 kiddos, both busy in sports (ask her about her hockey daughter and the Olympics!). At 34, she decided to take up BMX biking. She once competed in a bodybuilding event with her husband (remember the tan?).

What will Holly do next?

After 8 years of wild and crazy HealthStar adventures, Holly is still going strong in Arizona. During the winter months, she gets to watch the great migration of the northern SnowBird! How many retirees spend winter in Arizona each year? Thousands, and Holly wants to know how HealthStar can help! A busy Holly is a happy Holly, so let her know what she can do for your better health if you’re visiting the southern states during these cold winter months. You might just inspire the next great Holly Eide adventure!

Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation

HealthStar Home Health provides culturally-relevant healthcare services to traditionally under-served populations. Our healthcare team serves clients in a number of communities, who benefit from the wide range of healthcare services that we provide, including skilled therapies, such as speech therapy, occupational therapy and physical therapy. Wanting to provide a glimpse into the skilled therapies we offer, today we take a look at physical therapy and rehabilitation and recently caught up with Nissa Fougner, PT, DPT, COS-C, and Director of Rehabilitation at HealthStar, where she is currently working to grow our team of in-house physical therapists.

Skilled therapy visits are often ordered by a physician to assist in the recovery of an illness, injury, surgery or other disabling event. HealthStar Home Health offers in-home therapies through our own team of therapists as well as partnering with outside contract therapists. We work with each client to help keep them safe and active in their own home while creating individualized goals to get you back on the road to recovery.

Physical therapy (PT) is care which is focused on easing pain and helping the individual move independently, perform daily living functions and overall, live an active and fulfilling life in the home. People of all ages may require physical therapy to treat various health conditions or needs, not limited to:

  • Pain relief
  • Improve mobility
  • Recovery from a sports injury
  • Rehabilitation after a stroke, accident or surgery
  • Improve balance to prevent falls
  • Bowel and bladder control
  • Using assistive medical equipment, such as a walker or cane

When a patient has received a referral from a physician for skilled therapy services, HealthStar Home Health works with the patient and knows what discipline is required. A nurse, home health aide or skilled therapist will then visit the patient and create a care calendar depending on the services needed and extent. Each situation is unique and some patients may require different professionals to tend to the patient at different times of the rehabilitation and treatment.

When invited into the home of a patient to provide care, HeathStar Home Health and our professionals understand the need to be respectful of their wishes and environment. This allows us the opportunity to create a positive relationship with our patients. As Fougner says, “Seeing a client in their own home environment allows us to make a positive impact in their care and rehabilitation. The focus of homecare is to improve the client’s quality of life and being able to provide care in the individual’s home allows us to assess the real time picture of the setting so we can offer the best care for each environment.”

The relationship built with each client is an important piece of the care and rehabilitation process. There are some clients who are not able to leave their home due to physical, emotional and mental limitations. Nissa and her team of physical therapy assistants (PTAs), as well as the other skilled therapists who may be involved, are sensitive to each individual’s situation and possible limitations and work with each and every patient with care and respect to ensure a positive impact. Our professionals listen to the patient, gently guide and motivate, and encourage the individual to reach goals throughout their treatment.

HealthStar Home Health understands how overwhelming and challenging it can be to care for a loved one at home and also offer a variety of home health care services to help support your loved one to live a more independent and fulfilling life at home. To learn more about the various skilled nursing, skilled therapies, and mental health services available, visit our website.

With cultural care values as the foundation, our caregivers are able to provide quality service, delivering it with increased awareness and perspective. As we serve our clients and communities, we are motivated by our desire to bring services to everyone in need. Call us today at 651-633-7300 for more information or to schedule a no-charge consultation.

HHH Nissa Fogner2
Nissa Fougner, PT, DPT, COS-C, and Director of Rehabilitation at HealthStar Home Health. She has a certification in Oasis, a comprehensive assessment Medicare data collection tool used for data collection management.

SaveSave

Understanding Glaucoma

Occurring at any age but tends to be more common in older adults and often presenting itself with no warning signs, glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness in the United States. The Mayo Clinic defines glaucoma as a group of eye conditions that damage the optic nerve, which is vital to good vision, and deteriorates more over time. Often, the damage is caused by an abnormally high pressure in your eye with symptoms so gradual individuals may not realize a change in vision until the condition has reached an advanced stage.

The fluid that normally flows throughout the eye may either over produce or not drain properly which leads to build up. This build up causes increased pressure and cause the optic nerve to gradually deteriorate. Glaucoma is also hereditary. Scientists have identified certain genes in some individuals related to this high pressure and optic nerve damage. There are different types of glaucoma:

  • Open-angle glaucoma:most common form of the disease, the drainage angle remains open, but partially blocked causing a gradual pressure buildup.
  • Angle-closure glaucoma:occurs when full or near full blockage forms and the fluid cannot circulate throughout the eye causing increased pressure.
  • Normal-tension glaucoma:although the eye pressure is within the normal range, the optic nerve still becomes damaged, possibly due to optic nerve sensitivity or a lower blood supply to this area.
  • Adolescent glaucoma:with some, glaucoma may be present at birth or developed early in life, typically caused by drainage issues or other medical condition.
  • Pigmentary glaucoma:with this type of glaucoma, pigment particles from the iris build up in the drainage area which causes the fluid to not drain properly and leads to increased pressure.

Glaucoma, if left untreated, will eventually lead to blindness. But, even with treatment, approximately 15 percent of individuals with glaucoma will become blind in one or both eyes. Depending on the stage of your condition, the signs and symptoms of the different types of glaucoma will vary. For example:

Open-angle glaucoma

  • You will experience blind spots in your peripheral or central vision, typically in both eyes.
  • You will experience tunnel vision with advanced stages.

Acute angle-closure glaucoma

  • You will experience blurred vision.
  • You will experience nausea and vomiting.
  • You will experience severe headaches.
  • You will experience halos around lights.
  • You will experience eye pain and redness.

Annual eye exams are key to early detection but contact an ophthalmologist immediately if experiencing symptoms such as severe headaches, blurred vision and eye pain. Glaucoma may not be preventable, but following these steps may allow for early detection, limited vision loss or even slowing the progress of the disease:

  • Regular eye care
  • Knowing the family’s health history
  • Exercise moderately
  • Use prescribed eye drops
  • Wear eye protection

HealthStar Home Health understands how overwhelming and challenging it can be to care for a loved one at home and offers a variety of home health care services to help support your loved one to live more independently in their own home. With services such as life and health management, mental health, home health and home help, we at HealthStar Home Health help make families and communities strong by enabling individuals of all ages to live longer, more independent and fulfilling lives. To learn more about the various mental health and behavioral health services we offer, visit our website.

With cultural care values as the foundation, our caregivers are able to provide quality service, delivering it with increased awareness and perspective. As we serve our clients and communities, we are motivated by our desire to bring services to everyone in need. Call us today at 651-633-7300 for more information or to schedule a no-charge consultation.

24ECC program: Building the HealthStar Family

HealthStar’s 24ECC program is different than other Corporate “touchy-feely” programs.

Many companies search for ways to increase cultural competency and employee engagement, but very few truly succeed. With the 24ECC program, HealthStar has nailed it.

Developing the 24ECC program

In 2009, HealthStar invited clients and community members to participate in focus groups tasked with identifying the qualities of good caregivers. These result: a long list of ideal characteristics for caregivers, providing great insight into HealthStar’s culturally diverse client base.

HealthStar then narrowed the focus group’s list to twenty-four crucial elements. The new 24 Expressions of Company Culture, or ECCs, fit nicely within the categories of HealthStar’s top four core values: Servant Leadership, Empathy, Altruism, and Integrity. Almost 10-years later, and the 24ECC program still lives on!

24ECCs in action

Each month, 24ECC trainers identify one of the 24ECC values to highlight. They design activities that help staff to discuss and dig deeper into the importance and impact of the chosen value. Through these activities and discussions, we gain a better understanding of the ideals that our Clients identified. We also examine the cultural differences in how values are expressed or perceived. The same values are often interpreted very differently depending on cultural background!

What the 24ECCs do for our team

One of the unexpected benefits of the 24ECCs is that they provide a tool to better understand and communicate with team members. The 24ECC program is a constant reminder that even though someone may do things differently, that doesn’t make it wrong! We learn balance – if you do too much of one value, you might end up not representing other values which are equally important. In conflict, the 24ECCs guide us to consider each other’s point of view without judging or jumping to conclusions. We use the 24ECCs as consistent language to express ourselves, and to discuss and work through concerns.

But for me, the best part is getting together once a month to get to know each other through a new 24ECC activity. I love the creative ideas that our 24ECC planners come up with! 24ECC Bingo, collage making, skits, and gift baskets – and sometimes a 24ECC snack. When we build a team that communicates and has fun together, we also develop something more than just a place where people go to complete tasks.

What 24ECC “Work Love” can do for you

HealthStar is more than a group of people who work together. We are a team that supports each other and truly cares about each other.  We are a work family, spread across three states. HealthStar people get excited to see each other at quarterly meetings – it’s like family coming to visit, including the cooking, the hugging, and the chatting.

Best of all, when HealthStar needs to get a project done, we all jump in and do what we can. We appreciate and capitalize on the things that make us different, because we know that’s part of building a great team! By fostering this Work Love relationship in our offices, we automatically extend the same level of care to our Clients. It’s not always easy, but with the 24ECCs, we have the foundation to build on. It is a great base to support great care!

Check out our website for more information about this program and how it helps us provide the best possible care!

 

Obesity

The widespread presence of obesity in the United States is increasing across all age groups. According to the Obesity Action Coalition, it is estimated that 93 million Americans are affected by obesity. It is also reported that socioeconomic status plays a significant role. Populations which are low-income and minority are more likely to be overweight and tend to experience it at a higher rate.

We at HealthStar Home Health see firsthand how obesity affects our patients and their families, especially when working with the Native American population in Minnesota, New Mexico and Arizona. According to a report by the Shakopee Mdwakanton Sioux Community, the rate of obesity in children is on the rise and coupled with diabetes will soon reach 50%. These alarming statistics and others show the epidemic will continue to grow amongst Native Americans in Minnesota. According to the Mayo Clinic, obesity typically results from a combination of causes and contributing factors, such as:

  • Genetics: A person’s genes may affect the amount of body fat stored and where it is distributed in the body. A person’s genetics will also play a role in the efficiency your body converts food into energy and the rate calories are burned during exercise.
  • Activity level: If a person is not very active, not as many calories are burned. When a person leads a sedentary lifestyle usually more calories are consumed than burned through routine daily activities and exercise. This leads to weight gain.
  • Family lifestyle: Obesity tends to run in families. If one or both parents are obese, the risk of their children being obese is higher. This is not the same as genetics, but instead due to family members having similar eating and activity habits.
  • Unhealthy diet: A diet that is high in calories, fast food and oversized portions, but lacking in fruits and vegetables will lead to weight gain.
  • Social and economic issues: Scientific research has linked social and economic factors to obesity. Avoiding this is difficult if there are not safe areas to exercise, education on healthy ways of cooking or the means to buy healthier foods.

There are many other causes and contributing factors that can lead to obesity, this is just a sampling.

The risk of developing further health complications, some of which can be serious is higher for those who are obese, including but not limited to:

Understanding the risk factors involved is important as well as working to prevent obesity with available treatment options such as medication, healthy nutrition plans and a regular exercise routine.

HealthStar Home Health’s culturally-relevant programs offer services that address the unique needs of the Native American population. First Nation’s Home Health is Minnesota’s premier provider of home health services for Native American communities in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area as well as Duluth and Bemidji. By offering home health care services on the Red Lake, White Earth, Leech Lake, Bois Fort, Fond du Lac and Mille Lacs Reservations, our HealthStar Home Health nurses see the effects of obesity each day and work to empower patients and their families to be active participants in their care.

Circle of Life Home Care is a home health care initiative offering personal health care services in the ten-county area of northwestern New Mexico and in Arizona. Through both of these programs, HealthStar Home Health is committed to providing culturally sensitive care to the Native American population both on and off the Reservations.

With services such as life and health management, mental health, home health and home help, HealthStar Home Health helps make families and communities strong by enabling individuals of all ages to live longer, more independent and fulfilling lives. Call us today at 651-633-7300 for more information or to schedule a no-charge health care consultation.

Keeping Seniors Safe Online

As caregivers, we work around the clock to ensure our senior loved ones are safe throughout the long Minnesota winter months, when interacting within the community, and also in their own home. But what about keeping seniors safe when they are surfing the World Wide Web? Are we as vigilant with their online safety? Today’s technology is a wonderful thing for so many reasons, but it also makes users vulnerable to cyber scams, spam, hackers and identity theft.

Staying in touch with long distant friends or family members is much easier through a variety of social networks. Photo albums from a family vacation are able to be created and viewed online by relatives who live far away. Videos of a new born grandchild can be shared and with such high definition that it feels like you can reach out and touch the new baby. Older adults are even using digital dating services in hopes to meet someone new to offer companionship or travel with. With all this sharing of information online, such as social media sites, it puts our senior loved ones at an increased risk and vulnerability of cyber scams that may do harm.

Studies show that many seniors in North America are interacting online in various capacities, such as online banking, social media, or emailing. Each time an account is created, detailed personal information is required and sharing any personal information can put the user at risk. Being mindful of what information is being posted on social media is also important. The risk of oversharing includes:

  • Photos posted on one social media account can show up on a different social media platform. For example, if you post a photo on Instagram or Twitter, it may also end up on Facebook if the accounts are connected. Review the privacy settings of all social media platforms to ensure protection and you are aware of exactly who can view your posts and profile.
  • When creating a profile on your social media accounts, try to minimize the amount of detailed personal information you provide. Specifics such as birthdates, a child’s name, or street address could end up being used against you by a computer hacker.
  • What seem harmless online quizzes and games also require personal information. All bits of information provided could end up in the wrong hands and put you at risk.

AARP has an online safety website with tips and interactive videos or webinars. This site teaches how to stay safe online with tips to avoid scams, learning how to create safe passwords, and even email and online searching safety tips and much more. Older adults tend to be more vulnerable to cyber-attacks for the following reasons:

  • By nature, seniors tend to be more trusting and this can open the risk to online scam.
  • Creating weak passwords. Generic passwords, such as Password123, are not strong enough.
  • The general complexity of today’s computers and mobile devices tend to frustrate older adults, but also leave them at high risk.

Practicing smart online habits will greatly decrease your chances of being targeted in a cyber scam. A daily digital experience may include shopping online, connecting with friends through social media, completing an online crossword puzzle, meeting new people in your community, managing your banking, including money transfers, catching up on the latest news or even watching a movie. Learn how to get the most out of your digital experience, safely and securely.

Through direct services and through its ethnic initiatives, HealthStar Home Health provides services in various Midwestern and Southwestern communities. HeathStar Home Health serves individuals of all ages and abilities with caring and cultural sensitivity. With services such as life and health management, mental health, home health and home help, at HealthStar we are committed to making our communities strong by enabling individuals of all ages to live more independent and fulfilling lives. Contact us today at 651-633-7300 for more information or to schedule a no-charge consultation.

The Benefits of Senior Exercise

We all know the importance and the benefits of routine exercise and healthy eating habits, but for some of our aging loved ones, that part of their daily routine tends to slip. The benefits of a healthier heart, stronger bones, improved flexibility, sharper mind and overall feeling definitely outweigh not exercising, but it is still easy to develop poor habits as we age. Here in Minnesota our winters can get long and this can lead to being lackadaisical with our exercise routine, but with some health reminders and a little encouragement we can get our senior loved ones sweatin’ to the oldies once again.

John Medina, an affiliate professor of bioengineering at the University of Washington School of Medicine and author of Brain Rules says that aerobic exercise “keeps cognitive abilities sharp and slashes your lifetime risk of Alzheimer’s in half”. That is an incredible statistic and something we all could benefit from, no matter what the age. Alzheimer’s is not just a disease that affects older people. Early-onset Alzheimer’s can affect people who are younger than 65 years of age and close to 5% of the more than 5 million Americans who have Alzheimer’s disease have younger-onset.

Scientists strongly believe that regular exercise boosts blood flow to the brain, which in turn releases brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein some scientists have dubbed as Miracle-Gro for the brain. BDNF stimulates the formation of new neurons in an area of the brain called the hippocampus, which involves memory, learning, and the ability to plan and make decisions.

SeniorExercise

 

Seniors benefit greatly from routine exercise. This topic seems to be one thing that all health professionals unequivocally agree on – hands down, exercise is the single best thing you can do for the body and brain. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report that seniors have even more to gain in becoming active than younger people since the older a person is the higher the risk of health problems physical activity can reduce or even prevent. Some of the benefits of senior exercise include:

  • Immune System: a strong healthy body can fight off infections and diseases more quickly
  • Healthy Brain: studies have shown that exercise can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias
  • Heart Health: exercise lowers the risk of heart disease and high blood pressure
  • Sleep Better: you’ll fall asleep quicker and sleep better throughout the night
  • Bone Density: exercise helps prevent bone loss, which reduces the risk of osteoporosis and accidental falls
  • Digestion: exercise aids in waste elimination and the functioning of your gastro-intestinal tract

According to AARP (American Association of Retired Persons), 40 percent of people between the ages of 45 and 64 are considered sedentary. For those over 64 years of age, that number jumps to 60 percent. These are troubling numbers, but can easily be reversed. Begin by making a new year’s resolution to have a weekly exercise date with a senior loved one. Set a day and time each week to go for a walk in the neighborhood, walk laps in a local shopping mall or walk around a favorite Minneapolis or St. Paul lake – there are over 10,000 to choose from! Even register together for an exercise class through the community. Many communities have various classes that are geared toward seniors, such as aerobic, yoga, meditation, dance and others. It’s never too late to start exercising your brain and body!

At HealthStar Home Health, we serve individuals and health care professionals in a number of cities in Minnesota, including the Duluth area, as well as New Mexico. Our home health professionals provide unparalleled public healthcare services through stewardship, honor-driven values, and a genuine desire to serve our communities. Our clients benefit from the range of healthcare services that we provide, from Alzheimer’s and dementia care, to behavioral nursinghome health care nursing, respite care and more. Call HealthStar Home Health today at 651-633-7300 for more information or to schedule a no-charge consultation. Or visit our website www.healthstarhomehealth.net to complete the online contact form.

Senior Safety in the Home and During the Winter Months

Minnesota winters can be long, especially for our senior loved ones or those who live with symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease or other form of dementia. Whether living independently in their own home or in a local senior living community, it’s important to make sure our loved ones are safe. HealthStar Home Health is dedicated to make strong communities and families by enabling individuals of all ages to live more independent and fulfilling lives. Ensuring the home is a safe place is just one step toward that.

Although an individual may be living with Alzheimer’s disease or other form of dementia, it does not mean that person is not able to live on their own. In fact, many people experiencing symptoms of Alzheimer’s still live in the comfort of their own home. However, as the symptoms progress it is necessary to check in more often and make some safety changes and updates to their home. Giving the home a complete safety inspection, including equipment such as the furnace and water heater, is a good place to begin. Look for possible risks such as:

  • Door locks – check all locks to make sure they are in working order and install locks on doors to prevent access to certain rooms or near a stairway. Make it difficult for the person to find these locks by installing them at the top of the door.
  • Safety devices –routinely inspect all fire extinguishers, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are in good working condition and have new batteries installed. Keep an easy to read list of emergency phone numbers, such as police, fire, hospital, and family members, visible at all times.
  • Lighting – make sure the home is well lit, especially walkways often used, to reduce the chance of falling or becoming disoriented.
  • Sidewalks and stairways – ensure the stairway area is clear of loose rugs, has a sturdy hand rail and the sidewalks are shoveled routinely and free of ice.

There are other things to keep a watch for that we may not always think of:

  • Proper prescription management with seniors is becoming more and more challenging. Juggling the daily dosing schedule is confusing and difficult for many, which eventually leads to adverse drug mishaps including hospitalizations and unintentional overdoses. HealthStar Home Health recognizes this growing issue and provides assistance with medication through our Home Health Care services.
  • Performing a quick check-up on the senior loved one’s mobility equipment will ensure proper working order, encourage correct use of equipment, as well as prevent falls or tripping when in use. Make sure the brakes on the walker are in tip-top shape and if not, the fix is quick and easy. Will an ice cane tip help maneuver the icy Minnesota sidewalks this winter? If so, this is a simple attachment that is quick to install.
  • Making sure your senior loved one is eating healthy, exercising and has a sound mind is very important. There are typical age-related changes we all experience as we age, but the changes experienced by a person with Alzheimer’s is much more extreme, advanced and happen more often than a typical “forgetful moment”. Early detection is key, so if you or a loved one are noticing changes and symptoms, don’t ignore them! Depression, anxiety and even sundowning are all common symptoms to be aware of and watch for, especially at this time of year. There may be treatment available for all these symptoms as well as clinical studies, so make an appointment with your primary physician right away to discuss the health options of your senior loved ones.

HealthStar Home Health understands how overwhelming and difficult it can be to care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia and offers a comprehensive and effective Alzheimer’s and dementia home care program in our Alzheimer’s Whisperer program. This care program is a unique and effective approach to support those affected by Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias and their family. For additional information on the amazing home caregiving services we offer or the service areas you can find us, visit our website at www.healthstarhomehealth.net.

The Benefits of a Personal Care Attendant

Personal care services provide assistance and support for people with disabilities, living independently in communities such as Duluth, Minnesota and the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area. This includes the elderly as well as others with special health care needs. HealthStar Home Health aims to make communities and families strong by enabling individuals of all ages to live a more independent and fulfilling life. To achieve this, HealthStar Home Health offers Personal Care Assistant (PCA) services.

A personal care assistant may help individuals with daily living activities, such as:

  • Eating
  • Toileting
  • Dressing
  • Grooming
  • Bathing
  • Transferring and positioning
  • Mobility

A PCA will also provide assistance with daily living tasks such as meal planning and preparation, shopping, managing finances, communication via telephone or other avenues, and transportation within your community. A HealthStar personal care assistant will also provide hands-on assistance with various health related functions, including mental or behavioral illnesses.

According to a recent report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, healthcare jobs and industries are expected to have the fastest employment growth and will add the most jobs between 2014 and 2024. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the slowdown of labor force due to the increase in the proportion of the population entering prime retirement age. This slowdown of labor force growth is expected, in turn, to affect the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) annual growth, which is then projected to generate a 6.5% increase in new healthcare jobs between 2014 and 2024.

HealthStar Home Health recognizes that as the senior population ages, more and more Minnesota families are tasked with caring for their parents as well caring for their own family. This age group is commonly referred to as the “sandwich” generation and is quickly becoming overwhelmed when their daily job, family commitments and additional duties when caring for aging parents are all factored in. This type of situation is creating the fast-growing need for various healthcare jobs, including personal care assistants.

It is our hope you will consider HealthStar Home Health and the personal care assistance services we offer when helping a loved one retain independence and quality of life in their northern Minnesota or Minneapolis-St. Paul area home. HealthStar is proud to offer culturally sensitive healthcare services to individuals who are traditionally underserved. We offer personal care services as well as Home Health Care Services, Mental Health Services, and Home and Community Based Services. Under these mentioned services, you will find a range of additional support such as:

Home Health Care Services:

Home and Community Based Services:

Mental Health Services:

HealthStar Home Health will consult with our clients’ physicians, social workers, hospitals, family, and other providers to develop a customized plan for each individual’s home health care needs. Included in this will be managing the necessary paperwork and communicating with providers, insurers, and government agencies as needed. We are confident the services offered by HealthStar will alleviate the stress of caring for your senior loved ones. Contact us today if you have more questions or would like to schedule a no-obligation consultation.

In an effort to meet the demands of the growing healthcare industry, HealthStar Home Health offers employment opportunities which include competitive compensation packages in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, northern Minnesota communities, including Duluth and Bemidji, Wisconsin and New Mexico. HealthStar operates on a genuine desire to serve the culturally diverse clientele through stewardship and honor-driven values. If you are the special type of person who enjoys caring for seniors and will ensure they receive it in a dignified and caring way, contact us to learn more about our current open positions. Call us today at 651-633-7300 or visit our website to learn more about our company and apply.