Spotlight: Magan Olson, Clinical Supervisor

Here I am, hoping to write a great blog post about Magan, one of HealthStar’s Mental Health department superstar Clinical Supervisors. She has this great HealthStar history that goes back to the beginning of the Mental Health program (spoiler alert – she was one of our first interns!). But I keep catching myself looking out the window and thinking about, well, lots of other stuff. It’s not that I don’t like what I’m doing, I just sometimes can’t get myself to buckle down and do one task at a time. My brain wants me to think about grocery shipping, what my kids are doing while I work, and a whole list of “other duties as assigned” when I’m trying to complete a task. Please tell me I’m not alone in this?

While writing the post that was published earlier this month, I talked with Magan about health and wellness ideas (she is a great resource for mental health wellness!). My conversation with Magan reintroduced me to mindfulness, which is basically paying more attention to where you are in the moment, instead of splitting your attention with all those other distractions. For me, this is a true exercise – it is very difficult at times. Some days, I swear my brain tries to purposely stop me from checking off my list. I’m still able to accomplish a lot, but just think of what I could do if this wasn’t happening!

Wait, what was that again?

Truth is, this distraction is normal to some degree. While it’s hard to overcome, we can learn to make peace with our distracted nature. Magan says that a focus on mindfulness has made a big difference for her – just taking those few minutes to breathe and be present has helped her to stay grounded. Magan also says that exercise has helped her with her personal health and wellness journey. A little extra energy and a boost in serotonin can go a long way to improving your mood and state of mind, especially in this long and snowy MN winter!

Here’s the thing – if I can learn these things from Magan by asking a few general questions, just imagine how amazing it could be if we knew all her secrets! Oh, OK, maybe not all of them, but at least a few? Well, I am lucky enough to tell you three amazing things about Magan right now! Magan, the HealthStar spotlight’s on you!

Responsibility, much?

Magan is one of those people who you just know will get back to you. Maybe it’ll take a day or two, but you never question that the response will be coming your way. She knows how to prioritize, and she absolutely understands responsibility and attentiveness. I assume that this comes at some cost to her, personally, because there are times when all of us are overwhelmed… but I don’t see her letting things go. To Magan, it is clearly important to meet the needs of others and to follow through on her commitments.

Her focus on responsibility makes Magan an amazing resource for her team. She has been a go-to on many projects, going back to her days as an intern! I won’t bore you with the details, but there are plenty of good reasons why Magan was hired as our first Mental Health Practitioner. We just couldn’t let her escape after her internship here! Tim Plant, former Executive Director at HealthStar, may not be here today, but his good hiring judgment still hangs around wherever Magan gets assigned. I’m sure Sherry Fridlund, current Director of Mental Health Services, would agree that this was one of Tim’s greatest decisions.

The eyes!

It happens so quickly – you might think you’re just shooting the breeze, and then, all the sudden, you get the look. If you’ve talked to Magan, you know what I’m talking about. It’s all in the eyes. It’s the look that says “I’m here for you, I’m listening to you, there is nothing else that matters right now, and I will help you fix all of your problems.” If you’ve never experienced this before, let me tell you, it’s quite the feeling. She listens like no one else I have ever known. No judgment, no unwanted advice, no interruptions. Just listening. It’s a kind of being heard that you might not realize you need until it happens. The kind that just validates you as a person and says “it will all work out OK.”

Honestly, this is the look that I want to see when I just have that “I want my mommy” feeling. Yes, I still get that even though I’m a mom, myself. I just want someone to calmly validate that my feelings are my own, and to tell me, in a soothing voice, that things will work out. I’ve never been Magan’s clinical patient, but I think this is exactly how it would feel.

Magan says that she feels honored to have someone tell her their story and to support them through whatever it is they’re going through. She considers it a privilege to connect with people and help them to find their strengths, whether they’re HealthStar team members or Clients in the field. I feel Magan’s honest commitment to as her co-worker, and I know the staff at the St. Paul office all feel it, too! If Magan is also serving warm milk to the Mental Health staff and Clients, I wouldn’t be surprised.

An object in motion

The rules of motion tell us that an object in motion stays in motion unless acted upon by an outside force. In Magan’s case, she can be both the moving object and the outside force, depending on the situation. If you need help getting motivated, Magan can apply a little force. But when Magan herself gets moving, she’s a force all her own. Magan says that she loves running, walking, hiking, and just generally being outdoors. It’s not hard to guess that she’s an active person – she looks great, and always has pep in her step!

Keeping physically active is just one of the ways that Magan stays healthy. I also mentioned earlier that she has a personal focus on mindfulness. Magan says that for her, this means concentrating on just being present in the moment throughout the day. She expressed the need for mindfulness really well:

“It’s easy to feel like you’re missing your own life… Take a few deep breaths and remind yourself to be present.”

Magan Olson

I know that feeling! Going home after a busy day, I just don’t want to engage. The problem is, the evening is the only time I have with my family. If I disengage, I’m missing out on that little bit of time which is the most important part of my day. Learning a little more about mindfulness from Magan has helped me to find that if I spend a “mindful moment” on the car ride home, I can re-center and be more present by the time I get back to my loved ones.

Each of us has different obstacles to wellness, but the goal is the same – continue moving towards our personal goals. This is why Magan is just the ticket – she can help you identify your unique obstacles and show you just the right force to apply to get those obstacles moving out of your way!

Magan, all wrapped up

There you have it – Magan Olson, in three parts. Responsible, attentive, engaged – she’s a triple threat! She’s a go-to when you’re in need, on so many levels! If you know someone who could use a little wellness help, check in with us and find out for yourself what Magan and the St. Paul staff have to offer!

March! I thought you’d never come!

I know I can’t be alone in wishing for spring. The vernal equinox is around the corner, and with it, days that finally stretch longer than nights. The arrival of March signals the first breath of beautiful and snow-melting spring, when we can finally begin the long thaw. Winter has taken a toll on both my physical and mental health, so as part of my “spring cleaning,” I have been looking for ways to energize and refresh myself, inside and out. While the weather slowly warms February’s heaping snow piles, I’ll be taking baby steps toward a happier, healthier me. I’d love to share some of the ideas I’ve found – maybe we can work together on a few small changes. Here are 4 areas that I’m working on, and plenty of little tips to work them into both of our schedules:

1. Shake up mealtime!

There is a lot of bang in the buck when it comes to changing your eating habits. But you don’t have to make drastic changes to see positive results. I love the idea of just adding an extra fruit or vegetable to every meal – sneaking in a smoothie here and there is an easy way that I’ve found to trick myself into eating more spinach. Even my kids love the smoothies! Including a probiotic in or out of your smoothie, like yogurt, kefir, or kombucha, can also improve digestive health and restore some of the important gut flora to help keep your system moving.

Add a little “good fat” to your diet for a big health boost!

Also, think about this – are you including “good fats” in your diet? Found in avocado, nuts, eggs, and other sources, these fats can help you feel satisfied and help to lower LDL cholesterol. You’re looking for unsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids. The extra fat is the good news, but now I’m getting to the tough stuff – limiting added sugar and refined white flour is a great way to cut out “empty” calories. Yes, sugar and white flour like the stuff found in brownies, cookies, ice cream, and most of the other things that I dream of when I start trying to “eat healthier.” But don’t stress about this – if you’re working in the other tips here, you’ll feel less cravings, and a little indulgence here or there isn’t all bad.

Speaking of “do as I say, not as I do” advice… here’s my favorite tip. Pack your own lunch every day. It’s really tough to get a healthy meal if you’re eating out! Even a salad can be loaded with calories depending on the dressing and toppings. You’ll be much more likely to eat healthy if you only pack healthy foods. You’ve had time to think about the ingredients, the portions, and the balance of the meal. And maybe a little snack once in a while wouldn’t hurt, either.

If you’re struggling for lunch ideas, here’s a fabulous one – work with a buddy to create lunches together! It keeps a little mystery in your lunch, and together, you can stay motivated and healthy. Two lunch eaters are much more creative than one! For example, at HealthStar, we’ve had a salad club in the past. It’s easier in summer, when produce is cheaper, but the idea can be modified for any season. You don’t have to do salads – you can get creative with different recipes. With a partner or two, sandwiches, wraps, or any number of side dishes can be converted to a delicious, nutritious, and surprisingly crave-able lunch menu!

2. Get moving!

Keep it moving!

For those of us who sit a lot (HealthStar office staff, this one’s for you!), hip openers can be done when you wake up and right before bed, to help keep your hips and waist refreshed. Yoga and Pilates are a couple of great low-impact workout types that can be done by all different ability levels. Even just a few simple stretches a day can help get you moving easier and give you a serotonin boost!

This can be a really tough one for so many of us. I sit at a desk all day, so for me, a reminder to get up and move around every so often is really helpful. I’ve known friends who swear by doing squats every time they go to the bathroom. 5 minutes of fast walking per hour can get you near the recommended weekly exercise recommendations, if you add a bit of workout time on the weekends (mayo clinic recommends 75 to 150-minutes per week). When I’m stuck on a project, just taking a walk around the office can help clear my mind and give me a spark of energy to finish strong.

The point is, you don’t have to do a P90x workout to see health and wellness benefits – any of these ideas can get your blood moving, boost your energy level, and lift your mood! Just pick a realistic goal that you can feel successful at, and stick with it. Once you’ve incorporated some simple exercise in your daily routine, maybe it won’t seem so daunting to add something more vigorous!

3. A smile a day keeps the doctor away!

There is plenty of research to show that our interpersonal relationships have a great impact in our physical and mental well-being. When you connect with someone, you both benefit! So in this very early spring, take some time out and spend it with an old friend, or maybe even make a new friend. You might also do something active together, like taking a nice walk through the Como Conservatory (it’s free!). Exercising with a buddy can be great for motivation!

Smile! It’s contagious 🙂

Another great way to add some warm, fuzzy feelings, is to get involved in your community. HealthStar’s caregivers are already part of something greater than themselves, becoming a part of a Client’s life and working together towards the Client’s health-related goals.

The joy that comes from helping others can be very rewarding. There are lots of ways to get involved at all levels of commitment. Maybe you want to start a book club, volunteer at an animal shelter, or plan a game night with your neighbors – anything you can do to connect with others on a meaningful level will give you plenty of “feel-good” energy!

4. zzzzzzzz (shh, I’m “health” sleeping)

This one speaks to me on a very deep level. I am not myself if I don’t get enough sleep! It’s harder to concentrate, I’m irritable, my body aches, and all I can think about is crawling back into bed. Getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep is critical for all of these reasons. (For me, it’s more toward the 9 hour mark.)

If you were looking for an excuse to take a nap today…

Sleep alone isn’t going to bring all of your body and mind to perfect health. Quality of sleep is also important. Taking a few minutes before bed to meditate, do deep breathing, or go through a relaxation technique can help you to fall asleep faster and get better quality sleep. Mindfulness activities can also help you reduce stress and re-center yourself throughout the day – if you find a technique that works, try adding it at lunch time. A short mental break might be just what you need to keep going through the afternoon slump!

Put it all together

It’s not realistic to think that we can do all of these things. But we can do a little bit today, and see what feels right. Adding little bits of change over a long time will slowly ease us into bigger changes. If you need some ideas built just for you, HealthStar’s mental health department and therapies department are great places to start! Between those two departments, you can find great experience to put the pep back in your step. Anything from help with mental health struggles to post-surgical range of motion exercises.

And what will I be doing different, you ask? Little things, for sure! For example, today, I have split pea soup for lunch. (Yes, I brought it from home) Tomorrow, maybe I’ll remember to do the 5 minutes of walking per hour. And that brings us to Wednesday… maybe I can work in a breathing exercise that day for my mental health. Little by little, I’ll work my way up to P90x.

Or, maybe not…

https://www.rd.com/health/wellness/changes-health-reduce-diabetes-risk/

https://chuzefitness.com/2018/01/small-changes-make-big-impact-health/

https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/7-ways-to-jumpstart-healthy-change-in-your-life

https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diet-nutrition/changing-habits-better-health

https://www.rd.com/health/diet-weight-loss/how-to-sneak-in-fitness/

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/where-science-meets-the-steps/201504/4-lifestyle-changes-will-boost-your-mental-health

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/when-your-adult-child-breaks-your-heart/201410/9-lifestyle-factors-can-affect-your-mental

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140509074114.htm

https://consumer.healthday.com/mental-health-information-25/anxiety-news-33/quitting-smoking-linked-to-better-mental-health-in-study-684786.html

https://psychcentral.com/news/2011/02/18/lifestyle-changes-as-treatment-for-mental-health-concerns-depression-anxiety/23670.html

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/expert-answers/exercise/faq-20057916

https://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20477647,00.html

https://yurielkaim.com/yoga-hip-openers/

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!

Anxiety Disorders: What You Need to Know

HealthStar Home Health is presenting a series on various mental health and behavioral health topics. In this series of articles, we take a look at different subjects and provide information to help you know how best to care for your loved one.

We’ve all been there before. Feeling anxious about a job interview or speaking in public. When facing a big decision regarding your children will make a parent worry and stress. Our children may have feelings of anxiety knowing finals are coming up. Even driving in heavy traffic or at night may cause some to have issues. All this is normal and everyone feels anxious now and then over certain situations. But anxiety disorders are more than the normal emotions of common anxiety. Anxiety disorders are a type of mental illness and a person living with one feels intense fear, distress and worry that is constant and overwhelming. Disabling, even.

According to the Mayo Clinic, there are many different types of anxiety disorders and an individual can suffer from more than one type. Examples include:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder – persistent, intense anxiety and worry about ordinary activities or events
  • Social anxiety disorder (social phobia) – an extreme fear and avoidance of social situations which is caused by feelings of embarrassment or self-consciousness of being viewed negatively by others
  • Agoraphobia – a individual fears, and often avoids, places which may cause feelings of panic, embarrassment or being trapped
  • Separation anxiety disorder – a childhood disorder related to separation from parents or parental figure that causes excessive anxiety for the child’s developmental age

These are just a few examples. To learn more, including when you should involve a professional, visit this website.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness report that anxiety disorders are the most common mental health concern in the US, with an estimated 40 million adults (18%) suffering every day. In addition to that, 8% of children and teens report experiencing an anxiety disorder of one form or another.

Experts believe combined factors, such as genetics and brain or environmental changes, can trigger anxiety symptoms. Some families have higher than normal numbers of anxiety issues amongst relatives and studies support the evidence that anxiety disorders run in the family. Additionally, traumatic situations or events such as violence, abuse, illness, or death can be contributing factors and cause anxiety disorders. At HealthStar Home Health, our caregivers are educated in the various anxiety disorders as well as other mental and behavioral illnesses and offer support to families dealing with mental health disorders, whether it is an adult in the family, a senior loved one you are caring for, or children and teenagers, we have a program to help you.

Here at HealthStar Home Health, we serve individuals in our adult and children’s mental health programs that are suffering from depression, anxiety disorders, as well as other mental health issues. When serving individuals with severe anxiety, we understand that coping with this daily is difficult. If you need support, get it! Don’t be ashamed or afraid to ask for help. If we all do our part to remove the stigma associated with anxiety and any mental health illness, it will go a long way for those who suffer daily.

Symptoms of each type of disorder are unique, however there is one common thread with all and that is exaggerated and persistent fear in situations that are considered normal and should not be threatening. General symptoms may include, but are not limited to:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Heart palpitations
  • Feelings of panic, fear, stress or uneasiness
  • Sleep issues
  • Sweaty palms

Just as the symptoms are unique to each type of anxiety disorder, treatment options are unique and distinct for each type also. Some common treatments available include medication, stress management or relaxation techniques, and support groups, counseling or psychotherapy to name a few. It is important to work closely with your doctor to develop a treatment plan that works best for your situation.

We invite you to learn more about the mental health services offered by HealthStar Home Health. Both our Children’s Therapeutic Services and Supports (CTSS) and Adult Rehabilitative Mental Health Services (ARMHS) feature cultural sensitivity and are provided with empathy to the underserved members of the communities and regions we serve.

Our highly trained and culturally competent multi-disciplinary team of mental health professionals, practitioners and behavioral aides provide CTSS and ARMHS services in the home, school, and in the community.

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 mental health and behavioral health topics being presented in this series, such as autism, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or seasonal affective disorder visit our blog.

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.

Understanding Seasonal Affective Disorder

HealthStar Home Health is presenting a series on various mental health and behavioral health topics. In this series of articles, we take a look at different subjects and provide information to help you know how best to care for your loved one.

The Mayo Clinic defines seasonal affective disorder (SAD) as a type of depression that is related to the changes in seasons. A person with SAD will feel the effects of this disorder about the same time each year, feeling moody with very low levels of energy. For many individuals living with SAD, the symptoms begin in the fall and continue through the winter months. For some, seasonal affective disorder can cause depression in the spring and summer months, but that is not as common.

Experts believe it is caused by a lack of sunlight which can upset a person’s biological clock which controls the sleep/wake patterns and circadian rhythms as well as the balance of serotonin. Serotonin is the natural brain chemical that affects mood. Although much more common in women, anyone can get seasonal affective disorder, especially people who live far from the equator where daylight is short and those who have a close relative with it. Read more on the risk factors here. At HealthStar Home Health, our caregivers are educated in seasonal affective disorder as well as depression and offers support to families dealing with mental health disorders, whether it is an adult in the family, a senior loved one you are caring for, or children and teenagers, we have a program to help you.

Here at HealthStar Home Health, we serve individuals in our adult and children’s mental health programs that are suffering from depression, including seasonal affective disorder, as well as other mental health disorders. When serving individuals with depression, we understand that coping with this illness is difficult. If you need support, get it! Don’t be ashamed or afraid to ask for help. If we all do our part to remove the stigma associated with depression and mental health illnesses, it will go a long way for those who suffer daily.

Symptoms of SAD typically start out mild and progressively get more severe as the season goes on. Symptoms may include:

  • Feeling depressed much of every day
  • Low energy
  • Experiencing sleep issues
  • Feeling sluggish and agitated

To learn more about each of these symptoms and others visit: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20364651

It can be difficult to diagnose seasonal affective disorder because the symptoms are similar to depression and other mental health conditions. Once diagnosed, treatments include but are not limited to:

  • Light therapy
  • Medication
  • Psychotherapy
  • Lifestyle remedies

We invite you to learn more about the mental health services offered by HealthStar Home Health. Both our Children’s Therapeutic Services and Supports (CTSS) and Adult Rehabilitative Mental Health Services (ARMHS) feature cultural sensitivity and are provided with empathy to the underserved members of the communities and regions we serve.

Our highly trained and culturally competent multi-disciplinary team of mental health professionals, practitioners and behavioral aides provide CTSS and ARMHS services in the home, school, and in the community.

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 mental health and behavioral health topics being presented in this series, such as autism, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia, visit our blog.

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.

Understanding Schizophrenia

HealthStar Home Health is presenting a series on various mental health and behavioral health topics. In this series of articles, we take a look at different subjects and provide information to help you know how best to care for your loved one.

The Mayo Clinic defines schizophrenia as a severe mental disorder in which people interpret reality abnormally. This chronic condition may present itself with a combination of hallucinations, delusions, and extremely disordered thinking and behavior that impairs the daily functioning of a person.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), schizophrenia affects about 1% of Americans. The illness can occur at any age, but the average onset typically is in a person’s late teenage years to early 20s for men and late 20s to early 30s for women. Due to its nature in that schizophrenia is a severe mental disorder that affects how a person thinks, feels, and behaves on a daily basis, people struggling with this may seem as though they have lost touch with reality.

Contrary to what many believe, schizophrenia is not multiple personalities or a split personality. Most who suffer from this illness are not violent towards others and do not pose a threat to others. Common misconceptions are that schizophrenia is brought on by childhood experiences, poor parenting is a driving factor, and that symptoms are the same for all. These simply are not true. In fact, research shows that a combination of genetics, brain chemistry, and environment are contributing factors to the development of this disorder. At HealthStar Home Health, our caregivers are educated in this disorder and support our clients by responding calmly, ensuring medications are taken as prescribed and understanding potential situations that may trigger symptoms or disrupt normal activities.

Here at HealthStar Home Health, we serve individuals in our adult and children’s mental health programs that are diagnosed with schizophrenia as well as other mental health disorders. When serving individuals with schizophrenia, we understand that coping with this illness is difficult. We have learned that our clients who suffer from any form of mental health disorder tend to have great insight into their symptoms and we support and use that insight when caring for them.

Symptoms and the severity can widely vary, but typically involve delusions, hallucinations, or disorganized communication as well as an impaired ability to function. Symptoms can include:

  • Delusions
  • Hallucinations
  • Disorganized thinking and speech
  • Abnormal motor behavior
  • Negative symptoms

To learn more about each symptom as well as risk factors, treatment options and more, visit:  https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/schizophrenia/symptoms-causes/syc-20354443

We invite you to learn more about the mental health services offered by HealthStar Home Health. Both our Children’s Therapeutic Services and Supports (CTSS) and Adult Rehabilitative Mental Health Services (ARMHS) feature cultural sensitivity and are provided with empathy to the underserved members of the communities and regions we serve.

Our highly trained and culturally competent multi-disciplinary team of mental health professionals, practitioners and behavioral aides provide CTSS and ARMHS services in the home, school, and in the community.

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 mental health and behavioral health topics being presented in this series, such as autism, seasonal affective disorder (SAD), and bipolar disorder, visit our blog.

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.

Understanding Bipolar Disorder and the Extreme Mood Swings

HealthStar Home Health is presenting a series on various mental health and behavioral health topics. In this series of articles, we take a look at different subjects and provide information to help you know how best to care for your loved one.

Once termed as manic depression, bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that causes dramatic mood swings that include emotional highs, referred to as mania or hypomania, and lows, known as depression. Individuals with bipolar disorder experience time periods, referred to as “mood episodes”, that are unusually intense and affect the person’s emotions, sleep pattern and activity levels, including risky behavior.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), bipolar disorder affects men and women equally, with approximately 2.6% of the United States population having been diagnosed with the condition and nearly 83% of these cases are considered severe. The average age-of-onset is 25 years, but it can occur earlier in the teenage years.

Society has misconceptions about what bipolar disorder actually is. Many people believe the disorder is characterized by fluctuations between being happy and sad, but individuals in a manic state do not feel “happy”. Another common misconception is that individuals with bipolar disorder are constantly shifting between being up and down. Some do fluctuate between being manic and depressed quickly, this is called rapid-cycling, however this is not the norm. Typically, people slowly become more depressed, return to their baseline, and then slowly become manic. At HealthStar Home Health, our clients with bipolar disorder usually notice when they are manic, but may not always realize how depressed they have gradually become.

Here at HealthStar Home Health, we serve individuals in our adult and children’s mental health programs that are diagnosed with bipolar disorder. When serving individuals with bipolar disorder, we understand that each person with bipolar disorder has a different experience with their mental illness. Some clients tell us they feel a strong sense of dichotomy, that they tend to view the world in terms of black and white and it can be difficult to “live in the gray area”. We have learned that our bipolar clients tend to have great insight into their mental health symptoms and we support and use that insight when caring for them.

Symptoms and the severity can widely vary. Severe episodes of mania or depression can include psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations or delusional thoughts. Individuals with bipolar disorder who are psychotic may be wrongly diagnosed as having schizophrenia. Some may cycle rapidly or some may experience extended periods with no symptoms at all.

Four Types of Bipolar Disorder:

  • Bipolar I Disorder
  • Bipolar II Disorder
  • Cyclothymic Disorder, or Cyclothymia
  • Other Types

To learn more about each type of bipolar disorder and the symptoms, visit:  https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-Conditions/Bipolar-Disorder

We invite you to learn more about the mental health services offered by HealthStar Home Health. Both our Children’s Therapeutic Services and Supports (CTSS) and Adult Rehabilitative Mental Health Services (ARMHS) feature cultural sensitivity and are provided with empathy to the underserved members of the communities and regions we serve.

Our highly trained and culturally competent multi-disciplinary team of mental health professionals, practitioners and behavioral aides provide CTSS and ARMHS services in the home, school, and in the community.

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 mental health and behavioral health topics being presented in this series, such as autism, seasonal affective disorder (SAD), and schizophrenia, visit our blog.

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.

Understanding Autism and What is Covered Under the Spectrum Umbrella

HealthStar Home Health is presenting a series on various mental health and behavioral topics. In this series of articles, we take a look at different subjects and provide information to help you know how best to care for your loved one.

Autism Speaks defines autism, also referred to as autism spectrum disorder, as a range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication, as well as by unique strengths and differences.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that an estimated one in 68 children in the United States has autism and considers autism a national public health crisis. Furthermore, approximately four out of five individuals with autism are male. With these dramatic numbers, more families than ever are affected by autism, and evidence shows that an early intervention has positive results.

Here at HealthStar Home Health, we serve individuals in our adult and children’s mental health programs that are diagnosed with autism. When serving individuals with autism, one of our main goals is to help treat the mental health condition that is often underlying such as depression, anxiety, or PTSD. Often times individuals who have a neurodevelopmental disorder tend to be “overlooked” by mental health professionals, thus the underlying mental health condition is missed and not treated at all. In turn, this becomes an important focus for the HealthStar Home Health mental health team of professionals. Our team is committed to helping these individuals reach their full capacity and achieve the highest level of independence while simultaneously improving their quality of life.

Research shows there is not just one autism but many types, each triggered by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. The term spectrum in autism spectrum disorder refers to the wide range of strengths and challenges each individual with autism lives with.

Typically, the symptoms begin to appear around the ages of 2 and 3 years, although sometimes even earlier. If your child exhibits symptoms of autism, it may be a good idea to follow up with further evaluation, but keep in mind that children without autism may also show some of the risk factors. The following are possible red flags to watch for in the development of babies and toddlers:

  • Limited eye contact
  • Lack of smiles or joyful expressions
  • Lack of nonverbal communication, including gestures such as reaching or pointing
  • No babbling or use of words
  • No response to name

As autism awareness has grown, many older children and even adults have been diagnosed. Similar risk factors may suggest autism at any age:

  • Struggles with emotions and other people’s feelings
  • Avoids eye contact as well as social settings
  • Remains nonverbal
  • Is affected by changes to routine
  • Performs repetitive behaviors, such as rocking, as well as repeats words or phrases

We invite you to learn more about the mental health services offered by HealthStar Home Health. Both our Children’s Therapeutic Services and Supports (CTSS) and Adult Rehabilitative Mental Health Services (ARMHS) feature cultural sensitivity and are provided with empathy to the underserved members of the communities and regions we serve.

Our highly trained and culturally competent multi-disciplinary team of mental health professionals, practitioners and behavioral aides provide CTSS and ARMHS services in the home, at school, and in the community.

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 mental health and behavioral health topics being presented in this series, such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and seasonal affective disorder (SAD) visit our blog.

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 our 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.

Behavioral Health Home

HealthStar Home Health provides unparalleled public healthcare services through stewardship, honor-driven values, and a genuine desire to serve individuals in our community. We are a culturally sensitive healthcare team that provides services to individuals who are traditionally underserved. In an effort to expand the range of healthcare services offered to our clients, HealthStar Home Health now offers a Behavioral Health Home program.

What is Behavioral Health Home?

BHH (behavioral health home) refers to a model of care focused on integration of primary care, acute, behavioral health and social services and supports for adults with mental health conditions.  Delivered either in the patient’s home or in a group setting, such as an assisted living community, BHH services utilize a multidisciplinary team to provide person-centered services designed to support a person in coordinating care and services while reaching his or her health and wellness goals.

Who is eligible for BHH Care?

BHH is for adults, 18 years and older, who have a qualifying mental health condition and who are enrolled in medical assistance.  Qualifying mental health conditions include, but are not limited to:

  • Generalized Anxiety
  • Major Depression
  • PTSD
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Borderline Personality Disorders
  • Schizophrenia Disorders

Individuals who do not have a formal diagnosis or who are not sure if their mental health condition will qualify them for services are encouraged to call our office at 651-633-7300.  A HealthStar Home Health BHH staff member can provide additional information.

What BHH services are available with HealthStar?

Behavioral health home services typically focus on delivering client-centered services designed to support an individual in coordinating care and services while reaching his or her health and wellness goals.  End goals of the HealthStar Home Health BHH program include:

  • Comprehensive Care Management – A collaborative process designed to manage medical, social, and mental health conditions more effectively
  • Care Coordination – Implementation and monitoring of holistic plan to help identify appropriate linkages, referrals, coordination and follow-up to needed services and supports
  • Health Promotion Services – Encourage and support healthy living concepts to motivate individuals to adopt healthy behaviors and promote better health management and wellness
  • Comprehensive Transitional Care – Specialized care coordination services that focus on the movement of individuals between different levels of care settings
  • Referral to Community and Social Support Services – Identify and provide referrals including but not limited to, medical and behavioral health care, entitlements and benefits, respite, housing, transportation, legal services, educational and employment, as well as many other specialized and supportive services
  • Individual and Family Support Services – Activities, materials, or services aimed to help reduce barriers to achieving goals, increase health literacy and self-efficacy skills as well as improving health outcomes

The behavioral health home program coordinates and integrates well with other services we offer individuals in the communities HealthStar Home Health serves. Services such as home health care, mental health services for children as well as adults, and personal care are how we help make strong communities and families and enable individuals of all ages to live more independent lives.

How do I get started?

HealthStar Home Health is proud to offer culturally-relevant services that address the unique needs of our population. Contact HealthStar Home Health directly by calling 651-633-7300 for more information or to schedule a no-charge consultation. Care coordinators, care managers, and health care professionals are also welcome to call for general information. To learn more about HealthStar Home Health and the range of services we offer, visit our website:  www.healthstarhomehealth.net.

Common Causes of Depression in Older Adults

Are you or an older adult you care for suffering from more than a case of the winter blues? Winters in Minnesota can have an effect on some as well as the lack of sunlight, but if you or a loved one are experiencing loss of appetite, low energy, feelings of hopelessness, amongst other symptoms, then you may be experiencing depression. You are not alone. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reports an estimated 16 million American adults had at least one major depressive episode last year. That is over 7% of the US population.

According to the Mayo Clinic website, depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. Also known as major depressive disorder or clinical depression, it affects how you feel, think and behave and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems.

Depression_Causes

As a person ages, various life events such as the death of a loved one, retirement, or medical problems are experienced. It is common to be stressed or sad when managing these types of changes. When a person is suffering from depression, the feelings of stress and sadness do not go away after a normal adjustment period. The feelings are ongoing, worsen and interfere with daily life and normal functioning. As a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) is the lead federal agency for research on mental disorders. NIMH identifies 5 Common Causes of Depression in Older Adults:

  • Genes – People with a family history of depression are more likely to develop it. In older adults, those who had depression when they were younger are more at risk to develop depression later in life.
  • Brain Chemistry – People who have depression may have a different brain chemistry than those without the illness, leading them to be more likely to develop it.
  • Stress – the loss of a loved one, a difficult relationship, or any stressful situation can trigger depression.
  • Changes to the Body – Changes to the body and brain as we age can cause depression. Older adults who suffer from restricted blood flow may have blood vessels stiffen, which prevents blood from flowing correctly to the brain.
  • Other Illnesses – Depression can co-occur with other serious illnesses such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease. Sometimes medications taken for other illnesses may cause side effects that can contribute to depression.

Since many people think the various signs of depression is a normal part of the aging process and a natural reaction to illness or social transition, depression often goes untreated in seniors. Medication and psychotherapy are common treatment options for depression, but there are other options as well. People over the age of 65 must be careful when taking medications. Oftentimes seniors may be more sensitive to medications or are taking various prescriptions for other health conditions when they add a medication for depression. This can lead to several issues, including forgetting to take a dose, overdosing and even a bad drug interaction.

Psychotherapy is also a very effective way of treating depression and other forms of mental illness. Often referred to as talk therapy, psychotherapy teaches a person new ways of thinking, behaving and helps to change habits that are contributing to the depression. Many seniors would prefer psychotherapy rather than add more medications to take each day and studies show that for older adults, psychotherapy is as effective as taking an antidepressant.

At HealthStar Home Health, we understand that mental health disorders begin in the early years – for many as young as childhood or early teenage years. We recognize the alarming statistics surrounding mental health conditions and offer Children’s Therapeutic Services and Supports (CTSS) for the adolescent age. Services through our CTSS program include, but are not limited to, specialized skills training, behavioral aid services and individual, family and group psychotherapy. For those suffering from depression or other form of mental illness in the adult years, HealthStar Home Health offers services through the Adult Rehabilitative Mental Health Services (ARMHS) program. The clients we support are struggling with disorders such as:

  • Major depression
  • Schizophrenia
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Agoraphobia

Becoming educated and helping to raise awareness of mental health conditions can break down obstacles and improve the recovery of millions of Americans who suffer from a mental disorder. If you’re concerned about a senior loved one showing signs of depression, don’t wait to get help. HealthStar Home Health offers support to families dealing with mental health disorders, whether it is an adult in the family, a senior loved one you are caring for, or children and teenagers, we have a program to help you.

Spending quality time with family, friends and being active in your Minneapolis, Minnesota community will help you stay healthy, but sometimes you may need a little more support. Contact HealthStar Home Health directly by calling 651-293-1000 and ask to speak to a professional in the Adult Rehabilitative Mental Health Services (ARMHS) department or the Children’s Therapeutic Services and Supports (CTSS) department.