Happy 30th Birthday, ADA!

HealthStar proudly supports the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) on its 30th Anniversary. This important civil rights law works to ensure all people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else. On July 26th, the ADA officially turns 30! Celebrate with us by visiting: www.adaanniversary.org/ 

How has the ADA changed your life? Share your stories with #ADA30 and #ThanksToTheADA. Everyone can join in the celebration! Many changes have been instituted since the ADA was “born,” but the goal of equality in access and representation can’t rest yet. Want to know more? Visit https://www.ada.gov/ for more information about who and what the ADA represents. You’ll also find resources to help businesses with compliance, as well as resources for individuals who want to know more about covered rights under the act.

Join HealthStar in saying #ThanksToTheADA for working toward a more inclusive community! At HealthStar, we know that we are stronger when we embrace and celebrate the things that make us unique. Above all else, HealthStar appreciates and values the differences in all members of the community. We’re 24ECC strong – we have 24 “official” ways to share the “HealthStar Way” with our co-workers, caregivers, and Clients! If you or a loved one are in need of personal care, check us out. We’d love to show you how our 24ECCs can help us understand and attend to all of your unique needs!

What HealthStar did on our "COVID Staycation"

Hello there – long time, no blog! During the last… well several weeks, the phrase “change is the only constant” has proven true time and again. We’ve experienced shortages of food, supplies, and probably patience, on a scale that Millenials and Gen X’ers, as well as any younger whipper-snappers, have never imagined. Looking out over a sea of masked shoppers, I feel so far away from the “normal” of 2019. Those days were far from perfect, but I mostly knew what to expect, and despite watching the weather to decide what I should wear, I didn’t need to watch the news to decide whether I should leave the house.

Change is the only constant in life
Heraclitus of Ephesus (500 BC)

Fast forward to today – in the midst of Minnesota beginning its transition back to normalcy, the tragic death of George Floyd brings, in its turbulent wake, a collective expression of both outrage and grief. The recent unrest has led to historical and modern reflection surrounding issues of race and injustice on both national and individual levels, inviting us to learn and grow, and plain and simple, to do better.

So, what are each of us learning now? What have you seen, heard or felt that has changed you or created a long-term impact in your own life?  In true blog fashion, I will be sharing with you some of my own personal growth moments, and I’ll share about how other HealthStar-ians have been engaging in this uncertain, heavy and unprecedented period of change.

Mask Makers Unite (around the sewing machine)

Starting with the “small stuff” – I have seen my mom and a TON of other people like her go above and beyond in response to the community’s need for protective face coverings of all kinds. Quilters, dressmakers, and home-based crafters alike have come out of the woodwork to save us all from airborne particulate. With so much confusion initially about when or when not to wear a mask, I’m glad that we seem to have finally settled on wearing what you can, as often as you can in public. Or at least, for the moment, that’s what I think we’re doing. It’s like butter – one minute it’s good for you, and the next, you should really be eating margarine. (please don’t eat margarine.)

Luckily, I have a few masks at home from my mom (thanks, ma!). HealthStar staff don’t all have moms who quilt, so our offices have been pulling together to purchase and distribute PPE, starting in areas with the most risk. And we can’t forget the most fun changes – HealthStar policies have been updated and re-published (thanks, Susan!), offices have been disinfected over and over again, and hand sanitizer has become the new “fragrance” worn by all of our staff. Eau de Purell, it’s all the rage.

Compassion and Community

Along with the masks and the ever-present scent of household cleaning products, the last few months have brought a roller-coaster of emotion. During COVID shutdown, loneliness and isolation threatened us all. But then, bright colored cut-out hearts popped up in windows and storefronts, boosting spirits for passers-by. The hearts represented solidarity, even when we were all hunkering down, alone, in our sanitized bunkers. In time, the weather improved, and people started gardening and hanging out together outside. Once again, family and friends gathered together. We smiled at each other and laughed at the same time again! People returned to offices and restaurants. I had to fill the gas tank. Ah, life.

Coming back together in the office hasn’t been a full “back to normal,” though. It’s a strange feeling now that we always have the “social distance” in mind – 6 feet away feels like a brick wall in this office, where our “work family” has grown about as close to genetic family as you can get. My signature move, the hallway high five, now seems reckless and risky. We’re all playing a bit of Russian roulette with our health, just to be present and keep the HealthStar wheels turning.

Into the Spotlight

Despite the COVID-induced changes, life felt generally tolerable again, if only for a moment, right before George Floyd’s murder. Soul-searching, gut-wrenching days followed after his death. Shock, horror, anger, and sadness rolled over Minnesota and the entire country. Powerless doesn’t begin to describe how I felt. The stages of grief washed over us all while together we watched the city burn. For many of us, this marks the most active period of civil unrest we’ve experienced. For me, it has been a period of self-examination. I’ve lived in Minnesota my whole life; what have I been missing?

History books and sociologists might call it social inequality. Today, we see and feel it as communities overflowing with both conflict and compassion. Minnesota, the “nice” state, has come into the spotlight as the nearly war-torn epicenter of a conversation that has been simmering for generations.

Minnesota Nice?

I personally feel ashamed that our state, My State, fell into the same unacceptable pattern of behavior that we’ve all seen in the news across history. I’m embarrassed that the country and the world are looking at Minnesota because of yet another inexcusable act. As a nation, we watched the actions of four Minneapolis police officers, and as a nation, we witnessed the tragic, unjustified death of George Floyd. These events have pushed Minnesota to the forefront of a larger collective conversation about racial justice.

Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.

Maya Angelou

For many of us, Minnesota has been a safe and meaningful community that we are proud to call home. Sadly, that same security and comfort are not shared by everyone. As a community, our responsibility is to create peace and justice for all, and to help all Minnesota residents gain the same sense of pride that we know can be achieved in our home state. 

Hopefully, this will be a wake-up call for many. Our “nice” state can, together, examine this deeper awareness of the inequality, intolerance, and prejudice that remain evident today. Today is the day that we all begin to participate in making our community and state a more equal and just home. How? We’ll have to figure that out together.

I Can’t Breathe

Identifying inequity is obviously not enough, because we’ve been down this road before. It feels like we have reached a crossroads as a nation. More and more groups are standing up and echoing the mantra, “I can’t breathe.” The truth is, for generations, our nation’s black community, as well as many other minority groups, have been struggling for breath. Some of us in “the majority” have been the knee on the neck. Some of us, though not as deliberately harmful, have been the “new officer,” too afraid to take action to stop what we know is wrong. And some of us have been standing in the wings, wishing that we could better understand the conflict, and passively hoping for a change that we just don’t know how to bring about ourselves.

Silence Speaks

The silence historically shared by our nation’s white majority is a great hurdle to overcome. The problem with silence is that, in the face of repeated unjustified acts by authority figures, silence sounds at best like tolerance, and at worst like agreement. We’ve all seen the openly brutal acts of law enforcement officers. What we can’t see is the history of invisible prejudice, the longstanding social and economic boundaries, and the silent consent of the many, which allows those in power to continue the pattern of behavior set in motion by our forefathers in a time that was so different from today. We can’t see the white privilege that keeps us quietly separated. We might be living in the same state, but Minnesota looks a lot different when we try to see it through George Floyd’s eyes.

Right now, we all have an opportunity to correct the silence. It’s time to step through the fear of “saying the wrong thing.” It’s time to examine our own thoughts, experiences, and history. Time to consider the meaning behind white privilege and racial inequality. It’s time for the majority to start a conversation and then listen instead of trying to find the right words ourselves. It’s time to stop worrying about saying the wrong thing, because silence is worse. Instead, together we can agree that we will no longer tolerate the status quo, and we can start to change by learning why the wrong thing to say might be wrong in the first place.

Where do we go from here?

Be the change that you wish to see in the world.

Mahatma Gandhi

My positivity deserted me when George Floyd was killed. I had already neglected the blog for a while because of all the changes during COVID, and then while the city burned and protesters grieved, I couldn’t post because I just didn’t have the energy to say anything worth saying. That silence, too, speaks volumes. When the awkward extrovert goes quiet, we all know something is very wrong. My heart just wasn’t up to writing. To call it a great sadness is an understatement. Humanity is sometimes so ugly and terrible that I wish to be anything else.

But my hopelessness and helplessness are slowly lifting. Why? It started with a text message from a co-worker, after she attended a peaceful protest with her family. Then, an email from our Inver Grove Heights office shared photos of staff members helping with the cleanup in Minneapolis. Those bright and beautiful blaze orange Sagrado Corazón shirts, worn by the amazing IGH staff, looked like the sun peeking up over a dark horizon! More recently, HS offices in St. Paul, IGH, and Corporate assembled and delivered supply packages to help community members in Minneapolis who, due to the recent destruction, have lost access to most basic household items.

We’re doing something. Maybe these small acts don’t fix the issue at the heart of this longstanding imbalance. The long history of inequality and generations of misunderstanding and misinformation will take more than just a few people coming together to rebuild. But we’re doing what we can do today, and this was enough to restore a little of my positive outlook. Together, we can do something. We can start the wheels in motion.

24ECCs Swooping In

HealthStar loves to rally behind a cause, especially when that means we get to shop! But we’re doing more than just buying and distributing necessities. The 24ECC program also continues to offer a common language for understanding and compassion. The ECCs teach us how to learn about each other without judging, and we take that knowledge with us into the community. Each employee here has a unique background of his or her own, and HealthStar’s 24ECC program is an opportunity for us to come together and learn from each other.

Kristel Kubis, RN at our Cloquet Office, makes the news!

Our 24ECC program brings us together to create a greater sense of community throughout our offices. The ECC meetings are a safe space to talk about different experiences and about how to overcome our own hidden judgments and prejudices. We are very lucky to have this language, as cheesy as it may sound.

Plenty of places talk about tolerance and acceptance. Tolerance and acceptance are not enough. At HealthStar, we seek out and celebrate our differences, because we know they make us better together than we could ever be as individuals. Opening a conversation and actively listening to people from different walks of life makes us a stronger agency and helps us grow a healthier community. Conversation is a small way to start, but at HealthStar, we know that small steps today can lead to big changes tomorrow!

Let’s Talk!

HealthStar staff each have an opportunity to enrich the community where we serve and live, just by sharing these 24ECCs. With a common language, and an open mind, we can start to unravel some of the tangled history that has both built up and torn this country down. Moving past silence into open conversation will help us expose the things that we continue to get wrong, and working together, we can rebuild a united and 24ECC-friendly community!

As much as we use the 24ECCs to build up our team, we also put the 24ECCs to great use in learning about our Clients. HealthStar looks to the community, and to Cultural leadership as well as Elders, for direction in developing programs and practices that can support the needs of multiple generations of home-based care recipients. As an agency, we serve many communities, and with the 24ECC program, we bring attentiveness, respect, and a genuine desire to learn about each of those communities from the members themselves.

Learning about You

Cultural and community-based knowledge help HealthStar to value and better understand people from all walks of life, but health care is also a very individualized service, which is designed one Client at a time. We can teach staff about what is special or unique about a certain culture, but we can’t teach them what’s special and unique about you without your help. To really create the best plan for you, and achieve your best outcome, HealthStar needs to know what makes you tick.

What’s important to you in a caregiver? How can we meet your needs the way that you need most? What makes you the most comfortable, and how can we add that to our routine? How will you measure success? Whether your caregiver is a family member or is trained and provided by HealthStar, our goal is the same: support health, independence and community involvement in the way that works best for each Client. All of our service lines rest on the foundations of dignity as well as accountability – when we can’t sleep, it’s because we are thinking about how we can do better for you tomorrow.

We might not be able to “fix” everything, but we know how to start small and grow from there. Let us help you find a starting point to meet your healthcare needs! We’d be honored to join in your wellness journey, creating a plan that’s designed to achieve your unique goals and give you the best outcome for your specific situation.

Do you or a family member need home-based care with a special appreciation for individuality and/or cultural tradition? Contact HealthStar today, we’d love to learn more about your situation and how we can best meet your needs together!

Thanks, From the Heart!

You may be familiar already with HealthStar’s 24ECC program. Each month, HealthStar’s offices get together and take a deeper look at one of HealthStar’s Expressions of Company Culture. We also do an activity each month – sometimes independent, and sometimes a group activity. We like to have fun with this time, but we also take these values really seriously.

For us, this is more than just a list of 24 values. This list is what makes us different than any other place. It’s how we communicate, it’s what makes us tick. All of these values keep us together as a team and make us a strong “work family.” The 24ECCs are a great way to find the good in each person, and to see how your good and your co-worker’s good can compliment each other. This transforms differences into “variety” and disagreements into “creative problem solving.” It’s not a utopia, but we are working toward that, one ECC at a time!

Gentleness and Kindness

This February, we thought we’d share a bit about what we just completed last month. Our focus for January was on Gentleness and Kindness. Corporate had a great time coming up with the activity ideas, and once the 24ECC committee decided on the final choice, we got down to business. For our activity, each office identified a few field staff members who they felt had shown great Gentleness or Kindness, and then recognized that contribution with a thank you card and a small gift card. We do have a budget for the activity, so we were not able to send a Thank You to each staff member. That’s where the blog comes in. 🙂

HealthStar’s 24ECC Blog task for February is to extend this Thank You to EVERYONE out there working for HealthStar Clients. More than just a Thank You – this is a Thanks from the Heart. Prepare for some mushy gushy stuff.

Most of us at the Corporate Office don’t get to talk with field staff very often. There may be an occasional phone call, or someone who drops off a timecard. But we don’t really get the opportunity to get to know you all like our branch office staff do. (ok, so maybe we’re a little jealous. We do like people here, too.)

A common thread?

Even though we might not see our awesome field staff every day, there are two things that I think we know about each of our caregivers. The first thing is that you guys are balancing a lot in your lives. You each have your own challenges. You’ve got your own families, your own responsibilities, and your own goals.

Here’s the second part, which is my favorite. You’ve also each chosen to use some of your time to help allow someone more freedom and independence. By giving a helping hand in a Client’s home, you’re a part of the team that keeps the Client healthy and empowered. As part of a home care agency, you’re giving direction back to the Client and helping to make the Client’s home part of their unique journey to health and wellness. And as an individual caregiver, you show gentleness and kindness when you provide for each Client’s needs. For all of this – we thank you!

Thank You!!!

So, from ALL of us at HealthStar, First Nations, and Circle of Life in AZ and NM – THANK YOU for all that you do! You’ve opened your hearts and minds to help our agency provide the hands-on care that keeps Clients healthy, comfortable, and safe at home – and we THANK YOU!

Know someone who could benefit from HealthStar’s amazing support team? Check out your local office. We all love visitors! We’re probably just sitting around, waiting to show you some hospitality. Stop by and we’ll tell you all about the 24ECC’s and everything else that makes HealthStar so awesome! 🙂

The Gift of Gratitude

Hustle, Bustle, and So. Much. Stuff. This season, while we rush from one event to another, thoughts flying a mile a minute, and pockets feeling mysteriously lighter after every shopping spree, I’d like to make a suggestion. I’m sure I won’t be the first to say it, and I hope that I won’t be the last. Ready? Here it is. Don’t forget what you ALREADY HAVE, and don’t forget to check in on those who may not have so much as you.

You’ve probably heard the quote:

I cried because I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet.

Helen Keller, derived from The Gulistan by Saʿdī

To me, this is a timely reminder of two things: 1. to be grateful for what you’ve got, and 2. to be mindful that there are always those who have more than you do, and there are also always those who have less. I have found that, for myself, spending time reflecting on the things that I already have in my life can really help me keep things in perspective, and can help me keep a more positive outlook.

The Mushy Stuff

Some things are universally appreciated, and others are more individual. But we all have something to appreciate. Some of us just might need a little more help getting into the appreciating mood. (looking at you, grinchy-poo)

Before we continue: I hereby accept the risk of being labeled an “oversharer.” I’ll gladly take one for the team if it helps get a few people in the holiday mood. So, in the interest of oversharing:

Here’s a few things from my warm and fuzzy “already have it” list, to help you warm up your attitude of gratitude.

I am grateful for my family, my AMAZING HealthStar co-workers (holla at you, Susan), and for the fact that I currently do not have a cold for the first time in several weeks. As for my home – we might not have all the fanciest things, but I appreciate our basic dishwasher, and I am especially grateful for the fact that my husband patched the bad spots in our roof BEFORE the snow fell.

Family, Friends, and Silent Phones

There are many of us who are missing family members or friends at this time of year. For me, thinking of those who I won’t see this holiday is also a time to be thankful for the time that we’ve had together in the past. I also try to be mindful and present during the time that I do have with my family, so that I can create lasting memories to look back on for years to come. (I am so grateful for the “silent” feature on my phone!)

The Joy of Others

Last, I am grateful for the opportunity to do something for someone who might need something more than I do this holiday season. There are so many different ways to give this season, from volunteer opportunities, to adopting a family in need, to just checking in with loved ones or neighbors who might need some support. For me, this is the true meaning of the season. Yeah, it’s mushy, but I also think it is totally true. I get far more joy from giving than I do from thinking of what I might get in return. That’s why I love working at HealthStar – it’s a whole company full of people who just want to do stuff for others. It sounds cheesy, and we’ll own that as a group, because serving others is truly the HealthStar way!

An Unexpected Gift

So what’s topping HealthStar’s gift list this year? We have a few requests from each person who reads this post. First, please accept our gratitude. We appreciate you checking in on our site, and we are so touched that you’re reading the blog! Second, please stretch out your arms – a little more… there. That’s how much we appreciate all of our staff, Clients, and all of the community members who help us do what we do. THANK YOU to all of you! Without you, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do!

Last, here are a few ways that you might spread the HealthStar holiday joy, if you’re feeling up to the task!

Do something unexpected for someone. Make someone’s day in a way that they didn’t see coming. Check in on your neighbors and friends. Make a phone call, or better yet, a video call to a relative who lives far away.

Create a handmade card – it’s not just a craft for kids! Get out your scissors, paste, and construction paper. Make an ornament or a paper snowflake. Re-connect with your inner child this holiday season and do something just for the joy of doing.

Throw a snowball at your spouse. Smile at a stranger. Walk or drive around just to look at the holiday lights! Most of all, think of all the things that you HAVE this season, and be glad that you have them. Do this before you shop, and I bet you’ll end up with more in your wallet and in your heart.

Know someone who could use some extra help this holiday season?

Whether you or a family member are struggling with general health concerns, mental health and wellness, or a serious medical condition, check in with the HealthStar team to see what we might have in our big bag of tricks. If nothing else, we’d love to share our holiday smiles!

Wishing you and your family a healthy and happy holiday season, from all of our HealthStar family!

Spotlight: Chasidy Myhrer, Operations Manager

There are so many things to say about Chasidy, I’m having a hard time deciding on just a few. Kindness, responsibility, flexibility, compassion, respect… and that’s just the tip of the 24ECC iceberg, folks. Chasidy is helpful, but not pushy. She’s kind, but not a pushover. She knows all about checking items off of lists, and she’s no stranger to saving money! She’s something special, and HealthStar is very lucky to have her! Chasidy, let’s celebrate your 10-year HealthStar anniversary together by sharing 3 of your special abilities – the HealthStar Spotlight’s on you!

Tenacity, with a side of Courage

I’ve mentioned before that we have a lot of variety in backgrounds at HealthStar. We cover a lot of “used to’s,” from finance to flight attendants. Chasidy is no exception. In fact, she studied photography on a scholarship as a college student, so how the heck did we get so lucky to have her on staff as one of HealthStar’s northern Operations Managers? Try to keep up while I tell you!

After Chasidy decided not to pursue a full-time career in photography, she took a job at a title company, learned all about real estate, and worked on a Medical Coding Certificate on the side. (I assume that she crafted one thousand doilies per month and knitted scarves for homeless lemurs in her spare time; she’s kind of an overachiever.) After she got engaged, Chasidy moved to Bemidji and gold-starred her way into a position at a credit union and then an opioid treatment facility. The treatment facility kept Chasidy busy for a few years, but then Chasidy thought “what could I add to my not busy enough schedule?” and decided to add an AAS in Human Resources to her growing list of credentials. In a stroke of good fortune, HealthStar snapped Chasidy up while she was studying HR, and she has been “locked in” here ever since.

But wait, there’s more!

Chasidy started at HealthStar as an Administrative Assistant II in our Bagley office in 2009. I remember when Chasidy started, because we had some… let’s call them “unique challenges” in the Cass Lake office at that time, and Chasidy helped out over there quite a bit as well. (Cass Lake is amazing these days, we all love Branch Manager Michelle Colliflower!) It didn’t take long for Chasidy to make a good impression as an Admin, and from there, she started climbing the ranks. In 2010, she was snapped up as Assistant Branch Manager in Bagley, and in 2014, she relocated with the Bagley team to our current Bemidji location.

A funny thing about Chasidy – she’s amazing at work, but she also has the fabulous ability to set boundaries and maintain her home life. So when I say she was promoted to Branch Manager, at least the way I’ve heard it, it was more like HealthStar said “You should do this,” and Chasidy said, “I don’t know if I’m ready,” and then HealthStar said “Yeah, we KNOW you can do this, we’ll be here with you, and we really, really want you to… (insert puppy dog eyes and lots of pretty, pretty, pleases) so… you’ll do it, right???”

Of course, Chasidy knocked it out of the park as Branch Manager, and then HealthStar “pretty, pretty pleased” again, and Chasidy stepped up to the plate as Operations Manager for our northern offices in Bemidji and Cass Lake. So here’s the message – Chasidy, we’re following you straight to the top of the food chain here at HealthStar! We are so proud of all that you’ve accomplished while you’ve worked with us, and we thank you for all that you give to the company, day in and day out!!!

All in the Family!

Chasidy is fabulous at “putting on the shoes” of HealthStar’s Clients, partly because she grew up with a family member who received home care services. Her older sister, Kimberly, was born with Hydrocephalus and Cerebral Palsy. Kimberly continues to beat the odds of Cerebral Palsy to this day. Chasidy says, “Home Care was instilled in me long before I knew what it was.” Growing up watching home care and other various services come in and out of the family home must have been quite the experience. HealthStar is lucky to gain from Chasidy’s experiences. Because she got to see the benefits of home care first-hand, Chasidy is a great resource for what we can do to best serve HealthStar and First Nations’ clients all across northern Minnesota.

Chasidy may be a few hours from her home town of Fairhaven, MN (near St. Cloud), but she still enjoys visiting her parents and extended family often, especially during the town’s annual Old Settlers event. She’s a family gal, what can we say – it’s why we love having her in our HealthStar family! Working with Chasidy is like working with an old friend – she’s easy to talk to, she laughs easily, and she has a special way of making you feel like you’re just as important to her as her own family members. She adopts each of our Clients into her own “Chasidy Family,” and she speaks up for their needs as she would for her own relatives.

Poise – what is it?

Something that’s hard to describe, but that Chasidy has in spades, is poise.

poise [poiz]
noun

  1. a stably balanced state: EQUILIBRIUM
  2. a: easy self-possessed assurance of manner : gracious tact in coping or handling
    b: a particular way of carrying oneself : BEARING, CARRIAGE

Chasidy’s calm and patient demeanor surround her like a soothing lavender sachet. She doesn’t jump to conclusions. Her thoughts seem always collected. I ask my HealthStar co-workers – have any of you heard Chasidy speak harshly? Seen her make any rash decisions? It is very rare. When Chasidy is confronted with conflict, she takes a step back, re-focuses, and then steps in with her thoughts cool and controlled. She must get riled sometimes, but I certainly haven’t seen it.

Bonus ECC?

Poise is not technically a 24ECC. But I think it can be found in several of the characteristic ECCs, like Respect, Calm, Diplomacy, and Gentleness. Chasidy displays seemingly effortless poise – it looks like it is a very natural thing for her. She is cautious, thoughtful, and gentle with her words. In a fiery debate, Chasidy is a warm cup of tea, bringing everyone back to the table and soothing throats raw from shouting. She calmly states objectives and doesn’t assign blame.

Yeah, she really is this good.

HealthStar is very lucky to have Chasidy on our side. She represents us with a levelheadedness that is not easy to find, and she gets along with pretty much everyone. Want to see this for yourself? Stop on by the Bemidji or Cass Lake office, and you can check out the show of poise in action! I promise you won’t be disappointed. You might even make a new friend – Chasidy says she is often befriended by strangers while out running errands, and she gets told lots of stories and information by people she has just met. She has a kind smile and a caring attitude, so I’m not surprised to hear she’s developing a fan club of followers!

But what are her hobbies?

Research is a big part of preparing to write a blog post. When the post is about a person, I have a questionnaire that I send out. One of the questions is about hobbies or abilities. To be clear, when I ask about hobbies, ORGANIZING is not something that I would expect to see listed there. I suppose it is an ability… but, Chasidy, you literally said that you enjoy it. I am wondering about your mental health as I write this portion of the post, because ORGANIZING is not something that I would file under “things to enjoy.” But I digress.

To be fair, Chasidy also says that she enjoys fishing, camping, photography, and traveling. And, of course, she loves her kiddos (daughter, 5, and son, 8), and her whole family loves sports (GO BEAVERS!). Did I mention, she also has 7 chickens, 1 dog, and 2 goldfish? But personally, I just can’t quite get past that ORGANIZING part.

This section also does not count as a shared thing, because I usually only do 3 things. This is a bonus.

OK and also, I forgot all about how thrifty she is – she is the best thrift store and consignment shopper since Julie Swedberg. We miss you, Julie!

Put it all together!

Do you struggle to prioritize multiple tasks? Are you experiencing conflict, and you want to talk about it with a stranger? Maybe you just want to share a good laugh with an old friend. Stop by the Bemidji or Cass Lake office and ask for Chasidy – she’s the master of all this and more. She can explain HealthStar’s philosophy while also organizing your clutter and patiently listening to your life story. And maybe after, you guys can do some shopping together!

Spotlight: Katie Wagner, Finance Operations Manager

We all know that person. She’s the one you ask when you want to know the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth – nothing buttered up; no flowers or rainbows. Just tell it like it is. It’s a rare talent, and Katie Wagner, Finance Operations Manager, has it in spades.

She’s not afraid to give her honest opinion, loudly and with feeling. But she’s also got a soft side, and she lets that side come out while she’s around her two kiddos at home. Don’t expect too much of the soft side to show up at work – Billing and Finance don’t allow a lot of touchy-feely stuff. But if you get her talking about Client care, you’ll know that soft part is still all melty and gooey in there, driving Katie to find the best possible coverage for each Client. Get ready for some extra special “insider info,” because Katie Wagner, the HealthStar Spotlight’s on you!

Big sister, Little sister

Katie has younger siblings as well as older siblings, which makes her the perfect combination of “little sister, big sister.” She grew up with 7 people in the house – both parents, plus four siblings. Talk about sharing! As the “big sister,” Katie knows how to take charge, but she also knows how to take a “little sister beating” in the form of being picked on by the other office “family.” Not that we would ever pick on employees, right Tim Lively?

Katie also has plenty of health care experience, which helps her to put herself in your shoes, whether you’re a caregiver, Client, or family member. She started out in PCA service and Assisted Living, and then worked her way up through the ranks to Office Manager at another home care agency before coming to HealthStar in 2013.

For me, home is where you can be yourself… there are no judgments, you can make up your own rules, you can have things the way you want them, and it’s not dictated by someone else… That’s the best part about home care; it gives people the option to be themselves, comfortably.

Katie Wagner

Katie can be the strong source of advice, and she can also sometimes be the one who needs a little TLC. For example, when we’re not sure of a Client’s coverage, Katie is always the first person in line to help figure things out. But when we have big hairy scary issues with a certain software which we won’t mention by name, Katie might need a little help peeling herself off the ceiling. No matter whether she’s in little sister or big sister mode, Katie is a fun part of the HealthStar family!

Competition, much?

If you really want Katie to shine, just tell her that it can’t be done, or that she’ll never find the answer. It’s not always obvious, but Katie is a fierce competitor. Katie wants her work to be the best – a great example of a job well done. She’s not just here to work, she’s here to shine, and she expects the same from her team.

Tell Katie that no one can get through to that insurance payor, and she’ll have a rep on the line before you can turn around. Tell her that we can’t figure something out, and she’ll call together a committee to get you an answer lickety-split. Give her an hour to get the job done, and she’ll have it back to you, finished, in 15-minutes. Apparently, she even has a long-running badmitton game with her brother, who lives in Arizona. They just start up again with the previous score every time they’re together. (and, yes, Katie is winning.) The only thing that Katie doesn’t compete on is food – she’s kind of a plain-Jane. But if there was a competition on who could eat the most Cheese Pizza, Katie would… at least show up.

Tenacity? YEAH, she has it!

The best part of the deal is that HealthStar’s Clients get the benefit of Katie’s drive to be great. She fights tooth and nail to get every allowed service covered. She is an insurance knight, fighting for those who don’t have so many years of billing experience to fight for themselves. Boy, does it feel good to have an advocate like this on your side when you are looking for service coverage! And for HealthStar, to have someone who knows the ins and outs is amazing, especially when researching and launching a new service line like we just did with ICLS!

As someone who has also “fought the good fight” in insurance billing, I can say from experience, it is very difficult to navigate benefits coverage if you’re not sure what you’re looking for. And with more than 16-years of home care experience, Katie knows what she’s looking for! There are some things that you can only learn from dealing with insurance coverage day in and day out. It’s amazing that Katie’s skill set and years of experience are available to our HealthStar Client base!

Laughter is the best… everything!

My personal favorite thing about Katie is her sense of humor. I had to choose this, because she is such a plain eater. I’m a very food-motivated person, so it is hard for me to write about someone who doesn’t really love the same variety of foods that I do. But that’s a me problem, and this is supposed to be about Katie… so, sense of humor it is!

Katie loves to laugh, and I love it when she laughs loud. She has a great “throw your head back” laugh. And she loves sarcasm, which is fabulous because many of us at Corporate are extremely sarcastic. But the absolute best thing about Katie is that Tim Lively can pick on her in just about any situation. She makes it so easy to tease her, it’s almost as easy as picking on Susan Mocchi for being small (and let me tell you, from experience, that is very easy to do. Like, any time someone brings a child’s hand-me-down clothes around, you say “Hey, that would fit Susan.” Or when you need someone to help put on your fine jewelry, it’s like, “Susan, can you do this with your tiny hands?” So, yeah, pretty easy.)

Wait, a fun meeting?

My favorite meetings are the ones where Katie, Tim, Susan and I are all involved. It’s really more of a roast than a meeting; Tim and I just take turns tossing one-liners around, and Katie and Susan look at each other like, “when can we file a complaint?” But they also both know how much we love them, so everybody comes out feeling great in the end. Or, at least, we haven’t gotten the complaint paperwork yet.

How can someone who has such a serious Billing and Finance job also have such a great sense of humor? I think it might be genetic. Katie has an awesome picture of her dad on her desk, and he has the BIGGEST smile I’ve ever seen. I’m pretty sure that his attitude and legacy have a lot to do with Katie’s own big smile. So, if you’re ever in North St. Paul, stop in and ask for a meeting with Katie, Tim, Beth and Susan. Bring some popcorn and put your feet up for a while – you won’t be disappointed.

If Katie helps everyone, then who helps Katie?

OK, so this spotlight also has an extra bonus item. Katie is a great biller in her own right, but she has a really awesome team. I couldn’t do this spotlight without mentioning the rest of the Billing/Finance staff. Greg Klinger and Leela Vang are the quiet strength to Katie’s thunder. They are both amazingly hard workers who want to get things done right. I sometimes realize that I’ve gone all day without talking to Leela or Greg, and I feel a little guilty and sad… But it’s not because I don’t love them – it’s because they are so focused on their tasks, and they very rarely need outside help to complete their responsibilities. After all, as much as it might feel like family, we are all here for work. Good thing you were sitting down for that, right?

Besides Billing staff, though, Katie also supervises payroll SuperWoman Jane Bauer, aka Sneezy MacSneezerson. Yes, that’s right, between Jane’s high number of rapid-fire “is she sniffing out of the pepper jar in there” sneezes, and Greg’s booming, large-breed dog-barking impersonation sneezes, the rest of us are mice among men in the sneeze department. So, not only does Katie have the most Corporate Office staff in her department, she also has the most Corporate Office sneezes reporting to her, by a large margin.

Work hard, play hard (then work hard some more)

The best thing is, Leela, Jane, and Greg also each have their own great sense of humor. So basically, the whole Billing/Finance/Payroll team is a barrel of sneezes and laughs. (ok, it’s not as gross as it sounds.) But at the end of the day, the most important thing about Billing is perseverance, and you know by now that Katie has this in spades. She doesn’t give up, which is a win for HealthStar and our Clients.

Got questions about insurance coverage for yourself or a loved one? Give us a call and see what Katie and our Billing/Finance team can do for you. Just don’t forget your sense of humor; you’re going to need it.

Love and Charity – 24ECCs in action! HS + Safe Haven = ❤

During the month of May, HealthStar is focusing on the 24ECC’s of Love and Charity. Each office is partnering with a community agency to help support a good cause. Corporate and the Twin Cities Skilled office, for example, are working with an agency called Safe Haven Foster Shoppe. Safe Haven holds a unique mission of providing basic items to newly placed foster kids.

Safe Haven Mission: We want no child to enter foster care empty-handed.

Kids placed with foster families often have no belongings, other than the clothes they are wearing on placement. Safe Haven puts together bags of essentials (like toothpaste, toothbrushes, socks, or pajamas), with a goal of providing newly placed foster kids with a special bag within 24-hours of placement. HealthStar Home Health Corporate and Twin Cities Skilled hope to provide 4 completed bags to Safe Haven; two for girls and two for boys.

Found your heartstrings?

Hearing Safe Haven’s mission gave me chills. Kids in foster care need a little extra love, and what an amazing difference when there’s something special waiting at their new home. It’s a small thing, but to a kid going through this transition, this bag of items is something stable, personal, and all his/her own. If you’re in the twin cities metro area, please consider supporting Safe Haven with a donation. Drop items off at HealthStar’s Corporate and Twin Cities Skilled office during our drive, or contact and support Safe Haven directly at any time. Your support goes to a great cause!

Here’s a list of what goes into the various bags that Safe Haven creates. Providing these basic essential items on placement is a great way to support foster families and foster kids both at the same time! When you choose to donate financially or donate items, you can play an important part in Safe Haven’s mission and vision.

HealthStar has a big heart!

Thanks to Tim Lively, HealthStar owner, for generously supporting this effort. We are lucky to work at a company that supports staff in setting up a drive like this. And it’s also great that HealthStar financially participates in the donations set up by each office!

This is just one activity for these two combined offices, but all of HealthStar gets to join in on every 24ECC project! That’s ten more offices for Love and Charity. Don’t forget to check back and see all of the great Love and Charity activities from our other offices! I can’t wait to hear about them all, myself!

Want to know more about working at a supportive and caring company? Check out open positions, and learn more about HealthStar’s mission and vision!

Spotlight: Julie Swedberg, Cass Lake

It’s easy to mistake HealthStar as just a Metro-Area agency, with Corporate, Twin Cities Skilled, and Inver Grove Heights all being around the metro. But we have more offices outside the metropolis than in it! Looking north, you’ll find some of HealthStar’s craftiest and thriftiest “family members” in the Cass and Bemidji offices. Julie Swedberg, Branch Manager (aka Thrift Master) brings many talents to HealthStar’s Cass Lake office. She’s dedicated to serving HealthStar’s unique Client base and spends her time spreading warm, fuzzy feelings all through the land of Cass!

Inspired by her sister’s experiences as a CNA, Julie got her CNA certification and worked in a nursing home early in her health care career, and later became an LPN. Julie says that to feel the love and trust that patients have towards her as a nurse has been priceless. Her studies continued with a 2-year business degree, and in 2015 she found herself with multiple job offers (of course!). Lucky for us, HealthStar won the dangerous duel for Julie’s heart, and she joined our team as Branch Manager.

A Running Start

Oh boy, did Julie hit the ground running! Julie started during a period of great stress and transition for HealthStar. The Cass Lake office was going through some changes, to put it mildly. Things have settled down since then, thanks to Julie’s “special touch.” She knows how to take things in stride, and she doesn’t get too riled up during difficult times. Julie says that her love of gardening helps her stay calm – she loves to take photos of her flower gardens and often spends time thinking through her current challenges and stresses while walking through the flowers.

Keeping herself grounded and stress-free sure comes in handy when our HealthStar family gets together. Julie’s calm and matter-of-fact ways help keep us all on track and on time! But don’t let her “down to business” routine fool you – Julie has a great sense of humor and loves to stir up some fun. Her laugh comes up from her toes! And if you want to see her soft side, just ask about her sons. We’ve all met the little one, Ryker – he’s a Corporate Meeting Regular! Without further ado – please allow me to share with you my three favorite things about Julie. Julie Swedberg, the HealthStar spotlight’s on you!

An “old school” master chef

Julie’s mastery in the kitchen is appreciated by many mouths and stomachs across the land. In between office hours, community events, sports with the kids, and family time, Julie somehow finds time to preserve her own jellies and jams. She does this in large enough quantity that she sells them at the community farmers’ market! I can say as a personal recipient of Julie’s “jam variety pack” that this stuff is DELICIOUS! I would eat it with a fox, in a box, on a train, in the rain, and anywhere else for that matter. Yum!

Canning isn’t her only kitchen specialty, though – Julie can bake, sauté, steam, sear, and roast, too. She’s like a human instant pot, so many functions that you just can’t get enough! She’s not afraid of a little chopping – it lets her exercise her aggressive side. Yeah, she can get tough when she needs to, but most of the time she doesn’t. She gets pretty far with honey.

Julie’s love of cooking has a family history; her mom is also an awesome cook. Sometimes, they team up for community events – I know Julie’s mom makes a killer fry-bread taco! Why, oh why couldn’t Julie have grown up in the Metro so that I can have a fry-bread taco? It’s so true that life just isn’t fair.

Oh, so thrifty!

Julie pretends to come down to Corporate for meetings, but we’re pretty sure she actually comes down for the thrift store shopping. She makes a great round of the local thrift stores when she’s in town. Sometimes, she goes with Chasidy Myhrer, Bemidji Operations Manager (aka “hammer of the north”). They are a sight to behold, with so much treasure for so little cost! Great taste, great value – if Julie had a personal motto, that might just be it. I’m so jealous of her saving ways. I’ve never seen a dollar stretched so thin.

This special thrifting ability doesn’t just apply to shopping for Julie’s family, though. She also puts her special thrifty talents to work for her office, squeezing every penny out of her dollars. She considers her office budget with every decision she makes, going so far as to do her own cooking for events – lucky for the guests!

We didn’t know it when we hired Julie, but she’s a package deal, and we are so lucky for it! She gets her family involved in planning and hosting duties, which helps keep down the cost of extra help. Aside from helping out with community events on several occasions, Julie’s mom has also become our official “Corporate Meetings Mom,” always stopping in to say hello with Ryker when they’re in town. We’ve decided to make Ryker our official Corporate Meeting Mascot. It’s always nice for our HealthStar family to see the Swedberg family!

Heart full of love!

No one asks Julie to come to community events. They just put her on the schedule and tell her she’s coming! She’s made a name for herself in the community, and she and HealthStar are so proud of this! We’ve seen (and posted) photos of her spectacular booth setup at events; she really makes it look homey and comfortable. Julie doesn’t need much of an arm twist to help in the community – she gets involved because she loves it! She makes community events a priority for herself and her family because she wants to see the Cass Lake community thrive. Her energy and enthusiasm help get others going at events, which is why she is always invited back! The warmth and kindness that Julie brings with her to work is the same warmth and kindness that she pours into every event she attends.

Julie doesn’t save all of her love for community events, though. She also likes to know all about the people she works with, so that she can show us some love, too! At the recent Corporate meetings, Julie was spotted taking notes about everything, from Corporate updates down to each person’s personality type and conflict resolution style. “You never know when this kind of thing might come in handy,” she says.

Julie’s love for her community also translates to love for her Clients and staff. Julie is friendly and caring, and she expects her team to follow her example (which they do very well!). Call the Cass Lake office, and you’ll probably talk to Michelle Colliflower or Jean Bartell, two of the nicest and funniest ladies in Cass Lake! Karen rounds out the group with plenty of experience, wisdom, and patience. Julie puts a lot of love into this team, and it shows! This great group offers PCA, HMK, and skilled services in the Cass Lake area, and they are determined to show the love of their office to all of their Clients and field staff!

Julie, all wrapped up

Julie is like a pioneer woman, mixed with a kindergarten teacher, mixed with a ferocious lion – she has amazing kitchen skills, she loves to show her kind side, but when she needs to, she bares those teeth and gets things done! She represents HealthStar just the way we like it – leading with kindness and support, delicious with a touch of spice and a whole lot of love. Visit the HealthStar booth at the next Cass Lake health fair and find out what you’ve been missing!

And Julie – thanks for the jam, I’ve finished most of it and I’ll be patiently waiting for another shipment. 😊

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!