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. 😊

Spotlight: Nilda Garcia, Sagrado Corazón

Nilda Garcia and Sagrado Corazón: HealthStar’s Spanish-Speaking Support Service

Spanish-speaking Clients of HealthStar are very familiar with Nilda Garcia. She is the warm and caring voice of the Sagrado Corazón (Sacred Heart) program for Latino Clients of HealthStar. For 10 years, Nilda has been putting her “special touch” on everything that she does, from event planning to office organization and troubleshooting IT problems. With her recent promotion to Program Manager of Sagrado Corazón, Nilda is ready for action with renewed energy and focus. Nilda, the HealthStar Spotlight is on you!

A little history

Nilda has been with HealthStar since 2008, when she started as an Assistant Program Coordinator in HealthStar’s basement suite on Bloomington and 21st. Then, in 2009, Nilda helped open the West St. Paul office – the original home of Sagrado Corazón. But don’t get too comfortable, Nilda! Just a year later, HealthStar moved from the location on 21st into another building on Franklin Ave in Minneapolis. The West St. Paul office merged into the new location as well.

Nilda made the Franklin office her new home as an Assistant Program Development Liaison. She worked in the community and continued as primary contact for Sagrado Corazón. During the next 2 years, Nilda helped HealthStar achieve Medicare certification and had a front-row seat for the beginning of HealthStar’s Mental Health initiative. In 2010, Nilda watched Corporate move from Maplewood to a new building in North St. Paul. Then, In 2017, the Franklin office moved to a new location in Inver Grove Heights. Once again, Nilda unpacked and organized a new space. This new location is beautiful, with big windows and lots of wild turkeys outside! It’s a great place to re-focus and re-energize. Throughout all these changes, Nilda’s positive attitude and sense of humor kept her office mates in good spirits!

 Nilda, how do you do it all?

So, what makes Nilda tick? How can she weather all these changes and still be a constant source of positive energy? A secret about Nilda – she has superpowers. Lots of them. I’ll tell you about some, but you must promise not to say that I told you. Nilda doesn’t like to be the center of attention and won’t want everyone talking about her special abilities.

Superpower #1

Nilda’s first superpower is that she is amazing with event planning. She loves to get people together and celebrate! Nilda’s smile and laugh bring light and joy to the group. She is a great cook and loves to try new foods. Nilda says that her favorite thing about HealthStar is the family atmosphere. Working here is like working at a family gathering, because you’re surrounded by happy people who care about each other. Nilda fondly remembers when a special Client celebrated her 100th birthday last year – with Nilda at the party, of course! Nilda especially loves planning events for Sagrado Corazón, because she gets to use one of her other superpowers – the Latina superpower!

Superpower #2

Nilda’s Latina superpower comes from her family in South Texas, on the border of Mexico. Nilda loves to celebrate her Latina roots with the Sagrado Corazón team. She is always willing to help teach a little Spanish on the side, which has been one of my personal favorite things about working with Nilda. She is a very lenient Spanish teacher, unlike Cristina Hernandez, Corporate and Twin Cities Skilled Admin – also a superpowered Latina, but much stricter in the Spanish-speaking department! A little-known fact is that Nilda is close friends with Cristina’s mother, Marisol. Get them together, and I can only imagine the cooking and laughing!

Superpower #3

The last superpower that I will reveal about Nilda is that she is a multi-talented and very organized superheroine. She processes payroll, troubleshoots technology issues, and answers phones in two languages (backing up the lovely and talented Barbara Edwards at IGH), all while drinking her French vanilla coffee and running around in her high heels. Nilda is a positive force at the Inver Grove office, keeping things fun and exciting for the team. She has a fabulous sense of humor and is not afraid to pull pranks to get everyone in a good mood. She once dressed up the CPR dummy and scared RN Sue Schaber by leaving it in the bathroom overnight. Boy, was Sue surprised when she came in early thinking she had the office to herself!

Nilda says that her greatest accomplishment at HealthStar is learning to walk in another person’s shoes. She appreciates learning with her team and is grateful for the opportunities that HealthStar offers for personal and professional growth. She knows that she has great things ahead with Sagrado Corazón, and is looking forward to putting renewed focus and energy into the program. We hope you’ll check out what Sagrado Corazón has to offer, and learn more about our awesome team!

Spotlight: Nissa Fougner, Rehab Therapies

We all have days when we don’t feel motivated or just can’t get going on a project. We’ve all felt sluggish and tired, or maybe even <gasp> a little cranky. Some people are far less obvious about this than others. We know they must have bad days, too, but we can’t tell when it happens. Think about the people you know. There’s probably someone who never seems down and out, and who always has a smile and a little pep in her step. For HealthStar Corporate, this is Nissa Fougner. She is a ray of sunshine from morning till closing time. Quick to smile and always full of energy, she flits to and fro like a healing honey bee, spreading the sweetness of optimism, better health, and rehab plans all along her path.

A little history

Nissa grew up in International Falls, MN. She’s as midwestern as it gets – she has experience giving skating lessons and coaching figure skating. She found a passion for rehab therapy while she was in college at Gustavus. Home care won her heart with the promise of flexibility. Nissa also loves that she gets to see her clients in their own home environment, where she can start making a positive impact right from the first visit. Each client has unique needs as well as a unique situation, and Nissa is proud of the improved quality of life that she helps her clients achieve.

Nissa first worked with HealthStar as a contractor doing therapy case review. After she heard the legend of the HealthStar Potluck, she converted and became one of us! (at least, we think it was the potluck legend…) Nissa has been working in the Corporate office as Director of Rehab Services since February 2018. She is so quiet that a lot of our staff didn’t realize she had moved in until July. Nissa’s favorite thing about HealthStar is the people, because “everyone is so friendly and helpful.” That’s why we call it the HealthStar family! We’re pleased to have Nissa on our team, and we’d like tell you about a few of her amazing skills. Nissa, the HealthStar spotlight’s on you!

The skill to celebrate small victories

So often, we celebrate only after a task is completed, forgetting to celebrate the milestones that pass along the way. Nissa doesn’t let those milestones pass in silence! She has a talent for appreciating and recognizing progress, even small progress, toward big achievements. She breaks down big, challenging goals into smaller, more approachable pieces. There is an old proverb that says, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” By looking at the little steps instead of the miles, Nissa gets people moving! Acknowledging progress along the path makes Nissa an encouraging coach and teacher, and helps her clients to stay motivated even when there is still a long way left to go.

The skill of humility

I haven’t known Nissa for a long time, but I have already learned that she is very modest. She is somewhat reserved, although she can crack a joke or two when she’s feeling feisty. Even when she is given a direct compliment, she half brushes it off and half explains it away. For example, the secret to always looking like you just stepped out of a chic boutique – it’s not “yeah, I know, I’m an amazing shopper,” but instead it’s a laundry tip. Wash your clothes on the cold/gentle cycle, and always line dry.

Nissa takes this same sense of place into the community when she meets with Clients. Meeting her for the first time, you might feel as relaxed as you would with an old friend. She keeps a low profile, and never casts a judgmental glance. Gentle, respectful, and mild-mannered, Nissa makes her mark by smiling us all into a calm and tranquil state of comfort and positivity. After being around Nissa, I challenge you not to feel better than you did before!

The skill to be absolutely adorable

Everything about Nissa says, “I’m safe and friendly.” She’s like the human equivalent of a daisy or a kitten. Corporate staff love to see what she’ll be wearing each day, and we all want to know her secrets to beautiful skin and hair! She always looks put together and approachable; she makes people around her smile just by being there. This combination is fabulous, considering that her goal is motivating the heck out of her Clients! Her easy smile and comfortably classy wardrobe set Nissa’s clients at ease, but all the while she sneakily (and very gently) pushes them to meet and surpass their goals.

But how strong is she?

Nissa has demonstrated her strength while also giving a short lesson on proper form for changing out the Culligan water jug in the Corporate office. By size and weight, the Culligan water jug outranks Nissa two to one. Nissa says, the proper technique for lifting something that’s larger and heavier than you are is to hold it close to the body, lift with your legs, brace your core, and hope that you don’t injure anything important. (ok, ok – she didn’t say the part about not injuring anything important, but I think it should be mentioned.)

She’s not just strong in body. Nissa has great experience in therapies, and she provides wisdom and encouragement to HealthStar’s therapy staff. HealthStar’s rehab therapy program is in great hands!

Put it all together – she’s perfect for Rehab Therapies!

Nissa is like a cool, sparkling stream – strong enough to turn a boulder into a pebble, but gentle and inviting enough for a refreshing soak of legs and feet on a hot day. Like the stream, she doesn’t seek credit or acclaim. She takes pride in helping others reach their goals, knowing that their success is her success as well. HealthStar is stronger (and more charming) with Nissa leading rehab therapies! We are so lucky to have her on our team!

 

Understanding Glaucoma

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

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

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

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

Open-angle glaucoma

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

Acute angle-closure glaucoma

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

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

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

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

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

Why Choose Home Health Care?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that overall health and life expectancy continue to improve in recent years for most Americans, thanks in part to an increased focus on preventative medicine and dynamic new advances in medicine and medical technology. However, not all Americans are enjoying a healthy lifestyle and living longer equally. Many racial and ethnic minorities in the United States struggle to live longer, healthy lives, due much in part to the fact that appropriate care is often associated with an individual’s economic status, race, and gender. Equitable access to health care is a foundational principal at HealthStar Home Health and we focus daily on reducing or eliminating the disparity in health care in the diverse communities we serve throughout Minnesota, Arizona, and New Mexico.

The term home health care encompasses a wide range of health care services that can be provided in the home for illness, injury, or daily care. Our home health professionals provide unparalleled public health care services ranging from Alzheimer’s and dementia care, behavioral nursing, home health care nursing, or respite care to daily cares like bathing and dressing, chores around the home, transportation and companionship. We are a culturally sensitive team of health care professionals that provide services to individuals who are traditionally underserved. Our community-based approach to reducing health disparities is based on the premise that the causes of poor health include factors related to the social, economic and physical environment of a community. The way in which we work enables us to build long-lasting relationships with members of the community, which then allow us to participate in local causes, activities and events.

HealthStar Home Health offers culturally-relevant services that address the unique needs of various communities in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area.  Some of the multicultural initiatives we have started and proudly serve are:

First Nations Home Health Minnesota’s premier provider of home health services for Native American communities. Not only providing service from seven branch locations in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, but also serving greater Minnesota, such as Duluth and Bemidji and the Red Lake, White Earth, Leech Lake, Bois Fort, Fond du Lac, and Mille Lacs Reservations.

Sagrado Corazón – Minnesota’s most trusted source of home health care services for the Latino community. Our teams of care givers, nurses and case managers provide services that allow people to stay at home in familiar cultural surroundings, develop good health habits, and reduce hospitalizations.

Circle of Life Home Care This home health care initiative offers personal health care services in the ten county area of northwestern New Mexico, and Arizona. The services are specifically designed to enhance the well-being of Native American people with a focused goal to improve the health status of those who experience an unusually high rate of preventable acute and chronic illnesses.

If you have a passion for health and wellness, care deeply for others and want to be part of an occupation the New York Times often reports is expected to grow more than any other and will become the largest occupation in the next 5 years, then being a caregiver is for you! HealthStar Home Health offers employment opportunities in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, northern Minnesota area, including Duluth and Bemidji, Arizona and New Mexico. Contact us to learn more.

HealthStar Home Health understands how overwhelming and difficult it can be to care for a loved one at home, as well as the cultural, ethnic, and linguistic challenges our patients face, and offers a variety of home health care services to support your loved one to live a more independent and fulfilling life at home. Contact us today at 651-633-7300 for more information and to schedule a no-charge consultation.

The Benefits of Senior Exercise

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

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

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

SeniorExercise

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

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

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

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

Memory Concerns? Take a Proactive Approach

Our health care model transitioned to an innovative, proactive approach over the past several years. A focus on the areas of diet, exercise, preventative clinical services, and a high emphasis on monitoring areas of concern is shifting the way care is delivered. While strides have been made in these areas, it is rare that changes to one’s memory are met with such a proactive approach. So often today outreach for support is not initiated until a critical event such as financial loss, exploitation, wandering, or failure to thrive has occurred. As a comprehensive provider of home health care, HealthStar Home Health knows firsthand that early detection of memory issues leads to early intervention, and the ability for family to plan together.

The reasons for ignoring memory changes could include embarrassment, denial, and fear, so it is understandable why many may fall into this critical misstep. A typical response from an individual who notices changes to his or her memory is to hide the problem, concerned that a diagnosis of Dementia or Alzheimer’s disease in inevitable. Those close to that individual may harbor similar fears as well. This perpetual cycle makes it difficult to enter into tough dialogue, often resulting in the memory issue developing quietly but profoundly.

What is not well known is that there are many causes for memory loss, many being curable and treatable if recognized early. By regularly integrating memory screenings Health Care professionals can become a catalyst for change and construct critical conversations with their patients around memory concerns. While a memory screening will not diagnose a memory issue, it is the first step in identifying a problem and it will subsequently trigger further diagnostic testing. We need to encourage and empower all those who have concerns that they or their loved ones are experiencing memory changes to discuss those concerns with their health care providers and request memory screening.

If further diagnostic testing reveals a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or other Dementias, remember, the benefits of earlier diagnosis include improved management of the disease, ability to treat and mange co-existing conditions, and the opportunity to help patients and their families plan ahead. Caring for loved ones with Alzheimer’s or Dementia has a huge impact on their care partner’s ability to achieve work-life balance. According to the coalition for Preparing Minnesota for Alzheimer’s, working caregivers report their caregiving responsibilities affect their work. 57% report arriving to work late. 17% have taken a leave of absence. 10% switch from full-time to part-time hours. 9% left the work place completely as a result of their caregiving responsibilities. The average cost to U.S employers of full-time employees who are caregivers totals $33.6 BILLION per year in lost productivity. (Preparing Minnesota for Alzheimer’s , 2011). These staggering numbers identify a critical need for supporting caregivers to manage their stress through education, training, and supportive services.

In 2013, HealthStar Home Health, in collaboration with C&V Senior Care Solutions, integrated a comprehensive home care program called Becoming an Alzheimer’s Whisperer. Paid completely through the Medicare home care benefit, Becoming an Alzheimer’s Whisperer supports the person, the caregiver and, the family to manage the diagnosis and the challenges that surround it. Becoming an Alzheimer’s Whisperer teaches families to understand how the disease affects the brain and enable the caregiver to enter the world of the person who has dementia or Alzheimer’s. Caregivers are trained to handle behaviors which include uncooperative behavior, agitation, aggression, wandering, sun-downing, sexually acting-out, dressing and bathing difficulties, eating difficulties, repetitive behaviors, and more. The program incorporates a multi-disciplinary approach and utilizes Skilled Nurses, Occupational Therapists, Physical Therapists, Social Workers, and Speech Pathologists. It uses standardized evidence-based teaching and assessment tools, and is based on the theory of Retrogenesis, developed by Dr. Barry Reisberg. Retrogenesis means “back to birth”, which concludes that Alzheimer’s unravels the brain almost exactly in reverse order as the brain developed from birth. This foundational understanding provides a method of creating approaches, environments, and techniques based on the developmental stage that correlates with the stage of dementia. The patient and the Caregiver will demonstrate competent self-care skill management of Alzheimer’s disease including a full range of behavioral, physical, social, and spiritual implications of this disease in order to remain safe at home.

By initiating supportive services upon diagnosis or at the initial onset of problematic behaviors, families receive help before it reaches crisis level. This proactive approach can successfully increase the quality of life for patients and their families affected by this dynamic disease.

-Shannon MacKenzie
Area Manager
HealthStar Home Health