Let’s go OUTSIDE!

I love it when I start looking for blog ideas and I hit something that has millions of articles published. It tells me that I am on to something. When I went looking for “health benefits of time outdoors,” Google blew up with so many articles explaining what I already know from personal experience – being outdoors is fabulous for our health, and most of us aren’t spending nearly enough time out there!

The following is a collection of my personal top 5 reasons to get outside. Now that this long, snowy, and ridiculous winter has finally come to a close (you heard me, winter – COME TO A CLOSE), I hope you’ll join me in getting back out into nature! (yes, you can still go outside in winter. But it’s so much easier to get outside in spring!!)

1. Pure Joy

I feel a special something when I walk outside – smelling the fresh air, feeling the warmth of the sun on my face, and looking up into the skyline. It’s a feeling of freedom, hope, and happiness. Even just thinking about a warm summer breeze can bring a smile to my face. I’m guessing you have the same feeling, at least sometimes, when you step outside!

We spend so much time indoors. Some studies estimate as much as 90% of our time is spent inside. Whether you’re in your house, in the office, in your car, or even in a shopping center, there is a feeling of being enclosed that you may not realize is there until you step out into the wide-open spaces. Stepping outside on a day with great weather, I am like Maria in the Sound of Music (Julie Andrews), singing in the grassy meadows, arms outstretched, surrounded by beautiful, gently rolling hills covered by soft greens and framed by a clear blue sky.

Even what some would consider mediocre weather has its moments – the wonderful pitter patter and that amazing smell when it rains; the beauty of a fresh snowfall; the crisp chill of a fall day – I appreciate the joy in all of the seasons, and I know I need to be better at finding ways to get outside no matter the perfection of the skies! What’s your favorite season? Think about how you feel when you’re outside on your perfect day. Pretty great, right? You can’t buy that joy, it’s free just for stepping outside!

2. Burn off Stress

No, we’re not just talking about the angry walk around the block, but maybe this helps explain even that. Walking it off is a great way to burn off anger and frustration, but why? Well, the exercise helps burn off some of those pesky “fight or flight” endorphins, but also, I think the time outside helps put things in perspective. I am one person in one home on one street, surrounded by a town, a State, a Country, and all that before we even get to the size of the whole planet. Walking outside, I see my neighbors and their families. I have even walked outside to find that a neighbor is also “rage walking.” Talk about solidarity – none of us is alone in our experience, whether it’s a celebration or a challenge!

We are also connected with each other by nature. We use the same water, absorb the same sun, and smell the same fresh air. Getting outside is important, because it reminds us that there is something greater than ourselves – something that has been here far longer than we have, and will continue to be here after we are gone. It reminds us that we are not permanent, and neither are the things that can cause us stress and frustration. Even when you don’t feel stress building up, it’s still great to get outside and enjoy the peace and calm that comes from being in nature. It helps you re-center and tackle your responsibilities and challenges with new energy!

3. Oh, the health benefits!

Folks who struggle with mobility, mental health, and other barriers which make it more difficult to enjoy time outside – we are working for you! Many HealthStar clients already have help with improving outdoor mobility, whether it be a PCA who accompanies Clients on walks or nature outings, the Mental Health team helping get Clients motivated and setting goals for time or activities outdoors (we’re looking at you, Magan!), or the Physical Therapy team working on skills that make it easier to get outside independently (and with Nissa in charge, you know you’re in good hands), there are plenty of ways that HealthStar builds additional time outside into your plans for better health! We want to make sure that everyone can enjoy the health benefits that can be gained from spending time outdoors.

The potential health benefits from getting outside are numerous enough to fill several individual top 5’s all on their own. Here, in rapid fire, are just some of the health conditions that can be treated by spending time in the great outdoors – maybe it’s not a full cure, but for these diseases or disorders, at least a reduction in symptoms, severity, or a decrease in prevalence has been linked to more outdoor time.

Addiction, anxiety, arthritis, asthma, cancer, cardiovascular disease, common cold, dementia, depression, diabetes, high blood pressure, inflammation, insomnia, mental health disorders, mobility, nearsightedness, obesity, osteoporosis, pain, preterm birth, restless legs.

Phew. That’s quite the list, and just scratches the surface of how healthy it is to get outside. Please look into the links provided below, or Google for yourself for more information about all these health benefits. I would love to go into each, but this is only a 5-item blog post, not a dissertation. If I start getting even longer-winded than I already am, no one will read my posts!

4. Build outdoor skills with your kids

This one is my personal favorite. I love the look on the kids’ faces when we get outside for a nature walk. Maybe there is a nature preserve near you? We live near Tamarack Nature Center, which is a fabulous (and free) preserve in White Bear Lake. There are walking and hiking trails, there is a nature center for kids to explore, and there is even a sand and water area for the warm weather months. It is awesome to see the kids’ joyful faces when they get to run in the field and play in the mud. Playing outside is also a great time to learn survival skills, like which berries are toxic and what poison ivy or poison oak look like. Fishing, hunting, camping and hiking are all inexpensive ways to spend more outdoor time with your kiddos, and each presents a unique learning experience!

5. Screen-free time!

There are different viewpoints about screen time. Some people say “it’s no big deal,” and others believe that any TV is bad TV. As with most things, the answer is probably somewhere in the middle. For me, personally, it is important to disconnect from the screen at times. As a mom, I also think that it is important for my kids to have plenty of “hands-on” interests. Getting out in “the wilderness” is an awesome way for our family to forget all about phones, tablets, TV, and computers. As long as I remember to put my phone on silent. 😊

My kids love being outside. I have never had them ask “can I go inside and watch TV?” We often go for a “family walk” after dinner, with the little one in the wagon and the 5-year-old on her bike. There are so many good things about this time. It is a true family connection for us – time that we spend actively together, not just staring at a device while we’re in the same room. It’s time that we exercise together without thinking of it as exercise. And it’s time when we can look at the world around us – learn about trees, grass, birds, and all kinds of other wildlife, just by being exposed to it together.

Can’t you Google that?

Yes, you can learn about these things by looking them up on Google (and sometimes we do, when we get home). But the hands-on experience of touching a leaf and feeling its bumpy veins, running your hands over the rough bark of a tree, or watching a bunny speed through a field, its little white tail just peeking over the tall grass, until it hears you and poof becomes still, blending into the scenery except for its shiny eyes and its soft and twitchy little nose – Google, even in 4k, just can’t compete.

A little wisdom from Grandma Alma

I’ll close with a tribute to my grandma. Grandma Alma is a wise woman – she says “the more often kids eat dirt, the healthier they’ll be.” She still lives on the farm where my dad was born and raised, on the same dirt that I’m sure he ate as a child. She spends plenty of time getting outside, whether it’s mowing the grass, checking the garden, or just enjoying the warm sun. She’s in her nineties now, and still going strong, so I know she’s onto something… not that I’m going to eat a fistful of dirt now, but I hope you’ll agree, there is plenty of immune-boosting power in the outdoors. Maybe we just don’t all have to do the dirt eating part, OK, grandma?

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/

A Little Love Makes a Big Difference

While Hallmark concentrates on sales of greeting cards and florists work their fingers raw arranging bouquets, we thought it would be interesting to learn how love can help improve our health. It’s something that we often overlook when choosing to “be healthy.” We think about our diet, how much exercise we can squeeze into our schedules, how much water we drink. But we rarely consider our social relationships and interactions when thinking about New Year’s resolutions or healthier lifestyles. Many studies have shown, however, that healthy personal relationships are just as important to good health as are exercise and good eating habits.

Why isn’t everyone talking about this?

The conspiracy theorist in me says it’s because no one makes money off of my making a new friend or my relationship with a loved one. There’s no way to make that into a pill, a vitamin, or a quick fix. Our relationships are something that we have to develop for ourselves. Sometimes, maintaining a relationship can even be harder than breaking it off. But after you hear about all the health benefits of healthy social interaction, maybe you’ll be the first one to start talking about the benefits!

Where science meets those warm, fuzzy feelings

Several studies have shown that the support system involved with our personal relationships helps to build better physical and mental health. It makes sense – you feel good when you have the support of people who care about you. And it feels good to support them in return. But even a small gesture, like a smile from a passing stranger, or the “good morning” you say to that guy who works on the floor below you, can have a ripple effect that leads to improved health and well-being.

These interactions remind us that we are part of something bigger than ourselves; a community, a town, and a whole world full of other people. Maybe that stranger will smile at someone else and pass on the good feeling. Maybe the guy downstairs was having a tough week, but now he feels just a little better.

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

John Watson

The good kind of contagious

This quote is more than 100-years old, but still speaks as a reminder that we are surrounded by people who are, like us, struggling in some way. By supporting each other, we make those burdens feel a bit lighter. Sometimes we forget our trouble, if only for a minute. Even when remembered, a burden shared is far easier to carry than burdens borne alone.

Each time you smile or wave, you silently tell the person you smiled at, “you matter.” You’re signaling that the person is worth your time. And that feels good, too – we all need a reminder sometimes that we matter. I’m telling you right now – you matter to me. If I see you on the street, I will smile and wave at you, and I hope you do the same back. I’m smiling at you right now, in fact. And I bet you just smiled back. Isn’t that just the coolest!

Put it into action!

So much of our time is spent in solitude; driving alone in the car, sitting at a desk, waiting for appointments. Even when we’re together, sometimes it still feels like we’re alone. The supercomputers in the palms of our hands lead us to a paradox. We spend so much time communicating that we have no time to communicate.

This month, put your newfound knowledge about the importance of relationships to use. I challenge you to notice the difference that a smile, a wave, or a good conversation with an old friend might have on your health. If we all make an effort to show someone how much they matter, maybe we can even painlessly shed those extra holiday pounds… Hey, a girl can dream, right?

For more information about how love and relationships can help you build a healthier future, check out these resources and studies:

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/12/well/live/having-friends-is-good-for-you.html

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3150158/

https://academic.oup.com/aje/article-abstract/109/2/186/74197

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.

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.

HealthStar Home Health to Attend the Annual Association of Residential Resources in Minnesota (ARRM) Conference

Just like our clients and their families, we at HealthStar Home Health cannot function in a silo. Resources, education and interaction from outside agencies makes us stronger and more knowledgeable about the issues seniors and those with disabilities face and how to problem solve. That is why each year representatives from HealthStar attend a conference hosted by The Association of Residential Resources in Minnesota (ARRM). This 2-day conference is loaded with education hours, networking opportunities, innovative ideas and practical solutions intended to support the more than 600 participants expected to attend. The participants include direct support professionals (DSPs), mid-to-executive level management from agencies, as well as others from related industries.

What’s Trending? #ARRM2K16 is this year’s conference theme and it will be held May 11-12, 2016 in Duluth, Minnesota. The conference will include a large trade show, the ARRM annual meeting, training opportunities, as well as 2 keynote speakers and over 40 breakout sessions to choose from. A highlight of the event will be the ARRM Cares Awards ceremony which honors outstanding DSPs from across Minnesota. Visit www.arrm.org/ for more information.

The Association of Residential Resources in Minnesota (AARRM) is dedicated to leading the advancement of community-based services that support people living with disabilities as well as advocating towards positive industry reform to help make a difference in their everyday lives. This private, non-profit association was founded in 1970 and is made up of over 225 advocates, providers, agencies, and businesses who continue to support Minnesotans with disabilities.

We look forward to the opportunity to share with the attendees some of the services we offer, such as medical social work, skilled nursing, home & community services, and mental health services. From routine household chores such as light housekeeping, transportation arrangement or meal preparation included in our homemaking program to providing planned short-term and time-limited breaks for caregivers through our respite care offerings, we ensure support is available to those that need it with our Home and Community Services program. This program is available to all persons covered under the Medical Assistance Waiver Programs or as private pay.

Throughout our Children’s Therapeutic Services and Supports (CTSS) and our Adult Rehabilitative Mental Health Services (ARMHS) we feature cultural sensitivity and provide a wide variety of mental health services with empathy to the underserved people of all ages in our communities. Our goal is to make communities strong by providing skills that can help with independent living and social situations.

HealthStar Home Health has values and a mission that closely align with those of the Association of Residential Resources in Minnesota. At HealthStar Home Health we offer a diverse set of care, chores, transportation, and social companionship services through our Home and Community Services program. If you or a loved one is suffering from mental health issues, such as bipolar disorder, major depression or schizophrenia, the HealthStar Home Health professionals work together with the individuals and their families toward positive outcomes. These services are customized to your needs and are provided by our caring, skilled professionals who are dedicated to ensuring that men and women in the Duluth and Minneapolis, Minnesota metro area living with disabilities receive the help they need in a dignified way.

Our employee representatives look forward to attending the What’s Trending? #ARRM2K16 conference knowing the education and insight they will take away from it can directly enrich the people with disabilities we proudly serve. Contact HealthStar Home Health today for more information on these, and other services we provide. Call us at 651-633-7300 for more information or to schedule a no-charge consultation.

Feeling a Little Anxious?

We all feel anxious at times. In fact, occasional anxiety is a normal part of life. People may feel anxious when dealing with a problem at work or home; students feel anxious when preparing for a big test or interacting in a new social situation, and when important life decisions need to be made the anxiety level can grow for just about anyone. But for people who suffer from an anxiety disorder, their extreme feelings are not temporary and cause such distress that daily activities and the ability to lead a normal life is difficult to manage. This level of anxiety disorder is a serious mental illness. The constant and overwhelming worry and fear is disabling, but with proper treatment, people who struggle with this learn to manage their feelings and live a fulfilling life.

There are many different types of anxiety disorders, including the following:

Panic Disorder: recurrent, unexpected panic attacks including sudden feelings of terror. Common symptoms of a panic attack are heart palpitations, sweating, trembling, and a feeling of choking or difficulty breathing. Symptoms usually strike suddenly and without warning.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder: a person with this type of disorder will display excessive anxiety or worry for long periods of time and face symptoms such as muscle tension, problems sleeping (difficulty falling or staying asleep, or restless sleep), and constant restlessness or being on edge. This excessive, unrealistic worry and tension can go on for months, even if there is nothing to provoke the anxiety.

Social Anxiety Disorder: this worry centers around a fear of being judged by others and social situations where you may be embarrassed, rejected or ridiculed. Also known as social phobia, common symptoms include feeling highly anxious and self-conscious, feeling nauseous or sick to the stomach, blushing and sweating when around other people. This type of anxiety disorder involves extreme worry about everyday social situations and tends to make the person stay home instead of go in public.

Specific Phobias: these are extreme, intense fears of a particular thing or situation. Typically, the fear level is not proportionate to the situation and will cause a person to completely avoid everyday situations. Depending on the specific phobia, the symptoms will be similar to previously listed symptoms, such as heart palpitations, sweating, dizziness, and difficulty breathing.

If you or a loved one have a mental health condition, such as anxiety disorder, you are not alone. 1 in 5 Americans experience a form of mental illness in any given year, and world-wide 1 in every 20 adults is living with a serious mental health condition. Mental illness is not your fault, but there is still a widespread stigma surrounding mental illness largely due to misunderstandings or lack of education. Unfortunately, many people suffering from mental illness do not get help or seek treatment, but there is help available!

HealthStar Home Health offers therapeutic services to young people through our Children’s Therapeutic Services and Supports (CTSS) program. We also have a program focused on adults and their needs with our Adult Rehabilitative Mental Health Services (ARMHS) program. HealthStar Home Health is sensitive to the cultural needs of each person in our care and we offer culturally-relevant services to those suffering from mental health issues and teach a variety of skills that will help with independent living and social situations. We serve individuals and health care professionals in the Minneapolis and St. Paul area, as well as Duluth, Minnesota, Arizona and New Mexico.

At HealthStar Home Health, we believe if we join together as a society, people living with mental illnesses will be treated with respect and acceptance. We are here to help – contact us today!