Spotlight: Cristina Hernandez, TC Skilled

Checking her list

Turn the computer on, then check in with “the boss,” Deb Allen in Twin Cities Skilled. Another check-in with “the other boss,” Donna Smith in HR. Pull up Outlook and check Tim’s schedule. Check Barb’s schedule. Make sure there’s enough paper, water, plastic silverware, pens, and post-its. Check the main fax. Sit down and check Corporate voicemail. Check email. Look for IT inventory to check in or check out. How much checking can one person do in a day! And it’s only been 15 minutes.

This is the beginning of a typical weekday for Cristina Hernandez, Office Assistant at HealthStar’s Corporate and Twin Cities Skilled office. She keeps us all organized, on-time, and well-stocked with legal pads. She has a great sense of humor and loves practical jokes, but be warned; if you pick on her way of eating fried rice, one grain at a time while picking all of the vegetables out, you might upset her. She does have her sensitive side.

A little history

Cristina started at HealthStar in June of 2015. She worked as a HMK/HHA/PCA for the Minneapolis South office on Franklin, and she provided administrative support to the office between visits. In October of the same year, she applied for a position at the Corporate office. Corporate snapped her up before the ink dried on her application.

Cristina has been a great addition to the Corporate team, and is now working most often with the Twin Cities Skilled team. There is a lot to love about Cristina; just ask her. She’s not shy about her talents and will tell you the same. She has three unique and special talents, though, that make her really stand out from the crowd. Cristina, the HealthStar Spotlight’s on you! Let’s see what makes you shine!

Love yourself, first!

Cristina is very confident and self-assured. This makes her a great fit at the front desk, because she doesn’t shy away from meeting new people, and she is very comfortable in new situations. Cristina easily befriends any person in her path. She is charismatic and speaks her mind, but her sense of humor and kindness help to temper her strong personality.

Cristina can liven up a dark day, and she uses that skill to help motivate the Corporate and Skilled teams, from the lowest member right up to the very top. We have all witnessed the effect of her motivational skills on Tim Lively (owner/CEO). Only Barb Jezorski, Executive Director, can compete with Cristina when it comes to motivating power. When Barb and Cristina combine forces, Tim stays on schedule, on time, and on target! Corporate staff love it, because without Cristina, we wind up playing “oh where oh where has my boss’s boss gone.” It’s a lovely tune, but when you’re trying to plan your day, it can be a challenge. We like Cristina’s way much better.

Tell us a story

My personal favorite thing about Cristina is that she is an amazing source of information about Latino culture, and she’s a captivating storyteller. It is fun to learn about her Puerto-Rican background! I love when she tells us about the sights, the smells, and the sounds of Puerto Rico. I especially like learning about the food that Cristina’s family used to cook for her when she was growing up. Cristina is also willing to give me tips about speaking Spanish. She’s not afraid to correct my grammar or pronunciation (she’s brutally honest, have I mentioned that?). I have also learned this very important lesson from Cristina: just because two people might both speak Spanish, they don’t necessarily speak it the same way, or share the same cultural background. It is very interesting to learn of the many differences between Spanish-speaking cultures!

Cristina sometimes provides backup to the lovely and talented Nilda Garcia, Program Manager of Sagrado Corazón. Thank goodness for them both, because according to Cristina, my Spanish skills are not quite ready for prime time. HealthStar’s Spanish-speaking Clients might not be as patient as Nilda and Cristina when I take 5 minutes to think of the right word for Cucumber. (By the way, Concombre is French, not Spanish. You can guess who corrected me on that…)

But how are you feeling, really?

This is a special skill that I really admire in Cristina. She knows how to read people. She can be the most caring and patient person, if that’s what you need her to be. But in a heartbeat, she can turn on a fiery personality and liven things up with her high energy and flair. She takes the time to really listen to our Clients’ needs, making each Client feel like there is nothing else going on in the world. Clients would never know that she is also being pulled by multiple departments to help with their workloads. Cristina’s honest and open communication style sets people at ease in difficult situations. Most of all, she is passionate about meeting our Clients’ needs, whether it means translating at visits, providing direct care with grace and a gentle touch, or just listening and being compassionate when someone calls with an issue.

Family Connections

Some fun facts about Cristina’s family: Cristina’s mom, Marisol, has also worked at HealthStar. She provided HHA service out of the Minneapolis South office starting in 2011, and she reigned supreme as temporary queen of Corporate file retention in 2018. She is our favorite employee mom, because she makes the most amazing cakes. We miss you, Marisol – please come and visit soon!

There is another family connection, too. Cristina’s first experience with home care was when her brother, Jomar, received home care services through another agency. This was several years before Cristina joined HealthStar, and showed Cristina the impact that home care services make! Growing up with Jomar, with her family supporting his unique needs, Cristina developed the patience and compassion that make her such a great fit at HealthStar. Jomar is doing great and now lives in his own place. We all joined Cristina in celebrating his increasing independence, and we always enjoy hearing about his progress!

HealthStar Needs You, Cristina!

Corporate wouldn’t be the same without Cristina. I know, because I was here before she joined the team. It was a dark time, and we certainly don’t want to go back! Cristina has big shoes to fill, but the great thing is, she has big feet, so we never have to worry. She handles all her tasks with determination, and she keeps her sense of humor handy when things get tough. She’s a critical piece of the Corporate team!

Want to know more about what it’s like to work at Corporate? Check out our other articles and see which positions we’re hiring for today!

Footnote:

After reviewing this article, Cristina was disappointed that I didn’t discuss her amazing video editing skills. This is a unique talent, but it doesn’t seem to fit into any of the three very personal talent areas that I have clearly outlined above. Instead of adding a fourth talent category just for video editing, I told her that I would add a footnote. Cristina, I sincerely hope that you are now satisfied with this article. I don’t want to upset you, like that time I picked on your rice eating style.

Sagrado Corazón Salud en el Hogar

HealthStar Home Health helps the populations we serve by identifying and focusing on prevalent health conditions such as high rates of heart disease or diabetes in specific communities. Responding to requests from people in diverse communities, HealthStar develops culturally-relevant services while identifying barriers to care, and then launches culture-specific care and prevention programs. Today, our culturally-relevant programs offer services that address the unique needs of populations such as African Immigrant, African American, Native American, Hispanic/Latino, and other communities. Sagrado Corazón Salud en el Hogar addresses the cultural, ethnic and language needs of Minnesota’s Latino community. This month we caught up with Nilda Garcia, Sagrado Corazón program manager to learn more about this particular initiative.

Recognizing the Latino/Spanish presence in the Minneapolis and St. Paul metro area, HealthStar Home Health originally launched the Sagrado Corazón Salud en el Hogar program 10 years ago. It quickly became Minnesota’s premier provider and trusted source of home health services for the Latino community that effectively addresses the unique cultural, ethnic, and language needs of Latinos in Minnesota. Nilda Garcia, Program Manager, works with this and other HealthStar initiatives including Native American culture and English-speaking communities.

Re-Launch

Recently re-launched, the Sagrado Corazón program has more of a presence and built a trust within the community over the years while assessing the needs of this program in the Latino culture. A backbone in the Latino culture is family helping family. Through this program, HeathStar Home Health hires family members to take care of family who are aging, have become ill, or recovering from surgery. A tradition in the Latino culture is to care for family in their own homes and nursing homes or assisted living options are not typically pursued. We found that family members were having to take time off their regular job to care for their family, which in turn created challenges in their home life. As part of this program, HealthStar hires the family member and pays them to care for their loved ones.

Word of the program has been shared within the Latino community. HeathStar Home Health goes into community centers, attends local events, and visits churches to educate and spread the word about the program. If there is interest, HealthStar will work with the caregiver and their health care provider (if they already have one). There is a team of nurses who supports this program. Currently, there are only English-speaking nurses on the team, but Nilda goes with them to help translate. Nilda and the team of nurses will also do home visits, meet with caregivers, research insurance qualifications are available, background checks for caregiver, provide care training, attend to specific client needs and many other.

Insurance

Many in the Latino community do not have insurance coverage, Medicare or assistance. The professionals at HealthStar Home Health will walk the patient through the steps if there is insurance or help them understand if they can qualify.

Training

There is standard training for Minnesota state requirements. When conducting training, we begin with completing the state hiring forms. The caregiver will work with a nurse and go over topics such as:

  • HIPPA laws
  • Importance of hand washing and proper technique
  • Proper use of gloves
  • Transferring a patient
  • What to observe
  • What to report to nurses
  • Proper use of 9-1-1
  • Harassment

One important aspect of our training is our 24ECC program which is a formalized value-based cultural competence proprietary program: The 24 Expressions of Company Culture. These 24 expressions are aligned with HealthStar’s four chosen values of Servant Leadership, Empathy, Altruism, and Integrity. We review this culture and ensure the caregivers live it too. Learn more about our 24ECC employee program by watching this video:

Nilda has been with HealthStar Home Health for 10 years and has worked with some families just as long. She builds a close relationship with the families she works with, they even stop in the office to visit when they get lonely or want to chat. Nilda says “I see some patients starting with nothing. I am proud to know I am helping them get the services they need and assist with communication through translation. I love witnessing the roots of the family and their culture grow over the years I have known them.”

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

Choosing home healthcare services shouldn’t involve settling for care that doesn’t reflect the needs of the individual. With HealthStar Home Health you will always be in control of your care (or that of your loved one), and allow you to receive the services you need in conjunction with the attentiveness to cultural background that defines superior home health care. Call us today at 651-633-7300 for more information or to schedule a no-charge consultation.

Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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!

 

Knowing the Person’s Story

When we are working with those with Alzheimer’s it is important to know their stories! What is their history? Where did they live? Who comprised their family? What are some of their most powerful memories? What did they do for a living? And what were their hobbies? If you’re not getting the picture, you might wonder why all of this matters.

It does because the person with Alzheimer’s increasingly lives in the past so that the “old memories” are new again. This applies to so many things in their reality. For instance, a gentleman I remember would become very agitated when it snowed and fret that the animals would freeze if they weren’t protected. At first the family thought that Dad was having a psychotic episode since he had never talked about animals before. Then one day his children discovered a very old picture of their dad when he was a little boy. It was probably taken in the 1920s and showed their dad standing in a field surrounded by cattle. This was right before the Great Depression, when his family lost their farm and the gentlemen lost his dad. He would have been a great grandfather to the current children,who knew nothing about these losses. Their dad had never talked about what he’d been through, but now he was reliving it. Once the family realized what was happening, they would reassure their father whenever there was bad weather that every animal was locked safely in the barn. He continued to ask about the animals when it snowed, but he was able to relax after hearing they were safe.

Another Another gentleman had been a wood carver all his life and now lived in North Carolina with his son and daughter-in-law. They were concerned about his failing memory and had him evaluated by a geriatric neurologist, who diagnosed the man with Alzheimer’s at Stage 4-5 on the FAST scale. The family worried that it was no longer safe for Dad to carve word, but the doctor assured them that wood carving was second nature to their father. They just needed to watch him and they would know when this hobby was no longer safe for him. They did over the course of several years as his Alzheimer’s continued to grow worse. Finally, they decided assisted living was the safest place for him.

When he was admitted to the facility, the daughter-in-law told the staff how important carving was to Dad and supplied him with bars of Ivory soap and plastic picnic knives every week. The old man would sit in a chair with a trash can between his knees, lean forward, and carve the Ivory soap. Did he carve the beautiful woodland figurines that he had once carved? No, but he continued to carve. His family knew how important this was to their father’s well-being, so they made it happen in a very safe way.

The stories of our patients are like valuable, buried treasures. When caregivers can unlock the past and dig up these stories, it is a transforming experience for the story teller and the listener, too.

About the Author: Verna Benner Carson
P.D., PMHCNS-BC, is president of C&V Senior Care Specialists and Associate Professor of Nursing at Towson University in Baltimore, MD. Dr Carson can be reached at vcars10@verizon.net

The Magic of Music in Alzheimer’s Disease

Have you ever heard a song playing on the radio and found yourself transported to a time and place from the past? Have you ever had a song stir your deepest emotions – and bring back memories as if those experiences were happening in the present? Have you ever been comforted, stimulated, saddened, elated, or experienced some other powerful emotion just because of a song? Most of us have had such experiences and the power of the “remembering” elicited by music can catch us “off guard” when the song evokes emotionally charged memories. Music has the same power with individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and knowing this provides one more tool to help family, as well as paid caregivers, to manage challenging behaviors, to reach someone who appears to be lost in the disease, to calm an agitated individual, to encourage cooperation in activities such as bathing that might otherwise be met with resistance. Some research even indicates that music can help restore lost memories and bring those afflicted with the disease back into the present – if only for a short period of time.

These facts about the power of music seem to fly in the face f the progressive loss of memories associated with Alzheimer’s disease, starting with the most recent and steadily erasing long-ago memories going back in time. However, it is important to know that memories of music are “wired” differently in the brain than other memories; it is almost as if the brain is made to contain music. Whereas short-term memories are stored in the hippocampus, music is stored every­ where in the brain, and music with all of its emotional meanings continues to be accessible to people with Alzheimer’s. Even when they have lost the ability to speak, many can still sing!

What a powerful idea this is! If caregivers fully appreciated the significance of music they would use it all the time to facilitate many activities of daily living. Caregivers have shared that they engage the person with Alzheimer’s in singing while the individual is bathing and dressing. Nurses sometimes use music while they are performing a painful procedure such as dressing a wound or drawing blood. They know that music can distract, soothe, and engage the person with Alzheimer’s disease.

Thirty-two Alzheimer’s patients participated in a research study conducted by Brandon Ally, an assistant professor at Boston University who examined the power of music and found that these subjects were able to learn more lyrics. when the words were set to music than when they were spoken. Ally believes that the results of the study suggest that those with Alzheimer’s could be helped to remember things that are both necessary to their independence and well-being. For instance,creating a short ditty about taking medications or the importance of brushing one’s teeth might help those with Alzheimer’s to maintain the abilities to perform these necessary skills. This was the first study to demonstrate that using music can help people with Alzheimer’s to learn new information through the use of music.

In a famous YouTube video, Man In Nursing Home Reacts To Hearing Music From His Era, we see Henry, a man who was almost totally unresponsive, begin to respond with sound, movement and facial animation when he uses an iPod programmed with “Henry’s music. “After the iPod is removed, Henry is not only quite spirited but totally involved in the ensuing conversation. He is able to discuss his favorite musician, Cab Calloway, and when asked “What is your favorite Cab Calloway song?” Henry begins to sing ‘Tl! be home for Christmas.” Not only is his speech perfectly clear, his face is expressive and he uses his hands in explaining the emotional power of music. The interviewer inquires of Henry “What does Cab Calloway’s music mean to you?” And Henry talks about what music does for him: that the good Lord changed him through music and made him a “holy man.” Henry’s transformation is nothing short of miraculous and raises questions about why music is not used in every home where someone with Alzheimer’s is cared for, in every assisted living facility and in every skilled nursing home.

Music should be a routine part of care. Not only does it bring joy to the person with this terrible disease, it allows for continuing connections between the caregiver and the person with Alzheimer’s. It diminishes the lonely isolation that is part of the disease when the afflicted person appears to be locked in a world that is isolated and isolating to others.

One more story about the power of music. A gentleman named Ben shared this story about his wife who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and was well into the middle stage when he placed her in a facility for care. Ben visited often and one of the techniques he used to stay connected to his wife and to make the visits pleasant and meaningful for both of them was to draw on his wife’s past history with music. She had sung for many years with the Sweet Adelines worldwide music group, and she retained her lovely singing voice despite the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease. Ben loaded music that his wife had sung throughout her years with the Sweet Adelines, he attached two sets of earphones – one set for his wife and one set for himself – and they would sing together. Music was a powerful connection between them that remained until his wife passed away.

Music is so important that we will revisit it again in other columns. The power of music to maintain connections, relationships , and joy in life can hardly be covered in one short column. More to come!

Reference:
1. Seligson, S, June 15, 2010 http://www.bu.edu/today/2010/music-boosts-memory-in-alzheimer%E2%80%99s/ Accessed July 8, 2012
2. Man In Nursing Home Reacts To Hearing Music From His Era (April 2012). (http:// www.yourube.com/watch?v=fyZQfOp73QM) www.youtube.com Accessed July 8, 2012

About the Author: Verna Benner Carson
P.D., PMHCNS-BC, is president of C&V Senior Care Specialists and Associate Professor of Nursing at Towson University in Baltimore, MD. Dr Carson can be reached at vcars10@verizon.net