What HealthStar did on our "COVID Staycation"

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

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

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

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

Mask Makers Unite (around the sewing machine)

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

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

Compassion and Community

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

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

Into the Spotlight

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

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

Minnesota Nice?

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

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

Maya Angelou

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

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

I Can’t Breathe

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

Silence Speaks

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

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

Where do we go from here?

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

Mahatma Gandhi

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

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

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

24ECCs Swooping In

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

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

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

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

Let’s Talk!

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

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

Learning about You

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

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

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

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

Thanks, From the Heart!

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

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

Gentleness and Kindness

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

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

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

A common thread?

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

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

Thank You!!!

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

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

The Gift of Gratitude

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

You’ve probably heard the quote:

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

Helen Keller, derived from The Gulistan by Saʿdī

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

The Mushy Stuff

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

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

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

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

Family, Friends, and Silent Phones

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

The Joy of Others

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

An Unexpected Gift

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NCSAM? That’s a Mouthful!

October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month (NCSAM). This is a month of bringing awareness to the importance of staying safe in the world of technology. Cybersecurity is intimidating and confusing to a lot of people. If you’re as confused as most, hopefully some of the NCSAM information being shared this October will help give you a better level of comfort in how to #BeCyberSmart.

Cyber tip #1: If you don’t know IT, hire IT.

If you owned a business, and you weren’t sure how to keep it safe and secure, you’d probably hire someone to help with security. Why should things be any different when your personal assets are at stake? You don’t have to pay a lot to get a lot.

Check out your local community college, or get involved in adult education courses through your local school district. You can also check out some of the self-study resources at the end of this post. They are reputable sources and will get you moving in the right direction. Or, if you are a HealthStar Client, ask your HealthStar contact and we will work with you to find some resources!

Before you pay anyone to help you, check out these free and low-cost options, or ask for some guidance at a local library or college.

Cybersecurity-schmybersecurity

In the land of words that are long and difficult to type, “Cybersecurity” is at least a contender. What do you picture when you see the word Cybersecurity? If you’re like most people, it’s something wiggly, not quite in focus, and hard to put your finger on. Maybe a shape-shifting robot, or something like that.

If you want to know what I picture, I’ll tell you. I picture this little logo:

TopDog PC

This is the logo of a company called TopDog PC Services. TopDog is my best friend in the whole, wide, computer-technology world. HealthStar’s IT department would be a sad place without TopDog. Beth and Susan would be afraid to come to work, and all of the other HealthStar staff would be wondering “what happened to our previously helpful, responsive, and effective IT ladies?”

Computers wouldn’t know when to update, or what to download. Our HIPAA security team would be nervously clearing throats and biting fingernails. Antivirus software would be disconnected, and we’d be stuck using TeamViewer or LogMeIn for remote support. Mobile devices would be out in the wild with no management.

Basically, it would be chaos, doom, and despair for all.

So, naturally, to kick off NCSAM, I wanted to say a big HealthStar thank-you to Joe, Jordon, and all of the staff at TopDog PC. You guys give our itsy bitsy, teeny-weeny, HealthStar IT team the courage of a fully staffed IT DEPARTMENT. You’ve given us the background knowledge that we don’t always have, and the technical expertise that we’ve always wanted. You keep us operating, you keep us updated, and you help us find the right tools to keep ourselves safe and secure in a world of ever-evolving technology. And you do all of this with SO. MUCH. PATIENCE.

THANK YOU!

We really do love you guys.

Sincerely,
Beth Taylor and Susan Mocchi
(Two of your biggest fans)

(And also from a bunch of people who might not even realize how much you help us out – all of the office staff in Bemidji, Cass Lake, Cloquet, Duluth, Inver Grove Heights, Nett Lake, North St. Paul, Ogema, St. Paul, Waite Park, and don’t forget Gallup, NM and Casa Grande, AZ!)

Stay tuned for more NCSAM fun and information, all throughout the month of October! And check out our Facebook page for even more information about how you can #BeCyberSmart.

Resource list:

https://staysafeonline.org/ncsam/themes/ (Loads of free tech safety resources for businesses, parents, teens, kids, older adults, and everyone in-between)

https://s2me.io/ (Free self-assessment to determine your personal level of security. Includes tons of great tips to improve security.)

And, of course, https://www.topdogpc.com/ (My best buddies in the technology world. Please look them up if you need help with IT coverage for your business. They are the bee’s knees of techies. They’ll help you figure out all of your tech and compliance stuff, and they will do it at a reasonable price. They also know all about wasabi soy almonds, yum. )

Spotlight: Katie Wagner, Finance Operations Manager

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

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

Big sister, Little sister

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

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

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

Katie Wagner

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

Competition, much?

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

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

Tenacity? YEAH, she has it!

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

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

Laughter is the best… everything!

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

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

Wait, a fun meeting?

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

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

If Katie helps everyone, then who helps Katie?

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

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

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

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

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

Spotlight: Jayne Brinkman, Area Manager

Close your eyes, take a slow breath in, and think of the most relaxing place you can picture. Breathe out – is there a quiet trickle of water? Maybe there’s a soft carpet of moss, and speckled sunlight dancing through the forest canopy. Is there wildlife? Maybe a baby deer, gently nibbling on a fern? Or a soft baby duckling, waddling into the pond with his brothers.

"It will be fine!" - Jayne Brinkman

Wait a minute, is that a person in there? She’s so quiet, I almost didn’t notice. She’s even been talking this whole time, low and soothing and quiet. Something about “you got this, no worries.” She looks up and smiles, and I know everything will be taken care of.

Who is this magical embodiment of peace and calm? Why, it’s Jayne Brinkman, of course! She’s a great example of kindness, flexibility, and compassion, and a pretty darn good role model to follow. I know that I usually keep the spotlight to three special things about a person. If I can only tell you three things about Jayne, it might be painful for me. I will try, but I can tell you now, this will be a wandering 3-item path. Jayne Brinkman, the HealthStar Spotlight’s on you!

Empathy, much?

It’s no surprise that Jayne can represent the needs of our Clients and staff so well – she has been working in health care for 35 years. But the best thing I have learned in the process of writing this article is this: one of Jayne’s first jobs was in a factory, making cute and cuddly stuffed animals. In my head, this is what Jayne does every night in her sleep – sews adorable fluffy things to send out into the world when she wakes up. Jayne speaks with a velvety soft voice; never sharp, and only loud when it’s for fun. If we could see a physical form of the words that Jayne speaks, they would be literally soft and sweet, like powdered sugar pillows, covered in downy fluff.

Jayne feels for her audience, understanding where others are coming from and carefully choosing when to speak and when to let silence have a moment. In conflict, she soothes hurt feelings and reminds us that we’re all in this together. She is careful and considerate in decision making, weighing the options and thinking of all the people involved. She can energize the group, and she has her own spice that she brings to everything she does, but even when she’s energetic, she shares her energy in a comfortable way!

And Jayne can train!

Jayne has been sharing her empathy skills with HealthStar for just over 20-years, and has grown right along with this awesome HealthStar family! She is a 24ECC trainer and has been instrumental in development of the 24ECC program since its beginning. But wait, there’s more! Jayne has had a hand in just about every office, helping to train HealthStar staff far and wide. She helped train me, when I started here. She travels at the drop of a hat, to rescue whichever offices need her most. Jayne has a knack for bringing things down to a manageable level and making people feel welcome. She’s pretty much the Mary Poppins of HealthStar. And no matter what she gets asked to help with, she’s always…

Calm, party of 1

From the early days of New Mexico, to many years in Duluth, plus a few years in Wisconsin, then Fairmont… and, oh yeah, can we add Inver Grove Heights? Jayne is the ultimate HealthStar wanderer. Today, back on the home front, she manages 3 offices and one satellite in Minnesota. It’s common to receive a “where in the world is Jayne” email, detailing her plans for travel between Cloquet, Waite Park, Inver Grove Heights, and we can’t forget the super northern Nett Lake. She even has a Carmen SanDiego hat! But if she’s stressed about all the travel, she doesn’t let it show. She just spreads the calm from office to office, going with the flow on her journey!

In fact, over 10-years of working together, I have yet to see Jayne lose her cool or raise her voice in anger. Sometimes, I do hear her laugh a little loud or crack a joke, though! Through all of the changes at HealthStar, Jayne has been an oasis of calm, patience, and experience. We’ve seen successes and challenges, but never a negative peep from Jayne. She just says “time to put on the big girl panties,” and away we go! She never shies away from a challenge, and she is always there to help out. That’s probably why she get asked to do…

Other duties, to the MAX

The perfect blend of flexibility, responsibility, wisdom, and generosity have come together to create the Jayne Brinkman effect. Need help with a project? Jayne will magically show up and give you a hand. Struggling with your day? Oh, there’s Jayne to help figure out what’s going wrong. Have a weird question about how things are done at HealthStar? Jayne will help you figure things out. Starting a new venture? We all know that Tim has called on Jayne many a time to help get new things off the ground.

All in all, Jayne is a “let’s get this done” kind of gal. She’s resourceful, she’s great at gathering people together, and she knows how to direct focus toward the problem at hand. Maybe it comes from farming – she grew up on a dairy farm, and had to feed the cows, pigs, and chickens before and after school. The farm work ethic is clearly ingrained, and has followed Jayne to HealthStar, lucky for us!

No matter what the project, she’s ready to dig in. She truly does it all, from processing payroll to home visits. She’s even been a registered COTA in the past, but of course HealthStar administration won her back full-time. We just wouldn’t be the same without this Jayne Brinkman effect.

But what does she like to eat?

Gladys

Jayne is a “good eater” and says she will eat anything, but her favorite is macaroni and cheese. She also has very strong feelings for Cheetos, and a great sense of humor. Ask Jayne about Gladys, and you’ll hear a heart-wrenching story, from first love to a lifetime spent together, ending with Jayne’s sadness during Gladys’ final days. Luckily, Jayne emerged from the fire of loss and has, with time, begun to heal. Oh, did I mention, Gladys is Jayne’s old office chair? Shortly after Jayne was forced to replace Gladys, there was a mysterious “abduction” of a few choice chairs at Corporate, and a large jug of cheese balls was required to be paid for ransom. But I’m sure Jayne’s love of Cheetos had nothing to do with this crime spree…

So, what do we think of Jayne?

For Jayne’s 20-year HealthStar anniversary, we made her a scrapbook. Cristina Hernandez (and her wonderful and multi-talented mother, Marisol) created the most beautiful scrapbooking collection ever known to mankind. We all took surveys, we wrote powerful poetry, and we had a great time going through the memories that we all have of Jayne’s wild HealthStar adventures.

So what do we really think? Most people think that Jayne is the embodiment of Experience and Wisdom, followed by a tie between Calm/Peace and Joyfulness/Optimism. We love her Jayne-isms, which you have already seen peppered through this post. If Jayne were an animal, some people say she would be a mama bear, some say a work horse, and some said an owl. And we all think that she likes her coffee black and often!

But of course, my favorite question was, If Jayne were a food, which food would she be? Apparently, she would be pizza, cheese puffs, chicken noodle soup, cake, hotdish, mashed potatoes, sour patch kids, spicy meatballs, buffalo wings, caramel apple jelly, and salad. How can one person be so many different foods? Well, you’ll just have to contact our Cloquet, Waite Park, IGH, or Nett Lake office and request a meet and greet to find out for yourself!

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

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

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

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

Found your heartstrings?

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

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

HealthStar has a big heart!

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

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

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

Spotlight: 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.

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!

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!