A Candid Conversation with HR

As a job seeker, imagine you had an opportunity to get into the heads of Human Resources (HR) professionals to figure out some Do’s and Don’ts that can help set you apart from the competition. At the Easter Job Transition Group on Tuesday, March 17, 2015, the room was packed and the stage was set for a candid conversation between HR and job seekers.

The panel representing small, medium and large companies, with over seventy years of professional experience combined, consisted of:

• Donna Smith, HealthStar Home Health
• JeanAnn Nelson Trombley
• Maureen Wheaton, Cambria

These leading ladies had an engaging, interactive and at times, humorous conversation about their experiences in the recruiting and on boarding process. No topic was off limits as they addressed topics as ageism, what HR is really looking for in interviews and organizational culture fit.

Some of the top Do’s and Don’ts for Job Seekers that came out of the conversation are listed below:

“Having been in job search, I understand the journey that job seekers experience. At the same time, as a leader I also understand what is like to sit on the other side of the table. Bringing HR professionals and job seekers together was a way of sharing, understanding and appreciating the challenges & rewards on both sides. I hope the panelist and attendees took away words of wisdom or nuggets of valuable information that will make the job search process more successful for all involved, “stated Xaulanda Simmonds-Emmanuel, Volunteer Coordinator.

Interested in a career with HealthStar Home Health? Check out our current employment opportunities.

-Xaulanda Simmonds-Emmanuel
HealthStar Home Health, Branch Manager

Connecting With Our Community

Reaching out and giving back was the theme of the day at the Minneapolis Urban League (MUL)’s Employer of the Day event held on Wednesday, February 25, 2015. In collaboration with MUL’s Business Employment & Solutions Training (BEST) program, HealthStar’s South Minneapolis team took the opportunity to connect with other employers, participants and the community.


BEST offer training as Health Unit Coordinator, Certified Nursing Assistant, Health Information Technology and other trades, while also enhancing the participant’s soft skills and emotional intelligence. “Building & maintaining those bridges to our community are essential to better understand potential HealthStar team members and best serve our clients. Recruiting within the communities we serve allows us to connect with BEST graduates and pair them with our clients in a meaningful way,” stated Xaulanda Simmonds-Emmanuel, Branch Manager, HealthStar Home Health.

The collaboration with BEST provides a perfect opportunity to recruit individuals that have successfully completed the program. Focused on such qualities as Integrity, Responsibility, Commitment to Quality, Flexibility/Adaptability and other viable contributions, the intent is directly aligned with HealthStar’s Expressions of Corporate Culture. Further, it offers a gateway to opportunity for graduates to become gainfully employed and connect to the community by offering quality home health services.

-Xaulanda Simmonds-Emmanuel
Branch Manager, HealthStar Home Health.

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

The Value of Values

Did you know that silence is a highly regarded value in Native American cultures? For some community members, there is no such a thing as “uncomfortable silence”. This value is a part of speech, processing and decision-making, according to cultural consultant Rico Vallejo.  In 2009 he conducted a series of focus groups in Native American and Hispanic communities. The outcome of this qualitative research study has helped us at HealthStar to continue to improve our communications, customize our approach and evaluate our priorities. How so? Vallejo illustrates: “The concept of values has become central to branding -looking for shared values with consumers, for example. So I feel that it’s very important for an organization to know and understand intimately the values that they convey in the marketplace (what consumers see), because that becomes a platform from which to develop and evolve and communicate the brand, establishing and maintaining meaningful dialogues with prospects and customers.

How could HealthStar provide cultural-relevant care without understanding what our communities consider important? How could a PCA caregiver find common ground with his/her clients without knowing their value systems? Empathy, patience, punctuality, generosity and an all encompassing sense of love and responsibility are just some of the values that HealthStar attempts to keep on top of every day and in every caregiver-client interaction.

One interesting learning from the conversations is that participants in all focus groups made a distinction between the values that they regard as important for themselves and their families and what they consider important for a worker coming to their home. Some of the findings were counter-intuitive: “They were very pragmatic about this – it’s nice to be virtuous and generous for example, but showing up on time and doing all the work needed (without rushing to the next appointment and leaving things undone) was more important” Vallejo adds.

For HealthStar, the value of values is not just about branding or gaining a competitive edge in the industry.  It is about embracing the concept that what our clients think is critical in our work.  After all, a value is only valuable if it helps us put into practice what we continue to learn from the communities we serve, striving for a higher standard of care based on mutual dignity and respect.