MNRAAA Annual Staff Retreat

Every President’s day MNRAAA staff come together to recharge, reconnect and participate in staff training. This year our all-staff training was held at Key Largo on February 20, 2017 in Slayton, MN. In the morning, we spent time discussing some recent “Theory of Change” work we are doing with Aurora Consulting as well as our upcoming plans to do strategic planning. We completed a “Continuity of Operations Plan” exercise, took staff photos and enjoyed a wonderful lunch provided by Key Largo.

Thad Shunkwiler, Assistant Professor at Minnesota State University in Mankato, was our afternoon speaker. He presented information on how mental health issues impact the lives of those we serve. He also provided information and useful tips on helping consumers resolve complex issues over the phone. Staff found his presentation insightful and interesting. We wrapped up the day by giving out some humorous staff awards and sharing a laugh with each other. We are already starting to plan for next year’s retreat.

Robin Thompson, Information & Assistance Director

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MNRAAA Volunteers: The Ripple Effect of Outreach

Sarah Reiman, LSW, Volunteer Coordinator

“Just as ripples spread out when a single pebble is dropped into water, the actions of individuals can have far-reaching effects.” ~ Dalai Lama

Recently, one of our staff had the pleasure of receiving a message from a VERY satisfied consumer who had just learned she received a $6,000 grant to pay for one of her medications. This is after she had also found out a month earlier that she qualified to get one of her expensive medications for free from a patient assistance program. She was elated! This type of news is always so exciting for staff and volunteers at the Senior LinkAge Line®. It is helpful to be reminded that our efforts can be life changing! So, you might be asking yourself, “how did this happen?”. Sometimes it is the ripple effect of one simple action that leads to positively changing a person’s life! So, the story goes…

One of our amazing volunteers was assigned to complete a dining site assessment at a senior center in a small town in southwest Minnesota. She was impressed by the senior center coordinator, who was enthusiastic and determined to create an environment in which the seniors in the community could socialize and be connected to the resources available to them.

The volunteer returned from her dining site assessment and sent an email to the Senior LinkAge Line® outreach staff in that community encouraging her to reach out to the senior center coordinator. This connection led to several outreach events being conducted at the dining site, including a Medicare Open Enrollment site this past fall.

The consumer had been using up her small savings account and stressing about affording her medications when she met with one of the Senior LinkAge Line® staff at the Medicare Open Enrollment site and voiced distress at her high medication costs. Unfortunately, she was $85.00 above the income guideline for the Extra Help Program (a program through Social Security that would have significantly reduced her out-of-pocket costs). The staff person assisted the consumer with an application for a patient assistance program to pay for one expensive medication and another application for a foundation to help with the costs of a second medication. This assistance reduced her out-of-pocket costs from over $6,000 a year to nearly nothing.

Senior Outreach Specialist, Bridget Schwebach, said: “This just goes to show how VERY valuable the work Senior LinkAge Line® volunteers do can be for seniors in their communities! Even if they are not the ones that directly provide the assistance that ends in an outcome like this one….it is the work they do every day by telling people about the Senior LinkAge Line® that leads to a result like what happened here!”

To learn more about volunteer opportunities, and to add your pebble to the ripple effect of serving older adults and caregivers in your community, contact Sarah Reiman, Volunteer Coordinator, at 1-800-333-2433 x82026 or

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Living Well with Diabetes

Diana Madsen, Program Developer

The newest program training offered through MNRAAA is the Living Well with Diabetes program, otherwise known as Diabetes Self-Management Program. This program was added to the strong line-up of evidence-based program Leader Training that MNRAAA offers, due to the successful outcomes of the program.

Originally developed as a Spanish curriculum, Living Well with Diabetes was translated to English and a controlled study was completed by Stanford Patient Education Research Center, thus noted as evidence-based. Participants demonstrated significant improvements in depression, symptoms of hypoglycemia, communication with physicians, healthy eating and reading food labels. These improvements, along with self-efficacy, or the patient’s ability to manage their condition, were evident in patients who attended the workshop series not only for the first six months, but beyond.

Living Well with Diabetes does not replace existing programs or treatments, but rather compliments the education offered by diabetic educators and health care providers. If any of the program content conflicts with instruction they receive elsewhere, participants are advised by the program leaders to follow their physician’s orders and discuss concerns with their physician or health professional.

Diana Madsen and Lynn Buckley, MNRAAA Program Development staff, led a workshop in January 2017. Madsen said, “In our experience, there were noticeable changes in program participants.” One physician contacted the local diabetic educator and expressed her amazement at the transformation in attitude and improved communication with one patient who attended the six-week workshop. Others said the workshop helped them find renewed energy to read food labels and focus on the issues that affect their diabetes, even though they entered the class feeling tired of monitoring and “dealing with” their diabetes. “It was most gratifying to know that the participants were amazed at how quickly the six-week program went and expressed regret that the group would not be meeting together regularly,” said Madsen. Participants were encouraged to self-organize and continue to support one another in this journey.

MNRAAA offers two types of training opportunities for organizations interested in training volunteers and staff to lead the program. Standard training for new leaders consists of a four-day training, in which leaders walk through the program curriculum as participants, and then demonstrate their ability to lead the workshop through practice teaching assignments. Participants receive the program leader manual, agree to provide the program as outlined by Stanford Patient Education Research Center, and learn tips on implementing the program. For people that are already trained in Living Well with Chronic Conditions, there is a one-day cross-training offered to become a leader for Living Well with Diabetes. Since the method of teaching these two programs is similar, the cross-training provides an opportunity to learn the unique curriculum components of Living Well with Diabetes without re-training the teaching methods.

The programs are most effective when relationships with health care providers are established to build a referral system for the program. With outcome-based reimbursement being a viable solution for financial sustainability in healthcare, timing is ripe to introduce these programs to health care providers. Unfortunately, many providers are not aware of evidence based programs, their content or outcomes, so it is critical for implementing organizations to develop a strategy to educate providers about these programs and demonstrate how patients can benefit from them. MNRAAA is working to develop a toolkit to help assist implementing organizations as they begin those conversations with providers and work to build a referral mechanism to drive participants to the programs. Collaboration is key to the success of any health promotion program.

MNRAAA is hosting several upcoming training opportunities for Living Well with Diabetes:

  • Cross-Training (for leaders trained in Living Well with Chronic Conditions) – July 25, 2017 from 9 am -5 pm in Hutchinson
  • New Leader Training – October 2-5, 2017 from 9 am – 4:30 pm in Redwood Falls

For more information, contact Diana Madsen at 507-327-0841 or or Lynn Buckley at 507-995-0454 or

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Healthy Living as You Age Regional Summits

A total of 66 participants, representing health systems and community organizations, attended MNRAAA’s Healthy Living as You Age Regional Summits on April 5 in North Mankato and April 6 in Marshall.
The objectives of the Summit were to:

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