SMART Goals Lead to Resolution Success | Here’s How to Make Them

It's Altru - Published on January 5, 2017

smart-goalsOver 40% of Americans make a New Year's Resolution each year. Approximately 8% succeed. Often, though intentions are good, broad goals and lack of planning lead to frustration and poor results. In order to successfully achieve your goals, they must be SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely.

Anthony Morando, performance manager, and Danielle Rancourt, performance dietitian, of Altru’s Sports Advantage powered by EXOS share the importance of a SMART resolution, and how you can go about setting & keeping yours.

Setting SMART Goals


Define the specifics. What is your goal and how are you going to achieve it? It can also be helpful to include why it is important to you.

“Rather than your goal being to eat out less often, you could adjust it to packing your lunch four times per week,” explains Rancourt.


Creating a measurable goal allows you to track your progress, stay accountable and make adjustments as needed.

“A measurable goal typically has a number involved,” explains Rancourt. “For example, if you regularly consume soda pop, your initial goal could be to drink less than 3 cans of pop per week.”


Your goals should be challenging, not impossible. Once you determine your goal, write out the steps necessary to achieve that goal.

“If you’re starting something new, it’s important not to go from zero to sixty,” cautions Morando. “This makes your approach sustainable, and when it comes to fitness, safer.”


“When a goal is unrealistic, it can’t be controlled,” shares Morando. “Sometimes people aim way too high with no framework. You need structure in order to get to your goal.”

You should consider your individual needs, habits and happiness when making a realistic goal. Set a safe, reasonable goal, and once you achieve it, not only are you motivated because you’ve achieved something, but you are motivated to set and reach a new goal.


“I like to compare this to the expiration date on a perishable food item,” shares Rancourt. “The ‘consume by’ date turns into the ‘achieve by’ date. If you have a date assigned to your goal, you’ll have better structure for meeting it and evaluating your success.”

Tips for Achieving Your SMART Goals

If this sounds overwhelming, or you’re not sure where to begin, here are some tips to help you as you get started and keep going strong:

Set Mini-SMART Goals

You’re more likely to reach you big end-goal if you break it down into several smaller ones. For example, if you want to lose 40 pounds this year, focus on monthly or even weekly goal. Once you hit you’re mini-milestones, you can move on to the next.

track-your-goal-progressTrack Your Progress

“Tracking your nutrition and workouts through an app or journal can be especially helpful as you get started,” shares Rancourt. “Not only can it help you track calorie intake and macronutrients (carbs, protein, fat), it also shows you your eating habits and what you might be missing or eating too much of.”


If your goals are weight-specific, you’ll want to keep track of where you are at. Maintain a consistent, regular schedule for weighing yourself.

“If you keep your weight in check, you can catch yourself more easily if you start to slip,” explains Rancourt.

Try New Things

Many people think healthy eating is boring, but it can be very enjoyable. Try experimenting with new recipes or ways to “health-ify” your favorite foods.

“If you love mac and cheese, try making it healthier,” explains Rancourt. “Using whole-wheat pasta and Greek yogurt in place of some of the cheese or cream can create a tasty, healthier option.”

The same can be said for fitness – doing the same thing every day can not only get boring, it can also cause a plateau in your results.

Reduce, Don’t Restrict

Both Rancourt and Morando caution against goals that are too restrictive or hard to achieve. Rather than cutting out food groups or habits, set limits.

“In general, I recommend the 80/20 rule,” explains Rancourt. “Life is about balance, not perfection, so allow yourself to enjoy the things you love, just keep the ones that take away from reaching your goals to a minimum.”

Move Every Day

“Whether it’s a walk, light stretching, even cleaning house, make sure you move your body every day for at least 15 minutes,” says Morando.

Learn Something New, Write it Down

The right mindset can help you stay passionate about what you hope to achieve.

“Find a new book to read, or something positive that can shock your system,” says Morando. “Learn something new every day and write it down. You’ll be left with a chronological timeline of the knowledge you’ve taken in that you can refer back to.”

A Four Pillar Approach

At Altru’s Sports Advantage, the team of performance experts utilizes EXOS’ four pillar approach to help clients reach their goals. This approach includes mindset, nutrition, movement and recovery.

“If you don’t have the right mindset and attitude, you aren’t going to reach your full potential. If you don’t fuel properly or recover well, you won’t be getting the full potential out of your training,” Rancourt says. “They are very interconnected. So if you can master all four pillars, your performance is going to be the best it can be.”

For adults, ‘Rally’ group training through Sports Advantage offers bootcamp-style classes and supplemental support based on the four pillars. Additionally, initial assessments and consultations with the team allow the coaches to help you hone in on your goals, ensure they are SMART, and help you reach them.


For more information on Sports Advantage powered by EXOS, or to sign up, call (701) 732.SPORT (7767) or visit

De-Stress, Re-Charge and be a Happier, Healthier You in 2017 (We'll Help!)

Enrich - Published on January 3, 2017

Stretching away the stressAs we kick off 2017, many of us look to become a better version of ourselves in the new year. There are resolutions to lose weight, save money, travel more, eat better - the list goes on. With all this focus on self-improvement, the ever looming burden of stress can get in the way. Beyond that, with resolutions often focused on one goal, the rest of our health & happiness picture sometimes fades, and we fall short of where we want to be.

To help you work toward whatever you resolve to do this year with a holistic, stress-free approach, we’ve called on experts throughout Altru Health System to offer up their tips and insight. So, when January becomes June and life gets a little crazy, you can easily find your balance and get back on track.

Here’s what you can expect from us this month.

Mindfulness – What is it, and how can it help your overall health?
Our health coaches will introduce you to the ancient practice of mindfulness, and how you can implement a mindful approach to many facets of your life to reduce stress and anxiety, prevent disease and live a more balanced life.

Coffee Window Book

Be Spiritually Savvy
Experts will weigh in on the importance of spirituality for overall health. We’ll include tips for taking time out of your day for reflection, the importance of spiritual self-care and more.

Dancing Together in Zumba

Sweat the Stress Away
The benefits of exercise go way beyond physical change. Our performance team and health coaches will share how exercise can reduce stress, help you focus and make more mindful decisions about other areas of your health.

raw vegetables and text mindful eating

Mindful Eating
How you approach food can make a big impact on your diet. Our dietitians will share tips and insight for appropriate food preparation, how to eat mindfully and learn to appreciate how you fuel your body.

Tired black woman sleeping and looking very comfortable in her bed

Catch Your Zzzzz’s
If you haven’t heard it yet, we’ll tell you – sleep is paramount for overall health & well-being. Poor quality or quantity of sleep can contribute to mental and physical health issues, as well as a cranky attitude. Altru’s Sleep Center team will offer fresh insight into how to catch the z’s you’ve been dreaming of.

Young woman drawing adult coloring book at home

Holistic Health & Happiness
We’ll wrap things up with an overview of how a holistic approach can help complete the puzzle of your health & wellness. The different parts of our body work very hard to keep us healthy. When we look at the whole picture and offer a multi-pronged approach to concerns, it helps keep your well-oiled machine working as it’s supposed to.

We’re excited to share our insight with you this month. Stay in touch with us on Facebook for access to videos, tips and articles from our experts on these topics. Happy New Year!

Altru's Top Ten Highlights of 2016

It's Altru - Published on December 27, 2016

HolidaySeason’s Greetings!

With the holidays upon us and 2016 drawing to a close, it's a great time to look back at a remarkable year. We are proud of the achievements made at Altru Health System, and how we've impacted healthcare and quality of life for our patients and our community.

To wrap up 2016, we took a look back at the highlights of the year.

1. Microbiologists in Altru's Laboratory isolated a new species of bacteria. The team was granted naming rights for the discovery and called it Pontibacter altruii species nova.

2. Altru Advanced Orthopedics is the first in the state of North Dakota to offer Partial Knee Replacement and Total Hip Replacement procedures performed using the Mako Robotic-Arm Assisted Surgery System.

3. In April, Altru announced its new accountable care organization health plan option, Altru & You with Medica. At least 12 organizations have elected to offer Altru & You with Medica as a health insurance option for their employee benefits.


4. Altru Clinic in Crookston broke ground on an expansion and renovation project that will offer patients expanded specialty care options, expanded radiology services, same day procedures, an operating room and renovated patient care rooms, infusion, laboratory and therapy spaces.

5. Altru Hospital was one of 223 hospitals nationwide to receive the American College of Cardiology's Platinum Performance Achievement Award for 2016. The award recognizes Altru's commitment and success in implementing a higher standard of care for heart attack patients.

6. Altru Health System received the Get With The Guidelines® - Stroke Gold Plus Quality Achievement Award. The award recognizes the hospital's commitment to providing the most appropriate stroke treatment according to nationally recognized, research-based guidelines based on the latest scientific evidence.

7. We were one of 18 organizations throughout the U.S. recognized by The Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as a Million Hearts® 2015 Hypertension Control Champion.

8. Altru Health System was one of 22 organizations named 2016 Most Wired™ Advanced Category. The survey examined how organizations are leveraging IT to improve performance for value-based healthcare in the areas of infrastructure, business and administrative management, quality and safety, and clinical integration.

9. We received a five star Home Health Compare Quality of Patient Care Star Rating from Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). This rating places Altru's Home Health in the top six percent of all home health agencies in North Dakota, and the top three percent of all home health agencies in the nation.

10. And finally, we had several successful fundraising events. The Altru Cancer Center Golf Tournament raised $101,000 for Filling the Gap, and Altru Health Foundation raised more than $300,000 at Altru's Gala to support Camp Good Mourning and Child Life.

We could not be more excited about what's coming up in 2017. We wish you a safe and happy holiday season with family and loved ones!

Lunn, Eric 4CDr. Eric Lunn is Altru’s President. Outside of the office, Eric can be found spending time with his seven grandchildren.






Dave MolmenDave Molmen is Altru’s Chief Executive Officer. In his free time, Dave enjoys music, wood-working and cycling.

Do I Have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome? What Everyone with Wrist Pain Should Know

Enrich - Published on December 15, 2016

wrist-painCarpal tunnel syndrome causes pain, tingling and numbness in the hands, wrists and arm that will wake up the soundest of sleepers in the middle of the night. They might find relief running hot water over their wrists or taking an anti-inflammatory medication, but most likely the pain will come back in the morning. So what exactly is carpal tunnel syndrome and is there anything you can do to tackle it for good?

The carpal tunnel is a narrow passageway comprised of bones, ligaments and tendons at the base of the hand beneath the palm. Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused when the median nerve – which runs from the forearm down through the hand – becomes compressed in the carpal tunnel area.

Dr. Brad Meland, a hand, wrist, and nerve surgeon at Altru Advanced Orthopedics says the culprit is a ligament at the base of the hand that becomes too tight.

“Basically, that cuts off the blood supply and will slowly kill the nerve fibers in the area,” he says. “That’s what causes the pain and numbness.”

Dr. Meland says a number of things cause the ligament to press down on the nerve. Some people are just born with a narrow carpal tunnel, others experience swelling in the area from pregnancy, arthritis, injury or other factors. Sometimes work is to blame.

“We see a lot of dental hygienists or people who work with computers. Anyone who holds their wrists in a flexed position for a long period of time is at risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome,” he says.


But Dr. Meland says no occupation is immune. Carpal tunnel syndrome happens to both men and women, young and old, construction workers and hairdressers. According to the American College of Rheumatology, carpal tunnel syndrome is one of the most common nerve disorders affecting between four to 10 million Americans.

Dr. Meland encourages people to see their primary care doctor soon after symptoms start because mild to moderate carpal tunnel syndrome can be reversed if it’s caught soon enough.

Travis MacKenzie, a certified hand therapist for Altru Health System, says he always starts with a conservative approach, including education and ergonomic assessments.

“We talk a lot about posture. Sometimes exercise can improve posture at your desk and that could help relieve symptoms,” MacKenzie says.

For some, he might recommend wearing a splint to keep the wrist in a neutral position, while for others creating a plan of nerve and tendon gliding exercises will relieve tension on the nerve and help it better glide through the carpal tunnel. Other treatments include ultrasound, iontophoresis and deep tissue massage. But MacKenzie says time is of the essence.

“The longer the symptoms have gone on, the less successful these treatments are likely to be,” he says.

If that’s the case, Dr. Meland will step in to perform surgery.

“I do around 10 to 12 (surgeries) a week on average. Many people elect to have surgery because they simply can’t handle the pain anymore,” he says.

Dr. Meland performs the carpal tunnel surgery by making two small incisions and cutting the ligament to relieve the pressure. After the ligament is cut, the pressure on the nerves goes away and the nerves repair themselves. The patient is awake the whole time and the procedure takes about 30 minutes. He says his patients are using their hands again the next day and require little time away from work.

Both Dr. Meland and MacKenzie say there are plenty of weapons in the fight against carpal tunnel pain.

“It’s nothing you have to live with,” MacKenzie says “There are treatments that can and will eliminate the symptoms.”

If you think you might have carpal tunnel syndrome, visit to or call Altru Advanced Orthopedics at 701.732.7700 to request an appointment.

See also:

Ironman Finisher & Gastroenterology NP | Kami's Secrets to Success

Enrich - Published on December 14, 2016

Kami Macki, NPkami-running, cares for patients in gastroenterology at Altru. She is passionate about colon screening, and she organizes the annual Run for Your Buns 5K run/walk held each summer in Grand Forks. Outside of work, Kami is an avid runner, and she recently completed her first Ironman this year. Let’s take a behind-the-scenes look into Kami Macki’s secrets to success. 

Give us a quick run-down of a day in your life. What does your typical Tuesday look like?

  • 4:30 a.m. – Wake up to work out

  • 6 a.m. – Eat breakfast and get ready for work

  • 6:45 a.m. – Wake the family to get ready for the day

  • 7 a.m. – Start the workday. Tuesdays happen to be Inflammatory Bowel Disease Clinic, so the days can be busy. I thoroughly enjoy my patients!

  • 5:45-6 p.m. – Arrive home and have family supper

  • 6-9 p.m. – Family time (sporting activities, schoolwork, etc.)

  • 8-10 p.m. – Complete second workout

  • 9:30-10:15 p.m. – Bedtime

How do you spend your downtime?
I like to surround myself with family and friends. They support, encourage and love me no matter what. I love going to movies, so often this will be a weekend family outing. I truly am able to relax during a movie and do not think about all the other responsibilities in life. I may also like to indulge in the unbuttered movie theater popcorn.

What do you keep in your car just in case you have extra time?
I have a “ready-bag” for the gym that has dry shampoo, brush, makeup essentials and workout clothes. It is always available in the event that I have an unexpected gap in my schedule to squeeze in my second workout of the day. I also have magazines and GI journals in my car. Rolling through the carwash is a great time to catch up on some quick articles.

What personal development goals are you working toward right now?
Now that my Ironman is completed, I will be training once again for the Ironman distance, but this time it will be to support and encourage my husband as he is vying to become an Ironman.

This is also the time of year when I start the process of organizing and sponsorship of Run For Your Buns. This is a local 5K walk/run that is a perfect venue for families and racers alike. It is a fun environment to bring awareness of colon cancer and fitness at the same time. Mark your calendars for June 10, 2017! Race registration will open January 1, 2017. Stay tuned for more information.

Fill in the blank:

  • I’m going to ( drink   ) less (   Diet Coke   ).

  • I’m going to ( sleep   ) more.

  • To get motivated, I ( make my bed   ).  There is the old quote, “The way you make your bed is the way you sleep in it.” I think it’s a metaphor for life. So, in essence, if you want a fresh beginning to each day, complete a positive task and make your bed.

What’s the best choice you made last year?
The first was our family’s decision to move into town. The convenience of “city life” with easy access to work, the Greenway, shopping and friends has been priceless. The second decision was to face my self-doubt head on and sign up for a bucket list challenge, the Ironman triathlon.

What’s your mantra?
The only thing I can control in life is my attitude.

What’s your worst habit?
I am a perfectionist.

Best habit for a healthy life?
I am an avid water drinker.

Favorite thing about our community?
Besides the people, it would be the Greenway.

What’s your best life advice?
Happiness is a choice. Everything else is perspective.

What foods do you buy most often at the grocery store?
Milk, milk, milk and more milk!

Favorite go-to recipe?
Salsa Chicken
+ Can of drained whole corn
+ Can of drained black beans
+ Can of drained chickpeas
+ 2 cans shredded chicken
+ 2-3 cups homemade salsa
Heat in crockpot on low. Serve in tortillas with cheese and avocados.

How do you find balance in your daily life?
I strive to be an ever present wife and mother, making my family time a priority. Meal planning is essential. I make basic, healthy foods that serve multiple purposes throughout the week. Also, doing little household tasks throughout the week means I do not have to spend hours on Saturday cleaning.

What message do you have for those who are struggling with their health and body image?
Do not compare yourself to others. You are your own person. Love the body that you have, and if you truly love it, you will want to take care of it.

Full disclosure: I started racing triathlons a decade ago. My first triathlon I signed up on a whim because I saw a brochure that looked fun at Scheels and I figured I knew how to swim, bike and run. I realized within the first 100 meters of the 2/3 mile swim that I only knew how to doggy paddle. By the time I had to run the 5K, I was passed by an 80-year-old man power walking with a bowed-out bandaged knee. But, the experience was fun, and it stirred something inside to be better at it.

So for those who struggle to exercise, I say sign up for an event (remember I said registration for Run For Your Buns opens in January – hint hint). Having a goal is essential. If you don’t have a goal, you will make excuses. Just know that the power of habit can transform your life.

What is your favorite indulgence?
Pizza and Toasted Frog deep fried pickles. 

See also: A Peek into Dr. Casey Ryan’s Daily Routine | Secrets to Success

Take Good Care, Before It Breaks | Lynn's Vascular Screening Story

Altru Moments - Published on December 12, 2016

Lynn in TractorWhen it comes to farm equipment, Lynn Niemann, of Crystal, N.D., has a general rule of thumb: Take good care of it before it breaks, and if it’s already broken, fix it. Lynn took a similar approach to his health this summer.

The oldest brother of five siblings, Lynn suddenly lost his two younger brothers at the ages of 37 and 48, both to vascular-related disease. After the second family loss this spring, and struggling to get his own blood pressure under control, Lynn scheduled an appointment with Altru cardiologist, Dr. Rabeea Aboufakher. Even though it was May, one of the busiest seasons for farmers, he knew this was his top priority.

Lynn and his wife, Annette, met with Dr. Aboufakher for a full examination, where he detected a slight heart murmur. He reassured the Niemanns that the murmur was faint but, because of family history, ordered an electrocardiogram (EKG) to check Lynn’s heart’s electrical activity. Everything checked out fine, and Dr. Aboufakher referred Lynn to Altru’s Dr. Keith Swanson, vascular medicine.

Next, Lynn underwent lab work and a series of painless vascular screenings and ultrasound, focused on the neck and ankles, to check for blood clots throughout his body. While there were no signs of blood clots, Lynn discovered he has a slight vascular disease, as lab results detected a heterozygous gene that would’ve been passed down from one parent.

Tips for Preventing Blood ClotsAs an educator, Lynn’s wife, Annette, was impressed with the time Dr. Swanson spent educating them about the potential risks of blood thinner medication versus living with low-risk vascular disease. “Both doctors were so thorough at explaining the purpose of each test, talking through the risks and promoting prevention with healthy choices,” explains Annette. “They were personable, friendly and understanding of our concerns.”

Prevention for the Future

Because of previous leg swelling, Lynn wasn’t surprised with the diagnosis, and he keeps a positive attitude.

“I wanted to know what was going on,” explains Lynn. “If they did find a problem, I’d rather know and do something about it.”

Dr. Swanson recommended maintaining a healthy lifestyle through weight control, regular activity, eating right and wearing graduated compression garments. Lynn now wears compression stockings every day to prevent swelling and discoloration, and he continues to take his blood pressure medication regularly.

After losing about 20 pounds in the last year, Lynn’s goal is to maintain his weight loss by watching his diet and staying as active as possible. While he used to grab a pop and candy bar for the tractor, he’s now munching on almonds, dried cranberries and unsweetened iced tea during harvest.

Lynn and Granddaughter“Jumping on and off the tractor keeps me moving throughout the day,” he explains. “I try to get out and walk as much as I can.”

Similar to maintaining his farm equipment, Lynn believes in keeping his one and only body as healthy as possible. He continues, “If you can prevent something bad from happening, why not do it? I want to see my grandchildren grow up for as long as I can.”

With the help of Drs. Aboufakher and Swanson, when the small town family farmer celebrated his 60th birthday this fall, he could rest assured his heart and vascular health was in good shape.

Altru's Vascular Medicine specializes in the diagnosis and comprehensive treatment of vascular diseases of the circulatory system. For more information about Altru’s Vascular Medicine, schedule an appointment through MyHealth, or call 701.780.6400.

Dull Skin Be-Gone | Treatment for a Celeb-Worthy Glow

It's Altru - Published on December 12, 2016

Skin Care Facial TipsEver notice that celebrities’ skin seems to almost glow? In part, this is due to the work of their high-end make-up artists, but it all starts with skin that’s bright and full of life. While many celebrity treatments are unattainable, cost prohibitive or down-right odd (vampire facial, anyone?), Truyu Aesthetic Center can help you get the celeb-worthy glow you are after with our top-of-the-line 3D facial treatment. Here’s how it works.

The basics

3D facials combine three anti-aging services into one treatment. With that, you see big-time results for key skin concerns, including:

  • Lightening and brightening your complexion

  • Reducing the appearance of pigmentation, redness and broken capillaries

  • Improved texture

  • Reduction of fine lines and wrinkles

  • Shrinks pores

Altogether, this treatment will rejuvenate your skin and give it a natural glow.

Step 1 - Microdermabrasion

skin-care-microdermabrasionThe first step of a 3D facial is microdermabrasion. This exfoliating technique removes dry, dead, complexion-dulling skin. As we age, the rate of turnover on our skin cells slows down, resulting in more build up on the skin which leads to a dull appearance. On top of that, many of us have red complexions or dark spots that reduce the brightness of one’s complexion. This is where the second step comes in.

Next Up – Sun Damage Fixed

BBL or Broad Band Light corrects sun-damaged skin and red complexions. This laser treatment introduces heat to your skin to help raise damaged skin cells to the surface so that they fall off. It also collapses red blood vessels, which reduces redness. Bonus: not only does this treatment correct color issues, it is a great anti-aging treatment as well. In your 20s your skin’s collagen starts to slow down; the heat from the BBL will wake it up so it starts producing more healthy skin, preventing wrinkles from forming.

End it on a high note!

If you’re not already sold, it gets better. The last step, Laser Genesis, stimulates collagen and reverses the signs of aging, promoting healthy-looking skin. Immediately after Genesis, your skin will feel tight and fresh. Individual treatments of Genesis offer subtle changes, but combined with microdermabrasion and BBL, it’s the cherry on top in your quest to revitalize dull complexion with no downtime.

Healthy glowing skinIf you’re ready to schedule your appointment for a 3D facial, there are a few things you should know to prepare for your treatment.

  • Immediately after the treatment your skin will look slightly pink and feel like you have a mild sun-burn.

  • Make-up can be applied right after.

  • There is no “down-time.” You can get this treatment on your lunch break and go back to work.

The holidays are here, and it’s a perfect time to get the glowing skin you dream of. Call 701.780.6623 to book your free individual consultation and learn more about this amazing service.

Your Spouse is Getting a Joint Replacement - Here's What You Need to Know

Enrich - Published on December 2, 2016

patient-walkingJoint replacement surgery can be just as scary for you as it can be for your spouse.

A lot of preparation is needed before undergoing the actual surgery. Heidi Solem, Altru’s Joint Replacement Center Coordinator, works firsthand with recovering patients and spouses. Solem says that the surgery is life-changing because hip or knee pain can be very limiting. “It impacts everyday life,” Solem said. “If you can’t do something you’ve always done with your spouse it’s very frustrating.”

Here are eight tips for getting through the surgery and getting back to enjoying everyday life with your spouse:

Assign a coach who will encourage the patient throughout the entire process.
Whether the coach is you or another family member, Solem says, it’s really important to assign one person who will not only keep spirits lifted, but will be able to take on any physical demands to help the patient. “If your mom, grandma or spouse is having hip or knee surgery, it doesn’t just affect the patient, it affects their family as well,” Solem said. “For example, the patient may not be able to drive for several weeks, and may even need assistance to walk up and down stairs.”


Participate in the Joint Replacement Center pre-op class.
Once a coach is assigned, he or she should participate in Altru’s pre-op class to learn more about the surgery along with the patient. “You’ll learn about exercising, how to prepare your home, what’s going to happen at the hospital and tips for having the most successful surgery,” Solem said. “We cover everything in that class so it’s really important for the patient, spouse and/or coach to attend.”

Prepare your home accordingly.
“There’s adaptive equipment available for furniture that makes moving around easier,” Solem said. “It’s also important to stock up on the essentials like food and toiletries.” Consider moving items to lower shelves in the kitchen and purchasing bendable straws so your spouse can drink while lying down. Most of the rehab will happen in your home so creating an atmosphere that allows for easy movement is important. Remove rugs, cords and any obstructions that could cause an accident out of the main living area and consider installing handrails as a safety precaution.

Recognize that physical therapy happens the moment you wake up from surgery.
“Once surgery is complete, your spouse will work with a physical therapist or nurse, to get them up and into a chair,” Solem said. “They will take those first couple of steps just hours after the surgery.” This is also another opportunity for the coach to be present and provide the patient with encouragement because this can be a stressful part of the process.

Once home, it’s important for you to encourage your spouse to complete the in-home therapy.
Your spouse’s success will depend on how diligent they are about doing those exercises so it’s important to encourage them and remind them of their goals. “In- home physical therapy is one of the most important things to do after a replacement,” Solem said. “The exercises need to be done three times a day.”

"In trying to be an encouragement to your spouse, remind them how important post-operation therapy is to their success,” shared Dr. Darin Leetun, an orthopedic surgeon at Altru Advanced Orthopedics. “I always tell individuals that their results are 50 percent dependent on the surgery itself, and 50 percent reliant on their post-operation therapy and exercises."

patient-walking-2Don’t miss your outpatient physical therapy sessions.
It’s possible that your spouse’s physician will have them participate in outpatient therapy to aide in their recovery. Outpatient therapy is an opportunity for the physical therapist to assess the patient’s progress. “Sometimes you needs support too,” Solem said. Support can come from the physical therapist who can keep the patient accountable when you feel uncomfortable doing so. “There are three outpatient sessions per week for approximately six to eight weeks, depending on the patient’s progress,” Solem said.

Be patient.
“Many people are able to get back to where they want to be when they follow the program,” Solem said. “The thing is: Some people think they should be fixed right away, but it’s a long process.” Solem also says it takes approximately two to three months of consistency and that little gains are important and need to be celebrated.

Joint replacement surgery can be difficult on you and your spouse, but it’s important to focus on the end goal. It can be a life-changing procedure that allows you to return to the things you love, whether that means traveling, gardening, hiking or just a daily walk. To learn more about joint replacement surgery and how to improve your way of life, visit to schedule a visit at Altru Advanced Orthopedics, or call 701.732.7700.

The Truth Behind Painful Joints & Weather Changes

Enrich - Published on November 23, 2016

shovelingLong before we looked to Doppler radar and high-tech satellites to predict the weather, some people looked no further than their own arthritic knees to see what Mother Nature had in store. Even now, you might hear someone say, “My knees are aching – must mean rain is coming.”

But can sore joints really predict the weather or is it an old wives’ tale?

According to experts at Altru Advanced Orthopedics, it’s not an old wives’ tale. Changes in the weather can really cause joint pain to flare up.

According to studies, the weather factors that are most likely to cause joint pain are a drop in temperature or barometric pressure. A study from Tufts University in 2007 found that every 10-degree drop in temperature corresponded with an increase in arthritis pain. In addition, relatively low barometric pressure (which can lead to precipitation) also increases pain. Researchers suspected the pain is a result of swelling in the joint capsule reacting to the outside environment.


Those who have undergone joint replacement surgery can also note a difference. Because they contain metal and foreign material, joint replacements get colder than your bones, which contain cells that work to generate core temperature.

Other orthopedic surgeries, that don’t involve replacing the joint, are less likely to cause significant weather-related joint pain.

Dr. Darin Leetun, an orthopedic surgeon specializing in shoulder and knee surgery and care, says broken bones can feel pain from cold weather years after the initial break. It helps to cover up and dress warm, but the pain doesn’t occur solely if the joint is exposed to cold air.

“People can complain about their hands being sore from the cold weather, but it’s more dependent on what joint has had the most wear and tear,” he says. “You could have a knee that’s completely covered, but it might feel the effect of the weather more than a hand that isn’t covered.”

Dr. Leetun advises patients to dress warmly to reduce the pain from weather-related changes to the joints and try some over-the-counter help.

“Using something like Ben-Gay will stimulate blood flow in the area which might bring relief. You could also take anti-inflammatories or Tylenol for pain,” Leetun says.

For more information about taking care of your joints, visit

Dislike the Holidays? 6 Tools for a Happier Holiday Season

Enrich - Published on November 16, 2016

sad-holiday-dogHalloween is over. All the costumes and decorations have been moved off shelves to make room for, you guessed it, Christmas. The Hallmark Channel is already featuring Christmas movies, and a local radio station has a countdown on their website to when they will go “all Christmas, all the time” (November 18, by the way).

To some of us, this is a welcome thought. To others, it is annoying. And to many, it is depressing. So, to help you understand your holiday emotions, I have a question… Is your mask on?

What Mask?
I’ll give you a hint - I don’t mean the Superhero mask from Halloween. Rather, I’m referring to the mask we contort our face into which makes us look like we have “holiday cheer.”

I recently had a person in my office and the conversation arose about the upcoming holiday season. It took her a minute to say it, but she finally blurted out, “I hate the holidays.” And guess what, she’s not alone!  Many dislike the holidays. For some, it’s because of grief and for others, it is hurt from the past. Yet others hate all the hype and the busyness. Still others don’t like the credit card bills which come in January. So, if you’re not feeling holly-jolly about the holidays, here are some suggestions to help you through.


1. You’re Not Alone
First, here’s what I want to say to you if you feel this way: “It’s ok, you are normal. You can take off your mask.”  There are things we can do to make the holidays better, maybe even a little enjoyable. Don’t feel guilty for your genuine feelings. You are not the only one.

2. Give Thanks
Instead of complaining about what you don’t like, try to be thankful for what, and especially who, you appreciate. Then, take it one step further and express that gratitude. Maybe your gifts, if you decide to give any, are expressions of thanks. Take the spirit of Thanksgiving and carry your gratitude throughout the whole season. Find a way to say “thank you” every day.

3. Meaning Matters
I have a collection of stuffed Christmas bears. My children tell me those bears will be loaded up and taken to Goodwill when I’m gone. Most of them are just cute bears, but a few of them were given to my family back in the 80s by a good church friend who recently died. That’s where the collection started. So those Santa Bears have special meaning to me. What has meaning to you? What gives the holidays, or your life in general, meaning?  Focus on those things.


4. Ask Questions
Questions are one of our best tools. (I used several above.) We can ask questions of our family:  “How can we make this simpler?”  We can ask questions of ourselves:  “Why does it bother me when all the decorations are up?”  We can ask questions of God:  “What is my place in this situation?”  Questions are a tool to help us gain clarity in our mind and in our relationships. Don’t assume – ask instead.

5. Practice Patience
Be patient with those who are like the local radio station:  All Christmas, All the Time. And, be patient with yourself. Whether you love or hate the holidays or are somewhere in between – it’s okay. You are normal and you can find some peace and some joy in the midst of whatever the season throws your way.

6. Check Expectations
Many people are disappointed because the holidays (or any day) didn’t provide what was expected. Our lives won’t likely end like a Hallmark Channel movie just because Christmas comes around. What do you expect? What do others expect of you (or do you think they expect)? Make all expectations realistic. Beware of hidden expectations.

Ellingson, Mark 4CMark Ellingson, Altru’s Pastoral Care Manager, has lived in the area for around thirty-five years as a local pastor and chaplain. He is married to Betty, a speech pathologist supervising in schools such as Hillsboro and Central Valley. They have five children and a couple of grandsons. Mark and Betty enjoy living in Grand Forks. Mark plays tennis, fills in at local churches for vacationing pastors and enjoys writing on his personal blog, Thoughts of a Hospice Chaplain.



See also: Walking through the Holidays after the Death of a Loved One

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