Culturally sensitive care

Senior housing tailored to the needs of Native Americans

Seniors at Circle of Life Home Care Anishinaabe
Seniors at Circle of Life Home Care Anishinaabe

Minnesota seniors have a wide range of options when it comes to getting help with aging in place, including a variety of home-care services that cater to all levels of need, ranging from brief visits to 24-hour nursing.

Less common, however, are culturally sensitive services — for example, care that’s specifically designed for Minnesota’s Native American communities.

Enter Circle of Life Home Care Anishinaabe, a Minneapolis-based company committed to providing culturally sensitive, compassionate care to the Native American population, both on and off reservations, across all ethnicities and cultures.

Circle of Life is unique in that it was created by and for Native Americans.

Patricia Yager, an Ojibwe from rural northern Minnesota, is intimately familiar with native communities — including the unique challenges faced by Native people as they grow older. Noticing there was a lack of culturally appropriate home-care options for Native people, she decided she could bring about positive change.

So in 2005, Yager, who goes by Pat, launched Circle of Life on a shoestring budget, working out of the trunk of her car and using matchbooks as makeshift business cards.

“I decided it was my responsibility to help make a change within my own community,” Yager said on the company website. “While I knew our health issues were severe, I just did not realize the extent. Indian people are seven times more likely than any other populace in the United States to have something major go wrong with their health. This company has progressed only because of our great need.”

Today Circle of Life has grown into one of the largest non-franchise-owned home-care service providers in the country, serving primarily individuals enrolled in Medicaid.

Services include personal care attendant (PCA) help and homemaking, designed to help seniors live independently at home — in comfort and with dignity. Other services include registered-nurse supervision, respite care and, an invaluable resource for many clients, Native American advocacy services.

In addition to serving thousands of clients in Minnesota and six other states (with 19 locations), the company is committed to making tangible social and economic differences in communities across the U.S.

Circle of Life currently employs more than 1,500 people. Over the years, the company has created jobs in some of the most economically challenged areas of the country.

Yager said she never planned on expanding to the West and Southwest.

“I found myself in Gallup, New Mexico, and through a series of coincidences, we began to serve the Navajo Reservation,” she said. “Today, we have several other offices in the region in Arizona and New Mexico and are serving the Navajo, Apache, Zuni and Hopi tribes and other reservations as well.”

Guided by the philosophy to “Honor Those We Serve,” Circle of Life works to manifest the Lakota phrase “Mitakuye Oyasin” — a message of oneness and harmony that reflects a world view of interconnectedness, roughly translated as, “All my relatives.”

Circle of Life Home Care

Founded: 2005

Headquarters: 1433 E. Franklin Ave. Suite 16, Minneapolis

Where: Minnesota locations include the Twin Cities, Moorhead, Mahnomen, Bemidji, Cass Lake and Deer River (Anishinaabe). Dakota locations include Fort Yates, North Dakota, and Pine Ridge and Rosebud, South Dakota (Kola); plus sites in Billings, Montana and Denver, Colorado; and five locations in Arizona and three locations in New Mexico (Soaring Eagle).

Ages served: All ages, primarily focused on serving elderly clients and people with disabilities, including children. Client ages have ranged from 3 months old (a prematurely born child) to elders in their late 90s.

Services offered: Primarily personal care attendant (PCA) and homemaking services — designed to help seniors live independently at home in comfort and with dignity, including household cleaning, home management and more. Other services include registered-nurse supervision, respite care and Native American-advocacy services.

Costs: Circle of Life primarily works with clients enrolled in Medicaid, but the organization is exploring options for private pay, due to increasing interest and the ability to pay among potential clients. Prices vary by state, but in Minneapolis, the rate is $23 per hour.

Information: 888-871-2474

Shannon Keough is a freelance writer who lives in St. Paul. Do you know of a new or interesting senior housing facility in the Twin Cities that might make a good Housing Spotlight? Write Minnesota Good Age editor Sarah Jackson at [email protected] with the subject line Housing Spotlight.