West Hartford-based Sage Solutions helps adult children help their parents in a variety of ways, from learning how to have those difficult conversations to managing care options.
By Michelle Bonner
Doris Jones* was 81 years old when she started showing signs that she might need help with everyday living. Her daughter Gail noticed Doris’s forgetfulness for a few months before more obvious hints started to appear, such as past due notices piling up for the monthly bills and expired food in the refrigerator. And, in addition to the uncertainty and confusion when performing once-familiar tasks, there was difficulty with her mother’s walking and balance.
Gail, a mother of 3 busy kids, worked full-time and quickly found herself overwhelmed with the responsibility of managing her mother’s life. Was it time for a nursing home? Could Gail’s mother still live alone with the help of an aide? Is she eating enough? And what about her mother’s finances, who will manage those?
Despite having a brother who lived in the same town, the burden of their mother’s care was left to Gail and it was just a matter of weeks before it became a full-time job.
A friend of Gail’s had recently attended a conference where she met Kathryn Freda, Owner & Founder of Sage Solutions, LLC in West Hartford, a professional care management company providing guidance for families and their aging parents.
Gail immediately reached out to Freda and within weeks Freda not only helped Gail navigate the aging process for her mother but also increased the quality of life for both mother and daughter.
“This situation is not uncommon,” says Freda who started the business after learning and seeing for herself how many families were facing these issues. “With more Americans living longer and well beyond their 80s and 90s, it means more adult children are taking on the responsibility of their parents’ care. Those children may not live close by or their lives just don’t afford them the time to care for their parents. Regardless of the circumstances, families need to remain families. The parent is the parent and the child is the child. Children should not take on the role of parent when their mother or father is in need of care.”
Freda acknowledges that when an adult daughter is managing everything in her mother’s life the relationship shifts and it can become strained. “When competent care managers are involved we do the “heavy lifting” and let sons be sons and daughters be daughters. Let us have the discussion with your mother or father about their personal care needs. Daughters and sons should not have to have a conversation with their mother or father about sensitive topics such as personal hygiene or incontinence.”
Freda, who has a Masters in Gerontology, also has extensive training and experience in holistic health education and it’s her unique background, that has inspired her to create a wellness model for aging adults, rather than an illness model. “Through a confluence of knowledge, experience, and creativity our methodology has evolved into an individual, customized planning approach that is designed to improve the quality of life for aging adults. In relieving care giver stress for family members we are also allowing the aging process to continue with dignity.”
An illustration of Freda’s commitment to enhancing the lives of aging adults is included in the story of Eleanor Brown* who was living in a skilled nursing facility (SNF), also known as a “nursing home.” Brown, who has no family, engages a conservator who asked Freda to assess Brown and identify what her needs were and where she “should” be living. Freda quickly determined that Brown did not need to be in a SNF.
“I toured some assisted living communities with Eleanor and helped her select the one she liked best. At the time Eleanor had very little she could bring to her new home, but I didn’t want her to begin this new transition without having those comforts so many of us take for granted.”
Just a week before Christmas when many of us are rushing to finish our holiday shopping Freda was buying a new mattress and frame for her bedroom as well as sheets, blankets, pillows, towels, soaps and many other items to help Eleanor enjoy her newfound independence. And it didn’t stop there. Freda washed the linens and set up Eleanor’s entire new home, including having the cable installed. On Dec. 22, Eleanor walked into her apartment with a new lease on life.
“She was so overwhelmed and could not have been more grateful,” says Freda. “To be able to see the look on Eleanor’s face is the reason I do what I do.”
When spring arrived, Freda helped Eleanor purchase hummingbird feeders, a book about hummingbirds and additional bird feeders. “Eleanor is so proud to show off her home to the other residents.”
The story doesn’t end there. “She had been talking about a smoke bush for about a year now, so I arranged for Moscarillo’s to order one. The maintenance man from her community went and picked it up and planted it right near the front entrance of the building. Now, it has become her task to weed all around it, pick up sticks near it, and take off any dead branches or leaves. Learning how much of an outdoors person Eleanor is, I knew this tree/bush would give meaning to her existence on a much deeper level.”
Sage Solutions provides aging adults and their families with a service they didn’t know existed. “Even for those families who can and want to be the care provider for their parent we are able to provide them with the appropriate strategies to manage the process including tips to make it ‘easier.’ There are so many simple things that families can do at home like labeling kitchen cabinets with the contents of the particular cabinets – should their loved one have memory impairment.”
With professional objectivity doused in compassion, Freda and her team help families set priorities, review their options, make informed decisions, implement solutions and, ultimately, feel a sense of relief. For more information on how Sage Solutions can help your family log on to www.sagesolutions.com.
*Names have been changed
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