Pictured: Director of Living Well Senior Solutions, Peggy Slade-Sowders (right), with LWSS Care Manager Pam Ward (left).
Caring for an aging parent is a process that goes on for months, if not years — and anyone who has been through a crisis knows how quickly that can frighten, devastate, and overwhelm. Further, managing a loved one’s care is especially challenging when living out of state.
All of these are good reasons to engage a Care Manager, like those at Episcopal Retirement Services’ Living Well Senior Solutions (LWSS).
Let’s look at an example. Dr. “M” referred her patient, Mary, and Mary’s daughter, who lived in Minnesota, to Living Well Senior Solutions. When a crisis presented itself, the LWSS Care Manager was able to collaborate with the physician, visit Mary in the hospital, and work with a discharge planner to assist with transition to an appropriate living environment. They also helped manage multiple medication orders, accompany Mary to all of her appointments (averaging 2 per week), advocate for quality care and mental health intervention, provide family guidance and mediation, and ultimately assist with the transition to Minnesota so Mary could be closer to her daughter. The family was relieved, and Mary felt secure knowing she always had someone she could call. The family stated the Care Manager was “a life-saver and a miracle worker”.
That’s why we started Living Well Senior Solutions back in 2008 — to support older adults and their families. The program has grown significantly over the last decade, now including a more extensive staff and even concierge services.
Despite its 13-year legacy, there are still some common misconceptions about this service. We recently sat down with LWSS Director, Peggy Slade-Sowders, to learn more about the program and its offerings.
Q: Will you describe your role at Episcopal Retirement Services and Living Well Senior Solutions?
Peggy: As the Director of Living Well Senior Solutions, I have the honor of watching the impact our program makes on the lives of our clients and their family members. The journey for our clients and their families may be difficult and challenging depending on their circumstances, but we have the ability to impact the quality of their future. We serve elders in our community who need some extra support, assistance managing their care, or planning for their future needs.
I am responsible for promoting excellence through the Aging Life Care AssociationⓇ Code of Ethics and Standards of Care and ERS’s Core Values and Ways of Working.
Q: How does Living Well Senior Solutions serve families in the Cincinnati area?
Peggy: We provide peace of mind as well as relieve caregiver burden and stress. We act as a local contact for out-of-town families or those with demanding jobs who aren’t knowledgeable about the complexities of healthcare systems and the aging process. We also keep families informed and aware of their loved one’s status.
Often, families seek our services during a time of crisis — multiple hospitalizations, changes in behavior, or family dissension regarding the care of their loved one. As strategic planners with a holistic approach, we work as a team along with clients, families, and other professionals to improve our clients’ outlook and reduce worry.
Q: Can you describe what a Living Well Senior Solutions Care Manager does?
Peggy: In today’s rapidly changing environment, we provide continuity of care. We work with families both in their homes and in supportive living environments such as Assisted Living or Nursing Care, helping them with tasks like:
- Assessing care needs
- Preventing and managing crises
- Advocating for medical needs
- Preserving senior independence
- Providing peace of mind and emotional support
- Navigating recommended community resources
- Coordinating service providers
- Assisting with residential transition
- Mediating and resolving conflict
- Enhancing social and quality-of-life activities
- Monitoring safety in the home
- Coordinating and referring for benefits, insurance, and life planning documents
Q: What types of day-to-day services does Living Well Senior Solutions provide?
Peggy: Day-to-day services are dependent on each Care Manager’s clients. They may attend physician appointments, follow up with pharmacies, schedule appointments, provide transportation for outpatient testing, make home visits, and provide updates to family or responsible parties.
Either way, our goal is to provide compassionate client-centered service focusing on our client’s wants and needs while maintaining professional oversight of their care. Our Care Managers provide resources and options for clients and their families regarding care decisions, including next step planning or transfer to a different level of care. They listen and help their clients live their best lives.
Q: Living Well Seniors Solutions also provides concierge services to participating residents. During your time with the program, how have you seen these services improve residents’ quality of life?
Peggy: Our concierge program has tripled in size over the past few years. We have wonderful staff who are able to assist with things like grocery shopping, running errands, and most importantly, providing quality companionship for our clients.
Our concierges tap into specific interests such as gardening, museum trips, painting, photo restoration, and a host of other activities that bring meaning and enjoyment to our clients. These are very individual interests, and very specific planning goes into making these activities successful.
Photos, stories, and other forms of communication are used to assure that family members may partake or otherwise share the experiences enjoyed by their loved one. A few hours spent sharing and reminiscing can blossom into something very meaningful for our client and our concierge.
Pictured: Peggy Slade-Sowders (center) with the Living Well Senior Solutions team.
Q: What would you say is the biggest difference between home care and Aging Life Care™?
Peggy: There can be a lot of confusion around that. Living Well Senior Solution does not provide non-medical or in-home caregivers. Still, we do give an unbiased assessment of how much care is warranted and the type of support needed in the home. We also help support and encourage the caregivers who are providing the care and help the clients accept and adjust to the in-home services provided. We help solve issues as they arise and work closely with our Home Care partners to assure continuity and quality care for our clients.
It helps some people to think of us as “professional daughters.” We don’t do hands-on care, but we are advocates.
Q: When is it time to call an Aging Life Care ProfessionalⓇ?
Peggy: I would say when you first start to notice changes in your parent’s personality or behavior. Whether it's memory loss, an uptake in medical issues, frequent trips to the hospital, the house not being as clean, or the mail stacking up — that would be a good time to reach out to us, whether or not you engage us on a full-time basis.
Just like with placement, families often wait till they're in a crisis. Not that we can't help with crises too, but if we had been involved earlier, maybe the crisis would have been avoided.
Most importantly, though, calling an Aging Life Care ProfessionalⓇ before a crisis gives us time to meet and really get to know the client and their families. We are very family-oriented, and when we know the family and have a better baseline for their loved one’s needs, we can be better advocates for them.
Q: What do you like most about being the Director of Living Well Senior Solutions?
Peggy: I love getting to work with such a talented and dedicated staff. It’s very rewarding to help our clients and their families navigate the challenges of aging and assist them with making positive and informed decisions. I enjoy watching my team’s relationships grow with our clients and families and am comforted knowing they can count on us being there when they need us.
If you’re interested in learning more about Living Well Senior Solutions or have additional questions for Peggy, simply call (513) 561-0222. You can also download the Living Well Senior Solutions brochure here to learn more about their services.