Here’s What Happened
Updated 9/23/17: Early this year, I took an unexplained leave of absence from sending out my weekly newsletter. My amazing readers reached out to see if I’d fallen off the planet. I told them what happened.
How We Met Our Fairy Godparents
In July 2011, I (and my then-business partner, Scott) started a geriatric care management business with a focus on people living with dementia. Most people had no idea what the jumble of words “geriatric care management” meant (and still don’t).
I think the easiest way to explain “geriatric care management” is this: it’s like being the client’s surrogate adult child.
Except without any of the emotional baggage or hot buttons. And who also happens to fluently speak medical lingo. Plus knows the inside of the health care system, and is willing and able to advocate on the client’s behalf. Coordinating care without having a breakdown due to overwhelm, in other words.
Our business was brand new, so we needed to go out and introduce ourselves to the community.
The Practice Run
The plan was to work in Portland, so we figured we’d use Salem as a one-day practice run in introducing ourselves. If our pitch wasn’t too smooth, no big. We’d never see any of these people again, anyway.
Fate had other plans. Every professional we met in Salem was friendly, welcoming, and helpful. They were curious to know more about what we did, who we served, and how we could we help.
And then we met George and Fay.
George had just arrived at the assisted living, joining his wife, Fay, who’d been there for six weeks already while George went through rehab for his broken hip. Previously, George had been caring for Fay, who was living with Alzheimer’s disease, at home, all by himself. That changed the day he fell in the garage and broke his hip.
George and Fay became the first clients of our new business–hence, the fairy godparents designation. We had the privilege of serving them for five and a half years. But George and Fay also became family. We spent holidays with them, were on-call for them 24/7, and essentially became the kids they never had.
Along Came Curtis
A few months after Fay passed in the summer of 2014, Scott took George to the SPCA to get a dog. I pictured a mature fella, but George swooned for a puppy. Curtis, a Chiweenie, had been rejected by his first family as too high-energy.
Curtis finished his puppyhood in George’s care, chewing his way through countless pictures, shoes, books, remotes, and even a few toys. He brought George a great deal of joy, and comfort.
George’s health took a turn for the worse in late December, and steadily just kept not getting better. We’d think we were out of the woods, but then…not.
I had the honor of holding George’s hand as he passed. He was so looking forward to being reunited with Fay! I’ll be forever grateful that I had the pleasure of knowing them.
Curt, now 3, has marginally less energy than he did two years ago and has joined my little herd, bringing the total to four. As an 18-pounder, Curt is the biggest of the bunch. He’s also the only one who isn’t housebroken, so….
Paying It Forward
Meanwhile, back to this geriatric care management business. We kept working in Salem. Who wouldn’t want to work in such a welcoming town?
We paid our blessings and good fortune forward a year later, in 2012, when I got a call from a woman setting up a meeting for her boss. He was opening a home care agency, she explained.
So that’s how we met John Hughes and Lauren Heinatz with ComForcare Home Care in Salem. Beyond the wild success of ComForcare, John now does a radio show, too. Click here to listen to his interview with me.
Christy Turner is the founder of DementiaSherpa.com and has enjoyed the privilege of working with 1,123 people living with dementia and their families. Follow on Facebook, Google+, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, and YouTube. Content varies across platforms.