Managing Life Issues to Help Others Age in Place

By John Addyman

Some of us know all about this. Others may find out soon enough.

The father who taught you to throw a curveball has suffered a stroke. And he has come home from the hospital. Your mom suddenly has a 190-pound man on her hands who must have almost everything done for him.

And you, the only child, live 400 miles away with a family of young kids and a job you can’t leave.

The guilt and frustration are crushing you. When you see your mom, the weight of her taking care of your dad is obviously crushing her.

When the two of you sit down at the kitchen table, your first words are, “We need help.”

Your mom needs relief and guidance. You need the comfort of a solid plan for your dad, knowing your mom is being taken care of, too.

Where does that come from?

From a care manager.

In Monroe County, care managers aren’t difficult to locate. In Ontario, Yates, Seneca and Wayne counties, care managers aren’t nearly as common.

To fill part of that gap, two Newark women, Gina Donnelly and sister-in-law Kathy Jacobs, left their long-term jobs and started Entrusted Care, a two-woman operation that helps people facing a family care crisis to plan and manage issues and to live in place as long as possible, as independently as possible.

Donnelly has a Bachelor of Social Work degree and worked as a discharge planner at Clifton Springs Hospital, in Wayne County Social Services, and at Wayne County Nursing Home in admissions. Jacobs has a bachelor’s degree in psychology and an MBA from the Simon School of Business at UofR. She owned her own executive services business until she left it to take care of her mother, a bit more than two years ago.

“A long time ago, I said there needed to be community care managers in our area,” Donnelly said. “I had loved ones in my own home I was seeing through their illnesses or seeing them through to the end and I would watch a barrage of people coming through my home. Even with my expertise and my knowledge of the system, I had very little control or very little communication from the multitude of agencies that were involved. That needed to be reined in. That needed to be coordinated by someone.”

Donnelly’s mother-in-law, Jacobs’ mother, spent the last two years of her life in the Donnelly home. What the family experienced changed the lives of everyone involved.

“I had a business plan I really wanted to do after retirement, but after my mother-in-law passed away, I talked to Kathy about that business plan. I told her, ‘You have the business expertise, also have an undergrad in psych and you’ve lived this now with your mom. Life just offered the opportunity for me to go ahead and do this and execute it now.’ We launched almost three years ago.”

When the business opened, Entrusted Care had three clients almost instantly.

The process starts with a phone call and a consultation. That’s why devices like office phone systems can be instrumental for the business.

“For some people, we have the consult meeting and they’re done,” said Jacobs. “After pointing family members in the right direction, we leave them with enough information to move forward without us. People who come to us with a crisis or a specific situation (for example, a spouse needs placement), that relationship normally lasts one to three months. We have customers who are ongoing (adult children living out of state with oversight of one or two parents who live here). We have some relationships we started in the beginning and still have them. It can continue for years. Also, we may see people for one to three months, everything is good. Then things change and they call us again; maybe we established home care but it got to the point where that wasn’t working anymore. So placement was required. We come in and are another part of the process for them.”

That process is very personal. Entrusted Care will interview potential caregivers for clients, do full assessments of patients before placement, work through the myriad forms for admissions, interview all siblings and involved family, and may end up seeing a client once a month or once every day for as long as is needed.

Most of the work done is with adult children who have a parent in need of care or with a spouse who needs help caring for a husband or wife.

“Adult children have family and responsibilities and can be overwhelmed trying to take care of a parent,” Donnelly said. “There are adult children for whom we are their eyes and ears and can be available quickly if needed. We have one client where we are the emergency contact because the family lives on the other side of Canada.”

She and Jacobs work with siblings to help everyone contribute “so they don’t have to feel like one sibling is doing all the work and the others are not so involved.”

Entrusted Care has built up a resource file of agencies they’ve vested to recommend to clients. Donnelly and Jacobs do in-person assessments starting at the curb when checking out how a lone parent or elderly couple are doing.

“We look for mail piling up, differences in hygiene, differences in the way the house is kept, cars that haven’t moved, lawn that doesn’t get mowed, if nobody’s checking on that person, that’s a problem. They might be all alone,” said Jacobs.

Donnelly added, “We’re not going to run your life, just help you manage it a little bit and keep track of it. You stay in control, rather than having situations control you.”

“A hospital realizes that what they do in care management post-admission isn’t enough to keep people on a care plan outside the hospital,” Jacobs said. “That is a great opportunity for us. We can keep their clients healthier, which helps the hospitals do their job better, too.”

For more information, visit of call 315-573-9497.

Photo: Gina Donnelly (left) and Kathy Jacobs own Entrusted Care.