26 Jul Richard’s Story
Sometimes I have clients who I am introduced to that have no family. In these situations I am honored with acting as a surrogate family member. This was the case with Richard. We were introduced while he was rehabbing following a stroke. His immediate need was to hire someone to assist him with daily money management and help him to move to an assisted living community, but most importantly he needed a reliable support system and an advocate. I became all of this for him.
We worked together for the next 6 years navigating his care and day to day living. Our first decision to make was to decide where to live following discharge from the rehabilitation facility. Together we realized that returning to his home which meant living alone or with a caregiver was not a good option for him for two reasons; he would be too isolated, and the long-term cost to remain in his home was more than he could sustain. Richard had lost his wife five years prior to our meeting and he described himself as being very lonely. Therefore, moving into a senior community would be a good choice for Richard. After reviewing his financial situation and keeping in mind his personality (each retirement, assisted living, and nursing home has their own personality) we selected a not-for-profit community that had assisted living, sheltered care and skilled nursing. This community allowed their residents to apply for and live on Medicaid when their assets ran out. Once Richard completed the application and was accepted into the community, I was relieved. Richard now had a really nice community in which he could live for the rest of his life. I did not have to worry if he should outlive his assets. This was the perfect situation for him.
Richard’s current functioning placed him in an assisted living apartment and because his assets were limited, we selected one of the smaller studio apartments. I assisted Richard with selecting furnishings and personal belongings from his home and arranged to have these moved into his new home. Richard settled into his surroundings, participating in various classes and activities from learning Spanish, taking art classes and playing various games. He even developed a close relationship with another resident. Richard had a girlfriend. He was such a gentleman with her. They supported each other and worried about each other and held hands in the evenings while watching television. I helped Richard with selecting cards and gifts for her for her birthday and other special occasions. And his girlfriend and her family included Richard in their family celebrations and holiday gatherings.
When the time was right, I assisted Richard with cleaning out his home. I hired a reputable company that I had worked with to complete this work which included donating and disposing of all of his things. I also hired a real estate agent and an attorney who specialized in real estate closings to assist with the sale of his home.
Richard also needed to update is estate plan. With the help of an attorney that I had worked with for many years, Richard executed new powers of attorney for health care and property, updated his Last Will and Testament, and Trust document. I introduced Richard to a professional successor trustee who is a trust officer from a financial institution whom I have worked with for many years. I was now feeling confident that Richard would continue to be properly cared for and his financial and estate matters were in order. We even discussed his burial requests – I learned that he wanted to be cremated and that he wanted the pastor from his church to officiate at a memorial service for him. Richard shared with me where he wanted me to spread his ashes.
I continued to visit with Richard on a regular basis, often weekly per his request. We became very close and for the last two years of his life, he called me every morning to make sure that I was alright.
In addition to assisting Richard with his financial affairs, I was his strong advocate regarding his medical care. I went with him to his doctor appointments and oversaw all of his medical treatment. About 5 years into our relationship, Richard was diagnosed with lung cancer. I participated in the discussion with the oncologist about the course of treatment. Richard looked to me to help guide him on his care. Based on the information provided by the doctor and with my support, Richard decided to receive treatment for his cancer. He underwent radiation and chemotherapy. I met him at the oncologist appointment every week and accompanied him to the chemotherapy treatment room to make sure that he was settled and he was being well cared for including having lunch available. I monitored his treatment and his physical and emotional status closely. Although the treatment helped him to feel better, he was weakened by it.
As a result of the cancer treatment we decided to make some changes. We decided that it would be helpful for him to move into the Sheltered Care portion of the home which provided more assistance. However, it became very obvious to me rather quickly that he required more assistance than was available to him on this unit. The idea of Richard moving into the skilled nursing area did not feel like the optimal environment for Richard so we decided to hire private home care. I knew the perfect companion and hired a male caregiver who was very caring, kind and compassionate and who had the nursing skills to be able to properly assist Richard. This worker began working 8 hours per day and as Richard’s needs increased, we added hours. Eventually, the caregiver worked 24 hours per day.
Although Richard had about 6 good months following his cancer treatment, his overall health declined and I brought in Hospice services to provide the support, care and comfort he needed for a peaceful end of life.
I was Richard’s advocate and support system when he was most vulnerable. I guided him and made sure that he received the best care possible to make his days as fulfilled as possible. My goal was to make sure that as his needs increased, he received the loving care he so deserved. I believe that he would tell you that I helped him have the best days he could have envisioned.
The goal of my practice is to ensure that every client lives a dignified and optimal life.
Each of my clients requires a different set of services geared to their specific needs at specific times. Many of my clients have older children who are involved to some degree in their care. For those clients I become an extension of their family. I am there for their loved one when they cannot be, and I often mediate to keep all of the family members on the same page. Other clients have no families and I become their surrogate family.
As outlined in this article, my work with a client who had no family illustrates all of the things I might be called on to do.