Candace Williams is the Director of Clinician Development for WellQor, the nation’s leading provider of behavioral health services for Seniors. Candace has spent over 20 years in the field developing unique interventions to better the lives of her clients. Throughout her time in the field, Candace has worked as a certified geriatric social worker, certified mediator, crisis management specialist, and family development specialist. At WellQor, Candace has created an extensive clinician training program, and continues to oversee the professional development and training of new clinicians. She also moderates their unique Clinician Connect platform, where psychologists and social workers collaborate to identify the appropriate interventions for older adults who are in need of support.
Frank Samson: Welcome to Boomers Today. I’m your host, Frank Samson, of course, each week we bring you important and useful information on issues facing baby boomers, their parents, and other loved ones.
Today we have with us Candace Williams. Candace is the director of clinician development for WellQor, the nation’s leading provider of behavioral health services for seniors. Candace has spent over 20 years in the field developing unique interventions to better the lives of her clients. Throughout her time in the field, Candace has worked as a certified geriatric social worker, certified mediator, crisis management specialist and family development specialist. At WellQor, Candace has created an extensive clinician training program and continues to oversee their professional development and training of new clinicians. She also moderates their unique clinician connect platform where psychologists and social workers collaborate to identify the appropriate interventions for older adults who are in need of support. Candace, thank you so much for joining us on Boomers Today.
Candace Williams: Thank you for having me.
Frank: Yeah. I’m always excited talking to new people, but this is just a subject matter that’s close to my heart and needed in our field of senior care, which as you know, I’m involved with, on a day to day basis, but maybe before we get into any specifics, tell us a little bit more about WellQor, maybe a little more detail, or overview of the organization, help us understand.
Candace: Sure. WellQor works with older adults and their family. Everyone has stressors that take a toll on them throughout their lives, and what we do is we help identify how can we best help people reduce the toll? And help answer the questions, how do I deal with particular situations? So people that we work with are reevaluating their life focus, they’re changing priorities. Maybe they’re struggling with a decision to retire, or experiencing emptiness for the first time, maybe relationships are ending, or those golden years have turned into those rusty years where they’re encountering multiple health issues, deaths of loved ones, needing to downsize. And we even help people transition into senior housing and different assisted living. So really we work with anyone, 55 and older, to help get them over those little bumps in the road and those hurdles that they encounter through their lifetime.
Frank: I think you hit a spot that I deal with, and our organization deals with all the time, and that has to do with transition in someone’s life to like you say, senior housing and, especially that age group, we’re talking about people right now in their, let’s just say they’re in their eighties on average. Still they’re thinking is that senior housing is a nursing home, and that, as you know, that’s not always the case. And there’s sometimes a negative perception with people that age group. And so sometimes it takes somebody like yourself, versus a family member, helping them with that transition. Tell us a little more how you would handle that type of a situation?
Candace: Absolutely. It’s really hard because it’s a elephant in the room. The families don’t really want to talk about it, and the older adult is scared because it’s unknown, and it’s another symbol of loss for them. I think the hardest thing with transitioning is the thought that I’m just surviving, and that we really work to reverse that, that you’re not surviving, you need to thrive. There’s still more you can do in your life. There’s still more to contribute. And by having some assistance, it allows you some autonomy and you don’t have to give up your independence, you just negotiate it a little bit differently so that everyone feels comfortable.
Frank: So that age group we’re talking about, all right, listen, it could be anybody in their sixties, seventies, eighties, nineties, but let’s use probably there’s probably a number of people I’m sure you’re dealing with, let’s say in their eighties, would you say that’s probably deal with more people in that age group, or not necessarily so?
Candace: Yes, definitely. As well as families who are in their own sixties, and approaching an older adult age and the sandwich generation.
Frank: Exactly. So, but that group, I would say in their fifties and sixties, are probably more receptive to therapists, like yourself, and other members at WellQor, because maybe they have seen a therapist themselves, all right? But someone in their eighties, tell me if I’m wrong, may not have ever had that type of experience. And that generation, maybe just wasn’t as receptive to it, let’s put it that way. So how does that work? How do you deal with that type of situation, to have that senior being a little more receptive?
Candace: Yeah. There’s definitely been a real paradigm shift. Before, we used to talk about mental health as being a taboo subject, or people were seen as being sick or weak, but instead there’s this newfound awareness that sometimes we have challenges in our life, and it’s actually a sign of strength. So reducing that stigma, we don’t go in and we say, “Hi, I’m Candace, I’m your therapist, and I’m going to counsel you today.”
Candace: It’s really starting where they are. Building that relationship. If they’re angry about the situation, I say, “You know what? If you weren’t angry, I’d be surprised. I wouldn’t want a stranger to come in and talk to me. So let’s get to know each other. Let’s have a conversation. What is it that you’re angry about?”
Frank: Yeah, that’s great. That’s great. So I want to bring up this term that I mentioned when I was introducing you, I mentioned it a couple of times, the term intervention. I know when I was introducing you, I said that you’ve had many years experience in the field developing unique interventions to better the lives of your clients. When I hear the term intervention, I don’t know why, maybe it’s just me, all right? I think of substance abuse, and we’re going to do an intervention because this person is having problems and we got to get them help. All right? And they’re unaware of it. You surprise them. That’s not what we’re talking about here, are we?
Candace: No, it’s those creative little ideas that have evidence-based practice behind it, that are shown to really help people. In our company, it’s really important that we not only look at what has worked in the past, but look at the person in general and say, what kind of treatment do they need? What kind of therapy will be effective? And interventions could be completely creative. I have even put basketball hoops over toilet seats. I have had people get betta fish to take care of, because they needed something to be accountable for. It can be really creative, or just even some fun suggestions to engage others, or even family members too.
Frank: Yeah. That’s great. That’s great. So, tell me, maybe share some highlights of your work with WellQor. Talk to us about that.
Candace: It’s been so amazing to see when you take someone who has had a multitude of losses, a loss of a spouse, a loss of their home, a loss of finances, all of that really impacts a person, and we end up finding people who really feel withdrawn and that they don’t have a say in things. What’s really neat is, just recently, we worked with a family, the mother had died of cancer and the daughter was immunocompromised and was restricted to her house and couldn’t see dad, and she was worried about dad. And this had affected her sleeping. It affected her ability to take care of herself, and she said, “I just don’t know what to do.” And she became paralyzed.
I said, “Well, what did you like to do with mom?” And she said, “Oh, I always remember looking at her old photograph. She really enjoyed that.” And I said, “Well, you have to be at home, why don’t you get the photo book and make a scrapbook of her life? All the letters that you said she wrote and that you collected, share them with your dad, put them in a scrapbook.” They began nightly conversations. It was like the letter of the night. They started sharing stories. What happened was not only did it make her mom come to life for her, but it also helped dad reconnect with his daughter, because he was very stoic and mom always had the conversations. It was so neat because once she completed her scrapbook with the letters, she said, “You know what? I’m moving on to dad, and I’m going to interview him.”
Frank: In situations where you were brought in to do some therapy for that senior, and as you got involved, certainly you found out that it’s really probably the person that they’re the people that need more attention, than that senior, was the adult children themselves, they’re the ones that probably need more assistance during the situation. How do you handle that?
Candace: Absolutely. Families are really conflicted because what happens is that role reversal, where the family becomes the parent, and then the parent becomes the child. And it’s that elephant in that room that, that, how do we negotiate our new roles? And often healthy boundaries aren’t set. So families are plagued with guilt of, Oh, I can’t take care of my loved one, and I’m worried about them. I can’t just jump on a plane and check on them. They’re caught weighing this dance with their parent, and the parent feels like, Hey, I’m still in charge here. I still have my say. It’s really opening that conversation, opening that door, and reassuring families that we can work together, we can really come to a solution. And reassuring the families that, there’s so much information out there, let me direct you to the right place. That’s really important.
We developed a new program just recently called Peace of Mind, which is a terrific subscription program where mom’s at home and the daughter’s worried about mom and says, “Do I need to worry or not?” And we have a simple conversation, a little check in, and a feel how things are going. And we’re able to say to the daughter, you know what? There are no red flags right now. And we developed this relationship over time. And when, and if red flags do appear, they know, Hey, we know where to get help. We know how we can intervene. And this is what mom, or dad, or your aunt, your uncle might need. So let’s take the worry off of you, and we can handle that.
Frank: That’s great. That’s wonderful. I could talk to you all day about this, but unfortunately we don’t have that kind of time, and we’ll probably lose our listeners if we go more than a few hours or something. Now, talk to us about generally how therapy works, and we happen to be doing this interview right now. People could be listening to this, our podcast in the future, but right now we’re in the middle of a pandemic, still. And so changes have been made. Talk to us about that a little bit.
Candace: Yeah. If anything good has come out of this pandemic, it’s really been that expansion into telehealth. It was one of those things no one did, now all of a sudden everyone is doing it. Before telehealth, we weren’t able to reach people who lived in more rural areas. What’s awesome is now with telehealth, we can serve everyone all over the country. We’re not restricted by location. And what’s interesting is, for the older adult, it was really a learning curve, but once you commit to helping them figure it out, and we actually have someone that works with them and says, “Okay, I’m going to send you google link. You just have to click on it, and then your therapist will appear.” It really has helped people feel more in control.
And then they realize how convenient it is doing it in their own living room, and it’s so neat because you can learn a little bit about people that way too, when their cat jumps on their lap, or you see the pictures of the grandkids hanging on the wall, and it’s a little less threatening, believe it or not, people have embraced this. If you think about, especially with the weather coming, I’m coming from here, from Wisconsin, and we have quite a lot of snow, no one wants to dredge out, put on their hat and coat and go to a therapist’s office. It’s much easier to stay in your cozy pajamas, by your fire, and click on a link, and there appears someone on the screen.
It’s more the first time you try it, and you get over that hurdle, and we all know technology, there are glitches, and we laugh about it too. And we just say, “Hey, if there’s a glitch, we come back on, or worse comes to worse, I’ll call you on the phone and we can talk you through it.” So I think it’s that initial fear, but everybody has really embraced it.
Frank: Yeah, I think it’s fantastic. I just want to make sure that people understand, we don’t want to assume here, the term telehealth, I think comes from telephone, on the telephone. All right? But we’re not just talking about the telephone here, we’re talking about connecting electronically, so you could have a face to face conversation with somebody by looking at a computer screen or your phone, correct?
Candace: Yes, absolutely. Video chats where you can actually see the person, see their movements, what they’re doing. What’s been really great about being able to see someone, the benefit of the video chat, as opposed to telephone, is if people are tired of hearing, they end up reading lips more. And as you get older, it’s harder to hear. So this way they can see a person’s mouth moving, and they feel like they’re really connecting to a human being.
Frank: Yeah. We’re finding this more commonplace. You’re really closer to the person. When I say closer, their entire face pretty much appears on the screen, right? And you probably, if you were in the office, you’re not going to be sitting that close to them. So that lip reading is a great point.
Candace: Absolutely. People don’t realize how much they do it, until they don’t have it available. And then you miss words and you have to put context around it.
Frank: Right. Right, right. So I just thought of this. I didn’t have it on my list to ask, because I put together some questions for you, but insurance, and I’m sure it depends on every situation, but let’s just say that the person is on Medicare. Is insurance covered on something like this, even if it’s done via telehealth?
Candace: Yes. Which is really wonderful. We have seen Medicare, initially, it wasn’t covering telehealth and now it has really, starting in March, been covered, which is a tremendous benefit for older adults because Medicare is covering our services through part B.
Frank: Okay. That’s wonderful to hear. Wonderful to hear. So, what tends, what are you seeing? You’ve been at this a long time. All right. But what are you, specifically, are you seeing in older, with older adults today?
Candace: I mainly am seeing people feeling disconnected, a little withdrawn. They’re lonely. They more isolate at home, or in their apartments, and they’re not as connected right now. It’s so important to stimulate your brain, and I think people are realizing how your mental health, your emotional health is impacting your physical health, and impacting how you sleep, kind of all aspects of your life. So I think people are more aware of looking at themselves as a whole person, instead of saying my physical health is completely separate from my emotional health.
Frank: That’s a great point. And so how are families coping with this?
Candace: I think families are having quite a hard time because they’re really wanting to see their loved one, but they’re also feeling guilty, not doing so emotionally in our hearts. We want to hug our aunt, or uncle, our mom, our dad, but in our head we know how devastating it would be if we expose them to particular diseases, even without the pandemic, with the flu, with all different kinds. Families are really caught weighing out this risk. And it’s a hard position to be in.
Frank: Yeah. So now, why don’t you share how people can get in touch with you?
Candace: What’s great is if you’re worried about a loved one, or you yourself would like to connect with us, you can always call our phone number, which is 844-888-0355, or on the web there’s WellQor, W-E-L-L-Q-O-R.com. And they’ll be a little bot that pops up and can even help and talk you through whatever you need.
Frank: Right. And I know you have therapists around the country, but with what’s going on today, what we were talking about with telehealth, if you don’t happen to have a therapist right in that community, you could still service that family, right?
Candace: Absolutely. 100%. And what’s really great is our response time is pretty quick. We don’t want anyone to feel like they have to suffer. No one gets a gold star for worrying.
Frank: Yeah. So we just have a couple minutes left here, unfortunately, but this has been very enlightening and educational, but if somebody is listening to our podcast right now, and is in a situation with a parent or other loved one and they go, you know what? It probably would be wise to have mom, or dad, or my aunt, or uncle, or grandparents, or whatever, receive some therapy, matter of fact, maybe I should too. They’re just thinking about that right now. What suggestions do you have for families that are a little uneasy about that right now?
Candace: There’s nothing wrong with having a consult yourself to say, how can I best help my loved one? The worst thing you could do is wait till the last minute when you’re in a crisis already, because it’s harder to make those decisions. Be proactive instead of reactive, that’s the best way. So contact us, and we can even tell you if there’s really a need or not.
Frank: So they could give you a call and just have an initial conversation without the clock starting yet?
Candace: Absolutely. And we can let you know how we can help your particular situation.
Frank: Great. Great. Well, Candace, thank you so much for joining us on Boomers Today. Just want to remind everybody, go check it out. WellQor, W-E-L-L-Q-O-R.com, and I think it’ll be worth reaching out to them. They provide an unbelievable service. So, Candace, thank you so much for joining us. I really appreciate it.
Candace: Oh, it’s been a pleasure. Thank you for having me.
Frank: And I want to thank everybody else for joining us today on Boomers Today. Just be safe out there, and we’ll talk to everybody real soon.