Mary Marita is Senior Vice President and COO at Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging. She has 22+ years of executive and administrative leadership in the aging field including long-term care and community-based organizations and is a Licensed Nursing Home Administrator. In 2012, Marita was recognized by Crain’s in the 40 Under 40 awards and was honored as a YWCA Woman of Professional Excellence.
Lisa Weitzman is the Benjamin Rose Institute Care Consultation Manager of Business Development. She holds an LISW-S license and Dementia Care Specialist certification. She has a passion for social justice and the social determinants of health as they pertain to older adults aging well in the community.
Frank: Welcome to Boomers Today. I’m your host, Frank Samson and of course each week we bring you important and useful information on issues facing baby boomers, their parents, and other loved ones. We have another great show today. We have with us two guests. First, we have with us Mary Marita who is a senior vice president and COO at Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging. She has over 22 years experience of executive and administrative leadership in the aging field including longterm care and community based organizations, and a licensed nursing home administrator.
Frank: In 2012, Mary was recognized by Crain’s in the 40 Under 40 awards and was honored as a YWCA Women of Professional Excellence. We also have with us, we’ve got a tag team match here, Lisa Weitzman who is the Benjamin Rose Institute care consultation manager of business development. She holds an LISW-S license. Maybe you’ll explain that to us Lisa, and Dementia Care Specialist Certification. She has a passion for social justice and the social determinants of health as they pertain to older adults aging well in the community.
Frank: Mary and Lisa, I want to thank you so much for joining us.
Mary: Thank you for having us.
Lisa: Yeah, thank you.
Frank: Yeah. So I’ll tell you, I read up a little bit about a Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging, and you’re in the Cleveland area, and I was just fascinated. I mean I think it’s tremendous what you’re doing, but tell us more, maybe one of us could give us a little bit more information on what you do and who you serve.
Mary: I’d be happy to do that, Frank.
Mary: Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging has been around for over 110 years and correct, we are based out of Cleveland, Ohio and we’re a nonprofit organization. We focus on improving older adults’ health and wellness and we provide programs and services to support their families.
Mary: The mission of our organization is to advance support for older adults and caregivers, and we do this in three ways. We provide in-person and telephone based health and wellness services to older adults in their homes and in the community. We develop innovative solutions to everyday issues faced by older people and their families by conducting research studies. And then we also foster informed engagement with public policy issues impacting the field of aging.
Frank: Wow. And this is, even though your Cleveland based, you’re working with people around the country or even beyond the United States. Who are you trying to reach geographically?
Mary: Primarily, we’re focusing on people, when we’re talking about in their homes, it’s in the Cleveland area. But we also develop innovative solutions, which enables us to provide support to caregivers on a national level as well. And I’m going to let Lisa talk a little bit about that.
Frank: And then that’s what you’re calling the BRI Care Consultation Program, is that what that is?
Lisa: So that is our program that Mary is referring to, and it’s an exciting program here at Benjamin Rose. It emerged actually out of research done by our research institute, and we recognized that there were issues facing family caregivers that just simply weren’t being addressed. That family caregivers were feeling like there was so much fragmentation among the services that they were being referred to, but none of them really coordinate with each other. And that often you would call one reference and you would call and call and by the time you got ahold of it, it wasn’t even the right reference or your situation had changed so much and then you had to start all over again.
Lisa: Families also complained that it was all about assessment, assessment, assessment, and there wasn’t any action that was taken place, and that very little of the programs that were available to consumers in the market focused on the caregivers. And so from that came BRI Care Consultation, which is really a support and resource service for caregivers.
Lisa: We have delivered this program now for over 20 years and served over 10,000 families with the program. In a nutshell, the program provides support, education, and connections to community resources to address the unmet needs of caregivers. The exciting thing about the program is that it’s delivered purely by telephone and email, which means that we can reach people all over the country. It doesn’t matter where the caregivers living, it doesn’t matter where the person they love and for whom they are caring lives. We can really meet them really where they are and focus on their needs.
Lisa: And so what we do is we listen to what’s going on in family situations, we let the families drive the process, and we help them to create simple, attainable action steps to help them feel like I am back in control of what’s going on in my life. And there are people in my community, there are services in my community that can support me so that I can continue to care for my loved one for as long as I want in the way that I desire.
Frank: So Lisa, or Mary, I mean maybe give us one or two examples of, you know, obviously we don’t want you to give out any names, but maybe a couple of examples that you could give our listeners of situations where people have called and needed assistance. What are the typical types of things people might be calling about? And I know every situation is different. But give us an idea.
Lisa: Sure. So as you so rightly said, Frank, there really is no typical call, but I can certainly give you examples of the types of people for whom we’ve provided assistance.
Lisa: We’ll start with a woman. She was the daughter, she lived in Oakland, California, and her mother was living in Dayton, Ohio, and she was the caregiver. And she was still working full time, and she was trying to manage her mother’s care from Oakland to Dayton. The good news is that the daughter had some reference points in Dayton so she could manage it from afar until her mother took ill, and suddenly that whole texture changed. So the family then decided to move the mother to Cleveland where one of the brothers was living. But even though she was living in the city with her son, her daughter in Oakland, California was still the caregiver.
Lisa: And so now the daughter’s trying to balance her job, caring for her mom, and caring for her mom in the city that she didn’t even know. She found us, and we were able to help her through our program to find appropriate housing for her mother here in Cleveland. We were able to help have a difficult family conversations by bringing the family together on the phone to work through some of the issues around the mother’s care and around options for where the mother might live, and included the mother in those phone calls as well. And so through this program, the daughter came to Cleveland once and that was to sign the contract on the new apartment and to move her mother.
Lisa: So that’s an example of how our program can work to really cut down on that stress and burden of that caregiver to make the situation manageable, and to bring in all of the people, in her case, all of her family members and to get them on the same page in terms of how do we care for mom.
Lisa: Another situation that we worked with recently was a woman who was living with her mother in Georgia actually. Her mother took a trip to Chicago and while she was in Chicago, the mother had a stroke. And suddenly there is this situation where the daughter is still in Georgia, working full time, caring for her own family, her mother suddenly been taken very ill in Chicago with serious consequences for what life is going to look like even when she got back to Georgia. And we helped finessed her through that crisis, get the mother back to Georgia, and help the daughter then find all new living and help situations for her mother in Georgia.
Lisa: Again, oftentimes people turn to help when they’re in a crisis, but our goal is to take families from that crisis point, get them through that crisis, and then get them to that planning stage so they’re not living crisis to crisis. Again, it’s about how do we help these families feel like we’re in control of situations that sometimes just feel so unmanageable.
Frank: You mentioned the term quite a few times. The term is crisis. And we have seen, as you know, I’m involved in the business day to day as well. And I’ve seen a trend of caregivers, family members reaching out for help when it’s turned to crisis. Obviously, we all, and you’ve said it, we say it on the show all the time, that people need to plan, but the reality is still most people don’t. And then it turns into a crisis, and you have to move quickly. Knowing that, and I’m sure you’re experiencing the same thing, but knowing that, are your advisors, for lack of a better term right now, or your counselors on your end, are they all in the Cleveland area? Are they spread out around the country? Are they familiar with … I mean, again, what kind of training do they have? And at what point do you maybe refer a family to a local resource versus trying to solve the situation yourself? I’m sure that’s a balancing act, but maybe you could help us understand that.
Lisa: Great question. I think one of the things to understand with BRI Care Consultation is that we are a coaching and care coordination program. We’re not actually providing the service ourselves, but we’re connecting people to the resources in their communities that will help them with whatever they’re working on in that moment.
Lisa: That’s part of what enables us to be a remote service is that we’re not boots on the ground. We’re like the quarterback who’s saying, okay, you say you would like to have something around helping the home. You’d like to have help with meal preparation, mom needs assistance with transportation. Let’s figure out, in your community, where those resources are that can provide that support for you.
Lisa: In terms of what our training is for our care consultants, everybody has at least a social work degree or a nursing degree and everyone’s worked in the field, hands on for at least three years, working with older adults and their family caregivers. So they understand from a getting your hands dirty perspective, what are the issues that older adults face living in the community? What are the barriers to accessing help? What are the barriers to accessing services? And what are those struggles that our caregivers are facing? And therefore when we come back on this side, we’re better equipped to be able to understand their struggles, to understand between the lines when someone’s frustrated about having to pay the bills. That may be what she’s really referring to is she’s really sad about what’s happening to her partner and her loved one, that he’s no longer capable of playing that role. And we take all of that knowledge and put it into the program and into the services that we deliver.
Lisa: In terms of where our care consultants are located, we are located all over the country. Your care consultant may not necessarily live in your community, but we have experienced people in many cities all over the country who guide us on where those resources are and we have roadmaps of how to enter new communities because we have all been delivering this type of service. For a long time.
Frank: I know this was a tough one, but as you were talking, it just made … And I know both of you are familiar with this, but what a lot of people don’t realize is that there seems to be a huge emphasis on the person that needs the care when indeed it’s the caregiver themself that needs more attention than the person needing the care because of the stress involved with being a caregiver and the personal cost to caregiving. Can you expound upon that a little bit?
Mary: Sure. I think a lot of that comes from what I might even call stigma in our society right now around this idea of asking for help. For so many of us, asking for help becomes associated with being a failure. So there are lots of us who serve in that caregiver role, who don’t even call ourselves caregivers. We just think we’re doing the job of being the spouse, or being the son, or the daughter in this situation. And so if we have to ask for help because we can’t do it, then somehow we failed in ourselves. I think the other thing that compounds this issue of caregivers feeling comfortable reaching out for help is that still seems today that self-care is acquainted with being selfish. Rather than saying, “If I don’t take care of myself, I can’t continue to take care of my loved one.”
Mary: So I think that’s a huge challenge for us. And you’re right, the personal cost to caregiving is enormous. Think about the amount of stress and strain that it puts on a relationship as those roles within the relationship start to change. The underlying grief that you may be going through as you’re watching your loved one’s health decline, the physical health consequences of that health and strain. It’s interesting, studies now show that the physical health complications that caregivers experience last up to three years after the death of the person for whom they’re caring, that it really … It such a …
Frank: Takes its toll. It takes its toll.
Lisa: … deep impact on people.
Lisa: And then think about the consequence if you’re trying to balance your job with that, right? How are you trying to … Particularly for people who identify in the sandwich generation. They’re working full time, they’re caring for their own immediate family, and they’re caring for their parents at the same time. And so the cost of them in terms of professionally, and financially, and mentally, and physically is truly extraordinary.
Frank: Yeah. I think it’s tremendous what you’re doing. We’re going to take just a real quick break and recognize our sponsor, and then we’re going to come back and learn a little bit more about BRI, and how people can get ahold of you and all of that. So we’ll be right back.
Frank: I want to remind everybody that today’s show is sponsored by Senior Care Authority. Senior Care Authority is a senior placement and elder care consulting organization that has a national network of professionally trained and experienced local advisors to assist families in determining the right path for your loved ones.
Frank: They’ll discuss various longterm care options, whether it’s in-home care, assisted living, memory care, nursing care, or if you just need an advocate to get some advice from a local senior care authority advisor can help you now. For a free 30 minute consultation with an advisor in your area, contact Senior Care Authority at 888-809-1231 or you could go directly to the website at www.SeniorCareAuthority.com, and you could find an advisor in your area.
Frank: We’re back with Mary Marita and Lisa Weitzman from the Benjamin Rose Institute, and just a wealth of information. We’ve been talking about a lot of your services and I usually save this to the end, but I’m going to ask you now. If people wanted to get ahold of you, they want to learn more about your care consultation program, how do they go about doing that?
Mary: That’s a very good question and we’d be happy to share that with everyone. I’m going to start with sharing our direct phone number that would link someone to a care consultant here at the organization, and that number is area code (216) 373-1797. And again that phone number (216) 373-1797 will directly link someone to a BRI care consultant who can begin the conversation and answer questions for anyone interested. But we also have an online resource. Our website is an enormous wealth of knowledge for caregivers as well as older people. And our website is www.BenRose, B-E-N-R-O-S-E.org, O-R-G. And I’ll repeat that one more time, www.BenRose.org.
Mary: The way that our website is designed, it’s designed to support users so that they can search our website and learn about who the organization is, but when they do that, there’ll be able to navigate based on their role. So if they’re an older person or a family caregiver, what they’ll find is content that helps them access quality resources to support their physical and emotional health, live independently with assistance at home, get involved to remain active engaged, and navigate towards more secure financial wellness in the future. If they’re a professional in the field of aging or a professional caregiver, they’ll find content that provides resources to explore the comprehensive services and support that our organization is known for, that will support their clients, they can review state-of-the-art research and evidence based programs, and learn from the experts in the field of aging.
Mary: There’s one other piece of our website that caregivers will find extremely valuable, and it goes back to that earlier question, Frank, that you were asking about, which is how do we help caregivers not get to the point of crisis?
Mary: And that’s our searchable resource library within our website. So if you’re looking for consumer-friendly articles to share with your family members, or to learn more about the field of aging, if you’re a professional or if you’re trying to understand what services are available to your loved one who might be suffering from a chronic illness. The individual can go into Benjamin Rose authored resources. These are articles that our staff, our research scientists and professionals have written on various topics, such as active aging, caregiving, diversity in aging, services and interventions, and many more, many more.
Frank: That’s fantastic. That’s great. Thank you for that. So I’m going to put you guys on the spot here, whoever wants to answer this one. Is our country ready for what is going to be happening? To me, it’s just … The term that we use in our industry, and I’m sure you’ve heard it many times, The Silver Tsunami. And to me, it’s just drizzling rain right now. It hasn’t even hit. When it hits, is our country ready for what’s going to happen?
Lisa: I’ll start and then I’ll pass it to you, Mary.
Lisa: I think on some level we’re ready. And what I mean by that is I think that there are the community-based services that are out there. There are programs like BRI Care Consultation that are there to help people. And so I think from a service provision level, yes we do have the programs in place. I think the challenge that we really face is how do we make all of these connections. So how do we get the hospital systems to recognize the benefits of … That community based organizations can help as they come up with their care plan, and as they start to see more older adults in their hospitals. How do we get the payers, the health insurance plans to recognize the value of the services that we offer, and how it can help them, and how do they become a part of making this sort of what I would call a closed loop system.
Lisa: So wherever you come in as an older adult, if it’s to our medical provider, if you’d go into a hospital, if you’re talking to your health insurance company, if you’re working with somebody in the community, how do all of these providers organize themselves and communicate so that somebody coming in can be served in all of their different ways, and all of the different services are valued as well for the role they play in maintaining and sustaining our older adults in the community.
Lisa: And I think the last piece is how do we have those conversations? How do we make it safe for people to talk about the fact that they’re taking care of their loved one? And how do we make it safe for people to talk about aging in general? We think about how we phrase that conversation around aging in our culture. It’s all about something we’re either going to deny or we’re going to defy, and somehow we have this belief that we’re just going to live forever and then we’re just going to drop dead, no fuss, no muss, and then we’ll move on to the next person.
Lisa: And that’s not our reality, and we’re all aging every day, and we all want to live to that next birthday. And as we want to live to that next birthday, how do we then recognize that we need to be planful? We need to think about how we want this to look going forward. What are our values around that? What are our preferences for care? And then how do we work as community organizations to best support people in that aging process?
Frank: Well, I think we all have to do our part and you guys are doing your part. So I think it’s great. I have another question I wanted to ask before we finish up, but I don’t know, Mary, if you had anything add, go ahead, or I’ll go onto my next question.
Mary: I would say Lisa nailed it, but the only thing I would add to it as far as preparation is that the employers also need to recognize that this will also impact their workforce.
Frank: You read my mind. That was my next question. We’re thinking alike.
Mary: And because it will impact their workforce as their workforce ages, but it also will impact their workforce as their workforce becomes caregivers.
Frank: Maybe you guys have seen the study, but Harvard Business School came out with a study recently, and it was pretty detailed. In my own words in summing it up, it basically said, hey companies, your absenteeism is on the rise, your presenteeism, meaning they’re at work and they’re just not concentrating because they’re worried about mom or dad or grandma or grandpa or whatever the case may be. And you better start providing some benefits to your employees so they could get assistance. That’s what you were talking about, right? As far as employers providing help to their employees who may be caregivers, long distance caregivers, et cetera. Right? So expound upon that if you would.
Mary: Yes, that’s exactly what I was addressing there in that. And with that, BRI Care Consultation can be that solution, that added benefit that employers can offer. Lisa, you might want to talk a little bit about how that relationship works.
Lisa: Yup. So just to go back just briefly. I think that you’re right, the companies need to start to recognize, and some of them are, what that Harvard Business School article talked about. I think the other piece is recognizing that as an employee coming in, even millennials are really looking at the benefits programs and the family benefits programs that employers are offering. And so recognizing that benefits are how companies can attract, engage, and retain employees. So it’s using those benefit programs to keep people in, and it’s creating an environment where employees don’t fear talking about their caregiving responsibilities. They don’t fear that they’re going to be looked over for a promotion. They don’t fear that they’re going to have to leave the workforce and all that that means for them long term because their employer understands it.
Lisa: And so the beauty of BRI Care Consultation within that, and we are working now actually with an EAP program that recognizes that this benefit is so important that they’re willing to pay for the first three months for any of their members who want to use this program because they recognize that at the end of the day is a much lower cost way of solving employee issues than what the alternative could be, be it people using high cost solutions or having people leave the job and then having to be replaced. And so the nice thing for a working caregiver is being able to work with a care consultant at a time that works best for that employee to come out with a list of, okay, I know I need to, say for instance, I need to find home help for my mom. I don’t have time to surf the internet, try to figure out who was who and what’s a respected organization in town, and what their phone number might be. But my care consultant will send me the names of two organizations and two phone numbers. I can take care of that during my lunch break and then I can go back and focus on my job again.
Lisa: And so that ability of the care consultant to work with that working caregiver around his or her schedule and being very tactical and strategic about this is what you need to do. We’ve decided that this is what you want to focus on, so here are two names, two phone numbers. We’ll talk next week or email me and we’ll figure out what you need to do next.
Frank: Great. Well, unfortunately we’re out of time. I could talk to you guys for another half hour at least about this and I just want to thank you for all that you do. And again, if one of you could just tell us your website again before we sign off on how people could reach you.
Mary: I will take the honors. Our website again is www.BenRose.org that’s B-E-N-R-O-S-E.O-R-G. And to contact our organization, you can call (216) 791-8000 or to speak with a BRI care consultant, you can call (216) 373-1797. And we appreciate the opportunity today, frank.
Frank: Great. Mary and Lisa, thank you so much for joining us on Boomers Today. Really appreciate it.
Mary: Thank you.
Frank: Yeah. And I want to thank everybody for joining in and being on Boomers Today And look forward to having you on future shows. Just be safe out there and talk to you soon.