The South Carolina Aging in Place Coalition – Collaborative Efforts
Guest: Paul Franklin – Chairman, South Carolina Aging in Place Coalition
Host: Sally Smith - Author/Resource literature on age-related disease and healthy aging
Sally Smith: Welcome to Age to Age. I’m Sally Smith. Let’s talk. Paul Franklin, the chairman of the board of the South Carolina Aging in Place Coalition, has generously agreed to talk with us today. He’s been telling us a little bit about the bones of what the South Carolina Aging in Place Coalition is all about. What we’re hearing, Paul, is that, basically, if you want to spend your aging years right where you are, there are resources that can help you make that dream a reality.
You said some of the motivation for starting this was personal. But, what I’m learning, in my role as a podcaster on this subject, is the monumental economic onslaught that we face not just to have people in nursing homes, which is quite expensive, but to have adult children caring for parents within in the home, which is also quite expensive, and the monumental force on the American workforce: the hours spent in the office. Is the worker able to focus? Are they worried about Mother back home? Are they making phone calls half the day? There are just so many implications here. One of your motivators to start the South Carolina Aging in Place Coalition was some of this national forecast. Is that correct?
Paul Franklin: Yes. That’s correct. You know, people, in just about every survey that AARP has done in the last few years, have said that if they have any say-so, they want to stay home as long as possible, and that’s survey after survey. And it’s because people, obviously, at home, are in control of things a whole lot more than if they’re even in the very best facility: assisted living, skilled care, or whatever type of facility. What goes on inside the four walls of your house, you, pretty much, can control. You decide who comes, who goes; who visits, who stays. You decide what time you want to get up in the morning, what time you want to go to bed. You decide what you’re going eat, and when you’re going to eat. All of that is sort of taken away when you go into facility because you’re dependent upon the services of the people that are there in that organization.
In spite of their very best efforts, you’re not calling the shots, and people realize that. They realize that it’s so important for their psychological well-being to feel that they’re in control of their life as much as possible, and for as long as possible. And, of course, you hit on something that’s very important, the fact that we’re all living longer because of improved medical care, diet, hopefully, and, hopefully, lifestyle. So, there is a much greater opportunity to, hopefully, stay well for a much longer period of time, and in control of your surroundings. People desire that. They want that. They seek that. And, I think, they’re very motivated to try to put the things in place to make sure that happens.
Sally Smith: Well, I’m very impressed with something I read while I was preparing to talk to you, such a great insight. Sometimes you look at a situation which seems to be deteriorating, in need of major fix-it help of some sort, and, actually, sometimes, it’s just making the connection with one part of a very complicated panorama of a person’s situation at that time in life that can make it work. Maybe you just need the transportation element to work.
I have a friend who said if her mother could have just had meals delivered, she was perfectly alright. She was healthy. If she could just have had those meals delivered, she would not be where she is now. That’s really the bottom line, sort of the kernel of what you’re trying to do. People, though, these children said, oh my gosh, the nutrition’s bad, she has to go to an assisted living. But, actually, if they could have figured out another way, everybody would have been happier for half the cost.
Paul Franklin: Yes. That’s exactly right. And one of the things we get a lot of calls for, from adult children in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, whose parents have moved down here, is an assessment. They need someone to go and try to figure out what it is they really need help with. And, just as you said, many times it’s only one thing. It’s not everything. It’s not like they have to immediately go to some assisted living, or even have somebody there 24 hours a day, or anything like that. They just need a little help to make sure that part of their need is taken care of. They’re perfectly fine otherwise.
Sally Smith: Yeah. That’s major. Let me ask you this: you are nonprofit, so you’re not making money on this. How can you have the resources to go into a home and make a whole assessment on a family and the loved one, and still be not for profit? How does that play out?
Paul Franklin: That’s a great question. Basically, we provide the education and referral resources. If someone calls, like the adult child, and wants to get in touch with a geriatric care manager, we have the phone numbers, the contacts. Then, they make the financial arrangements with that particular party if they want to do that.
Sally Smith: So, you aren’t going in the home, physically, yourself? Once again, you’re connecting?
Paul Franklin: We’re connecting. That’s right.
Sally Smith: And that, really, is what you do, and how you’re able to do it, without spending, you know, hours and hours on each individual person.
Paul Franklin: Right. Every case is different. A geriatric care manager’s background is usually a nurse, or a social worker. They go in and can, basically, make the assessment and figure out what is needed. It may have to do with medication; it may not. Not everybody’s trained to do that. We, certainly, individually, would not be able to go in and do such an assessment, so we have to experts. Fortunately, there are lots of those resources, and, yet, the public, in general, is not that aware of them. You don’t really become aware of some of these things until something happens.
Sally Smith: Until you need it.
Paul Franklin: That’s exactly right.
Sally Smith: Well, I love that quote about a great leader’s not necessarily someone that knows about every subject but can put their hands on that person, and the knowledge. And it sounds like that’s the sort of thing you’re doing. We’re so fortunate to have you in the state of South Carolina, since we’re South Carolinians. Is this universal? I mean, do all our states, are we moving there, or are you unique?
Paul Franklin: Well, I mentioned that part of our motivation for doing this was our own personal situation with my father-in-law. About the same time we were dealing with that, I had a friend in Washington come down to Charleston. We were doing a presentation together. On the way back to the airport, we stopped at a restaurant and got to talking about this topic. He is very familiar with most of the major nonprofits and governmental associations headquartered in Washington. He knows his way around the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Alzheimer’s Association up there, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid. We started talking about putting this together on a national basis, and he has basically done that. I told him we would take care of South Carolina; we’d get it started here.
The formula for each of the locations is somewhat unique because they’re trying to take care of their own community and their own resources. So, our model may not be exactly the way some of the other models are structured. The first year, we had, online, Washington, New York, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Charleston. There were about five cities that were involved in the first National Aging-in-Place Week, which, I think, started in 2003. So, that was the beginning of the national effort. This past year, we had over 60 cities that were involved in National Aging-in-Place Week, and we had events going on all across the country. That’s what we plan to do every year, and we set aside that time. We try to get the endorsement of local government officials. In fact, we got the endorsement of the Lieutenant Governor’s Office in South Carolina for National Aging-in-Place Week, and we’ve had a wonderful response from the whole community for it.
Sally Smith: You say you’ve had a wonderful response from the community. It just sounds like a win-win, but is that true? I mean, are most agencies very happy for this exposure and happy about being put in place, or is there a lot of turf protection and I don’t really want to get out there and share with all these other people on an open playing field? Is there any of that, back and forth? You don’t deal with that. You’re just saying, I’m telling everybody who everybody is.
Paul Franklin: Right. At our quarterly meetings, we bring together all the different elements of the Aging in Place, all the different organizations, and talk about the initiatives that are going on. And it’s interesting because, you know, we have a presentation by Janet Schumacher, Director of the Mayor’s Office on Aging, which is, obviously, government. And that may be supplemented by somebody who’s, let’s say, in charge of a hospice organization that may be for profit; it may be nonprofit. We have collaboration from other sectors that may be from the private sector. So, it’s very collaborative, and we’re all focused on, really, trying to achieve the same thing, which is providing the resources for families. And we feel that by working together, we can accomplish a whole lot more than working inside a funnel, if you will, a silo, because we’re able to share and access resources that we, ourselves, didn’t know existed.
Sally Smith: Exactly. I’m thinking of the value of just what you’re saying. Just something as simple as a duplication of services, in a field that’s growing like this one, you probably don’t have a lot of duplication of services. Probably, everything is way more in demand than anybody could fulfill the need. To find out, in one city, you have, say, a plethora of daycare centers, but you have no foot doctor; you have no nutritionist, you know, to see allocation of resources, where the holes are.
Paul Franklin: Yes. That’s exactly right. And that’s what we actually provide in our directive. We break it down by the categories that we think are important, like livable homes. We have a list of all the different resources that are available under livable homes. The same is true under healthy living. What are all the resources under healthy living that you can access? We go through all the elements of financial and legal, here are all the resources. And it’s, then, the opportunity of the homeowner, or the family, to access the resources they need and want. It’s strictly up to them, but they can call and talk to these people.
One thing about our list, we know they’re organizations, and people, that have the same mission and vision as us. We’ve also had them provide to us their proper license, insurance coverage, the kinds of things that we’d expect from a credible, reliable organization.
Sally Smith: I think that’s what I meant in my question, what are the criteria? When I turn to you, the South Carolina Aging in Place Coalition, how do I know that this is not a bogus resource that has multiple problems? You’ve already kind of vetted it.
Paul Franklin: That’s right.
Sally Smith: That’s fantastic. I love what you’re doing. This is so cool. I want to talk with you about it more. Thank you so much, Paul Franklin, for being our guest. And thanks to all our listeners for joining us. We welcome your suggestions. This is Sally Smith, Age to Age, saying goodbye and wishing you courage and joy on your journey. We are all connected.
If you enjoy listening to Sally Smith, you can buy her book, The Circle. It’s the story of how she personally responded to her mother’s journey with Alzheimer’s disease. It’s a wonderful gift of hope for anyone with a parent with dementia. Just click on Sally Smith’s name under the Health Professionals tab on the Podcast home page. All profits support research at the Center on Aging. Thanks.