Even though I have been on my own caregiving journey for two-and-a-half years right now, and feel I have learned a ton of useful information, I understand that no one person knows it all and you have to keep constantly striving and learning.
Part of this learning process for me is to seek out experts in the elder care field who have great information to share as well.
And in my online search for mentors I found a terrific one in Michelle Seitzer, a writer and elder care educator.
Despite a busy schedule which has included the recent adoption of her daughter, Michelle was gracious enough to answer a few questions about herself and the future of caregiving…and would encourage all who are reading this to visit both her website and Facebook page for more information about the help that Michelle provides.
A: I’m the oldest of 5 girls and had wonderful, close relationships with all 3 grandparents (my dad’s dad passed away before I was born). My mom’s mom is still living, though she recently suffered a stroke, which has been tough for the whole family.
I’m extremely passionate about seniors and caregiving; many friends often share articles with me on social media about these issues because they know of my great interest.
I’ve been a freelance writer and elder care specialist for 4 years now, and I currently live about an hour north of Philadelphia with my husband, daughter, and 2 dogs.
Q: What is your education in the elder care field?
A: I have a Bachelor’s degree in English Writing and took a few Master’s level classes in Health Services Administration, Long Term Care Management, and Public Health.
Most of my education comes from my own research, hands-on personal experiences (I was a long-distance caregiver for my grandfather, who died of Alzheimer’s in 2009), and years of working in various sectors of the industry. I volunteered and worked for 10 years in several senior living communities (in a number of different roles), and I served for 3 years as a policy and advocacy coordinator for the Alzheimer’s Association.
Q: How did you get in the elder care niche?
A: The stories and the people drew me in. In my first year of college, I had to fulfill 20 hours of community service as part of a course that all first year students are required to take. I volunteered at a nursing home and enjoyed my time there so much that I continued volunteering throughout all four years of college, well after my 20 hours were fulfilled.
A month before I graduated, I was offered the position of activities director. I accepted, thankful for the opportunity to learn more from and about the seniors I had come to know over my four years of volunteer work. But working full-time was quite different from volunteering. I saw a lot of things I wanted to change about the way care was delivered, how the community operated, and how assisted living and senior care was regulated on a systems level.
I also saw caregivers and family members dealing with burnout, grief, and a host of other difficult issues. Based on all I observed, I was motivated to make a difference in the elder care world, and my academic and professional pursuits after my first nursing home job followed suit. Years later, caring for an older loved became a personal thing too, when my grandfather was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
Q: What prompted you to start your website?
A: I wanted to offer my website as a “landing page” or portfolio for anyone interested in seeing the variety of writing work that I do and clients I have, but also as a place to share information and resources for people who are caring for an older adult.
What do you see as the future of caregiving?
The future of caregiving, I believe, has people of all ages involved in the process. It’s already moving in that direction with multi-generational households and child caregivers, but I believe that caregiving will be an every day reality for most families in the future.
Q: With the inevitable pressure on Social Security and Medicare, what solutions do you feel need to be brought forth to keep these programs solvent?
A: People need to plan ahead and start saving sooner. Things like the CLASS Act, which unfortunately was revoked in 2013, could have helped to encourage employees to set aside money for caregiving and future care needs, but we will need other creative options, and perhaps more of them being privately funded.
The Caregiver Corps idea is also a terrific one that both meets the need for more caregivers and provides options for college loan debt forgiveness for graduates. The time for innovation in funding streams is now!
Q: What is the one piece of advice you would give to a new caregiver?
A: Reach out for help at all stages of the process — in the beginning, middle and end (after caregiving). Find a caregiving mentor or coach who can be that strong support and encouragement for you during the ups and downs of caregiving, and who can help you transition into life after caregiving.
Q: What is the one piece of advice you would give to seniors to help them age gracefully?
A: Don’t think so much about age; instead, focus on things that are good for your health — spending time with friends and family, a balanced diet, physical activity, and engaging in the things that make you happy and feed your soul.
Q: I see that you are starting private consulting. What led you to this and who is the ideal client you can help?
A: Two reasons: I wanted to diversify what I’m doing in my freelance career, and I also wanted formalize what I’ve been doing for friends and family members “on the side” for many years now. The ideal client? Anyone who needs guidance, advice or encouragement in caring for elders, professionally or personally.
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