Serving the home health, home care and hospice industry since 1999.

by Tim Rowan

In my experience, many home health, home care, and hospice workers -- at all levels, from owner to clinician to aide -- are of an age where they have experienced the healthcare system as subjects as well as providers. In my own case, I struggled with end-of-life decisions with my parents in 2012 and 2017. When I share my own family's experiences in any post-acute setting, most people listening nod in understanding.

That is why I wish Mary Jo Saavedra's book had been available then. Though my siblings and I somehow figured out how to make it possible for both Dad in 2012 and Mom in 2017 to spend their final days in their own bedroom, in the house they bought in 1951, Eldercare 101 would have been most useful.

Ms. Saavedra holds a Master's Degree in gerontology with certification as an Aging Life Care Manager. For her book, she assembled an impressive collection of experts and assigned each one a chapter. Her preface and introduction to the book, with and her opening remarks that set the stage for each chapter -- her "fireside chats" as she calls them -- bring to life, with real-life examples from clients, content that is often necessarily academic and fact-based.

Eldercare 101: A Practical Guide to Later Life Planning, Care, and Wellbeing is a treasure of useful information and advice. Saavedra divides it into six "pillars" of aging wellbeing:

  1. The Legal Pillar: "Legal Ease" by Sara K. Yen, JD, LLM
  2. The Financial Pillars: "Money Matters" by Theresa Giddings, CPA, CFP, in four distinct sections:
    1. Getting Organized
    2. Paying the Bills
    3. Insurance
    4. Getting Help with Financial Planning and Advice
  3. The Living Environment Pillar: "Living Environment Options" by Susan Cain McCarty, MAIS, CSA, which covers:
    1. Aging at Home (the choice, the in-home helpers, the maintennance)
    2. Living Options with Built-in Support
  4. The Social Pillar: "Social Considerations" by Susan Cain McCarty, MAIS, CSA
    1. Life Re-Imagined
    2. Transportation Issues
    3. Managing a Move
    4. Protecting Your Elder
  5. The Medical Pillar: "Navigating the Medical Maze" by Joyce Sjoberg MA, RN, BSN, CMC
    1. An Ounce of Prevention
    2. Time for Medical Support
    3. Medical Insurance
    4. Geriatric Dentistry (with Benjamin B. Hellickson, DDS)
    5. The Aging Body
    6. Elders and the World of Brain Disease
    7. What to Expect at the End
  6. The Spiritual Pillar: "Spirituality and the End(s) of Life: Considerations for the Cared-For and Their Care-Givers" by Rev. Lawrence Hansen, BCC/CFHPC, CT
    1. Living Until the End
    2. Dealing with the Dead
    3. Death Dialogue
    4. The Rest is ... Spiritual Practices and Poems

As she explains in her preface, little in her book is theoretical. Ms. Saavedra completed her graduate degree two weeks after her mother died, following a lengthy battle with Alzheimer's Disease. She reflected on her overwhelming dual experiences:

Two weeks later, I graduated with a master's degree in gerontology. While this was a transformational moment, my grief and my joy commingled with exhaustion. In the following months, the thought burning in my soul, "There has to be a better way," gave rise to a new direction for my postgraduate life. I would become an aging life care manager (ALCM), formerly known as a geriatric care manager. I had stumbled upon the profession through a teacher during my graduate studies, ALCMs know the magic formulae to assist you when you are in an eldercare crisis. They enable you to catch your breath and continue to walk forward on the path, together with your elder, under their wise guidance.

Why hadn't I heard about ALCMs when my mom was passing? Why did my personal support group and other caregivers in my foxhole of caregiving have no idea these professionals or their services exited and recommend them? Have you heard of ALCMs (or GCMs)? While I learned about them too late to aid me with my mom, I was, nonetheless, sparked to explore how to make a difference in others' caregiving journeys and, two years, later, became certified as an ALCM.

Mary Jo Saavedra is also an adjunct professor of gerontology at Marylhurst University, Pacific University, and Portland Community College. She teaches aging and spirituality at the Franciscan Spiritual Center in Milwaukie, Oregon.

Eldercare 101: A Practical Guide to Later Life Planning, Care, and Wellbeing is published by Rowman & Littlefield,, of Lanham, Maryland. It is available in paperback and ebook formats from libraries, brick and mortar book stores, and online.

©2019 by Rowan Consulting Associates, Inc., Colorado Springs, CO. All rights reserved. This article originally appeared in Tim Rowan's Home Care Technology Report. One copy may be printed for personal use; further reproduction by permission only.