Lisa Kaufman of SeniorCare Options – Compassionate Aging Life Care Consulting for You and Your Loved Ones – Episode 19

Lisa Kaufman
Lisa Kaufman – Founder, SeniorCare Options

In this episode of Women’s Retirement Radio, I was joined by Lisa Kaufman of SeniorCare Options, a company she started to deliver Aging Life Care™ Management services specializing in senior advocacy, needs analysis, and care coordination.

In our conversation, we discuss Lisa’s background and why she’s so passionate about the important work she delivers to Atlanta families. 

And congratulations to Lisa and SeniorCare Options for celebrating their 20th year in business at the end of July (2001 – 2021)!

Click the play button below to listen to our conversation:

For more on Lisa and SeniorCare Options, please check out these resources:

Get in touch and let me know what you think or if you have any questions.

And for those of you interested in seeing some of Lisa’s collage artwork which we discussed in this episode, check these out:

Lisa Kaufman Collage Art 1
Lisa Kaufman Collage Art 1
Lisa Kaufman Collage Art 3

And thank you for listening.


And if you prefer reading over listening, here’s a transcript of our conversation:

Russ Thornton:
Hey everyone. It’s Russ, and welcome to another episode of Women’s Retirement Radio. I’m super excited today to have a friend and colleague of several years on with us, Lisa Kaufman of SeniorCare Options. How are you doing today, Lisa?

Lisa Kaufman:
I am excellent. Thank you.

Russ Thornton:
I’m glad you could join us. You and I have known each other for a while now. We’ve had the opportunity to work on a couple of different client cases together. You’ve been a great resource both to me personally and my family, as well as to some of my clients. So I’m really excited to have the opportunity to talk with you today and share some of your expertise with our listeners.

Lisa Kaufman:
Thank you [inaudible 00:00:40].

Russ Thornton:
Yeah. Why don’t you start by just telling us a little bit about yourself.

Lisa Kaufman:
Okay. I have been in the Atlanta area since ’91. I came here after grad school to do an internship at Emory Hospital. And I really loved the Atlanta area so I stayed. I have two grown children who live close by, so I get to see them periodically and that’s nice. And just living my best life.

Russ Thornton:
Awesome. Yeah. And before we hit record, you and I were both talking about the strange lives that we’ve all been living here the last year plus with the pandemic and whatnot, but I’m glad to hear you’re getting to still see your children on a regular basis. And it sounds like overall you’re doing well, which I’m happy to hear.

Lisa Kaufman:
Yes, definitely. Definitely.

Russ Thornton:
So digging a little bit deeper, what’s something interesting about you that maybe most people wouldn’t know?

Lisa Kaufman:
That my undergrad degree was in fine arts. Was a drawing major and have a lot of artwork in my home and I do enjoy still just being extremely creative. It’s part of what I enjoy about what I do, because I use my creativity, but not in the same way at all, but it is an outlet for creativity. But most people when they come to my home, or if I’m on a Zoom call, there is a piece of artwork that I did that’s in the background, and they often comment like, “Ooh, what’s that painting?” And I’m like, “Well, I did that.” And then they’re always, “Really?” Kind of funny, but most people have no idea that healthcare wasn’t where I started, but it is where I needed it to be.

Russ Thornton:
Well, and clearly we want to talk about your work in the healthcare field, but as far as your fine arts background and your joy in creating things, is there a certain medium or type of drawing or painting that you love more than everything else, or do you just to mix it up and do a little bit of this, that and the other?

Lisa Kaufman:
I do mix things up, and actually for the past five years or something, a lot of my creativity has been in the kitchen. But the media that I work with most these days is collage. So I enjoy working with different asian papers, the textures and the colors are just very exciting to me. And I cut out different shapes or forms. And it’s almost like a puzzle that just comes to me. I put things together and adhere it and seal it and it’s just very cool.

Russ Thornton:
Well, that’s awesome. Maybe when we’re putting together the show notes for this episode, if you’re willing, maybe you could take a picture of one of your favorite pieces and we could share with folks. That’d be [crosstalk 00:03:46].

Lisa Kaufman:
Oh, I’d like to. Yeah, sure. Yeah, sure. Because that is definitely something people don’t know about me.

Russ Thornton:
Awesome. I’m glad that you shared that with us.

Lisa Kaufman:
Well, thanks.

Russ Thornton:
So transitioning from you personally, let’s talk a little bit more about what it is you do which I find fascinating by the way. And let’s start maybe by describing what you do in simple terms, like you were explaining it maybe to a five-year-old.

Lisa Kaufman:
Well, a lot of times families find themselves taking care of an older loved one, a grandfather or a parent. And it’s not what they do every day. And they’re also very torn because they have very deep feelings for these individuals. So they don’t always know what the best care is or when they need to make changes or find out more information. So we help folks decide and determine what are the best things they should be doing for their older loved one. And then we can put those things in action for them, take them to physicians and advocate. That’s a big word, but to really stand up and be protective and ensure the best care for that older individual.

Lisa Kaufman:
So we want to see what they need. We want to put all of the different kind of care in place and be good communicators so that everybody knows what’s going on because everybody doesn’t talk to each other. I think there’s a lot of things that people, a lot of mysteries about how the medical system works. And we want to, I guess, kind of see the wizard behind the curtain kind of thing. We want people to know what the real story is and to make good choices going forward.

Russ Thornton:
That’s fantastic. I always love asking and hearing people explain what it is they do in-

Lisa Kaufman:
Simple terms?

Russ Thornton:
… in simple terms as possible. I just find it really enlightening. So I appreciate you doing that.

Lisa Kaufman:
Sure. I think it’s a great question.

Russ Thornton:
Yeah. Now, let’s assume that most of our listeners aren’t five years old. Tell us a little bit about your company as it exists today. You referenced the word we, so clearly it’s not just you doing this important work. So why don’t you tell someone about your company and maybe speak a little bit more to the kind of things you’re doing on a day-to-day basis as you’re working with your clients and their families.

Lisa Kaufman:
Okay. Well, I think one of the things I do want to say about we, it’s not just about me, I want people to understand the profession of aging life care management. It’s also known as geriatric care management. So I feel compelled to say we, because you don’t have to work with me, but boy, find somebody who can help you. And these are professionals that are out there. There’s 2000 people across the country who are credentialed and experienced and they can help save time, money, energy, anguish, improve health, improve quality of life. But having said that, I founded SeniorCare Options in 2001, and I do have four employees working for me now, and they are employees, not contractors.

Lisa Kaufman:
And what we do on a daily basis, we always start with our clients that come to us when there’s some sort of need. They want to move here from another state, but there’s a health concern, or their loved ones still lives at home, but there’s a problem with their memory. And maybe they got lost in their car, going someplace familiar. I mean, there’s all sorts of different reasons why people call us. And we want to assess what’s going on. We want to evaluate what is happening. Sometimes I like in our needs analysis too, a SWOT Analysis. We want to know the strengths. We want to know the weaknesses. What are the weak areas? What are the things that this client cannot do for themselves well or successfully? And certainly, the strengths, what are they still able to do? We want to play to their strengths.

Lisa Kaufman:
We want to know what the opportunities are to improve those skills or bring the support in that’s needed at the right level. And then the threats, are there safety issues? So we’re really looking holistically at what the individual needs, and then we create a care plan. Sometimes we tell people it’s the roadmap. “Now you’re on a journey.” Most of our folks have some sort of cognitive impairment. “Well, this is a trip you didn’t want to go on, but guess what? You don’t have a choice now and you’re on it.” So we want to be that Sherpa, the guide to help you figure out where you’re going and the care plan is the map. Looking forward, and what are the things you need to do along the way to be more successful in this journey?

Lisa Kaufman:
We can help implement the recommendations that we make, or families can do that for themselves. We’re not pushy about that. We’re here to help. We are excellent patient advocates, and I like to tell people that we speak medical, alluding to the mysteries of medical care and how the medical system works. If you don’t work in the medical system yourself, or you work with a different population, you’re not going to know the ins and outs. You’re not going to know all of the providers, you’re not going to know what the hidden agenda is. So we’re here to help traverse all of that, to navigate all of that so that you are successful in getting the care that your loved one deserves.

Russ Thornton:
Yeah. When I hear you explain it in those terms, I think it’s wonderful that you used the word Sherpa or guide. That’s kind of how I, when I think of you Lisa, and all the conversations we’ve had over time, I often think of you as a guide who can help families navigate this ever increasingly confusing maze that is our healthcare system, especially for the older population.

Lisa Kaufman:
Yeah. Oh, good.

Russ Thornton:
I think that’s a great way to, at least from my perspective, I think that’s a great way to think of a lot of, not all, but a lot of the value that you really bring to the families that you work with.

Lisa Kaufman:
I think so. I think so. We can really help with a lot of the heartache. And the advocacy piece, I think is very strong for my team. They are all passionate about what they do and providing the best care, making sure that folks are getting the care they are supposed to get what they are paying for, but maybe aren’t receiving. I mean, these are the kinds of things that we’re here for.

Russ Thornton:
Yeah. So you mentioned that you’re in Atlanta, you’ve got your company and four employees, do you and your team just serve basically the Metro Atlanta area, the state of Georgia, do you work outside of out of Georgia? What’s your coverage area in terms of your ability to serve families?

Lisa Kaufman:
Usually, it’s the Metro Atlanta area. One of the interesting revelations, if you will, that has come out of this past year with COVID is doing some virtual stuff, telehealth and being able to serve folks at a distance so that we don’t necessarily need to be on site. It’s not a replacement for what we do, but it’s not a bad way to access care. I think we’re going to see that more and more, and I think for folks who live further out and don’t have maybe the specialists that they need, this is going to open up better care for so many people.

Lisa Kaufman:
Having said that, the resources I am familiar with are really in the Metro Atlanta area, which is enormous. And I’m not comfortable going beyond state lines because I don’t really know the regulations and statutes and things in other states. Each state has their own rules and regs on how healthcare is administered, especially guidelines on powers of attorney, guardianships, Medicare and Medicaid. These are important things. I don’t know what Tennessee does or California does. And everybody does something different, but I sure know what Georgia does.

Russ Thornton:
Right. Right.

Lisa Kaufman:
So I’m good staying here.

Russ Thornton:
Yeah. And you mentioned earlier that there are tons of other licensed credentialed geriatric care managers and specialists out there.

Lisa Kaufman:
Correct. [inaudible 00:13:05].

Russ Thornton:
So if someone is listening to this and they’re not in the state of Georgia, maybe they’re a state away or several states away. Is there a resource that you would point people to where they could maybe go and maybe identify someone that’s geographically close and would still be in a position to bring experience and the expertise to the table?

Lisa Kaufman:
Yes, I’d love to share. And it’s something that, certainly when I was in-person with people, I answered that question so often I put it on the back of my business card. The website to find an aging life care professional within 100 miles of you is www.aginglifecare.org. They’ve got a fabulous website and there’s an orange button in the upper right-hand corner that you can click that says, “Find an Aging Life Care Professional.” And you put in a zip code or a city name, and you can find all sorts of information about who serves that area.

Russ Thornton:
Perfect. Well, clearly anyone listening, if you’re in and around the Atlanta area, or even in the state of Georgia you need to reach out to Lisa if you’ve got questions about any of this stuff, but that’s a great resource and we’ll be sure to share that link to that website in the description as we post this as well.

Lisa Kaufman:
[crosstalk 00:14:35]. Thank you.

Russ Thornton:
Yeah. Thanks for sharing that. So clearly, there are a lot of people out there that offer this guidance and expertise in aging life care. What would you say, Lisa, is unique about you, both as a person, but also as a professional in serving families that have these needs or need this assistance dealing with loved ones or other family or friends that are going through some age-related challenges?

Lisa Kaufman:
Great question. I think one of the things that’s distinguishing about me is, this is going to sound really weird. I have a high threshold for pain. So I will take clients that are a little more challenging, not that I’m asking for that, but that advocacy that I mentioned earlier really is very deeply rooted for me. I want everybody to get the best possible care even if they are not, maybe the nicest person, or they don’t have somebody to help them, or whatever it might be. I think everybody deserves the best care. Having said that, I love to work with families who are appreciative and realize that we’re here to help them. So I guess, I don’t know, that must be part of it.

Russ Thornton:
Well, I’m glad you shared that. I think that is important. You can speak to this more than I could, but I would have to think if a person is less patient, more argumentative, a little bit more competitive, they could come across as perhaps being their own worst enemy when trying to seek care and services and certainly advocacy. So I think your willingness to step up and take that on and help them, especially when there’s no one else there-

Lisa Kaufman:
Through the situation. Sometimes the situations are very complicated. We’re really pretty organized. Another thing that I think is differentiating, but it shouldn’t be in my mind, I’ll call people back. I’m accountable. And I think that is really important. We try to be organized. We try to be really communicative and have accountability to who we are serving.

Russ Thornton:
It’s amazing in this day and age how far just, actually doing what you say you’re going to do we’ll go for people.

Lisa Kaufman:
Oh my gosh. I know. So it’s one of those things, I can’t believe I’m even saying this, except that I don’t know that everybody does it anymore. So if I say I’m going to do it, I do it. The other thing that differentiates me is that I’m also a certified end-of-life doula, and there were very few end-of-life doulas period, but certainly in the Atlanta area and among care managers, it’s a specialty. And that’s maybe for a whole other conversation, but it is, again, a guide that is helping the who’s terminally ill plan, personally and spiritually. It’s not a financial thing, it’s not a legal thing, and it’s not really very medical, but it’s to get that person ready for their own passing and to hold vigil for them so they’re not alone.

Russ Thornton:
I had that on my notes to ask you about that. So I’m glad you brought that up.

Lisa Kaufman:
Oh, okay. Cool.

Russ Thornton:
And I tend to agree, that might be a great topic for another conversation.

Lisa Kaufman:
A different time. Yeah.

Russ Thornton:
So we’ll have to have you back to maybe tackle all the ins and outs of that, and some of the, I know you do some, and I might be misremembering this, but I think you’d do Death Cafes, am I remembering that right?

Lisa Kaufman:
I haven’t because of last year.

Russ Thornton:
Well, clearly it’d be-

Lisa Kaufman:
But, yes. And I enjoy that. Death is such a taboo topic, and for reasons I do not understand that myself. I’m really quite comfortable with it and I want people to be okay. I think it goes back to the advocacy. So this was just an opportunity for just anybody. Sometimes we had medical social workers, but then we just had people out in the community who wanted to come and ask questions that they felt uncomfortable asking. It’s not a support group. And every once a while, we would talk about these personal experiences, but it was just so interesting to hear what people wanted to know about. And sometimes they wanted to know about funeral practices or what happens to our bodies, or sometimes they wanted to know what is an advanced directive and why do I need that? So the conversation went all over the place.

Lisa Kaufman:
And the other thing that I did for my group, because I just, I like to bake, so I would bake a cake and bring it. So we would have cake and conversation like civilized people. And it was really lovely to have a very deep conversation with other people that have completely different outlooks in life and different age groups. And one of my favorite groups, actually. Gosh, we must have had 20 people. It was really large. And there were people in their 70s and a few middle-aged people like myself. And then there were 20 somethings they’re, millennials.

Russ Thornton:
Really?

Lisa Kaufman:
And they were all talking about legacy and what that meant. And the boomers thought, if it was financial and they wanted to leave money. And the millennials wanted something personal and sentimental. It was fascinating to me. And it was eye-opening to both groups about where they were coming from and how to meet in the middle. It was really lovely.

Russ Thornton:
Wow. Yeah, that sounds neat. And for those listening out there, if we haven’t already, maybe that sort of what’s your appetite for us to have Lisa back in the future to talk a bit more about her work as an end-of-life doula and the Death Cafes and things like that.

Lisa Kaufman:
Yeah, happy to.

Russ Thornton:
And I imagine baking some cakes was a creative outlet for you as well also.

Lisa Kaufman:
Exactly. I loved it.

Russ Thornton:
Beautiful. Well, that’s awesome. So thanks for sharing that. One more question before we move on, you mentioned a couple of times advocacy, and I think you even used the phrase that you have a real deep-rooted belief in advocacy. Is there anything specific you attribute that deep-rooted commitment to advocacy for others? Do you know where that comes from?

Lisa Kaufman:
I’m not really, really sure, other than, truly Russ, I feel I’m wired this way. But having said that, I lived with my grandmother when I was a little girl. My mother as well, but it was a different experience having my grandmother in the home and it was wonderful. My father passed away when I was 20 and I wanted to advocate, but at that time, it was just stuff you didn’t talk about. And it didn’t sit well with me and I wanted to talk about it. And it’s just taken me a long time to figure out how do you navigate these conversations that really need to be released? People need to have these conversations and how can I facilitate that? I just think it was something I was introduced to at a fairly young age. It’s just part of who I am. I’m not really sure what transpired.

Russ Thornton:
Well, I think that’s as good an answer as any. And it’s fantastic to get to embrace it and live that out and make it your vocation and something you really love doing. So that’s awesome. I know in our conversations over the last few years, you’ve shared a lot of different stories with me about how you’ve been able to get involved and help a family. But as you think back over the years, what’s a favorite client success story that comes to mind for you?

Lisa Kaufman:
I have one that just jumps out every time, and I may have told you, but for your listeners, I’ll go ahead and share again. This is, gosh, it’s been a long time ago now. There was a young woman who was power of attorney for her grandmother. Her grandmother lived in Florida. The granddaughter lived here in the Atlanta area. Grandmother had open-heart surgery and wasn’t rehabbing well. So granddaughter wanted to move her here. So we figured out how to get her from one nursing home to another nursing home in the local area. And she proceeded to decline from there. Developed essentially bedsores and was no longer eligible for physical therapy.

Lisa Kaufman:
So I got brought in because she was not doing well and I evaluated her. And in my testing, because we use some screening tools, and I’ll definitely tell people, I’m not a physician, I’m not diagnosing things, but I do like to screen for stuff. And I want to know what I’m working with. So there’s one particular tool that I use that I really love that examines cognitive deficits, but it looks at things in a very different way, which is part of what I like about it. So one of the things that occurred to me in the screening tool is this woman had a history of stroke and she had left side neglect. And not that I want to get into all of that, but in essence, that is where the damage in the brain on the right side makes the left side forget that things through there. So she truly just didn’t see things.

Lisa Kaufman:
So I noticed this because she’d lost 25 pounds and she just was not doing well. So when I went to her room, her room was situated so that everything was on the left. So she just didn’t see any of it. So her weight loss triggered dietary to start giving her supplements like Boost or Ensure, or any of that stuff. But they opened the can and they put it on her bedside table, which was on the left. So she never saw it. And there wasn’t somebody sitting there encouraging her to drink it. And even if you drink one of those things at room temperature, they’re pretty nasty. So I was like, “All right, that’s interesting.” And then I went and observed her in the dining hall and she only ate food on one side of her plate. And every time she’d pick up her coffee cup, she’d put it back down at the left and then she’d forget where it was.

Lisa Kaufman:
And she was sitting next to a caregiver who was feeding all of these people and they didn’t notice. And I was like, “Okay. Yes, it says that she’s had a stroke, but it doesn’t show that this is impacting her care.” So I was like, “All right, whatever.” So I came back to the granddaughter and I said, “Look, your grandmother is really right at the tipping point of needing hospice, but I would really like to try a simple fix, a caregiver, where she has one person attending to her needs and we need to specifically tell them to supervise the eating, let’s rearrange her room, so then instead of things being on the left, they’re on the right.” Simple fixes to me. So we did all of that. And God love this woman, she improved. She gained weight, her wounds healed, she graduated from PT and then got to move out of the nursing home into an assisted living where she lived for eight more years. The woman lived to be, I think, 94.

Russ Thornton:
Holy cow.

Lisa Kaufman:
Yeah.

Russ Thornton:
From being on the brink of hospice care?

Lisa Kaufman:
Yes. I mean, she wouldn’t make eye contact. She was very apathetic and lethargic. When I first met her, it was night and day. And when we got the proper nutrition and attention on board and made small shifts to support her independence, she became very independent.

Russ Thornton:
What a great story.

Lisa Kaufman:
SO it’s one of my favorite stories.

Russ Thornton:
Well, I can see why. Wow. And I love the fact that ultimately it took some skill and observation to identify the issues, but the actual solution was relatively simple which is-

Lisa Kaufman:
Yes, it was. Here she was in a skilled facility, and even though it was documented that she had this history, nobody took the time to watch what was happening and how to maximize her success. So yeah, I think that is part of why it’s one of my favorites is that it shows a lot of skill as a care manager, good observation, good detective work to figure things out. And then what is an affordable solution with high success.

Russ Thornton:
Yeah. And something else that jumped out at me about that story is that, in this case, the patient was the grandmother, but you were actually approached and engaged by the granddaughter. Is that correct?

Lisa Kaufman:
Correct.

Russ Thornton:
In my mind, that raises an interesting question. Who typically hires you? I assume it’s not necessarily the actual person that needs the care.

Lisa Kaufman:
No. [crosstalk 00:28:21].

Russ Thornton:
It might be their children, or in this case, their grandchildren. Correct?

Lisa Kaufman:
Correct. It’s usually the family, the ones who take on, I don’t know how else to put this, but it is true, the burden of care, it falls to them. Something is no longer working. And someone, usually a social worker is seeking out who can be responsible for this individual who is not successful in whatever it is. And a lot of times the elder themselves, they don’t want to reach out for help for a lot of reasons, including, they don’t want anybody to know, it’s embarrassing. If you’re starting to be incontinent, you don’t want people to know. And when people, they have cognitive impairment, they may know enough to hide what they’re embarrassed about.

Lisa Kaufman:
So numerous times we’ve run into, just for the incontinence issue, where people hide soiled undergarments in pocket books, in purses, in hampers, in all sorts of places, potted plants, just weird things because they don’t want anyone to know, it’s embarrassing. And that part, they know. They know this is embarrassing. So dignity is a huge issue. So they maybe don’t want that. They’re fearful that they’re going to be put up in a nursing home and no one will see them again. So they don’t want people to know that they need help, or they don’t want to spend any money. They want to leave it to their kids or their grandkids. So they maybe have been saving for their entire lives and they don’t want to spend that money. Well, it’s their money and they need it for their care. So use it. This is what you saved it for.

Lisa Kaufman:
So those are some of the plethora of reasons why the seniors themselves don’t reach out and the families do. The families need the help finding the right care and supervising, monitoring what’s going on with their older loved one.

Russ Thornton:
I think you might’ve just answered this, but let me ask it in a different way. So from your perspective, Lisa, what’s the biggest challenge that you help people address or solve through your work? And I know that’s a big question.

Lisa Kaufman:
Yeah, because we do a lot. I guess we want to resolve whatever the source of pain is. And it can be physical pain, it can be emotional pain, it can be stress and it’s pain for both the family and the senior. Just like that story about the grandmother, that had we not observed, we wouldn’t have known, or I wouldn’t have known what the root cause was. And a lot of times people are so busy putting band-aids on things. They don’t ever drill down to what’s the root source of the pain?

Lisa Kaufman:
And I think one of the things that care managers do really well, certainly my team is we don’t look at things at the surface. We want to really dig deep and see why has it come to this? Instead of putting another pill on things or just that band-aid cover up approach, we want, what needs to be extracted? What do we need to explore? How do we correct this at a very deep level so that it’s really fixed if we can? It’s just not okay to, “Well, chalk it up to old age and let’s keep going.” That’s not a good answer to me.

Russ Thornton:
Right. Right.

Lisa Kaufman:
I don’t know if that answered your question.

Russ Thornton:
It does. It does. And I know that, as you said, you guys, you do a lot, so that would probably put too much on the spot there. I guess, and maybe kind of a different, a variation of that question is, what have you encountered that maybe is a common misconception about the work you do? Maybe something that, a myth or a misconception that you’d like to dispel.

Lisa Kaufman:
Not sure that it would be a myth, but definitely a misconception, people don’t know what care management is, what aging life care management or geriatric care management is. So when I introduce the concept, it’s abstract. So people are in a hurry. So sometimes they quickly try to categorize what we do, “Oh, you do home health.” or, “Oh, you have a home care…” No, I don’t do either of those things. Well, you don’t because they stop listening. As soon as they think they know what you do, they stop listening. So I get a whole lot of, “Somebody told me to call you, but I just need a sitter for my mom.” I don’t do that. I can help you find that and I will help you find the right one, but we don’t actually lay hands on anybody.

Lisa Kaufman:
We are managing the aging care and the healthcare for this individual. And I think another common misconception, not necessarily about care management, but about physicians, and I’m going to just put a disclaimer in here, I don’t dislike physicians. So please don’t take this the wrong way. Physicians often are in their own offices. They have a very specific amount of time that they can spend with each patient. They don’t make the money they used to make because Medicare pays them less every year. So there’s a real time crunch to get all of those patients seen as quickly as possible. So they don’t have the time to sit and spend… They certainly aren’t going to people’s homes to see how they really live. So a lot of people have the misconception that the physician knows all of this stuff, who the providers are, what’s assisted living, getting the care they needed, how long-term care insurance works, that they are the pinnacle of information on aging.

Lisa Kaufman:
They are the pinnacle of information on how the body works, disease process and medications, treatment, surgeries, yes, absolutely. But I’ve also run into plenty of people who said, “Well, the doctor said my mom needs a nursing home.” And as I’m asking questions, “Well, tell me more about her physical condition.” “Well, she’s healthy as a horse. She just has dementia.” “Oh, why did they say she needed a nursing home?” “Well, they said she needs 24-hour care.” I say, “Does she need 24-hour supervision or 24-hour care?” “Oh, well, I guess it’s really just supervision.” “All right, She doesn’t need a nursing home. She needs a memory care unit and assisted living.” And it opens up their world. It’s a whole different conversation.

Lisa Kaufman:
And I just find that people often, they go to their primary care physicians who maybe are not geriatricians. They might see a lot of old people, but they didn’t really study old people. So they aren’t as informed as I wish they were often. There are plenty who do a great job and I love working with them, don’t get me wrong, but I think a lot of times people think that the answer to their questions is whatever their doctor tells them. And it’s not always the case.

Russ Thornton:
Right, right. And thank you for explaining that. I agree that arguably any professional service is somewhat abstract. And I think that people just tend to pigeonhole you or I into something that’s familiar to them. And I think that having the opportunity to explain and give examples and tell stories, like what we’re doing here, [crosstalk 00:36:34].

Lisa Kaufman:
I was just going to say, that’s why this is so awesome. And I appreciate it, Russ.

Russ Thornton:
Yeah, yeah. And so hopefully that’ll help break through some of those misconceptions.

Lisa Kaufman:
Cool.

Russ Thornton:
So thanks. Yeah. So thanks for sharing that. We’re running a little bit long. Are you okay on time, Lisa?

Lisa Kaufman:
I’m fine with it. And you can edit as you need to.

Russ Thornton:
Okay, perfect. So let’s say you do have the opportunity. Someone’s referred to you, and you do have an opportunity to explain what aging life care is and what you do. And maybe more importantly, what you don’t do. In your experience, what prevents someone from actually engaging you, or following your advice? Or let’s say they have engaged you and you’ve done an analysis, a needs analysis, and you’ve given them advice, but maybe they don’t follow through all the advice. What do you think prevents people from actually following through and doing what you’ve identified, or maybe what they’ve identified as the best course of action?

Lisa Kaufman:
Oh my gosh. That’s a slippery slope right there. Honestly, I think it’s control issues.

Russ Thornton:
Really?

Lisa Kaufman:
Yeah. If the family member is paying a consultant, which in essence, we are, for our professional advice and then not follow it, that speaks to something about them that’s not working well. Sometimes it is that the loved one doesn’t want their relative to get sick, old, and die. So they do everything they think they need to be doing to keep that person alive forever, which is not realistic, but sometimes they have a need to be right, so they want to do it the way they want to do it, even though it’s not working and they ask for help and they aren’t listening to the advice that’s given. I’m sure you’ve had clients that came to you and then didn’t do what you said you wanted them to do.

Lisa Kaufman:
I’m okay with people doing what they want to do, but the things that I don’t like is when you then complain that it didn’t work. And I’m like, “Yeah, but you didn’t do what I said.” Or the rare occasion that they didn’t like the outcome, so they don’t want to pay for it. I’m like, “Yeah, but you didn’t do what I said. And then you don’t get to not pay me for that.”

Russ Thornton:
We could likely compare notes, but it’s interesting how psychology and human [crosstalk 00:39:08] plays into all this. And I’m sure we collectively bring each of our own biases and personal histories to the table that all impact these decisions for better or worse, but-

Lisa Kaufman:
Yes. We are the accumulation of our experiences. Absolutely.

Russ Thornton:
That’s interesting. So let’s say someone listening to this, let’s say they’re in college, or maybe they’re older, but they have a younger child or even a grandchild, but is listening to this and they’re like, “Wow. The work that Lisa does sound really interesting and challenging and rewarding.” And I’m maybe getting ready to graduate high school, or maybe I’m in college and I’d like to learn more about that. Is there any specific advice or guidance you might give to a younger person that’s interested in maybe building up their skill set or exploring more about how they might pursue this type of work?

Lisa Kaufman:
Oh, yes. And I would love that. We need more care managers. The more care managers we get, the more familiar the concept will be to people and the better served the general public will be. There are some academic institutions that have care management programs. Some of them are degreed and some of them are just certifications. So that is important to note. My preference at this time, just because this is still a fairly young profession, I love when people in the medical field, clinicians, providers decide that they do want to do this because they have the field experience to offer a larger bandwidth and expertise to what they do.

Lisa Kaufman:
I think somebody coming straight out of college or getting ready to go to college and they’re like, “Well, I’d like to get a degree in care management.” I think that is fabulous and I applaud that. You may or may not get all of the field experience you need, but if you went in under social work, or nursing, or speech therapy, or physical therapy, or any of these other things, you’re going to get a broader base knowledge at this time. So I know that I have colleagues who will not agree with me about this, but you’re asking me, so I’m telling you my opinion. When I look to hire people, that’s what I’m looking for. I have a youthful staff member right now, but she’s got great experience and she’s learning as she’s going. And we all do.

Lisa Kaufman:
I feel like if you stop learning, you may as well, no longer be living. She has great field experience and she is doing an amazing job. So she’s young, she’s doing a bridge program from LPN to RN. And I’m just so supportive of her own professional development. It’s exciting to watch that, but I do think that students can get in, in a variety of different ways, whatever they’re really called to do or interested in if you like, the really messy medical side. Well, nursing might be a good way for you to go. If you’re more compassionate and you really want to work on the psych issues and the family dynamics, then maybe social work might be a better way to go. There are a lot of different ways you can get in into the field and actually the aforementioned website has information on how to become a care manager.

Russ Thornton:
Interesting. So thanks for sharing that. It sounds like there’s a lot of ways to pursue work in this field.

Lisa Kaufman:
There are.

Russ Thornton:
And as we mentioned earlier, the website Lisa’s referring to, we’ll be sure to share that in the show notes. So if you’ve gotten interested in looking into more resources or identifying a care manager in your area, then sounds like that’d be a great resource for you.

Lisa Kaufman:
Yeah. It’s a great resource.

Russ Thornton:
So the name of this podcast is Women’s Retirement Radio. As you know, a lot of the work I do revolves around retirement for women and their families. When you think of the word retirement, Lisa, what comes to mind for you personally?

Lisa Kaufman:
I’m not really sure when I’m going to do it. I think it’s going to be a while and in part because I do enjoy what I do so much. Oops. Please edit that out. I do enjoy what I do. So it may be awhile. I want to find a happy way to continue giving back to the community. But it also means to me that I’ll have the options both for my own care and comfortable living as I get older, but also to be able to do things that I enjoy and being able to have the resources to do that. And one of the things I know about what I do and what you do is having financial resources gives you more options.

Russ Thornton:
Yeah. And options are good.

Lisa Kaufman:
Yes they are.

Russ Thornton:
So hearing you put it in those terms, it sounds like to you, retirement is, well, maybe it hasn’t been defined in specific terms. It sounds like it’s a kind of a point in time, like when things change, either your work changes or how you spend your time changes. Is that fair to say?

Lisa Kaufman:
Yeah, that is fair to say.

Russ Thornton:
And can you imagine maybe, and I’m making air quotes when I say retirement, can you imagine retiring, but still being involved, maybe dialing back some with your work in [crosstalk 00:45:18] like that?

Lisa Kaufman:
Oh, absolutely. Oh, absolutely. Yeah. [crosstalk 00:45:21].

Russ Thornton:
Yeah. I think that’s interesting and I always like to explore people’s ideas around retirement because it means so many different things to so many people. So thanks for sharing that.

Lisa Kaufman:
Can I share a story that again you can edit out later if you want to?

Russ Thornton:
Yeah, please. And I think, I don’t know if I didn’t tell you, but this is a no edit recording show.

Lisa Kaufman:
Oh, crap.

Russ Thornton:
Let it fly.

Lisa Kaufman:
So back when I worked at Emory University Hospital, I did have the opportunity, I usually worked in the psych and substance abuse unit, which actually doesn’t even exist anymore. That’s how old I am. So I have interesting experiences from that time, but I would float to the rehab center and cover there as a recreation therapist. And we had a lot of men who were going through rehab post stroke, right after a stroke. And it turned out that they had strokes right after retirement, within six months. And there was a correlation between going from, especially for men, no offense, and I know this is for women, but still, men and certainly of that generation, because we’re talking 30 years ago. You worked and that was what your identity was. And then when you didn’t work, you didn’t know what to do with yourself. So people got sick.

Russ Thornton:
[crosstalk 00:46:48].

Lisa Kaufman:
And I think women do on large a better job of having a more balanced or well-rounded life, where they have other things that they like to do. But I do have a belief that if you stop doing stuff altogether and do nothing, that is when illness and dementia really could kick in, just that lack of stimulation, that lack of socialization, that lack of involvement, the decreased learning new things. All of that stuff is good stuff for brain health and being involved. And so to me, retirement needs to have some sort of involvement of something or there’s a huge risk that you won’t be enjoying that time.

Russ Thornton:
Yeah. So thanks for sharing that story. And I find that super interesting and I couldn’t agree more. I think that while retirement is usually associated with work, I think the transition from full-time work to full-time life can be very abrupt for some people.

Lisa Kaufman:
[crosstalk 00:48:05].

Russ Thornton:
And I think a lot of us take for granted what we get from our work beyond a paycheck. We have social interactions, we have responsibilities, we have decision-making skills that helps keep us sharp. So I agree. I think that a lot of people are risking accelerated decline if they retire to literally nothing.

Lisa Kaufman:
Nothing. And I don’t know of any really great courses or anything out there, and again, this comes from my recreation therapy background. How to prepare for retirement from that aspect, not the financial aspect, but from the quality of life and being… What are you going to do? And getting yourself ready. Accountability. There’s a lot of accountability when you’re working and then you go to not working and it’s like a pandemic where you don’t know what day it is. We don’t shower every day. We’re wearing sweat pants and yoga pants. We all got a taste of what retirement sort of feels like. I think it would be interesting to see how to help people prepare in a different way, in a personal way for that huge change in lifestyle after years of doing what we do.

Russ Thornton:
Yeah, that’s sounds interesting. Yeah. That’s interesting. We’ll have to put a pin in that, maybe that’s something you and I can just discuss offline, [crosstalk 00:49:36].

Lisa Kaufman:
Yeah. Perfect. Sign me up.

Russ Thornton:
Well, thanks you for telling that story. I think it really adds some color to the different, not just the different views, but the different impact that varying degrees of retirement can have on our lives, both physically, but also emotionally and mentally and things like that.

Lisa Kaufman:
And financially.

Russ Thornton:
Yeah, of course. How do you think your work impacts women and their families as they are planning for, or transitioning into retirement?

Lisa Kaufman:
I think that caregiving traditionally and statistically falls to women, whether it’s for children. And we’ve seen lots of studies about how the female workforce for mothers has been negatively impacted by the pandemic and schools being online. But the same phenomenon happens for caregiving for older relatives. It statistically falls to women, I’ll just put it that way. So that does impact their working and their productive years as they get a little bit older and they don’t have kids at home maybe. When their earning potential is the highest, for men too, but for women who then find themselves in the role of caregiver and they’re taking a loved one to the doctor every week, because that’s not uncommon, they’re taking more time off, sometimes they go part-time.

Lisa Kaufman:
I’ve worked with women who took early retirement to take care of their loved one so their loved one didn’t have to spend any money on care. And I said, “That is so noble of you.” And I don’t know if you can hear my voice dripping in sarcasm. And I tried to be very nice when I said it. So don’t get me the wrong way, but I said, “Please think of yourself. You are now not making what you need for your own retirement. Why would you do this? Because you’re a beautiful daughter? Yes. Okay. I get that. But the guilt trip’s only kind of go so far and then you’re going to be at a loss.” I think it’s important to think about what your own needs are. And being a caregiver doesn’t mean that you don’t address your own needs. We all need to take care of ourselves first and then care for whoever we’re taking care of. And women don’t do that well.

Russ Thornton:
I agree. I’ve experienced the same thing that they, oftentimes naturally fall into the caregiver role. And unfortunately, sometimes at the expense of their own self-care.

Lisa Kaufman:
Correct.

Russ Thornton:
Not just financially either, I mean, [crosstalk 00:52:31].

Lisa Kaufman:
No, no.

Russ Thornton:
Sometimes they’re burning the candle at both ends and they’re not getting enough sleep and it just spirals downhill from there.

Lisa Kaufman:
Correct. Correct.

Russ Thornton:
Wow. Well, I think the takeaway there is that there are resources, like yourself and your company that can help either relieve women of this burden, or if nothing else share the burden with them and have some skilled, some expertise in place to again, help navigate and help make decisions so you don’t have to shoulder that entire burden yourself [crosstalk 00:53:05].

Lisa Kaufman:
Absolutely. Exactly, exactly. So I used to facilitate support groups. It’s been awhile and I really loved doing it. So I’d love to do it again. And I would tell the caregivers who came to the support groups, and this is usually for Alzheimer’s disease, which is just this slow, insidious process of loss and grief and change. It just takes such a long time. Anyway, many of the participants were women and many of them had such feelings of guilt about how they needed to care for their parents or relative. And I would say, nowhere is it written that you need to be the diaper changer and that you have to be involved at that level.

Lisa Kaufman:
I said, “You can hire a caregiver to do the things that are too hard, or you don’t have time, or you don’t want to do. And that doesn’t diminish that you still get to have sleepless nights and be the decision maker and be the number one warrior. You’re still the primary caregiver. And you don’t have to give somebody a shower.” Get the help you need to allow you more time and energy and bandwidth to take good care and make good decisions for people. That’s what they’re relying on.

Russ Thornton:
Yeah. I cannot underline that point enough because whether you’re a woman or a man or a married couple, if in the efforts to care for an aging parent or a grandparent or whatever-

Lisa Kaufman:
Or spouse.

Russ Thornton:
… if you jeopardize your own situation, what have you really accomplished?

Lisa Kaufman:
Exactly. One of the questions that we ask when we’re talking with the family member about engaging with us, because sometimes I talk to folks and they’re not quite sure that they’re ready to do this. So one of the questions is, what happens to the loved one you’re taking care of if something happens to you? And that prompts action.

Russ Thornton:
What a great question.

Lisa Kaufman:
I have a relatively new client now that we had been talking for years and he wasn’t ready. He wasn’t ready. And he had his own health scare, which meant there was no one to care for his partner. And that was a game changer.

Russ Thornton:
Yeah, I bet. I guess the other side of that same coin is, a question I’ve asked in a similar vein is, if you jeopardize your financial position or whatever, taking care of your parent, for example, you’re increasing the likelihood that you’re going to pass the same burden down to your children as you age. And that’s usually a real eye-opener [crosstalk 00:55:55].

Lisa Kaufman:
Yes. That’s a great point. Great point.

Russ Thornton:
Well, I think we’ve identified at least half a dozen topics that are probably worthy of another episode at some point in the future.

Lisa Kaufman:
Cool. Have fun.

Russ Thornton:
And that’s probably one of them. But as we wrap up our conversation today, Lisa, which I’ve loved by the way. This has been great.

Lisa Kaufman:
Oh, yeah. Very fun. Thank you.

Russ Thornton:
We’ve clearly covered a lot, but if there were one thing, a single thing our listeners could take away from our talk to our conversation today, what would you want that one thing to be?

Lisa Kaufman:
Yeah, we have talked about a lot. You know what? I’m just going to piggyback on what we were just talking about. And this is also something that I used to say in those support groups for the caregivers, self-care is very important. And if something happens to you because you weren’t taking care of yourself, that is going to impact whoever is relying on you, whether they are children or they’re an older loved one, or they are a spouse. It doesn’t matter who you’re caring for if you no longer are able to provide that for them, because you didn’t take care of yourself, then they are doubly at a loss.

Lisa Kaufman:
So it is so important for caregivers to have self-care knowing they’re at risk to having caregiver burnout and to prevent that. And self-care will go a long way in preventing that burnout. But getting the help you need only makes it better for all of you.

Russ Thornton:
Yeah. Amen to that. I think that’s a great place to wrap things up. So Lisa, if people listen to this, or maybe this was passed along to them by a friend or family member and they think, “Man, I need to reach out and talk to Lisa or at least learn more.” What’s the best way for people to get in touch with you or learn more about you and SeniorCare Options?

Lisa Kaufman:
Well, our website is www.seniorcareopt.com. That’s a great way. There’s an info button. There’s some white papers on there that you can download and you can connect with me that way. And our phone number is (770) 579-9177.

Russ Thornton:
Awesome. Thanks. And we’ll be sure to include the website and the phone number in the show notes. And of course, anyone, you’re welcome to reach out to me and I’m happy to connect you with Lisa as well, but certainly don’t hesitate to reach out to her directly. Lisa, this has been fun. I’m glad we-

Lisa Kaufman:
It has. Thanks so much, Russ. I always enjoy talking with you, period, but it’s always great, you have such wonderful questions and I appreciate the opportunity to share what I do.

Russ Thornton:
Yeah. Well, I’m glad we had the opportunity to hopefully let a few more people out there know who you are and what it is you do. So hopefully you’ll hear from some folks. Before we wrap it up for good, anything you want to add or any closing thoughts?

Lisa Kaufman:
The help is there. Don’t be afraid to ask for it. It doesn’t mean that you’re not doing a good job.

Russ Thornton:
Awesome. Well, thanks again, Lisa. And thanks everyone for listening. Again, this is Russ with Women’s Retirement Radio, and we’ll look forward to catching up with you on the next episode.

Thanks for reading. While you’re here, be sure to sign up for my weekly email newsletter where I share tips, advice, and stories about the intersection of money and our lives. Just click here to join the community.

Russ Thornton
Russ Thornton
Hi there! I'm Russ, and I help women in their 50s and 60s achieve and maintain their desired lifestyle leading up to and throughout their retirement years. Imagine being able to look forward to a comfortable and confident financial future...
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