Launch Homecare

I Just Need You To Be My Friend

“What can I do for you, Ms. Smith?” (Name changed to protect identity)

“Well… There’s nothing you can really do. I just need you to listen to me. You’re a good listener and, well, you’re the only friend I have in the world.”

There was a brief silence as our conversation paused for a moment. Ms. Smith had been a patient of ours’ for over a year as our staff provided care for her in her home on the East side of Tucson, AZ around 120 miles or so south of Phoenix. She was 96 years old and had been developing a form of dementia over the recent years and it was clearly affecting her memory. I had given her my personal cell phone number in the very beginning never realizing she would call me nearly every day for the next year and typically at a rate of 5-7 times/day.

I’ve had hundreds of conversations with Ms. Smith; many of which wouldn’t make sense and I knew the dementia was setting in. She would call me at 1:00a.m. wanting to discuss the schedule and if I didn’t pick up the phone, she would call a dozen times until I did. As much as this drove me crazy, I knew that, deep down, she wasn’t trying to intrude. She was simply alone; vulnerable to her own mental instability for which she was incapable of doing anything about. We can’t fight the aging process. It comes whether we are ready for it or not.

Launch HomecareIt was on this particular day, though, that my conversation with Ms. Smith stands out in my memory and I know I’ll never forget it. I didn’t fully know it then, but I later found out that the dog watcher she had hired had been manipulating and exploiting her for years to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Slowly but surely over the months leading up to this day, Ms. Smith began sharing bits and pieces of the fear she was living with. She didn’t want to lose her independence and she didn’t want anyone to come and “take her away”.

She described the days she lived in New York entertaining the socialites of the time and how she’s travelled all over the world. She would always tell me she couldn’t believe she was still living at 96 but that God must have some kind of plan for her still. She described her fears that people didn’t think she was capable of living in her home anymore. As the state began their investigation, I knew it was only a matter of time before she would have to leave. With no strong family support, she was vulnerable to the likes of this dog watcher and others who seek to exploit the most vulnerable in our society. She began to cry on the phone as she described her feelings of incredible loneliness.

Not wanting to simply pacify her with empty advice, I asked simply: “What can I do for you, Ms. Smith?”

“Well… There’s nothing you can really do. I just need you to listen to me. You’re a good listener and, well, you’re the only friend I have in the world. I love you with all of my heart”.

I was speechless. I knew the dementia was affecting her greatly and that, for the most part, the things she would tell me were only glimpses of reality overshadowed by confusion. But it was as if in a brief moment of clarity, her heart and her mind connected in her expression of vulnerability and appreciation for the more than year of conversations we’d had about life.

“I love you too, Ms. Smith.” – was the only thing I knew to say.

Launch HomecareShe wished me good day and hung up the phone. In the weeks that followed, Ms. Smith’s life changed dramatically. On behalf of my company, I cooperated with the state to ensure she was protected. In a dramatic scene, I helped lead detectives to the capture of the dog watcher who was indicted and thrown in jail. His assets were seized for the purpose of hopefully recovering some of the hundreds of thousands of dollars he exploited from this vulnerable woman. The state deemed her too vulnerable to live at home and came in one day to “take her away”. My heart broke for her that day as I know that was her biggest fear. But I knew she was safe now and that we had done our part in protecting her from those who would seek to do her harm.

As senior care entrepreneurs, we have the amazing opportunity but also the sincere responsibility to protect those most vulnerable under our care. But I don’t see this is as a burden. I see this as one of the many aspects of being an entrepreneur in this industry that is not only fulfilling, but rewarding as well. More than likely, you will have a similar opportunity to stand up for someone who you see being abused or to break open a family secret where exploitation is affecting some vulnerable adult late in their life.

As you build your home care & assisted living placement business, make it a point to make integrity one of your company’s greatest values. Integrity is what will guide your team to stand up for those most vulnerable and it will be the very quality that builds your reputation as being a truly trustworthy senior care company in your community.

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