Mature Businesses Companies Focused On The Needs Of The Elderly Offer Compassionate, Diverse

In everyone’s life, freedom from anxiety comes in both large and small ways.


Knowing an elderly parent is being cared for daily by a trusted professional, for instance, will make anyone breather easier. A sigh of relief can also come, however, from a balanced checkbook or a freshly cleaned kitchen.

Businesses that focus on the many issues that elders face on a daily basis take those truths very seriously. Such companies, usually small and entrepreneurial in nature, are varied in their services, but one quality binds them together: a notable, and very necessary, level of compassion for all clients.

Whether addressing the various stages of aging and the care required for each, or providing much needed services that simply improve an elder’s quality of life, elder businesses are comprised of an interesting niche of professionals who have chosen to mold their specific strengths into careers that offer the elderly and their loved ones a remarkable product: peace of mind.

At Your Service

Joanne Craven Dunn, owner of Geriatric Care Solutions and Management Inc., said that because the small businesses that work with elders are so diverse, they often work with one another as well, through referrals, partnerships, or sub-contracting.

Dunn, a board certified gerontological nurse and national certified care manager, began her own business after 28 years of focusing her practice in geriatrics. She said she realized while reading about the profession that her own strengths and career goals were a good fit for care management, and for making the leap into self-employment.

She began her business in 2001, offering nursing and case management services for elders. Dunn now serves as a consultant and an advocate, working with elders and their families to find solutions for myriad issues ranging from transportation to and from doctor’s appointments to 24-hour home care.

“I meet with people and conduct an assessment,” Dunn explained, adding that assessments of her clients are both lengthy and comprehensive and include addressing some of the tough issues that the elderly face, such as whether or not they should still be driving or living in their own homes.

“I come up with recommendations for services that will be best for the client and make the most improvements to their quality of life. Every client’s needs are different. After the recommendations are made, then it’s up to the client whether or not I stay on to help implement those recommendations.”

If Dunn does remain with a client after an initial assessment, she becomes the hub of a wheel with many spokes, made up of any number of people who also provide services to the elderly.

Those services can include dog walking or ‘cultural companionship’ – people who can accompany elders to the theatre, symphony, and art gallery, or other cultural pursuits, in addition to home health aides for people with mobility, cognitive, or physical issues.

Dunn said she also utilizes the services of professional organizers for many clients in order to create safer, more accessible environments. Better organization, she said, does a great deal to minimize the stress that can increase as people age.

Everything in its Place

Audrey Child, owner of Loose Ends in Amherst, agreed. Child provides personal organizing, accounting, and scheduling services for her elderly clients, in order to help them maintain personal files, keep track of correspondence, pay bills prepare taxes, and monitor prescriptions, in addition to a number of other tasks designed to streamline daily living.

“I’ve been organizing for about 12 years, and I had a few elder clients that I really enjoyed working with,” said Child, noting that assisting elders in the field of professional organization is unique because often, her clients are reluctant to work with her at first. “It’s the very nature of aging that you give up so much power and control. Just the act of letting someone else do things for you is a difficult decision; there is a certain degree of shame involved with messiness. I tell my clients that a little chaos is OK, but there are ways to make life easier, too.”

Child will perform any task that will help organize a client’s paperwork, especially in the financial arena, including sorting out bill payments and assisting with the systems many large companies now use to automate their billing practices, including touch-tone phone and online systems. She said she tries to address all problems leading to disorganization, if her clients are willing, even if she was only hired to complete one task.

“It’s often letting a lot of little things go that creates the initial problem,” she said. Exploration of that can lead to unexpected solution to many problems.”
One client, for instance, was unaware that she was entitled to long-term care benefits, because her husband had always handled the finances. But after her daughter hired Child to sort through some documents and get things in order for her mother, the discovery was made, leading to better home care for Child’s client, who up to that point had been passing up needed services due to their cost.

“The family was just overjoyed,” Child said.

Staying Near and Dear

And like most professionals who work with elders on a regular basis, Child said family involvement is a constant in her field. Often, elder businesses address the everyday issues that aging populations face, but are initially hired or maintain close ties with adult children, spouses, or other relatives. And even though the act of balancing an elder’s checkbook can give their children or spouse some added peace of mind, sometimes more involved services are needed to help families through difficult times.

Donalyn Gross, Ph.D., a licensed social worker and thanatologist (an expert on death and dying), has worked as a death and dying counselor for more than 25 years, and created her business Good Endings to assist families with just such trying times. She offers her expertise in death and dying to family members and health care workers in the form of workshops, classes, and will also sit with the dying to help them through the process.

In addition, Gross pairs her musical abilities with her professional strengths to offer music therapy, mimicking breathing patterns of a patient with a small harp to soothe and relax them, and has authored several books and guides to help others understand the process of death and dying, and the best way to handle such an experience.

“From working with the needs of the dying and those responsible for their care, I realized that there is a need for psychosocial and psychological death education,” she said.

Gross works with several long-term care facilities in the Western Mass. area, including SunBridge Care and Rehabilitation in East Longmeadow and Heritage Hall West in Agawam, providing care for what she terms ‘actively dying’ residents and their loved ones.

“Sometimes I feel all alone in the death and dying business, but it’s something that I have gained a lot of rewards from. When a family tells me they feel better because their mother or father didn’t die alone, I know that I made a difference.”

Through her experiences with various families and facilities, Gross has developed a number of unique additions to her business, all created after someone she worked with made a suggestion. An accomplished musician, Gross has recorded three CDs of tranquil music that can to comfort a dying individual, or simply for relaxation. She has also created a video of one of her workshops, to be used in facilities interested in her service across the country.

That diversification of her small business has been intrinsic to addressing the needs of the people she works with as well as keeping business strong.

Dunn and Child agreed; each of them have found additional opportunities for new services through their clients, and those opportunities are not always merely ways to increase revenue.

A Rewarding Experience

Child, for instance, has seen the wellbeing of some of her clients increased dramatically after being introduced to her ‘employee of the month,’ Lucy the Loose Ends Lap Dog.

Lucy, Child’s miniature Schnauzer, accompanies Child at no extra charge to select appointments to play or sit with clients.

Similarly, Dunn recently filled a request from a client to accompany an elderly relative on a flight from Western Mass. to Raleigh, N.C. After that maiden voyage, Dunn added travel assistance to her business repertoire, accompanying elderly travelers on their journey to anywhere in the world to ensure a safe trip.

“This business is not rigid,” said Dunn. “If there is something more I can do, then I do it. Anything is in the realm of possibility.”