Love Conquers Alz

JENNIFER LAGEMANN is Gen Z. Only 23, She's Looking To Change the Way the World Ages

February 21, 2022 Jennifer Lagemann, Susie Singer Carter and Don Priess Season 4 Episode 52
Love Conquers Alz
JENNIFER LAGEMANN is Gen Z. Only 23, She's Looking To Change the Way the World Ages
Show Notes Transcript

It was so refreshing to speak with Jennifer Lagemann!! Jenn  is a former family caregiver, and has spent most of her career in the private duty home care industry as a scheduling and intake coordinator.

Caregiving for her best friend, her grandmother,  lead Jennifer to want to pursue the home care industry.  Her experience marries home care and digital marketing skills to help  businesses succeed.
 
At only 23, Jennifer is highly motivated to change the face of aging, dispel myths, and challenge the narrative and uses a PRO-AGING philosophy in all of her work. We need to sprinkle more Jennifers all around the world!!

Connect with Jennifer:

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ANNOUNCER:

When the world has gotcha, and Alzheimer's sucks. It's an equal opportunity disease that chips away at everything we hold dear. And to date, there's no cure. So until there is we continue to fight with the most powerful tool in our arsenal. Love. This is love conquers all is a real and really positive podcast that takes a deep dive into everything. Alzheimer's, The Good, the Bad, and everything in between. And now, here are your hosts Susie Singer Carter, and me, Don Priess.

Susie Singer Carter:

Hello, everybody. I'm Susie Singer Carter.

Don Priess:

And I'm Don Priess. And this is love conquers all. Hello, Susan.

Susie Singer Carter:

Hi, Donald. What's up?

Don Priess:

How are ya? So what's happening?

Susie Singer Carter:

A lot of good things are happening in for our other podcast. I love Lucifer. And I'm excited about that. So stay tuned for some announcements for Season Two. And one thing is, I'm going to say... my mom is in the hospital. She's been in the hospital for going on 10 days

Don Priess:

You're going to storm Washington. now. Two weeks? Yeah, Almost two weeks. So which is pretty much a direct cause of the issue that we're going to talk about today. And amongst other things. So we have a really wonderful guest today, Don, that I met, once again on social media, and now is a part of my community. And I'm a part of her community. And her name is Jennifer Lagemann. She's only 23 years old and and every time she writes something about caregiving or aging and embracing aging in a dignified healthy way, I'm blown away because she has such insight and depth and soul. And she is she's just is such a great role model for her generation, which I'm not quite sure if it's I think it's Gen X no and Gen Z. This is a fresh perspective and just the face of of our of the new generation coming up and I just wanted to to introduce everybody to her if you don't know her already, because she's going to be such a force in our community and I I just have so much respect for her. Jenn was a family caregiver who spent most of her career in private duty home care industry in scheduling and intake coordinator and she's currently a copywriter, journalist and researcher in the caregiving and aging space and soon to be my my coalition partner because we're gonna we're gonna ban are together and make some noise and make some

Susie Singer Carter:

Yep, yep. Yep. So without further ado, change. And I'm very excited about that. please welcome Jennifer Lagemann. Hello, Jen.

Don Priess:

Hello, Jennifer.

Jennifer Lagemann:

Hi, guys. Thank you so much for having me today.

Susie Singer Carter:

Oh, my gosh, thank you for thank you for coming and spending your Saturday morning with us. You're 23 years old. I don't understand how you are such a force in this community. But I'm so happy that you are. You are just such a special human being. And I just want to tell the audience a little bit about your background and how you got interested in this whole arena and community of aging and caregiving.

Jennifer Lagemann:

Sure. When I was 12, my maternal grandmother started to need care. She had recovered from a stroke, she started having signs of dementia, and was recovering from cancer all around the same time. And she needed like companionship, socialization. She didn't need a whole ton of care for me in the beginning. But that's when I first started caregiving. And she lived with my family, she was a part of my family structure. And that's what I thought a nuclear family was, as far as I was concerned in my household and having that component. When I was growing up, she had been the one raising me because both my parents worked during the day. So when I was at home, she was always the one that was making me my lunches and stuff. So I was used to having her as my main source of parenting. And that component really helped me to have an appreciation for older adults and aging. And so when I started school, I was a biology major going on a pre med track, I wanted to be a geneticist. And then she passed away my first semester of college and it really shook me in my background and really made me rethink where I wanted to go in life, how I was going to get there and the sciences weren't really doing it for me. I wanted to do something more impactful and something that gave back to my community which I felt in caregiving, I could do, but I was going to do that through writing, because I'd written a lot as a kid and I was like, I want to do this professionally. I want to upgrade it from a hobby to a career. And so I was like, What? What do I need to write about? What what do I know caregiving? And you know, seniors, older adults, stuff like that. So that's how I kind of found my way into the industry. Before she passed. Was she ill? Were you actively caregiving for her? Or was it? Was it just something that that came on? Suddenly? Yeah, she slowly declined over those seven years, I took care of her. It was just a little bit every here and there in the beginning. And then toward the end, we had Home Health coming in, we had hospice coming in. And my grandma was super feisty at 95. So even in getting her in the bath, it took two of us, so it was her aide me, we would get her in the shower. But as soon as she got in the shower, though, she would start cleaning herself, she would help out. It was just a matter of getting her into the shower. That was the problem. But she was such a force. And then, toward the end, she became bed bound. So it became more of sponge baths. But we had a really fantastic hospice aid. That was unlike any of the other ones that we had. We always loved having her come over, she would get my grandma out of bed, put her in her wheelchair, we built a ramp, and she would wheel her outside, she pick a flower for her, and come inside and make her lunch. It was like the most impactful thing ever, and really put a seed in my head. I was like, Ooh, I really want to be a caregiver. Despite the fact that most people probably don't ever want to be a caregiver. For whatever reason, she really made me feel like she genuinely loves my grandma. And she didn't speak any English. So she talked to her, like a friend, she really just says, like, I remember my husband came over. And we were just dating at the time, not really, with titles or anything, but she was like, Look, your grandson and granddaughter here. And it kind of we looked at each other. We're like, oh, it was just a really funny moment. You know, between the four of us, I was like, she doesn't know that we're together. And I just thought it was the funniest thing that she tried to be so involved in our lives and was really a family caretaker. She wasn't just writing care, my grandma, she was really taking care of her family.

Susie Singer Carter:

I think that that observation is is is on point because I think, you know, in my mom's caregiver who was really became part of our family. And and and as my mom's disease progressed, she became her best friend. She was like, This is my best friend. You know, you're my best friend, what are you talking about? You know, and, and to two disparate, more disparate people there weren't right there wasn't and there. And yet, you know, they're the love was so palpable, and respect. And I think I think that kind of frames those kinds of those kinds of caregivers that are the really the best caregivers, they really, they really just get into the family. And and become that I think that's that's, that is the core thing. And one other thing I wanted to touch on is that you you decided you wanted to become a caregiver, and Leeza Gibbons when I interviewed her, she said, it's funny, nobody, nobody grows up as a little kid and says, Oh, I when I get big, I want to be a caregiver. There's no caregiver Barbies. Well, you are caregiver Barbie, that's what you are. You really are. I mean, tell me a little bit about your relationship with your grandma, because it sounds like you had such a close relationship. And I think that obviously informed how you look at the world. And and are you and also what is your what's your cultural background is I always think that that is a part of it, too.

Jennifer Lagemann:

Oh, sure. Yeah, I was raised in a Vietnamese Chinese household. So that really informed my mom's parenting structure, how my grandmother was his she won't be the doting loving grandmother, who gave everything that she could to her grandchild. And my mom was very strict with me. And that was something that kind of clash between us as my grandmother needed more long term care. I wanted to get my grandmother diagnosed. And it wasn't within her belief system to get her diagnosed, it was a part of the natural aging process, as many people think about. And when it came to culture. A lot of the healing process wasreally impactful for me, like whenever I was sick, I really enjoyed being home because my grandmother took care of me, she would take a dog tag and rub it on my back andrelease all the hot air stored within my body. And it would just release all that heat. When that was a part of our holistic wellness that you know, like Chinese acupuncture and holistic medicine. They practice that in our household. It was very interesting to see these things unfold like she would take a boiled egg right out of the pot and roll on my back when I was sick. And then she take a knife, cut it open and you'd see green spots in it, the bacteria that came out and

Susie Singer Carter:

Wha?!?

Jennifer Lagemann:

it's like fake or pseudoscience, but I'm like, wow, how else would those green things have gotten into the yolk of the egg? You know what I mean? It's one of those things that,

Susie Singer Carter:

Ookay, I have to try this.

Jennifer Lagemann:

If you have a cold, or something like that, try it. And like, if you have like, a dog tag or something similar, put some paper up on your back in rub from the center out in lines, kind of like tiger stripes, I'll send you a shirt to show you what it looks like. But yeah, it's super cool. It helps to release the hot air from inside your body when you have like a fever. So high body down from the i nside out.

Susie Singer Carter:

Wow, that's, that's interesting. I mean, it's also interesting in the Asian community, that there is a lot of reverence to the elder generation, which is different than in American families, our our society is just so resistant to aging. So there's no there's no respect for it. It's, it's, it's marginalized and minimalized. And, you know, tucked away and I think, you know, so for that, it's, it's for that, and part of your culture is is, is so beautiful, and needs to be shared more. And then on the other hand, and you can correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe there's a lot of pride in, in the Asian community and a lot of resistance to like you said, your mom having your grandma being diagnosed. Because there's, there's, there's a sort of a shame or or a pride issue about identifying yourself that

Jennifer Lagemann:

Yeah, no, that's right. And get a lot of way. its pride in. It was very interesting, looking back the different ways that my family and I kind of paid because like, I was born in Massachusetts, so I was, you know, American, still am. But my, my mom, her process was very different. She subscribes to Buddhism. And it was when we were grieving. When my grandmother passed away, my mom said, Don't cry, you're holding her back from her next life. And I was just like, I don't know how to not do that, you know, it was just my instant reaction. And, like, I can't help it. It's coming out now. Andthat was my way of grieving. And I, I wrote her letters, I wrote my grandmother letters on my laptop, each day after she passed, just like, hey, I miss you so much. And it was just my way of grieving because our, I didn't know at the time that you were supposed to get bereavement support through your hospice. And we didn't get that. And luckily enough, I was in college. So I went to my grief counselor to help me out there and I had a biology test the day after my grandmother passed away, and I, I ended up having to take it because they wouldn't give me an extension. But she was so tough for me, like it was a really rough, rough time. And my husband and I have only been together for a couple months. So like the the bulk of our relationship has been post grandma. Just really interesting, because I don't know, I'm a different person now than I was before.

Don Priess:

I mean, because you're younger, you have, you know, a social circle, you have friends, who are probably not going through the same thing you're going through, what was how did they see what you were doing? Were they supportive of it? Or going like, Hey, come on, no, let's just go, you know, go to the movies or something. What was what was their reaction?

Jennifer Lagemann:

Funny enough, I never told anybody outside of my social circle, what it was doing. It wasn't something I talked about. I spent a lot of time at school to kind of escape those responsibilities to, you know, join honors band to be part of the robotics team, math team. I was on every team that you could possibly on I was in drama club. I always in everything to try and you know, kind of my respite was going to after school activities, right? Join time with my peers. I didn't really talk about caregiving, just because that was my family thing. And I didn't really know how to talk about it. I didn't know that I was a caregiver. I didn't know all these terms in the industry terms jargon. I didn't really know any of that. It was just you know, a grandkid doing her thing. You know, I didn't really right. Talk about it in the context of caregiving until I was applying for jobs. And I was like, oh caregiver, what's that? Then I read the job description. I was like, Oh, I've done that. And so I started working as a caregiver after that. And that's how I got into homecare but other than that, I really did not know I was a caregiver. And I didn't I couldn't even remember being asked to do this. I feel like it was kind of like a just kind of swept under the rug. Now she's coming home from the hospital. Now we do this it was very seamless.

Susie Singer Carter:

Right.

Don Priess:

But did your did your parents, like, ask you to do it, or did they say this is something that you just as a family, that's just what we do? Or did it just come naturally?

Jennifer Lagemann:

It kind of came naturally. I don't remember being asked. And I feel like I just kind of shadowed my mom in that sense and just kind of wanted to help out and fill in where she couldn't because she worked during the day. So during the summers, when I was in school, I was at home and whenever my uncle who would be there when I was in school, I would relieve him when I get off off the bus.

Don Priess:

It was a team effort.

Susie Singer Carter:

So interesting. Did you ever, you know, and I know how much you love your grandma, because I feel it and hear it. And you've talked about it with me before. And so that said, did you ever feel resentment when you would come home and go, gosh, I just want to be a 17 year old? Or I just want to go? Yes. Okay. Yeah. Because that's normal. Right?

Jennifer Lagemann:

Yeah, I felt a lot of that, especially when I got into college. I was like, I feel like I haven't gotten to complete my childhood yet. And I'm, you know, in college with all of my peers, and I don't feel like, I'm where I'm supposed to be. I used college as an opportunity to really just let loose and have fun, I felt like, I felt bad for having fun. It really didn't feel like I was able to or, you know, felt it didn't feel right, having fun. And I kind of used it as an opportunity to complete my childhood.

Don Priess:

Yeah, it's a thing that we talk about a lot, which is the guilt of taking care of yourself. And realizing that the you know, it's it's really counterintuitive, by taking care of yourself, you're able to take care of them better. You're healthier. And it's hard to come to terms with that though. Let's like how could I be having fun when she's lying there? You know, it's, it's, it's it's such a struggle. And did you ever did you ever come to terms with it? Or was it after that you came to terms.

Jennifer Lagemann:

it was after? And I think it wasn't so much my my grandmother, it was my mom as a gatekeeper. Like, I would be like, can I go to like, you know, my junior prom? Like, no, you have to be home as well. If something happens, you don't I mean, it wasn't so much my grandmother holding me back, it was more my mom, I feel like it was a lot of fear. She didn't know what was going on, she didn't really have a strong of a command of English as I did. And I was always going to the car dealership with her to make sure that the contracts read legitimately. And I went to every appointment with my grandmother to make sure that I could communicate with her physicians in the way that we needed to be communicated about with make sure that the right prescriptions were there and kind of being her advocate. So there was a lot of elements that came into it as well, the translation part because we spoke the southern dialect and Vietnamese in most medical interpreters in like hospitals and debt displaces when we spoke the northern dialect. So it created that tension of language.

Susie Singer Carter:

Have you seen the movie CODA?

Jennifer Lagemann:

I have not. What's it about?

Susie Singer Carter:

Okay, it's about it's about a young, it's a young girl who's part of a nuclear family, her brother, and her mom and her dad are all deaf. And, you know, it's based on a true story. And, and she was born as a hero she could hear, so she became pretty much like the, the ears for the family, the translator, the, and the family, as a unit depended on her to where it impacted her life and made her feel guilty to want to pursue her life as an adult in the areas that she wanted to go, which was music of ironically Right. And, and, you know, the pressure on her to, to stay with within the family and be the one that negotiates, like, even like what you're talking about with contracts, like she, they they were Fisher fishermen and so she would have to go and, and, you know, deal with the buyers and make sure that they were getting a good deal, and they weren't duping them. Right. And and the pressure that she went through it, you know, happens a lot. I mean, that happens in families and you're you really are lived that and looking back on it for other other young people in your position, and what kind of perspective that could you share that you've learned that might help somebody else that's in that position?

Jennifer Lagemann:

Sure. I would encourage people to be vocal about what they do. I never talked about this with anyone and even knowing the symptoms I experienced as a caregiver, it wouldn't have been something I brought up in a physical exam with the doctor like someone had been leading. Are there any physical stressors going on in your life? That could be you know, contribute to your mental health, I would have said no, I wouldn't have it wouldn't have even crossed my mind. It wouldn't have been something I talked about. So I feel like a lot of people might be in a similar situation to not be so forthcoming with what they're doing inside and outside of caregiving. I would encourage you to be more vocal about it and to talk about it with your peers, your parents. Maybe your school counselors, maybe a teacher that you confide in with a lot of a lot of stuff I had a couple of teachers I was super close with in school might be an instructor especially, he was very instrumental part of how I developed through high school. And really, he really pushed me and encouraged me. And I explored different things like I was a flute player. But I also did vocals, and he taught me how to do DJing. So that was very interesting. He also taught me how to do some basic drumming stuff. So it really just taught me to expand my skill set and really be open.

Don Priess:

That's, it's amazing that after all, because you did feel guilt, and you did feel like you kind of had your childhood somewhat, not taken away, but let's say stunted that you chose to continue on in this field. Because I mean, there's something in it that that talks to you. But I mean, was there ever a point you just said, No, I just want to go go to Europe. Just do nothing. After all of tha.

Jennifer Lagemann:

Yeah, yeah, there was one time where, like, she asked her meals on had her meals on wheels come around, like 8am every day during the week. And there was just one day during the summer. And I was like, I gotta make sure we got the eight. I didn't. And our aid came over and was like, where's lunch? And I open the fridge, and I made her bowl Rice's and veggies notice, like, why can't I just sleep in past eight o'clock, like, it was such a small thing that I felt super bad about. But I was also like, you know what, it's the summer I'm out of school, I just want to enjoy the summer. And to do what every other kid does during the summer, you know, going to amusement parks. But then again, it was just me as an only child. So I had that going for me. Because didn't have a lot to go with.

Susie Singer Carter:

Yeah, and that makes sense. So So you know, I'm, I'm, as I'm listening to you, I'm thinking how, you know, cuz I had a 16 year old daughter that lived with me, my daughter when my mom lived with us for a year. And I got quite a bit of, you know, negative feedback initially from some of my peers, like, how can you bring your mom in, it's going to be so hard on your daughter, it's not fair. She's going through, you know, her own thing. And I was like, maybe it's not fair. Maybe I'm doing the wrong thing, you know. And so I have one of my friends who's a doctor, and an endocrinologist and very respected and I said, you know, am I doing the wrong thing? What would you do? And she said, you couldn't be doing the better thing, you're doing such a good thing by role modeling this to your daughter, you're modeling allegiance and family love and, and, you know, accountability, and all these things that are the good thing. So. And at the end of that year that my mom lived with me, my daughter said, I'm not ready for nanny to go. And, and it was a hard year. I mean, it was not easy. It was my mom being feisty, like your grandma feisty as hell knocking on our doors at three in the morning, you know, accusing us of stealing her jewelry when it was our earrings. Right. And we and we had to learn how to deal with it. But we are such better people for it. Right? And, and what would you say? So you know, we know the negatives? We know how hard it is? What what are the positives? And what made you stay in it? And, you know, how would what what advice in that respect? What are the gifts that that you can share with your peers that may be going, you know, "No, it's my life. They're old, and they've had their life?" How can you speak to that?

Jennifer Lagemann:

Absolutely. My grandma was my absolute best friend, no matter how many best friends I may have gotten from school, she was absolutely my best friend. By far, we grew together so much like there were times where I had sleepovers downstairs, we retrofitted our dining room next to the kitchen into her bedroom. And we had like a curtain and all set up for her. But there were times where I'd sleep downstairs with her and kind of have like a sleepover. We'd stay up all night, we play games. She had these hand games thatthey do in Vietnam, you'd like put your hands together and you'd like, kind of manipulate your fingers in such a way and you ask someone to touch a finger and like, is this your middle finger? And then you go like, Oh, yeah, that was really fun. Like just, you know, fun games. We could play together. I'd play the piano and she'd listen. We go on walks together to the park.And it was really fun. We really did grow together. And she gave me my dark sense of humor. I know I got it from her. I remember there was one time I stubbed my knee on the corner of a table. And I was sitting out oh my god, this hurts. And she just walked by with her walker and she started laughing. And right and that's what I got it from. I was like, You know what, when I'm having a tough times, channel, your dark humor and the funnier side of it.

Susie Singer Carter:

Right? Well, humor is the best humor in music. So you're on it. You got the music, you got the humor. You're good to go you got your armor.

Jennifer Lagemann:

I had all my armor and what's also cool is caregiving for my grandmother also acted as a filter for relationship candidates. When I started hanging on my husband, he came over to the house. And it was it took a lot. And I was like, You know what, he loves me, I love him, why not? And you know, if it's not meant to be well, and he came over, we were playing Tarek cards. And my grandmother was getting personal care while we were doing this, and he, you know, just kind of smelled it like I did, and kind of carried on. And it wasn't only a couple months ago, he's like, you remember that? He's like, Yeah, I smelled it. And we were just laughing to ourselves, just like, you know, it made me a better CNA, because I wasn't sure how I was going to handle all these things. I was like, Well, I'm used to, you know, being around the smells of, you know, what I would be interacting with. And I was like, I don't know how to deal with it, like, you know, like pee and poop and all this knowledge behind or like asking on these advice columns, put some vapor up on your nose, once you've been doing it for a couple months, it really doesn't feel like anything. It's really not that big of a deal.

Susie Singer Carter:

Right, right. If you just sensitize, yeah, we get very precious, you know, when we, you know, the way that we've socialized and we've,we've, we've kind of compartmentalized ourselves away from anything that's natural. So you know, it's like, every, everything becomes insulting to our senses, or insulting to our, you know, socialization and, and we've really become bougie in that way, you know, to, for lack of a better word, right, in terms of just natural things. And, and, and so, it is hard to embrace, I mean, even I have to admit, like, and it's interesting, because when my mom became, you know, incontinent. And I remember the first time I had I, she was still mobile, but I still had to take her to the restroom and help her. And it was like, it wasn't really what was happening, it was more about I felt, that her dignity, like she felt embarrassed, or it was, it was about me how to, I didn't know at that point, how to make her feel l okay about it. With and so, you know, I had to learn that because that those are all those things are very delicate. And when you you know, especially with your grandma or my mom, you, you want to respect them and give them their dignity and the dignity is based on, you know, our social frames that have been put up whether if you're Asian, you there's different frames, if you're American, there's different frames, if you're, you know, Indian, there's different frames, but they're nevertheless there's frames that we look through.

Jennifer Lagemann:

Absolutely. Like they don't want you to, you know, feel the, the stigma of this, but you also don't want them to feel bad about, you know, what they're going through, because it's natural, it's, it's okay, it's, you know, it's what's going on, you have to accept the reality of the situation, do what you can with it.

Susie Singer Carter:

100%,

Don Priess:

You decided, you know, basically, you, you, you were caregiving and didn't even know you were a caregiver, you but something about it, talk to you and said, Okay, so after, after she passed, you said, I want to continue doing this. And as you've done it, what are the similarities and differences between caregiving for somebody who is your family, who is your best friend, and somebody who's just, you know, a person that you're doing it for, because that's your job now?

Jennifer Lagemann:

Sure, um, you don't feel the same knowledge, because like, I grew up with my grandma. So I knew everything that made her tick, I knew all of her patterns, I knew how she was and how to how to react with her, or how to respond to something. But when you're in someone else's house, it's hard to know how they react. Also, you have to navigate their house, like where their trash cans are, where their spoons are, how they like their coffee, how they like their cereal, and stuff, you have to learn such a learning curve, whereas with family, you already know everything, you don't need to care plan, because you already done the care planning mentally, you just don't have it on paper. And then when you work at a homecare agency or a facility, they give you a care plan, toilet twice, you know, every two hours or something like that, your regular schedule, and then you have to learn their routine. Like I had a lady that lived in a community who was very particular about her bedtime routine. She had like six pillows, she had a paralyzed right arm, so we had to make sure that we put on and took off her clothing, bearing that in mind, and she had a very particular routine with her hair and pinning it up a certain way. And she was like, Oh, you didn't like that. And then she had this essential oil diffuser had to be filled up. She had a very particular routine about how her nighttime was. So it was there's a lot of a learning curve, but I think the hardest part is developing rapport. Because you don't know what they like, what makes them tick, if they want a talker, if they want someone quiet to just come in, do what they need to do and get out. It's hard to read people and that's not what's in care plans, it's about what you need to get done. While you do for them, then you just leave. Answer their...

Susie Singer Carter:

Right? Right leave. And with your family, you have a haiku you have, you know, you have your your shorthand, you know, I can look at, I can look in my mom's eyes and go I know, I know. I know. Yeah. Because I can know what she's thinking, right? I do. And, you know, and I, I mean, I, I've not been a caregiver, other than for my children to, you know, a stranger, but I do relate in some way that when I would visit my mom at assisted living, I got to know a lot of the, the other residents really, really well, and become, you know, became really close to them and look forward to seeing them and, and start started to really, you know, know them, and I could make them laugh. And I could make that, you know, we really had relationships. And so, you know, in those and that is the most important part is the the socialization that that that that is key. And that's what's happening now, with COVID. Because there's not enough socialization, and people are isolated in the nursing homes and skilled nursing homes. And it's that that that is the tragedy.

Jennifer Lagemann:

Absolutely, yeah, there's not enough staff. But the thing is, there's not a caregiver shortage, in my opinion, there's a shortage of employers willing to pay them appropriately and give them the benefits and the culture that they need to succeed. And the other side of that is, there are some places that have caregivers that do activities, cameras that help with cooking, and they do like the whole operation of it, that way, you can get to know your residents better. Because when you're just coming in and giving them a shower and leaving, you don't really get to develop any relationship with them, there's no time because they're going from room to room. Whereas if you were doing all of these things, you'd be the one cooking their meals, you know, their preferences, if they're, you know, having a rough day, you know, you can get them a cookie, and it'll make them feel better. Like if you're doing all those things for those residents, and you have a super low ratio of residents who have to take care of, you can develop better relationships with them. And so nice this relationship unfold.

Susie Singer Carter:

And that's what that's what makes your being a caregiver. That's a that's what gives you the kind of feedback and and, you know, joy in your work, right? So if, I mean, you're going to do better if you're enjoying your work, if you're just there doing a job, you're going to be a terrible caregiver, and you're and the person you're caring for is good, it's gonna be a bad experience at them, you know, it just will be because we're dealing with people we're not dealing with, with cogs. And and you know, right. Absolutely.

Don Priess:

Yeah,

Susie Singer Carter:

Absolutely. So if you're in there, and you're resenting your job, because you're not paid well, or you're, you're harried because you can't survive on $8 an hour. And the agency is taking a percentage of that. I mean, it's, it's really, it's really shameful. So it really is, and this kind of career in particular, demands that you create a relationship with, with the people you're working with, it demands it. I mean, can you imagine if you went to a dentist anywhere, and he just didn't say a word to you just you got in the chair, don't say that mean, there's no rapport, you know, why am I letting Yeah, why am I letting the stranger put his hands in my mouth or her hands in my mouth. I mean, there's something about dealing with people, you have to have a relationship. And when you're dealing with people that are elderly, or and especially dementia and Alzheimer's, it takes the time it takes and it takes the steps that it takes, and it may take those steps over and over and over. And and if that's what the job description is, then that's what it is. But we have to be able to support that.

Jennifer Lagemann:

Absolutely. And there's such a problem when it comes to memory care with the turnover of staff is that you need that consistency, they need to see the same people every day, or at least on a regular basis. We have such you know, a revolving door of caregivers. It's so hard for people to adjust. And I think another important part is keeping couples together. I used to work at a assisted living and memory care place where the wife started to, you know, in advance in her condition needed to be moved over to memory care and her husband was still over and assisted living and they wouldn't let him move over. And I feel like that really contributed to her decline because why else do you think she's saying I want to go home, or I need to see my husband because you know, they should be together. And I think that separation is so cruel to do when it comes to you know, spouses who have been married for you know, for how many years...

Don Priess:

For both. Yeah.

Susie Singer Carter:

It's cruel. It's absolutely cruel. Again, using my mom as an example when the first time they moved into assisted living my mom had been you know, begun her journey with Alzheimer's and then my stepdad who was 12 years older, and her best friend, you know, like, they were just, you know, inseparable. He, he was starting to decline physically, he couldn't hear, you know, they couldn't see that, well, he couldn't walk that, well, my mom was physically perfect. So together, they made almost a full human, you know, and they, but they loved it, they loved each other, you know, even though they were hilarious, I wrote a series, Don and I wrote a TV series based on them, because they just cracked me literally, you know, the two of them together were just crazy. But, you know, they, they, they didn't have a memory care unit at this assisted living, it was really lightly assisted. And I we went at my family, and I went in there and just said, we can't separate them. And you know, and he will be her memory, and she will be his eyes and ears. So can you please take them together? And they did.

Jennifer Lagemann:

Good!

Susie Singer Carter:

They did.

Don Priess:

You have to ask.

Susie Singer Carter:

And you got to ask, like, you're so right, because I think my mom will, I mean, I think that would have been the decline. I mean, she would have declined so quickly because of that, because she was so attached to him. And he was attached to her.

Don Priess:

Just going back to what makes a great caregiver. And some of that is a you know, connecting with the person you're caring for? How do you balance that and becoming too emotionally attached? Because, you know, eventually, it's, you know, it's it's going, or do you just say, You know what, that's the way it is, I'm not going to prevent myself from becoming emotionally attached to this person.

Jennifer Lagemann:

I'm not sure there's a term for this, I think it's compassionate detachment. And you try to do your best emotionally to bond with this person to develop that rapport, but to not go too deeply into other matters, that may cause you to, you know, get too emotionally attached. So what I tried to do was to make the best day for this person, without giving away too much of myself, because that would, you know, take from me and from what I was going home with, and I think a lot of it is self care, take care of yourself, finding your hobbies, having your you know, circle of support, that really gives you, you know, feels your backup at the end of the day, you know, just debriefing. And I think having a way to talk about things at work is a really helpful way like, when I worked in homecare as an administrator, it was terribly taxing on me dealing with because I was the one that picked up the phones. And so whether it was a complaint about a caregiver or a complaint about a client, I heard everything. And right, when you're trying to schedule shifts, meaning you're trying to get the client and caregiver compatibility down to a science, it mean, it's so tough to want to do my job. But I did it because of the clients make sure they get care and to help the carriers get hours. And that's what kept me going. But at the end of the day, it was so taxing on me, I wish I would have had like an outlet with my supervisors, my peers, just to vent at the end of the day, you know, it doesn't even have to be you know, with names, just saying like, you know, today was really tough. You know, I wish I could have filled that other shift with the other caregiver if they hadn't called in to complain about something. And I think that really resonates throughout the whole healthcare industries, not having a way to vent your concerns about your day, because it's not a part of your, your clocked in shift, that's not a part of it. And we should be right wording on how things went physically, things that you can observe, but your personal experience isn't a part of, you know, your shift. It's something that you deal with outside of work. And it should...

Susie Singer Carter:

it should, it should be with any job that's stressful, like, like our first responders and things like that. We had this guest on a couple of weeks ago who wrote a book. He's a Alzheimer's researcher and also wrote a book called forgetting the benefits of not remembering and Scott Small, and he was -

Jennifer Lagemann:

That was great.

Susie Singer Carter:

Oh, thank you.! I mean, we he's just an extraordinary guy. But he, you know, he talked about a lot of his of his research was around PTSD. And he used himself as his example, when he was in the army in Israel. At 19. He saw horrendous things, as did everyone else in his troop. And he, but when they were released, they didn't just release them home and back to normal life. They released him to that was still part of their of their service, which was to, to to have that debriefing to have that cathartic socialization, where and he said, we literally like, uh, you know, we sat around, we drank, we said, we talked, we had macabre jokes, dark humor, the same thing, and we got it out of our system, and none of us had PTSD. And he said, and that's not an that's not anecdotal, that is science.

Jennifer Lagemann:

Absolutely, you need that. But so yeah,

Don Priess:

Yeah, I mean, most psychiatrists go to a psychiatrist or psychologist go to psychologist because they need to, if you keep everything in that you just experienced and have no outlet for it, it's going to build up, and it's going to come out in some way that's not healthy. So do you see a solution for that? Do you see having a counselor or somebody that people can go and caregivers can go and download, because I don't know if that exists anywhere.

Jennifer Lagemann:

Absolutely. And I think that's so important. I'm doing some personal research on the symptoms and effects that people have had when caregiving. And most people that I've surveyed experienced 11 to 15 symptoms as a result of their caregiving where whether it's anxiety, depression, weight loss, weight gain, so many different things come from caregiving. And the goal of the research is to make caregiving a CPT code, or you know, something in the diagnosis manuals, because usually when it comes to caregiving, it's coaching a caregiver on treatment, or for their care recipient, it's not for the caregiver. So the goal of that is to make sure that providers understand that caregivers are not just caregivers to their care recipient, they are patients within their own right, and deserve to be cared for and treated just as their care recipient does. And that's the goal of that to help with compensation as well, like, you know, as Mesothelioma commercials, I want caregiving to be something like that, like, have you ever been a caregiver, you may be entitled to compensation, because it's going to be difficult to make political and governmental change in terms of caregiver compensation, I feel like it's gonna be very, very long process if, if it does ever happen, so I feel like if we can get grants or something put together as like a pile of money for caregivers to pool from, I think that may be a better short term approach.

Susie Singer Carter:

I think all the all the above, I think we need to do, you know, just go out and bang the drums and do that do all of those things. Because, you know, look at AI. In fact, even in the entertainment industry, you know, there's there's, like Screen Actors Guild has put together funds for emergency funds, and they and they're able to do that to support, you know, our colleagues and, and they and during, during the pandemic, and also before that there was a when we were on strike the writers there, you know, the Screen Actors Guild throws a big net of financial help and assistance, you know, just money that they that they raise and bring to the members of our of our community. And we need to do that, even if we started there, where the community supports the community. And, and, you know, and it's interesting, I was just reading Don, last night, a email I got from the Jewish Home, which is where my mom is at, and it's, you know, extremely, they have a it's one of the best facilities, they have a high ratio of c CNAs. To residents, five to five residents to one CNA obviously, that's, it's less now because of COVID because of Omicron. But they're they've suffered so much because of this crisis that we've been in that the you know, they wrote out a they wrote an email that came out a couple of days ago, that was basically we will not be able to take care of your family members. If we're not financially supported 70% of their residents are subsidized by Medicaid and it's and they can't do it, they can't there's not enough money. So that's a that's that's a crisis with a capital crisis. Because that way, if we, if we don't have facilities to take care of our elders, we're going to implode like society will I mean, it's, it's that we have a huge, huge generation of senior citizens.

Jennifer Lagemann:

Absolutely. That is a really big problem like in Missouri and here in Kansas, the live nursing homes have closed for various reasons, mostly staffing related, vaccine mandate related. It's not sustainable to be in long term care right now, unfortunately, with the current state of affairs, and it really underscores the importance of family caregivers, because who else is going to be taking care of them. In any event that a nursing home closes, they see it, they have to find a place for the older adult to go to. But think about this, you did the research to find high quality place for your loved one to move to. That doesn't go the same way when an administrator is looking for your next place. They don't have that. They don't have that, oh, well, this person wants XYZ features in their nursing home or their next place. Let me make sure I keep those in mind. They don't have those factors at the top of their mind they just want to...

Susie Singer Carter:

Or motivations.

Don Priess:

They just want to find a bed maybe or if that.

Susie Singer Carter:

Exactly, and you know, to add on to that. A lot of a lot of people don't have advocates. They don't have personal advocates. So what happens to those people? You know, who just by the, you know, the however their life is played out? They're, they're the last one left in their tribe, right takes care of them and who advocates for them? And if we don't have caring caregivers that will, you know, be be a surrogate family member for them. What's the point of keeping people alive physically, I have a big problem with that. Hmm, that, that feels toward that feels like torture for me that feels like, you know, it's purgatory.

Jennifer Lagemann:

Yeah, absolutely are with people who don't speak English, or, you know, they don't have staff that speak their language. Like I worked at a assisted living that had two Portuguese residents, a brother and sister. None of us spoke Portuguese. A lot of it was nonverbal communication, I tried to kind of hold up a chalkboard or, you know, bring two versions of a meal, like, you know, which ones do you want, it felt top because they're not getting the full resident experience that they deserve, you know, paying as much as they do to stay there. And, you know, to have just a normal experience, like every other resident there. I feel like they were really gypped. In terms of ...

Don Priess:

Same thing with dementia to mention, because yeah, if because they can't communicate Yes. Speak

Susie Singer Carter:

Like my mom's at the point where she can't really talk unless you know, everyone, so I can get it nice sentence out of her. And it's like, your joy. Yeah, but, but um, you know, for the most part, she can't go, oh, you know, Donna, I'm really thirsty. Can you bring me some water? So instead, she ends up in the hospital because she's completely dehydrated, because people don't speak dementia? Nobody. Most people, it's, it is a language in and of itself...

Jennifer Lagemann:

And the healthcare system, because it's in a different language too.

Susie Singer Carter:

Because Jennifer, I saw it over zoom, I said it to the nurses, she looks dehydrated. And then when Don and I, Don came to visit her the Saturday before she went into the hospital, we were both there. And I said, she looks dehydrated. I went to tell the nurses, I think she's, you know, thirsty, she needs water, she needs to be hydrated.

Don Priess:

That's that's such a regular nurses aren't there, or there's not enough of them. That's just due to the situation now at that particular facility, which is amazing. There are not there are a lot of facilities that are not amazing. And they don't know it's gonna be and this is going to be the the normal, whether there's COVID or not. And that's, you know, we have to get around that. And I don't know what the answer to that is. I don't know what your thoughts on that are. But I mean, that's just resources that don't exist.

Jennifer Lagemann:

Yeah, there are too many, you know, people who need care and not enough people who are able to provide it. And you know, when it comes to people immigrating here, they might not come with the rest of their families. So when they age here, they might not have people to advocate for them to retrofit their home to make it safe to age in place. There are so many things that, you know, can be done and what something I'm trying to advocate for, is for homecare agencies to start a family caregiver training program, which can help their their future clients stay in place until they're ready, or, you know, come to terms with needing homecare services, because not everybody's ready, when they find it like oh, look, there's homecare services. But you know, my my loved one isn't ready to make that transition. So I can go to this agency, get educated on how I can provide care, because not everybody is prepared to be a caregiver at any given time, and able to take the time to train you on what you need to know as a family member. They just kind of, oh, well, we've got to send you home, we have a new admin, we got to get in, you know, I mean, that's not their concern. And so if they can get trained through a homecare agency that has the time because they're doing new caregiver orientations all the time. So they can, you know, scoot a family member in there to observe watched learn new skills, by the time that they are looking for homecare services, who do you think they're going to go to? Or if that family member suddenly loses their job gets laid off? Who could potentially provide them with a job because of the existing skills that they have that they got from this homecare agency? I think it's super helpful all around. And it will foster positive relationships in your community without having to actively market.

Susie Singer Carter:

Right, right. Because I remember when my parents were when my drive before we put them into the first assisted living. There was a social worker that came because, you know, I guess by by my mom's Doctor reporting that she had because you have to report when someone has mild cognitive disorder. And they came and said, You have to have homecare like you have to have, you cannot live and if you don't, then you need to move into some sort of assisted living care. And that was they gave us two choices. Because, you know, a lot of my stepdad was like, we don't need it, we're fine. We don't need it. You know, they get very, very indignant and, you know, it becomes you know, it's very difficult to embrace that. Obviously, and so they were very resistant to it. But it was just so done. So with such without grace, the way it was presented to them that it was it's like, it's just, it's like, of course they're going to resist, of course, because it's not presented... ...the voices, they think is disingenuous. Like, yes, there are a lot of consumer directed programs out there where you can select who you want to be as your caregiver, and they'll get paid through Medicaid, or a lot of programs like that out there. And they, you know, you think can have at least one person that they trust to take care of them, even if it's on like, a couple hours a day or week basis, just to kind of check in on them. Like, that's not your own, those are your only two choices. Right, but that's what's given because it's the it's the, you know,

Jennifer Lagemann:

It's the profitable choice.

Susie Singer Carter:

Yes, it's a profitable choice, because it takes less time, for one thing, right. And so and it becomes what it did was like, it made it so difficult for us as family members, you know, it became a very hard situation, and it made it a situation that is, that is, you know, delicate, even harder. Because the way right, the way it was presented, it becomes very unattractive to the person that you're trying to entice, you know, entice and provoke this kind of mood change, you know, they're talking to, you know, know how to, you know, approach know, your audience.

Jennifer Lagemann:

Is your priority to stay home? Or is your priority to age, in a quality community in your area? Like it? There's a lot of things and a lot of factors that are important, like is your food, the culturally, you know, appropriate food for you available in communities in your area outside of your home? Like, what are your priorities, what's important to you, because then that can help inform where you go next.

Don Priess:

And you know, and the other issue is, obviously, is the cost of, of care. Sometimes you can have all the priorities you want, this is what I want this way. But money says, Yeah, but you're not going to get that. And this is where, you know, this is such a huge, you know, is like where does Where does government where to society come in as a whole that will and all of this look, if we take care of everybody, it benefits everybody. But you know, though, that that's a huge question. It's a huge and I think it's going to have to start with your generation, honestly, because you're the future, I mean, has to be taken care of now. So what can you as somebody who's in this in this field, and is so passionate about it? Where do you see the possibilities as far as changing the face of of caregiving for our society? I know, it's a massive question. But maybe you have some ideas on that.

Jennifer Lagemann:

Sure... I have a couple, I think, really elevating the family caregiver role, really making sure that they get the support, they need the training they need, the community resources they need is not not a lot of people are equipped and prepared to be a family caregiver. I don't think a lot of people ask if they're ready to be a family caregiver, or what all they're actually agreeing to, because if they knew what all they were agreeing to, they probably wouldn't do it. Or make sure that you're the right person, you know, it's okay to say no, but you know, who in your family or in your community that you know, would be a good fit, who knows your your loved one enough to take care of them. Making sure that people can get paid for the caregiving that they do. For so much of it is like a second shift or third shift for people, you know, trying to make ends meet and to be able to afford, you know, most people are spending about $7,000 Out of Pocket each year on caregiving expenses. And that can put a dent in anybody's Income No matter how much you make. And I think right now, in terms of senior living, there's a lot of emphasis on luxury senior living communities. But the luxury senior living communities don't serve the bulk of the people who are going to be aging. And only about two to 3% of seniors end up living in a senior living community, but they come from all income backgrounds. And I feel like we're really doing ourselves a disservice in putting so much emphasis on, you know, the luxury upper upper income. Tiers. We need to do more middle market and lower income levels, to really serve you know, all of our older adults evenly. I feel like there's such an emphasis that people put on these amenities and I feel like people are really losing touch with what really matters, which is the care, the staffing ratios, hiring enough caregivers. Nobody cares about your, you know, courtyard being, you know, true, or, you know, it's not going to be a pool that makes someone say yes, I doubt. You know, these luxury amenities aren't going to the thing that makes one choose a community or another, it's going to be the quality of customer service and the experience the resin experience. Also the caregivers experience because if you're going through carriers left and right, that should be an indicator of a community. You know, a lot of people don't ask about caregivers or talk to carriers when they're doing a tour. I'm committed. And I feel like it's very indicative of how things are gonna go. So I feel like there should be a lot of emphasis put on Caregiver retention when it comes to senior care in general, carriers need to come first. Not that seniors and older adults are less important, but you can't take care of anyone unless you have a stellar workforce behind them. Yeah, what should somebody look for when they're going to look at a facility?

Susie Singer Carter:

Amen!

Don Priess:

Yeah, what should somebody look for when they're going to look at a facility? That's like, should I put my loved one here? What questions should they ask what should they look for? Other than do there's a great pool here?

Jennifer Lagemann:

Yeah, I think a lot of it is the individuals priorities. Again, talking about you know, what's important to you? Is it the food? Is it the quality of the the amenities, some people want the amenities? Do they have multiple levels of care? Do I have to worry about moving, if I started to decline, I think the CCRC is have a good idea when it comes to offering multiple levels of care. That way, you're not having to move everything, you know, super far away, if you're moving somewhere else to receive care. If there are other hospitals nearby, or, you know, community resources nearby, like do you have to go half hour from here to get to your local doctor. I think understanding their corporate leadership and their their executive team structure, what backgrounds they come from, because that that can really drive the direction of the community. You know, if someone comes from a senior living background, if they're coming straight from an MBA program, like you know, what, what does their background look like, they're staffing ratios, is when you're, when you're working with eight residents in a shift, you know, that's one hour of care per person. But that's also not taking into account the take a half hour lunch break, that you get pulled in for a meeting that you're doing reporting rounds at the beginning and end of each shift. So you're really not even getting the chance to provide eight hours of care when you're doing an eight hour shift. So that's, that's something that a lot of people don't think about.

Susie Singer Carter:

And that's something that you and I are discussing, which is about, you know, making state and national regulations for ratios of caregiver to patient and nurse to patient because there is no regulation. And I really do think that all the problems start there, you know, the understaffing issue is a huge problem. And that's based on economy. And that's and so those are the things that we're going to talk about in a big way. And we're gonna do, we're gonna make a coalition we're making, we're creating a coalition. And I am, I'm pushing Jennifer to the front. And she needs to be the face of this because she is our future. And you and she's a fantastic representative of our future. I just can't thank you enough, Jennifer, for everything that you're doing. And I'm so proud to be walk beside you and know you. And I just think you're extraordinary. And your grandma is so proud of you. And the love that you show and the the heart. And the empathy is just fantastic. And I applaud you and I love you. And thank you for being on the show.

Jennifer Lagemann:

Thank you, so much for having me.

Susie Singer Carter:

Oh, my pleasure. There'll be will be more and watch this girl. She's going to be something special. What do we always say Don?

Don Priess:

You know what we always say? And I think it's really important and and it's something that Jennifer, you know, just lived. And that was Love is powerful. Love is contagious, and love conquers all. And we thank you all for joining us that we can't wait to see you next time.