by Advocating for the Elderly: An Interview with Claudine Halpern
Mom has been in the hospital for a few days. The doctor has advised that we place her in a nursing home. How do I find a place that will take good care of her?
Dad’s nursing home wants to kick him out. I feel like the facility is being unfair, but I don’t know how to intervene.
Mom keeps the oven on too long. She does her own cooking even though she shouldn’t, and I don’t know what to do?
Caring for your aging parents is often a difficult endeavor—one full of challenges, questions and sometimes unpleasant surprises. As someone who has lost their father to dementia, I can relate to the stress and burden—both emotional and financial—of caring for an elderly parent.
I have known Jack Halpern for years through the Orion Resource Group, an organization I’m actively involved in. Orion is made up of professionals dedicated to bringing world class practices to the elder care universe. Jack is CEO, and his wife is COO of MyElderAdvocate (MEA), a unique organization that supports the elderly and their families. Be it a bad fall or stroke, nursing home evictions, hospital discharge placement, or long-term care planning, MEA advocates on behalf of the elderly and their family, protecting them, providing peace of mind, and ensuring proper care in every situation.
What is MyElderAdvocate?
“When there’s a crisis that needs intervention, we do that intervention,” says Claudine Halpern, COO of MyElderAdvocate. As we sat down to talk, I immediately noticed the passion she had for elder advocacy. Claudine and Jack Halpern, are experts at solving elder care crisis and providing elder advocate services.
At the age of 23, Jack received an opportunity to work as an executive housekeeper at a nursing home. At that point, him and Claudine were newly married and expecting their first child. Jack was working in a camera store, and because the couple struggled to make ends meet, he quickly took the executive position. While working there, Jack would often talk to the residents living at the nursing home, listening to their stories and their complaints. It was then that he started dreaming of creating a business that would advocate for elders.
Though he worked as a nursing home administrator for many years, Jack finally left the “dark side”—as the Halpern’s call it—and joined the advocacy side. It was about ten years ago that the couple started MyElderAdvocate—the only service of its kind in the U.S.
What Do They Do?
When someone comes to MEA for help, the advocates first conduct a detailed needs assessment. The assessment goes through multiple iterations as the advocates learn as much as they can about the elder’s current situation. This assessment is much more thorough than what a nurse would do. Nurses focus on medication and illness, whereas the elder advocate takes into account the social aspects of the situation, how the caregivers are handling it, the community and environment surrounding the elder, and the prognosis.
“When we come in, most of the time there’s already a problem. No one calls us saying, ‘My mom’s in great shape, come do a needs assessment,’” says Claudine. MEA has identified eight types of services they provide for their clients:
- Long term care planning
- Long distance care-giving
- Elder monitor services
- Home care management
- Nursing home and assisted living placement
- Hospital, nursing home, and home crisis intervention services
- Nursing home eviction prevention service
Long Term Care Planning and Elder Monitor Services
Long term care planning involves clients who think or fear that there will be a health need in the future for themselves or their elderly parents. For example, MEA recently worked with an international lawyer who was going on a business trip to Europe for six months. Before he left, he wanted to make sure that his elderly parents would be cared for in case of an emergency. The MEA team conducted a needs assessment and put in a monitoring plan to watch over his parents while he was gone.
About two and a half months into the lawyer’s trip, his mom fell and broke her hip. Because there was a plan in place, MEA was able to respond immediately and the lawyer did not have to drop everything at a moments notice and rush home from his business trip. The elder advocates had a mapped out plan telling them which doctor and hospital to call, and when the lawyer was able to return home a few days later, the situation was completely under control.
Nursing Home Eviction Prevention Services
Claudine also shared with me the harsh reality of nursing home evictions. She asked me to imagine a scenario where my dad has early stages of Alzheimer’s and goes into an assisted-living facility that has an Alzheimer’s unit. Over time, his Alzheimer’s gets worse. As his mind deteriorates, the natural cycle is that his behavior starts to alter also. He becomes a little more aggressive and his actions are less controlled—but these are normal consequences of dementia.
The assisted-living facility should know how to handle this, yet what often happens is that as the elder needs more care and intervention, the facility attempts to evict them. The facility will often use the excuse that the patient has become a danger to themselves or others as the reason for eviction. “This happens all the time,” says Claudine. So what can an elder care advocate do in this situation? Bottom line: They make sure the eviction doesn’t happen. “We have yet to have a case (where Jack has been involved) where an eviction has actually happened,” says Claudine. Having an elder advocate on your side can be an indispensable advantage. See my previous interview on Elder Neglect and Abuse with Deborah Trushowsky, an Elder Abuse and Neglect Attorney.
How to Become an Elder Advocate
Over the past several years, Jack and Claudine have worked to franchise MyElderAdvocate across the country. Jack, who has been working as an elder advocate for 41 years, has created a systematic approach for others to follow to solve problems in the elder community. Whatever industry you may be in, their model is designed to systematize the process and equip others to become elder advocates. If you’re interested in becoming a part of the elder advocacy community, contact Claudine Halpern for more information.