Helping navigate the senior care maze, one person at a time
Aug 15, 2012, 10:20 a.m.
Lebanon, TN With each passing year, more and more baby boomers find themselves struggling to assist their parents as they navigate the often confusing world of senior care. These “adult children,” as they are commonly known, often find the task daunting as they strive to find a solution that best meets the needs of a parent or both parents as well as the entire family.
Relatively new to Middle Tennessee, Lebanon-based Senior Life Options LLC seeks to provide a helping hand to those who find themselves in such a situation.
Larry Blaker serves as president of Senior Life Options, which offers its services free of charge to families. The providers of care services, he explained, actually pay any related fees.
A soft-spoken man who speaks genuinely when discussing his role with Senior Life Options, Blaker earned a Master of Divinity with an emphasis in clinical counseling from Princeton University. He began his career in ministry but later transitioned into senior housing, where he ultimately found his calling.
“I discovered I had an affinity for working with people of age. That’s where it started,” he recalled.
During his time in senior housing, Blaker participated in the start-up of over 100 senior communities across the United States. Aware of his experience and his work in ministry, friends and family soon began calling upon him when making decisions regarding senior care facilities. Blaker felt he could offer the same valuable advice to any family in need, essentially laying the groundwork for Senior Life Options.
“When adult children sit in this room, and they’re at a point where there’s been a change – something has changed life in that family – they reach out,” Blaker said during a recent interview at the company’s Lebanon offices. “They find they don’t know where to begin and what questions to ask. We know those questions, and we can help.”
The goal of Senior Life Options, he continued, is to match the needs of seniors to the best possible residences, taking into consideration such things as budget, location, and social and cultural needs. “As much as is appropriate,” Blaker says he sometimes intercedes in family debates over elder care, drawing upon his counseling background.
Adult children, Blaker explained, love and respect their parents. They often struggle to determine when it is OK to step in and take the lead.
“Change is very hard as we get older. They’re looking for support, hope, and they trust us on their journey. We deal with the rawness of life because it’s the right thing to do. Aging knows no boundaries. We do what we know how to do, and that’s take care of older adults,” he said.
The situations Blaker encounters are rarely the same. In some cases, a sick parent and his/her healthy spouse may seek living arrangements that allow them to stay together – or perhaps a senior can’t fathom parting with a loving pet. Regardless of the individual situation, Blaker works to find the best possible fit.
Blaker’s wife Julia speaks highly of her husband’s unique ability to lend a hand to families in need, noting that her husband understands the processes “inside and out.” She added he frequently monitors reports regarding any violations, low morale, or high turnover rates at senior living facilities and makes it a point not to place anyone in those facilities. What’s more, as a consultant, he has helped various senior facilities develop business plans, policies, employee handbooks and more.
“It’s important to him to match people with facilities that work best as a long-term solution. He shows enormous respect and lovingly interacts with the family and the senior,” she said. “It’s all about honoring and respecting the seniors and trying to give them choices.”
And choices abound. In all, Senior Life Options works with more than 3,000 facilities – from assisted living and skilled nursing to home health and Alzheimer’s/dementia care – in 35 states. With each placement, Blaker says his drive to help seniors and their families grows.
“After I left the chaplainry, this became my ministry,” he said. “This is my calling. I treat this as my church.”
To learn more, visit www.seniorlifeoptions.net.
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