My Inspiration for Live Better Boomer!

I always had the spirit to help others, and became a social worker to do just that. I’ve worked with children, adults, recovering addicts and with the population I thrive with most — older adults and seniors.

Elnora Farmer, my maternal grandmother serves as my inspiration for starting Live Better Boomer! Mrs. Farmer, or who I call my Gram, was a stoic woman born in the air of the Great Depression. Strong and opinionated, dignified and graceful, my Gram was a picture of wisdom and strength to me.

When Gram fell ill in 2007, my family had no idea of how awful things would get. After one surgery, her health began to decline rapidly. All of the conditions she had, ones we checked on during weekly calls and discussed at holiday dinners, were wreaking havoc on her body. By Christmas of 2007, her body was a shell of what it once had been. So many complications came after that first surgery, and it was all downhill from there. She was a ticking time bomb as far as her health. One day during my grandmother’s many hospitalizations, my mother called me and told me that the social worker informed her that they were planning to discharge Gram from the hospital in an unspeakable condition because her insurance was running out. My mother was anxious and very frightened. My Gram had had surgery, yet again, and my family had no real diagnosis, no test results, and no place to safely discharge her (there were many needs Gram had that could not be safely handled that home).

The entire time that Gram had been ill, I felt helpless to do anything to care for her. But this time, I could help. Really help. I told my mom to let me talk to the social worker/discharge planner at the hospital. I was a discharge planner/social worker at the time at another hospital. When I got the social worker on the phone finally, I told her who I was and I am in the same field as she. I told her what we wanted, and what I would do (and what agencies I would call to come in and see if the hospital actually did their job in giving Gram proper care). I also told her that I knew the game that social workers/discharge planners had to play every day in their jobs at hospitals. Lastly, I let her know that I knew that Gram needed a safe discharge plan or there would be consequences the hospital would have to face.

My mother called me back, extremely relieved. Apparently, the nursing facility that my grandmother had to go to would finally come out and evaluate her. The test results would be read the next day, and all the things we wanted would now magically happen. Why didn’t that happen before when my entire family was scared to death? Before we wanted to beat our brains out? Before we were stressed out beyond comprehension?

Having been a social worker, I had seen this kind of thing happen to people and have been a party to it. I resolved at that point that I would help people get the best healthcare that they could. I didn’t care anymore what it cost me. I’d helped hundreds of families and I wanted to help as many others as I could. There were so many things I could have told them to help them further than I did, but it was against the healthcare facility policy, and could cost me MY job. So, the idea for Live Better Boomer! was born. I was tired of being a party to the machine that was concerned about profits and not patients.

I thank my Gram for that. I don’t want families to go through the “healthcare business crash course” like my family had to go through. All we wanted to focus on was Gram, but we had to deal with making her healthcare decisions, advance directives at her bedside, and making sure that insurance covered her massive bills. I realized then that if much of this had been handled before her crisis, it would’ve taken a lot of stress and frustration away from my family.

Gram was the kind to come home from her doctor’s appointment and say that all was well — she had a little of this and her “pressure was up.” I have found that some people are like that – they don’t share what’s really happening. She could’ve used an advocate at those appointments to help her with what was really going on. I don’t know if she was in denial or “she didn’t want to burden us” (like she always said), but this attitude was a major factor in how bad her condition became. She passed in the same manner she lived – her way.

I do not want that attitude to hurt any more families like it did mine. I don’t want families to feel pressured into making hard decisions because hospitals need the bed your loved one is in.

My Gram passed away in April 2008. I will never forget her laugh, her funny sayings or her good cooking. She was a huge part of my life.

Gram, I miss you every day. The hole in my heart that came when you passed away will always be there until I see you again. I hope you’re proud of me. I love you.