In a new feature we are offering called Expert Interviews, we are reaching out to local individuals that we consider experts in the field of senior care and interviewing them. Each month we will offer a new interview with a new expert. We will provide their background and talk about issues that are important to them, so that we can learn more about how to best provide and increase awareness of care for our seniors.
This month we are interviewing Doug Flynn who is the program manager for Caregiving MetroWest, a website the provides information and resources to towns in metro-west Massachusetts.
Let’s get into it!
Expert Interviews Presents: Doug Flynn
Tell us about your background and how you became part of the senior care industry?
Mine was a bit of an unusual journey. After graduating from Brown University, I actually spent the better part of two decades working as a sports journalist, primarily covering the Bruins for the MetroWest Daily News, Boston Herald, New England Hockey Journal and NESN. I also was a Patriots beat writer for two years at the MetroWest Daily News. It was a fun, albeit demanding, career that didn’t leave much time for anything else in my life. After covering a Super Bowl, a Winter Classic at Fenway Park and a Stanley Cup Final, I started to look at other options that I thought would help me contribute more to the community.
That led me to BayPath Elder Services, Inc., where I was hired to help research and plan for the creation of a website for area caregivers. That became a permanent job as Caregiving MetroWest program manager after funding to build the site was acquired through a grant from the MetroWest Health Foundation.
Following a year to research and write all the content and work with a design company to build the site, CaregivingMetroWest.org was launched in the spring of 2014. I now maintain the site, add new content, write a regularly-updated blog, produce a monthly e-newsletter, run the site’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, conduct outreach activities and coordinate marketing efforts for Caregiving MetroWest. I also maintain BayPath’s website, produce its monthly newsletter and write the agency’s annual report.
How does Caregiving MetroWest help the community and how does this connect with your passions about senior care?
Our goal in creating the website was to provide access to as many of the resources and as much of the information caregivers need all in one place. One thing we learned in research conducted through interviews, focus groups and surveys of area caregivers and consultations with professionals who work with family caregivers was that the frustration in finding the right information was particularly acute.
While most caregivers have access to the internet and use the internet to find information and resources, they are often overwhelmed by what they find, struggle to get information that is specific to their needs or location, or simply find it too time consuming to search so many different sites. Our overriding directive in creating the site was to build something that was comprehensive, but easy to use and navigate.
We also made sure it was tailored to caregivers in MetroWest. That’s reflective not on in the information provided and resource lists offered, but also in the look and feel of the site. Every photo on the site was taken by myself or BayPath Director of Strategic Initiatives Stephen Corso and features familiar landmarks, buildings or nature scenes from the 25 towns and cities we cover, so that when users come to the site they will feel comfortable and have a sense that this really is their site.
Every time I hear back from a user that they discovered some bit of information or resource that has helped them on our site or hear that our site has made finding the information they seek quicker and easier, that makes all the hours spent creating and maintaining the site well worth it.
What services are your most popular, and why?
We have a clickable map of the 25 communities we cover that allows users to simply click on their town or city and get a listing of all caregiving resources for that community that is one of the most frequently used sections of the site.
The regularly updated blog that features in-depth Q&As with experts in caregiving-related fields and announcements of community events and new resources for caregivers is also heavily trafficked, as is a relatively new feature called the Wellness Wall. That section has regular updates from BayPath Caregiver Specialist Alicia Rego, who provides quick thoughts, helpful hints, reaffirming quotes and even the occasional recipe for caregivers.
Are there services you offer that you feel more families should be aware of?
We are constantly trying to spread the word about the website and the extensive offerings of information and resources available on CaregivingMetroWest.org. It’s a totally free service. Our goal is just to help as many caregivers as possible. While we’ve made it as easy to use as possible, we do understand that with so much information on the site it can be a little intimidating to some new users.
That’s why we’d recommend using our customized assessment tool, The Caregiver Concierge, which allows you to answer a handful of quick questions to produce an individualized set of links to the pages on the site with the information and resources most helpful to your particular needs and circumstances.
What do you feel the most important steps are when families are looking for any type of care for their aging loved ones?
Get informed. Learn about the health conditions your loved one is dealing with and what to expect they will experience over time from those conditions. Get educated about the treatment options, learn about the costs involved, and find out what is covered by your insurance, Medicare, etc. Research what other benefits or programs your loved one may be eligible for.
If you are looking at moving your loved one to a nursing home or assisted living facility, take the time to visit as many as possible. Doing all of that takes times, so maybe the most important thing is to be prepared and plan ahead. Don’t wait for an emergency to happen and find yourself scrambling to figure out what you need to do.
What changes would you like to occur within the state government to help the growing senior population?
The Senate this year approved $6.25 million of increased spending on home care that would have opened up eligibility for additional seniors up to 300% of the poverty level ($35,000 in 2015), but that funding was removed from the final budget in the conference committee with the House.
Expanding home care eligibility for more seniors would not only improve their quality of life, but would also make long-term financial sense for the state by helping more seniors remain in home and out of nursing homes where care is far more expensive.
I also support AARP’s efforts in lobbying for Massachusetts to pass the CARE Act, which “recognizes the critical role that family caregivers play in keeping their loved ones out of costly institutions by:
(1) recording the name of the designated family caregiver when a loved one is hospitalized;
2) notifying the caregiver if a loved one is to be discharged; and
3) providing to the caregiver an explanation and live instruction of the medical tasks the caregiver will perform at home.”
What is the biggest issue or pitfall that you want to warn families about regarding getting care for a senior?
It goes back to what I mentioned earlier, and that is failing to plan and waiting until an emergency comes. Once you are in the midst of a medical crisis for a loved one, everything can be overwhelming. Anything you can do to prepare for that will help, whether it’s having a care plan in place, having a health care proxy, living will and other legal documents prepared, understanding your loved one’s condition, medications and treatments, and having their home ready with any modifications and assistive technology necessary in place.
If families reading this were to remember one thing from this article, what would you want that to be regarding senior care?
I would hope the need to get and stay informed about the many aspects involved in caring for an elder loved one. We’ve tried to bring as much of that information and as many of those resources together in one place for caregivers at CaregivingMetroWest.org, but whether you use our site or other sources of information the main thing is just understanding what your loved one is going through and how best you can help them.
Are there any special events, programs, seminars, or online tools available you want people to specifically know about?
Again, I would encourage readers to check out CaregivingMetroWest.org. Our clickable map allowing users to find resources in their town, the Caregiver Concierge to help them find what they need on the site and the Caregiving Chronicles blog and Wellness Wall for updated news on community events, Q&As with caregiving experts and helpful tips are all wonderful tools designed to help caregivers.
Wrapping It Up
Many thanks to Doug Flynn for taking the time to answer the questions we had for him. If you have a moment, view his website and click on the links in the above paragraph. You will be sure to find a lot of great information and tools that will be able to help you find great information to guide you through the process of caregiving for someone.