Note: Although the individuals in this picture are some of the finest professionals I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with, this in no way implies they are quoted in this article. Still, if you’re in the Fresno area and have the opportunity to work with them, seize it!

I emailed 17 colleagues in various senior-related professions to answer three questions, wanting a broader perspective. I offered anonymity so they could speak freely.

1. What’s the one thing you hear over and over about our profession/the work we do that just isn’t true?
One of the most frustrating things we encounter is bad information floating around!

We want you to know the truth, but sometimes we find you put more credence in what your neighbor’s best friend’s daughter’s stepdaughter’s cousin-in-law’s mother-in-law said than what we have to say. 🙁

Still, here goes:

“It must feel like a jail to live in a locked community” is typically NOT true. Think about yourself, living in your own home. Do you feel like you’re in jail just because the doors lock?

Memory care is actually set up so residents have multiple doors they can walk through, places within the building to explore, outdoor areas to walk and enjoy, and programs throughout the day to meet their leisure, social, spiritual, cognitive, physical, and emotional needs.

The other N-word. We often hear people use the term “nursing home” when referring to assisted living, independent living, memory care, skilled nursing, and rehab. These are all very different places, each offering varying levels of care. Think of the difference between a condo, a split-level, a Craftsman, a flat, a high-rise….

And the F-word. As in, “facility.” I personally don’t know anyone who lives in a facility, do you? No matter our age or our care needs, we all live in communities, though.

“Medicare will pay [or should pay] for long-term care.” Medicare does NOT pay for long-term care. EVER. Under ANY circumstances. In ANY state. At ANY level of care. Your neighbor is wrong.

There are two reasons people erroneously believe this. One, the word MediCARE sounds a lot like the word MediCAID; two, the term “long-term care” is poorly understood. MediCAID does indeed pay for long-term care. I won’t go any deeper into the weeds on this, but instead refer you to Medicare expert Susan Hatch. She explains in the video Medicare Myths & Facts.

“I can’t believe that we’ll have to exhaust our money to pay for our care!”/“There are no services available to assist people that have resources.” (That darn neighbor is working over-time!) Again, not going to sink into the weeds on this one because every situation is different.

Instead, I recommend you consult with an elder law attorney immediately, before you do anything else. They will keep you from making a colossally expensive mistake. Google “elder law attorney” + the name of your city to find one, or contact me for recommendations in Oregon and the Fresno and Los Angeles areas. Note: ELDER LAW attorney.

“You must be special to do that work.” We look at it like this: we bring compassion, and passion, to what we do. That’s not particularly special. Some of us feel it’s a higher calling. All of us feel kindness and decency is a bare minimum that anyone should show up with, anywhere; it’s not particular to our profession. More than that, we’re simply working with people.

“I could never do what you do–it’s so depressing.” For those of us who specialize in working with people living with dementia, what we find depressing isn’t the people who are living with dementia. We know we can step into a moment with them, reassure them, let them know we’re there, we’ve got them, it’s going to be okay. Far from depressing, it’s exhilarating when you can do that for another human being!

2. What’s the one thing you really wish people knew about our profession/the work we do?

“It takes a village.” “Working with people that have a diagnosis of dementia or Alzheimer’s have different journeys and it takes a team (community staff, family, physician and friends) to work together to find the best path for their loved one.”

“I wish people knew ‘it takes a village’ to ensure our elders are aging with dignity and respect in any given setting.” 

“We do it because we love it.”  “It’s our passion, it’s our vocation. We genuinely want to help you! Also, we’re people, too. We know we’re not meeting you on your best day, but please don’t use that as a justification for being mean to us.”

“It’s not about the money. We do this work because of the rewards and for the love of people rather than for money or profit.”

“Not everything will go according to plan.” “When you hire caregivers to care for someone, these are people taking care of people. The human element means that everything will not go according to plan every time and we do not have a crystal ball.

“If caregiving was easy, then everyone would keep their loved one at home and not hire home care or choose placement.”

“Planning ahead is worth the effort.” Care capabilities vary from one community to the next. The same type of care license (i.e. Assisted living: some can and do use Hoyer lifts, and do 2 person transfers, others do not). The state sets minimum guidelines and it is up to the community whether to expand on them.

“One cannot take the word of a competing company, or a discharge planner to know (or speak to) the care abilities of a specific place.”

“There is free, unbiased information available by just calling the Aging and Disability Resource Connection (503-304-3420) in Oregon” or any Area Agency on Aging.

“We don’t have a pill to fix the disease process.”I was once accused by an enraged husband of claiming I could ‘cure Alzheimer’s.’ All I could think was, If I knew how to cure Alzheimer’s, I promise, I’d be out there doing it! The husband really thought placement in memory care would magically transform his wife back into the loving, engaged woman with the healthy brain he married 40 years ago.”

3. What’s the one thing you really wish people knew about the specific population you/your company serves?

Memory Care Executive Director: “We meet the individual where they are at and make the best of each moment we have with them.” 

Assisted Living Executive Director: “Elders would still like to enjoy all the activities and events that go on in nearly every town/city rather than being cooped/ restricted to their private residence. Very few accommodations are made for the elder population to do that.” 

County Social Worker: “The elderly matter and part of being elderly means understanding life ends in death.  We will all be there so make sure the services are funded well and the best practices thrive.” 

Placement Consultant: “I can save you time and frustration by meeting with you to identify your care needs, your budget, and the housing options that fit within them.” 

Retired Memory Care Administrator: “When I was an Administrator, it would make me so sad that family members would not visit their loved ones very often.  A particular woman comes to mind who was very young, maybe in her late 50’s and still had sons in high school.  

I never did see them, although their mother lived in our community several years.  Her husband did come once in a while but I remember him saying that she didn’t talk to them anyway or probably even knew who they were so why should they visit?  They needed to move on with their lives.

Maybe she wasn’t able to say their name or ask how they were doing but she definitely knew her husband.  Her eyes lit up when he came in and her demeanor long after his visit was much more calm and she had a peace about her. She knew someone very special had been there.  

I saw it happen so many times but the sadness and grief family members experience in seeing the change in their loved ones just seems to overshadow their ability to relax and just enjoy time spent with their loved one living with dementia.” 

Placement Consultant: “The senior population is not foreign… it must be de-stigmatized.”  

County Social Worker: “People living with dementia are each unique individuals. In general though, a person living with dementia is not being manipulative or unmotivated, they are living with brain failure and just doing the best they can each day.” 

What do you think? Is this useful information? We really want to hear from you!

Christy Turner is the founder of DementiaSherpa.com (CTC Dementia Care Management) and has enjoyed the privilege of working with over 1,045 people living with dementia and their families. Follow on Facebook, Google+, Instagram, Periscope, Pinterest, Twitter, and YouTube. Content varies daily across platforms.