Kate’s Memory Cafe

Memory Cafe Dancing

Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal. Irish Headstone Message 

Kate’s Memory Café Place for Friendship, Support, and Encouragement

When I started facilitating Kate’s Memory Café, the one thing that I had not counted on was the inevitable endings that we would face together. Whether from the decision to place a loved one in a care facility, or the ultimate good-bye that death would bring. At this month’s Memory Café we learned that since we had last gathered in November, several of our beloved participants had passed away. Some we knew about, but others were news to us.

On that day, we were blessed with the opportunity to confront our greatest fears and grief as several of our members arrived solo, ready to be embraced by their friends from the Café, friends everyone, who are walking parallel paths, always in search of answers, solutions, or tricks to make a difficult care-taking task easier. Irish quote on grief for Kate's Memory Cafe

Largely, over the past 20+ months our journey has been filled with joy, music, laughter and love. It has been such a privilege to see the friendships develop at the Memory Café as each and every one found solace in the other. In the words of C.S. Lewis, “Friendship is born at the moment when one says to another: What you too? I thought I was the only one?”

The Holy Spirit guided me to change a few things for this gathering. I had re-arranged the room to accommodate the fact that I wanted to have a cozy fireside chat about surviving the long cold winter. At the last minute, I asked one of our volunteers to take the extra chairs and place them in a circle at the front of the room. I had grabbed a handful of strips of paper thinking that we would write those things that we wanted to let go of on the paper and then toss them in the fire. As we gathered I asked those sitting in the circle to answer the question “What do you need?” There was no answer more poignant than Dan’s as he struggled to find the right words as he waved his arm to include everyone in the circle. “This,” he said. “We need more of this.”

Hosting Kate’s Memory Café is such an honor. It simply would not happen without the support of wonderful volunteers, including the musicians who robustly share their talent, resource library from the Alzheimer’s Association, and of course our sponsor, AF Group, whose financial support makes it possible for us to put out a nice meal and cover the costs of materials for fun activities.

Indeed we do need more of “this.” If you know of someone who is caring for a loved one with early or mid-stage dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, it would be an honor to include them and their care partners in our circle of friends. Kate’s Memory Café meets monthly on the second Sunday (unless it is a holiday). We gather from 2pm to 4pm at Helping Hands Respite Care’s facility in East Lansing, 201 Hillside Court. The event is FREE of CHARGE. To reserve a table at the Memory Café call Katie Donovan at 517-242-7355, katie@helpinghandsrespite.care

Katie is a paid consultant to Helping Hands Respite Care, assisting with marketing, content and fund development. She facilitates the Memory Café, pro-bono, as an homage to her mother and father. Larry Donovan had Alzheimer’s disease and passed away in 2004, Mary Donovan was a faithful and tireless caregiver to her beloved.
Helping Hands Respite Care operates six programs providing professional respite care for families in a variety of circumstances. To learn more, please share this link: www.helpinghandsrespite.care

Level of Care Acuity Assessment Process

Seniors participating in skill game. Level of Care Acuity Level Assessment will occur on a number of abilities.

Supervisor Alison Sarkozy on Level of Care Acuity Assessment

After some careful planning, a few months ago the Helping Hands Respite Care ADS program implemented a Level of Care Acuity Assessment system for our senior members of the adult day program. By sharing an assessment tool during intake of a new member, families were asked to fill out the assessment tool based on what skills and behaviors they could observe at home. That family-based assessment provided the baseline for determining staffing care ratio needs and a corresponding fee schedule based on staffing. After 30 days the same assessment tool is filled out for that individual through a collaborative effort and input from those care providers who see that individual in action throughout the day at the adult day program.

The Acuity Assessment covers everything from mental sharpness, ability to engage and participate, making needs known, ability to feed self, attend to personal toileting, and mobility. Being able to have these mental, physical, and social markers is the kind of data which, if consistently available for periodic review, provides a real benefit to the member, their family and our staff. Having the family participate from the outset also provides a common language for marking progress or critical changes.

Level of Care Acuity Assessment Well Received

By and large, this new system of assessment has been very well received, and from our perspective helps us do an even better job at monitoring and responding to care needs. This effort is also part of a statewide data collection initiative. Since our Executive Director, John Stauffer, recently concluded two years as President of the Michigan Adult Day Services Association, members of the association are attempting to apply common language and measurement across the state from organizations with similar missions and populations. “As an industry we have seen the writing on the wall, there are mounting challenges that our major health systems are being faced with regarding serving this senior population. If the adult day services industry is going to compete or collaborate with big health systems we need to be able to point to reliable data that demonstrates our industry’s service value and effectiveness,” shares Stauffer. “We, at Helping Hands and at the state level, are proud to be involved in a project which may very well have a positive impact nationwide.”

New Phone System

new phone system arrives at helping hands.

A Message from Office Administrator – Janette Lauzon, On New Phone System

As you know, we are a small non-profit and money is always tight. It has been my personal mission to find opportunities to save dollars anywhere we can without compromising quality of service. We were paying four phone bills: the main phone system in our office, the phone line for our alarm system, the Respite House phone, and the emergency phone. Due to our wonderful Executive Director having an open mind, we were able to convert all those systems to one bill that saved us $255 a month. Yes, $255 a MONTH!

Along with the savings, it will provide a more efficient service. First, we will no longer have a separate emergency phone. There will be an auto attendant that answers the phone and will ask if this is after hours. If it is, you can press 1 and it will automatically forward the call to the person monitoring the “after hours” calls. Next, the “operator” or main line will be on two different phones so it can always be answered even if the person at the front desk has to step away. The phones are easier to use and can also be maintained online.

New Technologies Available on New Phone System

Additional new technologies are built into this phone – each supervisor or admin staff that has a phone can hold up to three calls at a time on their phone (not that we would want to) But you can have someone one hold, being talking to someone else and the phone can still ring in from another person calling in. The functions of the phone are much easier to use and understand than our existing phones. A huge improvement is that all admin and supervisory staff will have an app on our personal cell phones that will allow us to answer a call that comes into our work phone and speak to the caller from where ever we are, and the caller will only see the office number (not a cell number) through the app we can also call out and the person called will see the work number not the cell, allowing each of us a little freedom to answer the phone while we are away from the office, if we desire, without sacrificing personal cell information.

Verizon has a plan for non-profits that was able to take care of all our needs at a fraction of the cost. Please bear with us during this transition, and feel free to report any challenges you have with our new phone system. It will all be in place and activated within a few weeks. Thank you, John Stauffer for seeing the need to simplify where we can and helping it happen.

Thank You to So Many

John Stauffer writes about the Sleeping Giant - the Boom Generation

Thank You for 2016 and the Promise of 2017

As we roll into the New Year it is the appropriate time to take a moment and reflect on those things that have happened that I am thankful for. Our agency has been truly blessed with some special angels who have made a significant difference in the quality (and quantity) of care that we were able to provide to our community over the last year.

Thank You Volunteers

Vicki Rakowski (and her side kick Barb Zimmerman) spent hundreds of volunteer hours helping us improve how to get and retain volunteers for all of our programs. The fruits of their labor are being recognized every day as we slowly grow the number of dedicated volunteers who are assisting us not only in our group programs like our Adult Day Services (ADS) program and our after school program, Breaking Barriers Today (BBT). With Vickie and Barb’s help we have been able to expand services (through volunteers) further into the homes were we provide direct care respite services.

Front Office Thank You

Our front office staff, Rhonda Mliakoff and Janette Bauzon have only been with us a few months, but their professionalism and experience has created such a positive impact on our dedicated administrative team. We have come to lean on them and count on them for so many little things as it pertains to our computers, scheduling, and communicating with our care providers. Our care providers have been more responsive to this duo than any other we have had in my 5 ½ years as the head of this agency – so a big shout out to Rhonda and Janette for bringing the right ingredients to complete the blue ribbon recipe that makes up the Helping Hands Administrative staff.

Big Thank You to Marketing

When it comes to our marketing consultant Katie Donovan and her fearless interns Leah Gavin and Jackie Gibson, it is hard to fully appreciate the effort that comes from this group. But to get a glimpse of the quality of work they do just jump out to our website – most of what you see here was completed by them, also take a moment and LOOK at the newsletter. I am so proud of it. It represents so well in both picture and words the work that we do, again this is because of our marketing team. Katie has not allowed a piece of marketing – whether electronic or in print to reach our community that did not absolutely and completely represent us in the best light possible. People are recognizing us, and it is because of the effort put forth and the dedication to the purpose from Katie and her team.

Leaders that Deserve a Thank You

I’m thankful for our supervisors Jeff Nunham, Alison Sarkozy, Kathryn Green and Tarra Boris. Since our team is small we all have to wear so many hats and without asking, prodding, or poking they have stepped up in a big way taking on extra responsibilities, working longer hours where required, being creative and flexible in the way we train our new care providers. They have borne the brunt of the paperwork and processes of on-boarding a new care provider as I have been busy bringing the front office staff up to speed. No whines, no grunts, no groans – I am so lucky to have such a dedicated group of supervisors who believe in the mission of our agency, and their collective positive attitude models so well what we require and need from our care providers.

Special Individual Thank You

I have a special person I would like to say “Thank You” to. I think she thinks that I don’t even know what she does, but I do, and I am usually just too busy to take the time to appropriately acknowledge all that she does. This is Nurse Jane Rogers. Jane is our face and voice of our Adult Day Services program to all our families and our participant’s doctors. She does a wonderful job of assessing the needs of our participant’s every day and if someone is having a difficult day or an exceptionally good day, Jane takes it upon herself to make sure that all the appropriate people know. Her job goes way beyond passing meds and writing in charts. Her calm caring demeanor relaxes those whom she has to often share less than positive news, and the staff at ADS and the families would be heartbroken if we all didn’t have Jane as the person we could turn to whether for medical advice, a shoulder to cry on, or for a gluten free recipe to improve our health. Our agency is once again truly blessed to have someone as caring and compassionate as she is to oversee our needs in the adult day program.

Thank You Board Members Instrumental to Respite House Renovation

Our agency accomplished a major undertaking this year. It was the restoration of our Respite House. There were many people who had a lot of hours tied up into this project to make our respite house look new again and increase the enjoyment of our children and young adults who attend every week, but this project never would have happened without our board of directors. I was just stretched too thin, and our board stepped up in a big way – a special shout out goes to John Patterson who helped us work through the financial pieces required from McLaren to make the project possible, Sam Tucker for his crew from HCMO who did a fabulous job on the remodel portion especially the bathroom) Kevin as board president who showed up to supply some muscle and general fix it knowledge, and a huge gold star to Jane Beaudoin and her husband Gary who spent countless hours at the respite house completing projects, overseeing volunteers and wrangling up extra resources to get so many required little projects done. It feels really good to have a board that supports our agency as well as the Helping Hands Respite Care Board supported us this year, a huge heartfelt thank-you from me and the staff to all of you.

Care Providers Deserve Thank You

Where would we be without Care Providers? On several occasions our supervisors over the last year have commented on the QUALITY of the individuals who are coming to work for us as care providers. You – the care providers are the lifeblood of our agency. You, as care providers, are the workhorses, and the heart of our agency. The administrative staff can all be the best at what we do but without each of you, even when giving our best effort to the families we care for, all our efforts would be for naught. Your dedication, commitment and passion for the families in which you all work brings a smile to my face several times a day. I am thankful every day for the work you do, and the manner in which you accomplish that work, makes us an outstanding agency. Hardly a day goes by where a family member doesn’t call me or stop by my office to tell a “story” of an extraordinary effort from one of our care providers. Or of the close bond that has developed not only between the care provider and the person they are caring for, but the relationship and bonding that takes between the whole family and one of our care providers.
Speaking of families, they have shared stories with me themselves over the year about saved marriages, rekindled friendships between siblings, and the renewal of “date night” because of the services we provide each and every day. I am so thankful for our families who are able to entrust us to help them with a loved one so that the whole family has the opportunity to be in a better place.


Donors Keep Us Flowing – Thank You

If the care providers are the lifeblood, our donors are the engine that makes that lifeblood flow. Without their faith and support in the services we provide there would be no care providers to do the work. I am so thankful for a renewed relationship with Both AF Group and McLaren Greater Lansing, and our continued friendship with MSU, City of East Lansing, Dean Transportation, and our very good friends at Jackson National. It is important also to acknowledge those donors who have stepped up to become members of our Helping Hearts Giving Society, they continue to help us build a sustainable funding model where the emphasis is on caring and long term engagement. Whether you are a community funder, Helping Hearts Giving Society Member or a brand new donor or volunteer, you make the pieces come together for us.
When I started this piece I just wanted to say thank you to a couple of friends. I guess what I am most thankful for this year is that this piece is so long, because of having so many friends, agencies, families and staff to be thankful for. I love my job, I love what we get to do each day, and I am thankful that each and every one of you make my job as unique and special as it is. Happy New Year everyone, may your dreams, prayers and wishes for this year all come true.

All of us at Helping Hands believe that this New Year promises to be an even better year!