Joy Loverde and I met in Chicago in the 1990s, a time when we were both traveling the country, navigating the speaking circuit. With glistening silver hair and a spunky way about her, Joy mesmerized audiences with a sobering message, namely, that many of us will one day be confronted with how to support our aging parents.
Having lost both my mother and father in the 90s her message truly resonated with me. Recently, I had the chance to reconnect with Joy about how her journey in the eldercare space has evolved over the years along with an update on the books she has written
Diamond-Michael: Joy, take us back to the very beginning of how you got started in the eldercare space.
Joy: My journey began in high school in 1966. I went to an all-girls Catholic high school which is the reason I turned out so strict. I didn’t know anybody, no one really does during their first year which can be uncomfortable. In any event, my homeroom teacher walks into class one fall morning and says, “Who’s going to go to the nursing home with me as a volunteer?” And I raised my hand because I was looking for extra credit. I was like, “yeah.” That’s when I realized that my life was going to take on a uniquely different course.
Diamond-Michael: Can you share more with us about this experience?
Joy: I remember this like it was yesterday. It was on Thanksgiving morning. When we arrived there were literally seven people sitting in the dark. It’s Thanksgiving morning, Michael and I’m thinking, “how did they end up here? Where are their families? How come no one’s cooking them turkey?” What’s going on here? At 14, I have no conception of what’s really going on here.
Diamond-Michael: What were you feeling at the end of this experience?
Joy: Upon concluding the day, what’s running through my mind is, “I’m going home to a house full of people, a huge Italian family that loves and cares about me.” I could not get that image out of my head for a very, very long time. Later, during my adult years, I ended up working at J. Walter Thompson, one of the largest advertising agencies in the world where I learned about marketing and communication. But the vision of those people sitting in the dark next left me.
Diamond-Michael: All of this eventually led to your first book. Tell us a little about that.
Joy: In 2000 I applied all that I knew about good communication and put it in a book called, “The Complete Eldercare Planner.” It was intended as a way to get people to start talking to each other and about the future. I was moved to pursue this based on the aforementioned story I told about those seven people sitting in the dark on Thanksgiving morning in their old age. In my mind they ended up in this predicament because no one had a conversation with them about what to do.
Diamond-Michael: As I mentioned to you, your advice was invaluable to me back when my mom was in the midst of her cancer journey. Can you share a bit about what’s in the book for those facing a similar scenario?
My goal with the book was to provide solutions for the caregiving tasks we often face as well as the complicated maze of eldercare services at our disposal. It provides access to downloadable checklists, worksheets, step-by-step action plans, lists of questions to ask, low-cost, and other indispensable resources you may need along the way. This Document Locator™ helps you address a number of different issues that often surface when supporting an older adult parent including:
•Getting started on creating a long-term care plan
•Finding help, especially if you live far away
•Managing the financial aspects
•Talking to elders about sensitive subjects
•Senior housing–move or stay put?
•And many other topics of vital interest to anyone caring for an elder
Diamond-Michael: So what is the overriding messaging you are looking to provide to readers?
That we have a communication problem. We don’t have a healthcare problem, rather there’s a communication problem between family members. That’s the crux of the issue when dealing with aging parents.
Diamond-Michael: Joy, I have you to thank for helping me during my Mom’s final days amid her journey with cancer. I recall how uncomfortable I was in having the very conversations you are mentioning here. But I got up the courage to do it and it truly made a difference in managing this very difficult life event.
Joy: Oh, you’re warming my heart, Michael, because I never know what impact I’m having on people. This validation of your own experience makes me feel that I’m doing my job as an advocate.
Diamond-Michael: So how has the book evolved over the years?
Joy: The Complete Eldercare Planner is in its last edition as of 2009. Can you believe that it's been through six editions already! But it is still selling just fine and is still quite relevant even today. Because it mainly consists of questions we need to ask and. So if I am offered the opportunity to do another edition, which I am hoping will be the case, the primary emphasis will be on updating the resource section.
Diamond-Michael: I’m curious about what sorts of additional things you might be adding or updating given the times that we’re in.
Joy: I’ll address issues like what to do if nursing homes are not an option. And, of course, we all know about the caregiver shortage. So, how do we get help now? Then there are the new things on the market, particularly related to technology. One area I’m planning to talk a lot about is robots and the support they can offer in terms of caregiving.
Diamond-Michael: Oh, really?
Joy: Yep, there’s a lot of cool stuff that’s happening. So I’m hoping to have the opportunity to update the book. Things definitely have evolved since the book first came out in 1995 during my time as one of the early pioneers in opening the eyes of corporate America. But since then some very interesting things started to happen.
Diamond-Michael: Please share
Joy: While onsite doing corporate workshops, people started coming up to me and saying, “you know, I’m taking all of this in for my mom and dad, and this is great and everything. But I started having the thought, who’s going to take care of me when it’s my turn?”
They’re telling me, “I don’t have children. I’m not married and don’t plan to be. So who is going to take care of me when I’m old?” That’s when the lightbulb immediately went off. I thought, “that’s the title of my next book.”
Diamond-Michael: So that’s when you wrote “Who Will Take Care of Me When I'm Old?: Plan Now to Safeguard Your Health and Happiness in Old Age?
Joy: Yes, but I had to wait a little bit because 10 years ago when this idea first surfaced was way too soon. Too many people were still dealing with eldercare on a big scale. But in a few years, the timing became right.
Diamond-Michael: What do you explore in the book?
Joy: For those who have no support system in place, the thought of aging without help can be a frightening, isolating prospect. So my main message is that growing old does not have to be an inevitable decline into helplessness. In other words, it’s possible to maintain a good quality of life in your later years if you have a plan in place. “Who Will Take Care of Me When I'm Old” equips listeners with everything they need to prepare on their own. Specifically, it looks at:
Advice on the tough medical, financial, and housing decisions to come
Real solutions to create a support network
Questions about aging solo listeners don't know to ask
Customizable worksheets and checklists that help keep plans on course
Guidance on new products, services, technology, and resources
Diamond-Michael: What sorts of new learning are informing your path forward as an advocate for the care of older adults?
Joy: Living to 90 isn’t a stretch anymore. So, many of us are having to plan for 30 more years than we’re typically used to. The good news is that the resources are evolving with things like financial planning and long-term care insurance.
Diamond-Michael: So given this new reality, what do we need to be mindful of?
Joy: Sure the resources are there, many of which are listed in both of my books. There are literally hundreds and hundreds. But that’s not the point. The point is, how do we create a quality relationship with our resources, the people that are there to support us on the journey? We have to begin that process now.