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Reclaiming Time and Relationships: The Power of Care Navigation

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Let us face it, as a child, few of us want to think about our parents aging and needing long-term care. However, for most of us, it is inevitable. I unfortunately learned that lesson early in life.

Mom
Author Jon Corra and his mother Kathy on their last trip together.

When I was thirteen my dad was diagnosed with brain cancer. For two years and countless surgeries, we saw him fade from an industrious man often putting in over 70 hours per week to an individual unable to do his own basic care. By the time I was fourteen, my father, at the age of 41, was placed in a nursing home for a few months, and then, he was placed in our home until he passed away in February of 1999. He was 42 years old.

Two decades later my mom fell ill. She suffered from kidney disease, retinitis, heart issues, and so many more problems. Honestly, the final five years of her life were awful. My mother didn’t want to be placed in a nursing home. She too needed around-the-clock care. That responsibility fell on me, my sister, and my aunt. In my mid-thirty’s, my life consisted of working 9 hours every day and then coming home to take care of my mom until I fell asleep. I will not go into all of the details, but it’s one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done in my life. I feel like most of my mid-thirties are just a blur. My mom passed away at 54. My most prominent memories of her are not good. It is all from the last five years and I know my health, both physical and mental, will never recover from that time in my life.

Six years after my mom passed, I joined Jarvis Law Office, where I discovered the importance of Estate Planning, Asset Protection, and Care Navigation. I heard they focused their practice on Elder Law and Estate Planning. Though I worked in the legal world for 8 years prior to accepting this position, I had no idea what that even meant. The only reference I had was a scene from the 2024 movie “Challengers” in which a character is on a date and the woman he is courting mentions that she is an estate planning lawyer. I eventually learned that we focus our firm on holistic trust-based planning, asset protection, “powerful” powers of attorney, etc. Then I was told about something called Care Navigation. I was lost on that one. Was it like getting a GPS tracker for hospitals and nursing homes? Is this a type of young adult book series? I was lost to say the least.

It wasn’t until I started talking to Attorney Tim Jarvis and our Chief Vision Officer, Hope Spangler, that I truly learned what care navigation is. They each have over 20 years’ experience in this field, and they have a wealth of knowledge. They explained that Care Navigation is a way for our team to help “navigate” the care of an individual alongside their family. Our Care Navigators, like Sherpas guiding climbers, help families with Nursing Home or Assisted Care placement, ask the right questions at facilities and hospitals, and even facilitate home care.” We’re making the climb together. The Sherpa has done this climb countless times before and is there to guide the rookie climber. Our Care Navigators know how to guide families through all of the long-term and short-term care options for families, whether that is in a Nursing Home or Assisted Care center or in their own home. They know the right questions to ask at the facilities and hospitals. They can even help get your loved ones back home. The most important thing they do though is give you back your time and your relationship with your loved one.

The first thought I had was “I wish I knew about this five years ago.” My sister and I didn’t have the mental bandwidth to make major decisions regarding my mother’s care. My aunt was extremely helpful, but she didn’t know the laws or the ways in which we could get the help we needed. Honestly, there was so much misinformation out there that we thought if we put my mom in a nursing home, we’d lose the house. Little did I know that there was a law firm out there that could help us through this process. What I wouldn’t give to have that time back with my mom. She may not have wanted to go to a skilled care facility, but it would have been what was best for her and for us as a family.

Maybe you don’t want some random stranger coming in to take care of your loved one. After all, it could just be a random person off the street. I can’t speak for other law firms, but at Jarvis Law office, our Care Navigation team is made up of Licensed Social Workers. Not only are they licensed, but they also have years of experience in their respective fields. Plus, they are warm, caring people.

Currently, we have two Care Navigators on staff. Megan Voight and Brenda Lash. Both of these ladies have embraced their roles, and I haven’t once heard them refer to anyone as a “client.” Instead, they use the term family. That’s not just slick marketing to make you feel peace of mind. After all this ain’t Olive Garden. Megan and Brenda really do become a part of these families. They get to know everyone on a personal level.

I regularly review their schedules and am awed by how much time they spend working with and for our client families who have elected this service.  Their calendars are filled with in-person visits, follow-up calls with service providers, and exploring options for these families.  They also have routine meetings with their clients’ families keeping information flowing and allowing families to focus on their loved ones. While some of these interactions involve urgent tasks such as arranging placement and signing documents, many are simply for the purpose of checking in on family members. Having been a caregiver myself, I cannot overstate how much this compassionate gesture would have meant to me.

I don’t have children, and because I spent so much time in my life taking care of sick parents, I never want to have a child. That being said, if I did have a child, I wouldn’t ask them which doctor they think is best for them. I wouldn’t ask my child if they want to go to the hospital. With your parents, it’s not so easy. Because you’re this person’s child, it can be difficult to make decisions for them or even contrary to their initial wishes. Hindsight is 20/20, though, and looking back, we let my mom make too many decisions about her end-of-life care without knowing what the options were or having the support for her and us.  That negatively impacted everyone. Here’s why:

  1. Proper Care. I’m not a nurse or a medical professional. I have a master’s degree in communication from West Virginia University. It’s barely worth the paper on which it’s printed when it comes to caring for a loved one. While I did learn a lot about was communication and marketing, that doesn’t help when you’re running someone’s dialysis every night because they can’t go to a treatment center. Some might think that I am just being selfish, but it wasn’t fair to my mom either. She deserved better care. She often got infections because someone who makes YouTube videos for a living isn’t going to know how to properly dress a wound.
  2. You’re too emotional. Not to be too blunt, but you are (likely) not going to make the best choices about your loved one’s care because you love them. I say this from experience. With both of my parents, we buried our heads in the sand about certain realities. It wasn’t until a doctor who we didn’t know sat us down in a room and explained that things were not going to improve. We needed to accept that the end was near, and we needed to make arrangements. That was extremely helpful, and I truly wish we had had that input earlier on.
  3. Knowledge is power. You and your loved one don’t have the knowledge. I mentioned the sherpa earlier. Outside of the hit coming of age song Landslide, I have no knowledge of mountains or climbing. Imagine if I walked up to one of these climbing guides and said “I don’t need your help, I listened to Fleetwood Mac in the ’90s.” They would probably laugh at They should stop me from making the climb alone.  But they can’t. Why do we think people with no long term care background are qualified to make major care and payment decisions for their loved ones? Wouldn’t it be better to have a neutral party in place to help you make those decisions? People hire financial advisors, why not a care advisor?

Looking back, five years removed, it would have helped so much to have Megan or Brenda help my family with my mom’s care. It would have made my mom’s final days much easier for her, and it would have saved me a lot of money in therapy in the years since.

Maybe you’re in this position now, and you’re wondering what the next steps are. How does one even start this process? Luckily, it’s simple. All you have to do is click here to schedule a free consultation or give us a call. Wait, maybe this is moving too fast for you, and you want to learn more. No worries.  Here are some great pieces of information about Care Navigation. This article I found especially helpful.

About the Author: 

rachel copyJonathan E. Corra is the Marketing Manager for Jarvis Law office. He holds a Master’s in Corporate Communication from West Virginia University, as well as an RBA from West Virginia University at Parkersburg. Jonathan has over 15 years of experience in Marketing, including nearly a decade in Legal Marketing. Having faced the profound challenges of caregiving for both of his parents, Jonathan brings a deeply personal understanding to his work at Jarvis Law Office. He is passionate about Estate Planning, Asset Protection, and Care Navigation, and is dedicated to helping families navigate the complexities of long-term care with compassion and knowledge.

In addition to his professional accomplishments, Jonathan is known for his empathetic and understanding nature. His work is not just a career but a calling, driven by a desire to make a difference in the lives of others. Through his legal knowledge and personal insights, Jonathan strives to offer the support and peace of mind that every family deserves.

Published July 1st, 2024