(Photo above: (L-R) Jeanne Merritt, LCSW and Jennifer Rogers, CCM, founders of Bend Senior Care Management | Photo by Krystal Marie Collins)
As people of the 21st century, our time is often filled with the needs of career and our immediate family. This has changed our relationships with our elders. Finding time for personal endeavors is challenging, let alone managing an aging loved one’s care. For this reason, the founders of Bend Senior Care Management (BSCM) say they are able and willing to step in. They ask, how can we best honor and value our senior generation and then facilitate care choices on behalf of family and individuals.
Jennifer Rogers, CCM and Jeanne Merritt, LCSW built BSCM from a foundation of their many years working in health and senior care in various capacities. Rogers holds a degree in health care administration from Oregon State University, an accreditation as a professional case manager through the Commission for Case Manager certification and has worked in the local Bend community for the past 23 years. Merritt has a masters in social work with an emphasis in geriatric care, a licensure in clinical social work and 20 years’ experience serving seniors locally.
They first met while working at Bend Transitional Care and explain that through their work in medicine, they saw a gap in healthcare and patient needs. “Professionals aren’t given enough time to work with the clients,” says Merritt. This knowledge, combined with market research showing Deschutes County to have the highest percent population of 65 and older in the state, prompted Rogers and Merritt to take action.
Some of the concerns under the geriatric care umbrella that BSCM can oversee are short term transitions for isolated injuries or recoveries, long term transitions into assisted living and supervising care when loved ones live far away.
Rogers says, “The best way to say it is we are guides for seniors. Whether that is family education, creating a comfortable environment at home for someone with complex needs, making choices sensitive to financial circumstances, help navigating insurance or picking care givers with suitable personalities. We strive to honor the wishes of clients and coordinate what is necessary to meet their wishes.”
“The cherry on the sundae,” Merritt beams, “is once folks are settled after a transition. We can offer life enrichment and social activities beyond the treatment. This work is so gratifying.”
Having worked in many facets of healthcare, they know legalities, how to handle paperwork, obtaining designations and are looked at in the health care arena as trusted professionals. They both agree that relationships they have built in the health industry are invaluable to clients they serve.
Merritt says many of the clients they see are in crisis management mode and wish they would have contacted BSCM sooner, because they unnecessarily handled everything on their own for too long.
“During crisis,” Rogers observes, “families are under pressure, their time window is narrow, differing opinions may be on the table and BSCM can guide those folks to a better place.”
BSCM’s preference is to offer services before a crisis is eminent. They offer a service called life care planning through which they establish a relationship with the client and stay abreast of developments and modify as changes are needed. “Clients will most benefit from planning ahead of time. It can be uncomfortable because some aging health-related topics are taboo, but we open the dialogue. We help the client plan for what ifs.”
“Even housing can be an issue,” Merritt reflects, “I am in the midst of moving my mother to Bend from Tennessee. She is on a fixed income and buying or renting is challenging at the moment.
Fixed income lists for senior living are up to 100 people long and some of the wait lists are closed. Some specialized care facilities are having similar issues.”
Rogers explains that in formulating a startup and being small business owners, she and Merritt do everything. “It is interesting because in our other jobs there was someone in charge of marketing, book keeping, there were salaries and benefits, but not when you open your own business.”
Merritt adds, “We are doing all the minutia, brand building, billing, website design. What we like is we get to do it how we want to and our values and ethics really shine through. We wouldn’t be doing this without the team, without each of our contributions. Working with another female, thinking similarly and emotionally supporting each other, our life philosophies are in alignment and ultimately that is what matters.”
As small business owners, they appreciate the support they receive from associations in their industry. Aging Life Care Associates and the National Association of Social Workers offers training, publications, webinars and keeps them aware of trends, changes and opportunities.
They have received much guidance from mentors Jim Lee (InvitExcellence), Dr. Michel Boileau, MD senior administrative advisor to St. Charles Medical System and Rusty Merritt (COO of FireWhat Inc.). “They listened to our business plan, gave us feedback, and they were willing to listen and help us be successful.” Rogers and Merritt say they are grateful to have continued dialog with such
BSCM is careful to mention they are currently a private pay service. While many insurance companies recognize the value of geriatric care management, presently, these types of consulting services are not covered by Medicare.
In closing, Rogers and Merritt say, “Aging is a complex process. We are committed to being a beacon of advocacy so that seniors and their families age with dignity and grace. People are living much longer, our goal as geriatric care managers is to guide, support and advocate for our clients. When there is a crisis or medical emergency we will assist them and their family to navigate the complicated healthcare system.”
Bend Senior Care Management
Tagline: Personalized Compassionate Health Advocacy
Founders: Jennifer Rogers, CCM and Jeanne Merritt LCSW
When did you open your doors: March 2016
No. of employees: 2
What is your product/market niche: Our product is client management, care planning and care recommendations as a service for seniors and their families.
What has been your greatest success to date: Each one of our clients has been grateful for the services we have provided. Several of whom have expressed their regret in not having us involved sooner.
What are your company’s goals in the next year: It is twofold: Helping healthcare providers understand how we provide consistency and continuity throughout the aging process. Secondly, establish Bend Senior Care Management as a model for modern day geriatric care
What other ways is your company involved in the community:
The committee for Walk to End Alzheimer’s and collaborating with local agencies which assist and support for those affected by Alzheimer’s and Dementia.