HELPING SENIORS: with Better Life Solutions
Feb 27, 2018 12:23PM
By Erin Lehn Floresca
Tina Buchanan of Visionary Care Consultants in San Diego, didn’t originally set out to work with seniors. “In 2004, I was in my under-grad program at San Diego State working toward a major in psychology or sociology. Social work just kind of landed in my lap. A friend thought I would enjoy it and eventually, I agreed that it might be a good fit, so I chose a degree in social work. At that time, I really wanted to work with underprivileged children and those in the foster care system.”
As part of her senior year, Buchanan and her classmates were assigned internships. However, instead of working with kids as she had hoped, the program paired her with a nursing home. At first, she was devastated. And then she met “Mary,” an isolated hospice patient with no family or support system.
Buchanan visited with Mary daily for weeks and was even with her on the day she died. “I became her support system. The whole experience was surreal. I’d never had a relationship with anybody in Mary’s shoes,” she says. “I was heartbroken; and it forever changed me.” It also forever changed the course of her career.
During her master’s program, Buchanan was able to pick out her own internship. This time around, she chose a grade school. However, she wasn’t in love with the work the way she thought she would be and decided that working with seniors was a better fit, after all. After graduation, she landed a job as a social services director in a nursing home followed by a job in home health care where she worked for eight years.
“It was an eye-opening experience, to say the least,” says Buchanan. “I saw how fragmented the system was for seniors living at home. Many of them lacked access to basic resources like transportation and meals. It was so frustrating and heartbreaking to see them struggling so much while trying to navigate a broken system. What they needed was an advocate to help guide them.”
In 2017, Buchanan decided to become that advocate. “I wanted to branch out on my own so that I could help people learn how to navigate the system.” At the same time she decided to launch her business, she became the health care advocate for her own grandparents, helping them coordinate end-of-life care. Although losing her grandparents spun her world into heartache, it was exactly the experience she needed to propel her forward. “Going through this on such a deep and personal level helped me realize exactly how important all of this was. It helped me really define the vision for my business.”
According to Buchanan, although it’s taboo to talk about death and dying in our culture, it doesn’t have to be. “Believe it or not, seniors actually want someone to have conversations with about death. While it might be uncomfortable for us, as family, it’s not about us—it’s about them. They need that support, emotionally, so they can enjoy their last days and have a better quality of life.”
Buchanan says she can help guide family members on how to start those crucial conversations. “They need to be had—and the earlier the better. For my grandparents, it was so peaceful and so cohesive, and I wish this for everyone else. To age with dignity and die with dignity. We can frontload that by making many of these decisions early so we aren’t making hard choices in times of crisis.”
Buchanan affirms that she can act as an advocate on any level—from liaison to manager, to families all around the globe. “When you invest in services with me it can be on a monthly basis to get questions answered or I can help implement the resources we discuss. It’s whatever level of service you need,” says this aging-in-place specialist who shares that she has strategic partners for all aspects of one’s life. “Whether it’s the financial piece, the VA or health piece, transportation, meal deliveries or real estate—I can oversee whatever you need me to help out with.”
Buchanan is especially excited about her new venture as a gift annuity life estate program senior advocate. “These programs have been around for many years, but they’re not discussed much. However, they can be a great option for those seniors 70 and above who need guaranteed income, have equity in their home, and want more flexibility than a reverse mortgage offers,” she says.
Letting seniors know that there are options available, and helping to guide them toward the right choices for them, is her passion and she is excited to share her knowledge and enthusiasm with those seeking better life solutions.
Tina Buchanan MSW, Aging Life Care Ambassador, can be reached at 619-228-3584 or by visiting VisionaryCareSD.com. For more information on The Charitable Gift Annuity Life Estate Program, visit GiftAnnuityForHome.com.