AgingPro.com Wins Oprah (O) Magazine -
The White House Project: Women Rule! Leadership Training Program!
Cheryl Mathieu, founder of AgingPro.com explains her vision to be the Google of eldercare and talks about her experience attending Oprah’s leadership program…
In the April issue of O(prah) magazine, I saw a contest – “What is your dream for changing the world? If you want to lead and have an original idea about how you can contribute to our world, we’re going to help you make that happen.”
I sent in my vision for creating www.AgingPro.com, and out of 3,200 applicants, was 1 of 80 women chosen as a winner!
My vision is to create a website that informs, empowers, and inspires caregivers of the elderly and professionals in aging. This website, AgingPro.com, is a the national one-stop destination for eldercare - delivering the most comprehensive set of caregiving tools, resources, community support, information and access to professionals in aging available anywhere.
AgingPro’s Phase One includes: a national eldercare directory of professional services and organizations (that currently does not exist), community/social support of discussion boards and blogs, Ask the Expert questions and answers, resource links, educational articles, and a virtual classroom with education videos and podcasts. This project will directly support several of the 2005 White House Conference on Aging’s resolutions, including “develop a national strategy of supporting informal and formal caregivers of seniors, to enable adequate quality and supply of services,” “improve patient advocacy to assist patients across all care settings,” “educate Americans on end-of-life issues,” and “improve access to care for older adults living in rural areas.”
We all are becoming familiar with the rising senior population and the impact that will have on our country. My vision is a pro-active solution that will not only help today, but will decrease future problems.
There are currently over 34 million family caregivers.
*Women comprise 65% of caregivers, and are 2.5 times more likely than non-caregivers to live in poverty.
*Stress from caregiving can take as much as 10 years off a family caregiver’s life.
*Minorities are especially vulnerable.
*Depression is reported by 50% of caregivers.
*There is a growing caregiver shortage, and will increase dramatically over the next 10 years.
Women not only make up the majority of caregivers, but they also have long-term care needs of their own. They outlive men, have less retirement income (such as pensions) and have spent years out of the workforce due to caregiving responsibilities. Almost 50% of Baby Boomer women suffer financial hardships due to caregiving duties. While there are formal services available for older adults, accessing help is a complicated and time-consuming maze – 75% reported not knowing where to access services. When caregivers find what they need, they can then spend time connecting to their loved ones, knowing they have done their best. Caregivers (and the professionals who serve the elderly) desperately need a central portal for information, resources, support and training to provide and access care THAT DOES NOT EXIST TODAY.
My goal is to improve the quality of care and life for older people and their caregivers. My intention is to organize and make accessible the “maze of senior services,” change the stigma our society has placed on getting older, support people in embracing the end of life process, inform people about long-term care, provide education and resources to professionals who serve caregivers, educate those planning for their own future of the realities that are ahead and to make these services available and useful to everyone.
Results envisioned from AgingPro:
- Improve access to the information, resources and professional services caregivers need
- Provide support for informal caregivers to decrease caregiver depression
- Improve the quality of life for seniors
- Inspire more people to enter the field of Aging and improve their wages
- Educate Baby Boomers about planning for long-term care
- Improve American’s view of growing older
- Increase understanding and quality of care during the end-of-life care
My hope is that everyone will know that AgingPro.com is the place to go for all their eldercare needs. For example, physicians will have a place to refer families in times of planning or crisis, they will find the appropriate professional services, resources, community support, adaptive products and answers to their questions. Having this availability and access will increase the quality of care and life for caregivers, seniors, and the professionals who serve them.
People who care for older people need to be trained to do their job better and avoid caregiver burnout. The increasing number of people with Alzheimer’s disease is just one example of the need for in-home caregivers to be properly trained. Women make up the majority of paid and unpaid workers in eldercare, and they currently do work that no one else would do while making some of the lowest wages with no health benefits. Most home health aides cannot afford a car of their own or proper medical or dental care.
Currently, our society does not know how to plan for their future. They don’t know what they will need, the importance of saving their money, what their options are as they age or who will pay for the costs of long-term care. AgingPro will teach people the value of planning for their future, break the cycle of silence so we can all begin talking about getting older, and assist people (especially women) in planning for the future they want.
Why me? I believe I am the woman to realize this vision. I believe that Spirit has given me this vision to manifest in the world in a big way. I know this to be true because the vision is much bigger than my brain can comprehend (and grows constantly), and the energy demanded to get this far in manifesting this vision is only possible through grace. To whom much is given, much is expected.
The Leadership Training:
In June 2008, I attended the O/White House Project Leadership training held in New York. We got a crash course in changing the world! Being there with 80 other women who had big dreams to change the world was exciting and inspiring. It was perfect timing, as AgingPro.com had just launched, and I was exhausted after working two years to realize that dream. Being at this training gave me energy and motivation for the next step – to take AgingPro to the public and start spreading the news of the launch.
The Training addressed issues that are specific to women in business and how to overcome the challenges we encounter. The women who mentored us during the weekend knew how to make a dream happen.
Some bits of what I learned during the Training:
- It's ok to be of service to people and make money.
- It's ok to speak up.
- It's ok not to be perfect; I don't have to know every detail of every topic in order to be an expert.
- It's ok to grow older - claim your age!
- It’s essential that I take care of myself so I can help take care of others.
- I must let go of self-doubt - love myself, applaud myself, own my power.
- I have the courage to follow my passion and follow my inner voice.
- I must ask for what I want - it pays to negotiate. Everything is negotiable!
- I am not a fraud - believe I am a leader and I can do whatever I dream of...
- The world needs me, my story - YES, ME!
All the women at this Leadership training have valuable visions, and they just need a little assistance, support and coaching to make it happen. It was invaluable to hear the facilitator’s stories of manifesting their dreams and overcoming challenges in the workplace – from a female perspective, which is unique from men in many ways.
Many of the women, both in the training and support staff, approached me during the weekend, telling me their stories about why they need AgingPro for themselves or someone close to them. Some women had loved ones with Alzheimer's disease, and they didn't know what to do. Others had a family member in assisted living, and they were unsure about the care they were getting. Because of the variety in age of the participants, a couple of women said they would soon need AgingPro for themselves. Others just appreciated someone listening as they told their story of recently losing someone they loved. Honestly, almost everyone I talk to about AgingPro has a story of his/her own about why AgingPro is so needed and valuable. I am grateful to be a part of making their cargiving journey easier, more understandable and graceful.
The reporter from O Magazine, Aimee Lee Ball asked me, “Did you have a "moment of obligation," that recognition that you are accountable for a particular cause, that you own it”?
Yes. Ten years ago, when my grandmother was in the hospital and within a week of the end of her life, the doctor wanted to give her more and more chemo, and refused to put her on hospice. My grandmother suffered unnecessarily until we were finally able to put her on hospice. I had never gone through the end of life process before with anyone so was completely clueless about what to expect, and I was very worried about my grandma.
After hospice started, they educated me about what was going to happen, what to expect, and about what the end-of-life process would look like. This brought me so much peace. With the new information we were given, my family and I could make arrangements and process completion with my grandmother. The hospice team made it possible for my grandmother's dying process to be a remarkably peaceful experience for us all. I was able to be there for my grandma with courage and strength as I held her hand while she took her last breath. It made it possible for me to care for her as she cared for me as a young child.
That was the first time I experienced how much we as a society don't know about aging and dying, and the difference being educated can make. I also saw how elders, and caregivers, need trained advocates to assist them through the many challenges of aging. I was amazed by how a little knowledge made such a huge impact on my experience, and I decided then that everyone deserved to know how to handle situations around aging and dying.
In the years since my grandmother died, I have had many similar experiences, each time saying to myself that other caregivers and professionals have got to know about this. People don't have to do this alone or in ignorance.
AgingPro believes in taking care of yourself so you can help take care of others. Caregiver health is an important focus of ours, as 50% of caregivers are depressed, and the stress on caregivers can shorten their life span by 10 years. My “moment of obligation” regarding caregiver health happened with one of my first clients as a geriatric care manager. A 69 year-old woman had a stroke, and the whole family was focused on her health. Within two weeks, her 35 year-old son was walking out to his car in the morning to go to work and dropped dead of a heart attack. So often caregivers neglect their own health while caring for others, or minimize the effect that stress has on their health. Ever since this experience, I do everything I can to support caregivers and their loved ones to take good care of their own health.
Most caregivers, like many Oprah Magazine readers, are middle-aged, working women. Currently, there is nowhere for them to turn when their older loved ones need care. That is why I brought together all the things I've learned, all the resources caregivers will need to provide excellent loving care while having peace of mind that they have done everything they can, while taking care of themselves. My next vision is becoming Oprah’s expert on Caregiving and Eldercare - "Ask Dr. Cheryl!"
I was aware that, of all the incredible projects at Women Rule, I was the only one focusing on caregivers and our aging population! AgingPro is striving to put the “sexy” in eldercare – so aging will be a concept we embrace, and bring out of the closet. There are over 34 million informal caregivers to adults 50+, and most of them are women. As we know, the number of older adults is burgeoning, and there are many implications to this aging population explosion. As a nation, we can benefit greatly from being pro-active and setting up supports and education ahead of time, before it becomes a crisis in our country.
Empowering caregivers and improving the quality of life for older people is my calling, and it's why I developed AgingPro.com. The intention is to educate and inspire aging seniors, family caregivers, and the professionals that serve them. If you are looking ahead to your own future, the AgingPro website also provides the tools you will need to take control of creating your aging, your way. I hope AgingPro exceeds your expectations and makes the journey easier for everyone.
All the best!