By Jillian Risberg
For seniors who have been considering moving into an assisted living or other adult community but are now having second thoughts due to the pandemic, there is an alternative. The Wholistic Senior, Inc. is a newly formed non-profit corporation that will provide services and support to assist seniors to live and die well in the comfort and privacy of their own homes.
The non-profit, the brainchild of Melissa Nolan, who for more than a decade provided live in, home, hospital, rehab, nursing facility and hospice services to seniors, some still active and independent, some with challenging physical and cognitive issues. Her specialty is a creative approach to dementia and Alzheimers.
“I don’t ever want to see seniors trapped in a facility in a manner that is basically incarceration,” Nolan says. “Not only is the isolation debilitating, especially to dementia clients, but it opened the door for abuse and neglect.”
And she came to two very significant conclusions.
“First and foremost, people are happiest in their own homes,” Nolan says. “Second, despite the ever increasing prevalence of senior living accommodations, they are all very generic and do little more than address the most basic needs of this population, all at an exorbitant cost.
“This is the mantra of The Wholistic Senior. We believe there is nothing a senior living facility can provide that cannot be equaled, or improved upon at home. Now in the age of pandemic, this has never been more crucial.”
Nolan says we live in a society that equates aging with weakness, incapacitation and illness, yet getting old is enormously profitable for corporations.
“But there is something inherently missing here,” she says. “The life wisdom and experience of this generation is being discarded, their potential contributions to society ignored, or at best, undervalued. The pharmaceutical industry exploits seniors because they can.”
It has become an accepted practice to place our senior family members in group living facilities when they ‘become too difficult to manage at home.’
“I believe there is a simpler and much better option: encourage our aging population to stay active, safe, independent and healthy in their own homes,” says Nolan. “The keys are a will to make it happen, connecting with the people who understand this, and care to facilitate it.”
She tackled this multifaceted issue, from providing assisted transportation services for able bodied and disabled seniors, supplementing with advocacy, to emotional support for the health and personal needs of clients.
Leasing of vehicles will eventually be available for private transportation. Personalized plans for death and memorials, including but not limited to videos for eulogies and memorial celebrations, creative options for preservation and/or disposition of remains.
What exactly is a ‘Wholistic Senior?’
According to Nolan, it’s one with their mind, body and spirit.
“Taking a hard look at your assumptions about aging, and questioning why you think the way you do,” she says.
Although advancing years bring new challenges, you still have the right to live life on your own terms.
‘The Wholistic Senior ~ Living and Dying Well at Home,’ explains in depth the mindset and steps integral to this approach. Detailed profiles will be entered into an algorithm database, matching clients with domestic specialists. Video training, background checks and fingerprinting to be provided by the Wholistic Senior, Inc. Client cost to be provided on a sliding scale.
“It is my desire that this book and services provided by The Wholistic Senior, Inc will be a guide for people to take control of their lives and when the time comes, choose the manner for the eventual end,” she says.
Nolan says it’s about the Whole Person. After all, you are more than the sum of your parts. Not just your body or home, but your philosophies and hobbies; your politics and religion; your food and entertainment preferences; your friends and family. Everything you have loved or hated, kept or lost, and all your ideas and memories are the pieces of the mosaic that is you.
“Simply because you’ve managed to still be here, and of course outlived many you’ve known, should not be a naturally mandatory consequence that you must sacrifice the uniqueness of ‘you’ or the comfort of your own home,” Nolan says. “It is not enough to just be okay. You’ve worked hard, and lived through many of life’s difficulties. You deserve to thrive, and be as fantastic as you believe you can be.”
Nolan’s experiences have netted a wealth of insights.
Once elderly people have adapted to a senior living environment, she says it can be much more difficult to bring them home than it would have been had they never left. Someone challenged with cognitive or mobility issues can manage safely and better at home, because it is home.
“There’s a lot more flexibility, and room for creative response to difficult behaviors,” says the senior assistant. “A person’s furniture and belongings can be moved and pleasantly arranged in a studio apartment or modified hospital room, but it will never be home. Never.”
She says when plans are made well in advance, seniors who remain at home thrive. There is an enormous difference between simply being alive and truly living.
“Through the creation of a personalized living plan, projected timeline for home adaptations, procurement of assistants, and legal documentation of personal and financial desires, a safe, efficient home environment can be enjoyed until a person’s last days,” Nolan says. “This is the fertile ground from which my concept of The Wholistic Senior grew.”
“I cannot determine what is right for anyone. What I can offer are suggestions, ideas and inspiration to feel empowered to reimagine your life and lifestyle, in anticipation of the changes aging brings.”
Nolan makes it clear that she is not judging families who have placed their senior members in assisted living or nursing homes.
“These are caring people who genuinely wanted the best for their aging relatives,” she says. “I am also quite certain if these seniors had made their wishes clear and documented before their needs became overwhelming they would never have chosen to move. ‘Independent living’ is not so independent after all.”
After more than a decade of hands-on senior care, Nolan says this is an opportunity to help many more people than she could one-on-one by herself.
She is very grateful and excited to present her new venture to the public.
“This is the culmination of all I’ve seen and learned. It’s an opportunity to not only help seniors thrive and live safely in their own homes, but it will also help sustain small businesses in the community, as well as create good paying jobs for many people of diverse backgrounds and skills,” Nolan says.