Book: “The Eldercare Consultant”

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Phoenix resident Becky Feola spent a decade caring for her husband, who had Huntington’s Disease. She then worked with thousands of families to help them make decisions for providing care for an ill or aging loved one. That led Feola to writing the book “The Eldercare Consultant, Your Guide to Making the Best Choices Possible.” Feola will discuss her book and how to make the right choices in caring for the ill and elderly.

TED SIMONS: Phoenix resident Becky Feola spent a decade caring for her husband who suffered from Huntington's disease. She then worked with thousands of families to help them make decisions regarding health care for an ill or aging loved one. That experience led to the writing of "The Elder Care Consultant, Your Guide to Making the Best Choices Possible." We welcome Becky Feola to "Arizona Horizon." Thank you so much for being here.

BECKY FEOLA: Thank you, Ted.

TED SIMONS: Let's get to your experience and start from there. That is a bit of a foundation for what you do.

BECKY FEOLA: It's the entire foundation. My husband Neal was diagnosed with Huntington's disease when he was 41 years old. In his case it was like having Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and schizophrenia all rolled up together. We both retired and for the next eight years I took care of him by myself. We had one day, two days after Christmas in, 2004 where he was having audio and visual hallucinations. He physically attacked me, that was the first time he had ever done anything like that. But it was severe enough I had to call the police. He was admitted to the state psych ward where I found out they can actually tell you your loved one can never come home again. That's what happened. What was interesting was I had gotten so used to what was going on with him, I couldn't see it any longer. And he was progressing and needed a higher level of care that I couldn't provide. So the doctor said, you know, he will never come home with you. You have two days to find a care community for him, which I had no idea how to do that. I failed very badly. I went through multiple care homes until I found the right one. I found out they didn't have training to handle a Huntington's patient. He was 6'5", 240 pounds, sort of large and mobile. They were afraid of him. You need to come get your husband and move him. They kept my money, which was difficult. And I decided -- he passed away four months after moving into the care home. It progressed rapidly. I decided at that time that I really wanted to help people who were in my position, who didn't understand what to do.

TED SIMONS: So what do people that are in similar positions, what do they do? Where do they go?

BECKY FEOLA: I think the biggest mistake I see with families is they don't recognize that they are caregivers, they have the mentality that this is my husband, I need to handle this and do it. It's my parents, they took care of me, I'll take care of them. The first step is identifying you are a caregiver, and you are entitled to seek out resources and ask for help. So the first thing you want to do is probably talk to your primary care physician and clearly identify what the care needs are. There's probably some specialties that you need to focus on, and ask for those specialists who can help you. And then start asking for resources. What is available in Phoenix or wherever you're living, that could provide them for you.

TED SIMONS: Compare assisted living facilities with assisted care in-home. Because I know in-home is a growing trend.

BECKY FEOLA: I think everybody wants to stay at home. The fact is, you're probably going to be able to do so unless you're having, you know, if a spouse is aging or the kids all work. It's likely you will. In-home care is a wonderful resource, as long as the care levels haven't exceeded what they are capable of providing. As long as that person isn't isolated while they are at home.

TED SIMONS: Right.

BECKY FEOLA: So if you've got somebody who's got somebody coming in twice a day, but they are by themselves the rest of the time, it might be wise to consider moving them to a community.

TED SIMONS: And not only that I would imagine the social aspects of the community in the health care facility would work wonders for some folks.

BECKY FEOLA: I always tell clients, somebody who's isolated will decline faster mentally and physically than if they are getting that stimulation. Sometimes I hear, they won't participate. That doesn't matter. Just knowing people are around, hearing commotion, games being played, will do the stimulation for them.

TED SIMONS: So as far as the costs are concerned here, people want the best obviously, they want the best but the costs can be prohibitive, can't they?

BECKY FEOLA: Absolutely. On average I would say around $3,500 a month, that's one of your middle ranges of care. If you've got somebody who's got dementia or advancing high levels of care, you could be looking at $6-7,000 a month. Fortunately for our very low-income families we have the state program Arizona long-term care system that will help pay for the cost of care. There's also the veterans aid that request help.

TED SIMONS: Interesting. As far as the conversation that you have with the loved one to tell them, we're going to have to put you now in this assisted care facility, or someone will be coming to your home now a lot more often, staying with you perhaps. How do you go through that conversation?

BECKY FEOLA: Their biggest fear is losing control of their life. I start that conversation with, we are trying to keep you in control, giving you the options you need. If you wait and you fight it for too long, there may be an instance such as my husband, where you go in the hospital and your options are taken away from you. It would be easier if you work with us to try and identify what you need and put you in control of making those decisions.

BECKY FEOLA: And you have to make sure the decisions, they understand, because you've got to keep those bonds strong.

TED SIMONS: That can be a delicate matter, can't it?

BECKY FEOLA: The majority of my clients have some form of dementia. So you have to really get their trust and have them understand you're working on their behalf, and they will have as much influence as possible in the decision.

TED SIMONS: If you're looking for in-home care, the number one thing to look for. If someone says, I don't know where to start?

BECKY FEOLA: First of all, the care needs are the priority. Not all communities provide the same types of care or even want to. So you need to ask as many questions as you can about what they can provide for you. Second would be the costs. Obviously people will be concerned about that. The very least is whether the apartment looks like their home or whether they have a special view. Many people approach it first, and that's the last consideration you should be thinking of.

TED SIMONS: I would imagine so. Where can people go, obviously check out the book to get information. Yeah. Any other places to go? You can't get too much information here, can you?

BECKY FEOLA: My business website www.assistedlivingadvantage.com will provide resources, places you can call. I never let somebody call my office where I don't give them a resource to walk away with.

Alright well Congratulations on the book,and for the fact that you're helping so many folks. Seems like almost everyone is involved in this in some way, shape or form. Thank you for being here.

BECKY FEOLA: Thank you.


TED SIMONS: Tuesday on "Arizona Horizon" we will update gas prices and look at how those could be affected by the Iran nuclear deal. And the latest Arizona tourism facts and figures, that's at 5:30 and 10:00 on the next "Arizona Horizon." That is it for now. I'm Ted Simons, thank you so much for joining us. You have a great evening.

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