When my father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, my family and I cared for him at home for five years. Along the way we shared many poignant moments, creating a therapeutic household and finding countless ways to help my father enjoy life. During that time I learned about all the challenges of family caregiving. I founded Pro-Elder Consulting, LLC in 2006 to help older adults maintain independence and quality of life and to support family caregivers with professional guidance and care.
- Mission, Values and Vision
- Martha A. Eastman, President
- My Family’s Story
- What is an Aging Life Care™ Manager?
- How we are different
Mission, Values and Vision
Pro-Elder Consulting aims to improve quality of life for older adults and their significant others by partnering with them in managing care, planning for the future, and advocating on their behalf. We educate about care options, assist older adults to prevent illness and injury, and collaborate with and support the health care team and client support system to maintain or restore optimum health and functioning. We advocate for choice, individuality, and independence and we promote dignified end-of-life care.
Pro-Elder Consulting offers services based on the values of caring, respect, knowledge, prevention, health, dignity, and cultural diversity. Pro-Elder Consulting contributes to an inclusive society where community connections are maintained in old age and where older people and their significant others have care choices that honor diverse lifestyles and maintain independence.
Pro-Elder Consulting will continue to take a leading role in developing, identifying, and providing trend-setting Aging Life Care™ services that allow older adults and their significant others to do what they need to do and to have peace of mind about the future.Return to top
Martha A. Eastman, President
Martha A. Eastman, PhD, RN, NP-C, is certified as a family nurse practitioner by the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. She has nearly two decades of experience in care management and more than thirty years experience in nursing, including 10 years working in long term care and assisted-living for people with dementia.
Martha earned her BS in nursing and MS in community health nursing at Boston University and her PhD in history and a Certificate of Advanced Study in Nursing at the University of Maine.
Martha has been a member of the Aging Life Care™ Association since 2003.
Return to top
My Family’s Story
Before the gerontologist diagnosed my father with Alzheimer’s Disease, my mother already understood a lot about dementia. The police had found her neighbor wandering on U.S. Route 201 one night clad only in her nightgown, and after this episode the whole neighborhood became involved in her care. My parents and others had brought her meals over many months and offered her rides in hopes that she would not drive. One day she set off in her car with Bert, her dog, in a huge rainstorm that resulted in the Flood of 1987. My mother tells of getting a call from the Piscataquis County Sheriff after her neighbor had had an accident and the police realized she could not remember how to get home. The next day my mother drove a couple counties over to pick up her neighbor. The sheriff brought her and the dog in a boat because the river had risen and flooded the town. Her neighbor, unaware of the danger, greeted her with, “Well, hello, what are you doing here?” Now my mother reflects on all those difficult and amusing experiences with her neighbor and believes that God was preparing her to be a family caregiver.
In August 1998 my father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease; this began a 5-year caregiving stint that led both to many rich memories for my family and to my decision to begin my care management practice. Fortunately, my mother was healthy and energetic. As a nurse, I had professional knowledge and caregiving skills. My twin sister had what David Troxel and Virginia Bell in A Dignified Life call “knack,” learned quickly, and was a natural caregiver. My mother had known for some time that something was wrong and that my father had become more forgetful. A few weeks before his evaluation with the gerontologist, he drove to town to get a haircut, but came home without it, because he could not find the barbershop. After the dementia diagnosis he did not drive, but helped keep the car clean in the summer and sometimes moved it in the driveway so the plowman could plow after a snowstorm.
Between September of 1998 and September 2002 my parents kept up a busy routine and my mother became an expert in caring for a person with dementia. Everything became an activity, whether she was cooking, cleaning, or participating in a community event, my mother found ways to include my father. Before this time his attendance at church had been sporadic for many years, but once he relied on my mother for care, he went along willingly. He had always had a beautiful bass voice, and even when he did not recognize all the members of the church or remember what to do when the offering plate passed by, he sang out when they played familiar hymns.
Quite early after his diagnosis he developed aphasia and had difficulty finding words. Sometimes a French word would come out instead of English. Once I remember arriving at my parents’ home and he had just seen a raccoon in the yard. He said, “That one with the mask!” when he could not remember its name. My mother, sister, and I kept a running conversation with him just the same. Before I talked with him on the phone, I usually gathered details about his day from my mother and then mentioned things that I knew he had done or seen. He would respond with “Yes” or just chuckle, but he would always respond in some way to my voice.
At first my mother could leave him a note by the phone when she went out, saying where she was and when she’d be back. He liked things to be organized into neat rows. One day he organized her jewelry box, matching up all the earrings and putting like things together. She found he was very good at dropping cookie dough into neat little rows on a cookie sheet, and he earned the affectionate nickname “cookie monster” as he frequently raided the cookie jar.
In May 2000 we celebrated my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary.
They had both graduated from high school in the 1930s and were good ballroom dancers. At their 50th wedding anniversary party they danced more than any other couple there! Even though he could not remember many of the guests, he could still lead my mother around the dance floor.
Many people asked us about “wandering” and since we lived in a rural town, we always paid close attention. We kept a bell on the front door, but sometimes my father could open and close the door without making it ring. We always walked along the road that ran by my parents’ house, rather than walking in the woods or along wooded trails, because we did not want my father to wander into the woods. Whenever he left the house, we just went out and walked with him. We all got a lot of exercise! I’d always assess his balance and stamina. In the fall, he’d stand on one foot and kick leaves or acorns with the other. Knowing that he did this frequently whenever he walked, I was never surprised when he was able to stand on one foot to pull on a pant leg. We also participated in the Safe Return program through the Alzheimer’s Association.
As his dementia progressed we helped my father maintain his relationships. One of his favorite people was his brother George, and we have many pictures of the two of them together. Here he is welcoming George to our home on Thanksgiving Day 2003. By this time my father also had a diagnosis of lung cancer and a few days before this picture was taken he began receiving hospice services.
Here are my parents on Thanksgiving Day 2003, a memorable occasion for our family. My Uncle George played his accordion and I played my tuba. My mother and my sister and I all danced with my father. Although he had become quite frail, he even danced the tango and was very affectionate. We all knew he was saying goodbye and we savored every moment.
My father died at home a couple weeks later on December 10, 2003. In the program for his memorial service we quoted an article published in the December 15, 2003 People Magazine, by Patti Davis, daughter of Ronald Reagan. In the piece Davis shared her love for her father in anticipation of his death after living so long with Alzheimer’s Disease. She wrote: “My father will leave; we all know that. . . . We will walk past an empty room. We will be assaulted by the silence, the emptiness, and we will, I think, try hard to listen—to echoes, whispers, all those things that don’t vanish when a person dies. That is, if you believe in such things. My father did. And that might be his most important legacy for us—what lives on in the heart.” (p.123)
We continue to remember my father often, especially when dancing, playing music, or sharing with others about our caregiving experiences.Return to top
What is an Aging Life Care™ Manager?
An Aging Life Care Manager is dedicated to helping clients age well while also supporting quality of life for family members. This phase of a family’s journey together is often complicated. There is more to do than there is time. Relatives may live far away. Relations can become strained.
Our professional training and knowledge of best practices can ease the journey.
Every family is unique. As Aging Life Care Managers, we apply our insights and skills in 8 key areas to provide you with a positive care plan tailored to your family’s individual needs and strengths.
We offer expertise regarding:
- Health and disability: Through assessments and experience, we can help you understand what your loved one does well, and in what areas he or she could use additional help.
- Finances: A review of the current monetary situation will result in a plan to make resources stretch as efficiently as possibly while maintaining the desired level of comfort, dignity and safety.
- Housing: Based on the assessments, recommendations can be made for optimal living situations now, with a view to likely changes in the foreseeable future.
- Family: Sibling disagreements and old family history often make the aging journey difficult. Our training provides for skilled facilitation of family meetings and creation of a plan that takes everyone’s needs into account.
- Local Resources: There are programs available to help, but it’s difficult to know which one is the most appropriate for your situation. Save time and money by letting us objectively evaluate the situation and connect you to the resources best suited to your needs.
- Advocacy: Our comprehensive knowledge of the disjointed health care system allows us to monitor quality and lobby for the care and treatment your family wants.
- Legal: Let us help you identify issues and get key paperwork in order.
- Crisis Intervention: The unexpected is simply a fact of life in aging. We are experienced with elder emergencies and are ready to jump in at a moment’s notice.
Pro-Elder Consulting is in the business of helping aging adults and their families to live well throughout the aging process. Give us a call at 207-944-2523 to discuss the many ways we can help you.Return to top
How we are different
What makes an Aging Life Care Manager stand apart from the others is the commitment to stay focused on the needs of the client and family. Others may offer services for less, but what you receive cannot help but be influenced by the payment structure.
Hospital- or insurance-based case managers are employees of the health care system. They are good professionals. Their focus, however, is to address the issues of patients within the institution and to make efficient use of services for their organization.
We are based in the community and work with aging adults wherever they live. We provide continuity of care across all settings. We include the family and focus on improving quality of life for the older adult and their grown children.
Senior advisors are paid referral fees to suggest elder care facilities. As a general rule, they have a more limited sphere of knowledge and do not hold a professional degree needed to give them expertise in the 8 key areas of elder care. Only those facilities willing to pay a finder’s fee will be included in their list of suggestions. There may be a more appropriate option, but it will not be mentioned if the facility does not pay for referrals.
Because we are paid directly by you, we are independent and objective. Our focus is 100% on the needs of your family and your aging loved ones. We apply our considerable skill and years of training to your unique situation.
When the issue is safety and quality of life, you deserve the best!Return to top