Advocating for the Elderly: A Granddaughter’s Promise Speaks for a Forgotten Minority

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After her grandmother passed away in 2004 following abuse and neglect in an assisted living facility in South Florida, Christine Canavan set out to make sure that no other elderly person suffered the way her “Gram” Sally Werra did.

Today, Canavan’s organization, A Granddaughter’s Promise, helps families throughout the East Coast of Florida find safe, high-quality solution for their adult care needs – at no charge. “When a family is faced with having to find living options for their loved one or they’re in a crisis…(they) don’t know where to begin. You can ask one question to five different people and get five different answers. It’s intimidating, it’s frustrating. No one really wants to take the time to answer these questions.”

A Granddaughter’s Promise has revolutionized-and humanized-the elder care process. “The first thing we do is listen because we’ve been there,” said Canavan. Before learning about their limitations or their diagnosis, she asks about what she calls “the dash” – the years in between their birth and the present that make them the person they are.

“If you have a World War II vet who’s been through the Great Depression, I’m not going to ask (first) about their limitations or their diagnosis, I want to know who they were,” emphasized Canavan. “We learn as much as we possibly can about that person and then we get into their limitations and their diagnosis. Then we talk about budget and the family dynamic. Based on the culmination of that information, I am going to plug them into resources within the community that they know nothing about.”

Canavan’s assistance does not end with a simple referral or a list of phone numbers and Web sites. “I will actually take the family in my car and take them on tours of the facilities that really match the needs of their loved ones. When I take them to these facilities, I sit with them to make sure to protect them against opportunists, to make sure that they understand very clearly what’s being said to them and to advocate for the families.”

Most meaningful to Canavan is being able to follow up with families and their aging loved ones to ensure their safety and satisfaction. “We visit on a regular basis to make sure they’re being cared for properly. It’s such a blessing for so many families because we hold their hand through the entire process.”

With the number of Baby Boomers in need of assistance expected to double by 2012, Canavan’s work is more important than ever. “The elderly are the only minority that we all become,” she stated. “People don’t get that and it’s heartbreaking to me. If people started to think that way, maybe we could make a difference in our community.”

By: Space Coast Living

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