Four years ago, Chrissy Canavan discovered her grandmother severely abused in a south Florida nursing home and made a promise, A Granddaughter’s Promise. She created a service dedicated to providing resources, strategic living placement and assistance to the elderly and their caregivers.
“I think it’s an absolutely remarkable and wonderful and creative and needed service. I was totally unaware there was anything like that for someone in my situation as the caregiver and making decisions for my elderly mom,” said Janey Goodrich of Melbourne Beach, “She’s such a positive and caring person. When I made the initial telephone call, I didn’t know what I needed – what my mother needed. I didn’t know what services or info she could help me with.”
Canavan volunteers at many facilities, learned about proper facility licensing, performed background checks, researched state funding and interviewed geriatricians and anyone who might further her education.
“When a family has to think about placing a loved on, they may be at the point of exhaustion as a caregiver, they may be in a time of crisis if someone has fallen, if they don’t know what their options are. They’re forced to make a decision on just what they know,” Canavan said, “They have so many options at this point.”
Since the death of her grandmother in August 2004, Canavan has been able to assist hundreds of people.
“There was never a time that I didn’t feel like I knew what I was doing because Chrissy was there beside me and she knew what she was doing,” said Goodrich, who was able to remove her mother from a nursing home, through the assistance of A Granddaughter’s Promise place her mother in a small care facility.
“The problem is education: people don’t know what their choices are. They think their only choice is a nursing home because that’s what’s available in their communities,” Canavan said.
Small care homes are becoming increasingly popular as awareness of the service and lifestyle they offer also increases.
“A nursing home is appropriate for some, but not for everyone,” said Nancy Fullem, a registered nurse at the Institute for Aging, “These small group homes allow people to live in a regular home with regular activities in a family setting.”
One month after receiving a brochure for A Granddaughter’s Promise, Cindy Seymour was able to place her parents together in a small group facility. They will celebrate their 54th anniversary this fall. Seymour describes them as one of those couples who “still holds hands everywhere they go. They’re adorable.”
She was able to completely customize their room at the home – including family paintings on the walls. This is one of many incredible success stories made possible by A Granddaughter’s Promise. Canavan also provides information on how seniors can receive financial assistance and does not charge for her service. “I did not want to be one more person in their pocket in this time of crisis,” she said, “What I did was, once these homes meet my expectations, they sign a yearly contract with me for marketing,” Canavan thoroughly interviews the caregiver and senior to determine how best she can be of assistance and what living facility (large, small, or independent) will best meet their needs.
“If we have people that are looking for placement, we’ll put them in touch with Chrissy, or if she knows of someone that really needs assessment, she’ll send them to us,” said Fullem, “Really our goal is to keep the elder population independent, healthy and safe.” Besides working at the Institute for Aging, Fullem is also the primary caregiver for her father, so she is able to identify with multiple aspects of elder care. “Brevard county has got one of the highest populations of the elderly,” Fullem said, “It amazes me that we don’t see more patients.”
Located next door to the Institute for Aging is Leeza’s Place, a support group for Alzheimer’s and dementia. Both of these facilities work closely with A Granddaughter’s Promise.
“We’ve got a really great core group of resources in Brevard and many colleagues are outstanding. We all have the same goal; and that’s just to protect and serve the seniors in our country,” said Canavan.
Phillip and Nohra Farber received a brochure for A Granddaughter’s Promise from a social worker at the Aging Institute. Three months ago they converted a room of their house for Phillip’s father and contacted Canavan to find the best location for Phillip’s mother to receive proper care – Ginny’s Hosue Two on Turtle Mound Road.
“I think Chrissy and A Granddaughter’s Promise were an important part of the chain that helped both our parents to spend the last few months of their lives with dignity,” said Phillip. After 62 years of marriage, the couple died three days apart in the beginning of July. “Much of his life was dedicated to taking care of her and that carried over to his death for when he had to meet her up there – he had to make sure everything would be okay,” Phillip said lovingly.
The service doesn’t end with placement. Canavan and her husband, Mike, routinely visit residents and keep in touch with caregivers.
Article by Melanie L. Dodson