Elder Care Guides Family – Now Windward Life Care!

On June 24, 2014, San Diego lost one of its visionary elder care professionals, Hilde M. Lehmann, MSW, MPH. The President of Senior Care Management Inc., Hilde founded her company in 1996 and was a respected colleague and a treasured friend. Her loss is felt deeply by many, including all of us at Elder Care Guides.

Following her untimely death, the leadership of Senior Care Management made the decision to join together with Elder Care Guides in order to maintain the extraordinarily high level of service they had worked so many years to provide to their clients, families, and San Diego’s professional community. While we are saddened by the reasons behind the acquisition, we are honored to carry on Senior Care Management’s long tradition of ethics and high standards of service.

“I am honored to carry Hilde’s memory forward with this exceptional company, and am proud to be joining this incredible group of professionals.” -Betsy Evatt, LCSW, CMC
“I am honored to carry Hilde’s memory forward with this exceptional company, and am proud to be joining this incredible group of professionals.”
-Betsy Evatt, LCSW, CMC

Continue reading “Expanding the Elder Care Guides family”

Climb Every Mountain

June 29, 2014

Last month, we said goodbye to my husband’s beloved grandmother, a loss that we’ll no doubt feel deeply for years to come. Grammy, the last grandparent between us, was a remarkable woman who warmly welcomed me into the fold of her family and treated me as her own from the day we met. We were fortunate to have celebrated Grammy’s 95th birthday with her in the spring, which was a time not only of celebration but of reflection on a life that had been very well-lived, physically and otherwise. In the past couple of years, she had become frail after nine full decades of hale and health, and after struggling with that transition, she seemed to have reached a place of peace.

A geriatric social worker since my mid-20s, I’ve spent my entire adult life in the awed presence of the “oldest old,” as they are known in the medical community. Theoretically, I know what it is to grow old, and I don’t fear it the way many do. I think a lot about becoming – and eventually being – old, and consciously make decisions about how I live my life with the “end” in mind. If the day comes that I’ve lost much of my ability to function independently, I very much want to know that I got everything out of this body that I could have. I want to have eaten every delicious thing, visited every beautiful place, hugged every dear person, and crossed every finish line that I reasonably could have. (I’m an avid distance runner.) I am, meanwhile, mindful of the role that moderation plays in the living of a long and healthy life. So I don’t actually eat every delicious thing. (Okay I usually do. But I don’t go back for seconds. Usually.) My impulse is to travel constantly, but I know the importance of planning financially for old age, and so have learned to avoid the temptations of the New York Times travel section, and try to keep our annual vacation budget in check. There are dozens of races I would love to run every year, but out of respect for the limits of my ankles, knees, and hips, I give them lots of love and recovery time, and restrain myself.

I see no reason to hold back when it comes to the hugs, though. Grammy certainly didn’t. As she grew older, the logistics of the hugs changed, as we had to lean down to reach her in her chair to get them. But they remained big and plentiful until the end of her long life.

Bill Thomas, MD wrote a wonderful book called What Are Old People For? that is still well worth your time, even though I’m about to give you the answer:

Young people are for doing. Old people are for being.

I couldn’t agree more. Certainly there are exceptional old people who earn college degrees in their 80s, run marathons in their 90s, or work until they’re 100. But most of us will be met with physical or cognitive limitations that make this kind of “doing” impossible. A good old age is, in my mind, one wherein we’ve successfully adapted to the functional limits of our bodies or brains, and recognized that while the ability to “do” may be waning, what the world really needs from us now is the unique “being” that only we can “be.” By old age, we have become the holders of histories, the vehicles of values we hold dear, a connective glue binding family together. We know the stories and the secrets, and (I can’t wait for this part) we have life pretty well figured out. Even in the presence of one who has lost the ability to remember or communicate verbally, if you pay attention there is an unmistakable sense of all that they know, and of who they are. Being.

Chances are good there will be a day that I can no longer experience the physical joy of a run. Perhaps I’ll still be able to read and write about it. Perhaps I’ll have younger or healthier friends through whom I’ll continue to experience that joy. Maybe I’ll lose that, too? Someday I’ll probably seem like little more than a wrinkly old lady to someone who’s not paying attention. But I’ll still be that runner, who ran all over the world, saw life through that lens, and cared deeply about it. And I’ll probably still have something to say on the subject. I hope someone will ask.

Me and my Grammy, exploring the Yukon together.
Me and my Grammy, exploring the Yukon together.


March is Social Work Month, and the values of social work are at the core of everything we do at Elder Care Guides. Our clinical team includes individuals with a broad range of education and training, three of whom have earned a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree. We invite you to get to know the professional social workers on our staff:

Amy Abrams, Cassie Farrell, and Susan Valoff
Amy Abrams, Cassie Farrell, and Susan Valoff:
our social work stars!






Amy Abrams, MSW/MPH, CMC (Vice President, Client Services)

Amy co-founded Elder Care Guides in 2004, and has worked in the field of elder care in San Diego for nearly 15 years, in medical case management, home care, and geriatric care management. She earned Bachelor of Arts degrees in Sociology and Women’s Studies from the University of California at San Diego, and a joint Master of Social Work and Master of Public Health from San Diego State University. Amy is certified by the National Academy of Certified Care Managers, and is an active member of the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers (NAPGCM). She currently sits on the Board of Directors of NAPGCM, and chairs the association’s Research Development Committee. Locally, she is a long-time member of the Board of Directors of the Glenner Memory Care Centers.

“I’ve been witness to some remarkable transformations in the lives of our clients, and strongly believe that age and disability are not about ‘decline,’ but are a phase of life with opportunities for growth, development, and positive change. I watched as both of my beautiful grandmothers became most fully themselves in their final years, and hold them up as examples of what’s possible for all of us. I count myself lucky to have discovered the field of geriatric care management early on in my career, and get great satisfaction from the work I do both for Elder Care Guides and for my profession. I’m deeply dedicated to the professional standards and ethics of NAPGCM, and feel that through service to my colleagues who are doing this work around the country, I’m influencing the future of how we care for people with disabilities.”

Cassie Farrell, MSW (Care Manager)

Cassie is a social worker experienced in working with a variety of client populations, including older adults with physical and cognitive impairments, individuals with mental health diagnoses, and persons with developmental disabilities in San Diego since 2005. Elder Care Guides was pleased to welcome her to our clinical team in 2013, with her wide ranging clinical knowledge and experience. Cassie holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Environmental Science and Geology from State University of New York at Binghamton, and earned her Master of Social Work degree from San Diego State University in 2011, with an emphasis in mental health and gerontology. She is currently working toward licensure (Licensed Clinical Social Worker), and is in the process of completing her Care Management Certification through the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers.

“Unfortunately, the process of aging often comes with many losses: those of physical functioning, mental cognition, friends and family members, homes, jobs, and skills, to name a few. I have found that these losses take their toll on the individual, and often lead to depression and other mental health concerns. In my work as a Geriatric Care Manager, I strive to focus on the older adult’s strengths and the things in life that bring them happiness. I enjoy building a team that surrounds the person and highlights the joys in their life, rather than the deficits. We can look at the glass as half-empty or half-full, and I always see the glass as half-full. I strive to share that vision with my clients and their families, in effect supporting older adults to have the very best quality of life.”

Susan Valoff, LCSW, C-ASWCM (Vice President, Clinical Services)

Susan has 20 years of experience in healthcare and geriatrics, as a hospital social worker, educator, healthcare administrator, and geriatric care manager. She joined the Elder Care Guides team in 2009, and is a partner in the company. Susan earned Bachelor of Arts degrees in American Civilization and Hispanic Literature and Culture from Brown University, and a Master of Social Work from the University of Chicago. She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) in the state of California, and is credentialed as a Certified Advanced Social Work Case Manager (C-ASWCM) through the National Association of Social Workers. Susan is a member of the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers, and a founding member of the San Diego Geriatric Care Managers Local Unit.

“One of the reasons I became a social worker was my experience helping to advocate for my uncle, who lived with schizophrenia, within the health care and mental health systems in Missouri. In my first post-graduate job at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, I worked on an interdisciplinary team whose goal was to help people achieve the greatest amount of independence possible, whether they had survived a stroke, were recovering from a traumatic injury, or were managing a chronic condition. In this setting, I learned the importance of ‘starting where the client is’: understanding an individual’s goals, and then providing the resources and support to help him or her get there. I also learned that quality of life is more important in many cases than finding a cure. At Elder Care Guides, I find my roles as teacher and advocate to be the most rewarding. And I enjoy supervising our clinical staff, helping them to be the most knowledgeable and effective educators and advocates that they can be for the clients we serve.”

Share the love!

January 31, 2014

We recently announced the launch of our year-long celebration of ten years in business (click here, if you missed it), and we’re excited to kick-off our February event!

This is a month devoted to L♥VE, and if you follow us at Elder Care Guides, then you know that we love old people. So we’re holding a ten-day contest to find out: why do you love old people? Send a tweet to @eldercareguides, and tell us in 140 characters or less something that you love about old people. On Monday February 10th, we’ll select our favorite tweet, and if you’re our winner, we’ll send a bouquet of fresh flowers to the person of your choosing (of any age, anywhere in the U.S.), to arrive on Valentine’s Day. See rules, below.

Follow us on Twitter @eldercareguides
Follow us on Twitter


There’s so much to love. The wisdom, the spirit, the laughs, the honesty. Our older clients are the center of everything we do at Elder Care Guides, and we believe that having a skilled, knowledgeable, 24/7 professional to manage the details so that they can focus on their loving relationships is one of the most important benefits that families receive from working with a care manager.

We look forward to hearing from you!


  1. We’ll accept up to ten tweets per handle, so feel free to tweet daily!
  2. Tag us @eldercareguides, so we’ll be sure to see it.
  3. The #iloveoldpeople hashtag is optional (but encouraged!)
  4. Tweets must be posted before 11:59pm (Pacific time) on Sunday February 9, 2014.
  5. The winning tweet will be selected by Elder Care Guides staff vote on Monday February 10, 2014.
  6. The winner will be announced on Monday February 10th via Twitter.
  7. We will contact the winner via private message on Monday February 10th, to arrange for the flower delivery details, which will remain confidential.

We’re now a few days into 2014, and all of us here at Elder Care Guides are excited to launch a year-long celebration of our tenth year in business! From our humble beginnings (as a two-person operation working from the home office of our President, Norman Hannay), to having now cared for hundreds of families throughout San Diego County, with services provided by the best team in town, it’s been my great honor to have been a part of it. Throughout the year, we’ll be announcing some fun activities designed to thank those who have supported us over the years, as well as make some new friends and connections.

This morning, we posted an announcement on our Facebook page that we’re giving away five pairs of tickets to see this Friday evening’s showing of Nebraska, at our local cinema. Nebraska is Alexander Payne’s new film, starring Bruce Dern and Will Forte, about a difficult father-son relationship, and the finding of meaning and a sense of purpose in late life. This is what we’re all about here at Elder Care Guides, so we’re excited to share in the experience of the film with our ten lucky winners.

If we’ve given them all away by the time you read this post: don’t despair. There will be much more fun to be had during the year. Follow along on all of our social media sites, so that you don’t miss the next one!

1385176771_social_3  1385176794_social_8  1390536482_google  1390536354_social_7

Drawing on Our Strengths

December 17, 2013

One of our founding philosophies here at Elder Care Guides is that every older adult, regardless of age or level of disability, has a uniqe set of internal strengths upon which we can draw. I was trained in the strengths-based model of social work practice, and am proud to have helped shape a company that incorporates this into everything we do.

When we meet a new client, our Care Managers are careful not to just notice deficits, but also to look for resources within them – and their support system – that can be used to build a care plan that is focused on their individual goals, brings meaningful activity to their days, and gives them a sense of purpose. This philosophy extends to our employees, as well, and we have committed ourselves to a process of identifying each staff member’s strengths, in order to understand best how we can engage in work that is meaningful to us individually, and how we can most effectively work together as a team.

To facilitate this, we use a tool called the Clifton StrengthsFinder, an assessment developed by Gallup that helps individuals uncover their strengths and talents. We ask every new employee to complete this assessment, and regularly meet to share our results, and discuss the ways in which the work we do at Elder Care Guides fits (or doesn’t fit) with our unique skill set. Having recently added some new members our team, we recently revisited our StrengthsFinder results and discussed them together, and were interested to see our numbers in aggregate. The strengths that appeared most frequently in the results were no big surprise to me, but nonetheless filled me with pride in the depth and quality of our team:

LEARNER “You love to learn. The subject matter that interests you most will be determined by your other themes and experiences, but whatever the subject, you will always be drawn to the process of learning.”

INPUT “You are inquisitive …  And yours is the kind of mind that finds so many things interesting. The world is exciting precisely because of its infinite variety and complexity.”

ACHIEVER “You feel as if every day starts at zero … You have an internal fire burning inside you. It pushes you to do more, to achieve more … It brings you the energy you need to work long hours without burning out. It is the jolt you can always count on to get you started on new tasks, new challenges.”

IDEATION “You are delighted when you discover beneath the complex surface an elegantly simple concept to explain why things are the way they are. An idea is a connection … An idea is a new perspective on familiar challenges.”

MAXIMIZER “Excellence, not average, is your measure … Strengths, whether yours or someone else’s, fascinate you … And having found a strength, you feel compelled to nurture it, refine it, and stretch it toward excellence. You polish the pearl until it shines.”

(Source: http://businessjournal.gallup.com/)

At Elder Care Guides, we are proud of our collaborative approach. As I like to say: “When you work with one of us, you work with all of us.”

ECG group Oct 2013 med (1024x683)