Specialized Mental Health Care for Older Adults

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Windward Life Care consultant, Dr. Hossein Samadi, is a geropsychiatrist, a physician trained to work with older adults and their unique mental health needs. As part of our commitment to caring for the whole person, we have arranged for Dr. Samadi to see Windward Life Care clients who can benefit from psychiatric care at our office on a monthly basis. This allows our clients quick access to quality mental health services in a comfortable and familiar setting. We asked Dr. Samadi a few questions recently about mental health and older adults.

Dr. Hossein Samadi

Q: What mental health diagnoses do you see most commonly in your older patients?
A: This can be broken down into three categories: mood disorders, cognitive disorders, and psychotic disorders. Among the mood disorders, the most common are depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder. The cognitive disorders vary by cause: Alzheimer’s disease; vascular dementia; frontal-temporal dementia; and others. Finally, though more rare in presentation, the psychotic disorders include schizophrenia, delusional disorder and dementia-related psychosis.

Q: What keeps older adults from accessing mental health treatment and services?
A: Several things, foremost being stigma, both on the part of the individual and society at large. Other factors include denial of illness, lack of access to competent providers, and direct and indirect costs of care.

Q: Are there misconceptions about older adults and mental health?
A; Yes. The most common misconception is that older adults necessarily have neurocognitive impairment or can’t make decisions independently. Other misconceptions include that older adults bounce back quickly from life stressors such as the death of loved ones or that they don’t experience financial difficulties.

Q: Is suicide a concern for older adults?
A; Unfortunately, yes. Suicide risk actually increases with age for both men and women after the age of 40. Risk factors include: prior suicide attempts, access to lethal means, male/single/non-religious demographic, feelings of hopelessness and recent interpersonal loss.

Q: What about family caregivers? What thoughts do you have about their mental health?
A: Caregiver burnout is a real problem and will only grow with the aging population. The first priority needs to be taking care of the caregiver, as their physical and mental health is often overlooked in favor of the needs of the patient.

Q: What advice do you have for older adults who want to maintain good mental health?
A: Get back to basics: maintain a balanced diet, exercise, socialize, and never stop learning. If a problem arises, seek professional help sooner rather than later.

At Windward Life Care, we are committed to helping you find the right resources to meet your needs. If you are looking for more information about healthcare for mental or physical concerns, talk to us to locate the best providers for your situation. We’re here to help!


Reflections on Windward’s 15 Year Anniversary

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The story of the company now known as Windward Life Care really began over 37 years ago in 1982 when geriatric expert B.J. Curry Spitler started one of the first care management companies, Age Concerns, here in San Diego. Age Concerns had an “integrated model” of care in which geriatric care managers directly supervised in-home caregivers to create great client outcomes. Amy Abrams and I worked together at Age Concerns, along with Susan (Soest) Valoff, and were trained in the model of care that Dr. Spitler developed.

Susan Valoff, Norman Hannay, Amy Abrams

Later, when Age Concerns was sold in 2003, Amy and I felt we could continue the lessons learned from Dr. Spitler and extend the care management/home care integrated model in San Diego. We formed our company in 2004 which was first known as Elder Care Guides. Susan joined our team in 2009, later becoming a partner in the business. In 2016 we changed the name to Windward Life Care. We started our business with a handful of employees in 2004 and now employ over 150 office and caregiving staff. We are proud to have on our team so many people who are passionate about caring for older and disabled people.

Much has changed since 2004 and much remains the same. The home care and health care landscapes has gone through many changes, including the advent of Home Care Organization licensure in California in 2016. New technologies are a big factor in how we navigate out in the world and communicate with families. Geriatric care managers are now known as Aging Life Care Professionals. But, for the most part, the challenges of aging remain the same: families are still spread out over long distances; dementia still poses tremendous challenges to those who live with the symptoms as well as those caring for them; and clients and families continue to need help navigating the complex health care and long-term care systems.

Fostering the growth of Windward Life Care has meant we have been able to extend our reach to many more clients and families in San Diego County, allowing many people to reach their goal of aging in  place in their own homes. We remain dedicated to helping our clients age well, honoring their individual goals, and supporting loved ones and involved professionals in making decisions that enhance the client’s quality of life. We appreciate the chance to work with you. — Norman Hannay, MPS, CMC, President

The early years of bringing the vision of Elder Care Guides to life were so exciting. Norman and I knew we could deliver care management services in a distinctly professional and personalized way, if we could get our message in front of the right people. And I’ll never forget the first time the phone rang with our first opportunity to be of service. The client was a frail older gentleman living alone with dementia, whose only family lived thousands of miles away and was growing concerned about his safety, repeated episodes of wandering, and encounters with law enforcement. I felt a deep honor that his health system case manager had entrusted us with her referral, and that his family entrusted us with his care. We built a support system that centered around his personal habits and preferences, matched him with just the right companion, and slowly gained his trust, while ensuring that an appropriate safety net was in place. Elder Care Guides was built on the social work principles of starting where your client is and focusing on their strengths rather than their deficits, and it all came together for that client, who continued to live life on his own terms throughout the progression of his disease. Our reputation as a company that could – and would – handle the most challenging and delicate of situations grew from there, and I’m happy to see that it continues today.  ~  Amy Abrams, MSW, MPH


A brief history of Windward Life Care:
May 12, 2004 – opened for business in La Jolla and hired the first employee, Amy Abrams, MSW/MPH
January 2008 – office moved to Liberty Station in Pt. Loma
March 2009 – Susan (Soest) Valoff joined the team as Director of Clinical Services
March 2013 – Office moved to 1st Avenue in Banker’s Hill
March 2014 – Acquired Senior Care Management
April 2016 – Changed company name to Windward Life Care
June 2016 – Obtained California Home Care Organization license
August 2017 – Acquired Lifeline Care at Home
August 2018 – Opened North County recruiting office


Susan Valoff Elected to the Board Of Consumer Advocates for RCFE Reform

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Windward Life Care is proud of its dedicated staff, who give back to the San Diego County community in many impactful ways. Windward Life Care also sponsors the important work of various nonprofit organizations that support San Diego’s aging population and adults with disabilities.

In that spirit, Windward is pleased to announce that our vice president, Susan Valoff, LCSW, C-ASWCM, has been elected to serve on the Board of Consumer Advocates for RCFE Reform (CARR). Windward Life Care and Susan have been fans of CARR for several years due to the amazing work they have done at the state level to make assisted living facilities safer and more accountable to consumers and their families. CARR actively collects and archives public records for research and analysis purposes and to inform their outreach and reform efforts. CARR also obtained the contract from the County of San Diego to develop the Choose Well website, a website with a rating system for Residential Care Facilities for the Elderly (RCFE). This is an unbiased site that helps families to make educated decisions about care for their loved ones. Windward Life Care’s clinical team frequently calls the CARR staff for the “inside scoop” on facilities in which our clients have interest.

Congratulations to Susan! To view the full press release, click here.

You can also learn more about Windward’s community involvement by visiting our Windward in the Community page.


Windward’s Aging Life Care Managers Receive Certification

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Congratulations to our Aging Life Care Managers who recently passed their Care Manager Certification (CMC) exam. Jill Bansberg, MSW, Denise Callas, RN, and Janai Quintana, MSW just received their CMC designation from the National Academy of Certified Care Managers which is also recognized by the Aging Life Care Association®.

Care managers applying for the Care Manager Certification from the National Academy of Certified Care Managers (NACCM) must meet specific criteria. Applicants with a master’s in a field related to care management must obtain at least one year of supervised case management experience and pass a certification exam. Applicants with a bachelor’s in a field related to care management must have two years of supervised experience in order to sit for the exam. The exam covers key topics related to care management including: clinical approaches and theories; dementia care; benefits and entitlements; legal issues affecting older adults; and professional ethics. Certification is a sign to consumers that their Aging Life Care Manager® is experienced and committed to professionalism in the field.

Windward Life Care’s clinical team of Aging Life Care Managers have the CMC or are working towards it. As part of their continuing education and clinical support, they meet weekly with our Director of Clinical Services, who has worked in the field of aging for 35 years. Windward also provides monthly educational meetings covering a wide range of topics from dementia care to working with the LGBTQ community.

You can meet all of our team members including Jill, Denise, and Janai here on our Meet Our Team page.


Celebrating National Hospice and Palliative Care Month

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Contributed by Jill Mendlen, President/CEO/ LightBridge Hospice & Palliative Care.

Hospice and Palliative Care are two comprehensive programs that are dedicated to easing suffering and providing support to patients and their families during their healthcare journey.

Both programs combine the highest level of quality medical care with spiritual and emotional support for patients and their care givers.

Living every day to its fullest is the focus and goal of both hospice and palliative care. Being able to care for patients and their families during a very important and powerful time in life is truly an honor and privilege.

Understanding the unique aspects of each program can help you chose the program that is best for you or your loved one.


Is a specialized type of healthcare designed to provide support and care to individuals in the final phase of a life limiting illness which is defined by Medicare as 6 months or less if a disease follows its normal course. Cure is no longer possible therefore the focus is on comfort and quality of life. Hospice care is provided by a team of professionals which includes – physicians, nurses, social workers, chaplains, home health aides and volunteers. In addition to clinical care hospice also provides medications, equipment and supplies related to the terminal illness.

Hospice Care is fully covered by Medicare, MediCal and most insurance companies and managed care plans.

Palliative Care

Palliative Care is specialized medical care for people with serious illnesses. It focuses on providing patients with relief from symptoms, pain and stress of a serious illness – whatever the diagnosis. The goal is to improve the quality of life for both the patient and the family. Palliative Care is generally provided by a team of doctors, nurses, and other specialists who work together with a patient’s other doctors to form an extra layer of support. It is appropriate at any state in a serious illness and can be provided along with curative treatment.

Payment for Palliative Care is still evolving. We would be happy to answer questions you may have about how to best access Palliative Care.

Please call us at 858.458.2992 if we can be of any assistance or answer any questions you may have.


Caregiving Through the Holidays

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Contributed by Martha Rañón
Director of Government & Community Affairs

For some, the holidays are a time of joy, celebrations, being with family and friends, enjoying dinners and get-togethers. It can be a time for cooking, playing and gift giving. However, for those who are caring for the well-being of someone and are in the role of caregiving, the holidays can mean something totally different.

I often hear from family caregivers who are so overwhelmed by the impending holidays that they rather skip them all together. For them, it can be a time of stress, guilt, tensions, and negative experiences. This is understandable. As family caregivers, we put a lot of responsibility on ourselves to “perform” and meet everyone’s expectations. The dinner must be just right, the decorations perfect, and all the details that come with gift giving must be properly considered. But what if we simplified the holidays?

Here are some steps that can help you manage your caregiving responsibilities during the holidays while enjoying getting together with family and friends.

  1. Re-evaluate your family/holiday traditions
  2. Focus on celebrating memories
  3. Keep decorations to a minimum
  4. Smaller gatherings are less stressful than larger crowds
  5. Celebrate earlier in the day when you and your loved ones are less tired
  6. Provide soothing activities
  7. Modify your expectations
  8. Ask for help
  9. Don’t be afraid to talk to someone about your feelings
  10. Start your gift buying early

Are you assisting or concerned about a family member or friend?


Southern Caregiver Resource Center can help you by providing specialized information, one-on- one support, counseling, support groups, respite, education and will help you create a care plan for you and your loved one.

For more information on these FREE support services, please contact us at:

1800-827-1008 • (858) 268-4432


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