With our Care Expert Spotlight series, we’re taking a peek into the lives of Wellthy's amazing care professionals.
This month we spoke with Effie Murphy, a U.S.-based Care Adviser who specializes in housing. Wellthy’s team of Care Advisers are professionals who specialize in specific care domains and work behind the scenes to support families with tasks in their area of expertise. In addition to the Housing, Care Advisers make up teams such as In-Home Care, Medical, Mental Health, Billing, Veteran Affairs, and more.
Effie is also a Moderator for Wellthy Community, a peer support network for Wellthy members allowing family caregivers to connect with each other online. For more information on Wellthy Community, check out this post.
What is your personal caregiving story?
Both my father and father-in-law had Alzheimer’s disease. I cared for my father with the help of my brothers, and we delegated responsibilities amongst each other very well. Personally, I was responsible for a lot of the grocery shopping, doctor appointments, and other tasks.
Also, as my mother was aging, she developed serious physical issues. She always used to insist that people treated her respectfully. I didn’t understand why until my father developed Alzheimer’s and I saw how people treated him like he didn’t exist. As a result, I always made sure that people treated my dad with the respect he needed and deserved.
How did you get started in the caregiving industry?
I worked for the Alzheimer’s Association as a program coordinator. I was responsible for community outreach and helping people understand what dementia is, how to handle various issues with it, and risk factors of developing the disease. I loved my work there. I just wish that I had worked there before my father and father-in-law started their journeys with Alzheimer’s disease, because in my time there, I learned so much about resources available to help them.
Two years ago, I came to Wellthy and joined the Care Adviser team where I specialize in tasks related to housing. I was really excited by Wellthy’s mission when I stumbled upon their website. I had never seen an organization before whose main focus was supporting the caregiver and understanding the stress that caregivers are put through.
What is the difference between Alzheimer’s and dementia?
This is the question I get the most! What I always tell people is that dementia is not a specific disease – it’s an umbrella term, referring to a host of cognitive issues. Alzheimer’s is a disease that causes dementia. Similar to cancer, if someone tells you they have cancer, you know what they’re talking about, but you don’t know specifically what’s wrong.
One thing that all families have in common, regardless of the type of dementia, is concern about the changing behaviors.When I’m working on a housing task, it’s important that I know what type of dementia someone has, so I can better help the family I’m working with. When you’re dealing with dementia-related behaviors, how the caregiver responds can make the difference between a pleasant conversation and a more serious issue.
What are some trends you’re seeing in your work?
In skilled nursing facilities, we’re seeing less spots available for those needing long-term care and staffing shortages. Overall, it’s more difficult to find space for someone at a facility due to these issues.
What is your favorite thing about working as a Care Adviser at Wellthy?
I love helping families 1:1 with their questions and concerns, especially if the person they’re caring for has a type of dementia. What I’ve learned is that when a caregiver comes to us in a crisis mode, sometimes the solution is very simple. But when you're under that much stress, you don’t see it. Having a third-party person there offering guidance really helps. I love being able to provide that safe space to families and giving them the information they need to calm them. Reassuring caregivers that they’re doing the right thing makes a huge difference.
What advice would you give to a first-time caregiver?
The hardest thing you will have to do is take care of yourself. It’s like when the oxygen masks drop on a plane – you have to put yours on before you help others or you won’t be of any help to anyone.
Second, don’t be afraid to ask for help from others. When people do offer to help you, have a list of things ready to respond to them with. If you’re in the midst of caregiving, you will probably want to say “I don’t even know where to begin.” But, if you’re able to look at your list of tasks to be done, you can say to someone “I need you to go to the grocery store on Tuesday” or whatever the task may be.
On the other hand, if you’re supporting a caregiver, be specific in what you’re offering to help with rather than asking the primary caregiver to let you know what to do.
What are some typical housing tasks you receive?
I mostly help families find housing options for their loved ones, usually related to memory care. I recently worked with someone whose mother had a type of dementia, and they were really unhappy with the facility that she was in at the time. The first thing I realized when they came to me for help is that their mother needed to be in a facility that specialized in memory care, not an assisted living facility that simply offered memory care support as an option.
A lot of people think that for housing tasks, Care Advisers just search online for facilities. It’s much more than that – I’m deeply evaluating the memory care programs at facilities to make sure they meet this individual’s needs. The more the family tells us, the better. For example, one family told me “Our mom used to be an opera singer,” so I helped find a facility where music was a huge focus.
Unlike placement services, we don’t have financial agreements with organizations. So, our expertise is unbiased and we are free to give you our best opinion without feeling pushed to go with certain organizations.