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 Kirsten Donoghue, a U.S.-based Care Coordinator. Wellthy’s team of Care Coordinators work directly with families to understand their care needs, create a care plan, prioritize tasks, and get things done on their behalf. Wellthy Care Coordinators can be thought of as a family’s project manager, quarterback, and personal advocate in their care journey.
What has your time at Wellthy been like so far?
I joined Wellthy in 2020, mid-pandemic, so it’s been interesting! Over the last 2.5 years, we’ve noticed certain trends in what families need help with. When a crisis, like the COVID-19 crisis, begins, there’s usually silence – people are waiting to see what will happen. Then, depending on the nature of the crisis, we’ll get tons of requests. For example, in 2021, scheduling vaccination appointments was one of the most common requests we received.
How did you get started in the caregiving industry?
My background is in social work. While I was finishing my Master’s, I became my grandparents’ caretaker. Later, I worked in schools for many years, mostly with hospitalized and homebound students. This sparked my interest in medical social work.
Nearly all of us will be impacted by caregiving at some point – as a caregiver, needing care, or both. There’s a lot we can do to make this experience better for everyone. I want to be part of making that happen. I love being a Care Coordinator at Wellthy because I have the opportunity to impact the lives of people who otherwise I never would have met.
What is your personal caregiving story?
My maternal grandparents were like a second set of parents to me. As they started aging, they wanted to stay in their home, but they really needed help. I was the person who became a live-in aide for them. The role reversal was very challenging. At the same time, I knew they would never go to a facility and I wanted to honor them and be there for them rather than hire a private caregiver.
Looking back, I’m really grateful that I had that time with them, but I definitely could’ve used some help. I wish Wellthy had existed then.
Do you have a favorite moment or story from working with a Wellthy member?
One of my earlier cases was working with a Sponsored Member in California. His stress in our first conversation was palpable – it was 95 degrees outside, he was wearing a mask, and he was running up and down the street between different hospital systems in Los Angeles because his mom had been involuntarily hospitalized. He needed to find somewhere that she could eventually be discharged to for rehab.
Many factors, including the California health system (which is not very easy to work with), made it difficult to find the right support and housing system for her. Eventually, she was stable enough to go back home. We did extensive supportive work for her and even got her back into some of the hobbies and cultural activities she enjoyed.
In May of that year, we paused the Care Project. The Member I worked with wrote a closing message, thanking me for my help. He was so happy to be able to celebrate Mother’s Day with his mom, and believed that without Wellthy that celebration would not have been possible.
What is a typical day like as a Care Coordinator?
Every day is different – there is no such thing as a “typical day”! You can have your whole day planned out, and then an emergency case comes in and takes up half of your day.
My day usually consists of calls, checking emails, and assigning tasks to Care Advisers. Some days, I block out hours at a time if I know I am going to be doing something that takes a long time like calling a provider or insurance company.
What advice would you give to a first-time caregiver?
Be gentle with yourself and as much as you can, find your own support network. Delegate at least one aspect of caregiving. If you don’t have time to take care of yourself, you won’t be able to care for anyone else.
What is your dream vacation?
On my vacations, I need a blend of action and relaxation. My husband and I are part of an REI Co-op and they offer vacation packages. We haven’t tried them yet, but we really want to! For example, they offer a long weekend trip in Joshua Tree National Forest. We’d camp out there and then later on check out local breweries or wineries.