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 Kristin Busch, a Care Coordinator with a clinical focus.
Wellthy’s team of Care Coordinators and Advisers work directly with families to understand their care needs, create a care plan, prioritize tasks, and get things done on their behalf.
Kristin 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?
I am one of four adult siblings taking care of my parents. Care for them includes downsizing homes (which had a huge emotional impact) and supporting them through health matters. I also have two teens and an eight-year-old, so I’m part of the “sandwich caregiver” generation.
Most of the care for my parents is long-distance – they live about four hours away from me now, but they used to be even further away. I rely on being able to work remotely and have leaned on this to be present with my parents many times. I encourage any family caregivers out there to talk to their managers about working remotely if possible in their jobs, even temporarily. [Read more: Employee-to-manager caregiving conversation starters in the workplace]
What is your background in?
I’ve been with Wellthy for about 2.5 years as a Care Coordinator with a clinical focus. I am an occupational therapist by trade, specializing in neurologic injuries such as stroke, traumatic brain injuries, and spinal cord injuries. I’ve spent most of my career working in level 1 trauma centers, which are hospitals equipped to take on the most complex health conditions or traumatic injuries. Physicians or surgeons would request therapy services to begin mobilization and therapy programs for patients who had been very ill.
In my time as an occupational therapist, I also worked in in-patient and out-patient rehabilitation programs, where I helped families prepare for discharge and determine next steps. For example, depending on the scenario, I’d recommend sending the individual to rehab, a skilled nursing facility, or home with specific pieces of equipment.
What inspires you to work in caregiving?
Seeing all that individuals and families take on in caring for a loved one. It’s such good, meaningful work, and it’s inspiring to see what family members will do out of love. I love being able to connect with families in this work, take things off of family’s shoulders that are really tangible.
For example, I work with a family who must deliver all of their loved one's medications through a feeding tube. Not long ago, a trip to the ER landed the family with a new prescription. It was written for a format that was not compatible with use in a feeding tube. Rather than leave it to the family to sort this out with countless calls to providers, I took this on for them. I made all the calls to physicians and pharmacies to secure what the family needed so they could focus that time on their loved one.
What advice would you give to a caregiver balancing care with their siblings?
Give yourself grace and be patient with yourself. It’s normal to struggle in identifying exactly what your role should be and what will work out best.
As four adult children, my siblings and I definitely have our struggles, especially if we’re in the middle of an urgent need. One thing that’s helped the four of us is each having an ongoing responsibility. We’ve each taken on a different role:
- My brother lives the closest, so he checks on my parents and mows their lawn – those day-to-day tasks.
- My sister takes them to appointments and deals with any technical issues. For my parents, technology does not come naturally to them so online appointment-scheduling is a challenge.
- My brother takes care of anything financial.
- I take on the medical tasks because of my background.
Getting on calls or Zoom meetings together has significantly helped too. We’re able to come to the immediate next steps more quickly. It’s not always pretty, especially where emotion is involved, but we’re getting better at it!
What difference has Wellthy’s support made in members' lives?
A lot of it comes down to the relief that they don’t have to figure this all out on their own, and that we will help them navigate the healthcare system so they don’t have to learn everything. We always offer a listening and empathetic ear to help them come up with next steps.
The need for caregiving is never going away. We get to be by our members’ sides long-term to help navigate complex needs that come up today or a year from now. This positions us to help a family with a variety of needs that pop up at different times. One family I support has a child with complex medical ongoing needs. I do anything for them from interviewing home health aides and nurses to appealing insurance denials.
What is one of your most memorable stories from working with a family?
A Care Adviser, Linda Bills, and I worked together to support a young woman who had been in an auto accident. Her original injury from the accident required surgical repair of fractured bones, but then complications caused her to develop several infections requiring seven or eight more surgeries. Her insurance denied everything – over $300K in medical bills.
We worked with the insurance company, medical providers, and even the local police department to get to the bottom of what the reasons for denial were, and we were able to get it all overturned. It took months to put the whole picture together and secure the needed paperwork. Once it was sorted out, insurance paid every penny of that $300K.
What is one task you’d especially recommend families have a Care Coordinator help you with?
Bringing caregivers into your home. There are different ways to put the care together, different costs involved, different ways to protect yourself and your loved one. There are so many pieces of that puzzle, it can be a mess to sort out alone.
We can help you learn the different ways care can be put in place, identify what may be best for your situation, and research available options. If cost is a concern, we can research if there are programs to help pay for these services because health insurance doesn't typically cover this. We can vet agencies, meet with agencies with the family, do background checks, and more.