With our Care Expert Spotlight series, we’re taking a peek into the lives of Wellthy's amazing care professionals.
This month we interviewed Melanie Chambers, a Team Lead on Wellthy’s Care Adviser Team. Melanie specializes in Housing and Veteran Affairs. Care Advisers are seasoned experts in specific care domains and work behind the scenes to support families with tasks in their specialty area. In addition to Housing and Veteran Affairs, Care Advisers make up teams such as In-Home Care, Mental Health, Medicare and Medicaid, Billing, and more.
What did you do in your career before joining Wellthy?
I have a wide variety of experiences in my background that I believe all helped prepare me to be a Care Adviser Team Lead at Wellthy. For instance, I used to be the office manager at an insurance brokerage that serviced Medicare Advantage plans, Medicare supplement plans, and life insurance. I also worked as a receptionist for a urology office. Most of the patients there and most of the clients at the insurance brokerage were senior citizens. I liked getting to work with older adults in two completely different areas. I also worked for an employee assistance program on the elder care team, where I researched anything and everything having to do with elder care. That was the first thing that I did in the field of gerontology and I fell in love with it.
Do you have a personal caregiving story?
My dad was diagnosed with dementia, and doctors didn't know specifically what type he had, but it progressed very quickly. He ended up moving into a nursing home after remaining at home with my mom for quite a while. I lived about five hours away at the time. To provide my mom with respite, I made a point to visit them every few weeks and helped to look after him which gave her a break.
He was declining quickly, unfortunately to the point where he didn't recognize me anymore. I saw what that did to my mom and again how it affected her when we moved him into a nursing home. I felt that there were a few things at the nursing home that could have been better to make his quality of life there better. I also recognized the toll it took on my mom and that's what sparked my interest in the field. I want to help make experiences like this better for others, both on the caregiver and the care recipient sides.
What drew you to Wellthy and what has kept you in the caregiving space?
A good friend of mine (who works for Wellthy now too!) saw the listing for this role online and showed it to me. She said “This is going to be your dream job,” and I agreed. Now here I am!
What’s kept me in the caregiving space is discovering that I really have a passion for caregivers and for supporting them however I can. A lot of times, caregivers don't know what they don't know, they feel stressed, and that everything is on them. When we at Wellthy can connect them to resources, that alleviates some of the stress and weight off their shoulders. Being able to make that kind of an impact on caregivers really solidified my love for this field. I would say that's what keeps me here – my compassion for caregivers and helping them realize that, even though it feels isolating, they aren’t in this alone.
Do you have a favorite moment or story from working with a Wellthy member?
I worked with a woman whose partner had passed away. Her partner’s child was sent back to the other living parent, so very quickly, she lost her partner and child. When the child changed households, they took a lot of their furniture with them. So this woman was left alone in an empty apartment with her cat, and that was it. She was financially strained, but she wanted the apartment to feel like hers again. She needed help filling the apartment, so I thought creatively about some options for her. I ended up finding an interior designer intern who offered to work with this woman, free of cost! I’ve only worked on this type of task once, but it’s a good example of how we can support a wide variety of requests that one may not typically think of as “caregiving.” We think very much outside of the box to help find solutions.
What advice would you give to a first-time caregiver?
I would recommend first-time caregivers find meaningful support. In my own caregiving story, my mom was the main caregiver, but I was able to help support her by educating myself and offering respite weekends for her. I knew elder care was of interest to me and it was definitely a need. I ended up getting my Masters in Gerontology so I could affect change and be a strong support system for my mom.
Anything you can do to battle the isolation that comes with being a caregiver is going to be helpful. Finding friends that you can talk to, finding a counselor, finding resources through Wellthy, and educating yourself – all of those things help.
I know, for me, when my dad’s diagnosis came, I had a lot of questions that I didn't have the answers to. “When can I expect him to die?” That's a really personal thing that I'm talking about, but I think that's something that you question and you want to ask about. When you're caring for somebody with a chronic illness, you want to know “How much more time do I have with them and what should I expect?” Finding resources that can help you answer these questions and support you if the answers are tough is so important.