During the holidays, we love sharing time with family and friends. It’s a time to reflect, to celebrate time together. It’s often during those times of togetherness that we can have conversations about our health or a loved one’s health, and anticipate steps that will help us keep living lives of fullness and joy.

While it may be hard to accept, most of us will require some care assistance after the age of 65. You may be used to handling everything yourself, dividing up duties with your spouse, or relying on family members for minor help around the home. But as you get older and your circumstances change, getting around and taking care of yourself can become more and more difficult. While we, the Shorehaven staff (of course) love our Shorehaven campus, we know that the idea of moving out of your home to an independent living community, an assisted living facility, or a nursing home might not appeal to you just yet. If that’s the case, home care services – like Shorehaven’s Life@Home program – may be able to help keep you living in your own home for longer.

Such was the case when Mary Jo Newburg, a longtime Oconomowoc resident and teacher, began searching for home care services last year for her parents. “My parents, who are now in their 90’s, have had health issues, and I’d been helping them increasingly for the past several years,” said Mary Jo. “Without challenging their independence, my husband and I have increasingly stepped in to help keep them in place, healthy and happy—honor their wishes, celebrate their birthdays, prepare for their anniversaries, help them entertain, organize their medical and social schedules, transport them to appointments, run errands, and above all keep them together in their own home.”

But in January of last year, Mary Jo’s mother suffered a back injury. Although she’d encountered similar situations before, this time was different. Mary Jo’s father asked her to stay at their home – to live there – as her mother worked to recover. Within weeks of her mother’s injury, her dad’s parkinsonism took a bad turn; he went down as well and was labeled palliative by his doctor. “I could not take one to a doctor’s appointment unless I hired somebody to stay with the other. There were many many appointments, specialists, therapists, experts, coming and going. It was a long, frightening winter. My Christmas tree was still up at home until Spring, but we didn’t care.”

Looking for calm amid the storm swirling around her, Mary Jo contacted Jamie Milaeger – a former student and Shorehaven’s Life@Home Coordinator – and Jamie helped her navigate the turbulent waters in her life.

“The idea that I could go home and come back– if I had somebody else in the house for a few hours each day to be my eyes and ears was a hope that Jamie helped make a reality. My husband and I worked with my parents, discussing, encouraging, researching options—trying to make the best decision for these two people we dearly loved,” said Mary Jo. “They needed help, and I needed help helping them. The light at the end of that dark tunnel for me was Jamie because I knew – I was hoping – that I might be able to go home at least and sleep in my bed if I had help. The right help. Someone I could trust to care for and care about my parents. And so I called Jamie, and she said, ‘of course I can help you.’ I explained my folks’ concerns about in-home help, their fears, so she knew where they stood. Jamie came over to assess the situation and meet my parents. She calmly, kindly explained to my parents how Life@Home might look. Jamie was indeed like a lighthouse in a storm. When everything was getting dark and scary, she kept encouraging us and letting us know that everything was going to be OK.”

Mary Jo and her parents agreed to give in-home help a try.

“Being overprotective, I came in with a 5-page single-spaced checklist of all the things I expected this home caregiver to do, detailed minutiae, things I had been doing for my parents, and wanted to make sure continued. I found out later that my specifics care list went well beyond what Jamie had established as a standard checklist for her Life@Home staff, but Jamie took that list. She worked with me, looked at available staff options.

“And then came Barb Magsamen, our Life@Home caregiver, a whirlwind of energy and personality and devotion who has been the best thing for our family for nearly the past two years. Of course, the adjustment period was interesting. Barb is a strong personality, strong enough to keep my parents on their toes and interested in what she would say and do next. She has adapted to their needs as their health changes. She suggests solutions that have helped them with their increasing physical limitations. She protects them with a fierce determination. Barb understands my parents’ need for dignity. She is gentle when she needs to be, hilarious when the situation requires. Barb has common sense; if she sees something concerning, she tells me. If she sees something needs doing, even if not on the list, she does it. Perhaps above all, she offers a safe place for my mom and dad: their own home. She brings in vitality and hard work and honesty and laughter. Her teasing, truthfulness, and daily care is as necessary to their physical and mental health as some of their prescriptions. My parents trust her. So do I.

“We are beyond grateful for Barb, and to Jamie for bringing Barb into our lives.

“Now, after traveling through this experience with my parents, the word ‘change’ is not so scary anymore. And no, we can’t know the future, but for now, we are so blessed. For now, my parents are still together and happy and healthy in their own home. I am convinced Life@Home was the best decision for my parents. It got us out of a dark, scary time and brought us back to a life full of light and calm and fun and safety.

“I would tell anyone considering a transition to look into Life@Home. The idea of moving your loved one out of their home can be a real fear. Change is not easy. Life@Home has been the answer to our questions, our needs, and our prayers.”

Helping provide options to stay at home, longer.

  • Household maintenance. Keeping a household running smoothly takes a lot of work. If you’re finding it hard to keep up, we can help you explore laundry, shopping, gardening, housekeeping, and handyman services.
  • Transportation is a key issue for older adults. Maybe you’re finding it hard to drive or don’t like to drive at night. Having access to senior transportation services like Oconomowoc Silver Streak can help prolong your independence and maintain your social network.
  • Home modifications. If your mobility is becoming limited, home modifications can go a long way towards keeping your existing residence comfortable and accessible. Enhancements can include things such as grab bars in the shower, ramps to avoid or minimize the use of stairs, or even installing a new bathroom on the ground floor.
  • Personal care. Help with the activities of daily living, such as dressing, bathing, or meal preparation, is called personal or custodial care. Our home health team can provide personal care services that range from a few to several hours a day.

“To recommend Shorehaven’s Life@Home program is something I do almost daily,” said Mary Jo. “My parents’ friends are aging, and I’m confident that the program will do an excellent job for them as well. They make my parents laugh. They bring joy in the door every day. They bring life, and personal stories, and a connection. To me, it’s wonderful that this kind of program is available, and Barb is worth her weight in gold to us. My parents have been together for nearly 70 years and having Life@Home there has allowed them to stay together in their own home. And what’s more important than that? Nothing.”

We are thrilled to have been able to help Mary Jo, and we’re here to help you navigate the waters that may be swirling around you. To learn more about how home care services may help you or a loved one, visit shorehavenliving.org/services-at-home/. Better yet, send a note to Jamie Milaeger or call her at 262-560-6960.