By Pati Bedwell, Elder Care Coordinator
Never in a million years would I have guessed I’d end up working at a law firm, much less a law firm that’s known nationwide! I thought I was as far from the world of law as I could get, but, as we all find out, life takes all kinds of twists and turns.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved old people. “Old” is not the politically correct term, but, as a kid, in my mind, almost everyone was old. I was blessed with many elderly relatives and most of them lived close to our house. I would spend a lot of time walking to see them.
My friends knew both my grandmothers and my great aunts, Kate, Jenny, Gertie, and Helen. There were more older relatives in my family, but these were the ones I visited most. When we moved from Pennsylvania to Kentucky, I missed them all more than I ever thought I would. I believe they are the reason I ended up spending my career working to help the elderly.
As many career elder workers do, I started out as a nursing assistant working in a skilled care nursing home. Although the job was physically taxing, it was very emotionally rewarding. After a few years, I left my job when I relocated out of the area. I tried different kinds of work, but I always came back to working with the elderly in some way.
I worked for a while as a receptionist in a nursing home then, as luck would have it, I ended up back in the same nursing home I started in, only this time I was working in the activity department. What a great gig that was! My entire job was planning activities and having fun with our residents! Well, not entirely. I got a little more involved with the regulatory aspects of a facility, so, when we moved to the Nashville area, I was thrilled when I was hired as one of the Long-Term Care District Ombudsmen!
As an ombudsman, my job was to advocate for the residents, making sure they received good care and that their rights were being respected. I worked as a liaison for the resident and the facility to resolve the resident’s concerns. My nursing home background helped a lot because I was able to understand both sides of the problem. I know firsthand that the staff tries hard to provide good care, but sometimes they fall short because of things out of their control.
This perspective was valuable. Because of it, I tried not to bring a problem to an administrator without at least a germ of an idea how to resolve it.
Being an ombudsman wasn’t easy. I loved the job, but I hated not being able to “fix” everything. The regulations only go so far and the penalties for infractions don’t do a whole lot to alleviate the problems.
One day my frustrations got the best of me and, before I could second-guess myself, I picked up the phone and called Debra King, who was an Elder Care Coordinator at Takacs McGinnis. I told Debra I was on the lookout for other career opportunities and would appreciate her keeping me in mind if she heard of any openings. As luck would have it, there was an opening and about a week after my call to Debra, I had an interview with Timothy L. Takacs, the guru of elder law.
I don’t remember much about the interview, but I recall telling myself beforehand not to fret too much about it. I figured that there was no way a law firm would hire someone like me. I told myself that I had a job already, one I liked, and that if this new opportunity didn’t work out, no harm, no foul.
The interview happened. I must have said the right things because shortly after I left, Tim called me and told me they’d like me to offer me a job. I was flabbergasted! When I went back to formally accept the job, I remember wishing I could get everything signed and done before they realized they made a mistake!
Well, it has been seven years now and I guess it wasn’t a mistake after all. Being an Elder Care Coordinator is a great job for me and it helps me continue to help my elders. I’m able to help them through a rough patch and I’m there when things are good, too. I get to help them formulate a plan to help them age the way want to age with the care and resources they need to enjoy their life to the fullest.
Everything I did brought me to where I am now. I hope my Greats – Kate, Jenny, Gertie, Helen, and all the rest—are pleased to see where I ended up. I think this is where I belong, and I love that I get to know people and help them as they age. I get to see “the rest of the story,” as the saying goes.