We heard a lot about the importance of self-care, but what I’ve noticed in my coaching world is that caregivers are great at providing care and kindness to others, but they often underestimate how much they also need support for themselves as well. They bear the fatigue and stress until they reach the point where they are burnt out or feeling overwhelmed. That’s why when I met Bill Cohen, I immediately know we need to do this podcast, so that people who are caregivers, especially those who care for family members who have dementia, can get the information that they need to better manage their care and understand there is support available for them too!
Bill Cohen is the founder of Cohen Caregiving Support Consultants LLC. He is a certified senior advisor based in Oregon but he also provides support and other resources online.
- How Bill becomes a caregiver consultant
- Why caregivers need care and support – more than we think we know
- After 3 careers, how destiny leads Bill to find his new passion and purpose
- Signs of potential dementia or Alzheimer’s
- What kind of support Bill and his team provide – the holistic model of care and other resources
- Why do people feel reluctant to get help and support?
- What happens next when a caregiver finds support to manage the care and other important matters
If you like this podcast interview, please subscribe to my podcast on iTunes or Spotify or any podcast platforms! I appreciate your support!
Sze Wing (00:02):
Hi everyone. Today, I have a special guest. So you know many of you realized I’ve mostly interviewed women on my show, but today I have a very special guest. I met Bill (William) Cohen at an E-Women Network event, actually. He would tell you why that happens, why would meet there? But I was really taken by Bill’s words and friendliness, and he was really willing to share his knowledge. And I think it’s going to be a great interview. So a little short introduction because I think I’m going to let Bill to tell you the story, right? So, he’s the founder of Cohen Caregiving Support Consultants. He is a certified senior advisor based in Oregon, but obviously nowadays, you know, most businesses provide support online. But I think today we are going to pick his brain literally, and also have a conversation about, I think the field of carers and support, because I think this is something we overlooked quite a lot. So welcome to my show Bill.
Thank you. And good morning to you. Good afternoon here in the states, at least on the Pacific coast, and I’m excited, very honoured to be here as one of your rare male guest.
Sze Wing (01:19):
I think you’re the second, or it’s that rare, because it just happens that, you know, on our show I often talk about tips and tricks to help women to improve their productivity, lifestyle, and talk about goddess and all the things for women in focus. And actually there are times that I think it’s really great to have perspective and knowledge from the men and after meeting you. I thought I would jump into this opportunity and as you look at the background (on-screen), we can see that Bill is providing Alzheimer’s and dementia support specifically. So obviously the first question totally makes sense is to ask you about your origin story. What lead you to create this business of supporting other carers?
Thanks for asking. So I think the best way to say it is this, if you would ask me about 17 or so years ago, what was going to transpire and that I’d be sitting here today and talking to you and doing what I do, I’d say you were crazy because you couldn’t make up this scenario. It just was too unfathomable because I’m living in Oregon. My mom lived in Biloxi, Mississippi, and notice I don’t talk like a southerner, so I’m not from there. And while I was working full time, she was showing some signs of something. We weren’t sure what and things like paranoia, confusion, memory loss, she wasn’t taking care of the finances. And she was a wizard then. She was a wizard with computer. She was an early adopter of a Mac back in the 80s.
Sze Wing (03:11):
That kind of cool grandma who drinks Coca Cola and all that kind of cool things,
She was in her sixties in the 1980s and she adopted a Mac and plus she was a professional printmaker. She was a professional artist. So seeing this decline in her not being able to do what she used to do was very concerning, but we didn’t know what it was. She was in the caregiver role for my late stepfather. And we were thinking, okay, maybe she’s getting worn out. She’s tired. She’s stressed. Right? Well, we did. We were wondering if he passed away or went into a care community, would she bounce back? Unfortunately, what happened in this month, this week in 2005 and the Gulf coast of Mississippi and new Orleans hurricane Katrina, right? The house, it didn’t survive. All the other storms was completely swept away in the storm surge. And this was a few miles inland. It was that bad on the back bay.
So she, we had evacuated, she was safe when she came back and saw it completely gone that yes, exactly the shock, the trauma exacerbated or accelerated whatever was coming on with her, we knew it was probably some form of at least mild cognitive impairment. If not dementia, we weren’t thinking of Alzheimer, who’s going to jump to that conclusion. Or I was in a little denial too. So she was evacuated. She was with a couple of other family members on the east coast for a couple of years. I’m doing the long distance care giving, making trips to first North Carolina and Florida. I’m sure your listeners know their geograhy. And while I was starting to attend a support group, started talking to a care community. And I moved her out here in 2008. She was a few years in that care community that I wanted her to be.
And it was faith-based nonprofit, really good care. And she was advised for years in memory care and she’d passed away eight and a half years ago at age 83 from Alzheimers. It became obvious steps what was wrong with her. She had all the symptoms. Now I was attending that support group I thought, okay, I’ll go for a little while longer and I’ll help others through the journey. Like others helped me. I became the facilitator. That was not what I was expecting. And it was a surprise, but I had been through the whole journey. I’d experienced everything. And I used to facilitate meetings at work. So it did become a natural thing. Then I got involved with fundraising and advocacy at our state capitol, et cetera. But as I approached retirement with a 25 year government job, completely unrelated and nothing to do with social work, medical care, anything,I came across, I thought it was just going to do more volunteer work, but I came across this concept of a caregiving support consultant. And what I do is I provide advice and support and resources and referrals to family caregivers who are feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, alone, hopeless, right, stressed out and help them to sleep better at night, reduce their stress, help them manage the care and the behaviors. So basically what I did was I turned my personal loss and my pain into my passion and my encore career.
Sze Wing (06:51):
Love it. And you know, as you know, when we prep for this interview, my second question was supposed to ask you, when did you pivot and how and why your story illustrates beautifully, how that happens. So, but what I wanted to ask you now is then, you didn’t mention that you put her in a non-profit faith-based community for her memory. Can you just say, and like that, and then also just your journey I wanted to say or ask in a way , sometimes the universe has a plan and it has a thread through, your previous job training or experience in terms of facilitating or the fact that the timing was kind of, pretty smooth that you were retiring and that’s the need and that you have the capacity to help and get into that space.
Sze Wing (07:48):
It’s like a movie story where there’s a script, that’s a timeline. It’s all sort of like predestinated in some way, even though the actors almost felt like I didn’t think that will happen. And I think it was beautiful just to see how, when you follow that, divine guidance, which I think you must be open to it. If you have put her in a faith based community to trust that path, because you will let one step another, another, another, like she probably wouldn’t have gone into that state so quickly to be diagnosed without Katrina. So everything good or bad, positive, negative, can be relative because these all play a part to lead us to a journey to where you are right now, because it’s felt like your second half of life post retirement, the mission and purpose is to provide care and support for people who needed you and that you have walked a journey. So I think that was pretty amazing story. I mean, do you reflect on it? And you went like, wow, that’s exactly like a movie.
Exactly. This is what I was meant to do, because everything I did before, I had three other major careers
Sze Wing (09:05):
That you had spend some time in it, right?
Nothing fueled my passion like this, right? This has a purpose, everything I’m doing, including the fundraising, etc. And helping as many people as possible is in my mother’s memory and honor, and the others did not do that.
Sze Wing (09:23):
You do it with such a passion, but you know, sometimes specially when we’re young. And when we pursue something with passion, we get burned out because as this drive and ambition behind it, but I’ve felt when your second half in your life, when you pursue something, is it true in a calling? It doesn’t burn. It warms. So I feel a distinctive difference. And, and also a lot of people when they younger, that is such a challenge to find the passion, want to make it happen. That sort of energy? And to be honest, sometimes it’s not up to us. You wouldn’t have thought about that. After three careers, this will actually land itself that way. And some of them, we try to rush things, but it’s not meant to be like, it’s okay to find our passion or true calling or, or things like that later in life. And also they change, like they refine and they evolve. So I think it’s a beautiful story.
And what’s interesting is that, the others were all unrelated to what I’m doing now. However, the common thread is customer service and helping people. And I have two business degrees, which helps me to advise people, all the legal stuff I had to do for my mom helps me with people. Having a government background helps me take care of people because I can speak the language and advise them. And I am not that my specialty law or financial services or what have you, but I can direct them to the right people who do have those expertise. In fact, what I like to say is, okay, I’m going to direct you to an elder law attorney to help you with your legal affairs. And if they ask me specifically said, I don’t practice law, I’ll tell you which things you should be considering.
Sze Wing (11:22):
Yeah. You can be the, you know, traffic director, the end. I think this is beautiful when you say none of them are related. I just love this because my daughter does that. You said that’s not related. I would say it’s completely related. So let’s change gears a little bit. I want to say something about the role of carer, because from my culture, my background is Chinese. So I grew up in Hong Kong and China until I was a teenager. And then I moved to Europe. So I have been exposed to both east and west. And I think what I love about Asian culture is the family family culture, where it’s very normal for the young looking after the elderly. And, you know, living with grandma is a blessing and never what some may call it a burden. For generations, we often live with our older relatives and, sometimes even uncle and auntie it’s quite normal and that’s in a culture and that’s the positive side, but the negative side is also the expectations that to care for someone and sometimes especially women in that situation to be, it could be like, there are many stories just saying in the west as well, that you’re the youngest daughter or the oldest daughter.
Sze Wing (12:42):
What have you, if you haven’t been married and you don’t have your own family, you will be kind of be appointed in sidelines to look after the older aging parents. And sometimes there is this expectation. And obviously sometimes what we love to, there’s very little in terms of thinking how we care for this carer, because you see, I saw many of my family members that they took that role with courage and they got a great job, but there’s not so much about thinking for them, caring for them, let alone go external to get support. It’s not really being spoken of in our culture. So I kind of want to ask you,how, like sometimes, you know, people really tired and they’re not really quite themselves, or maybe, a little bit frustrated or sad or whatever. So how do you let say start this conversation with carer that they may need support?
Okay, let me take us one step back because of what you were just saying. That’s absolutely true in some cultures. And it used to be in most cultures that we would take care of. Our family, extended family multi-generational would take care of each other within the home, but we don’t see that as much anymore, especially in the states, but some cultures, Asian, some Latino cultures that they still do that, but , it’s harder and harder to find because we’re all spread out all over if, not just the country, the world, right? So, and there are, and this is, you pointed out that it often falls upon one family member and it is mostly women, although men more and more are stepping up here in the states, at least it’s been more like used to be a one out of five caregivers or carers of men.
Now it’s more like one out of three, but it is still a women’s issue. The caregivers, the care recipients, and the professionals are like 80 to 85% women, which if you want, we can talk about it’s mark, but that’s why I did joint the eWomen Network have become an eMen because Alzheimer’s dementia is definitely a women’s issue. So when most of my clients are, although I’ve helped somebody from their twenties, because they had a parent who was had an early onset in their fifties to eighties, spouse or an older siblings, perhaps. But most of my clients and my social media metrics bear this out 80 to 85% women, 35 to 65 adult children. And they’re seeing those first signs of concern with a aging family member. So the better, the sooner that I can talk to them the better, because they can prepare, they can plan. They can be proactive and not have to react in a crisis like a stroke or a fall that breaks a hip or something. That’s where I can come in and help them
Put together their team navigate. But what I do when I start talking with them is asking a lot of questions, like any professional, including yourself, do a lot of listening, find out what their stressors, what their burdens, how can I help take some things off their plate, give them some comfort, help them sleep better at night. And what I do is again, I put together the team, navigate the journey for them to coordinate it, instead of just saying, okay, I’m going to take care of this one thing like home health care, and that’s it. That’s not doing the complete job. That’s only part of the puzzle. That’s only one part of the care. So to sum up in another way is that I help manage and help them manage the care of their loved one, help them manage the behaviors, practice self-care, which is so important. And, aybe a little,peventative care as well, maintain their own health.
Sze Wing (16:49):
I got to sub-question in that sense. So first of all, maybe share it with us because you’re obviously very experienced in this field, even though you will not say that you’re a medical professional or a doctor physician, but you’ve seen enough. So can you share with us some signs that people wondering what is Mum going on about lately, that that may like foreshadow Alzheimers or dementia?
Sure. So I’m going to start with something where it shows that it’s not our instance. We all say, where are my keys? We all do that, right. We’re stressed or where we’re doing, you know, trying to multitask, which really is impossible. We just forget where we put the keys or the cell phone or whatever it is. It’s not a matter whether you lost the keys is, did you forget what the keys are for? That’s the, now, if you put the keys in the refrigerator, that’s a different story, or you put your cell phone in the microwave, I’ve heard of people doing that. That’s an issue. It could be something like, mom is a great cook and some reason it doesn’t taste the same. She’s leaving out ingredients. Cause she she’s forgot a recipe that she was making all her life. And it’s going to be a man too. I’m the cook in the family. But in this case, I’m mentioning woman or dad walks into the family room or living room and just stops. And he doesn’t know why he came in there.
Sze Wing (18:26):
Well, if that we do that too a little bit,
But it also could be that he forgets what that room is for.
Sze Wing (18:33):
Well, I love that because that really clear clarify things, say you forget about the keys, that’s okay. But what the keys are for that’s really a much clearer distinction
Or the driving issue, which is so hard for many people and families, because that’s our independence, that’s our control. That’s our to some people that’s the embodiment. They just love to drive. And they may say I’m a great driver and never had an accident, never had a ticket, but suddenly there’s some dents and scratches on that new car or you’re driving with them and people are hocking at them or they ask themselves why is everybody honking at me? You know what, I’m, I’m driving fine. They don’t realize that they’re not reacting. They’re not maybe looking over the shoulder of the way they should. Their reaction time to what they’re supposedly seeing is not the same. And that’s where it gets into a concern, because it’s not just about, driving and getting a ticket. You could hurt somebody, you could hurt property, you could get sued and lose everything. Yeah.
Sze Wing (19:35):
And I love all those tips and pointers. And, and then you mentioned something early on about, it’s not just about the care, the medical care, that type of things. It’s I think the way I interpreted it needs to be more 360, the self-care piece,managing sleep environment, outer outer areas. So,can you elaborate a little bit on that? Like in terms of managing care or maybe make it even more precise. So when you say, when you call to support a carer, you want to have this management kind of the way to manage a situation. So can you tell us, how does it look like when they work with you?
Sure. So again, it’s a holistic approach. It’s looking at the big picture. We’re asking questions. Like if they’re still at home, are they still safe? Is the home safe from tripping hazards or fall or burning things? You know, like the keeping the oven on, or wandering, escaping, the house is not secure and they’re just taking off. Are they getting good care if they have some other conditions that are coming on? Are they happy? Are they thriving at home? I mean, we all want to stay in our own homes and age in place independently, but if any of those answers are negative, then people have to start looking at other options. And again, it goes back to if you’re thinking that it’s getting to that time, to have those discussions and to be considering it bringing in care or looking at housing options, it probably is.
And that’s the time to talk about it, not again, in a emergency or a crisis. So again, I try to help them work through those issues. It’s like soft skills, hard skills, some things are specific recommendations. This is a good way to manage that behavior or that care like repeated questions or being able to take care of themselves, their activities of daily living.It can be so many other issues that we bring together and bring together a team, wherever, whatever needs to be brought in, whether it’s the in-home care or housing or legal or financial, I put together that team. Cause it isn’t just one person and one off, it’s not like a transaction, and just look at the care. But again, my focus is on the caregiver, the carer. So they can take care of the care recipient. The person with dementia, most people are focused on the latter, not on the former, right? So when I talk to people just like me, the first one of the first things I did after we realized mom had dementia and she lost her home was start attending a support group. And there, of course there are many more groups like that and other resources to help families through this, that didn’t exist when I was starting my journey 16, 17 years ago, or it was hard to find,
Sze Wing (22:52):
Yeah, this information is so valuable because sometimes it says, you not only will improve their quality of life. Also the person they care for, but sometimes you just don’t know these information exists. You just don’t know these people can help you in so many different ways. And I think it all came down to the point that we often are reluctant to change. Like maybe sometimes when denial, we don’t even want to figure out if mom and dad are having a problem and we don’t want to get down to the path of talking to consultant because that means we have to take action. So that changes can be very daunting until as you said, things that really go out of hand and they really felt they needed support. And then your information and your expertise and knowledge will really help people to navigate. So I think that’s incredible, but do you agree, are these a common factor that are, that’s why they reluctant to get support? Because the way I see it, it’s like, I wouldn’t anybody want this information because they will get help them in so many ways.
Right? One, it goes back to what you were just saying. I’s kinda like they don’t know what they don’t know. Right. And they don’t know what resources are out there. And it was harder back then because there were a lot of there were fewer directories or the internet was still relatively new at the time. Now there’s a lot more information and misinformation and knowing who to trust in terms of resources. So it’s out there, but you have to know what to look for. And I do, I mean, whether it’s to find advisors and other part of our country or an another country I can find them, I know who to contact and what to look for, but most people don’t because they’ve never been in that situation. So that’s where I can help.
Sze Wing (24:42):
So that really nicely lead to my next question, as we wrap up this call, is that so obviously very knowledgeable, especially in your area, if I’m in Oregon, but what if like it’s something more online, further away would you be able to help and direct those people as well? What do you do if someone like this interview and for that could be a really important call?
Absolutely. I think that’s one of the benefits that we’ve all seen in the last 16 months of the pandemic. We can work in different ways and our broader perspective, and I’ve done some other podcasts and I’m on clubhouse. And I have a Facebook community with people in all six continents. Well, not Antarctica. I haven’t found a penguin who has needs caregiving, but including Australia, New Zealand, ets,and that’s why joining eWomen Network, which is an international organization, that’s how we met. So I can help people virtually all over the country and all over the world. Now I would have to look at each country to see what’s the taxation and business registration. I’ve already determined that I can help people in Canada for instance. So there’s no reason why I couldn’t do it in many other places.
Sze Wing (26:07):
Yeah. Well, thank you so much. So now, as we wrapped up what’s the best way to contact you or get more information about what you do? Would that be your website?
I think that’s this way to start, because most of my contact information and how I work and how I help people is Cohen. Like my last name, C O H E N, caregiving, support.com. And then my email and my phone number and my zoom and all that stuff is right on.
Sze Wing (26:40):
Perfect. Thank you so much, bill. I’ve been really enjoying this interview and I really hope people who are listening or watching this, if they think they need to learn something more about the caregiving situation, then they really should reach out.
Absolutely. And I was, again, I was honored and excited to be here today. Thank you very much.
Sze Wing (27:02):