If COVID has taught me anything, I would say it has highlighted my value and need for connection with my family and friends. My parents live in Hong Kong and my mum was planning to come for the birth of my youngest son nearly two years ago. Then the pandemic forced all international borders to close. Now we are just hoping we could see my parents later this year, or maybe early next year. With all that in mind, when I heard about Robyn’s work, especially her Musings and Memoirs Storytelling Production for aging loved ones, I had to interview her for this podcast, so that people can consider using this service to capture loved one’s stories for the family.
About Robyn Pearson
Robyn Pearson is the owner and founder of A Friend Indeed. She is passionate about supporting adult children who are in a caregiver role to their aging parents. Over the past 11 years of service, she has spoken with numerous daughters and sons, each one admitting that it’s a big role to take on alongside the many other responsibilities they juggle. A Friend Indeed brings engagement, purpose, joy and a little “goofyness” to increase the quality of life for their aging loved one and to ease the pressure off the family so it doesn’t feel like everything has to be all on their shoulders. On-site visits with their aging loved one residing at home, in a care facility, or even awaiting placement. Robyn’s business is serving Calgary, Airdrie, Didsbury and areas within Alberta, Canada.
The pandemic had interrupted their in-person visits back in 2020-2021, while they are back to their in-person visits, they have also developed an additional way of supporting the family they serve and engaging their aging loved one! Musings & Memoirs is a Video Storytelling Production made to capture their aging loved ones’ stories, as told by them to become a precious and memorable keepsake for the family now and for future generations!
- Introducing Robyn Pearson, owner and founder of ‘A Friend Indeed’ (00.14)
- Outline of the key functions of A Friend Indeed; including caring for ageing loved ones in care facilities, hospitals. (03.18)
- Medical v non-medical care; the importance of social, mental and emotional wellbeing & quality of life (05.14)
- Communication and follow up; putting family members of ageing loved ones at ease (07.36)
- Tailoring care and engaging with clients with diverse needs; non-verbal, clients with dementia (10.40)
- Personal anecdote and example of A Friend Indeed’s personalised service (14.07)
- The importance of incorporating joy and creativity in client care; client and family perspective (17.13)
- Emphasising family communication and the impact of visit summaries for geographically distant relatives (22.58)
- An introduction of ‘Musings and Memoirs’ during the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing restrictions; a digital storytelling service. (28.32)
If you would like to find out more about Robyn Pearson’s work, please visit: www.getafriendindeed.com
If you want to learn more about our NEW Wonder Women Coaching Program and how it can help you create more meaningful success, please visit: https://szewingvetault.com
You can now book a FREE 30 mins. Discovery Call with Coach SzeWing Vetault here.
For notebooks, weekly planners and other products by Sze Wing Vetault, please visit her online Oh-My-Goddess Store.
Sze Wing: 00:02 Hi, everyone. I am really, really happy today to be talking to Robyn Pearson; a new friend all the way from Canada Alberta area. Hi, Robyn.
Robyn: 00:13 Hello.
Sze Wing: 00:14 So today we are going to do this podcast, which I think is a little bit different than usual, because a lot of times I interview relatives or business owners that are doing coaching services or something in that area. But today, Robyn comes from a very different specialty and you can tell she is super kind and loving. And I don’t know; I just love what you do. But a very quick introduction, and then I’ll actually let Robyn tell us what does she do. But Robyn Pearson, she’s the founder and owner of A Friend Indeed, which is a business service to help busy families to find balance and regular companion visits with your loved ones on a weekly, or even daily basis. And you can already imagine, for a time like this, it’s super important. And obviously if travel is allowed – and her service is quite localized, so that also takes some of the stress out. And she has a service area covering Airdarie, Carstairs, Didsbury and Calgary. I mean, I’m terrible with area names.
Robyn: 01:34 Airdarie, Calgary, Didsbury and area. This is all in Alberta.
Sze Wing: 01:40 Alberta area. But she also has an onlineservice that I’m very keen to ask about later on, because a lot of our listeners are in the US, the UK and Australia; so that could be something you can also check out. But I think the best way to introduce Robyn is actually ask her, how did it all happen? How do you get to create this really heart-based, purpose driven business?
Robyn: 02:12 Right. Well, thank you very much. This is a pleasure to be here. This is my very first podcast, so I am a newbie. So I hope that I do everything right, but it’s wonderful to be able to speak about what I do, because it is something that is near and dear to my heart, and it has been for the last 11 years. Long ago, I started this company myself and I wore all of the hats. So now I’ve got a wonderful team of 15 very caring individuals. And yes, we are locally serving the area in Canada, in Alberta, in Southern Alberta, actually Calgary, Airdarie, Didsbury and then area at this time. So we’re hoping to be able to expand right across the province, right across Western Canada and then some, so that’s that’s what we have in mind.
Robyn: 03:18 What we do, what our primary service that A Friend Indeed does is we help out the family caregiver who is looking out for their ageing loved one who lives at home in a care facility. They might even be in hospital waiting for a placement because of an illness or decline, circumstances had changed where they’re no longer able to live at home. So once upon a time, and actually not that long ago, I was a family caregiver to my mom. Unfortunately she had passed away just this past summer. So I have been through early stages supporting somebody that was living with dementia; what that entailed and how it developed. And we have really had a great success story. I’ve also had the privilege over the years to be able to support other families; other family caregivers.
Robyn: 04:35 And there are no two people that are alike. So everybody comes with specific circumstances a cocktail, if you will, of what the individual is the challenges that they are living with their own personality, their outlook on life just how they are coping and how the family is supporting them. So we support the family caregiver through regular visits with their loved one. So what makes us different is we are non-medical. There are a lot of companies out there, services that focus on the medical side, and that is wonderful. I purposely chose not to include the medical because what I have found in my observations is when medical is brought in – and yes, it is so important – but it tends to take over. And there is so much more to quality of life, to the importance of life than just the medical.
Robyn: 05:55 Once the medical is taken care of, there are other things like the social wellbeing, the mental and emotional wellbeingthe creativity and fun that makes life enjoyable at any age. And that’s what we focus on. So under are the disguise of goofiness and enjoyment and fun and spontaneity, we get to help people exercise the faculties that they do have; we help to ward off future decline and we just have a good time together, you know, because you should be able to do that at any age under any circumstances. So that’s what we set out to do.
Sze Wing: 06:47 That’s so incredible, because just like the title ‘A Friend Indeed’ I bet your clients love those visits. You know, how some of those elderly that we know, they dread for those visits that are medical only, like they check you and tell you what’s wrong with you, how much more medication you are going to get; while you guys, they will be so excited to see you because not only provide a relationship, a friendship, someone to talk to, but play and enjoy. And that’s something I think really has been missing in a lot of those stories we’ve been hearing when people are in decline, we know that. But how the journey is going to be; it makes a world of difference for the family as well as the person you visit. Right?
Robyn: 07:36 Absolutely. Yes. Well, the thing – communication is one of our highest values in our organization, and it is so important to have effective and timely and quality communication after each interaction that we have, whether it’s a friendly phone call with some people, whether an in-person visit. And by the way, we can also take individuals, mobile individuals out in our vehicle. So we don’t just have to stay indoors. We can take them out to run errands or to an appointment. So the family doesn’t have to take time off, or we can just go out for a cup of coffee or go and look at something different, right? The things that you and I take for grantedthere’s a lot of people that don’t have access to that. So we want to bring that. But after each interaction, each visit, we send a little visit summary to the family.
Robyn: 08:40 It’s just a little friendly letter to let them know what we’ve been up to, and if we’ve noticed any change. And even individuals living in care facilities, there has been numerous times where we have picked up on something that maybe the staff hadn’t noticed yet, because we have that one on one time with them. Whereas staff is one, two, many. There’s many individuals that they are looking out for. So having that quality time together, you really get to know a person. And if there’s something a little bit off, it stands out and then we’re able to communicate that.
Sze Wing: 09:21 It’s beautiful and super important. And I think in our modern day, we put so much emphasis on, you know, the medical care. But, you know, as I said, sometimes, especially when we’re older, we just need someone to – I mean, even now I feel I need to talk to someone or need to – you know, a lot of coaching is actually active listening and really relating to what the person is experiencing. Right. And I think as we age – and I don’t like the idea that when people, after certain age, they could just, stay by themselves, do very little and that’s okay because they don’t have to go and conquer the world anymore. You know, that sort of – the emphasis and respect on – because you’re not doing, and therefore we are not rewarding, as such, in – I don’t know how to put it, but I think just having that idea that, you know, sometimes these people really someone to listen to; to talk to. I think that’s key; just being able to share what they’re thinking and feeling. I mean, that’s essential to anyone.
Robyn: 10:28 It really is.
Sze Wing: 10:29 And as you said, the staff in a medical facility may be just too busy with taking care of you, you know, with medical care, but they can’t really sit down and just chat with you.
Robyn: 10:40 And there’s so much more than that. What you are talking about is that social engagement, and it may or it may not include verbal speaking and talking and things like that. We meet the person where they are and what their abilities are. And I mean, we can bring a lot of enjoyment to people who are nonverbal, people who maybe have suffered a stroke, living with the outcome of that with certain dementia stages. There are numerous ways that you can engage an individual to make them feel like they have meaning, that what’s important to them is important. And we can celebrate that; we can give access to those things that they might not otherwise. So I’ve got a quick example from a past client that we’ve had. When we have somebody come on, we talk with the family and get to know that individual as much as possible.
Robyn: 11:58 We want to know, you know, what did this person do for a living? What were their interests? What are their interests now? What are their abilities now? And with this one individual he lived in a care facility living with dementia and his view on life was he thought he was one of the staff, one of the administrators of the building instead of being one of the residents; this was his reality. And his background, he was an engineer in his life. And so, you know, looking at those details, this is somebody who has a high attention to detail wants to work with his handsand taking it upon himself as thinking he is one of the administrators, overseeing, making sure that, you know, his people are well taken care of. This is somebody who’s got a big heart and he’s mindful of other people.
Robyn: 13:07 So taking those little pieces, what kind of activities could we do to help him feel fulfilled, right? And it’s got to be a meaningful activity. So we kind of thought, you know, looking at all those little pieces and the idea of, what about some simple origami? So the friend comes in with some fancy paper. Origami the folding of the paper into little things, right. You can make a crane or a frog or something like that. And so the visiting friend brought in some paper, just from the dollar store, you know, didn’t cost very much. Sat him down in an area – this was before the pandemic – in the area where, you know, it was more open; there’s people coming and going and things like that. And very simply demonstrating together, folding these papers.
Robyn: 14:07 And I think they made a frog or something like that. And it was really successful. And he really enjoyed doing that because it was a step by step process toward an end result. Well, isn’t that what engineering is all about, right? And the bonus effects of working in an area where there’s people coming and going, is you attract attention, because many care facilities, there’s not a whole lot going on. Right. So, you know, people would come over and what are you doing? And, oh, how pretty and, oh, how cute could you make me one? So now this turned into something that he could do, and it was purposeful because he was going to give it to somebody else. So he was making some for these people, having those feelings of, I made that person feel good. So you look at what that activity is, and it just needed a little bit of an encouragement, it needed the supplies, it needed the forethought ahead of time. But we created the environment and the opportunity for this gentleman to use the skills, to feel fulfilled and to feel good.
Sze Wing: 15:29 To feel useful.
New Speaker: 15:29 And making somebody else feel. So that was a great success. And it’s little things like that; like I said before, giving people the opportunity to be able to express themselves where they might not otherwise have that.
Sze Wing: 15:52 Do you have a framework or something where you, sort of, look at, but then you tailor for each individual; because you mentioned social engagement and I suppose there may be creativity. So do you have something that you based or used as a framework, but then you look at everyone’s interests, past, abilities and all that to come up with, you know, something for each client?
Robyn: 16:16 It is custom. That is what we are known for, is our visits are custom to that individual. Yes. We learn from one another and our past experiences and, you know, how things worked or whatever. And would this be another candidate for that approach? We’ll take all of that into mind. But you know, we look at everybody individually, because we’re all individuals. And it’s also funny how things could go a certain way, and then we hear from the family, ‘Oh my goodness. I would never have guessed Mom would like that’, or, ‘I would never have guessed that Dad would be interested in that’. Right. It’s because the opportunity was there. I mean, if they don’t want to do it, that’s fine. Right. No harm, no foul. But if there is a little inkling, you knowthen it’s something to explore. Another really great story to share was lady again, living in a care facility.
Robyn: 17:24 And this was somebody that we had been with for a number of years. So she was living with Alzheimer’s. And at this point in time, she was starting forget how to use a push button phone. And the daughter had asked, ‘During your visit, would you mind just practicing dialing. You could call me, the daughter. And I just want to make sure that she’s holding onto that skill just a little bit longer’. And I thought, no problem at all. So when I arrived – and I’ll call this lady, Mary; that’s not her real name. And I said, you know, ‘Mary, how about we practice the phone before we get into doing something’. And she thought, ‘Okay, sure’. And we had the, the daughter’s telephone number written really big. And I had thought ahead of time, you know, we could just dial those numbers, right.
Robyn: 18:25 And call her, and dial it again and call her again. You know, that would be a little bit boring. But what came to mind was, I don’t know about in Australia, but in Canada, when you were a teenager back in the eighties before cell phones and call display and all of that, we did this thing when we were bored; prank phone calls where you call up somebody and you say something kind of funny and, you know, hang up or, or something like that. I don’t know if you did that in your younger years.
Sze Wing: 19:06 No.
Robyn: 19:06 Okay. So, so this will be a treat for you then, because I had the bright idea of, how about when we practice phoning, we do a prank phone call? So we had to practice ahead of time what we were going to say. And so we did that and we were all laughing and giggling. And then it was the time. So Mary picks up the phone and we look at the phone number and we break it into chunks; chunking the information, so it’s not too much to take in. Types in the first three numbers, types in the next three numbers. And we’re calling her daughter. So the phone is ringing, ringing. And then I could hear that the daughter answered, ‘Hello’. And Mary says, ‘Is your refrigerator running?’ And I could hear the daughter say, ‘Mom?’
Robyn: 20:07 And then the line is ‘You better run and catch it’. And then she just started laughing and laughing. And they chatted for a little bit andnd then we, we hung up and then went on to do our activities. But it was a fun way to practice phoning. It was a fun way of practicing sequence of information. And this lady, I mean, we knew her and the sense of humor that she had. This was just so in line with who she really is and how she likes to express herself. And, you know, it was something that was also helpful as well, but I’ll never forget that story.
Sze Wing: 21:01 Yeah. And I bet that she would like regularly practice prank phone calls since that, because it’s a good practice. And talking about the family with your experience in this work, what are some of the things that the family members say? Because we clearly can see the benefits for those that you visit, like Mary. But what about her daughter and all that? Like, what other, maybe even surprising things that they may have said in your experience, that you didn’t know that was so important and it was helpful, that you just didn’t even know before?
Robyn: 21:39 Absolutely. Another story comes to mind right away. In this line of business where we are visiting seniors, the worst part of this work is at some point, if we have the privilege of being with somebody long enough, eventually we get a phone call that they have passed away. And that’s just part of this line of work. Like I said, we have the privilege of being in this chapter of their lives. We never knew them as a young bride, or a new mother or anything like that. We get to know them in these chapters of their life. So one story comes to mind was there was a gentleman that we visited for a number of years. And at the time when we were hired on, he was falling quite a bit. He lived in a care facility, but he was falling quite a bit.
Robyn: 22:43 He would get out of bed, he would forget that he needed support and he would fall. And so we were brought in as the fall prevention program. And instantly, the falls stopped because somebody was there. Right. When he passed away a few years later, I attended the ceremony, the wake; celebration of life is what we call it. And there was a large gathering, because this was quite a prominent individual. And I was standing in line, which everybody does and, you know, waits to shake the hands of the family and offer our condolences and things like that. And there was a younger girl that was behind me and we just started chatting. And she said, ‘Oh, so how do you know this gentleman?’ And I said, ‘You know, we had visits and so forth’. And she said, ‘Oh, are you with A Friend Indeed’? And I’m like, ‘Oh, yes’. Well, this girl that I was chatting with was the roommate of the granddaughter who was in a different province. And she said. ‘We Would get the visit summaries. And it felt like we were part – we were closer to him than what we were able to be’. So those visit summaries traveled right across Canada as to how their granddad was doing. Right.
Sze Wing: 24:20 So that was a roommate of the granddaughter; not even the granddaughter?
Robyn: 24:24 The roommate of the granddaughter, yes. Yeah. So that family, as well as numerous other families, have have said that it’s a way of bringing long distance family members together to feel more involved with the care, because they’re able to help make decisions; they’re able to be part of the conversation. And it’s just a click of the button to be able to have that happen. So that’s quite amazing. Other stories just very quickly; visiting a gentleman who the only visitor that he has is his wife. And his wife is just overwhelmed and tired because of the, demands that yes, need to, to be in place. And I remember chatting with her shortly after we started visiting, and she said, ‘You know what? I started playing the piano again in the afternoon because I now have more energy’. Right. It’s the ripple effect.
Sze Wing: 25:41 All these amazing stories, I think there is a book there already. I hope I’m the 10th person who tells them before – as we are recording this, this is just the end of 2021, so it’s timestamped, Robyn. I think there is a book here that needs to be done
Robyn: 26:04 Well, it’s, it’s amazing journey to be a caregiver for a loved one. It’s hard work, it takes a lot of time and it takes a lot out of you. And it’s so important to have a support network around, you because you can’t do it on your own, period. Not if you want to remain healthy to be able to make decisions that need to be made, to be able to be present for the individual. Right. That’s an important part of what we bring to the family. If we can help with looking after some of the errands during a visit that we’re doing with their loved ones, so they’re feeling more independent in their life, if we are taking them to an appointment and taking notes to bring back to the familyif we’re just taking some of the pressure off of their shoulders, it means that they can be that son or daughter that they want to be for their loved one, instead of just being the caregiver, instead of then running out of steam, running out of energy to be that social connection for them.
Sze Wing: 27:32 And I actually think it’s also kind of the best care for them as well, for both sides. Because I don’t know, but I I’ve seen some family members that they think they don’t want to burden, or bother, or there’s certain things they don’t express or do, like, ‘Oh, you’re busy with work. Don’t don’t mind it. Don’t mind me’, instead of – and they would feel bad sometimes, taking up too much of a family member’s time to do drawing, a puzzle, because it’s like not important, you know? But when you have a friend like this, you actually enjoy doing the activity. I actually think it’s really great for both sides. You take off the pressure for the family member, but also for the elderly, they actually can do something free rather than, you know, not bothering, obligating; that sort of stuff. And I think that gives them some sort of individual freedom to do what they want to do. Instead of being the dad or the grandpa, they are just who they are, without that specific role.
Robyn: 28:32 Absolutely. Absolutely. And actually that is a great segue to the other offering that we created because of the pandemic. Because there was a period of time where we had to stop visits, with the exception of two clients. And those particular client seniors depended on us to get their groceries or to bring them to an eye appointment so she could keep her eyesight. Those just had to keep going. But during the pandemic, when we weren’t able to do our visits, we created a new offering called ‘Musings and Memoirs’, your video, storytelling production. So in our visits over the years, yes, we would hear all sorts of stories and they were brand new to us. Right. We weren’t the families that had heard them over, and over, and over, and over again. Slowly, when you hear a story over and over again, it’s pretty common to interrupt the person to shorten it, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know the details’, you know? And so the story gets shortened. We’re somebody new. And the way that my mind is made up, I’m very much – I’m creative and I have a great imagination. When somebody’s telling me a story I’m playing the movie in my mind; I’m watching the character, you know, go up to the building, or play with the horse or whatever. And so I’ll ask other questions, you know, like what was that like? Or, you know, how warm was that coat? Or, how big was the yard? What color was the horse? Or how did it feel to be up so high on it? You know, that sort of a thing. So the stories would expand. So during the pandemic with this Musings and Memoirs we now have the capabilities to do remote interviews with the senior.
Robyn: 30:47 We capture their stories as told by them with their, you know, nuances and facial expressions and laughter and all of those little things. We capture them on video. We have an editor that’s on staff. So I get edited out. You don’t hear my voice; you don’t see me. It’s just the main star. And the the stories are then captured. There are some enhancements that we can add in if the family chooses, such as adding in some music adding in an overlay of photographs. So if she’s talking about, you know, riding a horse to school and they have a photo, we can have that come up. So that way the, the viewer, the audience can be able to see that as well. We can also add in what I call story markers; so creating a little bit of structure within the video on different topics, so that way it’s easier to navigate through and just tightens it up a little bit better. And the other thing that we can add in is additional interviews. So my very first one that I did was with a lovely gentleman. And one of the questions that I asked him was, ‘Tell me about your wedding day. You know, you’re standing at the end of the aisle, and you look, and you see her coming down for the first time. What did you see? How did you feel? Tell me about that’. So he shared that story from that perspective. At the end of the interview, I then interviewed his wife, and that was one of the questions that I had for her. So I got both sides. And I will bet you, the family has never heard that before.
Sze Wing: 32:58 That’s so sweet.
Robyn: 33:01 It’s absolutely sweet. Absolutely. And the first one that I did, I knew right away that it is so in line with what A Friend Indeed is about, because we’re engaging the senior and we’re supporting the family caregiver. So that family now has a video of their loved one, telling these stories in additional details that is a keepsake that they have now. And for future generations, how wonderful would it have been for you or I, to have a video of our grandparents or great grandparents?
Sze Wing: 33:47 And I love that interview part, because that add another dimension to it, because then they are sharing a memory together. So this is amazing. Now we’ve got to wrap up this podcast. But I think like it has been quite emotional. Wow, I just keep listening and thinking how important the work that you are doing; how it really helps people in a truly fundamentally important way. So how can people get in touch with you if they really want to know more about A Friend Indeed? If they in your area, obviously get in touch. If they are not, at least the video and musings, like, you know, it doesn’t matter internationally. Right. So what’s the best way to get in touch with you?
Robyn: 34:37 The best way to get in touch with me is to go to our website; it’s www.getafriendindeed.com
Sze Wing: 34:48 [Indistinct]
Robyn: 34:49 You are correct. For the companion visits that is local Southern Alberta, but for the Musings and Memoirs, that can be anywhere. Like I mentioned, we have remote interviews, so provided that we have the same capabilities that you and I have right now, we can interview anywhere.
Sze Wing: 35:15 It can be a really great, say 80 year old birthday present or party feature, right? Because it just brings up so much memory and celebration, you know, for anyone who wants to capture that. So, I mean, I’m in awe. So I think I didn’t talk as much, which is great for this interview, because I am just so into your stories. And I think you’ve got a lot more to tell. So anyway, thank you so much for today. And I hope lots of people will take up this amazing service of yours. And amazing Christmas and end of the year; we are nearly the end of 2021.
Robyn: 36:02 That’s right. Yes. Thank you very much for this opportunity. It was great. Thank you.
Sze Wing: 36:07 And I will put the link below on the details page. So thank you. And we’ll see you again, next year.
Robyn: 36:18 Sounds great.