As a young woman, I earned my bachelor’s degree in social work at Valparaiso University, and worked in family assistance until I married and had children. When my fifth child was three, I went back to work as the counselor at their school for several years, working with students and families under stress. Later, when my children were young adults, I went to seminary and completed a masters in pastoral care and counseling at Aquinas Institute of Theology in St. Louis, and did some post grad work in gerontology at UMSL. It was towards the end of my graduate studies that I began my clinical pastoral education at the hospital, which segued into a hospital chaplain residency after receiving my masters. That residency led to increased compassion for those who are very ill, and eventually to ten years of providing spiritual care, end of life education, and grief support to hospice patients and their families.
It was while working in the ICU at Forest Park Hospital in St. Louis that I became aware that many seniors aren’t prepared for medical emergencies and decision-making. I was a chaplain resident (like a medical doctor resident), and Iris had been lying in bed, unresponsive, for over two weeks. Her best friend, Laura, was sitting next to her, having just finished talking with a surgeon. “They want to put a feeding tube in her,” she said, “and I don’t know what to do.” She was Iris’s only “family” and support, and they had not talked about the “what ifs” of aging. Laura was overwhelmed, under prepared, anxious, and emotionally spent. Throughout the ICU that year, similar scenarios played out, and it was my privilege to accompany patients and their caregivers throughout the course of their illness, and to offer grief support in the months that followed.
I am proficient in client assessments, care-planning, crisis intervention, life review, and education on the aging process, end of life, and the grieving process. I strive to facilitate healthy communication with and within the family, can be a liaison between the medical staff and the family, and will advocate tirelessly for patient needs with medical staff. Over the years I have gained knowledge of the medical system, options for care, and supportive living arrangements. I have come to see caregivers as the unsung heroes of our society, and the fabric that holds fragile individuals and families together, and coming alongside them is a privilege.
I provide comfort, caring presence, emotional support, and work toward helping our clients have peace of mind about the present and the future. I love hearing people’s stories about their childhood, courtship, careers, disappointments, joys and struggles. As we age, we can feel increasingly invisible. Part of my mission is to listen well, and be an empathetic companion during times of stress and transition. I hope to give this kind of support to every individual and family I work with.
When I was 5 years-old, my parents moved my two older brothers and I back to their hometown in central Illinois in order to be closer to my three living grandparents, aunt and uncle and cousins. I was incredibly fortunate to grow up with a family around me and spend quality time at both my paternal grandmother’s home and my maternal grandparents’ home on a weekly basis. I learned as much from my grandparents as I did from my wonderful parents and developed a deep respect for and friendship with older adults. I was present and involved in the end-of-life care for all three grandparents, advocating for their dignity and quality of care. My mother led by example, taking me with her to visit my grandparents’ friends after they had passed. She would assist with giving them a ride to a doctor’s appointment, bringing meals by, and taking time to listen to their concerns whether it be family relations, isolation, health issues and she did so with extraordinary kindness and patience. I did not realize it at the time, but she inspired me to partner with older adults and their families.
I did know at an early age that I wanted to help people. I pursued a double major in Psychology and Sociology at Millikin University and received my Bachelor degree in Human Services. I then moved to Saint Louis and earned my Master in Social Work degree with a concentration in family from Saint Louis University. I have been a Licensed Clinical Social Worker since 2007 and in practice with adults for over 15 years. My career in this field began in a medical setting working in both inpatient and outpatient areas before I decided to transition to geriatric care, providing Psychotherapy and Care Management in client’s homes and facilities. I also have knowledge and expertise in home care services and memory care, with a passion for increasing safety and overall well-being.
After spending a rewarding two and a half years as a stay at home mom to my darling daughter, it is my great pleasure to join the team at Aging Gracefully. I look forward to providing assistance to my team as well as clients and their families. I believe it is a privilege to advocate for the needs of older adults and become part of their trusted team of professionals. I find fulfillment in navigating various healthcare systems, collaborating with other professionals and taking the time needed to develop a strong rapport with clients. I know both personally and professionally how vital it is to have support, especially when in crisis or at a crossroads for making a change. My desire is to ease the burden of caregivers and to be seen as an extension of family for your loved one.
I grew up in Chevy Chase MD., outside of Washington DC, the eldest of 7 children. Our parents raised us to know that many options were open to us in life and that we also had a responsibility to contribute something back to the world, a value I wholeheartedly internalized. I earned my BS in Psychology at UMSL and my M.Ed. in Special Education at Loyola University of MD. I raised my two children here in St. Louis and returned to the DC area for 11 years to assist my parents in coordinating the supports they needed and then their choice of a move to a continuum of care residence. I then returned here to St. Louis in 2014 to be near my children and four grandchildren, who bring me so much joy!
I have happily found work in social services as a case coordinator and in special education as a transition specialist, which has allowed me to fulfill my passion for supporting people, especially people with developmental disabilities and their families, to explore their options with informed choice, at different stages of life and to help open the doors towards their dreams. This has often been achieved through person-centered planning with the individual, their families and support circle to define the next steps, the supports needed, the action plans and pathways to achieve those life goals. There is no greater joy to me than listening to people speak about their dreams and fears for themselves and their children and then helping to define the next steps to take. They are then able to live the next stage with ease, contentment and fulfillment.
Through my work in the St. Louis area for 23 years, I have extensive knowledge and partnerships with the agencies and community resources available to serve individuals with disabilities, the funding streams available and the steps needed to make the needed linkages to services. It is wonderful to be a part of this organization that has demonstrated such a high commitment to creatively enhancing and ensuring the dignity and joy in life for each person being served.
I grew up in Webster Groves, MO. After graduating from Webster High School, I spread my wings and moved to Los Angeles, CA for my undergraduate degree in psychology. I returned to the St. Louis area to obtain a master’s degree in occupational therapy from Washington University. While working on my degree I met my husband Jon, and we now have two awesome children, Amelia and Max. My years of experience as an OT have honed my problem solving skills, as well as providing me with knowledge of common medical conditions and treatments and the medical system at large- all important qualities for a care manager.
When people ask me what I do for my work, I have two favorite ways of describing my role as a private care manager. The first references one of my favorite children’s books, Charlotte’s Web. The multitude of senior services available are like a complex and often confusing and overwhelming web. My role is to be Charlotte, the friendly spider from the story, who nimbly and expertly connects the resources, rushing to and from on the web to repair holes and solve problems as they arise. Though in general I am not a great lover of spiders (this is an understatement), I do feel this metaphor aptly conveys the central role of care management- making the web of services work for YOU in your individual situation and to meet your priorities and goals.
My second favorite way of describing my work is as a surrogate family member. The relationships I form with my clients are more than simple professional exchanges. They are built on trust, dedication and deep caring. The nature of our work together can feel very personal and I am honored to be a trusted partner to my clients.
My mom recently underwent a difficult foot surgery that required her to keep weight off her foot for several weeks. She felt very overwhelmed by the necessary changes to her routines and was concerned about remaining functional in her home environment. As I supported her through this process, helping to prepare her for surgery, obtaining needed equipment and problem solving solutions to difficulties as they arose, she often commented, “What do people do if they don’t have an “Ellen” to help them through things like this?!” Well, it is true that not everyone has a daughter who is a care manager with a background in occupational therapy. But you CAN hire one! My work is more than a job to me, it is a passion and a calling. I promise to be a caring and respectful partner as we work together to write the next chapter in your story- as you wish.
I grew up in St. Louis and graduated from Mizzou with an undergrad in Educational Counseling Psychology. My career would take a different path as I moved into an IT role. I worked for many years as a Systems Engineer while working on my MBA at Webster University. My husband and I have 2 great kiddos and I was lucky enough to spend 8 years at home with them before stepping back into the working world as Mel's assistant!
MSW, LCSW, CMC
I grew up in a small town in south Louisiana surrounded by grandparents and great- grandparents . I spent many hours with my grandparents. I loved hearing their stories and interacting with the older generation. I studied psychology at Belhaven College then completed a Master’s in Social Work at Washington University with a concentration in gerontology and a specialization in family therapy. My 23 year career in social work in the St Louis community includes work with psychiatric, medical and geriatric settings.
Aging Gracefully beautifully marries my education and passions. Geriatric care management is an individualized and personalized service. I collaborate with you to tailor services to the circumstances and needs of your family. I love spending time with families and individuals and really knowing their stories. I enjoy collaborating and advocating with others including doctors, nurses, home health agencies, caregivers, etc. With years of experience, I have knowledge of competent geriatric medical professionals and facilities in the St. Louis area. I am a willing and capable advocate for clients and families because of my passion for them and my professional experience.
Aging often refocuses our attention from activity and busyness to self-reflection and relational healing. It is my privilege to assist families to finish well during the twilight years of the older generation. My desire is to free families from daily care management tasks so they are able to relate as son, daughter, husband, wife, friend, etc. It is my pleasure to take care of the details of life and navigate systems so that your time as a family can be spent enjoying one another.
Often, I am contacted by families at a point of crisis. You may be facing difficult medical dilemmas and significant transitions. My skills, resources and experience help you deal with a crisis and plan for the future. I provide a road map and guide you through transitions. You are likely here because you are overwhelmed. My work reflects my love for another generation and is my legacy to my loving grandparents and I look forward to coming alongside your family.