PAMELA D. WILSON is an advocate for family and professional caregivers. She is a recognized expert in the areas of advocacy, caregiving, care navigation, aging parents, family and professional caregiver relationships and long term care. An industry leader, Pamela desires to change the common belief that minimum standards of care are acceptable.
Pamela was born in Omaha, Nebraska and lived in a small neighborhood where she knew the names of each family on her block and in the neighborhood. Her grade school class at St. Francis of Assissi numbered less than twenty and consisted of many good friends with whom she remains in touch today. The neighborhood in South Omaha was bordered by industry on four sides and was knitted together by a Catholic Church and School. There was no crime. In the early 1960’s it was safe to play in the streets. Children respected their elders.
Pamela’s mother was a model caregiver who cared for members of her family many times in the family home. Other times her mother, Rose, faithfully visited family in nursing homes and hospitals. Flowers were placed on family graves every Memorial Day. The family proudly celebrated Mother’s and Father’s Day. Rose taught Pamela the basics of life, for example how to pass through a grocery store line, make purchases and count change. She instilled in Pamela a love for reading through trips to the library every Saturday morning to participate in a children’s book club. To this day Pamela remains an avid reader. Her mother taught her to sew. Pamela enjoyed designing and making most of her clothing in her late teens and early twenties. Both of Pamela’s parents taught her the value of hard work, saving money and paying cash rather than using credit. Even more importantly, her parents instilled consistent values of respect for older adults, honesty, character and ethics.
The youngest of six children, Pamela was born when her mother was 35. Her oldest sister, Becky, died in a car accident when Pamela was 17; Becky was 29. When Pamela was 35 years old she lost her mother to cancer. Pamela’s father, John, passed away several years later. Her oldest brother passed away the year following her father. By the time Pamela was 40 years old, she had lost fifty percent of her immediate family, all grandparents, aunts and uncles. Many might view this life experience as a tragedy. Pamela views the events as multiple defining moments of who she is today and her foundation for serving older adults and their families. She has lived through many of the experiences the adult children and older individuals she counsels experience today.
Pamela knew from an early age that she possessed a love and passion for the elderly, yet it took almost 40 years to for this realization to manifest. While cleaning out books in her bedroom after her father passed away, she found a book tucked in a bookcase in her upstairs bedroom, a tattered piece of paper sticking out of the top. On the paper in Pamela’s handwriting, a list of things she wanted to do when she graduated from high school: 1) forest ranger, 2) fly jets in the Air Force, 3) join the Peace Corps, and last 4) help old people. This document was the result of career counseling in which she participated before graduating from Daniel Gross High School in 1979. It’s amazing the insight we have when we are young that somehow goes by the wayside until events of our life bring us back to where we began. Pamela has served as an advocate since 2000 years and has had great fortune to meet, serve and to interview individuals who taught valuable lessons and stories.
The Caring Generation®
In April of 2009 Pamela was approached by a local radio station representative seeking a local expert to provide education to the community about caregiving issues. The station experiencing caregiving issues with their employees believed in the value of a program to educate caregivers. Early in her career, Pamela worked at KETV television in Omaha, Nebraska; she was familiar with media. During her corporate career in brand management she worked with publicity firms, advertising agencies and was interviewed on radio and television. After brief discussions and agreement with the radio station, Pamela was on air beginning Mother’s Day 2009.
Producing and hosting The Caring Generation radio program from May 2009 through December 2011 was an unexpected blessing. On the program Pamela interviewed international experts on topics from medical issues, elder abuse, Alzheimer’s disease to historical and heartwarming topics of an interview with the son of the man who invented the dialysis machine and the couple pictured in the Woodstock photo tucked in a blanket. The program featured Tales of the Caring Generation, stories and lessons written by Pamela and interviews with many older adults in the community sharing their life history.
These podcasts, interviews and stories are featured today on The Caring Generation website. The goal of The Caring Generation is to bring individuals together world-wide with an interest and a desire to broaden awareness of caregiving as an important role in life and to offer education and support for this important life journey so that no caregiver feels alone.
Pamela’s early career began as a securities clerk at the Federal Reserve Bank in Omaha which led to a research secretary position at the Nebraska Psychiatric Institute and then translated into positions in sales and marketing at companies such as ConAgra, Memorex, Best Foods and Unilever. After both parents passed away, Pamela unsure of the purpose for her life, began to volunteer at Daniel Freeman Memorial Hospital in Marina del Rey, California. Through this program, she met an older woman named Billie, who helped change the direction of her life. Pamela finished her master’s degree at Colorado State University, closed the door on her corporate career and concentrated her efforts in the aging and caregiving industries. In 2000, she opened the doors of her own company, In Home and Family Services, a company providing caregiver support in the homes of older adults.
The Care Navigator
Over the years and even today Pamela pursues additional education and certifications to support her expertise in the aging industry. In addition to formal education, Pamela is a Certified Guardian, a Certified Senior Advisor and holds a Life/Health Insurance license focusing this effort to initiate long term care insurance claims for her clients. Over the years clients and colleagues began to rely on Pamela to serve many needs. This experience translated into her current business, The Care Navigator. Dedicated, motivated, and determined to make a difference, Pamela and her staff have supported thousands of individuals and families over the years in a variety of roles such as court appointed guardian, medical and financial power of attorney, personal representative, case manager and transition specialist. She is active in many professional associations
Pamela meets with adult children and aging parents to identify needs, make recommendations and to coordinate services. While most assume that general education suffices for navigating the field of aging, health care and caregiving it is not until an individual is in this position and realizes all that isn’t known that identifies the risk of making poor decisions. Press every day highlights abuse and neglect in the health care system in hospitals, assisted living communities in the home. While abuse and neglect do exist, many good providers also exist. However the requirement is ongoing oversight by family or professionals to ensure that more than minimum standards of care are provided to loved ones.
Family Caregiver Relationships
Because caregiving is an unexpected role, caregiving strains many family relationships. A sense of duty and obligation places many caregivers in a position of guilt. Pamela supports families to identifying caregiving roles, expectations and practical boundaries to allow current care and future planning. Women in caregiving roles are particularly at risk due to time out of the workforce and traditionally lower incomes.
The Caregiving Collaborative is a feature of The Caring Generation to support family caregivers. This is an online group allowing individuals to post comments and questions, to share experiences and benefit from Pamela’s expertise in a wide variety of caregiving situations.
Professional caregivers are one of the most underappreciated groups serving our older adults today. That being said many professional caregivers are also undereducated, thus the reason for high turnover in many of the positions in nursing homes, assisted living communities and home health positions. Just as family members experience the stress of caregiving so do professional caregivers.
Yet without the benefit of training and education, many professional caregivers become emotionally enmeshed in family situations and unintentionally may worsen already distressed or troubled situations. For professional caregivers it is often not the skills that are lacking but the ability to serve and work with families and individuals experiencing situations of crises and trauma. Locally in Denver, Pamela chairs a Community Healthcare Ethics Committee with the support of the ombudsman program bringing education to professional caregivers and allowing a venue to solve complicated care situations. Internationally support is available through the Caregiving Collaborative.
Long Term Care
Pamela is a tireless advocate in the area of long term care. Having legal responsibility for clients who live in care communities, Pamela refuses to accept minimum standards of care and in many cases has provided education to community caregivers to successfully care for clients. Pamela affirms the importance of identifying care expectations years before necessary and planning for future care.
Long term care requires advocacy. Families believe they are able to place loved ones in care homes and never look back. We’ve all heard the term “long term care”. Most of us deny that we’ll ever need this type of care yet the odds are 1 in 2. Based on Pamela’s personal experience this is rarely the case. Individuals needing a high level of care need a high level of support. An article in Best Life and Health (1996) confirms the most urgent concerns of aging individuals to be: avoid dependency, not burden family, avoid welfare, leave no debt, have access to quality care, not deplete savings and preserve assets for family.
Pamela provides targeted programs to a variety of community and professional organizations and groups at events, online and via teleseminar. She is an avid author, featuring articles and newsletters on both websites and via email. Pamela is in the process of completing a book for family and professional caregivers.
For those who know Pamela and her personal story, she remains forever “the baby”.
Hint: listen to Tales of The Caring Generation, “The Baby” to learn more about Pamela.