In her role as Life Advisor, Cindy Sarvie, Licensed Social Worker, has responded to hundreds of calls from people looking for resources to help them live more independently. In addition to requests for transportation, snow shoveling, and grocery delivery, clients have asked her about skydiving recommendations and where to get a glass eye polished. “The sky’s the limit!” she said.
But with even seemingly straightforward requests, Cindy always asks probing questions to make sure she’s providing the right resource at the right time. “Location and price range are important factors, but so are the client’s goals and expectations,” she said. “Housecleaning services, for example, can mean deep professional cleaning or light housekeeping. And if money is a concern, there are low-cost agencies that rely on volunteers to help seniors in their homes.” Cindy typically offers a range of options and then empowers her members to take it from there.
Along with resource fulfillment, Cindy devotes her time to reaching out to clients, specifically Lifespark COMPLETETM members, to find out how they’re doing and to talk about life planning and goal setting. She also keeps detailed notes, so she can follow up after a granddaughter’s soccer game or a weekend visit to the cabin. If she identifies changes in their health or new concerns, she’ll connect them with a Life Manager.
“My goal is to help members stay off the health care roller coaster,” Cindy said. “The best way I know to do this is by getting to know each member individually, learning what’s most important to them, and being proactive so they can live their best life.”
Taking time for others during the holidays
Cindy says she loves connecting with clients during the holidays, though it isn’t necessarily a happy time for everyone. “For some individuals, the holiday season can trigger feelings of grief and loss, so for me, it’s about keeping an open mind and an open heart when I place the calls,” she said, adding that she never knows what someone may be going through that day.
“Often, I’ll start with an open-ended question, like, ‘Is there anything you’re looking forward to this month?’ or ‘Do you celebrate the holidays?’” she said. “Sometimes the holidays are challenging because of a painful loss, but I keep the door open and allow for the silence.” Cindy has learned from experience that giving people time and space to reflect can lead to powerful conversations. “There’s healing through listening,” she said.
Sometimes those open-ended questions can inspire creative problem-solving. “One of my clients was telling me that he’d had a wonderful time at Thanksgiving but was feeling sad that his grandchildren hadn’t come,” she said. “I knew I could challenge him a little, so I asked, ‘Do you wait for them to call? Kids are notoriously bad about staying in touch, so you might need to take the initiative.’”
Cindy suggested that he could send a text, set up a video chat, pick up the phone and leave them a message, or even connect with them on social media. “I try to empower my clients to get creative about maintaining their relationships, even if it feels a little awkward,” she said.
She also encourages adult children to seek out older relatives at family gatherings and find a quiet place to have a one-on-one conversation with them. It can be difficult for some people to hear in group gatherings, so sitting side by side and talking directly to them can make such a difference. “It’s important to be fully present,” she said. “The child or grandchild who takes the time to connect, that’s what my clients remember most.”
Holiday tips for seniors and families
- Don’t wait for family members to call—go ahead and pick up the phone.
- Reach out to a friend or neighbor who might be feeling isolated or lonely.
- Make a date with a family member to visit a holiday craft fair, a coffee shop, or even an animal shelter.
For family members:
- Seek out older loved ones at holiday gatherings and have one-to-one conversations.
- Sit close, hold their hand, put an arm around them, give them a warm hug—there’s power in touch.
- Create a weekly reminder to call older loved ones, because life gets busy.
- Remind teenaged children of how important they are to their grandparents and how much it means to them to hear from their grandkids.
To learn more about our approach to helping people Age Magnificently, visit Lifespark.