Taking Care of Others
written by SUSANNE WISE
Many of us have a family member, a friend, or a spouse who is aging or who has aged. Somehow life suddenly creeps up on us and we notice a few more gray hairs or a few more aches and pains than usual. As one transitions through these stages, it is my daily goal to assist one through life’s phases bringing compassion and care to our community.
My team at Take Care Private Duty Home Health Care and Take Care Advisor continues to meet the ever growing needs of our older adult community who wish to age in place. Take Care has been a namesake in our community, and I am proud to tell the story of how I opened its doors 15 years ago. I defied the odds and opened the first Take Care office in 1995 with four employees, four phones, and a card table. However, the roots of the business go deeper. As I reveal a more personal story, you will see how my own family shaped my journey that led me to the heart of Take Care.
One needs a plan even though life may take you on a different path. My path led to an insurmountable loss in September 1976 when my father and two brothers were killed in a plane crash on their return to Coldwater, Michigan from a farm machinery expo in Minneapolis. Being in the plane that day was not unusual for my father-he was a farmer and took every opportunity to check on the land, keeping his eyes on things.
That same zest and zeal to oversee the business is something I understand firsthand. As soon as I could walk, he had me helping with our family business. He, too, worked seven days a week and loved every minute of it with endless energy. It was his passion and drive, day in and day out, that shaped his successful business and in turn has helped define who I am today.
In the fall of 1976, with my Registered Nurse license from Bronson Methodist Hospital School of Nursing in Kalamazoo, Michigan, I accepted a teaching position at Emory University in Atlanta. After the accident, I could no longer carry the weight of my family’s tragedy from a distance. I moved back to Kalamazoo, closer to my mother and sister. This time I clearly witnessed my mother’s intense focus and passion for nursing-she needed a distraction from some of life’s raw realities. She found solace and comfort in helping others and that exact passion and commitment is what helped shape my own nursing path and eventually led to my career in private duty home health care and geriatric care management.
Family & Balancing a Career
In 1982, as a family, we decided to venture to a warmer climate and made our home in Sarasota. My mother vacationed in Sarasota frequently, so the area was somewhat familiar to us. While Carl, my husband, focused on his commercial real estate career, I had the good fortune to stay at home with my three girls, 18 months apart in age. As soon as Whitney, my youngest daughter started preschool, I decided to re-launch my nursing career. Instantly, I was reminded of my mother’s ability to heal and comfort those around her and of my father’s entrepreneurial spirit and his sincere commitment to others. Happy with my work but still feeling unfinished, my inner passion and strengths led me to obtain my Master of Business Administration degree.
Carl continued to work during the day, while I took night shifts with a home health agency. In the mornings, once I had the girls off to school, I would study and prepare for my weekend classes in Tampa. Carl’s encouragement and my mother’s support helped me through those demanding times. My intense dedication to my master’s degree paved the way for the development of Take Care. Despite the late nights and shortened time with my family, my mother was always there to cheer me on. With family always my mother’s focus, she would spend six months in Sarasota and the other six months in Michigan near my sister. Even at age 86, she continued to travel back and forth. She sewed frequently, attended church regularly, volunteered at local hospitals, played Bridge every week with friends, and lovingly dedicated herself to her seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
My mother, Ruth, in my eyes, never aged. She made a point to prepare her estate in the event of her death-though rarely did we talk about such topics. In 1990, just after Christmas dinner, as we washed and dried dishes together, I discussed with her the importance of establishing a plan in regard to her own health care. Acknowledging the aging process and initiating the conversations on how to handle various stages is not easy. However, it was important for me to assure my mother that she was an integral part in the decision-making process for her future well-being. We were both nurses, so as we talked she understood the need to be proactive and plan for her future. This plan allowed for options, which included her wish to age in place and receive care in her own home, buying a long-term care insurance policy, and securing Take Care Advisor’s geriatric care management component. Having this in place assured my mother that her wishes would be met.
I always anticipated and expected that my work in building Take Care would one day provide care for my mother. I imagined that Take Care caregivers would be able to help her, as they have helped thousands of older adults age independently in their own homes. One week prior to a trip to Florida, she passed away. The call I received from an Emergency Room physician in Coldwater still seems surreal. In an instant the thoughts flashed through my mind: not my mother. She was not ready. We were not ready.
However, in recognizing my loss, I see how my dedication to building the foundation of Take Care makes a difference in people’s lives. As one ages, it is important to have options and to have a plan. That is where I continue to be passionate and serious in my mission to provide older adults with compassionate care and opportunities to plan and control their future stages in life.
Living Up to Our Name
Take Care continues to be on the cutting edge of health care in our local communities, from the private duty home health care to the planning, guidance, and support of a nurse geriatric care manager. Our goal is to provide excellence in service.
Recently, I received a call from a woman who had just been diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease. She confided in me that her family provided her with the emotional support, but they struggled with the actual planning of her future care. Take Care cared for her spouse two years ago, so she was confident in looking to us for a plan. Through Take Care Home Health and Take Care Advisor, an objective plan was developed where nurse geriatric care managers assessed her needs and listened to her wishes, and then formulated a plan alongside her. She wanted the assurance that when she reaches a stage in life where she no longer has the ability to direct her care, her needs and wishes will still be met. It is part of what we do.
Relationships have always been my top priority, and that is why I believe Take Care has been successful. And though Take Care is a business, the care of our clients is and always has been a personal focus. As one client’s son recently stated, “Take Care certainly lives up to its name in taking care of others.” Each client I visit has their own story, needs, and goals. I believe in personalization for and accountability to each client.
With more than 500 employees and four locations stretching along the Gulf Coast from Boca Grande to Ellenton, our compassion and commitment continue. For more than 15 years, Take Care has provided excellence in care and service. This would not have been possible without the support of the dedicated and loyal team at Take Care.
Take Care is a community and family centered business. Two of my daughters have followed in my footsteps, and yet are defining their own paths with their own specialties. Courtney, my eldest, holds a Master of Science in Gerontology from the University of Southern California. She oversees and manages the day-to-day operations of Take Care Advisor, a nurse geriatric care management arm of Take Care. My middle daughter, Erika, obtained her Master of Arts in Publishing and Writing from Emerson College, and she manages the marketing and communications for all arms of the company. Their insight coupled with our creative, innovative, and dynamic staff will ensure that Take Care continues to develop and lead in the private duty home health care and geriatric care management fields.
This story extends far beyond my history and personal timeline. This is a story about a business that will continue to service the community through the generations with the solid principles of passion, integrity, and loyalty.
Susanne Wise is a charter member of the National Private Duty Association, Home Healthcare Nurses Association, National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers, Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce, and University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee College of Business Advisory Board. The Tampa Bay Business Journal selected Susanne as a finalist in the Health Care Heroes Award program for her exemplary performance in the medical field, going above and beyond the call of duty. Biz941 selected Susanne as one of the areas “Best Bosses of 2010.” For more information about Take Care’s services, call 941.225.2455.