When Laura Barrish founded the in-home senior care business Alta Golden in 2008, she had no idea where that journey would bring her. Today, the company still provides excellent in-home care to seniors with a variety of needs in addition to housing an Adult Day Care center for dementia care and support for both clients and their families. Known for their attention to detail and concern for their clients’ well being over profit, the company is a shining star in the area of senior care in San Diego County. All of Alta Golden’s employees are insured and bonded, and their memory care center is a fully licensed facility.
L’CHAIM Magazine: How did you get started in the senior care business?
Laura Barrish: Well, I kind of fell into it. I had been helping my parents and their friends and it was just something that I had always done. It got to the point where everyone said that I needed to be doing this as a business, so I ended up with Alta Golden, and the intention was not to be doing traditional caregiving but to helping seniors with home management, so that they could remain independent in their lives. We were able to help through things like home maintenance and if they need help writing their checks, balancing their checkbooks, arranging plumbers, gardeners, whatever they needed.
But that is not what people came to us for, they came to us for companionship or help with doctor’s appointments or the other non-medical aspects, and so we followed that non-traditional model, and later we had so many people coming to us with dementia, whether it was the individuals or their families, that we decided to open an adult day program, and that was licensed in 2011, and we have been doing that now since as well.
L’CHAIM: Wow! How about your staff?
LB: In the beginning, we had some CNAs, an LVN and a nurse on our staff, but we just started to recruit a lot more people who had certifications and experience [with dementia] as our client base grew that way. Today, we look at our client’s needs to determine what type of staff member to send their way, based on what they request or need help with. For example, we have one client right now that is recovering from a stroke, so we have CNAs coming to them; we have others who really need companionship or transportation, so we wont send a CNA in a position like that.
L’CHAIM: What makes Alta Golden different from another home care agency?
LB: I think there are a few things. One is that we are the only agency in the county that truly specialized in dementia, because the adult day program that we have works only with dementia, so the training that we have for our staff does cover a lot of those techniques. All of our caregivers have [the ability to] reach back to the memory center for guidance and assistance, activities and games.
I love what we do and I think we are unique. On the in-home side, I think we do a great job. I think that we are really special and we stand out because we truly care about the well being of our client and we want them to have the best possible care, and I think that really shows.
Another thing is that I am one of two owners, but I am also very hands on. As an example, last night, we had a caregiver that wasn’t able to make their shift, and I was able to fill in. I am hands-on, I work closely with the families and we are all really about doing what is the best thing. I don’t ever try to sell services. We are selling support, and that support takes many forms. Sometimes it is a family member coming in to see us.
L’CHAIM: Let’s talk some more about your day program for dementia. What does that look like, and how does it operate?
LB: What is nice about our day program is that it is a smaller program. We are licensed to accommodate up to 24 people, we cap it at 20, and the numbers that we have each day vary, and we are not full at this time. But because we keep the numbers low, it allows us to be a lot more interactive and hands on.
It is not unusual to go to a day program that is larger to see sometimes 50-60 people sitting in a room, usually in a semi-circle, with a caregiver in the front leading some type of activity. In our program, you will see 2-3 program aides in a room with 12 people, and you are seeing a very hands-on, interactive approach, and the reason for that is that because we do specialize in dementia, we are doing the types of activities that will help to draw people out; whether that is a word game, some type of math puzzle or a music or art activity and we are able to be there to support them and encourage them.
The objective is really to encourage the crossing of the lobes of the brain; moving back and forth from right brain activities to left brain activities with programs that are enjoyable. That fact is very critical, because someone with dementia can be overwhelmed very easily and they will not want to participate or come to the program. So, the program is beneficial to them because studies have shown that activities done in a group setting are more beneficial than if someone is at home playing a game on their computer.
The other aspect is that the program is that it is the family’s respite care. One of our participants drops his wife off in the morning and he goes to work, which he couldn’t do if he had to spend the day with her.
LCHAIM: Tell me about the care that you provide for your client’s families.
LB: We have one family member, whose wife has been coming into the memory center and we have also been providing in-home support for them, and he came in to see me last week and really just wanted a friendly ear as much as guidance, and my advice to him was to take care of himself as much as her, and if that means that it is time for his wife to go into memory care, then he should know that he has done all that he could do. So, sometimes, it’s letting a family member off the hook, and saying, “This has been a really tough battle, and you have been amazing, but you also have to survive this.”
Sometimes, doing what is right for the client means that the client won’t be a client anymore. I know that making the right decision for the client is the most important thing, and people know that if they come to us, they will get the type of support that is needed, and not be sold [something].
Alta Golden is located at 16885 West Bernardo Drive, Suite 212, San Diego, Ca. 92127. Learn more at AltaGolden.com or call (858) 779-9254.