We were fortunate enough to have Denise Brown, Founder at The Caregiving Years Training Academy, on the show, and she offered some great insight and #advice for other #seniorcare and #healthcare providers.

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EP 60: The Senior Care Industry Netcast with Denise Brown, Caregiving Years Training Academy 3
Denise, Founder of The Caregiving Years Training Academy

Denise launched The Caregiving Years Training Academy in April 2020 after selling CareGiving.com, an online community she launched in 1996. Denise regularly writes on LinkedIn about her personal caregiving experiences and the inspiration for the training programs she develops.

In January 2016, Denise debuted the Certified Caregiving Consultant training program which helps former family caregivers launch a business to help current family caregivers. The program also helps professionals who work with family caregivers communicate effectively and offer the right resource at the right time.

She has since added additional programs, including the Certified Caregiving Advocate, Educator, Facilitator and Specialist training programs. More than 200 individuals from five different countries have enrolled in her training programs. Denise regularly connects her Certified Caregiving Consultants with reporters writing about caregiving issues, most recently connecting three CCCs with a writer for Oprah Magazine Online. Read about our CCCs in the news. Check out our map of CCCs.

In 1997, Denise began an ongoing project of staging the family caregiver experience. She regularly refines her six stages to reflect the current challenges faced by family caregivers. The Caregiving Years, Six Stages to a Meaningful Journey is now the foundation for her training programs and Master Classes.

Next Avenue named Denise a 2017 Influencer in Aging, one of “50 advocates, researchers, thought leaders, innovators, writers and experts who continue to push beyond traditional boundaries and change our understanding of what it means to grow older.”

Denise organized and hosted the National Caregiving Conference four times between the years of 2016 and 2019. At NCC, family caregivers and former family caregivers were the experts, which meant they presented and participated in panel discussions. Family caregivers and former family caregivers from three countries and 28 states attended the last conference which took place in November 2019.

Full Transcript:

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

This is Valerie VanBooven with the Senior Care Industry NetCast where leaders with three or more years of experience in the senior care industry share their advice. It’s six questions in nine minutes. So let’s get to it.

In a few sentences, tell us who you are and what you do.

Denise Brown:

I’m Denise Brown. I founded an organization called the Caregiving Years Training Academy, and I transform and empower personal caregiving experiences through training and development. So individuals who go through my training programs want to be a catalyst for change either by becoming a support group leader, starting their own small business, or directly impacting a personal caregiving experience. Ultimately, our goal is to make the experience of caring for a family member of better one, an easier one.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yeah, I love that. And I found you, we found each other on LinkedIn because you’re very good about sharing excellent, whether it’s an article or commentary about caregiving and what we’re all faced with, especially as we get older and our parents are getting older. So you’ve got a lot of experience in this industry, and I appreciate you doing the show because as family caregivers we could all use a lot of help and advice anywhere we can get it.

So what is the best thing about serving individuals who care for family members?

Denise Brown:

It’s their stories. So I actually connected with family caregivers in 1990. I worked in community-based programming and long-term care facilities and that’s how I initially learned about the family caregiver experience. And as a writer, that’s actually my original work in the world was writing, I was fascinated by the stories that family caregivers told me.

And 30 years later, I am still fascinated by the stories. I can talk to a family caregiver every hour of every day and the story is different and still so compelling. And really, ultimately, these are stories of brave individuals and the stories include their most courageous moments. And I always feel so blessed to be able to receive these stories.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Isn’t it amazing what people will do for each other, for our family members, for our parents, for our spouses? The human element is always amazing and the ability and the empathy and the caregiving spirit that we all tend to have. I’m sure that you could write an entire book about just caregiving experiences.

Humans are amazing people and they rise to the occasion. So that’s awesome. All right, I’m going to change gears just for a second. I hear from other providers in the market that online marketing can be challenging. It’s a little confusing sometimes and it’s ever changing. You’re great on LinkedIn. I know you have a great website.

What has been your experience or your thoughts on all of this? (ONLINE MARKETING)

Denise Brown:

I have always been a solo entrepreneur, which means I am looking to scale and technology has been the way that I have scaled my impact, and social media and online marketing is part of that. So, for instance, I started using Twitter in 2008, and I am still in love with Twitter. It’s really my go-to platform. I love LinkedIn for the professional conversations. I find that so helpful. So even if it feels like things are changing, I try to stick with a couple of platforms that I really like and put my energy in them. And I also look for the opportunities to connect one-on-one through social media, which I find so helpful.

So family caregivers are very isolated, they’re in their house. And so, for me, the technology just lend itself to that community. So they can’t get out of the house to go to a support group meeting, but that doesn’t matter because I was always leading support groups online and it was very helpful for me to connect with them through that kind of technology.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Isn’t it interesting how now, too, I mean, I’ve grown my whole business online and you’ve grown your business online, but now in this age of pandemic and COVID more people are jumping on this bandwagon and realizing the power of Zoom or the power of Facebook Messenger or the ability for us to meet one-on-one?

It’s not ideal all the time, but when you serve a nationwide audience, it’s the way you’ve always done it. So it’s really a great way to reach people and they don’t have to leave their house and they don’t have to drive across town in the rain or the snow. And you can still have a nice meeting one-on-one, so, yeah, the power of the online [crosstalk 00:05:04].

Denise Brown:

And in a group too. So I’ve been doing virtual support groups with groups of family caregivers really for 24 years. And it’s been very effective for people to feel like there’s a comrade in this experience, there’s someone who gets it, there’s a fellow traveler in this experience of caregiving that understands the stresses and challenges.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yeah. I remember the struggle of doing or facilitating Alzheimer’s support groups and people couldn’t come because they couldn’t leave their loved one or you would have to provide sitting services. But that was disruptive to the person with memory loss, because they didn’t know where they were for an hour. I mean, it worked out, I mean, everybody did the best they could, but back then, this was before the time of online meetings, and yes, I’m that old, and we had to do with what we have.

But now it’s so much nicer to be able to be on a support call and not have to worry about sitting services and leaving somebody alone or whatever, so that’s good. Yeah, awesome. Okay. Back to your wisdom and experience. Okay. I would imagine there are other successful leaders in the senior care industry like yourself, maybe they’ve been or maybe the organizations, they’ve been maybe a mentor, or maybe just an organization that does a really great job and you’d like to give them a shout out.

Is there anybody out there like that? (Give a Shout Out!)

Denise Brown:

I actually had a mentor when I first started in this space who started an organization that isn’t necessarily around anymore, but it was called Children of Aging Parents, and her name was Mirka Laberty. And she was a powerhouse and really setting the stage for supportive family caregivers. So I often look to her for my wisdom and my next step.

So what would Mirka do? And I’m also really inspired by anyone on social media who is sharing their caregiving story, who’s out there saying, “This is what it’s like for me. This is the truth of my experience.” I find that honesty to be so compelling and so helpful for all of us, because when we tell our story of truth, we can actually start to make a change so that our stories include something better, a coping strategy, a better day, a better perspective.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yeah. There’s a couple of people that I follow on Facebook who are very open about their spouse, caring for someone with Alzheimer’s, and they’re very open about their experience and they share pictures and as much of the loving and positive way, not in a strange way, but in a very loving and positive way.

And to see the progression, even in a year’s time of how their life has changed, is such an eyeopening experience and I don’t think that some of them even realize the impact they’re having on so many people who are maybe just starting down that road, or maybe have never experienced this before but need a better understanding of what it’s like. So yeah, sharing, for those who are willing to share their story, it really is impactful for the rest of us to learn from them. So yeah, I think they’re very brave to share their story, not only to be caregivers.

What piece of advice would you give to other senior care providers?

Denise Brown:

Connect with your customers. Understand what their days are like, then your solutions will get that much better. And life is changing quickly, and when you are connecting with your customers on a regular basis, you’re able to adapt and refine and tweak your services so they meet the needs of your customers today. I think that’s so important.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

I think you’re absolutely right. Great advice. Great advice for our senior care providers. All right. My last question is supposed to be fun. Some people are like, “I don’t know.” When you have a win in life, and that could be anything, it could be just having a great day, it could be a graduation, it could be a wedding, it could be a birth of a new baby in the family, it could be just that you know that you helped somebody today and you feel really good about that, when you have a win,

How do you like to celebrate?

Denise Brown:

I like to call someone who’s important to me and say, “You’ll never guess what happened.” And I actually like to get out in nature, take a walk or somehow connect with the beauty that’s outside of us. And I feel better about celebrating it outside of the walls of my work. It feels like it’s bigger and better that way.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yes, absolutely, getting out there and enjoying the fresh air. We can’t get together in big groups and celebrate right now so having a nice, beautiful walk is always a great idea. Okay. Thank you so much. You did a great job. I will make sure that your website is available for all those family caregivers out there who may need a little bit more support, advice, direction. And so we’ll make sure everybody knows how to get ahold of you. Thank you so much for being on the show.

Denise Brown:

Yeah, thank you. This was great. This was fun.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Thank you.