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 market share their advice. Well, let’s get to it. In a few sentences, tell us who you are and what you do.

Dr. Judy Butler:

First, hi, Valerie, and thank you for having me with you today. I appreciate the opportunity to speak with you and your listeners. I’m Dr. Judy Butler, founder and creator of The Guardian’s Gift. We help senior adults and adult children of aging parents, families if you will, plan and create a life legacy beyond but including estate planning. Our area of expertise is really helping senior adults and their adult children get end of life planning completed while building a beautiful legacy in 90 days or less. We typically work with people who need and want more direction, need more creative ideas, and want more control over the decisions they make and the time they spend in the process. We help them narrate and authenticate their life stories, organize their life documents and information in a shorter time with less stress, frustration and family tensions.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Well, that is a great explanation of what you do. We have talked about this a few times, on this Netcast, and I will tell you that I’ve always been an advocate of planning ahead. I’ve always been an advocate of getting your act together before your family has to make decisions for you because as a nurse, and I’m sure you’ve seen this too, in your lifetime, when a crisis happens, everybody’s looking at each other like, “What are we going to do now? We don’t even know where they keep their bills.”

Dr. Judy Butler:

Yeah, that was my experience too, and that’s the reason I created this was, I’m the oldest of the children and I knew what was going to happen. I knew it was my job. And so when it was my turn and my dad was diagnosed with dementia and then he eventually passed, and this is why The Guardian’s Gift was born, I went to the top drawer of the chest, opened the drawer, looked in there, and I was like, “Oh, no.” And it was all the documents and everything, but it was disorganized. They’d been in there for years. I had to sort through it. Some things were a bank had been bought by another bank and it was a mess. And I find that a lot with the clients that I work with.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yeah. It’s hard to have this conversation. It’s hard to think about your mortality. It’s hard to think about planning and nobody really wants to do this, but boy, oh boy. If you’re going to give your children a birthday present, a Christmas present, any kind of gift that is for them after your passing, the greatest gift you can give them, of course, is peace of mind and peace of mind knowing that, “here it is.” Just handing them a binder or handing them or showing them, “Right there in that file cabinet,” or, “Right there in that drawer, everything’s done.”

Dr. Judy Butler:

Yeah. As a psychotherapist in a private practice, one of the things I see a lot is when people have that gift that everything’s planned, even through the funeral and everything and everything’s there, they have it all in one place, people are actually able to grieve in such a healthy way. It’s amazing to me. They can express their grief and their joy and the stories and the remembrances of their loved one. It’s just so beautiful. It is such a gift.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

It is. Yeah. There is nothing… My grandfather is 93 and everything’s done. Everything is done. But he actually did a lot of this planning 40 years ago. So, he was on top of it, knowing that and understand that you just never know. As we all know, as we get older and we start to find out as our loved ones pass away or our friends pass away, funerals are not cheap. Not.

Dr. Judy Butler:

Do you know a funeral costs in some places up to $15,000?

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yes. And that’s not even assuming-

Dr. Judy Butler:

I was like, “Wow.”

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

My husband’s sister died several years ago, but even then we were just floored. I mean, we didn’t do anything fancy. We didn’t do anything super. We didn’t put her in a cardboard box or anything, but I mean, we did something very kind and very nice and very respectful and dignified. But the cost of all of that. And her children were young men, young adult men who had no idea. I mean, so it was up to the rest of the family to help them along. And we’re talking seven, $8,000. $900 just to dig the hole at the plot. So, I mean, I was like, “You’re kidding me.” So, we all kind of ponied up and helped. And of course we would, but I mean, that was my first enlightenment into, “Please plan ahead,” because this is a financial shock to your family. We’ve never experienced this before.

Dr. Judy Butler:

Not only the financial piece, but just the having to make the decisions of picking out a casket or deciding between burial and cremation. And of course, there’s lots of other options these days that people didn’t have a few years ago, and we discuss all that with people. We help them make all those plans. But when you’re trying to grieve and you have to pick out a casket or you have to pick out a song, for goodness sakes, for a service, well, I don’t know what song they want. If all of that is selected ahead of time, it just makes it so much simpler. But The Guardian’s Gift is more than just that part of planning. It is also the collection of the stories from their childhood and their high school and what they did and their first date and their first car and all of those things. It collects the stories and those documents as well. So, it just brings the whole life into perspective.

            I know as a pastor, when I would do funerals and I would go visit with the family and prepare for the service and I’d ask about the stories, people are in such shock they can’t even tell me the stories. They’ll come up with one or two, but with this, all the stories are there. They’re all in one place. I had a client recently that we put together the gift for them and their family said, “Oh my gosh,” when they pay us, “we didn’t know this about our dad. We didn’t realize that he did this in college and he was…” And I can’t say more specifics. I try to be very confidential about things, but, “We didn’t know that he was in this society or that he was the leader of this group.” So, they were stunned because they’d never heard those stories.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

That’s so nice. It is so nice to get that history. And you’re right, that is one of the things that the pastor or whoever is officiating goes around and tries to talk to the family members and get, “What are a few things I can say?” especially if they haven’t known that person very well. It is tough to come up with that in minutes or hours or even a day. I mean, everybody’s just reeling from the whole process. So, you’re right. This is pretty amazing. Well, I’m going to stick to my questions a little bit here, but what is the best thing about serving aging adults and their families?

Dr. Judy Butler:

It is hearing their stories. I love the stories because those stories are beacons of hope and perspective. We’re living in history-making times right now. Some of it’s pretty sad. Some of it’s pretty frightening. But the [salting 00:08:34] experience of a senior adult and their stories helps the rest of us make sense out of our own journey, out of what’s going on in our life currently. It also helps us provide a framework for the current events that are going on. When we think about their stories that they have lived through. The Spanish flu. They’ve lived through polio. They lived through tuberculosis. They’ve lived through the Depression, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Cold War, and you just go on and on and on. All the things they’ve already been through, that story of survival helps nurture peace and it helps create an uplifting vision for tomorrow.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yeah. They’ve lived through all these things and the world is pretty upset about our current situation with COVID and hopefully we’re seeing a light at the end of the tunnel soon, but these folks have lived through way worse. I mean, they didn’t have cell phones and computers and big TV screens to be able to watch and see whatever they wanted to if they were quarantined, and they didn’t have cell phones so they could call their loved ones when they were in Vietnam. Although none of those stuff, that didn’t exist. So, whatever issues we face today were, they didn’t know it then, but were 10 times harder than when they faced them back then. Their communication was a whole lot different back then. So, yeah, we have a lot to learn and listening is a good way to start because we have some tough seniors out there who have seen a lot more than having to stay at home for a few months. I mean, they’ve seen more than that.

Dr. Judy Butler:

Yeah. They roll with the punches a lot better than some of us younger people do.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Much more resilient than some of us complainer’s have been. It’s easy for us to complain about having to get carry-out, right? So, yeah. All right. Well, the next question on my list, it talks about mentors, organizations, inspirations in your life. So, I would imagine there have been people or organizations that have really meant a lot to you, or you thought that they did a really good job. Who would you like to talk about?

Dr. Judy Butler:

I’d like to really give a shout out to hospice. I think hospice is an amazing organization not only here locally where I live, but just around the United States and the world, because they give such excellent support. They are kind and compassionate. Their training is top notch. They do one of the hardest jobs ever. Having served as a chaplain in the hospital for many, many years, and being at death beds on many occasions, I can’t imagine the job they do. When they’re there walking that path and that journey, it’s awesome. What they do is awesome and I’ve experienced their support on a personal level as well. So, I just want to give a shout out too hospice, a quick shout out to state and local agencies that are part of larger national groups. Things like Alamance Eldercare, which is part of the Cone Health system here where I live. And Tammy McKee. I meant to say, “Hey, Tammy. Yay!” Groups like TRLA, the Triad Retirement Living Association. There’s just so many agencies out there that are working hard and around the clock to provide for our seniors. Meals on Wheels. I mean, they’re fabulous.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yeah. Yes. I mean, and that’s funny because my 93-year-old grandfather does, I don’t know if he’s still doing it at this moment because of COVID, but before COVID, he was still doing Meals on Wheels on Friday afternoons and serving meals to people who were 20 years younger than him. But you know what? It was great socialization for him and great socialization for those folks because they only saw him maybe once a week. They saw other people during the week, but that was their moment when they had somebody they could trust and somebody, they recognize come to the door and chit-chat with them for a few minutes and serve them a hot meal. Meals on Wheels is amazing. But I would also like to say that the hospice industry and the physicians, nurses, the aides, the chaplains, the whole support system there is completely amazing. And helping people with that transition and helping those families with that transition, they’re angels. They’re angels on earth-

Dr. Judy Butler:

They really are.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

… to help with that, because it is obviously an emotional time and the experience of a good hospice nurse or a good hospice physician or chaplain or caregiver is such a comfort to the family. Such a comfort.

Dr. Judy Butler:

Oh yeah, absolutely. Having been on the receiving end of their support and their care, it’s just amazing. They’re compassionate and they’re kind and our family really, really appreciates them so much.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

I agree. They’re a great organization to give a shout out to. All right. Let’s talk a little bit about online marketing. I ask everybody this because everybody has different opinions and experiences, and I do a lot of this. So, online marketing has become more important over the last year because it has been so challenging for senior care organizations and people to network together in person. So, we’ve seen a huge uptick from my perspective in people getting a little bit more serious about that, because they almost have to. What has been your experience or thoughts with online marketing on the whole?

Dr. Judy Butler:

Well, I agree with you. It is a challenge. But I think for me, what I think is part of the problem is the fact that scams have become so sophisticated and so persistent that it is very, very difficult, even for me and/or some younger people who are very proficient with technology, to be able to parse what is actually truth and what is not, what is real and what is fiction. So, I think that in this day and age, people are really unsure of what to trust and how to trust. So, when there’s a trustworthy person who is trying to market and provide service that is for seniors, that is reputable and honest, the trust factor has been deteriorated by the scammers. So, the seniors have become very wary and the seniors are the target. That’s the target population.

            The lack of trust, the atmosphere is completely void of trust, and when you combine that with a little bit of uncertainty of how to navigate the technology and the changes. And then there’s not a lot of options available for seniors anymore. It’s like they’re forced to, “You have to do it this way.” That’s really, really frustrating for senior adults. My mother, who will be 86 in February, she says, “Why can’t they just give me something to sign? Why do I have to have this?” And I’m like, “It’s okay, mom.” So, I have to walk her through it, but it’s so frustrating for her, and she’s very intelligent still with it. So, even that, but I think it’s a lack of trust combined with a lack of options.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yeah. I would agree with you. And I believe that. I mean, we have done online marketing forever and ever, but I can tell you our clients, who some are more web savvy than others, but they’ll get emails and they’ll get forms filled out on their websites by scammers who tell them, “You’re violating my copyright. You’re using my pictures.” Or I don’t know. Just, oh, “If you don’t renew your website right now and go to this link and pay for it, your website going to go down,” and all these crazy stuff. So, of course they send those to us and say, “Oh.” We’re like, “No, no, no, no, it’s okay.” Because we’ve seen it so much, but it is disturbing and it does make your heart skip a beat when you think, “My website’s going to go down? What do you mean I violated a copyright?”

            None of that has ever happened. It’s just they’re trying to get you to pay them some money for something or whatever. And I wonder how many people fall for that? I know my husband’s mother before, she’s in a skilled facility now, but before that she was at home and these folks from overseas would call her and tell her she was going to go to jail if she didn’t pay $7,000 and she would call us just hysterical. Even after the first time we calmed her down and told her, “Just ignore this. Don’t answer calls you don’t know the number,” it happened again maybe a year later. It just upsets her every time that stuff happens. So, it’s just everywhere, whether it’s your phone or your email or whatever it is. So, you’re right.

            There is so much that we need to protect our seniors from. It’s craziness. So, you’re right. That is a challenge. I think that if you… I want to say that for people who are marketing online, the more you come out from behind the website and the more you show your face, like we’re doing right now and having this conversation, I think that develops a sense of trust. So, you get to know the person a little bit and you get to understand more about them. So, these, I think, some of these platforms help us get past some of those barriers, but you’re right. It is very challenging.

Dr. Judy Butler:

It is.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yep. All right. What piece of advice would you give to other senior care providers out there?

Dr. Judy Butler:

First and foremost, ask instead of tell, listen, and then hear. People are so busy telling senior adults, “You need this. You need that. You need to do this. Here’s the way to do that. Change that. Go here,” and they’re like, “What? What about what I want?” So, ask. It’s simple. Just ask questions and they’re going to tell you. Now, you may really need to listen because in this day and age, attention deficit disorder has gotten to be permeating everybody and everything. Attention spans are down. There’s statistics that prove that commercials used to be 30 seconds long, and today commercials are 10 seconds or less. Because people just can’t get it. If it’s not in 10 seconds, get out of my way. So, you have to really, really pay attention when you ask a question and you really have to be patient and listen, and then you have to decipher what you heard.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yes. Patience, listening and yep, what is that old saying? God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason, right?

Dr. Judy Butler:

Absolutely.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

So, use them both more than you use this. Yeah, no, totally true. And asking is important. I think you’re right. We tend to offer up our advice really fast without even knowing what somebody really wants to hear. That does happen a lot. So, thank you for that advice. It is better to ask. All right. My last question, and I ask this of everyone. Everyone answers it differently. When you have a win in life or in business, and it could be any small thing or any big thing, how do you like to celebrate?

Dr. Judy Butler:

I share it with my team and my family. Pre-COVID or post-COVID, I love for us to get together and have a big meals and everybody just sit around and just enjoy being together. Hugs. Laughter. Just food is such a, I don’t know, it’s just such a comfort. It’s such a way for people to connect. That’s the reason I’m a Thanksgiving person. I like Thanksgiving better than Christmas because we sit around and eat and talk and eat some more. It just calms your soul. I mean, it just does. It soothes your nerves. It calms your soul. There’s nothing like a nice cup of hot tea or a cup of hot cocoa, and some chocolate. Works wonders.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

True. Very true. A good meal is always a nice way to celebrate and I think we’re very accustomed to gathering and eating. And you’re right, it’s just a great way to relax and you’re full and you don’t need anything, and you’re feeling good and telling even the same stories over and over again, that we tell at to every family gathering and laughing about it. Those are all great ways to celebrate. So, thank you very much. Thank you for your wisdom, your insight, and for sharing with us what you do. We will make sure that your website and information is with this video so that others can get ahold of you, ask you more questions and if they need anything, they can reach out to you. So, thank you.

Dr. Judy Butler:

Thank you for having me. I have enjoyed this and I’m just so excited to be part of your podcast. Thank you.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Thank you.