Graphic: Barbara's Sidekicks - Photo of Barbara with sidekicks all around

Barbara’s Sidekicks: the ladies making our everyday lives possible.

In the beginning, it was just me and Gma.

After a couple years of going to work, going to Grandma’s, coming home and going to bed, and then hitting the rewind button every morning, I knew it was time to bring in some outside forces.

We started out with just one companion come over (shout out Karen!!) a few times a week to help me get her to her appointments and add some variety to her life. When my own life got too crazy, we added a couple more ladies to the team. Now, we have a team of six Sidekicks.

At first, I just paid cash. I even Venmo’d Leslie her pay every week. As we added more people to the roster, I realized my under-the-table operation was going to become pretty cumbersome if I had to keep running to the bank every week for cash and communicate with several people at a time.

There laid Grandma’s long term care insurance policy, just collecting dust.

You see, when I first found out about the policy, I called to find out if I could “self-direct” it. Self-direction is a model of support where you recruit, hire, train, supervise, and god forbid, fire your own caregivers. I figured if people on Medicaid waivers could do it, surely I could be able to do it too. After all, it was a *private* policy, one she had been paying a premium on for years.

Think again, Rachel.

It took three times calling and explaining what “self-direction” meant and hearing “no,” for me to give up on the whole idea.

Fast forward to last summer. I had some help. Self-employed and unsure of what to expect, I started covering some of Grandma’s daytime hours. It didn’t take long before word got out that I had launched my own business and people were knocking down my door to find out if we could work together. I knew I needed a solution, and fast.

I let some close connections in my circle know that I was going to start looking for help and put some feelers out.

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It just so happened that I had heard through the grapevine that my colleague from my past life, Julie, had launched her own business too, Simple Living Solutions. Julie provides fiscal intermediary services and program compliance support for individuals and family members who are self-directing their Medicaid Waiver supports in our area. In a nutshell, that basically means that she handles all the financial responsibilities of payroll and getting taxes paid and oversight to be sure those working with her are successful (auditing documentation and providing coaching on training and supervision).

I figured she already had the system in place that I needed to access my grandma’s long term care insurance. I sent her a message on Facebook and we were talking the next week.

After what seems like a million phone calls and meetings, some of which we spoke to the long term care insurance policy together, our claim was accepted earlier this year and we are now billing her long term care insurance. For a small fee, Julie collects and audits the paperwork and turns it in to the insurance company. She invoices me, we pay her using Grandma’s money, and then the long term care insurance company issues a check to reimburse us.

We now have timesheets, schedules, payroll… we are TOTALLY LEGIT! I am the supervisor of Grandma’s Sidekicks. I wrote the care plan. I train the ladies on what they need to know and make sure they have everything they need to support my grandma to have the best life possible.

So…. without further ado, I’d like to introduce to you….

Barbara’s Sidekicks!!!!

All of Gma’s sidekicks are wonderful ladies. Except me and Leslie, they are all super active women, married with children, so I knew they’d be a great match for her (and can make up for my lack of knowledge about certain things due to my spinsterhood).

Starring… (in order of appearance)

Leslie is a good friend of mine. I met her in grad school while we were working on our MPAs. She’s a smart cookie and well known in our community. Leslie responder to the SOS signals I sent out when Calvin went on hospice. When the time came for me to bring on more help last year due to my booming business and Gma’s changing abilities, Leslie gave me Mimi.

Mimi is like a saint! What drew me to Mimi was that she’d adopted an elder widow in her church who has dementia and was helping her, and so I knew she would be perfect for Gma. Mimi is a calm and peaceful presence. She is very sweet and loving. And she gave us Bridget!

Bridget and Mimi are best pals. When Mimi found out about the Sidekick opportunity and that we had more positions available, she asked Bridget if she was interested. Bridget is patient and quick thinking and gets my grandma playing the piano. We got dealt the best hand!!

Connie came along when we began partnering with Simple Living Solutions. She was in Julie’s bank of caregivers, and when Julie told me about her, I called her right up and we met for lunch a couple days later. Gma and Connie go play bingo twice a week and lately she’s been taking her to the monthly senior dinner at Gma’s church for me. Now, besides me, Connie spends the most time with Gma. Connie fills multiple roles for Gma: a companion and a peer, since they are closer in age, and also fill a more maternal role. I think it’s much easier to get Grandma to listen to Connie 🙂 I think it’s because she has 6 children who are all grown, so she is an expert at negotiating and dealing with human behavior. Not only that, she was a beautician in her past life!!!! She always does way more than we ask and is always thinking of how we can help Grandma have a good life. She is such a blessing to us.

Jennifer is literally an answer to prayers that came directly from Gma’s church. I blasted our Sidekick announcement all over social media and emailed my connections to large masses of humans to help me spread the word. One of the ladies who works at the low-income ministry my grandma helped found 20+ years ago shared it with her daughter in law, Jennifer. Jennifer has two young kiddos and we encouraged her to bring them along so Gma could get some extra special love in her life. Jennifer has experience as a CNA and I found out she knows how to play the piano. She is cool under pressure and always willing to help. Originally, we were going to have her do every weekend, but I decided it was a lot kinder to let her have a life sometimes, and we worked it out that she comes every other weekend. That’s when we got Eileen.

Eileen is a friend of mine. When I put out our announcement, it wasn’t biting like I wanted it to, so I turned to the Contacts in my phone. I scrolled through the names asking myself, who do I know personally that is a decent, upright lady??? And then I came upon Eileen. I met Eileen in my past life when she was a volunteer in my office. Eileen and I had a good time. We were always laughing and joking around. She also has a super badass mom vibe and made me feel good, so I knew it would work out when I texted her my ad. We met for coffee and she said yes!!! It just so happened that this comes at a perfect time in her life- as a special needs mom whose son is getting closer and closer to transition, Eileen is brainstorming creative strategies for helping him be self sufficient and is planning on putting her Sidekick money away from that. It was like serendipitous that this all happened! Eileen is such a joy for my grandma. My grandma literally calls me every single week and tells me, “Eileen is such a good person to be with me.” I think that says it all.

I cannot tell you how much of a blessing these ladies have been to us. Not only that, I find delight in the fact that my grandma can be a blessing to them. We have such a great team!

Let’s hear it!

A round of applause for Barbara’s Sidekicks, the ladies who make it possible for Grandma to have a good life and for me to go after my dreams!

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