The Pandemic’s Impact to Individuals’ Mental Health with Beth Albaneze, House Calls

Philip Fish, CFP<sup>®</sup> and Estate Planning Specialist with Sandy Spring Trust

In this Professional Discussion Philip Fish, CFP® and Estate Planning Specialist with Sandy Spring Trust interviews Beth Albaneze who is a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist® and a Certified Psychiatric Rehabilitation Practitioner. They discuss the challenges individuals and families have faced during the pandemic and how individuals on steady ground are now struggling while individuals who were already facing mental health or crisis challenges have been pushed to their limits by the effects of the pandemic. Phil and Beth talk about the support programs available and strategies to help families and loved one manage the new normal that has been established.

Guest Speaker: Beth Albaneze, a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist® and a Certified Psychiatric Rehabilitation Practitioner, owns and operates House Calls, a local company providing support, counsel and advocacy to individuals and families struggling with mental health and personal crisis.

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    The Pandemic’s Impact to Individuals’ Mental Health with Beth Albaneze, House Calls


    - Hello, everyone, and welcome to Sandy Spring Bank's Real Life Matters professional discussion series. My name is Phil Fish, I'm a certified financial planner, and an estate planning specialist with Sandy Spring Trust, And I'm the host as we interview local professionals in the areas of law, tax, finance and healthcare, on different topics revolving around clients' challenges as they try to navigate through different life stages. Before I introduce our guests today, Beth Albaneze with House Calls, there is a brief disclaimer that I do need to read, so please bear with me. Sandy Springs Trust does not endorse nor recommend the services of any person or entity not affiliated with Sandy Spring Bank. The opinions and statements expressed by Beth Albaneze and House Calls LLC reflect their own views, and do not necessarily represent the views of Sandy Spring Trust. This material is provided solely for educational purposes by Sandy Spring Trust, a division of Sandy Spring Bank, and is not intended to constitute tax, legal, accounting or healthcare advice, or recommendation for any investment strategy or transaction. You should always consult with your own tax, legal, accounting, financial or healthcare advisors regarding your specific situation and needs. Sandy Spring Trust and the Sandy Spring Bank logo are registered trademarks of Sandy Spring Bank, and all rights are reserved. Beth, thank you so much for taking time out today off your busy schedule. Our topic today is a very interesting one, but a difficult one. The pandemic's impact on individuals' mental health. And so, I know this is an area that you spend a lot of time dealing with and talking about, so thank you for sharing that knowledge with us today. Before we get started, could you give our audience today just a little background on yourself, and the business, the company that you've run, you and I have known each other for quite some time, and the type of work that you do.

    - I am a native Washingtonian, which is good as far as resources are concerned. I started my business in 2004, but I was in the mental health field as a director in management capacities for a few nonprofits, and what happened was, I noticed there were so many gaps in the system. A lot of turf issues with providers, hospitals, community, and nothing was really going on at home. And a lot of people who are going through life crises really need you to come to them. So in 2004, around that time, my mother-in-law had moved in, and so I also saw what was going on with seniors' Medicaid waiver needs, all kinds of resources needed if you wanted to keep your family at home, and so it branched out to me consulting with a lot of people. Without even starting my business, I was still working, and it grew to the point where I did one presentation for the National Alliance for Mental Illness on isolated adults. And they put that in the newsletter. And so, if you fast forward from 2004, without going into great detail, we serve children to senior citizens, and they are all dealing with any type of life crisis. It could be acute transition, chronic transition, mental illness, families with special needs issues, recovery and addiction, hoarding, seniors who don't wanna leave their home and go into assisted living, how do you deal with that, safety issues. So any issue that has to do with a sense of frustration for a family, or a worry, a big worry, because family is not even in town and they have a relative here, or the hospital's discharging people and they just don't know what the resources are in the community. We address almost everything we can to be able to help anybody who's dealing with quality of life.

    - And I know you've built kind of a network of providers in different areas of expertise and different skill sets, and so you're, I guess, kind of a doorway to find solutions and support depending on what the client's needs are. correct?

    - That's right. When I started in 2004, it was just me. And I was just gonna work with seniors, and the issues about transitioning seniors. But then as I said, I spoke at NAMI, and mental health became a huge issue. There are a lot of families who have adults with mental illness, they're living with them, and some of them are off their medicine. So if we talk about the umbrella of contractors I have now, I have a recovery coach who goes to the home when we deal with drug and alcohol addiction. I have a nurse practitioner who goes to the house when we need people to possibly take their medicine, we don't always get them to, but at least the party comes to them, so to speak. We have a case manager if people want us to go to the doctor, and really record some of the information that was reported by the doctor, because they're worried their family member might not bring it back to them correctly, then we will go to the doctor with seniors or people who have head injuries. We do a lot of work with hoarding, we do a lot of work with teenagers and anxiety, a lot of phobias. I could name so many phobias, but teen anxiety is huge. And a lot of the issues right now with the teenagers getting back into school, oh my goodness, it was hard enough for them to be home doing virtual. Now they're going back to school. So all kinds of issues arises. So we have, I have an holistic counselor, I have a social worker, a psychologist, I'm a recreation therapist and a rehab practitioner, and I tell everybody I work with whether they're families or they're working with me, that if you don't know who you are in a leisure capacity, if you don't have a leisure identity, you're gonna really have problems, especially with the pandemic and what is occurred, people have had to adapt their interests, their love for whatever they used to do, in a totally different way.

    - And I think when we talked before, just to kind of get prepared for today's conversation, it's for individuals who were on firm ground before the pandemic. It has stressed everyone, no matter how secure you were in your mental health, I think we've all felt the pressure of, you know, just the disconnect of not being able to interact with people, not being able to get a hug, or, you know, just that connection. But for individuals that were already struggling, already dealing with, you know, stress or mental health issues, or they had a disability, a mental or physical disability or anxiety, for those individuals who were already on shaky ground, they were already struggling, it must have been incredibly hard this past year, year and a half, to have gone through all of that emotional crisis that we've all gone through as a country, as an entire planet. You know, you look back at 9/11, and there was certainly, there's been other crises that have affected, but this has been so widespread. It's touched so many lives in some way.

    - That's right. What's interesting, there are families with children at home, all of different ages, and they had to set up their virtual learning that way, but then they also stayed home, and so I know this family, this gentleman is in the dining room, working from home, his wife is on the porch, working from home, their little boy is in the living room, calling mommy a lot, and she has head phones on, she's trying to work. This is a family that we work with, and then we have the 13 year old, the young girl who is really wanting to stay on at least the iPhone as much as possible, or the iPad, because that's her only sense of connection. Is that wrong when you don't want your children to use devices? Then we go to children who have attention deficit disorder, and you're expecting them to sit there at a computer, and learn, let's say they're in kindergarten or first grade. And they're supposed to sit there and learn. Well, are they getting enough breaks? Are they able to get some nutrition? Do they really need to go to a therapist if they're not sitting still because it's out of their comfort zone? When they go back to school, the structure might be easier for them. So there's so many diff... And then the people with mental illness, it's hard enough for them to stay on their medicine. And then they're home, and they don't wanna take their medicine. Some people with chronic mental illness feel so much better, they decide they just don't wanna take it anymore, and then the families are up against, how do you get them back to the psychiatrist? But the families that don't have children, and who are working at home, they like it. And they don't, we talked about that. They don't wanna go back into the office. And now they're dealing with the adjustment of trying to negotiate, can they be home three days a week, look at what I've accomplished at home. I really don't need to be in the office. We have kids in college who did very, very well and then they took the break, but their activities were jeopardized. They had scholarships, they were on different teams. What happens with your financial aid? I could go on, and on, and on. But every situation, it doesn't really necessarily mean that just because you were real healthy before that you're gonna get a break, you're gonna get a pass, because we all have an identity. We started out having an identity. We have a self-esteem. We base our life on our values and our attitudes, and what experiences we have, what roles we have in life. Now, fast forward to when we had to stay home completely, and then, who are we then? How are we gonna create a new identity, the new normal, we call it. How are we going to adapt our activities? How are we gonna connect ritualistically on the devices, when a lot of our senior citizens, they don't like Zoom. They don't like the devices. But it's the only time they can connect with their grandchildren. So they to learn to adapt. But now we're going back into the community, so now we're going to another new normal, but you can't say yourself esteem hasn't been shaken. Some for the better, in a way. Families have done very well, but you're still gonna have another identity, another adjustment, another new normal, and for everyone, that is very individualized, how they handle that.

    - Well, I think now it's kind of a unsure middle ground where before the pandemic, you know, it was life, and life certainly had its challenges before the pandemic, and worries, and concerns, and stresses, and people suffering from addiction or mental health issues certainly was struggling before the pandemic, and then we had the full blown pandemic with everyone wearing masks and the issues and concerns then the social distancing, and now, the time of this recording, we're kind of moving into that semi-unsure phasing back in, but we're not really sure, should we be wearing a mask, should we not be wearing a mask? You know, is it okay to go back into the office? How are we gonna do staff meetings? Are we going to, you know, gather again in a tightly packed room with 20, 30 people, are we gonna have only six people in the room? So, and I think for a lot of individuals, not knowing what the situation is causes stress. Being unsure of just your day-to-day activities. You know, routine is nice for everyone. You know, whether it's an individual with a mental health issue, somebody battling an addiction, or just a regular person going to work or having a family, or having interactions or friends, we all kind of like our routine, and anytime it gets disrupted, it causes stress. And we've seen, you know,

    - It causes stress.

    - The whole, it's not, it's like you take a pack of 52 playing cards and you just spray them all over the place, and it's like, okay, but you're not really sure how the pack's gonna get re-put back together. So, we're all kind of stepping tentatively kind of going okay, what's okay? And it is. And I think, you know, I feel, you know, I'm very fortunate, I've been married for 27 years, Lisa and I, you know, have a good marriage, and we have a wonderful career at Sandy Spring Bank, have been over 20 years, so I have a lot of strong anchors, but it's been tough for me, and then I think of what it would be like for somebody battling addiction. I had a great conversation with Sarah Daniels on the discussion series from Recovery Centers of America, and she says how addiction has become amplified, because a lot of times it's linked to depression, isolation, and we see that has really obviously expanded, where somebody has been pulled away from their support groups, which can be so important if you're going through recovery or you're battling an addiction of some form.

    - Well, and we think addiction, and we have this visualization of what it is, but now we have device addiction, kids are on the computers, and a lot of the college kids who are home, they have to have their computer taken away. We have a video therapist. Literally he deals with people who are having a lot of problems with staying on the devices. A lot of the adults now, the problems with the marriages are, people are on their iPhone all the time trying to get more information, or they have 50 million devices up. TV, radio, the phone, going outside talking to people, and getting so many mixed messages, that then the families aren't in agreement of what they feel is safe, or whether should wear a mask. Just the different counties. I've had families go to Anne Arundel County, and they said they were in a state of shock, because they didn't anticipate to go to the mall, and all there were, the reregulation was masks, that's true, but other than that, this was a month or two ago, all they did was restrict people from coming in if they didn't have a mask, but it was a mob, they said, and they were so nervous about going to Anne Arundel County, and now, you know, here we are in Montgomery County, we're pretty strict, and yet now, I just heard this store is gonna be opening, you don't have to wear a mask. That mall, you have to wear a mask. And like you said, we're getting so many mixed messages, traveling, for a lot of people, there's families that we work with where the husband is willing to go. He wants to go fishing, he wants to leave, he wants to travel, and his wife does not wanna get on that airplane. And so, your leisure life, your vacation is totally tainted with all of the stress that's gonna happen with the two of you not being on the same page with how safe you feel. And I always tell people, if the benefits outweigh the fears, then you gotta go for it. Nothing's gonna be a 100%.

    - Yeah.

    - But if you are so fearful that you don't wanna take these risks, even though another family member does, you have to find a way to do these things at your comfort level, and it may mean you go in places separately for awhile, until you're more comfortable. Some couples can't believe that I think that way, but you're not gonna sacrifice your whole life if you both aren't in agreement, you've gotta find some parallel so that you can both have a sense of intrinsic rewards while you're moving forward. Because this has caused politically, a war with some people. And with the pandemic, whether it's serious or not, who they're gonna listen to, what TV station they listen to, you know, I was talking to another colleague, I thought the people that we were talking with were really a little unusual, until I've talked to so many colleagues who said, oh yeah, these families or not even in agreement, a lot of them, which is causing a lot of problem. And what are you saying to your children? I always tell people, and I try myself, to be a good role model. If you agree you're gonna disagree, what are you teaching your children? Are you teaching them to fight and judge the other person? Or are you teaching them how to validate? I taught active listening at Montgomery College for 19 years. And it's the best thing in the world for me, because I try to use it with other people, and teach it to other people. Because if you feel validated, and you feel acknowledged, then you can move forward. But if you're not listening, and the other person is defensive, you're at a stalemate, what are you teaching your children? And if you don't have children, how are you getting along with each other then?

    - Yeah, in every family I know, Lisa and I, 'cause at Sandy Spring Bank, they've been incredibly supportive, and so we're still in, this recording's done in May. It may stay on the library for quite some time, but just so everyone knows timeframe, so we're talking in mid-May. And so we just got the announcement very recently that Maryland is loosening its restrictions, and so the bank's going to what we call phase two, which is around half of the staff is gonna be returning back into the workplace. And senior management and human resources has been working so hard trying to figure out, you know, doing surveys, asking the employees, how do you feel about coming back to work? Creating flexibility, where some people really want to return to the office, it's very hard for them to do their job at home, where others find it's very easy to do their job at home, and really don't miss the commute and don't miss the drive. And don't find a huge difference between working from home. But again, as you said, the family structure, do you have no kids in the house? Do you have two kids? How do, you know, some couples might prefer that separation for a period of time during the day, And some may miss it. You know, every family unit is unique, and so it's very hard to make broad swaths of judgment to say well, this is the case, this is the case. And it's just not true, 'cause every person's unique, every individual is unique. What I think is a fair statement is, the impact, there has been an impact on individuals' mental health caused by the pandemic. It might be small, it might be moderate, it might be significant. An individual may be okay before the pandemic, and find themselves in really tough times right now, or they might've been really struggling before the pandemic, and this could have really just, you know, exaggerated those stresses and those concerns. And I know your team has been very busy this past year trying to help families navigate through all of these challenges.

    - Well, and not only that, a lot of families, whether it's just the couple, or it's the couple dealing with their parents, you know, their aging parents, or they have the children. Usually somebody is causing an issue. And then they focus on that person or that child that's causing the issue. And I always tell people, don't use a person as an identified client. That's what we call them. Because when a family system is not working, it's not that one person. That one person may be the healthiest person in that house, because they're acting out all of the issues that are going on, that other people may be not addressing. So one thing is you don't wanna give somebody so much power in a household that you're focusing on them, and you're not, nobody else is getting their needs met. You're ignoring one child because the other child is so agoraphobic, they won't go out of the house at all. But when you work with the family and you realize, every person is a spoke on the wheel, and when the wheel turns, that's great. But when the spoke on the wheel is stuck, then we have to fix the wheel, not just that one thing. We have to look at the whole thing so it doesn't break down again. So, one thing that's very common right now is we get a call because somebody is causing a problem for somebody, and they want that fixed. And some of the kids that are going back to school are really faced with some of their neighbors that are at home. And so that's an issue, because they thought they were gonna all go back together, but there are many families who are not sending their children back at all. And, you know, eventually they will have to. Just like the working situation, what are you going to do when you know as an adult, you've done such a great job at home, you feel you've made an office, you've been there a year, there's no reason for you to have to travel an hour or two hours, get in traffic, and maybe you're not comfortable with some of the people coming back, you're not even sure whether they were vaccinated, 'cause there's no requirement yet that they walk in the door and show their card. Some people are nervous about going to public places or going back to work when there's no guarantee that everybody is actually been tested, or, you know, if they have the vaccine. That's a big issue too. So what are we gonna do? Card everybody for the rest of our life while we're doing this? It's very, very uncertain, and that's what you used the word uncertainty, and that's, the unpredictability is what's causing so many problems.

    - And I just think of how hard, you know, just at the bank, you know, we're a large community bank, we've got branches throughout DC, Maryland, Virginia, different counties, different regulations, different reactions. So they're trying to work around those issues, and they've been working so hard just trying to figure out, you know, how do we move forward? You know, what are the best steps? How do we keep our staff safe? How do we keep our clients safe? You know, it's finding that happy medium between where, you know, Daniel Schrider, our president, has made it clear that he feels the bank is better when the employees get together and interact with our clients and with our own, you know, fellow employees, and we have that connection. You know, we are a community bank. We're built around relationships. And it is harder to maintain those relationships through Zoom calls and telephone calls. There is something very special from that in-person connection. And so, I can't imagine how hard it is for governors and you know, the county commissioners and heads of school boards, and, you know, CEOs of companies trying to figure this out. You know, trying to be fair, but you can't make everybody happy, it's impossible, and you just have to, and a lot of it is unknown. You know, we're not quite sure, 'cause it's a constantly changing environment. So we're on unsteady ground to begin with, and you're trying to walk forward, but it's very foggy, and you're hoping you're heading in the right direction, but you can't just stand still. And I think people realize that. You can't just, like I'm sure you've seen some clients who just want to lock themselves in their bedroom, pull up under the covers, hide, never come out. They may well have felt that way before the pandemic. So, you know, you talked about, you know, hoarding and you know, homophobia, and just people who struggle with interactions. This hasn't helped.

    - Well, I'm very fortunate that a few of our contractors were willing to go into the homes when it was iffy, but I mean, with safety precautions, for sure, but we had someone hoarding, we had some other issues that were going on, and I'm just so grateful to them. But then the other ones, they converted all the things they were doing for us and went into the tele-health avenue. And now, you know, some of them are continuing, like we have a social club for people with disabilities. Well, Debbie wound up just creating that social club online, and they were planning activities and doing interactive games, all kinds of things that you wouldn't think of, but you can't do that continuously, 'cause that's not really that healthy. But the main thing is, are you getting your needs met? Are you feeling depressed, and if you are, are you taking care of yourself, and telling people that you're not feeling right? When you say about people pulling the covers up, it's very, very hard to help someone when they're not using their words and you just don't know what's going on. We just did, we've done a few webinars and CEU trainings, and one of the trainings we did was for the Brem Foundation for Breast Cancer. And it was really, how do you help people who've been diagnosed right now? And they're dealing with radiation or chemotherapy, and they don't know how to take care of their families. And on top of this, you have the pandemic, and how do you validate them and walk with them? They have to at least let you know that they're hurting. Pulling the covers up, and staying away and isolating themselves, that's just not productive for anybody in the family. So there's a way to work with people who are losing their energy or their hope. And how do you deal with that? We have another contractor who's been working with the school system. She just did a whole mindfulness training to the teachers, 'cause the teachers have just come back, they're really stressed out. So as a gift, the assistant principal brought all these teachers together, and they had a live experiential holistic experience with Alexis on mindfulness and positivity. And then we had recently, and this is where we're working towards, is trying to help people at least through telehealth, If we can't have a lot of people coming into a facility, because we still don't know where we're at with crowds, and you know, like you said, with bringing staff together. So we have some home care agencies that are noticing that the home care aides that are going into the homes are moody. There's suffering a lot of issues, 'cause they walk into the home, the people that they're helping are moody, not all of them, but some of them, their house is not really the way it should be, 'cause no one's really been cleaning it up. The aides don't wanna be the housekeeper. They wanna be the ones dispensing medicine, but they don't wanna sit there and have to go in a bathroom and go in the kitchen and do the dishes, where's the fine line? So we just did a whole training on active listening for the home care aides, to say to a home care aide, how do you tell someone when you feel that you're insulted, or when you feel that you have just had enough of what there is asking you to do? You can't just walk out. What if the client is firing you, and you know that's not gonna be productive, are you gonna leave, or what are you gonna say to that person when they're mad at you and they want to fire you? So there's a whole training now we're doing with home care aides, who would have thought?

    - Yeah, well just the frontline people. And on behalf of the community, Beth, if you could relay to all of your staff, you know, a thanks, for, you know, the individuals who are out there trying to take care of individuals who are struggling, whether it's individuals fighting addiction, individuals with special needs, seniors, teens, you know, you really cover the broad spectrum of individuals in crisis, individuals facing, you know, that moment where without help, they could really get into a bad place. But hopefully with support, you know, you're trying to keep them safe, you know? And you and I have talked a lot about the trust division's role. We get named a lot as a trustee for individuals with special needs, but we're the financial side. We're managing the trust assets, we're paying the bills, but we cannot be the advocate. The trust officers do not have the time to be on the ground floor working alongside, that's where organizations like yours and others come into play, to provide that advocacy and that real feet on the ground, holding the hand of the individual, and then relaying that to us, the trustee, or you may be relaying to the guardian or relaying to the family, what are the needs of this individual? What are we missing? You know, maybe the state of federal programs are providing three days per week therapy, but you really believe that a fourth or fifth day paid for from the trust, could make a significant difference. And that's how these types of supplemental needs trust work, is they provide additional support above and beyond the support that is available through state and federal programs. And so just, I just wanted to say, thank you to you and your staff, and to all of the health care workers out there. And even all of the, you know, frontline people. They might be working in grocery stores or retail stores, and, you know, they're put in a very difficult situation, because many times they getting the frustration of people directed at them, and it's not their fault, but they might, a person may come into a store and it says masks are required, and they get angry and they vent to the person there, and that person didn't set that rule, but they have to receive that, in some cases a very violent onslaught of language, which must be so hard for them to deal with that.

    - Yeah, we have several attorneys, and we usually are the eyes and ears for the attorneys when there are clients that, it's taking a lot of time to decide what their needs are and what to do with this person, particularly this person right now who won't take his medicine, as I referred to before. And it's the lawyer that is in charge of his trust, and he's going over there way more than he would like to, and so he reaches out to us and he says, how do I make my client take his medicine? What do I do? So lawyers definitely utilize us a lot, because we definitely, we had another lawyer, they sent us into the house 'cause their client wanted a car. And they definitely can afford the car, but when I read the medications that that person was on, oh my goodness. So, just little things like that. No, don't get them a car. That's not a good idea. Let's get them an Uber driver or something like that on a regular basis. But you know, the most important thing is, you know, I have to emphasize this when you say thanks, when a hospital discharge, whether it's recovery, whether it's rehab for a senior, whether it's mental illness, the psych ward, if they know we exist, then we work as a team. And when they get discharged, we're right in there. Ready to help get that person back into the community, get them integrated, get them feeling good about themselves 'cause they have the supports they need. But when I mentioned how I got in the field, because of turf issues, when hospitals or facilities, they don't know what's in the community because they're too tied to working so hard with what they have in front of them, it's not their fault. They have a high caseload, there's abuse going on in certain facilities that when it gets to the point where this person has to leave, and they call the family who are on the other side, and they say to the family, we're releasing your mom tomorrow. And then I get a call, "Can they do that?" Well, the whole point is, is if the other providers know there's a method, call the people in the community, we will help prepare the family for yes, you can release them tomorrow, as long as you let them know there are people like us out here that can take it from here. So the way we work together, I love the places that know about how to work as a team, because it really makes such a difference when a hospital or rehab facility, any kind of place knows that the community and the clinicians in the hospitals and these other facilities need to work together.

    - Well, that's how I learned about way back, I was a very young, green trust officer at another bank. This was good grief, nearly 30 years ago probably 25 years ago. And I somehow found an organization called GROWS, the Grass Roots Organization for the Well-being of Seniors, and I would go there.

    - You were a member.

    - Yeah, I was the only banker who I think was there, and it's a wonderful professional network of healthcare providers and healthcare individuals, and they just get together and they network, and they talk and they do educational programs. And so, I showed up and started to get to meet some people. And that's where I learned about care managers, and you know, at-home agencies, and all of this world that I was discovering. And that's how we kind of over time, developed the transition planning support group, which I was running before the pandemic, and it was a gathering of lawyers and accountants and financial individuals and healthcare professionals. And we get together and have lunch and talk. And then the pandemic came along, and we couldn't do that any longer. And that kind of led us to do this professional discussion series, which again, is interviews with professionals in law, tax, finance and healthcare, to try and make other professionals aware of what's out there, because healthcare professionals need to understand legal and tax issues, because they certainly come up. Financial powers of attorney, medical advanced directives, but attorneys and accountants need to understand the healthcare industry, because they're many times interacting with clients when they go through those changes that, facing an incapacity, the declining health of a family member, and that's when things can get really dangerous and unpleasant, and that's where individuals like you and other healthcare providers can really come in with your skills and your knowledge and provide that very focused support, because if you don't have that background, you just, you're not able to deal with some of these issues without help. Whether it's dealing with a family member who's facing dementia or Alzheimer's, or just declining health generally, you know, the fear of going to the doctor, not taking medication, all of these issues. And it's so hard for families to be with somebody that you really care about and see them struggling, and not know how to help. To feel helpless as you watch somebody.

    - One thing that's been very helpful, and you mentioned GROWS, I think it was at GROWS, you talk about 30 years ago, probably was then when I started understanding what the smaller facilities were like, where they had eight or 10 seniors in a home. And I had never heard that concept before, and over time, those homes, with the eight or 10 people, have been a saving grace for some of our clients. Because there are many people who have chronic mental illness, and as they get older, they can have behavior problems. And when you wanna refer them to a facility, and they know they're gonna have behavior problems and they don't have a lot of staff, sometimes they can't take them. They'd like to, but they can't. So we've collaborated a lot with assisted living facilities, the real small ones, where if they take our client and the family already knows they're gonna pay us to watch over the client at the assisted living, and then we go over once a week and we do recreation therapy, and we do the support that we need to do in a counseling coaching way, stimulate them physically, and they feel they've gotten another staff person on board, rather than they have another person with a behavior problem. So it was really GROWS that I started understanding the concept of the smaller assisted living, and how valuable it can be for people with behavior issues.

    - There is a, and we're fortunate in Montgomery County and DC and Virginia that there is, because it is a very affluent area, so there is a tremendous depth of skills and knowledge and staff, there is help out there. And so, you know, when I was talking to Sarah Daniels on dealing with the addiction, it's just to know that there is support out there. Whether it's for an individual dealing directly with the addiction or the health issue, or the family or friends around that individual, who are trying to help, or may need support. A year and a half ago, I lost a brother to alcoholism. So I know what it does to, you know, personally, I know what it does to a family to see a loved one died before their time, to lose that loved one, lose that connection. I wouldn't wish that emotion or feeling on anyone. It's terrible. But you, you know, those, you know, at the bank, we have a wonderful employee assistance program and a wellness program where I was able to reach out and get help during that difficult time right before he passed away, and you know, so there are, it might even be through your employer. Many people don't know that many companies offer an employee assistance program, where you can call a toll free number and you can get help. And the company many times will pay for that program.

    - And a lot of things that are important is that if you're working with any agency, that you check them out and you make sure that they're seasoned enough to be able to give you the right information, the right resources. What distinguishes us from a lot of other places, and that's why I designed it this way, is we have so many specialties under one umbrella. So confidentiality isn't an issue. If we need to pull in three people with one family, because there's a child, there's a mother, whatever's going on, we work as a team, and we find that it's much more successful that way, 'cause the communication is there. And we go to the home. We don't care about having any kind of turf issues, we don't have them. We go to the home, we start there. If someone's lost a relative, we don't, it's very good for people to go to support groups, and I encourage them to do so, whether it's grief support or whatever, but some people aren't comfortable doing that. And if you can't go to their house and deal with their grief or whatever trauma they've experienced, and break bread with them at the kitchen table possibly over a cup of coffee, then you're not gonna get anywhere, 'cause they don't wanna leave. They don't wanna go. They're hurting too much. So I love the idea that we're willing to go, and now we can again, go more to the home. But we've met people in restaurants, I've taken people, I had a man with a head injury, and he just didn't wanna see an office, he didn't wanna go near a facility, and I just met him at Panera, and, you know, treated him to coffee and a Danish, and that was our first session. It was great.

    - Wonderful.

    - He actually was fixed up with a woman that we were working with that had MS, and they were both the same age, and because we think out of the box and we don't have the same boundaries, if we're not doing therapy, counseling, if that person isn't on board, and we're doing, let's say, recreation integration, we can fix people up. So we fixed him up with her, and we had another person on, a contractor, she'd drive, and they were going together for two years, they didn't even see that it was unusual they had a disability, she lived in assisted living, he lived with his brother, but they, I talk about identity, they had an identity of being boyfriend and girlfriend. And that's what we live for. It's just so much fun to do that.

    - And just to see, you know, smiles on people's faces or people, you know, you talked about grief just with the pandemic. You know, the title of today's discussion is the impact. If you lost a loved one in the past year, year and a half, the normal support system of dealing with the loss of a spouse, or a parent, or even a child, or a brother or sister, or, you know, a close friend, whether it was due to COVID or not, just if you lost somebody, normally you would gather, you would hug, you would cry, you would hold. And for many, you weren't able. Many weren't able to be with the person that they love during those final moments. There was separation.

    - That's right.

    - Which, you know, would be horrific. You know, I lost a brother. It was, you know, the fall before the pandemic, and then my wife unfortunately lost her mother, but it was done, it was a difficult time for us, but it was done before these restrictions, so we were able to gather as a family, Lisa and I were able to fly to England and spend time with my family over there, and it was incredibly healing, that time that we had. And we both have thought about, what if those two events occurred later? And we would have not had, we wouldn't have been able, you know, my brother passed away in England. We wouldn't have been able to go back to England, we wouldn't have been able to, you know, connect to his children and other family members. It would have been so much harder.

    - Well, and not only that, there's other issues going on too. And that is one of our clients was dealing with their, the loss of their mother, and they were very careful, they wanted everyone around them to have a mask. If they were gonna bring their children, he wanted the children to be protected, yet his family, they weren't taking it seriously at all, the pandemic. They had different states, different attitudes, so he wound up outside of the funeral home with a mask, with his family, while they were inside without the mask, and it was just horrific. But he wanted to go, he wanted to do what he needed to do and we encourage that, but even when you're dealing with facing each other again, well, now hopefully it's better, but at that time, when just the immediate family was invited, and that immediate family can't come together with agreement, that's also hard. So it's been a barrier for a lot of people. It's how you deal with it, how your attitude is with other people disagreeing with you, how are you gonna handle your own anger and disappointment, and what are you teaching other people? That's the bottom line. Especially if you have kids, what skills are you teaching them to cope with?

    - We've covered a lot, Beth. This has been a great conversation about a very difficult topic during a difficult time. So, thank you for taking time out of your day to share some of the challenges that you're seeing and some of the different ways that you and others have been helping the community. Before we wrap up, are there any, some final comments you'd like to make for our audience today, kind of just to wrap things up for us?

    - Well, I just feel that if anybody got anything out of this, I would hope that the number one would be, it's okay to ask for help.

    - Yeah.

    - That's the most important thing. And that you also have rights to ask for what you need. If your relative is not ready to be discharged, then you go up to the quality assurance department in that hospital and say, I do not want my relative discharged yet. I do not feel safe. There's so many things you can do to take care of your family and take care of yourself if you know what your rights are, you know that you should reach out for resources and people, and ask for help, and then you'll be able to find more information. And more information is more knowledge that gets you what you need.

    - Thank you so much. And Beth's contact information, her company's website, her email and her phone will be listed along with mine at the end of today's conversation. And I will support that. One of the things I learned at GROWS is the, how valuable that the care management field is. I would many times recruit care managers to go into nursing homes and assisted living facilities to be an advocate, to keep an eye on the facility. And we found that the level of care immediately cranked up a couple of notches, because people with skills and knowledge were just popping in once a week, or a couple of times a month, checking in on things, reading the medical chart, but they had the knowledge and the skill to see issues early, and they knew what to look for, where I, as a trust officer, could walk into a client at a nursing home, have a nice conversation, I'd have no idea if she was okay or not. I just don't have the medical training. So that's power of that medical advocacy that firms like yours can provide.

    - And one more thing I was gonna say, being a recreation therapist, I should say that without a doubt, is that if you don't have a passion for something, and you are not enjoying something, then you need to find your way. Because through leisure, is how you will stay healthy. People who have hired us to try to get their daughter or son a job, I always say, let me see how much fun they're having first. Because a lot of times, their recreational interests led them to work. And so we all have to keep our passion alive to be able to keep our identity. You can be 90 or 100, but you need your identity. You need to know who you are. And especially you need to know what makes you have joy.

    - Wonderful. Well, thank you, and for the audience, thank you for joining the Sandy Spring Bank's Real Life Matters discussion series. Please share knowledge of this series with family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, both locally and around the country. This is a community program. I also host a seminar series on Sandy Spring Bank's website. For the seminars, we do ask for the client's name and how you heard about the seminar event, but for the discussion series, we do not ask your name or any contact information. You don't have to bank with us, but those of you who do bank with Sandy Spring Bank, though, thank you. We've been an independent local community bank since 1868,

    - My goodness.

    - And we are independent.

    - Yeah, we are, and so we just celebrated our 153rd birthday, and it is an honor and privilege to have been with this bank for the past 20 years. And if you bank with us, thank you. And if you don't bank with us, please consider Sandy Spring Bank for any of your banking or financial needs. Give us a call, and we will do our best to assist. I hope you are safe wherever you might be. And if you've gone through difficulties or challenges recently, I'm so sorry. Hang in there, and as Beth said, there is help out there, and there is no shame to ask for help and support. We all need it at certain times, and there are people around you who care about you, and who love you. And I know on a personal basis, I desperately miss my brother, but we weren't able to get him help. So if you are dealing with an issue, know that you're loved, and know that there are people who would desperately miss you if anything happens. So please, there is no shame in getting help. On behalf of Sandy Spring Bank, thank you for joining us today. And please be safe, and have wonderful day.

    - Thank you.

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