Behind the Scenes of Senior Care: A Chat with Kiersten Dortone of Safe at Home Senior Solutions, LLC
Navigating the world of senior care can be a complex and sometimes daunting task. But, behind the scenes, there are dedicated professionals like Kiersten Dortone, an occupational therapist and board-certified case manager, who are making a real difference. She's the owner of Safe at Home Senior Solutions, LLC, and in our interview, she shares insights into her journey, the essence of her role, and the rewards and challenges that come with it.
Q: Can you please introduce yourself and your business?
Dortone: Hi, I'm Kiersten Dortone, an occupational therapist and board-certified case manager. I'm the proud owner of Safe at Home Senior Solutions, LLC.
Q: How long have you been a case manager?
Dortone: I transitioned into a non-clinical role during the global pandemic and have been providing care coordination services since June 2020. I earned Board certification in April 2023.
Q: How did you get started in your role of case manager, and how did your background and experiences lead to where you are now?
Dortone: My passion for case management began with my career as an OT in home health. I was privileged to provide occupational therapy treatment to the geriatric population in their homes, most often after a recent hospitalization or rehab stay. It was in this role that I realized the value, and immense need, by helping clients weave together the trajectory of a fragmented health care system. It was during this time that I also recognized that everyone admits we get older each day, but no one enjoys planning for aging. Our culture is to respond to a crisis, rather than plan for an optimal experience. I pursued an Advanced Certificate of Gerontology at West Chester University to broaden my understanding of what our older adults need. My training as an Occupational Therapist has helped me to provide person-centered, holistic care management. I can anticipate the needs of older adults and work side by side to achieve their goals for aging in place, wherever they choose for home to be.
Q: What does it mean to you to be a case manager, and what qualities and traits are essential for success in your role?
Dortone: Everything. My passion for guiding older adults and helping their families by providing guidance that leads to action and decisions that ensure quality care and an optimal life – it’s an honor and a privilege to do every day. To succeed in this role, one must be autonomous and resourceful. Your clients are relying on you to get their needs met timely, and with an approach that is holistic and client centered. You must have strong time management skills and a commitment to a high quality and level of communication.
Q: What do people unfamiliar with the industry misunderstand about case management?
Dortone: One common misconception is that case management is a profession solely for nurses and social workers, and that it's only about hospital discharge planning.
Q: What other professionals do you collaborate with for the best outcomes for your patients?
Dortone: I collaborate with elder law attorneys most often for the best outcomes for my clients. In addition to elder law attorneys, I spend most of my time collaborating with an interdisciplinary team when a client is in the hospital, at rehab, or transitioning to a supportive community. If you really want to know how your client is doing, and they live in a retirement community, collaborating with environmental services and wait staff can really shed some light on a client’s quality of life!
Q: What are the most rewarding parts of your role, and what are the not-so-glamorous aspects?
Dortone: The most rewarding parts include solving the problems of a fragmented healthcare system and helping clients navigate these challenges. Building long-term relationships with my clients is an incredible privilege. I cherish being able to support them through various facets of aging. Lastly, connecting clients with previously unfamiliar resources is highly rewarding. On the flip side, the not-so-glamorous aspects include being the go-to person during crises, which can often involve responding after hours. It's also tough to be acutely aware of the systemic issues older adults face and only being able to address a small part of the larger problem.
Q: How do you combat burnout, and what do you enjoy doing outside of work?
Dortone: I enjoy spending time with my family and friends outside of work. I also schedule monthly spa treatments so that I am guaranteed 1 evening a month to be focused solely on my needs. Spending time with our 3 dogs also helps, seems like they always sense the best time for when a snuggle is needed. I combat burnout by reminding myself of the clients I have helped thus far and am motivated to keep moving forward because there are so many more that can benefit from a professional on their side!
Q: How would you change your section of the healthcare industry if you could?
Dortone: Geez- do we have enough time for that? I guess the first thing that comes to mind would be to encourage all health insurance providers (and primary care practices!) to invest in the value of quality care management services and highlight why offering this holistic, person-centered approach can help older adults combat ongoing g health challenges and improve their quality of life.
Q: What do you want people to realize about case managers and what they do?
Dortone: I want people to know that this profession exists! Aging Life Care Professionals® are experts in eight key areas: health and disability, financial, housing, family, local resources, advocacy, legal, and crisis intervention. We can reduce worry, stress, and time off for family caregivers by working with them and the older adults in their lives. Our services include family caregiver coaching, assessment and monitoring, medication management, education, and advocacy. The best way to connect with an expert in your area is to go to aginglifecare.org and click on "Finding an Aging Life Care Expert."
Kiersten, the driving force behind Safe at Home Senior Solutions, LLC, offers us a glimpse into the essential world of case management. Her compassion and expertise make a profound impact on the lives of older adults and their families. Kiersten's dedication to ensuring quality care and an optimal life for her clients is not only admirable but a testament to the positive changes one person can make in the realm of senior care. Her message is clear: case management is a vital profession, and her work serves as a guiding light for older adults on their journey to aging gracefully and independently.
Want more? Head to Safe at Home’s website at safeathomeseniors.com. Watch for next week's post featuring Liz Dunleavy, owner of Kith Elder Care, LLC!