Taking the load off SK’s seniors

Jan Franklin deals in gaps. Bridging them, that is.

As owner of Angel Advocates, she works to bring parents and their children together as they deal with the often-touchy topic of aging.

“As those aging issues become more prevalent, we find that creates some clashing in the relationship sometimes,” she said. “It’s very difficult to see your parents changing before your eyes.”

And through it all, Franklin and her staff of five are available to help. After moving to Washington four years ago, she got her company off the ground last year.

“I really feel like everything I’ve done in my life has led me to this and I’m so passionate about it.”

In-home services include cleaning homes, driving seniors to the movies, making lunch and doing other tasks to “help people stay in their homes.”

“My company goes in and takes some of the load off the families by going and helping the seniors run their errands or spending some companionship time with them because they get lonely and they rely on the children a lot.”

But helping around the house isn’t all they do.

“We’re unusual from the normal in-home care agencies,” she said. “My goal is to build the trust in the relationship and get in and work on the emotional thing — the aging issues.”

Next month, Franklin will become licensed as a non-medical in-home care agency, and will be able to do meal preparation, cleaning — “anything they need.”

Angel Advocates, which operates in seven counties, charges $22 an hour for in-home care and $45 an hour for consulting.

Franklin, a certified grief-recovery specialist, is running a 12-week program that provides a forum for families to come and talk about what they need and the issues they are facing.

A recent session in Hansville attracted more than 40 seniors.

“They started talking about their issues and realized they were similar,” she said. “It reminded them that one voice doesn’t accomplish much, but multiple voices can accomplish a multitude of things.”

Subscribing to the theory that “grief is really at the base of all issues that elders and their children face,” she also does private consulting.

She cited a situation where a parent was dying and no one was willing to talk about it.

“One of the daughters called up and said, ‘It’s like we have this big pink elephant in the room and everybody’s ignoring it,’ ” she said. “I went and facilitated a three-hour conversation that was as awesome for me as it was for the family.”

Franklin, 59, said she realized her calling after leaving her banking career in 1991.

“My own parents died before I was 20, so I’ve kind of adopted my friends’ parents and any old person I could find,” she said.

She explained that watching an 82-year-old friend dealing with the struggles that come with aging really opened her eyes.

When her friend suffered a broken hip and had to move in with her daughter and son-in-law, “she no longer had control over her life.”

“I watched as my friend kind of shrunk within herself and I watched the daughter feeling overburdened and overwhelmed,” she said. “She loved her mother dearly, but really didn’t know what to do to help her.”

As the two clashed, Franklin found herself in the role of middleman.

“I hated what happened to these families, so I would start visiting the ladies and taking the burden off the families in that way as a volunteer,” she said.

But she couldn’t afford to just volunteer, and thus Angel Advocates was born.

“I wanted to do something for seniors,” she said. “I’m going to be one someday.”

And she won’t be alone — baby boomers are beginning to join the ranks of seniors.

“Most of us haven’t planned ahead; most of us haven’t told our kids, ‘I want to be cremated,’ ” she said. “We don’t hold those hard conversations and until ... we’re forced to.”

By encouraging communication early on, Franklin is hoping to prevent that.

“If you don’t know how, call me and I’ll help.”

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