Aging With Grace
senior concierge service
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Friday Introductions

There's this blog trend called "Friday Introductions" where small business owners give some fun facts about themselves. It helps our clients see the person behind the business! When you work with a small business, you are supporting our everyday lives. Pet food, groceries, electric bills... it's possible because of our clients, so it is important to know the person you are working with and supporting.

Basics

Name: Grace Draper
Est: 1990
Born: Alexandria, VA
Raised: Clifton, VA
Graduated: UMW '14 with a B.A. in English
Resides: Downtown Fredericksburg

Favorites

1. THRIFTING. I hunt specifically for 80s/90s sporty clothing, dresses from the 50s/60s, and wooden accent furniture for my apartment.
2. MUGS. This really just traces back to my love for coffee, but there is nothing better than a perfectly weighted/shaped mug to enjoy it from .
3. REARRANGING FURNITURE. My friends joke that my apartment is different every time they come over and there is some truth to that. I love moving things around for a new feel, especially when I'm a little stressed (so it's changed around 3-5 times since I started this business!)
4. CATS. But specifically my cats. They steal chips off my plate, lick the mayo off my sandwiches and drink my water... but when they snuggle up with me I forget all about their mischief.
5. SOCIALITE FICTION. I may have made that genre up... but I love reading books that immerse you into the world of the chic, fancy and rich socialites. My favorites are based on real people like Babe Paley and Zelda Fitzgerald, but if it gives me a glimpse into lavish lifestyles then I'll devour it.
6. OTHERS: ice cream, crosswords, doodling, playing piano, playing rugby, going to concerts, screened in porches, waterfront views.

My family

My family

My Fredericksburg pals

My Fredericksburg pals

Aaron, my boyfriend and the dad-joke master

Aaron, my boyfriend and the dad-joke master

My rugby team

My rugby team

"Socialite Fiction"

"Socialite Fiction"

Keats + Biko

Keats + Biko

Me and my Grams

Me and my Grams

My sister Emily. She works up in DC at the National Museum of African American History and Culture

My sister Emily. She works up in DC at the National Museum of African American History and Culture

My amazing cousins

My amazing cousins

One of my favorite mugs

One of my favorite mugs

What It's Like to Start a Business in Your 20's Part 4: The Learning Curve

It has been three months but it feels like I only started yesterday. My first three months were packed with lessons about running business so I wanted to share some of the best things -- big and small -- that I learned.

1. Always ask for a second opinion or feedback from a trusted source.

I quickly learned that it can be hard to see your business objectively when you're so close to it. I knew I needed a couple of people to run ideas by occasionally and to ask for feedback on what I had done so far. I decided to have a close friend to ask, another business owner I respect with senior industry experience and then one without. I found out that things I thought were weaknesses were actually strengths, such as the fact that I run the business and provide all the services myself. Thankfully I asked a "trusted adviser" for some feedback and he pointed that out as an advantage I have (control over the quality of services I provide) as well as something that makes me stand apart from others. 

2. Your friends and family really do want to help and support you.

I've always been a big believer in keeping business and personal life very separate. It was new to me that my business was personal so it meant that I had to mix it up a little bit. Of course my family and friends offered to help any time, but I was hesitant to take them up on it because I didn't want to ask too much. Running a business alone means you need an extra set of hands, eyes and ears sometimes. After I experienced the "seriously stretched too thin" moment, I finally got a little more comfortable asking for and accepting help when I needed it (although I'm still working in it!)

3. Trial and error, rinse, repeat.

Nothing will ever be the final product. I have already had 3 types of rack card brochures, two major website edits (as of tomorrow) and countless different marketing "catch phrases". The more I try out the more I find what does and does not work. Going back to lesson 1: ask for feedback! There were things I thought would *wow* everyone but sometimes didn't and something very simple would get a bigger reaction. You don't know until you try! One major change I already made was with my client intake. I started out my business with a service contract but then found it was more appealing to be a no-contract service in majority of cases. Now I only require a contract for repeat, long term clients. 

4. You can't please everyone.

This one seems obvious but it applies in so many more ways than I ever thought. Not every client will be the right fit for your business and, as hard as it is to turn down business, I quickly learned that it is okay to say no and refer elsewhere. Not everyone will agree with where you choose to put your marketing efforts, or what your fliers say, or what services you offer -- and they will tell you so -- but I learned to trust my decisions and learned the politest smile/nod combo for those situations. There will be many more of these and it is hard not to take it personally some days because I am the business. However, I have learned and continue to learn that everyone had their opinion and I can filter what is constructive criticism to use and what to let slide.

Tomorrow is my final blog for the week and the last time I will be getting personal (for now). I'll be doing a "Friday Introduction", one of the blog trends of small business owners, where I give some fun facts about myself outside of the business. 

What It's Like to Start a Business in Your 20's Part 3: The Reveal
This is what a home office looks like when your cats are nosy.

This is what a home office looks like when your cats are nosy.

The scariest and most exciting part of starting your own business is telling people about it. When I started my business I felt so many different things, but mainly I was proud of myself. I had taken a risk to try and fulfill a dream I have had. I felt really good about it! But I was nervous to share it.

I was determined to have everything figured out so I could have "all the answers" to the questions I might get. I wanted to put together a list of policies and set boundaries for myself to keep my business going in the direction I intended. When you're the boss it can be easy to say "yes" and end up veering off in the wrong direction. While it produces income to say "yes" to everything, it can hurt your business long term. Knowing this made me want to ensure I knew every aspect of my business and business plan before I started telling others about it. It all ties back to how I wanted to be taken seriously: I wanted to show how seriously I take my business by preparing for as much as possible.

So, in the two weeks between forming my business and announcing it, I was combing every inch of my plan to fill any holes and narrow my services down. I also took a business class at the UMW Small Business Center to truly make sure I had crossed all my t's and dotted all my i's. Thankfully I had, and I left the class with some good information in addition to the confirmation that I was prepared. Lastly, I needed business cards. My good friend does branding with her business Twila & Co. and she designed my amazing logo. It was great to work with someone who knows me and my style, and we were able to knock it out in one afternoon. 

One week later I had everything I needed. I had a well groomed business plan, business cards and a networking meeting to attend! I quickly found out you can't prepare for everything (like suggestion to change your business name) but I was glad I spent that extra time solidifying what I could so that I had answers and marketing strategies ready from day one.

Even with all the planning I did, I have had to re-evaluate and re-design some aspects of my marketing materials, website, etc. as the business and I continue to grow. Find out what I learned in the first three months on tomorrow's blog! 

What It's Like to Start a Business in Your 20's Part 2: The Leap

As promised, today I am talking about the leap into starting my own business. Believe it or not, after a year of planning my business and feeling like I had a solid idea, it was still pretty scary to take the leap and do it!

My original plan was to wait until I turned 30 to start my own business. Why 30? It felt like an older and more established number, and I want my business to be taken seriously. But, as we all know, things don't go according to plan and I am now a business owner at 26 (but if you ask me in person I will probably round up to 27).

I had three defining moments that led me to this point:

1. I wasn't happy

This is the most common "sign" I hear from most small business owners. I used to be so excited to go to work, finding excuses to stay a little late and sometimes coming in a little early just to be there and enjoy the quiet before everyone arrived. I would sit on our front porch chatting with residents during my lunch break. It was easy to remember why I wanted to work there! Days that could have been stressful somehow weren't. But as all jobs do, mine changed and evolved over the two years I was there. This past winter I realized I was dreading not only Monday, but Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday... etc. I'm too young to be that stressed and feel like I am losing myself to my job already! I got the final push and decided it was time to put in my resignation and take a month off to re-evaluate.

2. Aging with Grace kept resurfacing

When I decided to take a month off I had no plans to start my own business. I wanted to take at least a week to relax and re-center myself. I told my boyfriend that he could bug me to job-hunt starting on a certain date but until then I was going truly enjoy doing nothing. I worked throughout college -- including summers -- and hadn't enjoyed a long vacation since 2010. I wanted to take it *guilt-free* before I missed the opportunity. "Quitting" your job without a plan is frowned upon these days so I definitely raised a few eyebrows when I announced my decision to my family. Thankfully my parents were supportive and trusted that I knew what I was doing.

A week into it I opened up the job search sites and browsed what was available. The more I read about other opportunities, the more knew that I wasn't ready to stop working with seniors. I thought back to Aging with Grace again but once more I put it aside for later. That same day someone commented on the double meaning of my name and I told them my potential business name. They loved it! A few days later I was meeting with some ladies I volunteer with on the Alzheimer's Committee. We were discussing my plans moving forward and my idea for Aging with Grace came up again. Their enthusiasm about it told me I was on to something. At this point, any conversation surrounding my next move seemed to circle back to Aging with Grace. I couldn't avoid it!

3. I threw myself over the ledge (well, one of them)

I decided I might as well research the process of starting an LLC and insurances, etc. It wouldn't hurt to see what planning was required from me in the next three years (still thinking 30!) and I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the formalities were fairly simple. I decided I might as well claim my LLC "just in case". Then I thought I might as well brainstorm some pricing and services... and branding colors... and target audiences... marketing strategies... and all of a sudden on that night of 5/18/17 I had bought my LLC, registered for a tax ID number and was elbow deep in the first two-thirds of my business plan. 

While my business was officially created as of May 18, I waited until June to tell anyone what I was doing. Want to know why? I'll be talking about that tomorrow!

What It's Like to Start a Business in Your 20's Part 1: The Idea

Happy Monday! This week it's all about getting personal. I don't really like to talk about things that are close to me with many people, and my business is extremely close to me so I have kept what I share to a very professional, surface level. This has been one of my biggest challenges as a business owner: the business and I are one in the same now, and that means opening up more when I am marketing. In honor of Aging with Grace's 3 Month Anniversary, I want to share with you what my experience has been like so far. 

Despite how breezy I have made it sound, starting a business is not an easy venture. Yes, you can get an LLC in an instant (thanks, internet!) and applying for zoning/licensing within the city only takes a few days... But rewind to the weeks and years leading up to that and there are a lot of decisions to make before you can apply for the paperwork. 

What a lot of people may not know is that I have had this business idea bubbling for a little over a year now. I've mentioned before that I worked in a memory care community for two years, and throughout that time I attended conferences where I learned about aging and options for care.

About a year ago,  I attended a seminar about "Aging in Place" and instantly connected with the idea that someone can stay at home independently with some modifications and in-home assistance. Many times I felt guilty trying to sell someone on our community when I knew it would mean they had to leave their family home, or be separated from their spouse of 50 years. I knew they needed some sort of solution though and wished I could have offered them other options. After learning about some of those options, I left the seminar knowing that helping people age in place was exactly what I wanted to do.

The name  "Aging with Grace" is a play on "Aging in Place". I came up with it offhand when I was first telling a friend about the seminar. Using my name felt silly at first; I used to think my name Grace was too adult and boring, so I went by Gracie to sound young and *cool*. Once I graduated college I decided I needed the adult edge and dropped the "i" to become Grace again. Little did I know, that seemingly insignificant change would help me "re-brand" myself in the years leading up to Aging with Grace.

Over the past year I kept a running list of thoughts in a journal, "for when I turn 30 and become a real adult who can run their own business". I started noting challenges I saw day to day while working with families, and how Aging with Grace could potentially solve them. The opportunity presented itself sooner than I expected (read all about it on tomorrow's blog) and by that time I had a solid list of ideas to get me started.

Tomorrow I'll be talking about how I knew it was time to take the leap, but I still have three more days to fill with the personal side of business! What else would you like to know?

8 Ways to Indulge in Guilt-Free Alone Time

Getting time away is a rare luxury when you are a caregiver. After a while, the idea of doing something alone can be foreign, if not entirely forgotten, for some caregivers. Many families I have worked with were overwhelmed by the idea of doing something for themselves.

It is completely normal to feel guilty, even selfish, for leaving your loved one with professional companion care in order to get a few hours to yourself. Let that guilt go! These precious hours are necessary to both mental and physical health. Taking a few hours alone each day will allow you to refresh and reset, enabling you to be at your best when caring for your loved one.

Getting time for yourself doesn't have to mean getting lunch with friends or catching up on your correspondence. Sometimes it is good to treat yourself and bask in the quiet alone time that is so rare. When it has been so long since your last day out, where do you even start? Recently it has been said that millennials are better at self-care than any other generation, and I want to share my favorite ways to indulge in guilt-free alone time. 


1. Browse a Favorite Store

This is my personal go-to! My love for unique and vintage clothing means that slowly combing the racks at Goodwill is my favorite way to decompress. When was the last time you were able to browse and shop, rather than conquer your list and dash? It can be hard to do more than the bare necessities when you are shopping with the loved one you care for. Taking the time to browse a favorite store, explore everything Wegmans has to offer, or wander the mall can be a great way to enjoy yourself. 


2. Take Yourself Out for Lunch

If you don't want the pressure of conversation over lunch, you can still enjoy a meal out by yourself! There is plenty of people-watching to do downtown, or you can get something to-go and eat in a park if the weather is nice. Goolricks is my favorite for solo-dining since they have a lunch counter and a big window looking out on Caroline St. 


3. Get a Library Card

It may seem out-dated, but a Library card will give you access to so many resources for your self-care time, and your loved one! Aside from books, you can get audio books and DVDs. The Central Rappahannock Regional Library also has a vast selection of eBooks and magazines on their website. My favorite reads so far this summer have been The Swans of Fifth Avenue, The Paris Wife, and The Night She Won Miss America (I love anything set during the 1920s-1960s). Escaping into another life can be a great way to relax and get away for a few hours.


4. Park Yourself at a Coffee Shop

A great follow-up to getting a library card! Take your newly acquired book stash to the coffee shop, or do some people watching over a foamy cappuccino. If you love coffee then you will feel an instant weight lift when you walk in and smell those delicious roasted beans. Most coffee shops also offer teas and smoothies too. In addition to reading, a coffee shop is a great place to mull over assisted living/memory care brochures or fill out paperwork and pay bills. Keeping those documents to yourself can be important if you are handling your loved one's finances and long term planning.


5. Join a Support Group

Caregivers provide so much support every day. They need support too! There are all kinds of support groups for various types of care-giving. It may seem scary at first, but support groups are full of other caregivers just like you. They understand each others' struggles and triumphs. It's a safe place to vent and ask for help from those who have all been or will be in your shoes at some point. 


6. Pamper Yourself

Look good = feel good, right? Whether you want a manicure, pedicure, color, or a luxurious shampoo and cut... the salon can be a source of great relaxation. You can sit back and enjoy being pampered, or chat with a stranger. It's a nice treat to talk about fun topics with someone new who knows nothing about your life as a caregiver. As much as we need to talk about it, it can be equally nice NOT to talk about it for a couple hours. My favorite place to get a fresh look when I need a pick-me-up is Bella Hair.


7. Go See a Movie

Order the biggest popcorn and find yourself the best seat at a matinee. Movies are a great way to unwind. Enjoying a movie alone means you can zone in entirely, and sit through the credits if you like. You are on no one's time but your own.


8. Sweat a Little

Exercise is great for your physical and emotional health. As you age, your body feels more stress from physical strain and care-giving can be very physically straining. Yoga is both relaxing and provides a good work out. If you don't belong to a gym or the Y, walking the mall or the local trails can be a great way to get some physical activity too.


Ask us how we can help you get your much needed alone time. Aging with Grace provides flexible hours of companionship. Click below to request services!

5 Things No One Tells You About Moving into a Senior Living Community

Moving into a senior living community is not typically talked about in a positive manner, or talked about at all. Unfortunately, most of us still picture the old, dark nursing home halls from the past and can feel uneasy about looking at senior communities. They've come a long way since then but, even so, senior communities are often still considered to be a daunting topic. No one wants to move, the price is never right, and the decision is never unanimous. Many times the only way to learn how to navigate the senior care industry is through experience. I've come up with a list of my "Top 5" things that I think families should know when it comes time to pick a community and organize a move:

1. It isn't just about getting the right care, it's about finding the right lifestyle.

Most of the senior living communities are raising their standards and adding more care options to keep up with the competitive market. Once you have determined what type of community will meet your physical needs, it's important to visit your various options to feel out the type of lifestyle they offer. Make sure to visit each community multiple times, both weekday and weekend, to have lunch or join an activity so you will get the best idea of how a typical day goes. 

source

source

Things to Look For: how staff interact with the residents and each other (tone/eye contact), what types of activities and alternative activities are offered, manager presence on the floor, demeanor of residents (are they happy/engaged/comfortable).


2. Don't skimp on packing.

Moving to a senior community involves downsizing, but you still want your apartment to feel like home. Bring plenty of clothing options, wall hangings, textiles and personal touches. It's easy to resist moving too many things because it isn't your "real home". Most moves will be permanent and the apartment needs to feel warm and inviting in order to be a desirable living space.

Transition Tip: ALWAYS LABEL EVERYTHING! especially if the community offers laundry and housekeeping services. 99% of lost items can be returned if labelled properly. This includes photos, clothing, sheets, socks, shoes, pillows, and decorative items. 


3. No one is going to love your family member as much as you do.

The hardest part of transitioning, especially if you have been the one providing care, is coming to terms with the staffing ratio at a community. The personalized care you have been providing for your family member will never be matched... but that is okay! Speaking from experience, there ARE enough staff to care for the residents. However, there are not enough staff to give you or your family member individual attention at all times. If you have a question about care or staffing it's best to take it to the nurse in charge, or one of the management team, rather than asking a care-staff member.

Transition Tip: check in regularly, keep open communication with the management team, and continue doing a special activity with your loved ones. If you always had lunch out on Wednesdays then continue that tradition. One of my former resident's husband would take her on movie dates regularly because that was their special time together. Whatever your traditions, make an effort to keep them up.


4. You need to have your paperwork ready.

The admissions packet and contract are pretty lengthy, but there is a reason for every paper in the packet and most are state requirements. It is so important to complete all paperwork ahead of meeting with the community director to sign the contract. This will give you ample time to go over questions and address important topics, rather than using your one-on-one time with the community director filling out papers. Additionally, having paperwork in before the move in day will further reduce "things to remember" that may cause unnecessary stress.

Transition Tip: bring copies of your Power of Attorney, Medical Directives, and insurance cards to the contract signing. Most communities require these documents a before admission and it can be difficult to get them out of a safety deposit box quickly if you're scrambling at the last minute.


5. You can never fully prepare for move-in day.

It is completely normal to be emotional or experience stress on move-in day-- even if you have worked up to this moment for a long time. You will probably forget something, find yourself short-fused or feel like nothing is going as planned. Pause and give yourself a minute when you are feeling overwhelmed, and always ask for help. Bring a friend for support or approach a manager for assistance instead of trying to solve every little snag by yourself. 

Transition Tip: If you DO forget something you can always bring it later in the week if it is not 100% necessary. Keep a running list of things you need to bring during the first few days, and bring them all at once. Making multiple trips to the store will be stressful on moving day.


*Aging with Grace offers transition services to help with the various tasks leading up to a move in, such as paperwork, labeling and packing. We can also run errands for those forgotten items on move-in day!

 

Ask Me About My Cats

A while back, my friend Wendy shared a story of her encounter with an elderly woman at the grocery store. She was alone, carefully picking out produce, and something about the way she carried herself seemed lonely and worn. Wendy made eye contact and asked the woman if she knew how to pick out a good peach, feigning uncertainty in her own abilities. The woman's eyes lit up and she proudly showed my friend how to tell a good peach from a GREAT peach. Wendy thanked her and watched her walk away with a smile, standing a little taller and moving with a little more purpose, all because of a peach.

Little moments like that can make a difference in anyone's day. To be noticed, needed or helped feels good, especially for those struggling with loneliness or depression. As our loved ones age they can experience many different forms of loss. They face health struggles of their own or their spouse, lose abilities and memories, friends and family... it can be very lonely. 

Thankfully, just about everyone has a peach. For me, my peach is my cats. If you see me in my old age (or now) buying a bag of cat food, I would be so excited if you took time to ask me about my cats.

Speaking of my cats... Keats (left) and Biko (right).

Speaking of my cats... Keats (left) and Biko (right).

One of the services I offer through Aging with Grace is "Genuine Companionship". I didn't choose the word "genuine" because it sounded nice or sells well, but because I truly want to be there for those who are at risk for loneliness or depression. Since I am not hired to help with ADLs (Activities of Daily Living) I get to focus on their "peach" and spend time talking about or doing something they love.

When I worked in a memory care community my favorite thing was hearing the stories our residents and their families would share. One gentleman enjoyed sitting outside, talking about his family and his time in the military. He was so proud to have served his country. Eventually, he had to move to another care home but because of the dementia he was not allowed outside alone. When I visited I would find him staring out the window into a parking lot, the room dim and lonely. 

Once, around Memorial Day, we were able to take a walk outside together. He saw the flag pole out front and stopped mid-sentence to salute. After a few quiet minutes he brought his hand down and began telling stories from when he was active duty, eyes glistening one moment and laughing the next. The stories flowed with ease despite his usually difficulty forming sentences. All it took was finding that moment, that "peach", that gave him joy. 

For more information, or to learn how to help the seniors in your life cope with loss: 
Depression in the Elderly: 7 Ways to Help
Words for Seniors Facing Loss 

What is a Concierge Service?

Fredericksburg is full of senior care companies. It is a fantastic network of personal care, assisted living, hospice, memory care, companion care, transport... you name it and we have it. Aging with Grace is the first Concierge Service in our area. Since it's the first of its kind, I'm learning that people are unsure what I do when I first introduce my business. I figured that the best way to start my blog for Aging with Grace would be to outline the basics of what I do. 

If you have ever been to a luxury hotel or apartment complex, or seen one in a movie, you may have noticed how the front desk will do various tasks for the guests and residents of their building. These concierge services are part of the tenants' fancy lifestyle, allowing them to sip martinis in their spare time because they don't have to do 'peasant tasks' like pick up dry cleaning or buy groceries. The Concierge takes care of it for them!

Pretty Woman (1990)

Pretty Woman (1990)

What a Concierge Service can do for you:
Swamped at work? A concierge can make sure your pantry is stocked, dry cleaning is picked up and baby shower present is purchased + wrapped, so you can go into the weekend prepared, ready to enjoy your time off.
Checking in on a loved one? A senior concierge service can give you some time off with check in services, grocery delivery and a game of cards, all followed by a quick report or photo. 
Living independently, but find yourself slowing down? Let a concierge service take care of the laundry, basic chores, and grocery or personal shopping so you have the energy to keep up when the grandkids visit. 
Facing a move into a senior living community? An experienced senior concierge service can help pack, label items, help plan for the day-of logistics, and ensure all paperwork is understood + complete in time.

While I may not be serving my clients to allow them the time to sip martinis in their Givenchy, the services I provide enable my clients to let go of physical and emotional stress -- a luxury for many. Having a concierge service to go grocery shopping or do laundry can reduce risk of injury when it comes to lifting, stooping or balancing heavy items. Additionally, taking a few time consuming tasks off of your plate will give you time to rest, take some alone time, or spend quality time with those closest to you. 

Many companies have a niche and offer a few specialized services under one umbrella category. With a concierge business, I have a hand in many different tasks. My umbrella is crowded. To manage all my different tasks, though, I refer clients who begin to have greater needs to one of the specialized companies. On the flip side, someone who may not need enough assistance to work with one of the specialized companies can start with a concierge service.         

In short, think of Aging with Grace as your Personal Assistant, only with a compassionate approach and expertise in senior services. And if you're sipping martinis in your spare time as a result of my services, maybe I am doing more things right than I originally thought! 

The World is Not Enough (1999)

The World is Not Enough (1999)