Life By Design connects caregivers and patients

A Langley woman has turned her lifelong passion for caring into a business venture. Dr. Eileen Jackson has created Life By Design, which offers care management for the elderly and disabled. The business also provides training and consulting for independent care providers.

Caregiving is one of the top 10 new jobs in the U.S.

A Langley woman has turned her lifelong passion for caring into a business venture.

Dr. Eileen Jackson has created Life By Design, which offers care management for the elderly and disabled. The business also provides training and consulting for independent care providers.

“I took different kinds of passions I have — one is to help people find employment, the other is providing care — and combined them,” she said.

Her kind of business is what South Whidbey needs, Jackson said.

There are many Medicaid/Community Options Program Entry System (COPES) recipients on South Whidbey and there will be even more as the population of South Whidbey continues to grow older. In addition, there is a shortage of personal caregivers, particularly those who will take Medicaid/COPES recipients.

“Medicaid pays so little. If you have a complicated case, it becomes really hard for agencies to do care,” Jackson said.

On the other side of the spectrum, there is a lack of good jobs on South Whidbey and not much information about the independent provider program that is funded by the state Department of Social and Health Services, she said.

Jackson is now recruiting people to become independent providers to fill the void.

Becoming certified as an independent provider is easy, she said.

“Being an independent provider is a home-based business. You get tax breaks for business expenses — traveling, training, utilities.”

At the same time, personal caregiving is one of the top 10 new jobs in the U.S.

Care for family members is often a strain on families.

“Families have to make huge adjustments, both financially and psychologically,” Jackson said.

She added that 12 percent of family members lose their jobs because they are caregivers, and 50 percent get depressed.

After decades of working in nursing, Jackson said this is the most rewarding job she has ever had.

“I have registered to be an independent provider even though it only pays $10 an hour because I want to set an example for others,” she said.

“I have spent my life learning to understand the importance of caregiving and why it is so devalued in this society. I am clear that it is a noble profession that requires a generous heart, compassion, common sense and critical-thinking ability.”

As an independent provider, she visits her patients three times a day or as needed, shops for them, helps with physical exercises, plans their care, requests medical records and coordinates agencies.

She said due to bureaucracy and lack of money in the healthcare system, some patients are at risk of falling through the cracks or getting bad care.

Jackson recalled a woman she met at a local park, who said her mother had fallen and hit her head. Now, the elder was in a care facility and heavily medicated.

Jackson took over her care, referred her to a local care facility and had her medication adjusted.

“This is a woman who would have ended up in a long-term care facility just because she hit her head,” she said.

There are few qualifications needed to be an independent provider, she said. Some are nurses or come from the social services field, but basically all that’s needed is a valid driver’s license, reliable transportation and a clean background check.

“The human qualification is you must really like being a coach,” she said.

“It’s a Zen thing,” Jackson added. “It’s so much about doing the ordinary with mindfulness and compassion.”

Contact Jackson at Life By Design for information at 331-2273 or design4urlife@aol.com.

Michaela Marx Wheatley can be reached at 221-5300 or mmarxwheatley@southwhidbeyrecord.com.

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