Tracey Kuczinski is The Senior Housing Advocate, a true advocate for seniors and their families & Editor of The Senior Advocate Resource Guide, Long Island’s most comprehensive resource guide for seniors and their loved ones.
Seniors and their families are my passion. I am not a referral site but a true advocate for my families! My goal is to help families find the most affordable and appropriate assisted living, adult home or Alzheimer’s Care and that has been my life’s mission for the last 25 years! I went to school to become an Occupational Therapist and I started working as a COTA (Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant) and I fell in love with working with the geriatric population. I always knew I wanted to go out and work for myself and housing was what I was driven to help seniors with, any type of housing they may need to be happy healthy and safe. I saw a real need for families to have an advocate on their side helping them some face some of the hardest decisions they have to make and facing it alone is just so overwhelming and scary!
I decided to change course and received my Bachelors in Health Administration with an emphasis on Geriatrics from St Josephs College. I went on to become a patient advocate for a large assisted living company on Long Island. Every day, I would work with all the disciplines in the hospitals to make sure that seniors were getting discharged appropriately either back to home, an assisted living, to a rehab or sadly to a nursing home. That was when I really started to learn of all the many different options for seniors in regard to housing out in the community and the challenges families have in finding what is the best option and plan for their loved ones in regard to housing. I believe every assisted living has a reason for being and it is up to me to find out which one is best suited to the individual I am assisting at that moment.
Today, 25 years later I am still helping seniors and their families find the most affordable and appropriate assisted living, Alzheimer’s care and adult homes and I am still as passionate as the day I started.
Please feel free to contact me anytime with any questions, I will always be there to help you figure out what the best course of action is for you or a loved one.
The first step when somebody calls me is to gather as much information as possible on the phone, and I then like to schedule a time where I can come meet you and your loved one to get to know their needs and wants. The meeting can take place at home, a rehab setting, or any place they happen to be staying at the time. I want to get to know the person and learn what they did for a living, what were their hobbies, what makes them happy and what do they need in order for them to be safe and happy (because one without the other is just not enough!). Families will often ask over the phone for a list of homes, but without me meeting your loved one, I am no better than the yellow pages!
My job is to streamline where you should be looking to save you time, to try to help you save money but more importantly to ensure that your loved one is going to be happy, healthy and safe at the most affordable wonderful home we can find.
I find that when families first reach out me they are usually in crisis. When I ask them how they are doing they usually say things like, “Not good”, “Things are hard right now” and “I am so stressed out and lost”. When they get off the phone with me they will at the very least have a glimmer of hope and confidence that we are going to figure out the right course of action. I am proud to say that with my help I have been able to give peace of mind to so many families throughout the years.
I truly believe in assisted living. I know I will be in one when I am older as I am a very social being and I will crave the socialization and physical activity in my later years. That being said, I also know that assisted living is not for everybody. My promise to all of my clients is to make sure your specific wants and needs are met. If home care is what turns out to be the best option after we’ve discussed everything, then I will be there to make sure we find you the right care at home.
Finding an assisted living facility for you or your loved more than often is very overwhelming. Whether you are having a hard time having the conversation, or you are overwhelmed with the options I am here to make the journey easier for everyone involved. Seniors are afraid of the unknown, we all are. My passion is giving seniors a sense of control in a situation they never thought they would be in, while at the same time giving their families a sense of calm that we will find the perfect home and the perfect situation for their loved one! My job is to give your loved ones a sense of control to at least start the dialog and have the conversation about change and what this change involves and to make sure they are in control and that their voices are heard. Click here for all the housing options on Long Island in The Senior Advocate Resource Guide.
I truly work with the most wonderful realtor on Long Island. He has the heart of a servant but is a pit bull when it comes to doing what is right for my clients in regards to the sale of their homes. He knows that this is one of the hardest things that the adult children have to do. On top of selling the home, having to get rid of everything in the home is so emotionally and physically draining. Whenever he assists my clients with the sale of a home, he includes a tag sale (with all of the proceeds going to the family). The home will be cleaned out and made broom clean ready for the next family to move in and make their new memories. I know from speaking to my families over the years that these are the two hardest things for the families to deal with for so many reasons, and that is why he takes them off of your plate. This way you can focus on the important things, like your loved ones and their immediate needs. Both of the tag sale and the clean out are at no extra cost to the family.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why do seniors need a senior advocate?
A senior advocate is needed because there is so much information and so much misinformation out there. Having somebody that can help navigate all of the information is so important in this process. Whether its assisted living, home care, Medicaid planning or finding the right Medicare plans, having somebody that can walk you through everything and guide you will make the process so much easier. Knowing somebody has your specific needs and interests at heart is important and that is something I pride myself in. My job is to give seniors a sense of control and help them and their family members find solutions. There are many options out there that families do not know about and I am here to educate and help them find them.
What should I look for in an assisted living?
When you visit an assisted living for the first time, first impressions are lasting impressions. Does it smell good, and look clean? Do the residents look happy and well groomed? How were you greeted when you walked in the front door? Does the place feel full of love and laughter? Do you see the staff engaging with the residents? If you see other family members there visiting you may want to ask them how their loved ones are doing.
Nobody is perfect and no home is either. I can guarantee you that there will be issues that arise no matter what home you choose. It is how they address those issues and take care of you when there are issues that matters. That is a sign of a great home and a great culture in that home.
It is also important to meet the administrator of the home. It really does “trickle down from the top”, and if you get a good feeling from the administrator then you will feel much more confident about placing your loved one there.
Are there Assisted Living facilities on Long Island that are affordable?
Families call me all the time and tell me that they got my number from a hospital or rehab, and that they would love for their loved one to get into an assisted living but cannot afford it. They tell me that every assisted living that they have called is out of their price range. I am so happy when I can talk them off the ledge and reassure them that there are beautiful assisted livings out there that are affordable and on top of that there are benefits they may not be aware of that will help pay for assisted living. I will always try to find the most affordable/appropriate housing for my clients!
If my mom is insisting on living at home, what should I do?
If somebody really wants to stay at home when it the family feels it is unsafe, I will talk to them and tell them why it is not safe for them to be at home (if this is what I truly believe). I will speak to the senior about trying an assisted living for a month so that they can get back on their feet, maybe to give the family to make the home safer if need be and to also experience what an assisted living is all about. Most of the time they are just afraid of the unknown! I also tell them not to do anything with their home or apartment until they decide if they are happy and settled. I promise if they try it for a month and want to go home after that I will be there to help them do that in a safe manner. It is all about having control in your life, that is when changes are more acceptable. If they are still adamant about staying at home, I ask that they let me (and their children/family members) make the home as safe as we can for them. Lifeline pendants are a non- negotiable. Moving furniture, making a home cleaner, setting up food services and getting some help in the house are some of the many things that are going to help ensure staying at home may just work for them.
When is the appropriate time to start looking for housing for your loved one?
I had a family member that called me and said “I got your name through the Dept of Aging and my mom lives in Florida, is 89 years old and is independent but getting older and we want to think about assisted living for her and would like to look at some homes.” I asked when they were thinking about bringing her up to see the homes and they replied they were thinking about a year from then. I told them respectfully that I don’t want them to waste their time because the woman they are going to bring up a year from now most likely is very different from your mom today. I also have some people in their early sixties that call me that are working, active and tell me they are just thinking about assisted living for the future and I tell them respectfully to call me in another 10 years!
I don’t want to say that you should call me when you’re in crisis, but that is when most people call me. The time to look is when you’re starting to have concerns about your loved ones being able to take care of themselves or the home anymore. When they are becoming isolated and are lacking physical activity and social stimulation, that is the time to put a plan of action into play!
What is a lifeline and should seniors who live at home have them?
It doesn’t matter how old you are, if you live alone you should get a lifeline. If you want to live at home and have had a fall where you could not reach the phone for help then you should get a lifeline. People are afraid to get a lifeline pendant because they think if they push that button, somebody is going to come in, bust down the door and take them to the hospital and their life is going to be over. That is a really big fear and what I make sure my clients know is that is completely false and an old-school way of doing things.
Nowadays they put a lock box on the door, the fire dept has a key and when you call them for assistance they come in the front door. They will assess the situation and make sure you are okay. They will contact your loved one (whoever is on the contact list) and let them know what is going on. If everyone agrees that you are okay, they leave and that is that, and that happens more often than not. But if it is worse and you really need medical attention they will make sure you get to hospital and get the care you need in a timely fashion that could save your life!
Or follow The Senior Advocate on Facebook, LinkedIn or Google+