Planning for the Future

Sun Health at Home Founders’ Club member discusses why she joined

By Meghann Finn Sepulveda

As long-standing supporters of Sun Health, Sara and Jim Dean were committed to bringing educational programs and superior health care to the Northwest Valley. When Jim was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2013, Sara became his caregiver. For years, she navigated his medical care on her own, making decisions and coordinating services, while dealing with feelings of uncertainty and stress. In 2015, Jim passed away peacefully in their home.

A year later, while still grieving the loss of her husband, Sara, now 73, learned about Sun Health at Home. Since she felt strongly compelled to remain in the comfort of her own home as she aged, Sara soon decided to join the program and securely plan for her future. Sara became one of the first members to join Sun Health at Home, becoming part of the Founders’ Club.

A reputation built on trust

Through their involvement with the Sun Health Foundation, Sara and Jim learned firsthand about the significant impact the nonprofit organization was making in the community.

“We got to know all the wonderful people who worked at Sun Health,” says Sara.

When the couple, who had been married for 35 years, found out about Jim’s diagnosis, they directed a legacy gift from Sara’s mother into the Neuro Wellness West program at Banner Sun Health Research Institute, a fitness, wellness and support program for Parkinson’s patients and their loved ones.

Resources and support

Even as Jim’s caregiver, Sara didn’t fully understand the magnitude of her responsibility.

“It was scary,” Sara says. “I was not prepared for all the unexpected challenges.”

Sun Health at Home members have immediate access to a personal wellness coordinator, a licensed medical social worker who acts as a partner and advocate and works with individuals to create a plan so they stay healthy and independent in their own home.

“Wellness coordinators also can have in-depth discussions with members about their wishes as it relates to caregiving, hospitalization, and end-of-life decisions early in their membership,” says Jennifer Drago, executive vice president of population health at Sun Health.

These services provide members with peace of mind.

“I now have someone I can call to help me if I have questions,” Sara says. “It’s been a godsend.”

Financial security

Sara experienced firsthand the expenses associated with long-term care. When Jim did not meet the requirements to continue receiving skilled nursing care services, Sara was forced to pay out-of-pocket.

Sun Health at Home allows an individual to pay for a lifetime of care now, in today’s dollars, while enjoying tax deductibility of prepaid medical expenses and protecting hard-earned assets.

“The program seemed like a very good investment,” Sara says.

Sara also wanted to ease the future financial burden for family members and friends.

“I don’t want anyone to struggle,” she says. “It’s so important to plan in advance and have these conversations while you can.”

Happy, healthy at home

Sara’s home, which belonged to her parents when they moved to Arizona in 1979, holds a special place in her heart.

“I love my home, and I don’t want to leave it,” Sara says. “I plan to stay here as long as I can.”

The Sun Health at Home program, unique to the Valley, recognizes Sara’s desire – and the desires of many other seniors in the community – to remain in place.

“According to AARP, 87 percent of adults age 65 and older want to stay in their current home and community as they age,” Jennifer says.

Today, Sara spends her days at home tending to her garden and sharpening her photography skills.

“Knowing I will be taken care of for the rest of my life gives me a great sense of security,” she says.

Learn more at sunhealthathome.org.

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