Q&A with Home Health Companions CEO, Lisa Shardon
Lisa Shardon is the President and CEO of Home Health Companions in Dallas, which is a licensed home health provider offering in-home companion and caregiver services, private duty nursing, and aging life care services. Lisa also sits on the advisory council of the Center for Vital Longevity. We had this interview with Lisa to learn about her background and how she came to be such an avid supporter of CVL.
What does a typical day look like for you right now?
As it stands now, my days have had a lot to do with COVID-19. Rates in Texas are climbing fast, and as we learn more about the virus, new reports have shown an alarming connection with infection and delirium (which is further exacerbated by diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia). A reported 28% of COVID patients 65 and older have gone to the ER with delirium among their symptoms, and as we all know, care facilities with older residents are being hit particularly hard by the virus. Many residents are patients with some form of dementia or Alzheimer’s, and so the current outlook says that diseases of the mind could get worse.
Back to my typical day, though, a lot of it has to do with COVID-19 and its ramifications. We keep the staff up-to-date on every new data point that comes out about the virus via daily Zoom calls. I’ve also been spending more time than ever in my advisory capacity on all the boards and councils I function on because each one plays a part in how we’re going to move through these tough times. Because of the kinds of services we offer, Home Health Companions has intimate insights into what’s going on and has added responsibilities as a service to our clients and employees.
How and why did you get into your line of work?
I think the catalyst for me is one that a lot of people will relate to. My passion started when a loved one in my life went undiagnosed with dementia. It also opened my eyes to the kind of situations families are faced with and I believe I could have an impact not only to assist families but on the research community to find a cause and a cure.
We started Home Health Companions in 2011, and in the years after that progressively added more services and staff. It started as a caregiving company and grew into a private-duty home health provider with Aging Lifecare services. Naturally, we serve clients needing all types of in-home health care wherever someone’s home is, but I’ve always had a connection to those clients and their families who struggle with dementia.
Amidst COVID-19, how have you been able to focus on caring for aging minds?
While we’ve always cared for clients with aging minds, COVID-19 certainly presented new considerations, like everything from sanitation and home visits to the new connection between COVID and delirium.
One of the biggest challenges for our clients with aging minds, I believe, is that they have less companionship now than ever before. In most cases, those who are aging in place might have one family member living with them but they were used to a regular stream of visitors. COVID has changed that. And so, we’ve focused even more on the companionship services we provide—however it is that we have to deliver them. This is true for our clients and for the consultation we provide families.
We also had to make operational changes, of course, to put the necessary safeguards in place to ensure we didn’t bring extra risk in with us with home visits. One of the changes I was most proud of, though, was the Home Health Companions University we launched. This is an internal platform with over 51 hours of available paid training for our employees. Naturally, training on diseases of aging minds and dementia care is a large part of that. We want our employees to feel safe while also moving forward in their careers, especially with everything they’re living with right now.
Why do you think researching the mind important?
The brain is the most important part of the human body. It makes us who we are. We experience beauty with our brains; we react against injustice; we learn, and we love. Even in a mind where memory is failing, the brain still controls and coordinates actions and reactions. It’s how we think and feel.
Ongoing study of the brain advances our opportunities to heal and mitigate some of the most frightening diseases we face, including Alzheimer’s which currently have do not have a cure anywhere in sight.
Tell us how and why you got involved with the CVL?
I’ll be transparent and say there was as much personal interest in the CVL as there was professional interest. Really, for me, my professional life has long since been my personal life. I wanted to learn more about the research on how older adults can maintain cognitive functionality for their entire life and what the risk factors may be for developing Alzheimer’s disease long before symptoms appear. I also want to see its vision succeed through fundraising for continued brain research, which I’m especially passionate about.
Why did you decide to join the advisory council?
I wanted to be an active part in guiding the center toward its mission. The CVL does some amazing research and I believe my near-decade of experience with Home Health Companions provides great awareness in the community to the valuable research work they do. Being an advocate and ambassador in the community provides the center with specialized expertise and help with fundraising. The advisory council has been a sounding board and a rewarding validation for everything I believe in when it comes to vital longevity.