When Ahwatukee Foothills resident Gregg Powell’s mother was diagnosed with dementia he was thrown into a world he says he didn’t even know existed.
Powell’s parents had been married for more than 57 years when his father died from prostate and bone cancer. Six months after his father passed away his mother was diagnosed with dementia.
“After her second car accident I got a call from police saying your mom is on drugs we’re not sure what’s going on,” Powell said. “She basically mixed up her medications, took too much of this and not enough of that. She sounded like she was hallucinating when I got her on the phone. I thought, this isn’t going to work.”
Powell moved his mother from Florida to Arizona so she could be closer to him. From there he discovered all of these questions he’d never considered. What should we do with her home? What possessions do we need to keep? Does she get veterans benefits even though her husband has passed away? Most important for Powell to figure out was how to take care of and be an advocate for his mother, while still raising the four young kids he had at home.
Powell is one of many adults who are classified as the “sandwich generation,” taking care of someone older and younger than himself at the same time. It’s a group that is growing as baby boomers age.
As Powell began to work through his questions and helped his mother through the different stages of care, he realized he wanted to be doing more to help seniors. In 2010 Powell left his software company and bought Christian Companion Senior Care, an in-home non-medical caregiving service for seniors.
Soon he realized that there were many great organizations in the Valley to help seniors but they were all working separately. He began meeting with leaders of these organizations, finding which ones were honestly about helping people, and in October of 2011 the Senior Advocacy Group of Ahwatukee (SAGA) had its first meeting.
The number of seniors in Ahwatukee Foothills is growing according to statistics from ComForcare and the Pecos Senior Center. As aging populations grow so does the need for better and more organized service.
SAGA’s mission is to advocate for seniors through education, service and support. The goal is to bring government, faith-based organizations and businesses, both profit and nonprofit, together to work to advocate for the seniors in the community. There are currently 24 members of the group representing organizations for seniors from across Ahwatukee Foothills and Phoenix.
“If you’re working through this yourself and going through the Internet you can get fooled and make the wrong decision,” Powell said. “If you have a group like our SAGA group you have what I call the 25 by 100. You have basically 25 core members and my view is that each of those members knows at least 100 people. If you plug into any one of our members, you now know 2,500 people just by knowing one person. Someone in that group knows somebody who can help.”
For now the group has been getting organized, deciding its mission statement and goals for the year. They’re planning a Senior Symposium at Pecos Senior Center on Nov. 3 from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. to give seniors and their caregivers a “crash course” in senior care. SAGA hopes to be a resource for seniors and their caregivers.
For now the group could use donations to further its mission and possibly volunteers to help at the symposium. For more information, call Powell at (480) 250-2090.
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