Carol Phillips of Ahwatukee has mined her own experiences with aging parents and siblings for her first book.
“Transitions with Dignity” is a six-step blueprint to helping family members engage with seniors to plan for the future or help them if they’re in a crisis.
“We now have the largest population of people over 100 years old in the history of the world,” she said. “Our health is better and we are, for the most part, more physically fit.”
Phillips, founder and owner of AZ Bread Co. in Tempe, has assisted several family members, including her mother, transition as they aged, grew ill or faced a major change in the way they have to live.
“My goal is to help educate and empower seniors and their families to make the best possible choices for their future lifestyles,” said Phillips, a 17-year Ahwatukee resident who sold her business during a turbulent time of change for her mother, brother and mother-in-law.
In addition to her book, available on Amazon in paperback or Kindle, Phillips is launching free monthly “Transitions with Dignity” webinars at 10 a.m. the third Thursday of each month beginning March 18.
She envisions the webinars as a source of “free resources to help people work through this time of change.”
“I’ve put together a great roster of vital topics to inspire seniors to make informed and empowered decisions about their lifestyle goals,” she said.
Like her book, an easy-to-digest eight-chapter tome, the webinars cover topics, from “When to Move On” on March 18 to “Trusts, Wills & Probate: What’s in Your Best Interest?” on May 13 to “Downsizing and Moving Tips for Seniors Who are Relocating” on Oct. 21.
She said the webinars will feature special guests from professional backgrounds who specialize in helping seniors in major transitions.
The webinars also will present facts about dementia and memory care, interviews to understand different options of senior living and getting the most out of selling your house. Each webinar will have time for questions and answers.
Phillips, who is married to best-selling SciFi author Richard J. (Rick) Phillips, leads her first chapter of “Transitions with Dignity” with a quote by Greek philosopher Heraclitus: “There is nothing permanent except change.”
This is drawn from life experience as Phillips, while still operating her AZ Bread Co. business, found herself facing a mountain of challenging changes with various loved ones, including her mother, Farall Canning of Ahwatukee.
After her mother’s husband of 35 years passed in 2005, she was living in her winter home in Peoria, and summered in the New Mexico ranch that she and Hap Canning owned.
“I actually started talking with both of them about the future before he died. My mother sold the ranch and her Peoria house and bought one a mile away from me here in Ahwatukee,” said Phillips. “But she had macular degeneration, which meant she could no longer see, and was depressed and was spiraling down living on her own.”
Carol and Rick Phillips opted to purchase a larger home so Canning could live with them and she did for the next 13 years.
Phillips found herself needing more help as she continued running her cafe. The couple brought in Chandler-based, No Place Like Home Care to assist them during the day.
“Then I sold Bread Co., but even that wasn’t enough. She and I made the decision to move her to Mountain Park Senior Living. This turned out to be a good option as they have enough staff to attend to all her needs.”
At the same time her brother Eric had cancer and she also downsized her mother-in-law home while working with a cousin to help her aging mother find a better living arrangement.
It was a stiff learning curve, and yet these experiences served as the launching pad for her focus in her new career as a Realtor working to help seniors and their families manage life’s transitions while helping them maintain pride and dignity.
“I wanted to help families so they wouldn’t make the same mistakes we made,” she said forthrightly.
When asked about what is the best time to begin change-of-living conversations, Phillips replied, “the earlier the better if you have a good relationship.”
“I’d say about the time the person turns 63. It doesn’t mean they have to turn over passwords and documents, but at least it’s important that someone knows where everything is kept,” she said.
“My husband and I are 63 and 64. Starting in our 50s we realized that if we were to be, say, involved in a car accident that even our daughter wouldn’t know where everything was,” she said. “We’d already created a trust, but we made sure that everything was in place with both our attorney and financial advisor. Then we created a notebook with everything our daughter will need to help when the time comes.”
Phillips is a senior real estate specialist with EXP Realty who networks with many business professionals to enable seniors and their families to work through what is often an emotional time of change.
One of her partners and key collaborators is Tony Siebers, founder of SeniorMoves.org. Together the pair developed tools and resources to help other families in situations like theirs.
“People who are transitioning will probably at some point have to sell their property or rent it out to pay for the next living situation. I always appreciate the opportunity to have that discussion with them. It is helpful if they have a Realtor who understands the needs of moving seniors,” she said.
Among her possible recommendations for seniors wishing to sell their houses is a renovation company that specializes in doing only those tasks that would improve the sales value.
“Sometimes it’s just a matter of updating carpeting, painting rooms or updating light fixtures. With these key renovations, the house usually sells much faster, and fetches a higher dollar amount,” explained Phillips. “And it’s great that they’re paid out of the sales proceeds, and the owner doesn’t have to monitor the process.”
Her book is dedicated to “all caregivers who are in the process of helping their loved one transition from a current living situation to one that is more appropriate and safer for them.”