As the federal Medicare Beneficiary Ombudsman, I worked with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and presented reports to the Secretary of Health and Human Services and to Congress on improvements in the Medicare program. In this position, I gained understanding of the various care senior settings, including skilled nursing and memory care facilities, Assisted Living Communities, and Continuing Care Retirement Communities. Prior, I was an Expert Appointment with the Health Resources and Services Administration, HIV/AIDS Bureau, helping state with their AIDS Drug Assistance Drug purchasing programs. I started in this position as Protease Inhibitors and Antiretroviral Medications were being introduced for the treatment of HIV/AIDS, and wanted to work with a program I knew was saving the lives of close friends of mine in the LGBT community.
I’m the youngest of seven children. My siblings include a teacher, two attorneys, a nurse, and a sister who works with nursing homes, yet when my father was diagnosed with cancer, we initially found it challenging to get the right care and supportive services in place for him. At the time, my parents were living in a 55+ community, and life quickly changed from shuffle board and gatherings at the clubhouse, to hospitals, nursing homes, and decisions about the possibilities for other senior care settings. My father passed away, and a few years later my Mom remarried a childhood friend. While they enjoyed their final years together, my siblings and I once again explored various care settings, including Assisted Living and Continuing Care Retirement Communities. We decided on a great home with bedrooms on the first level in a condominium development, knowing our schedules allowed us to provide the hands-on care they required. Ultimately, my Mom’s husband needed to move to a nursing home, but my Mom lived out the final years of her life in her home with one of her children with her 24/7, until she passed away at 93.
I was one of seven, I have no children, and I know many of us in the LGBT community do not have children. And for those of us who are part of the baby boom generation, even if we have children they are often in other parts of the country, and likely not seven!
Who would we turn to when we need help? How do we find the right senior living community to meet our needs, one that is LGBT friendly and supportive? That’s why I formed Equality Senior Living, currently, the only LGBT owned and operated company dedicated to assisting the LGBT community in finding supportive senior living options. My parents had their children and their friends. For those of us here at Equality Senior Living, we hope to be friends you can rely on.
James Ashton Founding Partner
After twenty years as a corporate marketing executive, I found myself yearning for a livelihood that would allow me to connect more directly with clients/customers who could truly benefit from what I was offering. At the same time, I was witnessing the downward spiral of my parent’s medical conditions and realized it was time to move them out of their home and into an assisted living facility where they could be more supported. It was during this time that I became educated on all aspects of managing a senior living transition, from choosing the right community to facilitating medical assessments. It was then I realized how valuable the role of a senior living advisor could be during this process.
There are so many nuances in making the right choice in senior living and you cannot determine those without spending some time with the staff and residents of a particular property. The culture of each community is a mix of the background of each resident, management style of those that run a community and even the décor or design of the place. We spent so much time visiting and revisiting various senior living communities to get to know these nuances that I often wished there was someone who could have advised us so we didn’t have to spend so much time doing it on our own. If we could have gone to someone who really knew these communities and could have gotten to know my parents needs, this would have been enormously helpful.
Despite my full time attention to this transition, I found it overwhelming and this left me questioning how other adult children could manage given other life demands? As a gay man, I thought of LGBT seniors and the fact that so many of them did not have children to take on the responsibility of managing a transition.
Soon after this period of helping my parents, I took on an assignment helping an eldercare provider connect more with the LGBT community. It was an unexpected opportunity that spoke to my longstanding commitment to volunteering for LGBT causes. A new professional path was born.
Today I love my role in helping seniors find communities that support them to live their best lives while also finding the care and support that is needed throughout the rest of their life.
We are excited to be making a difference in the lives of a courageous generation who deserve to live their best lives, out and proud in a community that celebrates all of them. So even if you are not sure about what your future senior living needs might be. Give us a call. We would love to get to know you!