A Former Student Steps Back Into the Ring

February 01, 2019

Sara Evans, MA

When I was a child, I would visit my grandparents in Chicago over the winter holidays. My grandmother was the activity director at a long-term care facility and I would spend the day as her “assistant.” I loved every moment of it and the experience had a profound impact on my educational choices. I graduated from the University of Guelph in 2000 with a BASc in Gerontology and went on to complete a Masters in Gerontology at Simon Fraser University in 2004.

Around the same time I was completing my masters, I began working at a building system engineering firm as the Sustainable Design Research Coordinator. Although the job seemed unrelated to gerontology, my interests and the career path were both related to assisting people through the built environment. My MA project explored how we could keep older adults in their homes for longer periods of time through the use of Adaptable Design features integrated into their housing units, while the job at the engineering firm explored how we could reduce the environmental impact of commercial and industrial buildings using sustainable design building technologies.

In 2007, I had my first child and chose not to return to my career at the engineering firm. In 2009 I had my second child. In 2010, I joined my husband’s web design company and I’ve been successfully running the business ever since.

In 2008, my mom, at the very young age of 55, suffered from a brain aneurysm and survived, and in 2014 my dad had a series of small but very damaging strokes. I moved them closer to me and I am now heavily involved in managing their care. I represent them at doctors appointments, assist with transportation, follow up with referrals, manage their appointment calendar, keep track of their medications, and connect them to social services.

Advocating on behalf of my parents reignited my desire to work in the field of gerontology and sparked an idea. I’ve been relatively successful at navigating them through the health-care system because of my educational background, but how do other families cope that do not live close to their loved ones, or do not have the time, or do not know how to access resources?

Recently, an article appeared in the Globe and Mail on April 18, 2017 titled ‘Patients resort to paying consultants to help navigate Canada’s Byzantine health-care system’ by Kelly Grant. This article confirmed that I could make a viable career out of something I was already doing for my parents and that the field of Patient Advocacy/Navigation is something that is necessary and rapidly expanding. I have teamed up with Amanda Butler, MHK, and we are in the business start-up phase of our new health care advocacy business, Golden Age Advocates Inc. Our intention is to assist older adults and their families navigating the health care system. Our services include appointment tracking and management, guidance and coaching before and after appointments, researching health and treatment options, and the creation and maintenance of a secure digital personal health record that can be easily accessed by our clients, their family members and their health care professional. We are hoping to get our business off the ground before the end of the year and look forward to all the challenges that lay ahead.