Educating and Empowering

As Cathy Katz, executive director for MBK Senior Living’s Casa de Santa Fe knows, networking can lead to powerful connections, and sometimes even lasting relationships. A participant in CALA’s Day in Your District, Katz impressed the district staff of Assemblymember Beth Gaines so much, that they invited her to speak at the 2012 Northern California Women’s Forum.

This special event brought together women from the Rocklin area on a beautiful September morning to learn from each other, network, and build those valuable connections. As Assemblymember Gaines said in her opening remarks, “It doesn’t matter if you’re Democrat or Republican. We all need to listen and cooperate, be empowered and encouraged.”

In her session, “Caring for Aging Parents,” Katz shared her own story about caring for a family member, and the ways in which the generations’ past experiences color how they interact with each other. She walked participants through a series of sensory experiments, which involved wearing glasses with cloudy lenses and trying to pick up playing cards with gloved hands, to simulate what aging feels like, helping participants to empathize with their older loved ones.

She then offered suggestions on when and how to have those difficult conversations about things like driving, care needs, and finances. She ended by offering a series of resources, including helpful books, websites, and phone numbers. “I like to share this information,” she said, “because I remember when I began the search for help, I didn’t know where to start.” Katz certainly embodied the spirit of “listening and cooperating, empowering and encouraging” that the event sought to capture.

And in addition to sharing her knowledge, Katz made some valuable connections. She says, “I made a contact with some Wells Fargo folks that are helping seniors and their adult children make financial arrangements. They are dealing with a whole spectrum of consumers, from seniors that are healthy and want their kids involved to situations where the senior has progressed through dementia and is calling the bank, confused about their accounts.” She hopes to be a voice of experience and source of knowledge for the bankers and for their older customers.

In addition, Katz says she was surprised one day by a fellow church-goer who came up to her and said she saw her at the forum. According to Katz, “She said, ‘Hey, I didn’t know you worked at Casa.’ It turns out they were needing to find some help for her mother-in-law and happened to be at the Women’s Forum. I guess you just never know how people are going to connect the dots.” Katz said that whether that connection results in a new resident is still to be determined, but she was pleased that the woman was able to turn to her as a source of expertise in aging issues for her community.