When older adults reach a point when they can no longer look out for themselves alone, life can get complicated.
- Written byKelly Dawson
Adia’s Julia Tylock with Dyane and Paul Rude
In a grey house on the edge of a cul-de-sac, Paul Rude sits in his living room surrounded by the memories he’s collected over more than a half-century. There are faded figurines on a corner bookcase and pictures of smiling loved ones on the coffee table nearest his wife, who is napping on the couch. He’s trying to remember the name of the Los Angeles beach where he met her, all those years ago.
“It was a blind date,” he says, turning toward the couch. “What’s that beach down here?”
“Cabrillo Beach,” says Julia Tylock, and Paul confirms, smiling. Julia was not there when Rude met his wife, Dyane, nor was she present when they were married in 1951 or when they had their six kids, who are all boys. Julia is an employee of Adia, a care service for older adults based in Torrance, and she has been Dyane’s caretaker for almost three years.
Adia’s caretakers assist clients with daily necessities, but they are also asked to be something more: a companion. Generation gaps and work titles aside, the friendships that can form are a testament to the sweet unpredictability of life—even as clients reach its later stages.
“ had always been the only woman in the house. And that always bothered me,” Paul says. “Julia’s ears are going to burn now, but she’s almost adopted Julia as her daughter.”
Founded in 2006, Adia works with Southern California residents who seek 24-hour live-in or live-out help. The backgrounds of Adia’s trained employees are as varied. For instance, an Adia caretaker can be a medical assistant who tends to a client in a hospital room or a registered nurse who supports a client in her home.
But the versatility of Adia’s workforce is intentional. There are about 100 clients per month, and that number shifts with life cycles and needs, says Adia’s owner Pamela Penson. “The only constant in the caregiver business is change,” she explains.
Pamela, who has an MBA and a PhD in neuroeconomics, created the company to give equal weight to seniors’ physical and emotional health. Pamela says it’s easy to cook for seniors or help them run errands. She wanted Adia to have employees who would make their daily lives more enjoyable. “Adia strives to bring light to each encounter with older adults and ensure that the older adult feels that their life matters,” she says.
About four years ago, Paul took his wife to a doctor when he noticed that she was making unusual statements. He thought it may be her hearing, but the doctor said her hearing was fine. Once it was determined that she has dementia, he tried to tend to her needs on his own.
Paul thought about moving her into a nursing home, but he didn’t want to live in their house without her. He called Adia when he opened the phonebook and looked under “A.” Three caregivers came and went before he and Dyane were introduced to Julia, who works during the week. Julia has become a part of the family, he says.
Another Adia client, Cindi, also feels calm when she sees the relationship between her father, Paul, and his caretaker, Ashley. Cindi was worried that her father would be assigned to a caregiver he didn’t like. He was resistant at first, but he had to follow his doctor’s orders. When he met Ashley three months ago, they hit it off, Cindi says. “Pamela has said that it doesn’t always happen that way. We’re really very fortunate that it did,” she says.
Although Ashley and Julia work with clients who have varying degrees of autonomy—Ashley works with Paul six hours per day and Julia works with Dyane 12 hours per day—they share a knack for creating flexible daily schedules that address their musts and wants. Both clients must eat three meals, and they both want to watch classic movies. They have to be reminded to take medicine, and they want to take walks outside.
“I’ve been living alone for so many years,” Paul says. “When comes, it’s a pleasure to have someone to talk with, tell jokes with.”
Paul and Ashley alternate between his wisecracks and her laughs in a home he’s owned since the 1950s. She enjoys her time with Paul so much that she usually comes to work early, and they play cards and listen to jazz. “I don’t have a grandfather, and I look to him as that figure,” she says.
While Cindi and Paul are happy with their decision to employ an Adia caregiver, the solution didn’t come easily. Paul’s family assisted him at first, but they had to get off work. Cindi opened a separate account for caretaker payments so she didn’t have to remind her dad to pay the bill.
Pamela agrees that life gets complicated when parents get older, but caretaking can be a way to restore order. “Assuming that you can trust and afford caregiving for mom or dad, then your job is to be the son or daughter. All the other aspects of care can be provided by other people, but no one can replace a son or daughter.”
As messy as life can be, Paul says that he tries to have a positive attitude. “I’m not perfect, and nobody is, but I still enjoy life. I look for beauty, and I’m having a good time.”