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Interview with a Dementia Care Expert: Meet Open Arms Solutions Founder Julie Kollada

Julie Kollada founder of Open Arms Solutions

Founded in 2008, Open Arms Solutions offers non-medical in-home care services in Chicago and educational support for families and professionals dealing with chronic diseases such as Dementia, Parkinson’s, COPD and others.

Learn more about the past, present, and future of Open Arms Solutions from our founder, Julie Kollada.

What inspired you to start Open Arms?

Julie: Before Open Arms, I was running two small companies. And at that point, I also had two small boys. The farthest thing on my mind was to get into health care. It really wasn’t on my radar.

My mom used to live by herself and she was very independent. She was incredibly bright and socially active. But then pretty suddenly, she wasn’t, and I had never gone through anything like this.

It makes me very warm inside to think that my mom is looking down at what her last months on Earth really inspired. The inspiration truly came from my own realization and experience of what most adult children go through when they’re called upon, for the first time, to care for a parent, a loved one. And most of us are totally unprepared to do that.

A really important request my mom had was that she wanted to stay home. And I’ve come to learn, after working with hundreds and hundreds of families, that more and more people want that. So the fundamental inspiration behind Open Arms is wanting to be able to offer really good and sound solutions for people because they’re going to need help.

Tell us about the first few years of Open Arms. What were the challenges in the beginning and how did you overcome them?

Julie: When I was first starting out, I was doing everything myself — which was both good but also challenging.

The good part was that I really got to learn the business. The challenging part of homecare is that as you go out and get referrals, you build a network of professional referral sources, like hospitals, different senior living communities and physicians, who come across people who need help.

So balancing getting enough referrals and having enough caregivers to be able to take care of those referrals, those families — that was, and it continues to be, a challenge but in the beginning, it was a big hurdle. We had to put our heads down and do a great job at recruiting and do a great job of marketing so, ultimately, you know, it grows together.

What is your number one piece of advice for people starting a caregiving journey with a loved one?

Julie: Well, what I say to them, is that if you’re at a point where your mom or dad or loved one is still cognitively sound, have a talk with them and really make it a priority to find out what’s important to them. Do they want to stay in their home? If that’s not possible, what would be important to them? Talk to them about how care is going to get funded. If your loved one needs to stay home for a long period of time, what are the options to fund that. You really need to think those things through.

So, it’s really about having really thorough conversations with your parents, if you can, if they’re still able to talk to you and just try to cover as much as you can. Let them know that you come from a place of love, that you don’t want to be put in a position where it’s too late and you don’t know what they would have wanted and you have to guess and it’s not the right guess. These are the kind of conversations that need to happen before it’s too late or before an urgent situation happens because decisions need to be made and it’s much better if it’s not done under pressure.

What do you hope Open Arms achieves in the next 10 years?

Julie: Well, you know, I am always inspired by the idea of creating solutions to some of the more challenging chronic diseases that families deal with, like dementia. It requires high-level training, like a really special program to deliver the quality care that will keep people in their home for a long period of time.

I’ve seen it all too often where you know, a homecare company or a caregiver, whichever it is, isn’t able to take care of someone with dementia. Same with Parkinson’s. We’re in the process of embarking on specialties in Parkinson’s care and other chronic diseases because people need exceptional care at that time. People need care and their families need great education.

It’s just the greatest need, in my opinion, and it’s also very challenging to deliver on it. But that’s what inspires me to continue, to get better and better at it, so that we can stand out as a homecare company that’s known to be able to deliver the highest quality care, and for families to really have the peace of mind that their loved one is living their best life possible.

At Open Arms Solutions, we believe that with the right support and care, people affected by a chronic disease can still live with joy, peace, and purpose. If you think your loved one may need care, you can take our short assessment to ensure they get to live their best life possible.

If you have any questions or would like to meet with someone on our care team in your loved one’s home, you can schedule an in-home meeting now.

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