Lily Sarafan Is Transforming the Way We Care for Our Elderly

Every week in Maria’s weekly newsletter publication The Sunday Paper, we honor individuals who are using their voices, their hearts and their minds to Move Humanity Forward.

This week, we honor Lily Sarafan as our Architect of Change of the Week. Lily Sarafan is a powerful female leader who is transforming the way we care for the elderly in America. As the CEO of Home Care Assistance —a company that provides senior care in over 40 states – Lily and her team strive to provide cost-effective solutions to families that need extra help caring for their loved ones.

Lily Sarafan and her company are partnering with Move For Minds for a historic partnership to support caregivers with respite care grants and give them much-needed time off. We honor her today for how she is Moving Humanity Forward and how she is helping to ease the caregiving burden for millions of Americans.


1. What are you seeing on the front lines of caregiving in America?

I think a lot of folks might not know that 25 percent of the adults in this country are serving as family caregivers. They’re spending 20 hours a week or more caring for an aging loved one and on average they’re working full-time and have their own kids. So, I think the best thing that we can do as a society in caring for the caregiver is to recognize the enormous burdens that we’re placing on women as the primary caregivers, as the primary decision makers for healthcare in their family and unfortunately the ones who are suffering from Alzheimer’s in greater numbers.

2. What do caregivers need most?

What they typically need is some respite. What we can do as an organization is provide the care and the peace of mind to families so that they can attend to all of their other obligations. 

3. Do you find that you still meet a lot of people who are uneducated about this disease?

It tends to be that no one wants to think about any of these topics until a moment of need. Until the diagnosis comes, until mom is, unfortunately, kind of wandering, so the keys have to be taken away. Unfortunately, we haven’t created a societal acceptance around some of these topics so we can talk about them.

The vast majority of times that we’re getting contacted by an adult son or daughter it’s because they haven’t figured out how to navigate this really complex situation. They have a parent leaving the hospital and they don’t know what to do at home to ensure a quality of life and positive clinical outcome.

4. What do you think is one of the biggest issues facing caregivers?

There’s something very real about caregiver burnout. So if you’re attending to full-time job, your kids and spending 20 hours a week caring for an aging loved one, the sad irony is they’re spending so much time and energy providing the best of care for their parent, but not necessarily for themselves. It is really important to take that holistic approach and what we’ve found is that when we’re starting to introduce our personalized programs into the home,  the family caregivers begin to get engaged and say, “These are things I should keep in mind for myself.”

Our mission is to change the way the world ages and our hope is that we’re creating a paradigm shift — not just for the 86-year-old who is the prototypical HCA client, but also all of their kids and in-laws who can take advantage of this guidance.

5. How do you think employers can help?

Right now, we’re living at a time when companies are placing significant attention on child care, but not necessarily on elder care. A lot of companies have benefits around child care. They should recognize that if companies also offered that structure for elder care, that would really be beneficial. There’s $50 billion in lost productivity right now due to elder care. It would be smart business if they could reduce turnover increase and improve retention – especially for their women leaders, and especially across the private sector. It’s a win-win for everyone.

Watch Maria’s full Architects of Change Live conversation with Lily Sarafan and leading neurologist Dr. Frank Longo:

I'm LIVE talking Alzheimer's and caregiving with Dr. Frank Longo and Lily Sarafan. Send us your Q's and tune in to see if they are answered! (Tap video for sound)To nominate yourself or a caregiver for a respite grant, apply here: for Move for Minds and spend three hours changing your life!

Posted by Maria Shriver on Monday, May 1, 2017

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