Thinking Smart About Functional Support

with Monica Stynchula,

Founder and CEO, REUNIONCare

This week on the Art of Aging, host Michael Hughes chats with Monica Stynchula, Founder and CEO of REUNIONCare. During the episode, Mike and Monica discuss the importance of holistic patient support and home safety for the elderly. The conversation includes topics such as the need for effective communication between caregivers and healthcare providers, the role of adjustable mobility devices in maintaining balance and preventing falls, Credit for Caring, caregiver tax credits, the importance of tracking caregiving expenses, and more.
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Highlights from this week’s conversation include:

  • Monica’s journey to eventually founding REUNIONCare (2:01)
  • The Importance of Home Safety Returning to the highest level of function (4:44)
  • What is REUNIONCare? (8:47)
  • The Circle of care and provider portal (12:07)
  • Home safety and mobility needs (13:24)
  • Credit for Caring and partnership with Medline (14:56)
  • Adjusting the device for proper fit (23:12)
  • Importance of function in device selection (27:36)
  • Practical tips for adapting equipment (31:26)
  • The caregiver tax credit (34:34)
  • Abundant Aging questions for Monica (35:38)


Abundant Aging is a podcast series presented by United Church Homes. These shows offer ideas, information, and inspiration on how to improve our lives as we grow older. To learn more and to subscribe to the show, visit  


Michael Hughes 00:07
Hello and welcome to the Art of Aging which is part of the Abundant Aging podcast series from the Ruth Frost Parker Center for Abundant Aging, which is part of the United Church Homes. On this show we look at what it means to age in America and other places around the world with positive and empowering conversations that challenge and inspire everyone everywhere to age with abundance. As part of our aging and Innovations series. I’m really pleased to have Monica Sten Shula on our show today. Monica is the CEO and founder of reunion care, which is an SBA certified women owned small business that includes a comprehensive marketplace for durable medical goods, supplies and home safety items. Importantly, she’s also a long distance caregiver for her mother who lives in the great state of Ohio. Monica received her master’s in social work and master’s in public health in the University of Pittsburgh, and her history includes her current role as the board chair of the Vita Connect community care hub in Florida. She has served on the USA Small Business Administration National Women’s Business Council and a former AARP Florida Executive Council. And in 2016, Monica was selected for the Florida Agency for Healthcare administration’s telehealth Advisory Council, which developed Florida’s first comprehensive telehealth status statute. But the subject that she’s on the show today is really thinking smart about home safety and functional support as you age, which is so connected to your overall health and wellness. Monica, welcome.

Monica Stynchula 01:31
Thank you, Mike. It’s a pleasure to be with you. Thanks for this opportunity to have this discussion.

Michael Hughes 01:37
Sure. Okay. Well, look, I’m going to open up with a question that I ask a lot of our guests, you could be doing a lot of terrific things with your life right now. But you’re really focused on this concept of durable medical goods of really helping people with functional limitations or people with functional support as the age. How did you find your way into this world? What drives your passion here?

Monica Stynchula 02:01
Well, since you brought up Ohio earlier, I have to tell you that my career really started with Ohio. I graduated, as you said, from the University of Pittsburgh with my master’s degree in social work, and I took a job intentionally at the smallest Hospital in Ohio, which is a 35 bed hospital. At that time, I was the Director of Social Work, and I was the lead social worker on the rehabilitation unit. Now, this is back in the 1980s. So this was long before social determinants of health are all those things that we take for granted today. But our inpatient program was an eight week program. And we had an interdisciplinary team. Our patients were usually retired people that were having strokes and CVA and heart disease and cancer there were so strong in that area. But we’ve worked with a lot of strokes, and some younger people with traumatic brain injuries, usually from car accidents. But that was the best education I could ever have. Because it taught me about how we treat people as a whole, and how we work within their complex needs. With their limited resources. I mean, this is a rural community. You have all of the constraints there. And how do we make sure that we help them in the best way possible. Our team was really creative. The patients and their families became our families. I mean, an interdisciplinary team, we’re meeting every week. So we did a lot of things together. So for example, we did home visits, which back then was kind of revolutionary to be going out in their home when you’re not home health care. We conducted those home visits because we knew that a lot of the homes that they were going home to had steps and narrow hallways. I mean, these are older farmhouses, there were a lot of barriers that we had to worry about. And we made sure that was a part of our practice. Then we did things in our rehabilitation unit to simulate what life would be like when they go back there like our occupational therapist, and speech therapist would have the patient cook a meal and have their family join them for the meal, and then have the patient clean up afterward. You can imagine we were all watching them to see did someone try to rush in and help when they should have let the patient do it for themselves? I mean, what were those interactions between people? Likewise, our physical therapist simulated what their work tasks would be when they got home. And you know, what kind of barriers they’re going to have to navigate getting in and out of the car, getting in and out of the house and so forth. You know, I learned so much back then in the 1980s and they taught me not only the value and the blessing of working in an intersect interdisciplinary routine, but how important home safety devices and all those things that are now like what I do for a living, how important those are to return someone to their highest level of function to what life that they want to return to. So that’s how I got to where I am today. Because as I age and as my family around me ages, and, you know, I’m thinking back to those early years of my career and going, yeah, those are a lot of the things that we’re facing today. And that’s how I got here,

Michael Hughes 05:36
Monica, and I just have to say just the things that are going through my mind right now, I mean, you were doing things in the 1980s that people have now recognized as best best practice. And they’re, they’re, they’re still trying to kind of put into place, which is remarkable. And I know that we know, we’ve known each other for a while we finally bonded over this subject. But I just want to kind of hit on the high points, first of all, a holistic model of, of patient support one that looks at their goals and looks at their environment, actually doing rehabilitative work in the environment that somebody is going to experience on the day to day not separated from where you’re doing cup stacking, or riding or recumbent bike or things like that you’re actually working now with people in those getting out of their car walking up their steps. And then that must lead to just such a feeling of accomplishment when somebody kind of regains that ability, because that’s, and that must also be something where maybe just the acclamation that the motivation sort of goes up, you know, in that environment versus something that is that is, you know, clinical in nature. Right?

Monica Stynchula 06:46
Exactly. Because it’s no longer a focus on what you’ve lost because of a disease. It depends on what you value and what you’re looking forward to going back to. How resilient Are you? How can we bring you back to the life that you want? And to us that was really important, and it was a great learning experience? I loved it.

Michael Hughes 07:08
Yeah, I think you know, the subject of today being this functional support, I think the other thing that we’ve always bonded on is just that, you know, the calculus of how the crosswalk between function, and health care spending, especially as you age and I think that, that the stats, I always like to rattle off, and I hope these are still correct is that, you know, if you’ve got, let’s say three or more chronic diseases, you cost the healthcare system about 70%. More on average, if you add a functional limitation to that mix, like trouble with walking or climbing stairs or transferring or things like that, then you’re you cost the healthcare system, but 330% more on average, because you’re more at risk for tripping and falling and going to the most expensive site of care, which is the hospital. And I think that’s about 5% of US patients represents almost a quarter of all health care spending. And really, I think we’ve all seen that, you know, when you do have a functional injury, or you lose function, your world gets smaller. And then your motivation for for engagement, you know, may go with it. So I can see why you’ve sort of invested yourself in this world, because you’re bringing solutions to bear for people that allow people to regain their functional ability and to re-engage with the world. And I just so admire that. So tell me, so tell us about reunion care, though you’ve you’ve built something pretty great. And I know I’ve used it and and it’s a wonderful resources. Can you just explain to our listeners what reunion care is all about?

Monica Stynchula 08:47
Sure. And the reason why I told you that story about Greenfield Area Medical Center, is you’ll understand it, as I tell you about reunion care, because reunion care is all the things that Mike and I were just talking about. It’s about how you take the person in the life that they lead. And that is with their trusted family and friends, we put them into what is called a circle of caring reunion care. And they get to they’re the primary member, and they get to invite their trusted family and friends into their care journey, as the primary member sometimes can be the caregiver, if the patient isn’t able to do it for themselves, but just keep in mind that, you know, it’s a platform to enable open communications between everyone within that space. So think of that as home, think of that as what’s going on on a daily basis. And then the second part of it is the provider portal. And we made that provider portal because there’s so much communication. I’ll tell you this as a social worker, there’s so much communication that goes on with the family that never makes it into an electronic health record. Because it’s dynamic. It’s already. It’s always moving. It’s all those things, those daily basis things, we’re talking about the circle of care, that really don’t fit nicely when you’re, you know, tracking labs or, you know, any kind of diagnostics that way. So we made this provider portal to augment what’s going on in that electronic health record. And our clients, our health systems that are community based organizations, homecare agencies, so we go from really clinical to, you know, non clinical, custodial care at home. And our system made sure it was really easy to set up your UCSB bio files, and you put your data in there for your clients, your staff, your vendors, your contacts, and any forms that you want to be using in there. And then we help you to set up the hierarchy inside there and map your sub navigation. It’s really easy to use. It’s built on Microsoft tools. It’s built on Microsoft’s open source platform that almost every electronic health record is built on. So you know that our ability to exchange information through API’s is super easy. But what’s most important to us as this system addresses those social determinants of health that now everyone else is catching on to, that they can look in and the circle of care and see what’s going on on a daily basis. And they can share information with them. You don’t have to miss calls for you know, the next appointment or whatever else that phone call that didn’t get through, you know, makes a disaster, or drops some kind of service that needs to happen. We built it so that communications would be open between everyone within the circle of care and the provider portal so that we do the best job possible. Mike, you and I know and we’ve talked about this many times over the years, caregivers, family caregivers, are expected to do so many medical tasks these days, yet, they don’t get the information they need. Yeah, and so right, combining the circle of care and that provider portal together, gives that caregiver the opportunity to see and to be able to communicate directly with the providers with anyone who’s giving them treatment. Now we built this on the wraparound care model. And the wraparound care model was validated for this purpose by Dr. Cathy black here in Florida at the University of South Florida. Kathy did these studies years ago and showed that that same concept that they were using for individual education plans, which we call IEPs, in education for decades, works when it comes to senior care, because it allows us to be dynamic, and to be flexible, and what needs to change. We can change what the goals are, and what services are going in there. And so on and so forth. And to us, that’s really important. That is what makes it work.

Michael Hughes 13:07
That’s awesome. And you know, you must see a lot of motivations for people engaging the platform. You know, it what’s I mean, people probably come from all over. But are there sort of a set of top needs that people typically present that you support?

Monica Stynchula 13:24
Oh, there are, there are, but it’s funny. I mean, we’re not really a window shopping kind of place. I mean, people come to us because they’re in a crisis they have indeed. And it’s today. And so we find most people are coming to us for Home Safety, and for Home Safety and for mobility needs, because someone has fallen or or someone is just coming home after our real significant change to their abilities. And it’s like, what am I to do now? I mean, they can’t get in and out of the bed, they can’t get in, on and off the toilet. And that’s when they’re looking for us to help them find the right equipment to be able to get in there and do that. But Mike, I want to go back to something that to follow up on what we were talking about. We talked about reunion care, you know, once we created a reunion care and we got the circle going and we got the provider portal going and we had people talking, we realized that we had some missing pieces. And I hope that’s what we focus on because that’s where we’re going in this conversation the rest of our time today. We built another site called credit for caring and credit for caring is really a virtual social worker. And when we did the first mock up for it, I was with the chief nursing officer officer by chance just by chance for Medline industries. And I showed her the mock up that we made for credit for carrying and what credit for carrying is it’s the ability to do an assessment didn’t recommend equipment, recommend resources, all those things that as a practicing social worker I did on a daily basis, but how do you allow people to do that freely on any, you know, browser enabled device. And so she took one look at it and said, I want you to put Medline products on there. And that’s what started a journey with Medline. And, you know, Medline is a huge worldwide company. And they can serve hospitals and residential care facilities. I mean, they’re the kings of supply management when it comes to healthcare. But they didn’t know how to take care of a consumer, or what caregiver needs are in the community. I mean, it just blew their mind to think that someone was going to get hospital care at home. I’ll never forget the looks on their faces when I did that presentation to them in 2018. And, you know, I kind of had the same reaction, but For opposite reasons, like you didn’t know about this. So I would say post pandemic, we all now we’re on the same page, and they get it, and they’re still our partner for all of the medical equipment that we put on our site.

Michael Hughes 16:13
That’s terrific. Yeah, that’s absolutely terrific. And I want to pick your brain for free advice here, although I know the advice is always also on the site. And so it sounds like you know, home safety is a huge part of what you do. Assistive devices are a huge part of what you do. And I know that people, you know, many people sort of come to me after something has already happened. But I want to, I want to talk first of all about home safety. And just and you know, where all the accidents happen. I mean, you know, if you’re looking at I mean, I was always taught, you know, the bathroom is the first one, and then it’s cords and clutter. But is that reasonable to you? If I’m looking at, you know, a loved one that may be needing more help, and I’m looking at their environment, you know, where should I prioritize? What should I be looking at first, right? Can you share some thoughts?

Monica Stynchula 17:06
Yeah, I’m gonna give you a real easy guide. And you can use this in every room. When you walk into a room, start at the floor, and with your eyes, work your way to the ceiling. So when you start at the floor, first, you’re looking at rugs? Are there loose roads on that floor? You guess what? You either remove them or tape those to hell? Or their cords? Or pet toys? Or what kind of hazards? What tripping hazards around the rugs? I mean, what is happening on the floor? Excuse me? That’s just the first thing. Okay, once we’re settled, and we know that we’ve cleared the hazards from the floor in any room, then let’s move up to go to eye height. Can you see every corner of the room? Are there dark spaces in the room? And I can tell you, for a lot of people as they age. And as they’re trying to conserve money. They won’t like the whole room. And dark spaces or places where you can make an assumption that you know what’s over there. But you can also trip and fall because you don’t have adequate lighting on it. So lighting indoors and outdoors. How do you make sure that you have adequate lighting to make sure that it is a safe place to navigate? And then you keep moving up? Once we get the lighting done? Is the room the right temperature? Is the room a safe place to be? Are the Windows locked? Do the doors lock? Is it easy to get to a door or window? Is there a phone? You see what I’m saying? If you start at the floor and you work your way up in a room, you get a better sense. I used to tell people, especially boomers, to take care of older parents like men like I do. You don’t walk into your parents house anymore thinking she made my favorite food? Right? You’re gonna walk into that house? What are the hazards that mom could fall on? Where are the problems, but we don’t human nature is I’m walking back into childhood. And I need you to stop doing that. I need you to walk into that house, start at the door and maybe start at the porch or their railings so that she doesn’t trip up the steps. It’s at the threshold to come into the front door. Chances are there’s a step there. Can she navigate that or do you need to put a bar on the side so that she’s able to do that with bags in our hand? All kinds of things that are just their daily tasks, daily movements that we make, but we don’t think of our parents as those vulnerable people?

Michael Hughes 20:03
Yes. Yeah. And it’s almost like there’s roleplay, you know, you’re sort of pretending he may shuffle your feet a little bit. You may, you know, I mean, I know, with an Hi mom, I hope that you’re listening and trying to talk slowly. But I know just with my own mother, I know, she won’t mind me telling the story, they have a very steep staircase down to their lower level. And I kept saying, you know, you need a second rail, you need a second rail, you need a second rated railing on either side of that hallway. And finally, they installed one of the feedwater back was, well, I wish I had this all along. You know, it’s because that’s the thing. It’s not just, it’s not something that says, I’m old, I need help. It’s just, it’s more, it just gives us more reassurance. Right. But yeah, the idea that you’re carrying something in your hand, and, and I want to move I want to move from, from that sort of great plain speak advice to this world of assistive devices, right? Because, you know, I think very often people may choose the wrong device, for them, they may choose. I know, you know, if you have a walker, adding a basket to the Walker is always going to be a good idea. Because you always have your things with you. I know that I’ve walked into assisted living, and people have their role layers in the role, and that seat of the rollators is piled full of stuff, you know, right up right there on the seat, you know. And so if you’re thinking about, you know, if you have a loved one that maybe has been recommended to get an assistive device, I think there’s two sides of it. I think, first of all, there’s the you know, how do you go about choosing a device that is right for you both in terms of the design? And also, you know, I don’t need a Ferrari, I just needed a Toyota, you know? And then also the second part, you know, after this, which is more about how do you encourage somebody to use it? But firstly, choosing the device? What are some great tips just for choosing something to begin with?

Monica Stynchula 22:01
Well, I want you to think of the three apps form, fit and function, form, fit and function. So form, what device do you need? Do you need something because you’re afraid of falling? Or have you already fallen? Do you need something where you can use two hands? Do you need something where you’re using one hand on the device? What is the form? Do you need to be seated? Or is your endurance so low that you really need to be seated instead of walking? fit? Fit is a real issue. Now I’m going to tell my mom’s she told you. My mother had to go through physical rehabilitation. And by the way, she’s in Ohio. Now. She went through rehabilitation. And you know, my mom is seven inches shorter than she was a decade ago. I mean, she’s just really coming down there. And so she goes through rehabilitation, and they fit her with this Walker. Well, the walkers are in a closet, because the walker does not fit my mother anymore. The one she’s just about at like the crossbar, her eye level is about at the crossbar, that Whopper is in the closet. Fit is important. Fit is important. Find yourself adjustable equipment, not ones that are you know, I’m sorry to say it but Medicare issued that are stationary that you can’t adjust the legs, because they’re not going to be useful over the long term. And another area of fit that really bothers me is if the device does not fit. So the Think of yourself holding a walker, your arms, your elbow should be slightly bent. So you would be about four o’clock from your shoulder to your to where you’re grasping onto the grips. Okay, that should be about four o’clock there. And you should be looking straight ahead. And that crossbar should be at your waist. Now how many times have you seen people with walkers and their eyes are pointing down to the ground. They can’t see more than two feet in front of them because they’re too busy. their center of gravity has them tipping forward. It happens with canes, it happens with walkers, it happens with rollators it happens with any device that does not fit properly. Got it. So if you see someone using any kind of mobility device, and they’re not looking straight ahead, as they use it, you need to go back and say what adjustments need to be made. So that’s

Michael Hughes 24:48
I’ve never heard that before. But that is excellent advice that you know, we see. Once you mentioned that you’re going to see it everywhere, right? I mean, that’s so so just to say that again for our listeners. You got to imagine that you’ve got four o’clock hands. So your arms kind of arms down slightly kind of bent down, like like you’re putting four o’clock, or I guess eight o’clock, depending on so that your arms are now so that the right height is your arms are kind of in that four o’clock, eight o’clock position, and then your the crossbar is at the waist. And if somebody is very preoccupied with looking down, that means they’re not supported enough with their center of gravity. So this is the Teach Back thing that somebody taught me, then that needs adjustment, right?

Monica Stynchula 25:35
Very cool. Right. And the other thing about that adjustment, too, is, look at the hand grips. If someone has weak hand strength, they may be looking at their hands, because they’re worried they’re not going to be able to advance it, they’re not going to be able to push the brakes when it comes to a roll later, right? That there’s something about using the device that is not comfortable to them. So always look at the grips, too. And if someone has a weaker grip, make sure you get a fatter gel grip to put on there, or one of those it’s like faux wool that you can put on there. Something just to make it easier. But if someone can’t look straight ahead when they’re using this device, I’m sorry to say their fall risk is high. Think of how many people you see with a cane? And they’re off to the side. Yeah. Now, you have to be able to see straight up Ed, square your shoulders, if you want to have balance. Right? If you don’t have that, no, yeah, you’re gonna have some problems.

Michael Hughes 26:42
Wow, that’s true. And that’s the thing, too, when you do have a device that is properly set free, you have more competence in using it. And then that helps with your engagement. Because I had a question here, you know, when it comes to encouraging somebody to actually use the device to adopt and to use the device. You know, I, one of our previous guests, Bob Kramer, had a great comment about what we call them engage engagement index, you know that, you know, I don’t want to go to the party, because people will see me with this new device, I don’t want to build it, you know, that there seems to be a lot. But then on the other side of the coin, by using the device and using the proper device in the proper way, you are regaining this mobility that would allow you to do that to begin with. So it’s kind of weird for a lot of people. I guess that’s kind of a weird dynamic, right? I mean, have you had any tips for kind of, for people that may be trying to encourage loved ones to to actually adopt these devices?

Monica Stynchula 27:37
Yes. So you’re getting to the third app, which is function? Yes. Are they going to use it? You know, they actually that Walker, they gave my mother. She wouldn’t use it. We wondered why she was relying on a cane to go to communion Catholic, being able to Communion. And it took her a while to admit that she had to use a cane, not the walker, even though she needed the walker, because she wouldn’t have a free hand to do communion to take communion.

Michael Hughes 28:09
Yes. Right. These are

Monica Stynchula 28:11
practical considerations that were so important to her in terms of a value, that there was no way that she was going to go to church without getting the sacrament. But how could she do that with a walker when both of her hands are tied up? Both of her hands are on the walker? Like these are things that we need to think about? These are function issues, function issues, people need to understand that you need to know why people want to use it. Do they want to use the device indoors and outdoors? Are they going to be going through narrow hallways? What are the functions they’re going to use it for? And make sure that you get the equipment that matches that function? You know, some? Can you imagine a rigid unfolding Walker and trying to get someone into a car and then putting the walker in the back of the car,

Michael Hughes 29:04
right? Yes.

Monica Stynchula 29:06
That’s a disaster. It is. Yeah, it’s a disaster. That is a function. What am I going to be using this for? And make sure to get the right equipment to make that work back to what you said about a basket earlier. Okay. So we got someone properly positioned, they’re looking up. Part of that function is, if we know that they’re going to be carrying around, for example, hobby supplies, or they need a tray there, because they’re going to move from the kitchen to their dining table. We need to know what the functions are that they want, for which they need to always have a bottle of water with them, well, then you better have a cup holder on the side. Function is so important. And if we don’t meet those functional needs, that equipment will go to the closet.

Michael Hughes 29:55
Right? Right. And we see that all the time too, don’t we?

Monica Stynchula 30:00
Yes, we do. And it’s frustrating as all get out, because Mike what you said, if we want engagement, if we want people to have more confidence, and to be more engaged in life, we need to empower them with the right tools for them to be able to engage in life. We all want dignity. We all want independence, we want that autonomy, but we can’t, we’re not going to get it if we don’t feel that confidence. We’re not going to get there.

Michael Hughes 30:28
Absolutely. And you know, Monica, it, you know, we’re not taught, I mean, you know, some of these things, you know, do cost money, but other things really don’t cost a lot. I mean, there’s a lot of bang for your buck here. I mean, I’m thinking, you know, I think a lot I’m thinking of bathtubs, you know, the, the a lot I’ve seen those, some people put those handles in the middle of the tub that kind of screw on in the towel, I don’t really like those because you put a lot of pressure on them, they can kind of collapsed this way or that way. You know, I find that tough benches are a lot more practical and reliable and usable. And also useful when you’re not in the bath, you put a towel on them you do. But you know you sit on one end of the tub bench, you swing your legs over your you scooch down, you’re in the tub, and I think I’ve seen them for $80- $120 . Clothes hooks a clothes hook to help somebody with dressing for a few dollars. Right? These are these where a little bit of investment can make a lot of difference. Right?

Monica Stynchula 31:25
Right. Right. You’re in fact, like, that’s so funny. I did a series of videos for you know how to adapt equipment, you can go to the to a craft store, and you can buy those tubes, you know, Styrofoam tubes that you can, you know, you can make craps out of and they have a hole in the middle, you can take and you put silverware in them. And now you have adapted silverware for someone with a grip, a loose, you know, a weak grip, or someone that can grip a hairbrush, put it on the hairbrush, put it on their toothbrush, all of a sudden you have adaptive equipment. It’s that easy.

Michael Hughes 32:03
That’s just for a couple of dollars. That’s right, that is crucial. I started using it so so tell us where we can find the videos or the videos public, or

Monica Stynchula 32:15
The videos are listed on our site, you’ll find them right there and credit for caring.

Michael Hughes 32:19
So that’s credit for Right?

Monica Stynchula 32:23
Yes, credit for You know, Mike, there were a lot of practical things. So since we’re talking about practical things, so you started down this rabbit hole, I’m going to keep going. Please do. Think of people having problems with dressing. Okay, fine motor skills, they’re having problems with dressing, you could take those little hair ties that are really quite attractive on all different colors, you can put those on zippers. And then the person just has to, you know, hook their thumb in there and they’re able to move the zipper up and down. You don’t need fancy equipment to do that. If someone has a favorite jacket, but they can’t do buttons anymore, you could put Velcro, you can sew the button to the front and put Velcro on the back. It looks just like it did before. But now it’s Velcro clothes and it’s easier for them to dress. Wow, that is

Michael Hughes 33:13
very cool. The layers of experience that you’ve built, and the fact that you’ve put them all out just for free on your site for anyone to get. And then of course you have the marketplace. The marketplace includes, you know, walkers, assistive devices, home safety items, you know, your adult diaper products, you know, just a very comprehensive set up material. And then what a lot of people don’t know is that some of this the word credit for carrying comes from, you know, credit procuring Act means so these things can be tax deductible, can’t they? Absolutely, absolutely. Shocking. Okay. Just tell us a little bit about the rules for tax deduction. I know that we didn’t prepare this, but I think our listeners if you have any advice or any guidance for that, that would be wonderful.

Monica Stynchula 34:03
Sure, Mike. Okay, so first of all, check with your state. We have some very progressive states out there that are already doing a caregiver tax credit. So it may not be called credit for caring, but look for that tear caregiver tax credit. And a caregiver tax credit works the same way as a child tax credit works. It is a credit so it comes off the top. It’s not something that comes later. So credits are better than deductions as we know. So anyway, there you have the tax credit on state levels, but what you can do as a family caregiver is track your expenses when it comes to caregiving. Because as long as you’re providing caregiving, not just financial, but you’re also doing care that you can, then you can then calculate how much time and what your travel was and everything else. Those are things that you can take off your taxes as well. And so people need to be tracking this information and using it as much as they can on their taxes. Of course, it varies by what tax bracket you’re in, you know, some it’s more favorable than others. But it’s always good to be tracking it to make sure you have that information. Mike, I’m still convinced that the National caregiver tax credit is going to pass. I mean, the race, the National caregiving advocacy group, if they still support it strongly, AARP supports it strongly. I really believe that we will have a national caregiver tax credit one day very soon. And so there’s Well, I hope, one day, yeah,

Michael Hughes 35:48
I do as well. Thank you so much for sharing this advice. For listeners credit for reunion as well, Monica. Yes, yes. Reunion, Karen Credit for And, gist, thank you so much for just taking this time to share this advice with us. And we have a tradition on this podcast. We’d like to ask our guests three questions about their own personal experience with aging. And I’m wondering if I might ask these questions of you. Go ahead. Okay. So question number one, when, when you think about how you aged? What do you think has changed about you or grown with you that you really like about yourself?

Monica Stynchula 36:33
I’ve gotten out of my own head. And to me, that was important. Yes. As you know, when I was younger, I was always up there in front, and, you know, I love meeting people and doing things. But there was always this narrative going on? Do they think I’m smart enough? Are they taking me seriously as a business owner? And you know what, I built this business out of passion, I built this business, because it’s a solution that we need. And I am no longer concerned with what those other people think or say, I know where I’m going. And I don’t mean to be arrogant about that. But I think that’s the beauty of aging. I mean, you get to the point where you go, that really doesn’t matter. That doesn’t matter. Stick with you know, stick with what your purpose is, stick with what that passion drives you forward. And yeah, that’s what I like most about aging.

Michael Hughes 37:28
That’s awesome. Why is question number two what has surprised you? What has surprised you the most about you, as you’ve aged? It’s not

Monica Stynchula 37:39
all good. Okay. Wish I could say this, but there’s nothing like feeling like your body is turned against you. I mean, that’s, that’s kind of like, yeah, that’s the part that, you know, I’m just still trying to adjust to because mentally, you know, I’m still that 21 year old. Okay. No, like, not physically. We’re

Michael Hughes 38:02
not the only guests who have said this, by the way. You’re not alone. You’re I feel that too. I mean, I sometimes wish my knees, my feet, whatever it might be, you know, it’s just, yeah. Okay, let’s move on to question number three, then. Has there been somebody I liked? I just love talking to you. This has been so great. I. So last question. Is there someone that you’ve met or been in your life that has set a good example for you and aging someone that inspires you to as we say, Here, age abundantly?

Monica Stynchula 38:38
Yeah. It’s not a person. It’s a community of people. And it’s the Sisters of Charity in Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill. I got involved with them when I was a teenager, and they had been out protesting for the United Farm Workers, led by Cesar Chavez. But my kids need to know, I grew up in a dairy farm community. So me out there telling people not to eat Iceberg lettuce and table grapes was just kind of, you know, like, I was kind of tone deaf in my own community. Okay. Well, what I learned from these women was you always protect vulnerable people. And how do you advocate for vulnerable people? And now, they are vulnerable people. They’re in their 70s 80s 90s. I mean, some of them are in their hundreds, and to see how they still care for each other, the dignity that they show each other, even though many of them are in the residential care facility. They are dressed every day. They go to their services, they do activities. One of them, one of the nuns, even started Amana. She got certified to teach Montessori for dementia so that she could serve her fellow sisters. And these women continue. I mean, all the adjustments like I’ve said about the things I don’t like happen to me, they happen to them too. But these women still resist Millions that they’re like, no. How do we teach future generations to continue to, you know, advocate for vulnerable people? And even in their decline? They’re still doing it. I mean, I just find them amazing. And they really are my role models. They are my role models. And I think every time I want to say, poor Monica, I’m getting older, I think back and I go, No, those women are still fighting from their wheelchairs. They’re still fighting from, you know, their rooms from their bed. They’re still fighting for vulnerable people and society.

Michael Hughes 40:33
That is absolutely terrific. Monica, thank you so much for your willingness to answer the questions for sharing and for inspiring as well. And giving us so much great advice about supporting ourselves and supporting our loved ones at times when we may need a little bit more help. So our gratitude to you. But also and very importantly, I am grateful to you, our listeners. Thank you very much for listening to this episode of The Art of aging, which is part of the abundant aging podcast series from the Ruth Frost Parker Center for Abundant Aging, which is also part of United Church homes. And we want to hear from you what challenges you are finding with your function? What help do you have? What solutions have you found for loved ones that may need more help that are quick and easy hacks? What do you love the most about you as you’ve aged? We want to hear from you. So please visit us at abundant aging to share your ideas. You can also give us feedback when you visit the Ruth Frost Parker Center website at Our thanks again to Monica with and We hope that you will join us on a future podcast. And please send us your ideas for topics that we can cover. So until then, see you next time.