Angela Thomas already had years of experience as a labor-and-delivery nurse and a hospice nurse under her belt when her husband’s aunt came to live with them in 2001. But the experience would shape her career — and her life — in a whole new way.
Within a few weeks, it became clear that the aunt, Grace, had Alzheimer’s disease. Thomas, a mother of five and a 13-year University Park resident, had two teenage boys at home then, which added some challenges to the already-stressful situation.
“It was really challenging at the beginning to figure out what she needed,” she said.
But the difficulty led to a positive; after testing out various facilities for a few years, Thomas realized she could help other families transition to personalized care, just as her family had done.
“I met a care manager who agreed to mentor me, and I began working in a local hospital,” she said.
After a few years of training and certification, Thomas opened Caring With Grace, a care management consulting company that helps families face the challenges of aging. The company is named after her husband’s aunt.
“I wanted to incorporate her in it,” she said of Grace, who had also tended to family members before her own health complications. “I am forever grateful to her.”
Today, her company helps family-member caregivers prevent burnout, learn to help their loved ones, and prepare financially for long-term needs. For people like Kelley Maxwell, Thomas’ expertise is invaluable. Thomas cared for Maxwell’s father in the last nine months of his life.
“My 87-year-old dad was getting out of the hospital and didn’t want to go to a nursing home,” Maxwell said. “I’m an only child, so I don’t have a large support base.”
But she quickly found one in Caring With Grace. Thomas attended doctors’ visits with Maxwell, helped prepare medications, and made supplemental suggestions for her father’s care.
“She made suggestions from a nursing perspective that the doctors received very well,” she said. “That’s one of the things that made his return home successful.”
Thomas’ know-how was able to help Maxwell deal with elements of elderly care that were previously foreign to her, like bedsores and Medicare billing. She also provided a color-coded notebook to make tracking medication doses easier. But Maxwell also appreciated the spiritual encouragement she found in Thomas, from her kind words to her reading recommendations.
“She’s a dear friend to her patients,” Maxwell said. “My dad felt secure in her management. She gave me the tools to have him at home.”
Though Thomas has helped many families with elderly parents like she did with Maxwell, she doesn’t just work with geriatric patients. She also works with younger clients who are not yet 65 but struggle with diseases such as Parkinson’s or multiple sclerosis. She keeps with her a small but formidable team: one administrator, another care manager, an assistant care manager, and her communications director. Together, they provide care to families not only in Dallas, but in the outskirts as well; Thomas has trekked to Granbury, Quinlan, and Sanger to help families look after for loved ones.
“It took about three years to let people know I was there,” Thomas said of her networking and word-of-mouth referrals over time. “I love what I do; I’m passionate about helping families.”
This story appears in the Living Well section of this month’s paper, on stands now.