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January 23, 2014

AWS and Associates helps elderly preserve independence

By Bera Dunau Staff Writer
Cooperstown Crier

---- — A brush with death inspired Anne Schug Williams to start her own business managing care for the elderly.

At age 44, Williams had open heart surgery, which made her re-evaluate her life.

“Working with (the) elderly is what I loved,” said Williams, who has worked as a social worker for just over 25 years. “I put it all together, and decided to open my own geriatric care business.”

Williams’ started her business, Anne Schug Williams and Associates, in June of 2012. She currently has 18 clients, and her area of operation includes Syracuse, Oneonta and communities in between, including Cooperstown.

“This change that I made was the best one for me and my family,” said Williams, saying that owning her own business has allowed her to work around her young daughter’s schedule.“I was able to make my own hours.”

Before starting ASW and Associates, Williams worked for Excellus BlueCross BlueShield and Heritage Health Care Center in Utica as a case manager. She has a master of social work from Syracuse University.

Williams says that her job involves working with clients to help them develop and execute plans of care for themselves as they age.

Williams said she begins this process by conducting an evaluation of a client. The factors that she evaluates are physical, psycho-social, financial and emotional. This evaluation helps Williams and her client draft a plan of care.

This plan can involve such steps as setting up financial services, downsizing to a smaller residence, finding placement in an assisted living facility, and setting up healthcare services. Once the plan is set up, Williams supervises it, which can include everything from making sure a client is receiving proper healthcare to ensuring that they are eating regularly.

“Wherever the home (of my client) is, I’m a guest in the home,” said Williams. “My job is to make sure their wishes are maintained.”

She also says that a major goal of the process is to arrange for services that allow her clients to be independent.

When a client is suffering from dementia, Williams said she still works for the client and advocates for the client’s interests, but also maintains regular contact and consults with the person who has been given the client’s power of attorney.

Williams said that she often deals with family disputes in her line of work  and said she does a lot of mediation between family members.

“I set up with each family who’s going to be the main spokesperson,” said Williams. “I can’t have 50 calls a day from one family.”

The spokesperson is then kept regularly updated about the status of their relative.

“At least two to three times a week I talk to the spokesperson,” said Williams. “Some I talk to every day.”

The most challenging cases for Williams, however, are when a client doesn’t have a readily available support system, familial or otherwise. In these circumstances, Williams said she assumes the duties of caregiver, geriatric care manager and adopted family member.

“I take that support system on myself,” said Williams, who said she doesn’t do anything for a client that she wouldn’t do for her 86-year-old mother.

Williams also said that owning her own business has allowed her to offer her clients more options than she could when she was working as a case manager for other companies

“They can pick and choose (the options they want),” said Williams.

Williams says that her case load, and the number and types of clients she can take on, are determined by the needs of current and potential clients.

“I’m available to my clients 24/7,” said Williams. Another geriatric care manager has agreed to cover for her should she become unavailable.

Although it is not a hard cap, Williams said that she can probably maintain no more than 25 clients at a time. She is currently looking for additional clients.

ASW and Associates’ maximum number of clients is set to change in 2014. Currently, Williams is the only employee of ASW and Associates. In six to eight months, however, she plans to hire other employees, friends of hers who are also social workers. She said she believes that these hires will allow her to triple the number of clients that she can take on.

“I’m very excited,” she said.

Williams said that she maintains relationships with all social services agencies, and that she also works with physicians. When asked about the importance of these relationships, Williams characterized them as extremely important.

“I want the best for my clients,” said Williams. “The more avenues that are available … the better off that my client will be.”

Williams charges $65 an hour for her services, although she maintains a sliding scale for some clients.

As for how she gets new clients, Williams said that she often gets referrals from the children of potential clients, as well as from physicians and lawyers. She also said that she is getting an increasing number of self-referrals from individuals in their late 60s and early 70s, who want to put a care plan into place that will be available for them as they get older.

“I’m a service that they can tap into,” said Williams, when asked what she wants potential clients to know about her business. “I can help improve their quality of life … as they gracefully age.”

'Wherever the home (of my client) is, I'm a guest in the home. My job is to make sure their wishes are maintained.' Anne Schug Williams