In March 2018, Beth Suereth, Founder and CEO of Caregiving Pathways and a veteran of health care marketing, left a corporate job to launch the only company in the United States devoted to helping family caregivers understand how to manage a family member’s hospital stay and the final stages of life.
Those who know Suereth know her to be kind; her voice is so soothing you’ll want to stay on the phone with her as long as possible. As she cared for her father for five years, Suereth discovered a huge need: “My dad had one hospital stay after another after another. I searched for information about managing the hospital experience, but there was nothing out there. It was all trial and error.”
Suereth’s first step was to provide the resources sorely needed by family caregivers to give them the information they need all in one place. “If you don’t know the ins and outs of the hospital environment and culture,” explains Suereth, “you can’t know the right questions to ask, and you can end up being overtreated or undertreated. The number of hospital errors resulting in death is staggering.”
The resources at Caregiving Pathways — available to all free of charge on the company website — are groundbreaking. They focus on everything from handling the hospital stay to end-of-life planning, financial considerations around caregiving, and the many questions family caregivers need to ask, “up front.”
This revolutionary business reached profitability in 2018, and Suereth was on her way to becoming a “superstar” on the growing family caregiving speaking circuit.
Caregiving Pathways has never been as important as it has during COVID-19, with hundreds of thousands of people dying in the United States, many of them older adults with family caregivers who are more stressed than ever. As Suereth states, “People in hospitals and nursing homes have so little communication with their loved ones that they are often declining physically and mentally from loneliness.”
An educated family caregiver can mean significantly improved health outcomes.
Until Suereth, those 53 million U.S. family caregivers (the number according to the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP) faced so much with so little in hand. Most are women. “And women shoulder a much greater degree of day-to-day hands-on care. As a result, they often leave the workforce with reduced lifetime earnings and retirement savings — which can affect families for generations.”
The comprehensive guides Suereth created for Caregiving Pathways include How to Help Your Loved One in the Hospital (track what happens and ask questions until everything makes sense); End-of-Life Planning Guide (ask how someone wants to spend the time that remains); an End-of-Life Plan (create and share one before you need it); and Complement Your Client’s Financial Plan with a Personal End-of-Life Plan (for financial planners; align financial resources with final wishes).
Suereth provides consulting services for hospitals, financial services companies, and a business that offers trainings for family caregivers and certifications for those who support them. For employers, the company offers strategies that support family caregivers and help businesses manage absenteeism, presenteeism, and retention.
Pharmacists are yet another Suereth focus. As she explains, family caregivers represent two customers in one because they purchase medications for themselves and the person they’re caring for. For family caregivers, a good relationship with a pharmacist can be crucial in helping someone afford medications, keep to a schedule and, notably, look out for duplications — the same medication prescribed by two different physicians.
Suereth also supports and coaches individual caregivers, all overwhelmed as COVID-19 spreads. She provides emotional support and helps them gain insights and perspective, often when they are affected by “visitor” restrictions in the hospital or are excluded from accompanying a family member to a doctor appointment. “During COVID, the key is to understand how communication in these settings took place pre-COVID, how it’s different now, and how to navigate all of that. It can be done.”
It’s no surprise, then, that Suereth has become in two-plus short years a “name” on the speaking/panel circuit, from the National Caregiving Conference on “When the Care Plan Becomes an End-of-Life Plan” to an invitation to speak to family caregivers in the Virgin Islands and a “Beginning Again Virtual Retreat” for caregivers adjusting to life after a family member’s death during COVID-19. Suereth’s primary talk is titled “How to Help Your Loved One in the Hospital,” an expanded version of her easy-to-read guidebook of the same name.
And AARP, the 38 million-member nonprofit organization, sought out Suereth to join the AARP Public Policy Institute team writing its first-ever series of publications for health care leaders: Supporting Family Caregivers Providing Complex Care. The series includes eight research papers published in 2020, with more to come, and a 2020 webinar series. The publications are available at https://www.aarp.org/ppi/initiatives/supporting-family-caregivers-providing-complex-care/.
The institute also asked Suereth to join the team writing a 2019 research report titled Home Alone Revisited: Family Caregivers Providing Complex Care.
It’s rare indeed that an organization of AARP’s size and power reaches out to such a small company — and a start-up to boot — to tap what is clearly vast knowledge.
Then again, Beth Suereth is a unique combination of entrepreneur, expert marketer, and compassionate family caregiver.
Her time has come, and with the COVID pandemic, thank goodness that time is now.
To learn more about Caregiving Pathways, please visit www.caregivingpathways.com.
Caregiving Pathways won Gold for Most Innovative Company of the Year and the Bronze Stevie for Most Innovative Woman of the Year in the 2020 Stevie Awards for Women in Business.
Interested in entering the 2021 Stevie Awards for Women in Business?