Feeling at home: Zionsville woman advocates for families transitioning into assisted living

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Lona Newton, left, visits with Jeanne Wilson in Wilson’s new home at ManorCare at Summer Trace in Carmel. (Photo by Sara Baldwin)

By Heather Lusk

When Cindy Ramsey was faced with moving her parents into an assisted living facility, she wasn’t sure where to turn.

“We talked to a lot of our friends in the same boat, and the key is how you get started with something like this,” she said.

She and her husband, Don Ramsey, who live in Carmel, met with an elder law attorney who suggested they contact Lona Newton to help guide them through the process. Newton, a Zionsville resident, spent several years in sales and marketing for senior living communities until she saw the need to advocate for families searching for assisted living.

“People would walk into my office and be overwhelmed,” Newton said. “They had to place their loved one and just didn’t know what to do or where to go.”

Two years ago, Newton started her own company, Senior Living Advisor, to provide guidance and help families make the best decisions for loved ones.

Although most of her business is in Carmel because of the high number of senior living options, she researches facilities all around Indianapolis based on her clients’ needs.

Newton creates a matrix of three living options based on financial and medical needs, along with community specifics like proximity. Having been on the inside, she knows what questions to ask each facility. She then assists with paperwork and can help organize the move.

Knowing the networks, medical payment options, state regulations, financial situations and negotiating with facilities are critical before making a selection.

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Lisa Reed, right, a registered nurse for Select Home Health, ensures that Robert Wilson, second from left, is provided quality nursing care. Reed asks Wilson a series of questions pertaining to wound care while Cindy Ramsay, left, and Lona Newton provide support. (Photo by Sarah Baldwin)

Cindy Ramsey moved her parents more than a year ago to a location that “had everything we were looking for,” she said. Then the facility changed the way they accepted Medicaid at about the same time her parents required additional medical care.

So the Ramseys reached out to Newton again, who found a new option.

“Our No. 1 goal was to keep (Cindy’s) mother and father together,” Don Ramsey said. “A lot people think about how nice the facility looks, but to be honest the amount of care and love they get far exceeds the surroundings they’re in. If they have loving staff that really care about the elderly, it makes a difference.”

Elder care needs will continue to rise as individuals 85 and older are one of the fastest growing segments of the population. In 2012, there were an estimated 5.9 million people above the age of 85 in the U.S. The total is expected to increase to 19.4 million by 2050,  according to the CDC.

Part of the increase is due to the aging of the baby boomer population. In 2030,  approximately 1 in 5 people will be older than 65, which is expected to create a temporary demand for the multitude of elder care options.

Newton said time constraints usually prevent family members from conducting the  research required to make the best decisions for their loved ones.

“You have to know what you’re looking for, and you have to know the fit,” she said.

Cindy Ramsey struggled to find a new home for her parents but said that Newton was a voice of reason, advising her the time was right.

“We were trying to do as much as possible to keep them in their home,” she said. “There’s an emotional factor of wanting to try to protect them. (Newton) helped me get over the emotional barrier of making the change. She was instrumental in doing what was right for the family.”

In her spare time, Newton focuses on the opposite end of life by serving as a child advocate in Marion County. She has two siblings in her care, making sure their needs are met through the legal, foster care and educational systems.

“It has to do with a calling I’ve had and being able to help in another area that I’m interested in,” she said.

Newton’s college degree is in early childhood education, but she said she was led to help seniors.

“They have a heart of gratefulness and appreciation for what you can do for them,” she said.

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Meet Lona Newton

Family: Husband, David, an entrepreneur, and two adult children living in Ohio and Illinois

Favorite hobby: Gardening

Favorite vacation spot: Cabo

Favorite local restaurant: Cobblestone

Favorite book: The Bible

Favorite movie: “Gone with the Wind”