By Lori Lovely
Two years ago, Mark Klokkenga and his sisters began talking to their parents about planning for their future, but the discussion stalled. “Mom had some falls, so the conversation came up again,” he remembers.
Realizing it would be difficult for his parents to give up their independence, he nevertheless wanted them to move for their own safety and well being. “We’d never been down this road before,” Klokkenga says, “so we had no clue where to go. Where do you start?”
Last summer, someone at his church gave Klokkenga the number for Living By Your Design, Inc., the Peoria-based referral and consulting service founded by Steven Buttice. LBYD helps determine the type of treatment or living facility best suited for each person’s situation and provides other resources to make the transition easier. “Steve pointed us in the right direction. He’s a great resource.”
Buttice founded Living By Your Design, Inc., in January, 2013, to address the lifestyle, legal, and health care needs of seniors and adults with special needs. Perhaps best known for its free referral service for housing options, the company’s senior advocacy division offers individualized fee-based services to assist with other aspects of what Buttice calls a traditional phase of life. “We look at the big picture and focus on the desired outcome.”
Whether that outcome involves aging in place with home health care or a senior community, the big picture is a better quality of life.
As part of the fee-based consultation, Buttice takes an in-depth look at the client’s lifestyle, needs, and finances. Based on that information, he provides services that include:
- Healthcare advocacy, such as acting as a representative at doctor appointments and serving as a liaison, by reporting information to the family or providing information about home health care.
- Financial planning to help clients understand the products available. Regarded as an authority on Medicare and insurance, he educates people about Medicare, long-term care, estate planning and funding, or will refer them to elder care specialists for additional assistance.
- Insurance planning and researching Medicare plans to find one that best meets a client’s needs.
- Legal needs, with referrals to elder care specialists who can assist with trusts, power of attorney forms and wills.
- Lifestyle issues, ranging from ensuring that the home is safe to enabling the client to maintain social connections with church, family and community.
Utilizing a network of community providers, Buttice guides clients to the appropriate support. “We walk through the system with you,” he says, comfortingly. That alleviates stress on clients and their family members, particularly if they live out of state and find it difficult to coordinate assistance.
When his mother began showing signs of Alzheimer’s, New York-based freelance writer Tim Harper sought advice in assisting his parents. “I lived far away and was unfamiliar with the aging process, medical and legal issues, insurance, government regulations …” he recalls. He wanted to plan ahead. “I didn’t want to make decisions in crisis.”
He turned to LBYD. Buttice helped locate a senior apartment complex for Harper’s parents and positioned their finances to cover expenses. “It saved time and angst,” Harper says. “Going through Steve helped us control what was happening. He was my eyes in Illinois.”
LBYD’s services didn’t end when Harper’s mother passed away. His father often referred to Buttice as his third son. “Other family members call Steve our guardian angel.” Buttice continues to assist Harper’s brother with health, medical, financial and insurance issues. “I trust him implicitly,” Harper praises. “He has a gift, a special skill set. He really cares.”
Buttice directed Harper’s parents to Ketra Mytich, attorney and counsellor at law whose specialties include asset protection and elder law, for help with legal documents.
Recent statistics indicate that only 30 percent of women have wills and life insurance. If they do have a will, it may be out of date. “They may have taken a step, but didn’t update it,” Mytich presumes. “They don’t realize what they can do under the law today; they fear estate tax. They aren’t thinking of the big picture.”
Clients need estate planning services in order to put their affairs in order. Chaos and stress ensue if nothing is done. Mytich provides counseling and customized plans that could include wills, trusts or powers of attorney.
In order to ascertain if his clients require Mytich’s services, Buttice uses questionnaires to verify their personal situations. “Steve has the skills set to determine their needs,” Mytich states. “He helps people with information about facilities, health care management (to stay at home) and long-term care insurance. He makes sure Medicare pays what it’s supposed to and looks into veterans benefits.
He also provides information to families. He even does specialty stuff to help people qualify for benefits — for example, if there’s a disabled child living with parents who are going into a home.”
He is so well versed in elder issues and experienced with making these transitions that Mytich recently asked him to speak at one of her bi-annual trustee meetings. “Steve is very dedicated and takes extra time [with clients],” she summarizes. “He goes above and beyond.”
Background in the Business
Buttice has always gone above and beyond for others. Crediting his vast sense of compassion to the fact that he grew up with a special-needs brother, he says the idea for this corporation originated in 1989, when he met a woman who had been living in a nursing home for seven months while she recovered from a stroke. “She couldn’t get out because she had only $30 after Medicaid.”
As the founder of Medical Reimbursement Services, Buttice helped her deal with Medicare-related financial issues. She inspired him and stimulated his creative thinking and, by 1992, the company’s focus shifted to care management.
His passion for empowering others to make important decisions, particularly as health care issues present themselves and needs change, led him to a seat on the board at the Central Illinois Agency on Aging and also to join the National Care Planning Council, the Senior Care Network and other benevolent organizations.
A certification in Gerontology from the University of Illinois equipped him to assist seniors as they transition from living independently to assisted care or independent senior living.
It’s Not a Picnic Without a Sandwich
Likening what he does to the role of a general contractor, Buttice says he helps tie up loose ends. “Men will understand that comparison,” he declares.
Women might understand his role better if compared with that of a concierge who recommends the best service providers in town, or a personal shopper using his connections, knowledge and experience to connect clients with services, saving them time and eliminating the stress factor generated by exhaustive shopping for health care facilities.
Emphasizing that his services also benefit the clients’ families, Buttice takes pride in serving the “sandwich” generation — people between the ages of 45 and 60 who attend to the needs of their children and their parents.
His assistant, Mary Casterline, is a member of that generation. She met Buttice when her mother used his services to move from her home to a senior community. “She was living alone and her health was declining after several cancer surgeries,”
With her mother comfortably settled, Casterline, a former instructor of special education at Eureka College and a learning and behavior consultant, now works part-time as a senior community advisor, focusing on the needs of the older population.
Peace of Mind
“People usually come to us because they did no prior planning,” Casterline says. That produces anxiety if a health crisis demands an immediate move to a new type of living environment. LBYD eases fears by eliminating the need to sort through entrance qualifications, financial assistance programs and other issues involved in a move to a health care facility or senior living residence — or even to stay in their own home with the added assistance of home health care.
Klokkenga’s father was showing signs of stress due to his wife’s health condition, Buttice remembers. “His parents really lost hope of quality of life. In our consultation, we went through their situation, including legal, finances and lifestyle. We explained their options and we were able to show them how they could afford to move to a fine senior living community.”
“Steve narrowed down our search according to our needs and finances,” Klokkenga reveals. Knowing he would have a hard time helping his parents while he was at work, he considers LBYD a safety net. “We trust Steve. He’s very sensitive about privacy and finances, and if we have a question, we can call or email. It gives us peace of mind.”
Buttice says he provides peace of mind by going through the process with his clients every step of the way. Attending to details and answering questions helps alleviate confusion and fear of the unknown.
Nine months later, Klokkenga’s parents are doing well. “We did [this move] at the right time; Mom couldn’t have gone back to the house [after a fall at Thanksgiving and a brief nursing home stay]. Dad got support and socialization while she was recovering and now they’re both eating better and feeling better.”
LBYD currently serves an eight-county area, but plans to expand. “There’s a huge need for this service,” says Klokkenga, who now refer others to LBYD. As more baby boomers age, the demand for the specialty services Buttice provides will continue to increase.
For more information, contact Steven Buttice at Living By Your Design, Inc., 809 W. Detweiller Dr., Peoria, IL, 61615; visit www.LivingByYourDesignInc.com or call 309-285-8088.