Black Hills Woman Magazine | Turning Grey into Color

Turning Grey Into Color
by Helen Usera

Black Hills Advocate helps seniors have a voice.

In 2015, 16.6% of the Black Hills area population was 65 years or older—an increase of 35% from 2000. According to the Black Hills Knowledge Network, the state’s population of this age group increased from 14.3% in 2000 to 15.7% in 2015.

Jenny Telechan of Rapid City recognized a need for local health care advocacy services and embarked to create Black Hills Advocate (BHA) - which empowers, equips, and assists seniors, the disabled, and their families. “As we age, we become gray to the world and we lose our uniqueness,” says Jenny. The staff at Black Hills Advocate help impart color to the gray lives of seniors, mostly by providing peace of mind to the elderly or their families. They coordinate services necessary to ensure that individuals are receiving quality care and assistance, including medical visits. Kathy Miller of Rapid City found that she needed help as her husband, Max, dealt with dementia.

“I’ll just do it” had become Kathy’s mantra; however, after a year SHE, not Max, needed help. Although she previously knew Jenny, it wasn’t until she noticed a BHA advertisement that she called on her friend.

“I needed her to be my brain and figure out care providers,” says Kathy.

Black Hills Advocate recommended a lawyer along with someone to cook lunch two to three days a week. She also found an additional caregiver for friendly support. Although Kathy was physically capable of taking care of her husband, she simply needed dependable help in screening the best resources for Max.

The staff at Black Hills Advocate quickly builds rapport with clients, and most invite BHA into their homes to begin the conversation about their specific needs, values, and vision of the future. BHA nurtures them beyond their medical needs. Even though the elderly may have many friends, Jenny says some feel lonely and yearn for “a person” who has no bias or preconceived notions about what is or should be. Jenny describes her team as “pinch-hitting angels.” Her business revolves around people caring about people. Recently, BHA received funding to begin a nonprofit called Chair Lift. It is community wheelchair-accessible transportation with a sliding-scale fee based on income and helps individuals keep their medical and personal appointments.

Not all elderly requiring health care advocacy have the same needs. BHA “walks in” and becomes the paint brush that turns gray into technicolor with dedicated individual support.

“There’s a comfort factor that I do not have to question my own judgment,” Kathy sums up.

Helen Usera, Ed.D., is the owner of Aspiring Business Consulting which provides organizational and leadership development support to nonprofits and for-profits.

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