"We prepare students to engage in the world that is and to help bring about a world that ought to be."
Joy Rivera '91
“Care management means helping families to navigate the healthcare system and navigate best choices for their loved ones as it relates to care.” Joy Rivera ’91 is a care manager and owner of Solutions for Joyful Aging. She works with a variety of clients, creating and carrying out comprehensive care plans. “I have about 17 clients, and everybody needs something different.”
Joy began her career as a geriatric social worker. She learned about the specialty of care management through a career planning panel, where one of the panelists was a professor at the Brookdale Center for Healthy Aging and Longevity at Hunter College. She realized that she had already largely been acting as a care manager and sought to formalize her training. “I enrolled in the two-year certification program at Brookdale and never really looked back.”
Each client who Joy works with is unique. “When I start a case, I do an assessment, from which I develop a care plan. There is a wide spectrum of sickness. For example, I have a client now in her late 80s who has been nonverbal for 15 years. Another woman is 102 years old and in hospice care; we work to make her comfortable. I am basically a troubleshooter for any issue that comes up. That’s why I’m on call 24 hours a day, because things can happen at any time of day or night.” Her success depends on the care teams who support her clients. “I respect them a great deal; they are my eyes and ears. I think a lot of the time, caregivers are overlooked because they are the least educated, and they don’t get the respect they deserve. That’s something I really try to convey to families when we’re working together.”
Joy credits her education at Friends with the direction she has taken in her professional life. “It all started here. It’s always been in my heart to help, but Friends really helped nurture that. I participated in HELP (Helping Everybody Less Privileged) and Habitat for Humanity. It taught me that when I do something in life, I want to do something that makes a difference.”
Joy supports her clients daily to navigate through the difficult conversations and situations that many of us put off or neglect to consider. “Watching somebody say goodbye is not easy. Death is going to be different for everybody and it’s probably not going to be as you imagined. If I could say anything about end of life care, try to help your loved one, try to understand what happiness means for your loved one. Talk to them about their life and see if they have regrets. You might not be able to do anything about it, but it can help the person to release it.” Through her work, Joy is seeking to bring about a world where there is more peace, more positivity, and more happiness, even in the midst of illness and at the end of life. “People are not going to be happy all the time, but look back at all the good times. They didn’t just get here; they lived a life, they have a story. They have a legacy.”