From The Top: Lynn Schopler, Golden Elders
By David Sharos For The Sun December 6, 2012 7:12PM
In 2008, Lynn Schopler, 63, launched Golden Elders, Inc., an in-house adult care facility which provides “a homey, extended family setting” for patients with Alzheimer’s.
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For more information about Golden Elders, visit www.goldenelders.com/index.html.
Updated: January 10, 2013 6:23AM
Many longtime Naperville residents will tell you their family history is tied to farms. One of them is Lynn Schopler, 63, whose family home along River Road still stands to this day, along with 5-1/2 acres of land that at one time was part of the family’s dairy farm. And it was from this “farm” mentality and a disease that claimed the life of her mother that Schopler found the inspiration to launch a business.
“My mother had Alzheimer’s, which she battled for eight years, and I was her primary caretaker the last six months of her life,” Schopler said. “I had this ‘farm family’ mentality where you take care of your own, and after my mother died, I thought it would be a good idea if I could help others in the same way and give people who were taking care of Alzheimer’s patients a bit of a respite.”
In November 2008, Schopler launched Golden Elders Inc., an in-house adult care facility, which provides “a homey, extended family setting” for patients with Alzheimer’s. Schopler said the work is a natural extension of her training, which includes a bachelor’s degree in psychology from North Central College, followed later by a master’s degree she earned in counseling and psychology.
“I actually worked in sales for a while and then I got my masters and worked for years in the areas of substance abuse and domestic violence,” she said. “After taking care of my mom at the end of her life, I wanted to continue working with people like her. The downside of this job is that you get attached to these people who you know are terminally ill.”
Schopler said that, during the past four years, she has worked with about 35 and 40 people. She employs two others to keep a ratio of one caretaker to three patients. Days are spent doing a variety of activities, from listening to music to doing exercises in a chair, if necessary.
“The thing about Alzheimer’s patients is that they remain emotionally tied to many things, and hearing old songs or seeing certain things can spark memories,” Schopler said. “We’ve done crafts and stuffed gift bags for people and have gone to Christmas programs given at various area schools. I have a dry eraser board where I’ll write things and try to do things that will stimulate people.”
Naperville resident Gayle Rutter, 44, said she was referred to Golden Elders through another friend who also used Schopler’s services.
“This is an incredible warm place to bring people, and you really feel like you’re going to someone’s home,” Rutter said. “Lynn took care of my mom for over a year before she moved to live with my sister in Washington state, and at first my mom was resistant about going. After a while, she didn’t want to come home. Lynn plans so many activities and does everything she can to keep her clients’ minds stimulated. She even threw a going away party for my mom when she left.”
Schopler has lived her entire life her in Naperville and said it has been amazing to see what was once a community with about 5,000 people become what it is today.
“I can drive around town and see street signs that were named after people my parents used to play cards with,” she said. “My family is connected to so many of the names you see here everywhere, like my great-grandmother who was a Wehrli.”
Schopler admits that finding time for herself and her own life can sometimes be challenging, but she relies on her own family to provide some balance between those she cares for and those who care about her.
“The thing is, for me, I live alone, so I just have to look after myself,” she said. “I have two boys and six grandchildren, and a lot of support from friends. I try and exercise every day, too.
“As far as the work I do, there is so much gratitude I get from the caregivers, and it fills void and keeps me going.”
She says one of her clients has been with her three years. “When he goes, I’m going to feel like I lost a father.”