Bridging the Gap: Dr. Jenisha Henneghan on Transforming Aging Care Through Holistic Approaches and Community Support


Dr. Jenisha Henneghan, Assistant Director of the Area Agency on Aging in North Carolina, discusses the challenges and opportunities in the field of aging care. She highlights the importance of addressing the social barriers that prevent individuals from transitioning out of care facilities and emphasizes the need for holistic care that considers the entire person. Dr. Henneghan also discusses the role of the Area Agency on Aging in supporting older adults, adults with disabilities, and family caregivers through partnerships and funding programs. She addresses the challenges faced by families in accessing affordable care and the consequences of not finding adequate support. Dr. Henneghan calls for increased awareness, policy changes, and equitable access to care to address the growing crisis in care provision.


  • Addressing the social barriers that prevent individuals from transitioning out of care facilities is crucial for holistic care.
  • The Area Agency on Aging plays a vital role in supporting older adults, adults with disabilities, and family caregivers through partnerships and funding programs.
  • Accessing affordable care is a challenge for many families, especially those in the middle-income range.
  • Increased awareness, policy changes, and equitable access to care are needed to address the growing crisis in care provision.


neal_shah__careyaya (00:00)
hello and welcome to the future of care giving where we talk with experts care providers and those with first hand experience to understand the rapidly evolving world of care from technological advancements to demographic shifts will delve into the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for those who provide care and those who receive it join us as we examine the trends break through and innovative solutions that are shaping the way we care for each

there now and in the years to come so today i'm excited to introduce our guest Dr. Jenisha Henneghan. She is a leader in the world of aging care and advocacy after receiving her doctor in physical therapy genii had a successful fifteen year career as a physical therapist across numerous health care systems mid career she went back to school to pursue masters in public health she now serves as the assistant director of the agency on aging in north carolina triangle council of governments here she uses their experts to support citizens that are aging adults adults living with disabilities and their family care givers we're so excited to learn from Jenisha's knowledge and experience

so yeah Jenisha for our listeners can you please give us a brief background about yourself you know what inspired you to pursue your career and physical therapy and then make a shift to public health and the agency of aging

jenisha_henneghan (01:24)
sure so yeah started out on physical therapy probably like most people wanted to get into sports and and things like that but i noticed i had a natural calling to the geriatric population and so i did some out patient but mostly i found more joy and even an out patient setting working with those who have medicare and things like that and then i transition to like skill nursing facility which i absolutely love and so but being in that setting

i open my eyes to a lot of things so yes this physical therapy but what about the entire person so it made me look at some of the social barriers that were preventing people to transition out of the facility so yes i can help them ambulate and get them on their feet but when they go home do they have access to healthy foods to help them not be readmitted back to the hospital do they have transportation to get to appointments after they leave the facility so it's just all of those things made me look at the entire

person and some of those as we know called like the social drivers of hell that kind of made me a little bit more interested always had an interest of going back to get a mess poi health knew that when i was in p t school so i just decided you know hey let's you know the world of health care and therapy was shifting in itself and so how can i branch out how can i you know hopefully help with those who are trying to what we call care transition transition

from home i don't believe necessarily into institutionalization all the time is the answer so how can we help people leave a facility whether for reap not stay their long term and those who have desired to live back into the community how can we support them to do that

neal_shah__careyaya (03:11)
that's great that's great thanks for sharing and that's really it's really interesting and inspirational of how you can start your career in one place and then be inspired to shift focus and then help people that you are previously helping in you know a new career and i guess that's a great transition point for many of our listeners may not be fully aware of the area agency on aging and you know what you all do so yeah can you tell us a little bit in terms of what does the agency on aging do you know how these organizations how do they come about

what is your role and maybe even just give a snapshot of what's your day to day work like

jenisha_henneghan (03:46)
okay so yeah i would have triangle j area agency on a j and so were we covered seven counties closer here so roly der orange coleny and the counties close and more to the this part of north carolina but there are sixteen area agency on agin throughout the state of north carolina and so one of things is we try to create partnerships as much as we can with our local providers to make sure

we're leveraging like quality continuum of carty programs and services so it supports the older adult adults with disability and also supports m family the care givers as well so mostly we do like mooting of the older american eggs funds that go out to support programs like an home aid some of the home deliver programs and things like that so we kind of provide technical support

mostly for our local providers with that funding but here at triangle j i kind of oversee kind of multitude of things so i supervise two programs which started during the coved time because of a care giving issue so we have two counties hat decide to start programs that we call consumer directed programs they were having trouble during the pandemic getting like in home eights coming home and also fearful right and so

now they can hire a family member or someone they know um to come in and to assist their love one with care so someone they trust with so we have two programs that we started like i said during the pandemand that i oversee that and i also see one for the veterans program as well which is pretty much the same thing it is with the veteran administration but it the veteran can hire a care giver to come into their home it could be a family member um and that person prove

i care they train them their they're the employer and that's an employe tight relationship so they're all consumer directed the individual is driving the service or their designated representative and then some of the other things as just facilitating partnerships again collaborating with other organizations in weight county and der county as well but that's what i do here at the agency of agent

neal_shah__careyaya (06:10)
that's that's great to hear tanis thanks for sharing and i think many of our listeners may not even be aware of these programs so you know really good to build public awareness and you know if you all are in need of care help definitely check out these programs you know i think as a follow up to that would love to learn you know how did you guys decide you know to kind of implement these programs you know that you know from your experience what are the challenges you see with families you serve when they need care help you know are their challenges to afford

ability access you know to finding help and then you know kind of like what are some of the consequences that you see when people can't find it and then you can talk about it at more of structural systemic level as well as if you have any kind of personal anecdotes of families that you've talked to over the ear so just kind of seeing the challenges i think it'll be helpful for you to describe for our listeners

jenisha_henneghan (06:59)
um yeah i think you kind of hit it right there so like i said mentioned those two programs that we started so one is in johnson county one is in chatham county and so those two counties local providers decided to use that and like i mentioned before during the pandem and i think the pandemic probably torn the paned off or made it illuminated a little bit more i think we knew these issues were already here but how seriously did we take them and i think the pandemic when the world had to shut down

who's coming to help you take care of mom or you know grandmother who has dementia and things like that so some of the care workers they left the field because became stressful during the pandemic right you know is like health wise for everybody and then also those who live in the homes they didn't want anyone coming in so there as there was already a shortage of health care provide of care aid already and like i said i think that

and then it just put the spot light ten fold on the issues that many people have been talking about for a while you know i think these issues when you say the baby boomers and i think maybe it was just a great monitor and just things to say but i think the reality of where we are is showing like we need to have support for care and care givers um so i'm glad these two counties decided to use funds that we got during the pandemic some

those disaster relief funds kind of help start those problems up um you know it's not big it doesn't replace salaries and things like that which is a whole nother issue and care given right family members have to if they re the ones providing care they're losing work time they're losing you know their whole productivity and their work space to take care of a love one and so no that doesn't cover the loss of a salary but it does help give like some respite some relief just some

and coming in to kind of help a family member um and i think the veteran administration had already solved this you know this program started even before covid and it's you know throughout the united states but i think it's showing you know even for our veterans the importance of having you know care at home um but the issue is you know where where are we going to find these care workers to come home because even in the program you know

we've had some clients who didn't have a family member to help out so we tried to help them give them the tools to go find someone to hire that was a very hard process like i had one client that went months and could not find anyone we thought about going to like the schools with the nursing schools and things like that so then some of the issues that came up which is pay right so undervalue career being

you know working as a personal care assistant can be under value and then like i said during this time we're having um in the past three years you know wages people want to get paid for what they do and because they have to live and as we see the cost of living has definitely gone especially being here in the triangle so it was hard for people to find someone who was willing for the pay because it's not a lot right um and so definitely trying to find care givers

that were willing to work for you know the hours and the pay has been hard and i know i think that's the thing we have to look out making sure you know aids and things are being paid equably you know that the need a way to live right as well but then there's also the issue of there's those either you can afford a private pay person you have the means and the funds to do that and then there's those who may be able to qualify

for some assistants programs like through medica but then there's those in the middle and it's like they don't have they make enough they're living right and they're trying to survive but they need a little bit of help and they don't qualify for any protheycan't pay someone thirty dollars an hour to come in even if it's only three hours in a day right that stuff starts to add up um and then but they don't qualify for some of the other programs so they're kind of

stuck here in the middle and i will say of late i've been helping with our total free line and a lot of our calls lately have been care givers trying to figure out what to do right because they're in this those that are in the middle right like what

neal_shah__careyaya (11:44)
wow and yeah and to follow up to that you know i'm curious we had read that the number of people in this middle is very high you know i think that we were doing some research with the u n c gilling school of public health and they had suggested that eighty percent of people were in this kind of middle zone that you know didn't have the subsidized care health and then could not afford the prevailing kind of agency structure with the thirty dollar hour of care so

i think you know what was surprising to us is that what you know because it's one thing to talk about research but it's another thing where you're talking to the families directly what do you find is happening with these families that are kind of stuck in the middle can't afford are they just doing it themselves are the spouse or the son or daughter just kind of like leaving their job to do it are people not getting care you know and then is you know are there hospitalizations and you know kind of like health you health outcomes that are worst just kind of

what are some of the things you've heard or seen

jenisha_henneghan (12:47)
yeah definitely a mixture um so we had some family members have left work to try to stay home hopefully if they have like a spouse or somewhere and they're just trying to you know if the daughter has to stay home and as we know probably statistically is more women who re being the caretever right so whether that's for kids or apparent um and so so leaving work to try to take care of family mem

but i just remember one call you know she's like i've missed so much work trying to get my mom to the doctor trying to get this or my mom was just hospitalized she's about to leave rehab and we don't know what to do you know the mom has too much too many assets so it's like can't naturally put her in a like she's not naturally skilled nursing level but we don't have what we need for the home and the burn out for carctervers

in the past this month or the past since the beginnin of the year having answer from care giver burn out is truly a thing i know we say it but just listening to some of the calls and people don't know what to do you know i had a caller her husband's in the sixties who have to mention and she even said he's probably going to live a good while right and because we had advances you know we think we're thankful for medical advances and medication

but we have people who are being diagnosed earlier with demicha in their sixties there's probably still going to live examountof years later who's helping take care that's a lot of years take care of some one who's progressively going to decline right who's going to need more care so where they may be for some care givers they're like managing because their person is still ambulatory their their love one is still able to move round

and get them out the home but as as some of them are trying to plan and as life takes his course and you know decline and people want to keep people their family members at home you know everyone makes the promises i try not to i don't want my mom to be in a nurse at home and things like that and that's totally understandable everyone should have the dignity and the choice to be in their home if that's where they choose to be for the quality of life um but you know as people become more frail people are living longer you know

our frail population eighty years plus years old you know there's still some still active with some are still frail more medical needs who is going to help take care of those individuals and if there's no one to take care of them i think goes back to your other thing some of the reprocussions of we have more falls so falls lead to there's any broken bone or anything like that especially for women the decline in health increases

edically um and so that's require more assistance right or as they get older like you know how are we making sure that they're taking medications and and that they're not having like polly pharmacy type issues right of different types of medication interactions because there's no one there to really check on them you know your daughter says the peals out how we're making sure of because she has to work mom's taking the right dose appeals and things and so we know that a lot of hospital re admit

ions or people having medication interaction especially older so you know if we can it just helps overall if we have people you know people have you know what they need access to care givers but that comes with what funding right and so for those programs even those programs where people may qualify for if now we're talking about we need to pay our care m a

it's more but we're not increasing the funding that's less money to help more people because you got to pay people more right so how we have to address even and that thinks that's where we may be get on a policy level on a federal state level like we need to put funding into our character er type programs where people can have access to care we're in an aged nation north carolina is what like is going to be like

eight is eight for sixty plus and then by twenty thirty or twenty thirty eight like ninety five counties will have someone the largest population is sixty five and older that's a lot of people so what are we doing what are we doing to end and not just so if you live in let's say role you live in der more metro areas where there may be even a little bit more accessibility to care as

neal_shah__careyaya (17:29)
wow wow that is a lot of people yeah

jenisha_henneghan (17:46)
what if you live out in the rue parts of orange county or lee county where there may not be so how do we make sure that those even in our rule counties are having access to you know cary at least assistance for care givers or some type of care aids to help them out

neal_shah__careyaya (17:58)

and i think you know one interesting thing that you mentioned was your comment about how it disproportionately affects certain people and you know we've kind of also seeing this in the statistics that it disproportionately the care berdan affects women especially working women who are middle of their career it also disproportionately affects people of color you know lack of fordable access to care and other supports that know they may not get from their employer so finding it's also kind of like a systemic issue of unfairness you know

certain populations that are trying to work hard and you kind of get ahead in society and i'm curious like what what things do you see is there any kind of encouraging or promise from government side private sector side like what are just kind of things you've seen that people understand this is a growing crisis and potential ways to address or solve it you know over the next few years

jenisha_henneghan (18:57)
um i think i think we're starting to address like so even with some of our disaster funny like just seeing more going into care giving type programs support groups for care givers respite dollars which gives care givers a break but i think we just really need to make sure we value the care givers in general so even though we're asking for you know we're making this conversation for

you know saying to address that but how about employers of even other you know our sex or jobs here to view your people your employees are we making policies that make it easy for them to be a care giver for their parents or even their kids maybe kids with disabilities right any form of care giving are we making even in our work places outside of health care like are we making in our work places

where is where someone doesn't feel like oh my gosh it's like a stress right i gotta go to work like policies reflecting um in general that so i think i've heard some conversations maybe that those things are coming in you know we live in a tech um kind of area here in the triangle so hopefully these newer age you know companies coming in they're recognizing that as well for their employees because people are bringing up family members here right they're moving there

mom's we have multigenerational homes now a lot especially here in the triangle so you know we need to make sure we're addressing that so in the workplace but i think just even more fun and i think i've even heard like even with our current administration you know just talking about like care giving dorsmountof question is are we keeping up with the pace with you know so you know we asked are talking about but are we keeping up with the pace to make sure we're

neal_shah__careyaya (20:50)

jenisha_henneghan (20:57)
you know addressing it because you know even before i started this i used to hear that quote the silver sonoma i don't know how you know people used that market but i'm like i think that title wave hit a long time ago and like you know it's like we talk about it but what are we doing are we really you know doing some things about it and then making sure every and i think i'm learning as more in this profession like every state is a little bit different

neal_shah__careyaya (21:05)

jenisha_henneghan (21:27)
every county is a little bit different and so i guess it is true your was your zip co determines a lot about what you get

neal_shah__careyaya (21:36)
oh wow yeah i hadn't heard that but i'm going to use that now

jenisha_henneghan (21:41)

neal_shah__careyaya (21:43)
and actually you know a fall of question on that would be in an ideal world you know if you could kind of snap your fingers and fulfill your dream of you know equitable access to care you know what would that look like to you

jenisha_henneghan (21:57)
good question

you know that's a very good question if i can snap i mean look you can't throw money at everything right because there're still you know still things but

i think one i commend you for this podcast i think the awareness like really push on the awareness of the aging infrastructure in general and and locally grass root level wise but all the way to the top like you know and how we you know addressing some of these issues like you know policy wise like once again i know it's not naturally just throwing money

and everything because everything has a cause right and so people grow in like you said the wages somewhere there's going to be you got to keep the pace with it but are we making sure that we have programs for those like we talked about those in the middle those in the middle because if we don't address that issue like we're going to have a whole large group of people out here who are we're going to have you know people family

members not mean it so but they're going to get burned out we're going to have and then there's a lot of older adults and those two who are older like orphans they don't they don't have family members they don't have kids or the niece or the nephew to help them and they may be stuck in the middle like so my thing is definitely on all people but those in the middle who probably going to be large like you said with eighty percent from your research like we really have to like

figure out a way to to address that like all for more programs or in cents or change our thresholds for for that you know i don't know what that magic bullet is but but eight percent is a lot that's a lot

neal_shah__careyaya (24:00)
that is a lot and and i guess another you know it's kind of like a final thought for the listeners you know i'd ask kind of a two part question if there are people listening that are in this situation right now and you know they need help you know where would you suggest they turn to you know should they call you should they call the agency and aging are there other organizations that you where can people turn to for support if they need care help within their family and then the second part of that question is if there are people listening

that are just passionate about the issue and want to kind of help build a better future for care and you advocate for change are the organizations that you recommend to reaching out to for advocacy on policy and nowhwho's kind of thinking about this stuff

jenisha_henneghan (24:45)
um yes so at the area agin so if you call us we do have a total free number and so we will try to direct you to your local provider so usually we ask what county do you live in every county is different and then we try to connect you to whatevi services are in those counties in whatever programs there are but for some if you if you live in you know like weight county resources for seniors is a good partner of ours and they have an excellent resource

god book that it's actually what i use as my little bible if i need to look up something for some one but other counties have the same probably the same kind of structure or things maybe not you on different scales but if you call your area agent on an anyone in the m in the state they can probably direct you to the to the correct area and as far as you know advocacy wise so we do have our senor tar hill legislator

um which are older adults who kind of advocate on they have for older adult issues and so um you know i would say look at them and see what their initiatives are and kind of help support them and a lot of their support is they look at some care giving things of course of a lot of aging issues as well that they go to our general assembly and try to advocate on behalf of um so any of those things and then if you just feel compelled then you feel like you have those

letter writing skills or use your own personal stories to contact your local you know senator re representative on the state level or even on our our national level but also our our city council members and things look how we're designing and planning our communities make sure they're friendly you know for older adults as well you know so i think it's just being a voice

room i'm like i said if you have your family members be a personal testimony that's the best way use your personal testimony house impact in you to share to whoever can hear

neal_shah__careyaya (26:58)
that's great that's great and i guess any any final thoughts that anything we didn't ask or cover that you'd like to share with the listeners

jenisha_henneghan (27:06)
i think i think like i said it's a great conversation thank you carry off for just you know creating a platform to talk about our care giving needs and so ou know i think we educate people more and people see it more like i said i'm getting more even from people i know in the community asking questions like what should i do how can i do this so there's different programs out there you know so

just keep putting you know having conversation like i said i think the wave whatever that soon has been past like we really need to like be in action now and making it affordable and accessible for for people

neal_shah__careyaya (27:52)
great we completely agree and yahgnisia this was great thank you so much for taking the time thank you for sharing your experts from all your varied career experiences and importantly thank you for the work you're doing at the area agency on aging it's much needed work for a lot of the families in the community that are going through this so we really appreciate your taking the time to appear on the show

jenisha_henneghan (28:13)
all right thank you so much for having me

neal_shah__careyaya (28:16)

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