EPISODE 4 – Heartfelt Moments – Stories of how special needs trusts help people, Part 2 – February 15, 2022
Darlene, the Executive Director of Vista Points joins Bart, the voice of its podcast, to share stories of love, family and special needs trusts she has experienced through Vista Points. These are the heartfelt moments we all live for – during February and throughout the year.
EPISODE 4 SCRIPT:
Hello, and welcome to today’s Vista Points podcast, “Choose Your Path”, where the Vista Points’ staff are committed to improving the quality of life for those of any age, who are living with a disability.
Vista Points serves the community by providing professional trustee services and education about special needs trusts. The organization partners with a variety of nonprofit and corporate entities to better the lives of those living with physical, mental, or intellectual disabilities.
My name is Bart, and I am your podcast host. In our first episodes, we introduced special needs trusts, what they are and who is involved in their establishment. In this episode, and in celebration of February, we are sharing heartfelt stories of how special needs trusts have helped people to live a good quality of life. I am glad to say we will welcome our first special guest on this podcast to share these stories. Valentine’s Day is best shown through heartfelt moments. I am going to share some heartfelt stories involving special needs trusts in today’s episode of Choose Your Path.
I am happy to introduce our special guest today, Darlene Kemp. She is the Executive Director of Vista Points, the Special Needs Trusts and Resource Center. The organization has three offices across Tennessee, with the headquarters located just outside of Nashville, in Mount Juliet, TN. Darlene has over 40 years experience in the healthcare field. During that time, the organization has grown, added more services, and become a leading trust company in Tennessee.
Bart: Darlene, it’s almost Valentine’s Day and this month’s podcasts are called Heartfelt Moments. With that said, do you have a story about one of your trust clients who you were able to provide a heartfelt moment?
Darlene: Well Bart, must say that I’ve got a great job! I’ve been working in the special needs trust field for over 14 years now. With each new trust client, who we call a beneficiary, my staff and I have the opportunity to help someone who is living with a physical, mental, or intellectual disability, live a better quality of life.
You asked for a heartfelt story. I do have one for you. One of our beneficiaries was in a nursing home. Her husband wanted to bring her home to care for her himself, for as long as he could or until she died. The nursing home agreed to his request. After about a week, I called the husband to see how he was doing and to check on our beneficiary.
The husband told me everything was going very well, except for one thing. He continued by telling me his concern over bathing his wife. He said that he carried her into the bathroom and set her down in the tub. He was concerned that someday he’d lose his balance and they’d both fall, getting hurt in the process. He asked if his wife’s trust could pay for the bathroom to be remodeled with a walk-in tub. This way he could easily place her in the tub. Because the home was in his wife’s name, this allowed the remodeling to be done, using the beneficiary’s trust money. In a few short weeks, they had a new bathroom, including the walk-in-tub.
Both of them were so happy. What made me so happy was that they were able to stay together. The husband took care of his wife for two more years, before she died. They were 87 and 85 years old. They had a good quality of life. For me, I focus on the quality of life and not the quantity of life. Being able to help this couple really touched my heart.
Bart: Wow! That’s a good story. I know as we age, having someone in our life that we can trust, share intimate feelings, and day-to-day activities is so important. No one wants to be alone, especially when they’re at the end of their life.
Darlene: That’s so true, Bart. Now, let me tell you about a beneficiary who was a child. The beneficiary had Encephalitis (swelling of the brain). He lived with his grandmother. She would take him on walks, pushing him in his wheelchair. She wanted him to have the best and most “normal” life – just like any other 8-year-old kid.
One day, the grandmother called the office to speak with me. She asked if her grandson’s trust could pay for a gym membership for him and for swimming lessons. She would swim with him, to make sure he was okay. I approved the purchase of the membership and lessons. A couple of weeks later, I was opening the office mail and found an envelope from the grandmother.
Inside she had a photo of her grandson, our beneficiary, swimming in the pool. He had on his life jacket and a helmet. The smile on his face really got to me.
You see, this request the grandmother made, didn’t use a lot of the beneficiary’s trust money. In fact, it was only about $85. For something so inexpensive, it sure made a huge difference in the boy’s life. It also gave the grandmother the opportunity to get some exercise in the pool. It was a win-win situation for both of them.
Bart: Darlene, you do have some interesting situations in your job. Do you have another heartfelt story you could share with us?
Darlene: I sure do. I have lots of stories. What stands out about these stories is that each beneficiary is living with a disability. Their illness doesn’t define who they are. They continue to live, have dreams, and experience things. They are able to use their special needs trust funds for everyday items or for services that enhance their lives.
My next story is about a young man who lived with mental illness. This young man had talked about going on a trip, his dream trip, for a few years. He wanted to go to Africa. He knew he couldn’t go because his condition was not stable. We talked about his goal of going to Africa and laid out a plan for him to reach his goal.
Over the next year, the young man was able to get therapy that helped him immensely and a medication was found that worked perfectly, in his body, to control the mental illness. His therapist provided a letter stating he was able to travel, if a caregiver accompanied him on the trip.
The young man found a travel agency who booked him and his caregiver on a 2-week trip to Africa. It was kind of like being on an African Safari. Before the trip, the man called the office every day with questions about traveling, what clothes to take, what camera was best for photographing the wild animals, what would the food be like in Africa and many, many more questions. He was so happy.
The trip went off without a hitch. The young man had, as he would say, “an awesome time”. He took lots of photos of the animals. I bet he thanked me, for approving this trip, about 20 times. This guy and his story really touched my heart.
Bart: It sounds like you get pretty close to the beneficiaries. Is this correct?
Darlene: Yes, it’s correct. Some beneficiaries develop a relationship with the staff and me while others like to keep things at a more distant stance. Whichever way someone wants to have a relationship with us, we honor their wishes.
I’ll tell you one last story about a very special woman who was one of our beneficiaries. She lived in the country and had won a lawsuit, after being involved in an accident. The money from the lawsuit settlement was put into a special needs trust that our company managed. This is how I got to know her.
Over the course of a couple years, we became very good friends. She would call to check on ME, and I would call to check on her. About once a month she would call to ask me that same question over and over. It was “Will you take care of me when I die?” Each time I told her I would handle final arrangements and take care of giving her belongings to her family, as she wished. Then I’d tell her that I thought she would live many more years. This would make her happy and we would end our conversation.
As time passed, she became ill. Her heart was failing her. She ended up in the hospital. I visited her there but was not permitted to see her because it was during the first phase of Covid. No one was allowed to see the patients in the hospital. She called me while she was in the hospital and asked me the same question. “Will you take care of me when I die?” I told her I would. A few days later, she died.
I kept my end of the promise. I met with her family and friends. I followed her wishes. She was cremated. It was a very sad time. This woman had so much life in her and then it was gone, so quick. I am glad that I got to know her. I didn’t see her for her disability. I saw her as a person living with a disability. She made a difference in my life and I hope I made one in hers.
Bart: Darlene, that is an emotional and heartfelt moment. Thank you so much for sharing it with us. I can tell from these stories that you not only provide the trustee services to all of these people, but you also become acquainted and are someone they can rely on for little things or big things. You really do have a wonderful job. You help so many people of various ages, races, and disabilities. It’s got to be so rewarding.
Darlene: It is Bart. I love my job. My staff and I are so blessed to be able to help so many people live a good quality of life.
Bart: Thank you for being with me today, on this podcast, Darlene.
This concludes today’s episode of Choose Your Path, a Vista Points podcast. Subscribe now, on our YouTube channel, to stay up-to-date on the latest episodes, which go live on the 1st and 15th of every month. Or, visit the Vista Points website online at vistapoints.org. You can find all our episodes there, as well as a blog of each podcast, for you to reference.
This podcast is one way we create awareness and provide education about special needs trusts. But as we’ve seen today, this is not a one-way street. We encourage you to participate by asking questions. You may submit your questions via our Facebook page. Look for our page at “VistaPointsInc”.
You can call the Vista Points office at 888-422-4076. That number again is 888-422-4076. Each of the Vista Points team is here to answer your questions and assist you in whatever way they can.
Enjoy your day with your loved one. Come back for more information on March 1st. I look forward to talking with you again.