Archdiocese Local

Area Catholics find ministry in advocating for seniors

From left, Mark Nato, Stephanie Garcia and Jerry Pullins, all Catholics of the archdiocese, collaborate at the CareStreet office in Overland Park. CareStreet is a senior living placement and advocacy service that offers a variety of resources and services for seniors and their loved ones. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JAY SOLDNER

by Moira Cullings
moira.cullings@theleaven.org

OVERLAND PARK — When the time comes for families to make life-altering decisions for their senior loved ones, Stephanie Garcia said it’s the emotional aspect that’s the most challenging.

“The fear that [the family members are] going to make the wrong decision is so overwhelming sometimes,” she said, “and they’re scared and stressed.”

To ease the pressure families feel, Garcia and her fellow team members at CareStreet are there to help.

“We want to be the one-stop-shop for seniors to be able to provide all the information they’re needing as they age and their families are trying to support them,” said Garcia, senior advocate and clinical liaison and a parishioner at St. Joseph Parish in Shawnee.

“It’s stressful and overwhelming,” she continued, “and we really just want to come alongside them and help alleviate a lot of that stress as they’re working through whatever’s going on.”

CareStreet is a senior living placement and advocacy service founded in 2022 and based in Overland Park.

From left, Mark Nato, Machaela Dechant, Stephanie Garcia and Jerry Pullins are part of the CareStreet team. Each brings unique experience to the organization’s mission of helping seniors happily live out their later years. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JAY SOLDNER

Jerry Pullins, one of its founders and a parishioner at Church of the Nativity in Leawood, said the company is a spin-off of SeniorCare Homes, which he also owns and operates.

SeniorCare Homes operates six small residential group homes for memory care and Parkinson’s residents.

It’s given Pullins insight into the ins and outs of senior living, and now through CareStreet, he’s able to meet even more of the community’s needs.

CareStreet offers a variety of services, including providing resources, connecting seniors with an elder care attorney and setting them up with meals and transportation.

“There’s nothing that a senior could need that we can’t help or resource or find for them,” said Pullins.

“I think the biggest thing that we get to do is take the pressure off and renew the roles for the families we serve,” he added.

Jerry Pullins works alongside Stephanie Garica, left, and Jamie Graham at CareStreet. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JAY SOLDNER

Often, children or spouses take on an administrative or caregiver role for their aging loved one, but CareStreet can step into that position.

“It’s such an honor to be able to help people,” said Pullins. “There’s nothing too small or too big. If there’s a question, we’ll find an answer.”

Formed by faith

A handful of CareStreet team members are lifelong Catholics who view their work as a ministry.

“I started at a young age volunteering at a senior living community for my service hours with St. Joseph Catholic School [in Shawnee],” said Machaela Dechant, senior guide, St. Joseph parishioner and St. James Academy, Lenexa, alumna.

“And since then, I knew this was what I wanted to do,” she continued. “Part of the mission of my faith is to serve others, and in this role, I am able to do that every day.”

Dechant assists seniors at whatever point they’re at in their aging journey.

“First and foremost,” she said, “we meet with seniors and their families in person to get a good understanding of who they are, their needs and desires.

“From there, we can provide tools for how to be set up with additional resources at home or with exploring the senior living options — independent living, assisted living, memory care, short-term or long-term skilled nursing care.”

CareStreet arranges and attends tours with seniors and their families and asks questions to see if the community is the right fit.

“Senior living can be very overwhelming,” said Garcia. “If you do a Google search, you’re going to get a thousand different options. And they may not be the right option for you.

“That’s where we come in as being the experts in knowing what every community’s doing, how they’re performing [and] what are their specialties.”

Garcia said it’s important for seniors to have a purpose wherever they live.

“Ultimately, you want your family member to be happy,” she said. “These are their later years, and you want them to be happy and be supported and get the care that they need.”

Stephanie Garcia is a senior advocate and clinical liaison for CareStreet. She and the other team members have a passion for helping seniors and their loved ones when daunting decisions or problems arise. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JAY SOLDNER

Mark Nato, senior advocate and financial liaison and a parishioner at Nativity, said CareStreet’s mission is special.

“We’re small, we’re local and we’re deeply interconnected with resources and knowledge that comes with living in and loving Kansas City and its people,” he said.

“Our team knows and genuinely loves the families we work with,” he continued, “and we treat them like it’s our own loved one who needs care and support.”

The work, he said, goes hand-in-hand with the Catholic faith.

“In our faith, we believe every life is important and matters to God,” said Nato, and that Catholics are called to protect the voiceless and vulnerable.

“We strive to offer dignity to our clients in a season that often is deemed unimportant to the world,” he added.

Pullins encouraged aging individuals and their loved ones to reach out if they need support.

“There’s always hope,” he said. “And hope, I think, is the greatest gift that anybody going through or navigating life with a senior or elderly individual can have.

“That gets us to a solution down the line, and that brings the relief and the freedom for that individual to have a [greater] quality of life.”

To learn more about CareStreet, visit the website at: carestreet.com or send an email to Garcia at: stephanie@carestreet.com.

About the author

Moira Cullings

Moira attended St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Overland Park and Benedictine College in Atchison. She majored in marketing, minored in psychology and played center midfield for the women’s soccer team. Moira joined The Leaven staff as a feature writer and social media editor in 2015. After a move to Denver, Moira resumed her full-time position at The Leaven and continues to write and manage the website, social media channels and Archbishop Naumann's Facebook page. Her favorite assignment was traveling to the Holy Land to take photos for a group pilgrimage in 2019.

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