A Caregiver at Heart
Amy Natt has found a better way for seniors to age in place
By CRISSY NEVILLE
Amy Natt has spent a lifetime making a difference in the lives of older adults and their families. This mission has made all the difference in her life, too.
The Southern Pines aging life care professional knew from an early age that working with adults in their golden years was her life’s calling. As a young girl raised in Oklahoma City, Natt made many trips to visit her grandparents at their Illinois home. She developed a close relationship with her great-grandmother, Winifred Medley, and fondly remembers their shared June birthday celebrations. She and her sister loved visiting her in the summer and on holidays and enjoyed her homemade chocolate pudding and treasure-filled attic. The precious memories morphed into angst when Natt’s beloved great-grandmother moved to a nursing home due to declining health.
“My great-grandmother was widowed but still living at home before that happened,” Natt said. “I would visit her whenever I could and send her letters and cards every week, but things were never the same. Watching her deteriorate in that setting was hard.”
Even as a young girl, Natt knew that a transition was needed, that the difference in her great-grandmother, before and after, was stark.
“I realized that there were different ways people could age. Aging in place wasn't a trend as much as it is now. The experience had an impact on what I wanted to do when I got older. I wanted to help people have different options on how to navigate aging.”
What she saw in the nursing home inspired her to do something in the future to change the system. Fast forward to 1999, and in the founding of Aging Outreach Services, she did just that. AOS is a full-service elder care firm located in Downtown Southern Pines that provides care management for older adults living throughout the Sandhills. Today, the company offers a four-part approach to client-driven care, a platform that began 24 years ago when Natt found her niche. AOS is the ever-expanding and widening path to proactive, not reactive, living for older adults, or as Natt shared, “a journey that began with finding a better way
Natt’s credentials speak to her expertise in the geriatric field. Her undergraduate and graduate degrees and certifications cover the areas of gerontology, mental health counseling and family relations. Likewise, her skills range from care management and group facilitation, such as for Alzheimer’s Association Support Groups, to leadership and entrepreneurship — AOS was the first of its kind in Moore County in the then-fledgling field of private care management. In the past two decades, the ranks have increased in the Sandhills and beyond, yet AOS can still boast of becoming the first accredited Caregiver Registry in North Carolina — and the only one for its first 22 years. This accomplishment occurred in 2015 when Natt launched AOS At Home Care and the CaregiverNC platform, caregivernc.com, to connect caregivers and care seekers.
Beyond Natt’s dedication to her profession and the aging population, her portfolio of involvement in the community and industry speaks volumes about her priorities — Aging Life Care Association, Private Care Association, American Society of Aging, Southern Pines Business Association, Moore County Leadership Institute, Moore County Chamber of Commerce, AOS & Friends Care, Southern Pines United Methodist Church. Move mother of three sons to the top of the list, and you get a good picture of this dynamo of a woman.
Natt is quick to say, though, that even after the years of starting and expanding, leading and teaching, she is, in her heart of hearts, a caregiver. As such, the care management of her own clients and overseeing those under the AOS umbrella is still what she most values in her workdays.
With the observation of U.S. National Caregivers Day on the third Friday in February — on February 17 this year — it is fitting to recognize Natt and other caregivers. The senior population is growing, upping the need for more caregivers to help with the often-overwhelming complexities of aging which include housing — in-home care, care community placement or something else — government programs, legal and financial professionals, health concerns, hospitalization, related costs and more.
Enter Natt and her brainstorm to bring care management to Moore and the surrounding counties, serving hundreds of older adults in her tenure. She said of her startup, “Back then, I realized that there was this whole kind of up-and-coming social service professionals doing what they called care management working privately for families. At that point, I had been working in a long-term care facility and was married. When we moved to Moore County with his job, I did not even know Pinehurst was such a retirement niche. Once I got to know the community, I thought, wow, this is the perfect fit for my educational background.”
Elaborating on the journey, she said, “I literally had three clients at first and then AOS just kind of grew through word-of-mouth referrals as people realized there was a value to what I could offer in helping people find resources … and help with all the different things that need to come with a person getting older.”
From flying solo at first to a team of 18 staff members today that work together to implement AOS Care Management service areas, AOS At Home and AOS Cares — a program designed to provide clients with access to AOS team members for support, day or night. The fourth part of AOS is the outreach arm which includes education, marketing and engagement with offerings such as a speakers’ bureau, workshops, events, community networking and the monthly lifestyle newsletter geared for active adults age 50 and older, OutreachNC.
Natt noted that clients range in age and length of service but that it’s ideal when help is sought in their 70s rather than waiting until their 80s or 90s — when assistance is needed or required. This resonates with another February observance, National Senior Independence Month, a perfect time for seniors to celebrate the independence they enjoy and plan to maintain.
“Most people want to be home, so we, AOS, can help them be independent by adding support a little bit at a time. At first, it may be helping with transportation; next, assisting with meals or household tasks that they can no longer do; and so on, as the continuum of needs grow. We can help bring in support, so it’s not too much too soon. We try to recognize some of those things that might cause them to lose independence and help them understand that with some assistance, we help them stay independent longer.” Learn more at agingoutreachservices.com.