By, Lauren Kolacki
As Sheli Monacchio attended another networking event, she couldn’t help but think, “There has to be a more efficient way to bring professionals together for the right reasons.” The issue with these events is that by the time the group got through formalities and introductions, there was not enough time to make any further connections with other professionals. As Sheli brainstormed, it occurred to her, a networking organization that would connect health care professions with educating seniors. She acted on that idea and in 2011, she founded Caring Connections.
Caring Connections is a nonprofit organization, soon to be a 501(c)(3), that provides education to seniors, over 65, and their families, as well as, lend support to those professionals that provide them with healthcare and other services. Alongside Sheli, President and founder, is Linda Mundie, Vice President, Cris Brown, Secretary, and Katie Chambers, Treasurer. Since 2011, Caring Connections has created a network of over 600 qualified healthcare professionals and has expanded into seven counties; Monmouth, mercer, Middlesex, Ocean, Somerset, Burlington and Buck County, Pennsylvania. In 2019 they plan to spread into Union and Camden county.
The Goal of Caring Connections is to educate seniors in the community and provide reliable resources to them. By doing so, Caring Connections hopes to put a halt to seniors haphazardly googling, looking for guidance. When they end up on the internet, they put themselves at risk for scams and fraudulence.
There is also a Speaker’s Bureau that focuses on educating seniors, their family members and the health care professionals who serve them. The speakers are experts in their field and are available to speak at facilities, senior centers, senior community clubs and local libraries and public spaces. Their “education only” approach is welcomed by seniors, professionals, families and caregivers throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania. “Education only”, meaning they will not use this time to solicit seniors but to share community events, and topics on educating seniors and their families on resources that are available to them before a crisis hits.
The members of Caring Connections provide care from the heart while staying up to date with the best practices and building relations with other quality health care professionals. Once a month a meeting is held where your entry fee is a can of food (to be donated). This is an opportunity for the health care professionals to network with one another.
The biggest change to this group is opening the website to seniors. If they need a speaker on anything from ‘safety in the home’ to ‘how to pay for a nursing home’, they now have access to find their topic of choice and are able to request a speaker. There is also social media available where they can post in the group or privately message other members. This acts as a great support system for those who may need it.
If seniors have access to resources and prior education, they will be prepared, in the event of a crisis, that is why Caring Connections is so important. Se- niors and family members can find these resources or additional information at https://caringconnectionsnj.org or on their Facebook group called New Jersey Resources for Seniors-CCNJ where they can post questions and have professionals and other members provide a great support system for those who need it.