Meet Frances Piekarski of Living Life with Dignity in St. Charles

This is an article that VoyageChicago put together and it tells you a little bit more about the roots and branches of Living Life with Dignity.

Frances, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.

Fran Piekarski, Founder and President of Living Life with DignityLiving Life with Dignity evolved from my original company, Remedease, a professional organizing and life planning company. Over the 15 year life of Remedease I did extensive work with individuals suffering from chronic disorganization due to behavioral health challenges with a specialty in hoarding disorder.

Working with these clients opened my eyes to the need for advocacy. They needed a voice. This coupled with my own life experiences lead me to reevaluate our business model. By now I had grown Remedease into a “we” and not just a “me.” We were determined not only to leave someone’s environment in order, but to also support them with life resources in order for them to sustain the progress that was made and to continue their independence.

Between 2010 and 2011 I was asked to be guardian for one of our clients which required me to formulate a company with non-profit status. Life with Dignity was created to provide this designation for Remedease to take on the role as a corporate guardian. Once we began providing our clients with case management and advocacy in addition to our organizing services and guardian services we chose to rename Remedease. Our new name, Living Life with Dignity now encompasses all of our services from life planning to case management and guardianship.

Today, Living Life with Dignity continues to work with clients dealing with behavioral health challenges, including those suffering from hoarding disorder. However, we also work with those with developmental disorders, dementia and aging in place. Using the tools of Advocacy, Care Management, Life/Care Planning and in the most extreme cases, guardianship, we move those we help to sustaining stability. This relieves their families of the stress of managing the many needs of individuals in the communities we serve.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?

I think being in business is always challenging but without challenge there is not growth. When you are working toward a specific mission that you believe benefits others it is a lot easier to rise up in any challenge and we strongly believe that we fill a very specific need. With that, some of the challenges were:

  • Given that our staff at the time had limited case management and benefits knowledge, there was a learning curve. The solution was to hire additional staff strong in this area and to always explore and seek those resources that we had that could help us. In addition, some team members got certified as professional guardians and we continue to educate ourselves on a variety of topics that help us to serve our clients with the utmost care and quality of service.
  • The re-branding was also a struggle. It may have been easier to make the guardianship designation a name more in line with Remedease than the other way around.
  • Re-establishing a presence with a new demographic. In this area, we did very well, it just took a little longer than expected.

Please tell us about Living Life with Dignity.

Our Mission is to provide a voice of support and advocacy for individuals and their families with life challenges. We enable each person we work with to live an enhanced life with dignity.

I think that says it all except for how we do that…

  • Advocacy to give people a voice.
  • Case Management allows for continuity of care.
  • Life/Care Planning provides a plan for one or more support members to execute.
  • Person Centered Care focuses on what a client can still do instead of dwelling on what they can no longer do.
  • Life Organization to ensure the safety and well being of ones environment and resources.
  • Life with Dignity services secures individuals without a power of attorney or in need of a guardian with the benefit of an attentive and responsible party to carry out their needs and wishes.

We are most proud of our core values of compassion, non-judgement and resourcefulness. We execute these with great care, providing each client with a holistic and team approach to their care. It is truly about honoring each individual’s right to Life with Dignity.

If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?

Nothing…because each mistake, each challenge, each lesson helped us to grow. We would not change that in the least. We have not stopped learning either. Each client and every family provide us with new experiences, new challenges. We know that all of these events make us better for the benefit of those we serve.

Contact Info:

Address: 100 Illinois St. Suite 200
St. Charles, IL 60174
Website: www.lifewithdignity.net
Phone: 6305490654
Email: frances@lifewithdignity.net

How it began…

I didn’t set out to start a company like Life with Dignity. I have been a business owner for 14 years. I own a little company called Remedease. It started out as a professional organizing company to simply support people who were overwhelmed from life crisis or just didn’t have the gene that 40% of us get and the other 60% wish for, (the organization gene). It was a simple dream. What is that saying? “Man makes plans and God laughs.” Let me just say I make him laugh a lot. The good thing is I generally am aware when I am being led.

Over the years Remedease grew a reputation for helping with the most difficult cases. I developed a personal reputation for assisting “Compulsive accumulators”, (Hoarders) with working with their disorder. A few years ago Remedease began expanded services in the area advocacy. Simultaneously, the opportunity to collaborate with American Bank and Trust to start a OBRA trust in our community. It was of these events that Life with Dignity and the Life with Dignity Pooled Trust emerged.

Remedease still remains a thriving business but my role is greatly dissipated and I have passed on the baton to loyal and trusted professionals. My focus is now on LWD. I have the benefit of collaborating on a daily basis with Jennifer Johnson at American Bank and Trust who is an expert in public benefits. I am blessed with a caring and effective assistant, Dennis Heraty. A new face, Tammy Dixson is a welcome addition to our team. Tammi has a masters degree in Pastoral Counseling and also is a volunteer instructor for Mental Health First Aid offered through Linden Oaks. Tammi has an extensive background in Mental Health having run group homes for many years. I personally have a special training and experiential training background through Remedease, as a guardian, foster parent and care giver/advocate for my own mother, brother and uncle. We have a focused specialty in Mental Health an area that we believe is under resourced. Together this team is motivated to serve collaboratively for the betterment of those in our community.