Making a Difference and Making Friends
As loved ones age and become more in need of support, it can often be hard on families working to care for them while supporting and maintaining a lifestyle for themselves. It’s no simple task to make sure aging parents or grandparents are safe, clean and cared for while trying to work fulltime and care for children. And alternative options such as nursing facilities or in-home care might not always be the best fit either – companionship can be just as important as making sure meals are properly prepared.
Seniors Helping Seniors provides a unique service that helps mitigate the strain on families that simply want the best for their loved ones. The organization, with branches serving Hamilton, Butler and Warren counties pairs younger seniors with older ones to help with household duties and provide companionship. These caregivers are able to help with laundry, meal preparation, grocery shopping and transportation, while fostering a relationship that is more like a friendship than a typical in-home caregiver might have.
Providers and receivers are paired by Chris Harris, a Certified Senior Advisor® and owner of Seniors Helping Seniors in Cincinnati, or Andrew Spatt, owner of Seniors Helping Seniors in Butler County. From there, the work begins and the relationships grow.
“My dad absolutely loves his providers,” says Mary Sue Rowland, whose father receives help from Seniors Helping Seniors. “The companionship they provide is great – they sit and watch TV with him, and they’re his support. He looks forward to seeing each of them every day.”
The providers who visit Rowland’s father work in shifts all day long to ensure he’s taken care of – from getting him out of bed in the morning to reminding him to take his pills to helping him take a bath. The last shift ends when he’s tucked safely into bed, providing Rowland with piece of mind each day.
“It’s so wonderful – they truly care,” she says. “It’s amazing that you can have compassionate people come in and truly take care of my dad. We don’t have to worry about him at all, because they take such good care of him. They are such a blessing.”
She adds that she also appreciates that the providers take the time to not just get to know him on a personal level, but provide faith-based aid as well. When providers first began caring for her family, they were providing aid for both her father and mother, who had cancer at the time.
“Mom was Catholic, and her providers prayed with her and prayed for her,” says Rowland. “And when she passed, they helped my dad get through losing her. He was never religious, but they were able to bring comfort to him through faith, prayer and bible readings.”
For Joan Radke, whose husband is being cared for by Seniors Helping Seniors, one of the best things about the organization is that the providers coming to her home are close to the same age as she and her husband. When she needed to stay in a hospital for a time, her husband needed additional care, and her son set up the relationship with Seniors Helping Seniors to make sure everyone was well cared for.
“He needed companionship as well as someone to cook for him while I was in the hospital,” says Radke. “They help with the housework and stay with him when I’m not there. But this company is such a good idea because there’s so much more in common between my husband and his caretakers since we’re all from the same generation. It makes it easier on both sides to work with one another, because we have similar upbringings and there’s a basic understanding between us before they even start working with us.”
This relationship that evolves between provider and receiver is a unique one – and made stronger by the commonalities in age and life experience. Receivers can be more receptive to care from someone near their age, and it allows for a unique interaction between the parties that embodies not just a transaction, but a friendship. “For me, having them care for my husband feels just like having family closer to home, which is so important,” says Radke. “It gives us someone to depend on.”
The relationships and benefits fostered through Seniors Helping Seniors is satisfying for the providers as well. They earn additional income that’s always welcome, but secondary to the satisfaction derived from helping members of their own community.
“I had experience working in healthcare with several other companies, but I was always either sent far away, or it was a medically-based interaction,” says Brenda Kenyon, a provider with Seniors Helping Seniors. “I wanted to work more locally, but I also wanted to actually care for someone, and actually feel involved.”
Kenyon loves the flexibility that comes along with working with Seniors Helping Seniors – not only is she able to care for local seniors close to her own home, she’s able to be creative in how she goes about it. She says a priority in her interaction is to ensure they’re staying as active as possible at all times – whether it’s sorting coins and counting them or discussing a show they just watched together on TV.
“We’re providing for the receiver, but we’re also helping to support their families because they want to know their relatives are safe, clean, happy and having the best day they can,” says Kenyon. “For me, the best thing about this job is the satisfaction of knowing I’m making a difference in someone else’s life. And it can be surprising how close you get to someone – you make friends and you don’t even realize it.”
For Donna Cook, a provider with Seniors Helping Seniors, the experience is just as rewarding – and doesn’t feel like an actual job. Retired from working in a doctor’s office, Cook knew she wanted to do something that mattered and helped with her finances, but wasn’t a stressful or in-office environment. “This job was right up my alley – I can work part-time during the hours that are best for me, and when I say ‘work,’ I feel like I’m fibbing, because it doesn’t feel like work at all,” she says.
For the last year, Cook has worked with the same person, preparing his breakfast and helping with light cleaning around the house. “He’s really only two years older than me, and I really look forward to going every day,” she says. “He’s become like an older brother to me.”
She says one of the things that struck her most about Seniors Helping Seniors is how meticulous and thorough the company is about partnering receivers and providers. She was able to meet the entire family first to be sure that both parties would get the most out of the interaction.
For each party, both those receiving care and those providing it, Spatt and Harris make sure that working environments are as close to perfect. This is what helps to create such nurturing and warm relationships between receivers and providers – they’re able to relate to one another well because of the smaller age gap, and personalities are carefully paired to ensure the companionship and company will be a positive experience on both ends. Because, truly, what’s better than making a difference in someone else’s life, while also being able to call them a friend?
You can reach Seniors Helping Seniors in Cincinnati at 513.376.6497, email chris@SHScincy.com or visit their website at www.SeniorCareCincinnatiOH.com. You can reach Seniors Helping Seniors in Butler County at 513.939.3939, email spatt@SHSohio.com or visit their website at www.SeniorCareFairfieldOH.com.