Compassionate Care…in Your Own Home
Maintaining a home is no easy task, and the obstacles only increase with age. Suddenly, the floors take longer to clean, the mailbox is further from the door, and the laundry still has not done itself. For members of a tough generation who are used to self-sufficiency, asking anybody for help (especially a stranger) is done grudgingly, and only when there are few options left. After all, there is a certain pride and dignity that comes with the senior years, which can easily feel undermined by the reality that we can’t do everything for ourselves the way we used to.
But why should somebody be forced to move into assisted living just because they need help with grocery shopping or folding clothes? Isn’t there anybody besides family or friends who can lend a hand with the basics?
Seventeen years ago, those were some of the thoughts racing through the mind of Your Own Home’s founder, Gina Deney, as she dealt with her parents’ persistent health concerns from several states away. Without the need for full time or nursing care, there was no reason to uproot them in a drastic move to a senior community. However, things around the house were still slipping and something had to be done; at that time, in-home senior care was not as readily available as it is today. Born out of necessity, Gina’s mission has been to bring reliable, affordable, and compassionate assistance to seniors who wish to remain in their homes, while at the same time easing the burden on family caregivers.
This month we’d like to introduce you to Gina. She’s built a one-of-a-kind home health care agency, completely unlike the impersonal franchises that have cropped up, dedicated to caring for you or your loved ones.
V: What are some common concerns when a family member is researching agencies to care for a loved one?
GD: Many of these adult children are making a difficult and emotional decision without knowing where to start. They may also be weary from months or years filling in as the primary provider and aren’t sure what they need. There have been plenty of stories in the news about the unfavorable treatment of seniors, so trusting that we will care for their loved one like a member of our own family is of the utmost importance. We outline how we match caregivers to customers instead of sending whoever is available each week, which is a point of comfort. Money is often a factor in the level of care a customer can afford, so we keep our rates and hourly minimums reasonable and below the large franchises.
Another question which comes up is about the use of our time while we are on site. If there is a day when we’re scheduled to do certain chores and they get done faster than expected, we always fill the remaining time with activities, exercise, or getting a head start on tasks like meal prep and organization. We shift our assignments to whatever is needed when we arrive and make adjustments accordingly.
V: Are all of the people under your care seniors?
GD: For the most part, our clients are active seniors who need basic help with chores around the house, picking up groceries, or tasks like bill organization and medication reminders. While most are in good health, they sometimes have extenuating circumstances such as physical limitations, Alzheimer’s disease, or dementia. Although not common, we also get requests from younger adults recuperating from a medical procedure who can’t lift or bend over for a period of time, or from those with long-term or lifetime illnesses. No matter the age, the primary purpose of our care remains the same: we help fill in the gaps.
V: There are plenty of other agencies that provide similar services to yours, so what sets Your Own Home apart from the larger players?
GD: Yes, many of us offer similar basic services so it can be a difficult choice to make. Being a smaller and independent company has several advantages, each of which is a source of pride for us as we compare ourselves to the larger franchises.
We’ve listened to the needs of our customers and their families over the years, not just in the types of services we provide but also the way in which we provide them. Starting with an in-depth assessment which should include family members when available, we tailor a care program which not only provides the tangible tasks required but also true humanity and compassion. Ideally, we have one caregiver who is the primary on each case, so there is a level of trust between us, the client, and their families. Being small means we know the strengths and personalities of each of our staff, so making the connection is usually straightforward – we always have the right person for the job. This also means we don’t encounter a “well that other caregiver must have the answer in their notes” scenario very frequently, and there is a reliability and continuity to customer care. Our caregivers end up becoming de facto members of the families they serve, and their commitment goes far beyond what is required. They frequently maintain connections with former clients long after their contract is over. It’s a level of personal attention and care you don’t often find with multi-site and franchised agencies.
V: What are some examples of going above and beyond the call of duty you’ve heard from staff?
GD: That’s an ever-growing list! A few that stand out for me are furniture repair, taking pets to vet appointments, and driving a customer to their college reunion several states away. Our caregivers are good sports who are always up for a new challenge, so we encourage families to ask what’s possible before neglecting an opportunity. Our job is to support that person however we can to keep them active for many years, so unique requests come with the territory.
V: You’ve been in business a long time and have had to adjust along the way. In light of the pandemic, how have you had to adapt to the changing needs of current and new clients?
GD: This was a lot of change for us all at once. At the beginning we went into sanitary mode, limiting our physical contact with clients and their homes. We immediately let family members and the public know what we were doing to keep everybody safe and made staffing adjustments to fulfil our commitments. We also had to adapt our hours to account for more grocery shopping and errands for immunosuppressed clients – whatever was required to limit our seniors going into public places unnecessarily. We created new checklists and procedures to respect the wishes of our clients, which included tasks like disinfecting door handles and faucets, or limiting contact with clothing by not doing their laundry. The way we operate is by no means back to normal, but the processes and precautions we took a year and a half ago have been relaxed, especially after vaccines became available.
One thing we did notice, both in the news and our industry journals, was that the public finally had an uncomfortable glimpse into the daily operation of certain nursing and assisted living facilities. Although not common, the situations which unfolded inside those institutions highlight some of the reasons we are hired to look after seniors at home in a private, safe, and controlled environment. This pandemic has emphasized how essential our services truly are in ways we never imagined.
V: What is some advice you would give to somebody still debating whether to stay in their home or move somewhere more structured?
GD: Look to the future regarding your possible needs, and start asking questions now. Be honest with yourself, friends, and family, and ask for their advice and assistance in making these decisions. The simple reality is waiting too long means living at home may no longer be an option or alternatives may be limited.
Doing the research and feeling confident in your path forward should be done when you have the time and ability to put in the work, not when you’re faced with circumstances which force you to act immediately. The decision isn’t all about you, either. It is a relief for adult children to see that you have a plan and are being proactive about your senior years, since they are often confused about the logistics as well. It should be a time of discovery for everybody involved.
Whatever your decision, know that you have our support. We are happy to answer any questions as they arise, so please call us to discuss how we can be a part of your active senior lifestyle. We will do everything we can to make the time spent in your home enjoyable, will adapt as necessary to your changing circumstances, and are available to assist even after you make a move to a new home.
V: Gina, this has been great. I’m sure many people have questions about how you can help them or their loved ones. How can readers get in touch with you for more information or to schedule a meeting?
GD: Simple! Just give us a call at 302-478-7081. You can also find more information by visiting our website, www.yourownhomecare.com. We’re looking forward to helping!