Private home care technicians helps care for aging population

Over the past year, Hi-Hope has assembled a team of employees who are providing valuable new services to Gwinnett residents with developmental disabilities.

Each afternoon, these 10 "private home care" technicians fan out across the county to provide one-on-one assistance to individuals in their homes.

The services are provided at the end of the day when individuals arrive home from day services or jobs - providing welcome relief to family members who over the years may have had little or no help with daily caregiving.

"Some parents now have their own health issues or are trying to deal with health problems of their spouses and can no longer do everything they did before," said Lois Coffia, supervisor of Hi-Hope's Private Home Care Services. "We're doing everything that the individual needs or is interested in doing. The bonus is the caregiver also is getting a little breathing room."

This continuum of care is similar to that provided for the aging population - home care followed by placement in an assisted living facility or nursing home. Our services enable a client to stay at home as long as possible and then ease the transition into residential placement or into a home of a sibling or other relative upon the parent's death.

The services are person-centered, which means they are tailored to the individual's specific interests and needs. The services range from bathing and toileting to regular companionship. Our staff encourages each individual to become independent at home and active in the community.

These services enable Yvonne, who is in her 50s, to live alone successfully in her own apartment.

Our staff member visits Yvonne every day of the week for at least five hours each day and helps with housekeeping, cooking, bill paying and medication management. She also takes Yvonne shopping and on community outings, and she is available by phone when Yvonne just needs to talk.

The other 13 individuals receiving our home-care services reside with their families.

Gerald has lived with his grandmother since he was 3. He is now 38, and she is in her 80s.

Each weekday afternoon for four hours, Gerald's personal support technician assists him with showering and shaving, patiently teaching him to do as much as he can for himself. She is also teaching him how to assist his grandmother around the house. And his grandmother, initially hesitant to entrust him to another caregiver, now allows Gerald to go on short walks on warm days and on trips to the Dollar Tree or Wal-Mart when it is cool.

Accepting help from outside the family is one of the most difficult decisions a caregiver makes, because it requires acknowledging that the family member's needs outweigh the caregiver's physical ability to meet those needs. A positive benefit of accepting these services is the close relationship that often develops between the staff and client.

This deep bond can be very valuable when the parent becomes unable to care for the adult child because of illness or death. It eases the child's grief and confusion, aids his transition to residential services, or if the parent has made the necessary arrangements, opens the door to the client remaining in his own home.

I encourage any interested Gwinnett families to contact Shirley Ford, the manager of this service area, by calling 770-963-8694.

"People Helping People" is a weekly column written by the executive directors of nonprofit organizations in Gwinnett County. Today's article was written by Alice Cunningham of the Hi-Hope Center.

Need help or know someone who does? The Gwinnett Helpline directs callers to the appropriate nonprofit agency. Call 770-995-3339.