Aging not only affects the person growing older, it affects the entire family. Debbie Russo and Christina Beasley know firsthand how difficult it can be for senior citizens and their families to manage health and life issues affected by aging. In recent years, both juggled busy careers and the challenges of raising a family while also personally caring for ailing elderly parents and grandparents within their homes.
Inspired by those experiences and committed to making a difference in the lives of other elders, the pair recently decided to join forces and create Senior Solutions For You, a Wheaton-based agency offering in-home and life care services to seniors in need of assistance.
"It's important to enable seniors to grow old gracefully and in a loving, relaxed and nurturing environment," says Russo. "It also teaches a vital lesson to the younger generations in our lives that older people should never be ignored, neglected or discarded. They deserve to be showered with healthy attention and provided with adequate care when needed. It's a great way to both pay it forward and backward."
The good news today for older Americans, says Russo, is that they're living a decade longer than their parents did, based on recent research published in the journal Nature. And many of these seniors desire to age in place within the residences they've occupied for years. Case in point: The homeownership rate for Americans between 62 and 74 and between 75 and 84 years old is approximately 81 and 77 percent, respectively, according to the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation.
The problem, however, "is finding the necessary in-home care for these individuals when they become sick or disabled or cannot perform specific activities of daily living" (ADLs), says Russo. These activities can include eating, bathing, dressing, remembering to take medications, performing housework and upkeep and moving around the home.
More than 25 percent of community-resident Medicare beneficiaries over age 65 experience difficulty performing one or more ADLs. Administration on Aging reports that 56 percent of seniors over 80 have a severe disability, and 29 percent require assistance.
"Nowadays, many families choose either to send their older loved ones to an assisted living residence or a nursing home facility," says Beasley. But there is a third option. "Aging in place within your own home can be a very affordable solution while providing peace of mind and improved quality of life," says Beasley.
However, it's challenging for adult children and relatives -- whether they're still busy working and raising their own family or if they have health issues of their own -- to find the time to care for an aging loved one either part- or full-time. Unlike earlier generations, people today often don't have the ability to quit their jobs and care for their parents when they become more dependent.
"Our service has the resources to offer dependable in-home care around the clock or as needed," says Russo. "That consists of everything from assisting with important ADLs to shopping for and preparing meals to furnishing transportation to and from the doctor's office to finding a qualified remodeler to upgrade your home to providing companionship for a senior. We're more than health care providers. We pride ourselves on being life care managers whose goal is to help seniors stay active, healthy, mentally stimulated and happy. Our goal is offer lasting solutions to the challenges of aging."
One of Russo's clients, for example, enlists her agency to drive him to and from her ballroom dancing class. Another, an 82-year-old who lives alone, looks forward to having her dog walked, fed and played with for two hours a day by a Senior Solutions For You caregiver. One 78-year-old man suffering from dementia helps keep his mind sharp by engaging in Sodoku and crossword puzzles supplied by his caregiver, who also accompanies him on walks, reminds him to take his prescription medications and manages other daily routines.
"I'm so thankful for my caregiver from Senior Solutions For You, she allows me to continue to lead a wonderful life. I look forward to her coming each day especially when she drives me to the beauty salon, grocery store and doctor appointments," says Nora Stout, 101, of Crystal Lake.
"Whether it's running errands and providing simple camaraderie or offering long-term care or 24-hour services, we can do it all," says Beasley. "We're especially valued by families who need fill-in-the-gap care: for instance, extra help for grandma or grandpa when they want to take a vacation or have to travel on business. And we're particularly in demand as in-home care providers before and after surgery."
Heidi Hagspihl, of Winfield, is the guardian of Angela Costello, 74, who is handicapped and unable to speak. She turned to Senior Solutions For You for help.
"Angela's respite caregiver [from Senior Solutions For You] is like one of the family. She takes such tremendous care of her when we are unable to. It's difficult for me to juggle working, taking care of my children and Angela's care as well. Angela's caregiver gives me a much needed break to care for my whole family," says Hagspihl.
The company has a full roster of experienced professionals on staff, including registered nurses, certified nursing assistants and companion caregivers who are each thoroughly screened and trained. All employees are insured, bonded, licensed and/or certified.
In addition, the company is knowledgeable about and experienced with area resources. "We know the local senior centers and the programs they offer," says Russo. If one of our seniors asks for a referral to a good neighborhood doctor or a remodeling contractor they can trust, we know the best people in the area." Their clients range in age from 52 to 101, says Russo. "We can adapt to and accommodate our clients' needs with extreme flexibility because we're smaller and we're local," she says.
Beyond providing part-time, weekly, daily or live-in care, that flexibility includes same-day availability, 24-hour scheduling and customer service, and bilingual caregivers. The agency also organizes special events, including an upcoming bus trip for seniors to Lake Geneva.
Senior Solutions For You offer home health and companion care at an hourly rate. Other services, such as home safety inspections and housekeeping are priced at a flat rate. Home Management Solutions (managing a handicap remodel, Elder Attorney resources, etc.) is a free service.
Russo says she and her crew find their jobs perpetually rewarding and gratifying."It brings me such joy to be able to bring aid, comfort and companionship to an elder. These folks have worked hard all their lives and merit dignity and respect. Plus, there is so much we can learn from older people, with their years of life experience," she says. ■
For more information call 630-885-0606 or visit SeniorSolutionsForYou.com.