Archive for Thursday, April 17, 2003

Lending a helping hand at home

Non-medical elder care business expands to Eudora

April 17, 2003

When people visit an aging relative, they still want to think of him or her as the parent or grandparent they knew when they were younger, not as someone to be taken care of, said Julie Goans-Heinz, whose business, Home Helpers Inc., makes that possible.

"They love their grandma dearly, but they're at their wit's end," Goans-Heinz said. "It's hard to take care of your mother, and a lot of time (a mother) wants to be the mother, not the opposite."

Home Helpers takes care of any day-to-day, non-medical tasks for the elderly, letting family members and friends keep their visits with the client enjoyable.

"When the family does visit the mother or grandmother, it's going to be a social visit," Goans-Heinz said.

Home Helpers has one client in Eudora, and Goans-Heinz said she hoped to expand the business here as well as elsewhere in Douglas County. Having studied gerontology at Kansas University, Goans-Heinz started Home Helpers in Lawrence, and five years later she has 13 carefully-screened employees, all KU students studying gerontology, social welfare, physical or occupational therapy, and other related human-service industries.

"This ensures that the quality of employees is at the level I want it to be," she said. "They're trained; they're going to school."

Goanz-Heinz said Home Helpers didn't turn people away for a lack of staff and said she often had to hire every four to six weeks.

"By the time they contact me, they needed the service yesterday," she said.

Goans-Heinz said people often found out about the business through physicians' offices and at pharmacies, where she left brochures including the resumes and references for all of her employees.

Although the business bills by the half hour, some clients have Home Helpers visit a half hour a week, and some clients get assistance 15 hours a day, seven days a week, Goans-Heinz said. About half of those times, she said, were spent with a client's family.

"If you don't help the family, the client is going to suffer," she said.

Clients have home helpers assist them with a variety of non-medical tasks, including light housekeeping, transportation, shopping and two things that often go hand-in-hand: meals and socialization.

"It's depressing for some people to eat alone," Goans-Heinz said. "It's hard to cook for one person."

Home Helpers will dine out with clients or help them prepare and share a meal at home, too. Goans-Heinz even has her employees put together menus and a quick list of ingredients to help clients eat well.

"Sometimes the thought of having to come up with a meal takes too much energy," she said.

Home Helpers extends outside the home, too. Goans-Heinz said the business had clients in assisted living facilities as well.

Part of the services, she said, were advocacy for the elderly. On her end, that means keeping up with Medicare changes and knowing what services are available through local hospitals and senior centers. For the client it means getting help dealing with situations like making assisted living arrangements or dealing with hospital insurance and discharges.

"When a person is not feeling well, the most important thing is to have the energy to heal themselves, not worrying, 'Are my rights being violated?'" Goans-Heinz said.

Home helpers can be reached at 331-5850 or by e-mail at www.homehelperinc@aol.com.

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