Picture a woman in her 90s at home with a caregiver she fears, whom she can’t stop from over-billing her or eating her food.
Now picture husband and wife Peggy Milne and Mitch Williams, owners of the Half Moon Bay-based Home Helpers franchise. Along with the woman’s son, they let that caregiver go and hired a responsible new one.
“It’s rewarding to take somebody out of a bad situation and make them feel safe again,” said Milne.
Celebrating its 15th year in 2012, Home Helpers and Direct Link of San Mateo County helps bring seniors, surgical patients, the chronically ill, harried new mothers and working parents what they need when they need it, safely, at home.
Statistically, 10,000 Americans turn 65 every day. SB411, which requires meticulous licensing of home care agencies, awaits signature on California Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk. A year ago, Milne and Williams bought the franchise.
That move might have been inevitable. Toronto native Milne, a certified senior advisor with more than 20 years of sales and marketing experience, saw her mother care for an ailing family member. Williams, who holds an M.B.A. with more than 25 years in technology sales, once cared for his father.
Seeing her mother’s compassion, Milne “from that moment on, has always had (caregiving) in my DNA,” she said. “We realized something was missing in our life here. There was something we should be doing to give back to people in our community, and seniors in particular.”
With an eye toward clients’ varied needs, Milne and Williams leveraged their business and networking skills to develop a pool of professional caregivers — to which they’re always looking to add, Milne said.
Caregivers follow a home safety checklist. On it are easy-to-overlook hazards like clearing the path to the car or picking up throw rugs on slippery floors. Staying from a few hours to around the clock, they do housework, fix meals, monitor medications, or take clients to appointments. They stop short of medical procedures, leaving that to the medical professionals.
Coastsider Diann Chethik and her husband recently hired Home Helpers when he, with complications from knee replacement surgery, needed round-the-clock care and transportation to see doctors. His wife iced his knee by night.
Milne sent out a licensed vocational nurse and showed Diann how insurance would help. “I really, really do believe that the aide got my husband through that whole experience,” Diann said.
Finding the right professional caregivers to give respite to for family caregivers is “almost a jigsaw puzzle,” said Milne, noting that it is based on personalities, experience, proximity and skill, she said.
Ideally, she added, the goal is to retain Certified Nursing Assistants or someone with personal experience.
Extensive training begins with Home Helpers expectations and medical monitoring do’s and don’ts. An online training program with Kerrie Cox of Half Moon Bay, a former executive director of an Idaho assisted-living facility, covers roles and responsibilities, elder abuse and neglect, Alzheimer’s disease and housekeeping.
“There is an incredible need” for home care services on the coast, said Chethik.
Milne and Williams built a network of contacts with senior and adult day centers, including the Coastside Adult Day Health Center and Half Moon Bay-based Home Care by the Sea, run by nurse Bobbi Cobb.
“We go up to the point of medical care, and (Cobb) does medical,” said Milne.
A vital aspect of Home Helpers is the Direct Link medical alert systems. Milne and Williams personally install emergency systems, that either resemble answering machines with big red “Help” buttons, or are small, wearable pendants. The systems have fall sensors that can get in touch with responders and family.
The overall goal for Home Helpers is service, said Williams. “Seniors want to stay in their homes,” he said. “We’re about making that happen.”
“We want people to stay in their homes as long as possible,” said Milne. “It’s a nice, rewarding feeling.”
Home Helpers can be reached at (650) 532-3122.