Aging Well: VNA Companion Care program eases daily burdens, keeps clients independent | SteamboatToday.com

Aging Well: VNA Companion Care program eases daily burdens, keeps clients independent

Tamera Manzanares

A little bit of help with cooking, errands and daily tasks can go a long way for an older adult. Caregivers with the Yampa Valley Companion Care program help with these needs and also provide a friendly ear for clients.

Editor’s Note: This article originally was published in May 2007, however, information has been changed for accuracy. The Companion Care program currently is accepting new clients.

When Carol O’Hare planned to have her knee replaced, she knew her active, independent lifestyle would be on hold – at least during her initial recovery, when she wouldn’t be able to walk or drive.

She was going to need help, and although she had family nearby, she didn’t want all the worry and responsibility to fall on them.

So, she took a friend’s advice and enlisted the help of Yampa Valley Companion Care, a Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association program that sends caregivers to help sick, injured and elderly clients with daily tasks such as cooking, errands and light housekeeping.

Caregivers visited O’Hare daily for a week. They went to the post office and bank, filled her grocery lists, did some laundry and even made lasagna and pot roast for her freezer.

“It really was a great help,” O’Hare said. “The ladies were very good and very confident. They filled a need that I had at that time and something I think this community needs a lot.”

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The program, which has operated in Routt County for about three years, has nine part-time caregivers on staff, many of whom are retired professionals who enjoy spending time helping people in the program.

“They do the job because want to, not because they have to,” said Gena Fischer, program coordinator. “Clients call them their guardian angels.”

Caregivers help clients with nonmedical needs on long- and short-term bases. In addition to errands and essential household tasks, program staff will help with personal care such as bathing, hair care and dressing.

Caregivers also may drive clients to doctor appointments and other errands, as long as it is in the clients’ vehicles, to comply with insurance restrictions, Fischer said.

The program is nonprofit, but clients pay an hourly fee of $21 to $24 (depending on when service is needed) to help pay for staff members and other program costs.

In addition to helping with home needs, the program also emphasizes companion care, which can ease feelings of solitude and loneliness among clients who are less mobile.

Many clients are elderly individuals and appreciate friendly visits with caregivers, who read and share hobbies with clients, help them write letters and make phone calls to family or just enjoy a favorite TV program with them.

Caregivers also accompany seniors to lunches at the Steamboat Springs Community Center and other sites.

The service has helped keep many older clients independent in their homes and also helps put family members’ minds at ease, Fischer said.

The program even has made vacations a bit easier and more enjoyable for families visiting the area with elderly or injured members. A caregiver can assist those individuals, for example, while their families spend the day skiing.

For more active clients such as O’Hare, the Companion Care service has been invaluable in helping them get over the hump of injury or illness.

“I think it really helps in the whole healing process. : It allows an individual to relax so the healing can take place,” she said.

Individuals interested in the program can schedule an intake visit with caregivers, who will assess individuals’ needs.

For more information about the program, call Fischer at 871-7602 or 846-3023.

To help

The Yampa Valley Companion Care program offers sick and injured individuals short- and long-term assistance with daily needs including errands, cooking and light housekeeping. The nonprofit service costs $21 to $24 an hour, depending on the time and day clients need assistance. The program operates in Routt County. For more information or to schedule an intake visit, call coordinator Gena Fischer at 871-7602 or 846-3023.