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Health // Doctor in the House
Rasa Fournier

Home Care For Senior Citizens

Feli Caballero
President of Synergy HomeCare-Hawaii

How long have you been involved in the service of caregiving?

My first experience of caring for elderly clients goes back to when my mom owned and operated her own adult residential care home in Moanalua Valley more than 35 years ago. We moved to Waipahu 13 years later to have more space for our residents. I left to attend college at UH-Manoa and received my Bachelor of Arts degree in graphic design in 1989. In 1996, my mother offered me the opportunity to continue caring for her residents and I accepted without hesitation. It was a total turnaround, but I had firsthand experience and really bonded with the seniors in our care. I’m doing what I love.

Can you talk about the health-oriented aspects of what you do for the home-bound?

We make it possible for our clients to live in their own home or wherever they reside, such as in an ALF (assisted living facility) or senior community. We allow them to be as independent as possible so that there is no change in the routine they are comfortable with.

We provide three different categories of service: companionship, homemaking and personal assistance.

Examples of companionship include arranging appointments, assisting with morning wakeup, timely medication reminders, accompanying to doctor visits, preparing grocery lists and help with reading, etc. Homemaking is not to be confused with professional home cleaners. We offer light housekeeping, such as kitchen maintenance, laundry, changing linens, vacuuming, sweeping, mopping, bathroom maintenance, organizing closets, making beds, incidental errands, transporting, preparing meals and snacks, and emptying the trash. Personal assistance means bathing or showering assistance, assisting with walking, assisting dressing, routine transfer, assisting with personal hygiene, helping with incontinence care, helping with restroom use.

Do you care solely for the elderly, or are your services for anyone who is homebound?

About 90 percent of our clients are seniors. However, we do service younger adults who are disabled as well.

How many clients do you help currently on Oahu?

It varies. There are high and low seasons in home care, too! For example, when the holidays are here, some clients will receive assistance from family members who are on Christmas vacation, or they may travel with their family. We average more than 30 clients each month. We have a minimum of three hours of care for each visit with a client. We also provide live-in care.

Is the care you provide similar to having a family member doing the caregiving?

It varies depending on the individual’s family dynamics. Sometimes a client might be more open to receiving care from an “objective” person or entity such as Synergy. They are able to identify with the caregiver and that we are paid professionals with a signed agreement of service.

My team and I do a comprehensive interview with each applicant, matching a caregiver to each client, being mindful of the client’s needs and personality. We also receive referrals from hospice care organizations, and our caregivers combine the care, respect and dignity that each client deserves.

We have a staff of more than 50 caregivers who are all experienced with CPR and are first aid certified. Though we provide non-medical services, we have RNs (registered nurses), LPNs (licensed practical nurses) and certified nurse aides on staff.

Can you talk about some of the challenges and rewards of the work?

The challenges are part of the job and can range from the client refusing to take a bath or forgetting whether they have taken their medications, to those who are feeling depressed. However, after coming to a resolution at the end of the day, it is heartwarming for the caregiver to receive a nod, a smile or a thank you and “I’ll see you tomorrow” from the client.

Anything you’d like to add?

Caregiving is not for everyone. You have to want to be a caregiver. I have been in the business for more than 25 years. Everything I know about caregiving comes from hands-on experience.

Synergy HomeCare’s (synergyhomecare.com) goal is to provide the best care possible to the client and to make them comfortable in their own living situation. We also partner with community organizations like Hawaii Foodbank and Alzheimer’s Association, and we offer free community informational talks to seniors’ clubs and other related industry organizations to introduce them to the much needed services we provide in the community. rfournier@midweek.com

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