Experiencing her mother’s failing health made Debra Kostiw realize how important it is for frail elders to have supportive, caring companions. Friends and family can do only so much, as Kostiw painfully learned. Now, owner of the Rochester office of Home Helpers, she offers reliable companion care from employees who pass background checks, are insured, and bonded.

Creative Solutions to Common Problems

As we were chatting about Home Helpers, her statement that they “always have enough staff to cover any shift,” seemed too good to be true. What about staff who do not report for their assignments — the “no call, no show” problem?

The companion calls in when he or she arrives at the client’s home, using the client’s phone. If not done so within six minutes of assigned arrival time, Home Helpers receives a message to check with the client and they then call the companion. If the companion cannot fill the shift, they send another.

Sounds good, but my years in community health proved how difficult that can be. Additionally, a person’s care needs do not always lend themselves to one solution, be it a home health aide or companion. It takes caring and creativity to provide the correct level of care in the most cost effective way.

Kostiw’s phone rang while we were talking and I listened as this “hands on” owner asked questions about the care needs of a challenging potential client. I mentally cheered her on as she demonstrated creative, out of the box thinking that is so necessary to make an unwieldy, regulatory- ridden system work for the client.

Companions often make the difference between living at home or in an institution. They do laundry, housekeeping, meal preparation, grocery shopping. They clean, they organize, and even will walk your dog.

Speaking of dogs, Home Helpers offers a program to encourage clients to volunteer at various sites with their companions. One client/companion duo volunteers at a veterinary hospital to lay some love on its dog and cat patients. Another pair serves at Mission Share, a local outreach that provides clothing, furniture, etc. to those in need.

Debra Kostiw’s Passion about Elder Abuse

Kostiw is a trained National Educator on elder abuse.  According to her research, 47% of people with dementia will be physically or psychologically abused. She told me the most frequent abusers are adult children (80%), rather than paid caregivers (14%). Part of the issue is burnout. A study revealed 20% of people surveyed, who were full time caregivers for people with dementia, feared they would “become physical.” Kostiw believes the number is probably higher since not everyone is honest when answering surveys. Other factors can trigger family elder abuse.

  • Need for money. Perhaps the adult child does not want to wait to inherit.
  • They do not understand what Power of Attorney (POA) means.
  • Other factors come into play such as gambling, going through one job after another, psychological or dependence issues.
  • Sometimes people are simply overwhelmed and not educated on how to get help.

Although she works with Monroe County’s Adult Protective to find solutions, she is committed to educating her staff and other professionals who may encounter the elder. She speaks of “sprinkles,”subtle hints abused elders plant in their conversations. The elder does not want the abuser punished, but rather, for the abuse to stop. Aides, people who clean their living area, nurses, doctors, attorneys, bankers, even hairdressers, need to be alert to these camouflaged cries for help

Work with Dementia

Because her mom suffered from dementia, Kostiw took the training the Alzheimer’s Association offered. The topic so resonated with Kostiw, the Alzheimer’s Association invited her to teach the course. In addition to training her staff, she has given a national webinar on the topic.

Answers About Aging

On February 4, Kostiw will add radio show host to her other activities. Tune in Tuesday evenings at 7:30 to WYSL 92.1 FM, 95.5 FM, 1040 AM for “Answers About Aging” — a program with frank discussions about aging issues. If you miss the live broadcast, the podcast will be available at WYSL’s website.

A Heart for Veterans

Working with any government program can be challenging. (When I was being oriented to my work with the Medicaid system, my mentor advised me, “You’re using logic and common sense. Stop doing that.”) Yet Kostiw easily navigates the veteran benefits system, with a good dose of caring thrown in.

Home Helpers offers services through the Veterans Aide and Attendance Program. Assuming simple criteria are met, the veteran, veteran and spouse, or the surviving spouse of a veteran, can be reimbursed for existing care services from $1881 for a veteran to $2230 for a couple.

Kostiw’s expertise makes Home Helpers not your average home care agency —— and that is exactly what she strives for.

If you are interested in hiring a companion, providing in-service education for your staff, or just want to learn more, visit (www.HomeCareRochesterNY.com), or call (585) 334-0999.