By Hannah Reimann
In response and follow up to the Senior Shares for the Village article in the September issue of WestView News, I met with several women ages 25-60 who responded via email to us. They are interested in possibly becoming live-in companions, paying reduced rent and providing selected services for an elder who needs assistance and owns or rents his or her own home. Among us were Annmarie Maida, Celestina Billington, myself, and a fourth woman who prefers to go unnamed for now.
We examined the 14-page Seeker Orientation Packet for Home Sharing from the excellent San Diego-based organization, Elderhelp. Elderhelp has been around since 1974. An administrator I interviewed there informed me that the average length of these arrangements in their experience is two years. The organization has had a lot of success pairing companions and elders, creating harmonious, comfortable and safe environments for both parties.
Their guidelines stress how important it is to create an arrangement and agreement, case-by-case, for each situation, to put things in writing and all the cards on the table before the companion moves in. This will prevent misunderstandings and can prevent unforeseen arguments.
I made a list of each potential companion’s preferences including the number of hours they could provide in exchange for reduced rent, what specific tasks they would and would not do, what level of care, etc. Among those listed in the Orientation Packet are companionship, meal preparation, running errands, pet care, medication reminders, house sitting and to be there overnight in a reliable way in case of emergency medical needs. There are other categories and considerations, part of a long list we examined. Bathing, changing and any other service in which bodily fluids might be exchanged are not legally permitted as services a companion can provide. For those services a certified home health aid or family member would be needed.
Everyone present had good ideals, were financially independent (an important criteria) and looked upon this project in a realistic and compassionate way. It was good to simply discuss these things with like minds and to learn from everyone’s experiences and ideas.
We will follow up with any other people, be they companions or elders, who respond to these articles via email at email@example.com
If you prefer to use a telephone, you may also call 212-414-4883 to leave a message as indicated in Gail Evans’ article.