Kenyon HomeCare ConsultingHoliday Helpers: A Win-Win Program for Home Health, the Elderly, and College Students - Kenyon HomeCare Consulting (206) 721-5091

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Holiday Helpers: A Win-Win Program for Home Health, the Elderly, and College Students

The holiday season is a special time of year. It is an opportunity to gather with friends, family, and colleagues. Regardless of our faith or beliefs, the holiday season is often filled to the brim with an array of festivities that reflect precious memories. While most of us barely have time to catch our breath between parties and concerts, gift exchanges and joyful gatherings, for the elderly, the holidays are often a time to focus on what they have lost.

For many, that loss is defined by physical disabilities that make it difficult for them to participate in customs and celebrations that were once very much part of their lives. For others, the holidays are poignant reminders of the loss of a spouse or a friend.

Yeas ago I realized how important this time of year was and what it meant to my clients who found it harder and harder to take part in the holiday season. In response, I created a Holiday Helper program that allowed my clients to maintain many of their favorite traditions while creating a much needed resource for local college students.

At the start of the holiday season, I began recruiting home care ‘helpers’ from the local universities and colleges. Logic said that college students might be looking for part-time work to earn a little extra money during their break. It turned out my instincts were correct, and almost immediately my office was flooded with responses. All I had to do was match each student to one of my elderly clients.

Here’s how it worked. The home care services provided under the Holiday Helper program varied and depended on the client, as well as their religion or customs. Their personal Holiday Helper provided gift shopping, holiday cooking, decorating the home or apartment, and transporting their client to any special productions or services that were part of their holiday tradition. I charged my clients a fee and paid their personal Holiday Helper a respectful part-time wage.

When I began the program, I thought it would be a good service for my home health clients. What I discovered after the fact was the students were served as well. Universally, they reported they did things they had never done before. For some it was the first time they had made holiday cookies or treats. For others it was the first time they had attended the Messiah or a live production of the Nutcracker or a Christmas Carol. While most had helped their own families with holiday preparations, working as a Holiday Helper allowed them to learn about another family’s traditions. The primary benefit, of course, was the deep satisfaction of helping others.

For the elders, it was an opportunity to be with “the young ones” again. Rather than being isolated during the holiday season, they were surrounded by youthful energy and enthusiasm. Most importantly, they had someone to share the meaning of the season with and to pass on traditions that were important to them. It also refocused their thinking towards positive things in their lives rather than what they had lost.

I encourage every home health agency to instigate a Holiday Helper program. Even though it is a bit late in the year, there is still time to pull one together. While the program generates moderate seasonal revenue, the goodwill garnered from the program far surpasses any fiscal gain. It is the essence of a good deed and the benefits to all can be seen in the happy faces of your clients and the young students. And frankly, from the warm fuzzy feeling you’ll experience knowing that you’ve made a difference in someone’s life and made his or her holiday happy, joyous, and bright

For additional holiday treats see the links below.

KHCC Holiday Traditions: A Kenyon Family Feast

KHCC Holiday Traditions: Dolores Nagel’s Spritz Cookies

KHCC Holiday Traditions: Miriam’s Mandelbrot Biscotti

Category: Holidays, Specialized Support

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