Friends Connect, now even more closely
By Pat van den Beemt
Eleanor Mayblum and Abby Salami get together Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. Sometimes they watch old movies. Other times they sit and talk about Eleanor's children and grandchildren. Abby frequently reaches out and holds Eleanor's hand. It's not an unusual scene at Broadmead, where friendships blossom, but Eleanor and Abby's bond had its beginnings with Friends Connect (formerly Friends Circle). Abby is Eleanor's personal assistant, who goes to Taylor twice a week to help Eleanor any way she can. "She likes to be with me and I like to be with her," Eleanor said. "I'm always happy to see her. She's my friend." Abby agrees. "She looks forward to my smile," Abby said.
Friends Connect offers help for residents with everything from meal preparation, technology assistance, and light gardening, to pet care, personal grooming, and travel assistance. For many, companionship tops the list of needs. "Our objective is not to make money but to ensure Broadmead residents can age in place safely and comfortably," said Don Palughi, Friends Connect director since 2019. "Our goal is to form bonds between caregivers and clients, so there is an initial interview to see if the two are compatible."
Annette Zubritsky is a personal assistant team leader who works full time for Friends Connect. She trains new employees and also does everything with clients from walking their dogs to balancing their checkbooks. "Every individual is different and wants different things," she said. "I do crossword puzzles with one client. I do laundry, housekeeping, and I make appointments. Basically anything the client wants. I even clean windows."
Unlike some providers, Friends Connect does not have a monthly minimum and does not ask for pre-payment. Don said that one client hires a caregiver to feed her cat twice a day when she goes out of town. "We can offer care in 15-minute increments if it's in the best interest of the client," he said. "You can use us just one time if that's what you need. It's completely customized care."
Ann Patterson, Vice President of Health Services, said that two years ago she began asking clients for feedback about the services offered. "We asked what they wanted us to do instead of us telling them what we do," she said. "We found out most needed personal assistance, not necessarily medical help."
Friends Connect still offers medical support services, including follow-up care after a resident returns home from the hospital. It employs geriatric nursing assistants, certified nursing assistants, and certified medication technicians. It also works closely with Broadmead's Outpatient Department (OPD) and the Social Work Department.
There is no charge for an initial meeting between a resident and a caregiver. Once a caregiver is chosen, the resident decides how often and what services are needed. While Broadmead's transportation office provides rides to residents, Friends Connect goes one step further. It offers to drive a resident to a doctor's appointment or to the airport, for instance, and will accompany the resident inside. Friends Connect has its own car—a Subaru Forester with its logo on the driver's door. Tom Scheye uses Friends Connect to get him to and from Loyola University two days a week, where he teaches classes on Shakespeare. "I have the same driver—Bola—who also helps me make the trek from the car to my office. She even knows what radio station I like," he said. Tom has also used Friends Connect to be driven to dinner at local restaurants. "It's a wonderful service," he said.
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