Most older adults want to keep living at home, even as they become too frail to care for themselves. But for adult children living out of state, trying to keep an older parent safe at home can be stressful. “You’re constantly worried,” said Celeste Darlow of Houston, Texas, whose elderly mother lives in independent senior housing in Birmingham. Celeste is grateful that her brother lives in Birmingham and spends time with their mother every night, managing most of her needs. And when her brother is at work, Celeste knows that her mother, 87-year-old Margie Panty, is likely to receive quick, informal check-ins from her CJFS Personal Care Attendants, Jasmine Gilchrist and Schadell Lewis.
Between the two of them, Jasmine and Schadell provide scheduled Personal Care for “Ms. Margie” three times a week – cleaning, doing laundry and helping Margie bathe. “They are just precious, and it’s a godsend to have them coming in – now, it’s up to three days a week,” Celeste says. About a month ago, Jasmine arrived to find Margie on the floor and confused as a result of a urinary tract infection. Since that day, Jasmine and Schadell have made it a point to check on Margie whenever they’re assisting clients in her senior apartment building, Episcopal Place. “They’re really good about calling me, letting me know what’s going on,” says daughter Celeste. If it hadn’t been for Jasmine, Schadell and CJFS Personal Care Program Manager Catherine Findley, LCSW, Celeste feels certain that she and her brother would have been forced to move Margie into either her home or his. “That would have upset her, because she’s always been the head of household, always been extremely independent,” her daughter says.
As for Margie, she brightens up when Jasmine and Schadell arrive to have their photo taken for this article. “They’re my buddies,” she says. “They’re always here when I need them.”
CJFS Personal Care Attendants provide between two and six hours per week of care, which may include cleaning, laundry, meal preparation, bathing or grooming and other services that support independent living. Personal Care is a component of the CJFS Comprehensive Care Management program, whose generous funders include Alabama Power Foundation, the Lucille Beeson Trust of the Canterbury United Methodist Church, Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham, Robert Meyer Foundation, YWCA of Central Alabama and hundreds of individual and corporate donors. Private support enables CJFS to provide Personal Care at affordable fees based on each client’s ability to pay. In many cases, this program helps older adults avoid premature placement in a Medicaid-funded nursing home.