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Home Instead at the forefront as in-home care grows

As the popularity of in-home care grows, so does Home Instead in Fremont.

The first local office opened in 2000. Since 2005, the company has expanded from about 30 caregivers to more than 100 today.

Home Instead offers non-medical services, such as companionship, transportation, housekeeping, meals, medication reminders, bathing, toileting, getting ready for the day and going to bed.

“This particular type of service as a true viable option is probably only 20 years old,” owner Kim Henrichs-Suey said. “Long ago, the only option was the nursing home.”

Mary Atkinson, community resource coordinator, summed up the services as “anything that we can do to help seniors stay in their home.” However, she said Home Instead does have clients in assisted living and nursing homes as well.

“Wherever home is, we’ll go,” Atkinson said.

Though it fluctuates “daily,” they now have more clients than ever.

The growth is driven by an aging generation. People are living longer and the large Baby Boomer generation is aging. Baby Boomers began to turn 65 earlier this decade. In 2015, 15 percent of the population was over the age of 65, up from 12.4 percent in 2000, according to census data.

“We’re constantly interviewing, accepting applications and doing orientation,” Atkinson said.

These caregivers are 19 at the youngest, but many caregivers are retired, in their 60s. The oldest caregiver is 83.

“For an older individual that still wants to contribute to life, but maybe is retired … this job is incredible,” Henrichs-Suey said. “Because they have experienced some things.”

On the other hand, the teenage and young adult caregivers are “old souled.”

“(Young caregivers) just love to interact with our clients, love the storytelling,” Henrichs-Suey said.

After being hired, new caregivers undergo a two-day orientation.

“It really truly isn’t a job,” Henrichs-Suey said. “It’s more of a calling … No two days are alike, because you’re working with people.”

Nine out of 10 Americans 65 and older want to stay at home for as long as possible, and 80 percent think their current home is where they will always live, according to the AARP Public Policy Institute. Understandably, seniors like to avoid the stigma attached to going to a nursing home, Atkinson said. In-home care provides an intermediary step before the nursing home and even assisted living.

“To go into any type of a facility, you’re decreasing your space, having to give up belongings,” Henrichs-Suey said.

Leaving home also means leaving your community and forfeiting some independence, Atkinson said. Unfortunately, they sometimes must recommend that a client does move into an assisted living or nursing home.

“We don’t want to put anyone at risk,” Atkinson said.

Overall, Home Instead staff views the job as rewarding. One client that came to mind was Eadie.

“We were able, with a team of caregivers going every day, able to keep her in her home and living her normal life with her normal routine,” Henrichs-Suey said. “That team of caregivers would take her to go to the pound and they would go pet the dogs.”

The caregivers take her on drives around the Fremont Lakes, do puzzles with her as well as countless other activities. Each caregiver pitched in money to buy her a birthday present.

“She thrived in her home a good three years, which helped the family extend the money a little longer, because, as we know, nursing homes are expensive,” Henrichs-Suey said.

Some clients have caregivers 24/7, while others might only be visited by a caregiver once a month. In an average case, clients are visited two or three times per week. For those who are visited daily, regular checkups have proved important.

In one case, for instance, a caregiver found a client on the floor soon after she fell.

“She was calm, cool about it because she knew a caregiver was coming in a couple hours,” Henrichs-Suey said. “Had she not had a regular schedule, she could have been on the floor for a long period of time.”

Because it’s often also-aging spouses or already-busy sons and daughters who are the primary caretakers for a senior, they often need “relief” that dedicated caregivers provide.

“Just to give them a break so that they can provide self-care is tremendous,” said Henrichs-Suey, who has owned the Fremont location since 2005.

The Fremont location also serves Blair, Scribner, Wahoo and surrounding areas.

“We’re affecting the lives of seniors on a daily basis,” Atkinson said. “They become attached to their caregiver, so those caregivers become part of their family. It’s kind of an extended family.”

The company has offices in 12 countries and is headquartered in Omaha, but each location is independently owned and operated.

Chris Nordahl, 51, of Fremont is one of Home Instead’s caregivers. He is one of only a couple men. He started in caregiving nine years ago at a Home Instead location in California.

“God gave me the tools I needed, and I’ve always liked people,” Nordahl said. “If you like your job you never have to work a day in your life.”

For Nordahl and other caregivers, the number of hours he works each week varies greatly.

“I never added (the number of hours a week) up, I really don’t care,” Nordahl said.

His wife has a full-time job, and Nordahl said he brings in extra cash.

“I do it because I like it,” Nordahl said. “The pay really doesn’t matter.”

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