In March 2002, Sun City resident Rita Edelstein had a liver transplant.
In January 2003, her husband, retired Col. Leonard Edelstein, had a massive stroke that paralyzed his left side.
While he has made great progress, “she’s my sole caregiver,” Leonard said of his wife. “It’s a full-time job, as you can imagine.”
“When Len first had his stroke, I didn’t know where to look for help,” Rita said. “For me, it was baptism by fire.”
Rita tried several home care services, and found “help that was not satisfactory. There are people working as qualified assistants who are really not qualified,” she said.
One woman, “an angel,” had to leave the community. “I was left with nobody.”
Caregiving became more difficult when Rita had a hip replaced some 18 months ago. The Edelsteins felt some pressure “to move into an assisted living facility. From what I saw of it, this is not for us,” Rita said.
Then Leonard read an article about Heartfelt Senior Homecare. “It triggered something in what’s left of my brain,” said Leonard, West Point Class of 1946, and still sharp. They called, and secured help from Heartfelt.
“I thought I’d died and gone to heaven,” Rita said.
“It was as timely as an article could have been,” said Leonard.
Someone from Heartfelt is with the Edelsteins several days a week for at least three hours at a time. Caregivers help with light housekeeping, cooking, “anything that will relieve some of the burden,” Leonard said.
Transportation is a major need.
“With our ages, and our obvious physical problems, we have a myriad of doctors’ appointments and other commitments, all health-related” and requiring travel, Leonard said.
When caregiver Teri Elmer showed up on a recent weekday, “I said, ‘Teri, we’re going to have to go shopping,’” Rita said.
The relief even extends to … relief. “Even a chance to relax and be by herself for a while,” Len said. “Ostensibly, I’m the one who needs the assistance. Practically, she’s the one who needs the services.”
Leonard can bathe and dress himself. “I’ve come a long way,” he said. “I can do a lot of things, except be of any help.”
Now, they have the help.
“We couldn’t be more pleased,” Leonard said. “It’s really the difference between staying in our own home and moving into assisted living.”
Susan Coopman dates her affinity to working with seniors to “a high school summer job in the local nursing home” in Illinois.
After a college start, “I fell back to nursing homes. I fell in love with it. You can learn more from the senior citizens than you can from a book.
“I meet a lot of interesting people. The stories are incredible.”
Coopman, founder of Heartfelt Senior Homecare, has a post-graduate certificate in gerontology, the study of aging.
“More than anything, it’s the sociology and psychology of aging,” she said, with inquiry into the dynamics and the transiency of the modern American family.
In contrast with other societies, in which multiple generations of families live near one another, American families are spread across the continent. Coopman understands the dispersion.
“We go where we have work, we go where our husbands have work,” she said.
As a result, “this is not necessarily the culture of taking care of our own,” she said. Younger people “don’t have that first hand knowledge of what happens as people age.”
Most often, the call for senior care “is a family decision. A very small percentage is the person themselves calling. Sometimes, it’s the spouse, saying ‘I can’t take care of them anymore, I need your help.’”
Most callers are offspring, people who “make their annual pilgrimages, and see things aren’t going very well.” The call for help is made.
“You always end up feeling good,” case manager Debbie Hays said.
“In the end, it’s all worth it,” Coopman said. “That sounds hokey, but it’s all true.”