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Nannies for a new crowd
A home health care service with a catchy name helps older folks remain at home.
By BETH N. GREY, Times Correspondent
Published January 13, 2008
Julia Herne, in red, a nurse with Granny Nannies, helps Arline Myers, 85, make her way toward a chair for a haircut Jan. 3 at Total Dimension in Spring Hill. Myers goes to the salon once a week. Herne has worked with Myers since October.
[Keri Wiginton | Times]
[Keri Wiginton | Times]
"How's my pretty lady," asked Herne as Myers checked her makeup in a mirror Jan. 5. Herne helps Myers shower and dress in the morning, fixes her breakfast and helps her with speech and physical therapy.
Granny Nannies. The name intrigues.
Grannies as nannies? Nannies for grannies?
A little of both, as it turns out.
Some of the caregivers for the home health care agency are grannies themselves, the eldest 70 and the youngest in her 20s. All are certified nursing assistants or registered nurses. Most provide life-caring functions to older grannies. Some of the certified nursing assistants are granny papas. Some recipients of care are grandpapas themselves.
The business opened in Spring Hill in May and has 20 clients. They are served by some 50 nannies who provide care, as needed, around the clock, says executive director Cindi Wilson.
A chain with 17 locations in Florida, Granny Nannies provides care for aging retirees who resist moving into assisted living facilities or nursing homes, preferring to share later life with their own loved ones and among cherished furnishings and belongings.
Nannies joins 31 other in-home agencies in the county - from A+ Nurse Temps to the Visiting Nurses Association - according to George Popovich, director of elder services for Mid-Florida Community Services.
Nannies doesn't differ from the other services, Popovich said. They all focus on personal care, hygiene and homemaking.
Granny Cathy Finmore had all that in mind as she bounced into the home of Flora Falk at Clover Leaf Estates in Brooksville earlier this month.
"Hi, Flora," the spry caregiver, 69 years of age herself, said as she greeted Flora. "How you doing?"
A frail Flora, 93, flashed a smile.
Three shifts of nannies have seen to Flora's daily care.
Said Flora of the nannies: "Somebody needs some help; they help them."
Said Cathy, as she fussed around Flora, who was having her hair curled by another private caregiver: "You do everything for the person - dressing, undressing, showers, remind them of their medicines, tucking in bed."
The nannies prepare meals. Flora said she likes any dish - "anything I don't have to cook." On this day, Wilson arrived with a lunch of cold cut sandwiches, sides and kettle chips. Flora eagerly moved toward the kitchen table.
In June, Flora became Cathy's only client, from 4 p.m. to 8 a.m. daily. Caregiver and client grow close, making it difficult as the client declines.
Flora died Thursday.
"You get attached," Cathy said Friday as she mourned Flora's passing, but "you learn to accept it."
In another home, in Timber Pines, Lawrence Myers sits back with a smile as he observes nanny Julia Herne tend to his wife of 65 years, Arline, who is 85.
"This is assisted living," the 86-year-old spouse pronounces from his favorite chair in their tastefully appointed living room. "Julia's here eight hours of 12 we're up. Every gal we've had here has been great, but Julia's the best."
Julia, 35, had just helped Arline rise, bathe, dress and work through a series of arm and leg exercises with the direction of a physical therapist.
Arline, a Parkinson's patient who also suffered a head injury in a fall, still does her own makeup.
"A beautiful lady," Julia says, pointing out the softly coiffed strawberry blonde hair, face powder, rouge and lipstick.
As Arline negotiates a trip from the bedroom to the living room with the help of a walker, Julia advises, "Reach for the chair. It's behind you, a little bit farther." Arline settles in.
Lawrence notes with satisfaction that Julia cooks dinner.
"I'm a good cook, a good baker," acknowledges the emigre from Hungary. "I enjoy it."
On New Year's, the Myerses feasted on a special Hungarian dish.
"It doesn't translate," said Julia. Pointing at Lawrence, she added, "He was up all night, he ate so much."
The nannies' efforts reach beyond the home. Julia ushers Arline to weekly hair appointments, takes her for walks outdoors, drives her to doctor's appointments and the couple to breakfast at a restaurant.
With a nursing degree earned in Hungary, Julia also works in a medical laboratory and does other on-call nursing assignments. She particularly likes her job with Granny Nannies.
"I can give 100 percent care of the patient," she said. "I don't have to rush from patient to patient."
Cathy, whose care was singly devoted to Flora, concurred.
Although it's not written in the job criteria, she said: "Compassion, that's the most important."