Digital tablet is latest tool to keep area seniors connected with the world
There is little doubt that senior care is a booming market in Ozaukee County.
That is the assessment of Amy Luft, the sales and marketing manager for Comfort Keepers Grafton, the local franchise of a nationwide company that places an emphasis on allowing seniors and disabled adults to live independently.
Luft admits an affinity for the senior population based in part on her ongoing involvement with the American Legion Auxiliary and the Stars and Stripes Honor Flight.
“I have a passion for helping seniors, especially those who are in the last chapter of their lives,” she said explaining what drew her to a position with Comfort Keepers.
The local senior service was first established in Grafton in 2008, but was taken over by its parent company, Sodexo, Inc., in 2014, with most operations handled through Sheboygan.
Late last year, a local office reopened at 1416 Wisconsin Ave., providing services to seniors in Ozaukee and Washington counties.
Joining Luft on the administrative team are a care coordinator, recruiter, scheduler and human resources specialist.
That team oversees an army of about 50 caregivers who make in-home visits to between 80 and 100 area seniors.
“There is a growing demand for services and service providers. In truth, we could probably use another 50 caregivers,” Luft said.
Only a fraction of those caregivers are certified nursing assistants. In one attempt to meet the growing need for that type of help, the local program is partnering with Concordia University Wisconsin and Milwaukee Area Technical College to provide practical care experience to nursing students.
“Sadly, there is something broken in our society that says caregivers, especially those who work with the elderly, don’t need to be highly paid,” Luft said.
“It is a career that can be very rewarding and appeals to people who want to make a difference in the quality of lives of seniors.”
In-home care can include meal preparation, light housekeeping, grocery shopping, errand service and simple companionship.
“At a time when seniors feel as if their independence is slipping away, we strive to provide high quality in-home caregiving services that allow seniors the opportunity to continue living in the comfort of their own home,” Luft said.
“Care can be provided for as little as one-hour visits to 24/7 live-in options.”
She said inquiries about services surge following the holidays, after adult children visit their loved ones and realize more support is needed.
“Sometimes, those visits are just what it takes for children to realize Mom or Dad can’t do all the things they used to,” Luft said.
The cost of services is not covered by Medicare, but she said most long-term care policies do cover the cost of elderly programs.
The agency also works closely with senior facilities, such as Anita’s Garden Assisted Living Facility, Lasata Care Center and Heritage Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, as well as local hospitals, ensuring that discharged patients continue to get the care they need.
“We see these relationships as essential to providing the best care for our clients,” Luft said.
In a unique merging of senior care and modern technology, Comfort Keepers allows clients to connect with the digital world through a device it calls a grandPad senior tablet.
The handheld devices rely on cell phone service rather than WiFi connection, eliminating the risk of any unwanted hacking of accounts or exposure to viruses.
Luft said the tablets “make the world more accessible to seniors by providing simple and safe ways to stay connected with family, friends and caregivers.”
The grandPad offers online access to games, photo sharing and video chatting, and can be loaded with the applications and music the client wants.
“This new addition to our core, worldwide in-home care services, will allow us to continue making innovations to senior care with the incorporation of transformational technology that improves our clients’ quality of life,” Luft said.
“Our clients just love them.”
Tablet access is provided at no charge to ongoing clients, or can be provided through a separate contract.
“The most important thing for us is to keep seniors and other adults active, healthy and independent,” Luft said.
“We believe that giving our clients reasons to get inspired by or engage with everyday things is one way to do that.”
Image Information: MARY HARP (right), a caregiver with Comfort Keepers Grafton, lends a ready helping hand to client James Ladwig and his wife Deanna at their Port Washington home. Photo by Sam Arendt