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Private care industry in Americus may expand

Photo by Casey Dixon

Photo by Casey Dixon

AMERICUS, Ga. -- Tami Blount's parents, Larry and Wanda Fletcher, moved to Americus earlier this year so Blount would be able to assist in her mother's care as her Alzheimer's has started to progress.

She has found herself caring for her mother along with working a full-time job, leaving her father to take over during the day on his own.

Or maybe not.

Innovate Senior Solutions, currently based out of South Georgia Technical College in Americus, has been able to step in and take over some of Wanda Fletcher's daytime care -- allowing Blount and her father time to themselves.

Innovative Senior Solutions was started three years ago by sisters Jessica Wright and Eshonda Wright-Blue, both registered nurses.

"We have over 15 years of experience in the nursing field," Jessica Wright said. "We have done all aspects of nursing, but most of our experience comes from nursing homes."

The company provides private home care, which involves sending an aide to assist with basic needs such as bathing and dressing. It also provides assistance in home management, which involves light housekeeping, grocery shopping and transport to physician appointments.

The staff also offers sitter services, allowing family members to take a break from caregiving by letting an aide look after the client for a couple of hours.

The sisters were influenced to act on the idea after research on private home care indicated there was a need for it in the area.

There was also some personal motivation on Wright's part in getting it started.

"Our grandmother got to the point where she couldn't walk," she recalled. "She didn't want to go into a nursing home.

"She wanted someone who was reliable and she wanted to stay home."

The sitting service can be offered for as long as 24 hours at a time, Wright said. The services are open to the elderly or those with a medical disability.

"It doesn't have to be just the elderly," Wright said.

Innovative Senior Solutions currently offers services to Sumter, Schley, Macon, Marion, Lee, Dooly and Crisp counties -- with Lee and Crisp being new additions.

"Our goal is to be the provider of choice in the counties we serve," Wright said.

"Everyone wants to help (an ailing family member), but that eventually wears them down. We love the elderly and we love what we do."

At present, the provider has 30 clients and 36 staff members -- a setup allowing them to maintain a one-on-one client-to-aide ratio.

"We try to pair clients with (a staff member) that they and the family will be compatible with so they can stay with the client throughout," Wright said.

Wright also said Innovative is looking to expand its influence further, a plan that includes adding a certified nursing assistant education program next year to increase staff.

"A lot of people are looking for jobs, but are not certified. It's to help give back to the community."

The company is also looking forward to occupying a new home. On Aug. 1, it will move to a facility on West Lamar Street in Americus.

Wright has made a point of expanding the business at a slower pace than might be expected, but now that they have the process down, Innovative is ready to make the next step.

"We are just getting out there. We started slowly on purpose to make sure we were meeting clients needs the right way. We are now ready.

"Everything is going as planned."

Giving peace of mind to families in the area is what motivates Wright to keep these services going.

"When I go out and talk with clients and do business, knowing that clients are happy is the best part," she said. "Families are singing praises."

Blount is amongst those singing. Her parents moved to the area in February, and they have been using the service since.

"My dad needed help taking care of her," she said. "They come every morning and prep her for the day and a sitter comes by three days a week.

"It's so my dad can do the things he needs to do."

Doing the little things such as dressing her mother and running errands has made a big difference in the family's quality of life, Blount said.

"Anyone who has taken care of an Alzheimer's patient needs a break every now and then."

Wanda Fletcher was diagnosed in 2003, putting her in the advanced stages of the disease. Her daughter became familiar with Innovative from working on the South Georgia Tech campus.

"They are right across the hall, so they were the first people I called," Blount said. "I don't know what we would do without them."

The family's main goal has been to keep their matriarch at home for as long as possible, and so far, they have been more than satisfied with Innovative's help in achieving that.

"I wouldn't leave my mother with just anybody," Blount said. "I think they have been very professional and they are all about working with the elderly.

"It takes a special kind of person to work with the elderly. They have been everything we need. They even provide things we don't need, such as the housekeeping."

Working with an Alzheimer's patient also takes a very special person, Blount said.

"My mother doesn't understand much anymore, and anger is an issue with Alzheimer's patients," she said. "When a person is old and gets Alzheimer's, they get difficult."

Generally, Innovative helps with the home care during the day while Blount takes over during the evenings. But, the company has been flexible with timetables.

"Sometimes I've had to (suddenly) go out of town. I've been able to call at the last minute and they come and take care of what I would do," she said.

In many cases, it is hard to understand why such a service is needed until a person finds themselves seeking that kind of assistance, Blount said.

"I think it's awesome they are in the community," she said. "Until you need something like this, you don't think about it. (This experience) has helped me realize the needs of the elderly.

Blount said she would not hesitate to recommend the provider to another family in need.

"For me, it's peace of mind that my mother is taken care of and that my dad is taken care of."

For more information, call (229) 928-3673 or 866-928-3670. The provider's website is www.innovativeseniorsolutions.com.