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New franchise in Hinsdale brings comfort and joy to seniors

Published: Thursday, Feb. 14, 2013 12:21 p.m. CDT

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HINSDALE — Aging is unavoidable, but happiness and quality of life is not.

For those who are fortunate enough to live into their 90s or even 100s, the milestone comes with its share of baggage and some require a caregiver for help. Home Care Assistance, a franchise that recently opened a location in Hinsdale, provides caregivers who aren't just there to ensure health, but also happiness.

"It's not about me," said Victor Kanyendo, who has been a caregiver with HCA for two years. "I love what I do and my objective is to be effective and positive. Sometimes it is frustrating — I'm not going to make light of that — but I always remember and tell myself it's not about me."

HCA offers experienced caregivers to assist hospice patients and the elderly either part-time or 24 hours a day across the suburbs.

Kanyendo currently serves a client 12 hours a day who suffered complications after knee surgery. He helps his client physically, but a large part of his job is helping the emotional and mental aspect, something HCA strives for.

"When somebody is sick, they tend to be in a very emotional state," he said. "They are afraid, they need somebody to reassure them and they can get reassurance from their family, but they usually look for an independent voice."

Part of HCA's formula for success is based on an island of Japan called Okinawa that has more people living into their 90s and 100s compared to anywhere else.

HCA studied Okinawa and saw common traits, such as a healthy diet, physical activity and strong sense of worth. One of the residents featured in a film on HCA's website is Tusne Ganaha. She is 90 years old and climbs trees every day to haul in large bags of fruit.

Through its research, HCA developed the "Balanced Care Method," which includes five categories: Nutrition, physical activity, mental stimulation, social ties and sense of purpose.

Each caregiver is trained in this method, which is what HCA staff said differentiates them from other companies.

"When caregivers come to a senior's home, they see all aspects of their life," said Margalit Tocher, president of Home Care Assistance. "A traditional caregiver would make sure the senior is clean, safe and fed. Home Care Assistance caregivers are also looking to see if they are happy."

Caregivers for HCA do usual jobs, such as helping with hygiene, cooking and keeping the home tiday. But they also engage in fun activities — taking clients out for a walk or even a show.

"A caregiver with you at home is focused only on you," Tocher said. "You enjoy more individualized care and more consistent care because it's always the same team of caregivers."

Becoming a caregiver with HCA isn't an easy process, though. Janet Simons, manager of client and business development, said she isn't interested in those who view this work as a temporary job.

"Some people apply because they want a job, and others apply because this is what they want to do," Simons said. "We're looking for people who are caregivers because they want to be caregivers."

Kanyendo said his job is tremendously rewarding because he is right there at the front lines making a difference. No matter what the age, everyone has highs and lows, but it's worth it for him to see his clients truly enjoy a high quality of life.

"I always say my patient has a right to be irrational, a right to be angry, a right to lose control," Kanyendo said. "I don't have that because I'm there not to be angry, I'm there to be in control and make sure my patient reaches any goal they want to achieve."

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