Companions Provide Solutions
By Janet Trakin, Staff Writer

Whether you are seeking rewarding volunteer work or if you live too far from your loved one to be a caregiver, either becoming a companion or procuring one for your loved one may be the answer. Laurie Sue Kislik, 51 of Boynton Beach, Florida and a companion to the elderly in her spare time, has insight regarding the need for a companion in an elderly person’s life. “I call myself the surrogate kid,” Ms. Kislik said. “And the reason that there is such a need for companions is that many of the elderly that are living independently in Florida have family who are not living in Florida. They may live up north, they may live in the Midwest or they may be living anywhere else. I am like a go-between between the families to make sure their parents, aunts or whoever it was, was cared for. The way I work is that I speak to the families by telephone to give them updates on how their loved one is doing.”

Companions undertake non-medical duties, often helping with the elderlies’ day-to-day business. It involves not only visiting the person but making sure they have the medication they need, ensuring that they are taking them when needed, making sure their bills are paid and that they are handling their finances, making doctors’ appointments, making sure the appointments are scheduled, finding or providing rides to doctors’ appointments, and helping with food shopping.

Laurie Sue and others like her who work with the elderly find that there are two hard parts to being a companion: having patience and dealing with their death.  “You have to have a lot of patience with the elderly because they do things slowly,” she explained. “However, the hardest thing is when someone you care for passes away.”

Some of  Ms. Kisliks clients passed away and it was very hard for her because she got very close to them. “I had several clients who passed away. I was closest with a woman named Esther. She was a wonderfully bright, spry, and funny woman. I cared for her for several years. She was about 93 when she passed away. I went to her funeral and it was very said. Just as it is when you lose anyone you care for,” she said ruefully.

So how does one go about finding a companion for his or her loved one? There are community services and religious organizations that offer services. Oftentimes, the family can look for services on the Internet or through periodicals. Ms. Kislik volunteered with the Jewish Family Services, for example. “Churches and services for the elderly all provide links and phone numbers to arrange for companions. Some are volunteers and some are paid,” she explained. 

There are rewards and things to be learned from being a companion as well as the support they provide to family members who live far away—not to mention the joy it brings to the loved one. “It really becomes like a grandmother/grandchild, mother/daughter relationship. It becomes a very personal relationship,” Ms. Kislik said. “People treat older people as if they are incompetent, can’t hear or can’t see or they make assumptions about old people. The most important thing to remember is the elderly are people just like me and you. They have minds and needs and all of these things. My rewards are mostly personal. I happen to like people very much. I especially like older people. It’s a self-rewarding thing. You feel good because you know what you do is important.”

If you are in need of a companion for your loved one, contact Jewish Family Services or your local religious or community service organization.


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