SPRINGFIELD, NJ — For Mia Kebea, executive vice president of Seniors in Place (SIP), her family’s drive to start a home care company began in 2001, when a pair of personal situations provided the impetus to change the way in-home senior healthcare is provided.
It all started when Kebea’s mother Rae was diagnosed with a terminal illness.
“My mom was a 43-year-old woman; and one day she went to the doctor, and she was told that she has a terrible heart issue," said Kebea. "They gave her six months to live. It was a real shocker to us as a family, and she decided that she was going to fight for her life, and she went for it, and my mom ended up living for seven years.
“But in that period of time, my brothers and me, we went through a lot. Open-heart surgery, in and out of rehab, terrible diagnosis, continually in and out of doctor’s offices, on different medications, looking for help anywhere we could.”
Shortly after Kebea’s mother died, her grandmother, Leah, also died. Before her passing, caring for Leah fell to Kebea’s father and the original founder of SIP, Richard Blecker. According to Kebea, Leah had a succession of 16 caregivers due to the lack of qualified home care workers.
After experiencing the challenges of caring for an elderly family member who did not want to go into a nursing home, Blecker opened SIP to allow elderly patients to maintain their independence in their own homes. Since then, the SIP family has been committed to helping others navigate their elderly parents' care.
Over the years, Blecker was joined in the business by his sons, Adam, Richard and Chad, along with his daughter, Mia. Chad, who served for 13 years in the organization, recently left to start a new venture, but was instrumental in the growth of SIP during his time with the organization, according to Kebea.
Kebea explained how much the landscape of home healthcare has changed since the business opened in 2001.
“There was really no good home care,” said Kebea. “There [were] no regulations, nobody really running a real show, people working independently. There were no certifications and companies that were true home care agencies, if you will, that really catered to this.”
In differentiating the quality of care available to SIP clients, Kebea noted that SIP has been licensed and bonded from the beginning and has always carried workers comp.
Kebea also advised that it is vital for everyone to have their affairs in order, even if they aren’t senior citizens yet.
“That is so important," she said. "The first thing I’d say is you have to have a power of attorney. You have to have a long-term care policy in place for yourself.
“Whether it be your wishes [or] your DNR (Do Not Resuscitate), power of attorney is probably the most important piece of paper I could say you need to start planning ahead. There’s no time too early to call someone.”
Kebea added that SIP is able to recommend trusted attorneys and financial experts to help organize estates.
Noting that a fall or illness occasionally becomes a crisis that needs to be resolved in a day or two, Kebea recommended that people prepare and protect themselves by learning about available options. In addition to financial and care arrangements, seniors' homes often need to be modified for handicapped access, according to Kebea, whose brother provides that service at SIP.
She also mentioned that people don't always know their own rights. For example, she said, children can choose the rehabilitation facility that their loved one goes to rather than utilizing the social worker's suggested facility.
As for the cost, reputable agencies typically charge between $27.50 and 32.50 per hour for care, according to Kebea, who warned that lower-priced agencies might not offer quality care. SIP rates are in the middle range, she said.
“Our caregivers are the center of our universe," said Kebea, adding that SIP treats its caregivers accordingly. "Without them, we have nothing.”
Kebea shared that SIP takes pride in its excellent service, is also on call 24 hours a day and does not charge for nurse visits.
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, SIP is still at the forefront of safety. According to Kebea, caregivers are given physicals and are also being COVID-19 tested at the facility.
“Senior safety is always our number one priority,” she said, adding that SIP caregivers are state-certified, insured and receive benefits as well as ongoing education and evaluations. “SIP has an impeccable record of safety.”
During the pandemic, SIP has also implemented and exceeded Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) policies to protect clients from COVID-19.
Certified Home Health Aides (CHHA) are pre-screened and trained by registered nurses and updated frequently on details about the novel coronavirus. According to Kebea, CHHA are also provided with gloves, N95 and KN95 masks and periodic COVID-19 tests.
Kebea also stressed that the SIP family has two decades of experience in handling eldercare and can advise those in need every step of the way.
“No problem is too big or too small to get started in trying to find proper care for a loved one," said Kebea. "Plan now.”
She also emphasized that asking for guidance is simple and urged those in need not ot be afraid to make the call.
Accredited with Distinction by the Commission on Accreditation, SIP offers the following recommendations for eldercare:
- If you’re unable to call your family member daily, find out if there’s a local daily check-in service. These services call at the same time each day and notify the family and/or police if the phone call is not answered.
- Purchase a medical alert device if your loved one doesn’t have one.
- The bathroom must have grab bars in the shower (not the ones with suction cups), a shower seat, a non-slip mat and a handheld shower nozzle.
- The living space should not be cluttered with things that might cause the senior to trip and fall. Excess furniture, extension cords, area rugs and similar items need to be removed.
- The home must have a fire alarm and a carbon monoxide detector. Check batteries every six months.
- Keep the refrigerator and cabinets stocked with healthy food, and make sure expired items are disposed of.
- That the senior should have a mask, and groceries and other supplies need to be delivered to her home.
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