Earlene J. has worked as a home health aide (HHA) with Partners in Care, VNSNY’s private care affiliate, for 18 years. “I love the people that I care for,” she says simply. For the past year, she’s devoted five days a week, 10 hours a day to caring for Richard*—a Manhattan resident in his early eighties. Richard is a private-pay client, meaning that he chooses to pay for services from Partners in Care that go beyond what his insurance covers.
For many seniors, especially those living alone like Richard, having an aide come regularly to care for them is what allows them to stay in their homes, making the cost of this care more than worthwhile. In Richard’s case, says Earlene, “he always tells me he couldn’t do without me.”
Richard’s cousin backs this up. “Earlene’s care is not only professional, but loving,” he says. “She tends to my cousin’s needs, and he trusts her to be there and help him. She also keeps in contact with me and lets me know when I might need to take further action regarding his personal and medical needs.”
Earlene says that one of the best things about working for Partners in Care private-pay clients is that she often cares for the same person for months and years at a time, allowing aide and client to form a deep bond. “I had one woman I took care of for seven years,” Earlene recalls. “She had Alzheimer’s, so I had to be very patient with her, but we would talk together, and she was able to do some things for herself. When her care ended, I was very sad.” More recently, Earlene spent four years caring for another elderly woman until she passed away two years ago. “She was lovely,” smiles Earlene. “She used to call me Mom!”
Richard is her first long-term client since then, and the two of them have become good friends. “He is a wonderful, kind man—his mind is sharp, and he has a good sense of humor,” Earlene says. “We talk about everything, and he always makes me laugh a lot!” On a typical day, she might cook a meal for Richard when she arrives, then take a stroll with him from First Avenue to Park Avenue and back, taking time along the way to linger on benches and watch the world go by. She also helps keep both Richard and his Upper East Side apartment clean, and when Richard had to be hospitalized recently, Earlene continued to watch over him in his hospital room, staying by his side throughout the day.
“I truly enjoy taking care of my clients over the long term,” says Earlene. “I like having conversations with them, taking them different places. I treat them all the same way as I would like to be treated myself. They are like family.”
* The client’s name has been changed for privacy.