Sue Simone started volunteering over 30 years ago providing helpful care to homebound seniors who needed help in the house in varying degrees.
“It was a powerful experience and gave me a tremendous sense of purpose to serve others,” she said.
But then her husband was diagnosed with a rare form of dementia called “frontotemporal dementia” and their life together was plunged into a world of uncertainty. His prognosis was not good.
“We were living in Stuart, Florida at the time,” said Simone. “So in 2006, I gave up my professional job and we moved here to Hernando County to be close to my husband’s family,” she said.
Being an inquisitive person, Simone wanted to know more about her husband’s specific form of dementia. So she researched online for a support group dealing with the specific form of dementia diagnosed for her husband.
“The support I got from the group was tremendous, so much so that I became very active within the group,” she said. “I also read many books about caring for the terminally ill but the book that impacted me the most was “Being With Dying” by Buddhist teacher Joan Halifax.
“Her work is a source of wisdom for anyone charged with a dying person's care, who are facing their own death, or who are wishing to explore and contemplate the transformative power of the dying process,” said Simone.
For some, caregiving can last for years rather than months. Simone cared for her husband for more than three years until he died in 2008.
“The journey I shared with my husband taught me so much about dying - the whole experience of dealing with everything, the horror of it all; the bad help and those who didn’t care, and then the most wonderful people who are there just for you and to support you,” she added.
After his death, looking to her future, she decided to return to New Jersey and then found a job working for a senior living community.
“However, it was the experience of caring for my husband and going through everything that one goes through until the end of a loved one,” she said “that prompted me to return to Florida to explore more meaningful work in quality home care.”
With decades of experience in the caregiving industry — including CNA work in a nursing home, volunteering with United Way, Oak Hill Hospital, Association of Frontotemporal Disease, and the Alzheimer's Family Organization, Simone was committed to finding a company perfectly aligned with her mission to serve others.
She discovered Seniors Helping Seniors — a company based on the fundamental concept that seniors can help each other age better, and that those who give and those who receive benefit equally.
“I saw this as a perfect opportunity and so I took it,” said Simone. “It’s a franchise and I operate in Citrus, Hernando and West Pasco counties,” she explained.
Seniors Helping Seniors, now in its fifth year, offers a customized care plan for each client where seniors perform in-home, nonmedical care and services to seniors who prefer to remain independent in their own homes.
“Seniors know seniors best,” said Simone. “We want to do anything we can that will allow seniors to remain in their homes for as long as possible.”
Simone oversees 40 caregivers currently, four of whom also carry out administrative tasks like screening inquiries, scheduling and marketing. She explained that her primary role as the administrator is for strategic planning, budgeting, hiring and client interviews but she also is a caregiver, as are all the other administrators on her team.
Seniors Helping Seniors caregivers provide help to people in need whether they are an adult, parent or spouse with needs.
“Our mission is to provide seniors with the ability to choose and maintain an independent lifestyle in their own homes for as long as possible, with the dignity and respect they deserve by finding caring seniors to help them,” she said.
Caregivers might shop for groceries, cook a meal, clean the house, walk the dog, arrange appointments and generally provide support. Some caregivers are on call 24/7 for someone with longterm illness and care needs. Some clients just need as little as 2 hours a week to help them remain at home with a phone call at other times.
“With all our new clients, we carry out an initial needs evaluation and from that we can devise theirs individual care plan,” she said.
Seniors Helping Seniors offers a 2-hour minimum visit whereas many other agencies require a 4-hour minimum which can prove too expensive for a lot of seniors.
“In those two hours, we can start the laundry, tidy up, change the sheets and make lunch; by time we leave, the sheets are back on the bed and the house is maintained,” said Simone. “It doesn’t matter if they want us only once a month or every day, we can be very flexible.
“It gives me a tremendous sense of purpose to be able to serve other seniors,” Simone said. “I am totally committed to providing the highest quality home care. It’s inspiring to bring together seniors who want to give and seniors who need a little help in the home,” she said.