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Making Later Life Easier

With the number of people living to the age of 85 and beyond expected to double from more than 6.4 million today to 14.6 million by 2040, companies like Comfort Keepers are expecting the demand to continuously increase for those needing day-to-day assistance.

Comfort Keepers provides as much or as little help required to enable the elderly to live in their homes as long as possible. Services include providing meals, doing shopping, running errands, reminding about medication, performing light housekeeping and laundry, and also personal care.

Owner Cindy Harris says Comfort Keepers strives to get the client involved in life again.

“Like when they [the caregivers] are cooking a favorite meal, they ask the client to help them with the recipe. We try to make it interactive.”

Jim Ellis and his wife, who are in their 80s, have been clients of Comfort Keepers for the past eight years. “I don’t know what we would have done without them,” said the Flagstaff resident. “They have been a lifesaver for us. We started out three days a week and right now, we are having them seven days a week, twice a day. They are the first people here to help out whenever necessary.”

Ellis’s wife has Alzheimer’s, but with the company’s support, she has been able to stay at home. “That has been a real comfort to both me and her,” Ellis said.

Harris, who has been with the company since 2003, is the owner of Comfort Keepers in Prescott Valley, Flagstaff, Payson, Phoenix, Scottsdale and Fountain Hills. She says she is very careful about who she hires. “I am proud of how we hire the caregivers here. There is a huge caregiver shortage and its going to get worse.”

Harris grew up with four stepbrothers and two half sisters. Born in New Mexico, her father’s engineering job took the family to numerous states. “Our last major venture was in Kayenta on the Navajo reservation. My father was the assistant superintendent for the Black Mesa Pipeline. We lived there for five years.

“The boys and girls were all friends who explored this vast area together,” she said. “We made our own fun playing baseball, swimming, riding motorcycles and exploring caves.”

She finished high school in Flagstaff.

Harris loves music, especially country and piano-based blues. “I love to dance and laugh.”

An animal lover, she has had as many as three dogs at one time. For fun, she enjoys time with friends, taking them exploring in her CanAm side-by-side, and having a good red wine with dinner.

“Lake Powell is my favorite place to revisit,” she said, but adds that her heart is with her clients and her business.

“I had always wanted a business of my own. I can go to work every day, but I wanted to do something that makes a difference. If I spend time with a client, it grounds me. It brings me back to life.”

Harris receives letters and thank-you cards from clients and their families. “That makes me realize why I am here.”

Steve Nunn, who lives in Phoenix, has Comfort Keepers watch over his 92-year-old father, Jimmie Nunn, who lives in Flagstaff. For the last five years, the staff has far exceeded his expectations. “Some of the caregivers are particularly good and proactive. They let me know if something might need attention in the house,” he said. “When I found I needed to make changes with what I would like to do for my father, they have been very accommodating.”

Caregivers receive training updates, especially for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients. They learn how to handle different scenarios and help family members, who can sometimes become frustrated.

Harris also works with a company that helps veterans who didn’t know they qualify for free in-home care. QCBN

By Patty McCormac, QCBN

To learn more about Comfort Keepers, call 928-541-0888.

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