There are variety of non-medical services that enable people to continue living at home while maintaining most of their independence. The HELP program (Home and Escort Linkage Program) is a major provider of these services to Brookline residents.
The HELP Program
A homemaker service exclusively for older people in Brookline, HELP provides affordable, reliable, and flexible service. Designed and sponsored by the Brookline Council on Aging, this program has been in operation for more than 20 years. It is an alternative to private home care agencies and state-funded home care and is more secure than hiring a worker on your own. There is no charge for enrollment in the program.
Services provided by HELP workers include:
- Light Housekeeping
- Meal Preparation
- Grocery Shopping
- Medical Escort
- Companionship/Respite Care
- Odd Jobs/Organizaing
- Heavy Cleaning
- Yardwork/Home Maintenance
It is important to note that workers hired through HELP do not provide personal care. However, the program staff will assist elders and their families with information and referral to agencies that provide this service.
The program is staffed by two trained and licensed Master's level clinicians with the clinical and casework background necessary to negotiate the complexities of an individual's functional, financial, emotional, and environmental dynamics.
The staff recruits, screens, and trains the workers. Although the workers are considered self-employed, the HELP staff provides them with continuous supervision.
To Get Started
Enrollment in the program is free of charge. An initial home visit with a HELP staff person is required to gather information and sign enrollment material.
After this initial visit, the program staff continues to provide ongoing assessment, support, case management, and service coordination to all program participants. The staff is available Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 pm. Please call 617-730-2752 or send email.
The following options may be available through HELP on a limited basis. Feel free to inquire about the following:
- TEEN HELP-ers at an even more affordable rate
- Volunteer HELP for those in the greatest financial need
In order to receive service from HELP, participants must meet the following criteria:
- Brookline resident
- Age 60 plus
- There are no income requirements
Fees for HELP service are between $12 and $14 an hour. Workers providing transportation services typically earn between $13 and $14 an hour. Heavy cleaning fees are based on the size and scope of the job.
How People Have Used HELP
Six Stories about Real People and the Services They Received
At least 300 people sign up for the HELP program every year. And that's just about the number of variations on the theme of assistance that clients receive from this program. Of course there are certain motifs that keep arising. A frequent one is that intervention by the program can simultaneously help two or more members of the same family. Another is the resistance that many people have to accepting help. A third is that an ill patient wants to make sure that his/her spouse will be well taken care if widowed. Several examples of the benefits of HELP follow.
Daughter's Quality of Life Improves
A disabled 61-year-old woman lives with and cares for her disabled mother who is an 88-year-old widow. The woman called HELP and stated that she was an older adult and had many health problems herself, and that caring for her mother was taking its toll on her. She asked HELP for assistance.
Her mother's personal care needs were being addressed by a home health aide who came a few times a week for two hours. The daughter tried to do the rest of the care giving and housework by herself. She found she did not have the strength to do everything that needed to be done around the house. She and her mother joined the program and were set up with a home care worker to do the cleaning, laundry, cooking, organizing, grocery shopping and companionship.
The daughter's quality of life improved so much over the course of a year that she started to work a few hours a week at a local pharmacy and also began to socialize again. She said the only way she could do this was if she knew her mother was in the best of hands while she was gone. In her words, "I don't know what I would do without my home care worker. It's like she speaks to me and understands me from a deeper level, from her soul."
Widower Avoids Eviction
A long-time but inactive client of HELP, a 78-year-old widower, received a pre-eviction notice from the Brookline Housing Authority due to the state of his apartment. He sought assistance from the Brookline Center and remembered to mention that he had used HELP in the past.
HELP worked with the Brookline Center as well as the town's Veterans' Department to assist this man. The Brookline Center social worker served as an advocate for the client during the pre-eviction process, the Veterans' Department looked for funds to assist in hiring a heavy chore service if needed, and HELP reinstated a worker who had worked earlier with the man and cleaned the apartment so that it could pass the next inspection. The efforts of all agencies worked. The man's apartment did pass the inspection, and he did not face further eviction proceedings. It takes a village to help an elder!
Woman Chooses HELP Over Free Care
HELP staff received a call from the daughter of an 80-year-old client. She wanted to extend thanks for finding such a wonderful home care worker for her mother who had recently suffered a stroke.
The client spent a long time in rehabilitation and kept in touch with her home care worker by phone while hospitalized. The daughter felt the HELP worker had a calming effect on her mother and that she depended a great deal on her for emotional support. When the client was discharged, she was sent home with a myriad of services, including homemaking that would be paid through Medicare. She accepted all other services but turned down the (free to her) homemaking and instead called her HELP worker to resume services. When her daughters told her it was silly to pay for services she could receive for free, she told them that unless they could find an exact replica of her HELP worker, she was not interested because no one else would measure up. She added that the worker makes her laugh while she does her work and that this was well worth the fee.
Couple Avoids Nursing Home
An 88-year-old man is the primary caregiver for his 86-year-old wife, who struggles with both Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease.
Several years ago HELP had provided the family with one home care worker for a few hours per week. The man managed the rest of the care-giving duties himself. However, as he became frailer, the HELP staff conducted family meetings, continuously re-assessed the situation, and increased care as needed. As of this year, there were three home care workers in this household for a total of 55 hours of care per week. According to the man, his wife always said she'd never forgive him if she ended up spending her final days in a nursing home. Thanks to the HELP program, his wife did spend the rest of her days, as was her wish, in her beloved home. When she died in her sleep a few months later, her husband was satisfied that he had fulfilled her wishes.
Three Family Members Benefit
A 75-year-old woman battling end-stage cancer called and stated that she was overwhelmed. She was getting hospice care for herself and at the same time she was providing care to her 81-year-old husband. They also have a son in his late thirties with Asperger's Syndrome living with them. The son helps around the house but also requires a certain level of care.
The woman asked that the HELP program find a worker who could be a companion for her husband. She was hoping to get him accustomed to accepting services since she was not going to be alive much longer. In addition, she explained that she is a researcher and found solace in her work, which she could continue if they had more help. The entire family met with the HELP staff member, including the daughter and grand-daughter who were visiting from China. They asked many questions regarding home safety, medical insurance, and cultural enrichment for the husband once his wife dies. The HELP staff did some on-the-spot home safety education and suggested that they contact the Asian-speaking SHINE counselor at the Senior Center to clarify insurance issues and call the Golden Age Club for a case manager.
The husband was very resistant to services. He eventually agreed to start with being escorted to medical appointments and a trip to Chinatown for a haircut. All of these trips were a success and the man quite enjoyed having a companion. His wife was able to go to work more often, as it was her wish to work as long as possible. Sadly, she died several months later, but she did what she loved to the very end. HELP continues to provide the man services for medical escorting and companionship.
Woman Gets Physical and Emotional Support
The daughter of an 82-year-old woman called and stated that her mother is not herself and has been declining physically. She added that, as a result, her mother has had several recent falls and has become depressed. She asked that a HELP staff member meet with her mother to discuss a companion to take her for walks/shopping and to engage in activities such as playing cards, talking about current events, etc.
The HELP staff called the potential client and found she was willing to meet. When they met, she confided that she had been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease the previous week. She added that her daughters do not know this and that she is still trying to figure out how to tell them. She asked for information on assisted living facilities, which the HELP staff agreed to mail to her. Also, HELP offered a follow-up visit to discuss her options, including receiving services at home and helping her sign up for the RIDE. She was pleased to have this assistance. Initially the client was matched with a worker for three hours per week. Over time, the hours increased and the woman also began using the worker in more diverse ways, such as going to medical appointments and to the movies. The client has really come to depend on her worker for both physical and emotional support, and the staff are pleased that she is still doing well living at home.
The Roots of HELP
In 1983, a young social worker with a freshly minted master's degree joined the staff of the Brookline Council on Aging. Her job: to make house visits and help elders get homemaking services.
What she found was troubling to her: While people with low incomes could receive services through Medicaid reimbursement – and people with the highest incomes could easily purchase services themselves – the vast group in the middle couldn't afford to buy the services they needed.
She knew there was a large pool of workers wanting to do this work – in fact she herself had worked part-time as a homemaker to help pay her way through graduate school – and she knew there was a ready-made client group.
And so, that young social worker – Ruthann Dobek, who is now director of both the Brookline Council on Aging and the Brookline Senior Center – created a program.
Ruthann wrote a grant proposal that would provide homemaking services to all Brookline residents over 60 at a price that was both reasonable for the clients and a decent hourly wage for the workers. The clients would pay the workers directly, so administrative costs were kept to a minimum.
The vision that started 25 years ago is still thriving today. HELP served its first client in October 1987 and since that time has served thousands of people. Every year the program assists approximately 330 clients. Their needs are met by 75 workers who carry out a range of chores, including shopping, cooking, driving clients to medical appointments, doing laundry and odd jobs, and simply serving as a companion.
Caregiver Parking on Brookline Streets
In April 2012, the Brookline Transportation Board revised its regulations for temporary on-street parking to improve options for providers of in-home care. The revised regulations reflect recommendations from BrooklineCAN's Livable Community Advocacy Committee.
Aids for Living Well
Every day in the U.S. nearly 400 people of all ages sustain bathtub or shower injuries – often from climbing over a tub that is too high. One way to reduce accident risk is through a "tub cut." A section of the tub is removed, a low step inserted, and the tub becomes a walk-in shower.
BrooklineCAN members are eligible for a sizable discount on a tub cut offered by Center Communities of Brookline. The usual price of $700 has been reduced to $500 for our members. The tub-cut opening creates a pass-through 24 inches wide and about 8 inches deep; it is available in white or beige. Installers will also assess the need for grab bars, which they can then insert for $60 each. Once requested, the tub cut can be installed within a month or less. Read more here. To request more information or to place an order, email Sophia Powell or call her at 617-363-8035.
Equipment Loan Fund
Brookline Senior Center's equipment loan fund has a small supply of gently used walkers, canes, crutches, commodes, shoe horns, shower benches, and a lightweight wheelchairs. If you want to borrow one of these items (or have something to donate), please or call her at 617-730-2753. Because of space limitations, we can't accept all items. So please call ahead before dropping anything off.