Winter proves challenging for caregivers for senior citizens

Posted at 8:20 PM, Jan 16, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-16 23:21:21-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Despite ice, snow and dangerously cold temperatures in the metro this winter, caregivers have trudged along and continued to help senior citizens in need.

Home Care Assistance, a 65-member team based in Overland Park, has helped look after more than 30 senior citizens.

Patty Garrett, a manager of the group, said nothing can get in the way of their important job.

“It isn't optional for our clients. Their needs don't change,” she explained. “They might have dementia and not remember to take their meds unless we’re there to remind them."

Garrett and her team help senior citizens in need of care and perform a number of tasks: from doing laundry and preparing meals to cleaning patients’ homes and helping them shower.

Even if the weather outside is dangerous, Garrett said caregivers can’t take a day off.

“Can they survive with us saying we can't get there tonight? Absolutely not,” she explained. “When they're in crisis, you don't add to it by saying we can't do that today. You find a way."

This winter, the Home Care Assistance team has had to drive through snow and ice and head out to homes in below-zero temperatures.

Garrett told 41 Action News that she and other staff make sure to plan ahead, from looking over schedules and checking in with caregivers, when they see a winter storm in the forecast.

“You're asking for trouble by not addressing that ahead of time,” she explained. “When we're pretty sure that there's a good chance this event is going to come, we go into high gear. The night before we’re asking, ‘How are you feeling? Do you live on a steep hill?’”

Home Care Assistance sees patients all across the metro area.

With dangerously cold temperatures like the ones seen on Tuesday, Garrett said dead car batteries can often be an issue.

However, her team finds a way to work through the challenges.

“I don't care what it takes. They will find a way to get there,” explained Garrett, who said a caregiver recently had to take an Uber to get to a patient’s home during a snowstorm. “I think the most I've seen for round trip is $150."

41 Action News followed along on Tuesday as a caregiver looked after a patient with dementia.

Christine Irwin, who has been a caregiver for eight years, said the job brings her joy.

“Knowing that I did something good for somebody, it makes me feel good,” she explained. “(The patient) is like family. I take care of her like I would my family."

Despite the rough winter weather, Irwin said she wouldn’t let it get in the way of her job.

“You just get in the car and come to work,” she explained. “It's a job. You have to do it. She depends on me."

With the winter continuing in the metro, Patty Garret knows her team will keep going strong.

“When they get out and the windchill is 21 below, you better believe they're dedicated,” she said.