By Camille Gillies
Chances are you’ve seen or heard Visiting Angels’ upbeat commercials. If you have elderly parents or an aging loved one, chances are even better that you’ve paid attention to the ads. The savvy spots, featuring the catchy jingle, “Visiting Angels, America’s Choice in Home Care,” portray smiling caregivers visiting the homes of contented senior citizens, assisting them with a variety of tasks. The ad’s message rings clear: “There’s no place like home.”
Home care services, such as Visiting Angels, provide a rapidly growing, aging U.S. population with an alternative to moving into a nursing home or retirement center, allowing seniors to maintain the independence of their daily routines in the comfort of their own homes.
Christal Becton, owner and director of the Visiting Angels franchise that serves New Tampa and Hillsborough County, says she feels blessed to be in the business of helping senior citizens and their families.
“When my 84-year-old aunt, who lived in Columbia, SC, needed assistance, I had to hire a caregiver for her because I was unable to keep traveling back and forth (to care for her),” Christal explains. “I believe that’s what started me on the road to in-home care. After my husband retired from the military, and I was ready to get out of my job in corporate America, I began looking into franchises. That’s when I found Visiting Angels.”
Christal, whose Visiting Angels office is located in the Sherwood Forest Shopping Center on N. 56th St. in Temple Terrace, bought the franchise seven years ago when her family settled in New Tampa. She has a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degree from East Carolina University, Greenville, NC, and a Master of Arts (M.A.) from University of Phoenix, Albuquerque, NM. She also has a wealth of nursing home experience, including having served as Chief of Recreation Therapy at a nursing home in Albuquerque.
Christal says, “Visiting Angels is an opportunity to use my degrees and background.” Her staff consists of 50 Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs), Home Health Assistants (HHAs) and companions. She says she currently serves 40-60 clients in New Tampa, Temple Terrace and the Bayshore area of South Tampa, but her territory spans Hillsborough County.
“Our business is geared toward helping people who live alone, but still want to remain in their homes,” Christal explains. “We provide many services not only to seniors, but also to anyone over 18 who needs assistance. Younger people sometimes need help due to physical challenges or health issues. Right now our clients range from age 40 to 101.”
Available services include everything from helping someone temporarily recover from an illness or surgery to providing ongoing companionship to a senior who just needs a friend.
“We also go grocery shopping and run errands, prepare meals, assist with personal care and do light housekeeping,” Christal adds.
One difficulty common for many seniors, especially those who don’t drive or have a relative nearby, is arranging transportation to doctors’ appointments. Visiting Angels’ staff will transport clients to and from their appointments, and always remain on site throughout their clients’ visits.
“We provide the vehicle, and we often visit the V.A. (James Haley Veteran’s Administration Hospital) and other hospitals with our clients,” Christal says, adding that the service is a relief to relatives who find it difficult to take time off from work to drive loved ones to their medical appointments.
Although many Visiting Angels clients experience similar struggles, every client is treated as an individual because they also may face different, or even unique, issues. Some require help with bathing or shaving. Some just need a hand getting up in the morning and starting their day. Others may need clothes laundered and linens changed.
Other situations sometimes involve a Visiting Angels caregiver providing relief to a family caregiver who just needs a break. Simply put, the agency’s duties depend upon each client’s needs and requirements.
A non-medical agency, Visiting Angels does not determine their clients’ schedules, but finds ways to accommodate them – day or night, weekends or holidays, temporary or long term. While some clients require only a few hours of assistance a week, others need 24-hour care. In the case of an end-stage terminal illness, for instance, caregivers rotate on 12-hour shifts. Live-in care also is available.
If you or someone you know needs living assistance services, here’s how to get started: Call the Temple Terrace Visiting Angels office and set up a free in-home assessment. Christal will review your needs and ask about the types of services you desire, noting the patient’s daily routine, meals, proximity to doctors’ offices and number of regularly scheduled appointments. Christal then prepares a care plan and selects the caregivers best suited to your needs. After personally meeting all of the available caregivers, you choose the candidate you prefer.
“One of the things that sets Visiting Angels apart from other home care services is that our clients get to choose their caregiver,” Christal explains. “People don’t just show up and say, ‘I’m here to take care of you.’ Our clients actually meet the caregivers beforehand, so they already feel comfortable with the person caring for them.”
Christal says Visiting Angels recruits top-notch caregivers, and before hiring, the company runs a comprehensive background screening on each employee. Christal says she is very particular when selecting caregivers.
“One of my CNAs has been with the same client since 2004,” she says. “In hiring, I make sure my staff has a passion for doing what they do, and that they have a strong employment history in caring for seniors.”
Many of the caregivers are graduates of medical academies that specialize in home care and have worked at assisted living facilities and in other healthcare environments. Christal says Visiting Angels caregivers choose to specialize in home care because they enjoy the personal interaction with one or two clients.
When faced with the dilemma of how to care for yourself or for the most precious people in your life, you definitely will appreciate the compassionate and dedicated souls who come in and save the day. Nothing drives the point home more effectively than this note from a thankful daughter:
“Your name is so appropriate; you all are ‘angels,’” writes the client, who asked to be referred to only as “B.” “I have thanked God many times for your faithfulness and devotion to Mother. My family and (are) forever grateful.”
Visiting Angels, located at 11007 N. 56th St., Suite 212, in Temple Terrace, is currently offering two free hours of service for a three-hour minimum visit for all new clients. All services are charged at an hourly rate. To discuss how Visiting Angels can assist you or the loved ones in your life, call 929-7067 or visit VisitingAngels.com.