(L.-r.) Client care coordinator Lea O’Gara, CNA Samira El Maanaoui, director Christal Becton, office assistant Yesenia Diaz and billing assistant Kimberly Fair of the Visiting Angels office in Temple Terrace help clients get the care and help they need at home. (Photo by Charmaine George)

When Christal Becton faced the challenge of finding a caregiver for her elderly aunt in a different state, she realized she wasn’t alone in this struggle. Balancing her location in Florida with her aunt’s residence in South Carolina made it nearly impossible for Christal to provide her aunt’s care by traveling back and forth.

“As difficult as it was for me to try to find services for my aunt,” Christal says, “I determined that there’s got to be a better solution. I did some homework and researched and loved the name Visiting Angels. There was a perfect marriage right there. It all stemmed from needing in-home support for my elderly aunt. I’d always worked in nursing home environments with seniors, so it was a perfect fit for me.”

With a Master of Arts degree in Organizational Management from the University of Phoenix, and drawing from her expertise in rehab therapy and her role as Chief of Recreation Therapy in a nursing home, Christal recognized the potential alignment between her experience and the nationally renowned Visiting Angels. With more than 700 locations both in the U.S. and internationally, Visiting Angels seemed tailor-made to capitalize on her wealth of knowledge.

Back in 2004, Christal established her own branch of Visiting Angels on N. 56th St. in Temple Terrace, which conveniently serves New Tampa and neighboring areas of Hillsborough County. She says the primary objective is to offer an alternative to nursing homes, retirement centers and assisted living facilities, enabling elderly parents or disabled individuals to maintain their independence within their familiar home environments. The approach is highly personalized, matching each client with an independent caregiver based on a thorough assessment process. This ensures the individual is perfectly matched with the right independent professional caregiver. 

“We talk to the senior, ask their preferences, what type of person they are looking for, and we do a self-assessment as well,” Christal says. “We note if they are bubbly or quiet and don’t want a person who talks a lot. We collect a lot of information regarding the client from the assessment. Once we gather the information, we have a care plan meeting about who will be best suited and who has the skill set for the type of care they need. If someone is bedridden or in hospice, we’d need a skill set more in hospice, so we will call those contractors with that particular skill set, find out if they’re available during those times, and match them up. The caregiver will then call the client to introduce themselves and talk to the client, as well.”

Visiting Angels, licensed and bonded in Florida, is known for its flexibility. The company provides assistance ranging from a few hours per week to around-the-clock care seven days a week. Governed by the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA), the caregivers, a mix of Certified Nursing Assistants and certified Home Health Aides (HHAs), undergo a rigorous “Level Two” background screening that covers the entire country and have completed specific courses and certificates. 

To stay current in their field, the owners of Visiting Angels franchises, including Christal, actively participate in conferences, seminars, Florida meetings and virtual gatherings on Zoom to share best practices and stay abreast of industry trends. Christal also is a member of the Private Care Association, which offers insights for in-home care agencies, ensuring that their individual vetting processes adhere to state regulations.

“We do the vetting in accordance with what AHCA is requiring,” she says. “Our caregivers have to meet the state requirements, as well as ours.”

Care services provided by Visiting Angels encompass a broad spectrum, including home care, companionship, personal care and respite care. This range accommodates various needs, from temporary post-illness or surgery recovery support to ongoing companionship for lonely seniors. Caregivers cater to individual requirements, including providing transportation and companionship for medical appointments, running errands, grocery shopping, meal preparation, personal care, and light housekeeping. While some clients just need help to get their day started, some require assistance with shaving or bathing, and others may need their clothing washed and linens changed.

Over time, the relationship between the caregivers and their clients evolves into a deep friendship, making caregivers an integral part of their patients’ daily lives. The team at the local Visiting Angels office includes bilingual and sign language speakers, and Christal says she consistently signs experienced caregivers to her registry.

She recalls a heartbreaking incident during the early days of the pandemic. An elderly client struggled to access food due to lockdown restrictions and a family illness. Christal swiftly responded by personally purchasing groceries and essentials to ensure her client’s well-being. She was proud to turn this sad tale into a happy ending.

“During Covid, I got a call from a client that we only serviced a few hours a week,” Christal recalls. “She said she couldn’t get out, that her son was ill, she was elderly and couldn’t get groceries. She had nothing to eat. My heart just dropped. She was in tears with me on the phone, discussing with me her current situation. I dropped everything on my agenda, headed to the nearest grocery store, and purchased groceries and essentials (for her).”

Christal bought the client’s favorite meals and pre-cooked foods to make food preparation easier for her client. She arrived with two boxes overflowing with food and essentials like toilet paper. Christal says the client broke down in tears; she was so grateful for the compassion she received.

“That is a success story like none other,” Christal says, “to be able to respond to the community’s needs immediately.”

She even introduced “No Contact Fridays” during the pandemic, where food was delivered to the community without direct contact long before the advent of Instacart. This service proved invaluable to those in need during those challenging times.

“It takes a special type of person to be a caregiver,” she says.

The dedication required to be a Visiting Angels caregiver is indeed exceptional. Christal’s location stands ready to provide care at any time, whether it’s daytime, nighttime, weekends, or holidays. In a world where care often becomes a transaction, Visiting Angels’ story is one of heartfelt connections, empathy and a genuine commitment to improving lives. Becton’s legacy continues to weave a tapestry of care, understanding, and comfort for families in New Tampa and beyond.

The Visiting Angels office serving New Tampa is located at 9812 N. 56th St. For more information, call (813) 929-7067, visit VisitingAngels.com/Tampa, search “VisitingAngelsTampaFL” on Facebook. Independent caregivers with CNA or HHA licenses are invited join the team.

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