ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Kim Hurley has seen a lot of changes since she first came on board with Belmont County Senior Services in 1994.
The director of the county’s In-Home Care department, the main difference she’s noticed is the upswing of senior citizens in the county in need of assistance.
‘‘When I came on in 1994, we had a little less than 50 clients,’’ Hurley said.‘‘ Now it hovers around 300 clients.’’
Operating since the late 1970s, the department services the homes of Belmont County residents who are age 60 and over that need assistance.
Hurley tries to keep the number of clients in the 300 range, which can become difficult given the number of residents requesting assistance.
‘‘We can only let it get so high because we are on a fixed income too,’’ Hurley said. ‘‘There are so many we can put out there, so many hours available each day.
‘‘We have to prioritize by how much support they have at the home. Someone who has a relative living with them or close by that can assist aren’t as high as say, someone whose closest relative lives far away.
‘‘Also people that need personal care are higher on the list than doing homemaking tasks.’’
The assistance provided by the county is not based on financial levels. Hurley explained that their clients have physical problems and there are certain tasks they just aren’t able to do for themselves.
The aides who work for Hurley may make a shopping trip to the grocery store for a resident who is unable to leave the house.
Basic tasks like mopping, vacuuming and cleaning, activities the average person takes for granted, are also performed by the aides. Some residents just aren’t physically capable of doing the heavy lifting required to perform household chores and that’s where in-home care comes in.
Hurley admits through that if the resident is physically able to perform a task, the aides will encourage them to do so.
‘‘If you do things that the resident can still do for themselves, they might eventually lose that ability to perform that duty,’’ Hurley said. ‘‘So whatever they are able to do for themselves, we want them to do so.’’
Tasks like bathing, shaving and personal care is another area that in-home care assists in.
But one of the most welcome services offered is that of respite care.
For caregivers taking care of an elderly relative, finding a few minutes of free time to take care of everyday tasks or simply to catch a break can become difficult.
That’s where respite care comes in. An aide can come to the home and alleviate the resident’s primary caregiver, allowing said person a chance to catch their breath.
‘‘If a person cannot be left alone, it becomes very fatiguing on the caregiver to be there all the time,’’ Hurley said. ‘‘It can be more stressful than having a little child because this person is big enough to do some serious damage to themselves.
‘‘We can provide the caregiver a chance to go pay some bills, run to the store or just time to get away for a little bit.
‘‘Caregivers are really the unsung heroes because no one sees how much they do and how much they give.’’
Hurley currently works with a staff of 17 aides, ranging in age from 18 to early 70s.
She talked of one employee who’s in her 70s that works with, on average, 6-7 people per day.
‘‘She came to us after she retired from her job and she’s been here around 10 years,’’ Hurley said. ‘‘She’s very popular and in demand because of the good work she does.
‘‘She’ll clean for 6-7 people and then go home and mow her grass. She is one hardcore woman.’’
Hurley tries to make sure that her employees work with the same residents every day and that there is a sense of consistency. It’s easier on the employees and the residents welcome the familiarity with their aides.
She explained that on occasion, a change has to be made but that her office does its best to ensure changes are infrequent and when one is necessary, the resident is given notification in advance.
‘‘The residents want the same person and they get very upset if they have to change,’’ Hurley said. ‘‘It’s their home and their space and to have a different person coming in three times a week would be really stressful.
‘‘We have very little turnover though and our aides are very dedicated.’’
Hurley has a few aides on staff that joined not long after she came on board in 94.
While classified as an entry-level position, Hurley feels that is somewhat demeaning to the work her aides perform.
‘‘On one hand, it is an entry-level job, but for some people, this is their calling,’’ Hurley said. ‘‘This is their career and they are good at it and they get a lot of emotional satisfaction from helping people.
‘‘It takes a special kind of person to do this job.’’
KIM?HURLEY, director of in-home care for Belmont County Senior Services mans her desk at the St. Clairsvillle office.