Lenka’s Loving Care provides in-home services to seniors, a rarity in Summit County
Senior care in Summit County can be difficult to find. Lack of senior care is one of the reasons many seniors have to seek care outside of the county, leaving their homes and potentially worsening memory and other cognitive conditions. Lenka Lesmerises, former owner of Lenka’s Cleaning Service, recognized the need for senior care in Summit County through personal experience.
“I was helping elderly people on my own but I saw how huge the need was and I could never fulfill that on my own so that’s when I took the step to get a license,” Lesmerises said.
Lesmerises received her official license for senior care services in June and now employs 16 caregivers.
“We provide anything from companionship to personal care where we actually give them full on showers and feed them,” Lesmerises said. “Anything that can help them stay in their homes safely.”
Lesmerises’ services can also include housework that the client may not be able to complete themselves, cooking, help with daily activities like grooming and assistance on outings.
“Many of our clients are still very active and we take them skiing and on hikes,” Lesmerises said.
The point of Lenka’s Loving Care is to allow seniors to stay in their homes in Summit County if they so choose, as Lesmerises believes this is very important to retain memory, happiness and community.
“The most amazing thing is to help someone die peacefully in their home with their family. I don’t think people realize how important this is to elderly people to pass away on their own terms,” Lesmerises said.
Heather Gillis’ mother, Ina Gillis, required in-home care at her home in Keystone’s River Run. Ina Gillis was well known in the community as she had been involved with Keystone Resort for most of her life. Ina had lived in Keystone since 1971. Her husband was the mountain manager at the resort and Ina was a ski instructor for many years.
When Ina got older, she stood at the bridge at Keystone that skiers and snowboarders pass before getting on the gondola to greet people. The bridge was named “Ina’s Bridge” in her honor in 2016.
In-home care was important to the Gillis’ due to Ina’s strong connection to the area.
“My mother had absolutely refused to go anywhere and she said that often. She loved this place, she’s got a view of River Run trail from her house,” Heather said. “She just absolutely loved it and we wanted to support that.”
Heather said she found Lenka’s Loving Care through another service she was using, which was about to end services in Summit County.
“Lenka agreed to help us take care of mom and find other people that she trusted that could pull other shifts as well and for her, that sort of morphed into realizing that she wanted to build this into a business,” Heather said.
Heather explained that, at first, the care her mother required wasn’t constant, it was simply someone being there to make sure she didn’t fall or to help her if she did, but eventually Ina required 24/7 care.
“We couldn’t have done it without her,” Heather said. “Lenka was doing all the shopping and cooking her meals, keeping her entertained as best they could. All the caregivers were just phenomenal with mom.”
Ina Gillis passed away this year on March 5 in her home, where she was with Heather and her sister. Heather said she was also visited by “three of her very favorite guys” on the day she died, the last being John Buhler, former Keystone Ski Resort Chief. Ina died shortly after his visit, which Heather believes is no coincidence.
“Mom lived a really good life and she loved the life she was living until the very end,” Heather said. “To me, that’s the most important thing that you can do for somebody is to give them a good goodbye… We literally could not have done it without Lenka and I would recommend her to anyone. She has so much integrity.”
In addition to helping seniors towards the end of their life, Lenka’s Loving Care provides relief for primary caregivers. Pam Piper, uses Lenka’s Loving Care both for help with her husband and his health, as well as for her own health as the primary caregiver of a patient with dementia.
“We’re working with three different caregivers who come to the house and pitch in and do household things that I never would have imagined needed being done,” Piper said as she recounted how the caregivers from Lenka’s Loving Care helped plant flowers in the Piper’s yard.
Piper remarked that Lesmerises is “all heart” and that her services are much-needed in Summit County.
“They help us as we continue down this road that we didn’t want to be on but here we are,” Piper said. “The more I’ve talked to people…there’s a tremendous amount of demand for these services in Summit County.”
Piper explained that with a diagnosis of a chronic progressive disease, there are many changes that need to be made in the household to care for the patient. In addition to the medical care Piper’s husband needs, Piper said there are also legal actions that have to be taken, such as giving a caregiver power of attorney and environmental actions like installing grip handles and other safety features in the home.
As these needs are addressed, Piper pointed out that caregiving is for her health as well. According to a 2003 study conducted by Ohio State University, caregivers have a 63% higher mortality rate than their peers.
“Instead of what you would consider to be a normal everyday household we have kind of become a medical center. I am his primary caregiver as well as his wife. I need more and different kinds of help now that I didn’t before,” Piper said.
Piper said having caregivers to help relieve her of her caregiving duties improves her quality of life allowing her to leave the house knowing her husband is taken care of. She also is able to depend on her days off, as Lesmerises schedules care-taking shifts in advance for the month.
“I am so grateful that we do have a licensed home health care here in Summit. Prior to that the closest licensed home health care we found was in Eagle,” Piper said.
Due to the impacts the caregivers are able to have on families, Lesmerises said that many of her employees have expressed their appreciation for a truly meaningful job. She plans to hire more employees as she continues to see a larger need for senior care in Summit County and is working to find funding for more affordable care.
“I have been in touch with every local agency that has anything to do with elderly people and we are starting to brainstorm the options. Right now there is a limited amount of grants available and we are looking into what could be done to help everyone in need no matter what their financial situation is,” Lesmerises said in an email.
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