REGION — Kathryn Johnston knew that she wanted to start a business that was purposeful, something she was passionate about. What she didn’t know was that she would soon be faced with a series of personal circumstances that would lead her directly to her dream.
“I was blessed with the opportunity to be there to help a lifelong friend through her last months as her primary caregiver,” Johnston said. Cyndy, who had been a friend of Johnston’s since she was 10, had late-stage breast cancer and called upon Johnston to help her prepare for her death. Johnston spent four months living with Cyndy, helping her with her doctor’s appointments, meals, caring for her daughter and making end-of-life decisions.
“From that experience I realized how important it was to have someone help you when you are at that stage of life or finding it difficult or impossible to maintain the life you want,” Johnston said. “I also learned how meaningful it can be to help someone who is dying and needs your help.”
While caring for Cyndy, Johnston’s mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. “After Cyndy passed, I started taking an active role in taking care of my mother on a daily basis. Again, I realized how much she needed me but also how much I gained from the experience.
A phone call from a friend in Washington state was the final piece of the puzzle. “My dear friend Carrie told me about her experience with Seniors Helping Seniors,” Johnston said. “She was emphatic about her confidence that Seniors Helping Seniors was a great organization and that I would be a perfect fit to lead a local franchise. On faith, I contacted SHS and here we are.”
Seniors Helping Seniors is an in-home, nonmedical caregiving company for seniors by seniors. Johnston hires senior caregivers to go in and take care of transportation, light housekeeping, meal preparation, companion care, personal care, handyman services, shopping and overnight stays. “We are here for all of the needs a senior might have,” Johnston said.
It all starts and ends with the seniors who participate. “I find seniors who are loving, caring and compassionate with the heart of a volunteer,” Johnston said. These seniors, who are paid for their time, are paired with other seniors who want to remain independent in their homes and could benefit from interaction with a peer. “It’s like having a friend stop by,” Johnston said.
“I find that many seniors want to stay in their homes,” Johnston said. “There seems to be an effort — on several fronts — to break down this healthy independence and convince folks that it’s best to move into senior facilities well before any real need arises. However, it’s more cost effective for them to stay at home until they are needing more than 40 hours of care a week. Additionally, studies have shown that seniors live better lives when they are in their own homes.”
Johnston’s work with seniors stems from a desire to help as well as a great respect for “America’s Greatest Generation.”
“The reason we have all the opportunities we have today is because of these seniors,” Johnston said. “It should be the easiest thing in the world to identify. These people built, sacrificed and defended everything truly good about The United States of America.”
The benefits are twofold, as the caregivers are also gaining from their experiences. “There are many great companies providing services to our senior community,” Johnston said. “However, we are the only one that sees and meets the need for the added value of putting active and vibrant seniors in the role of caregivers, drivers, personal assistants and more. We are always looking to hire seniors and to help seniors who need care.”
For more information about Seniors Helping Seniors, visit shssandiego.com, call (760) 591-7474 or email info@SHSsandiego.com.