Friday, October 11, 2019 - Updated: 4:55 pm
For about a year, the local Ladies of Charity organization has been nurturing an enterprise offering home care to people in the Pittsburgh region. Ladies of Charity Caregiving Inc. is a pilot project of Ladies of Charity USA that they hope will expand to other areas of the country.
Word about the business — which provides services to clients in the comfort of their home, such as light housekeeping, meal preparation, and assistance with bathing and other personal tasks — has been slowly spreading.
A promotional open house is planned for Thursday, Oct. 10, from 4-6 p.m. at the LOC Caregiving office in the Wilkins School Community Center, 7604 Charleston Ave., Room 20, in Swissvale. A ribbon-cutting ceremony will be at 5 p.m.
Presently, the organization has seven caregivers, but only three clients. The goal is to attract many more of both.
Catherine Green, program director, whose job is to hire caregivers and place them with clients, said it has been a challenge to find caregiver applicants with vehicles who can drive to clients’ homes.
If a client lives near a public bus line, it’s easier for a caregiver with no vehicle to get there. But clients don’t always reside in those areas, she said.
“Technically we are within a 50-mile radius of Pittsburgh, but we have to have caregivers who are able to get to the clients,” Green said. “So right now, our caregivers are pretty local.”
Peggy Keene, office coordinator and 2021 president-elect of Ladies of Charity USA, said, “People have called and we’ve just not been able to get to their areas, but they’re still interested.”
She said the need for caregivers will increase when the agency begins its Medicaid program.
LOC Caregiving has been serving clients who pay the fee of about $22 an hour. But when patients qualify for Medicaid’s waiver program, business should increase. Green said they expect to have about 15 caregivers.
She explained the two-fold mission of LOC Caregiving as helping the clients and their caregivers.
“One piece of it is to, of course, provide quality caregiving for the client, and we hope to do that on a sliding pay scale for the private pay, and also open up to waiver,” Green said. “And then the second mission is to provide a better life for caregivers and to offer them jobs with a competitive salary.”
That unique vision comes from Marilyn Martone, a retired New York university professor who is chairwoman of the board of LOC Caregiving. For 19 years she has managed the care of her daughter, who was severely brain-damaged after being hit by a car in Chicago. Martone witnessed firsthand the financial struggles of her daughter’s caregivers.
A top priority is offering the best level of care possible that respects the client’s inherent value as a human being — care that borrows from the history of the Ladies of Charity and St. Vincent de Paul. He established the Catholic charism of charity 400 years ago in France when the future saint arranged care for a sick family.
Keene said LOC Caregiving endeavors to spotlight the importance of caregiving and help qualified applicants make more money than they could at other jobs. She said the starting pay is $12.50 an hour.
“We’re trying to help everybody — the clients and the caregivers — because we give our caregivers mentors also to help them through their job,” Keene said.
“When you work in an office, you have other associates you can talk to. If you’re a caregiver, you have nobody,” she said.
The mentors, most of whom are Ladies of Charity, offer encouragement to caregivers who may have difficult personal challenges, Keene said.
Green said those interested in being caregivers should call the office at 412-731-4100, check out the website at loccaregiving.org or attend the open house. There is a help-wanted ad on the Indeed and Handshake websites, she said.
Applicants must pass a few basic tests, including a background check, drug exam and tuberculosis tests, before serving clients. Then there is a two-day training session.
Job candidates don’t need prior experience as caregivers, just a sincere desire to help someone in their home.
“Our orientation focuses on helping the clients live an independent life, not to just do everything for them,” Green said.
Keene added that “Part of the mission is to keep them home. Keep them out of the personal care home or nursing home.”