Angels Among Us
It’s not a medical service, but Visiting Angels provides a special and irreplaceable kind of care
Patti Sells | News-Telegram Feature Editor

For those seeking alternatives to nursing homes and assisted living arrangements for their loved ones, Visiting Angels will seem heaven sent.

Paris-based Visiting Angels provides non-medical, at-home assisted living services for seniors throughout Hopkins, Hunt, Franklin, Delta, Red River, Fannin, Titus and Lamar counties.

�What a blessing this program is to us,� said Sunell �Sunny� Comfort of Sulphur Springs, who utilizes the services of Visiting Angels to help with her husband, Chuck, who is challenged by Alzheimer�s. �Our angel, Jackie, is here in the early mornings to prepare Chuck�s breakfast and assist him dressing. She helps him read and digest his morning devotional, as well as highlight in the guide what he might want to watch on television that day. She�s a pair of helping hands that give me a chance to enjoy the morning calmness or run errands.�

Meal preparation, light housekeeping, errands, appointments and hygiene assistance are just a few of the services Visiting Angels provides, according to co-owner, Mandy Helberg, a registered nurse at Hopkins County Memorial Hospital, who opened the business in May with her in-laws, Allan and Jane Wynn-Helberg.

�We were attracted to the business because of the opportunity to do something good for others,� said Helberg. �There is nothing like this in our area that provides non-medical homecare. We thought how wonderful it would be if people could pick up the phone and say, �I need someone to sit with my parents for a week while we're on vacation,� or �I need someone to look in on Mom a couple of days a week.� What a concept.��

Though Visiting Angels is a non-medical service, all three of the Helbergs have backgrounds in the medical field. 

Allan, raised in the Clarksville area, was vice-president of Memorial University Hospital Systems in Savannah, Ga., and president of Mobile Healthcare Inc., the company of which his wife was the owner, founder and CEO. She holds a bachelor of science degree in nursing and is a legal nurse consultant. She has been a registered nurse for 31 years.

After their retirement, the couple moved to Paris, where their son, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren live, and Jane began exploring ideas and opportunities to own and operate a community-based business. Her research showed that a rapidly aging population, combined with the rising costs of nursing home care and depleted retirement funds, has created an urgent need for in-home elderly care. 

According to Helberg, her mother-in-law heard about Visiting Angels and convinced her they should fly to Las Vegas for a franchise meeting.

�We fell in love with the idea � and the name,� laughed Helberg.

The Helbergs' own personal experience with an aging loved one played an important role in their decision-making.

�A few years ago, we had to put my husband�s grandmother in a nursing home. She went downhill really quick,� explained Helberg, who said the family shared the responsibility of her care for some time. �We are just trying to give families another option to keep their parents and grandparents home as long as possible.

�These people have worked hard for what they have. You want to be able to give them what they deserve after working hard all their lives.�

Client cases include different types of scenarios. According to Helberg, they range from 24-hour live in care to trimming a few hedges when needed.

��One man we take to lunch on Mondays and Fridays,� Helberg said. �We�re his for three hours to do what ever he wants or needs to do. Maybe it�s go to the barbershop, or to the grocery store to pick up a few things.

�Another one we help buy groceries every month. She gets her check and we take her to do her shopping, put her groceries up for her and leave. That�s all.

"People just need a helping hand sometimes. That’s what we’re here for.”

With Visiting Angels the client is in control.  The caregiver, of the client’s choice, does not dictate what time they get up; eat breakfast, or any other aspect of their schedule. 

�It is our job to adjust to your routine,� Helberg said. �You are in charge. Our goal is to meet you or your loved ones needs at home or where ever needed.�

Even those who have resorted to putting family members in a nursing home are calling on Visiting Angels to give their loved ones a little extra time and attention when they themselves cannot.

�We are very affordable,� said Helberg, who explained the fee is $14 an hour for the one-on-one care.� They also accept long term ccare insurance.

Often the Visiting Angels are the eyes and the ears for adult children who live out of town and can’t personally check in on parents as much as they’d like.

�We email family members every week to let them know what is going on in their parents' life and tell them the truth about how things really are,� said Helberg. � A lot of times they don�t want to tell their kids things because they don�t want to bother or worry them. The kids count on us to tell them the truth, like, �She fell this week� or �A pipe busted and we had to call a plumber.� They don�t want to be a burden. We are someone else they can call instead of their children when they need something.��

Companionship, according to Helberg, is probably the most important service Visiting Angels provides, and definitely the most rewarding.

�We become an extension of the family,� she said. �We become so attached. A bond really takes place. We have good people working for us.�

All of the Visiting Angels have caring, loving personalities, a strong desire to help people and family experience of caring for a loved one. Each one undergoes a comprehensive criminal background check, and references are required.

Visiting Angels is a state licensed and bonded national franchise with 320 offices throughout the country.

�We have truly been blessed to be able to do this,� Helberg emphasized. �The letters we get and the relationships we come to have make our job so rewarding. We love what we�re doing for the community.�

For more information, call 903-784-3902.

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