Jillian Poole exchanges stories of world travels with Mitchell Opalski, owner of Synergy HomeCare, and Director of Nursing Corrie Cyre.
Photo by Shirley Ruhe.
Jillian Poole sits on her couch in her high-rise Rosslyn apartment, awaiting her visit from the Synergy Home Care providers. Mitchell Opalski, owner of Synergy, and Corrie Cyre, Director of Nursing, have come to check in on Poole, who is ready to be released soon to resume her independent life.
Poole had a fall some weeks ago, and after rehab she needed some assistance and didn't want to miss out on her social life. Cyre says she is proud of Poole, who has made great progress. Opalski says, "She got stronger and we consider that a success story if she doesn't need assistance anymore."
"Oh, I didn't offer you anything," Poole says as her visitors take a seat in front of the wall of windows overlooking the river far below. Sculptures dot the room with giraffes perched on the kitchen counter beside a bowl of fresh fruit. "My mother," she answers. "She was a sculptor. She has several things in the National Portrait Gallery, and my son is also an accomplished artist." Poole says, "We have traveled the world. "Each one of these tells a story, and you reconnect when you return home."
Cyre says that Synergy provides what people need and want. Some people just need a bit of bathing, grooming or they don't drive anymore. In the case of Poole, Cyre says, "I sat down with her and we developed a plan together and then spoke to her caregiver." In the beginning, she had a caregiver 24 hours a day, but a couple of weeks ago, Poole released the night care. "Now," Poole says, "My daytime caregiver Kendra goes to the gym with me and supervises my bike riding, walking and arm exercises."
Kendra also takes Poole to MOM’s Organic Market nearby and to doctor's appointments as well as social engagements. "I had lunch at the Cosmos Club today," she says. "Kendra takes me a-n-y-where."
Poole adds, "I give Kendra a nice bedroom and a parking space. I take care of her and she takes care of me. Kendra knows me all too well."
Opalski says, "She may write a book."
Poole comments with a smile, "She may already have."
This check-up visit is just one of the services offered by Synergy as part of each person's individualized plan. Cyre says, "We have customized service for people who have chosen to die in their homes. It depends on what people need and want. They say 'I want it my way.'"
Cyre had started the day having breakfast with a client with dementia in Alexandria. "He can get violent, not on purpose, and it can be a challenge to meet his needs. I wanted to check up on the safety and well-being of the new caregiver to be sure she was comfortable with the client." Then Cyre spoke to the nurse about some medication that could decrease the client's repetitive behavior at certain times of the day.
Opalski says he started to see a shift to home care about the time he bought his Synergy franchise 12 years ago. He says, "I started with one employee who was doing many tasks." Now he has 110 caregivers and 60-80 clients at a time serving Alexandria, Arlington and other local areas. Opalski explains the company offers both long-term and short-term care. He estimates about 60-70 percent of his clients are aging in place and 30 percent are recovering.
Opalski says he first got interested in this area when he was COO of the National Association for Homecare & Hospice. "I knew it was what I wanted to do."
Poole confides, "I have had other home care people, not like these people. They have been a very good provider, not perfect but damn close."