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Graceful aging at home is company's service [Senior Circles]

Synergy HomeCare opened its first location in Howard County, at 8950 Old Annapolis Road, Suite 112, in Columbia. I attended the ribbon cutting and open house.

Synergy HomeCare's other Maryland locations include Towson, Bel Air and Annapolis. The Columbia office's territory includes all of Howard County and parts of Baltimore and Montgomery counties. They may also take clients in Prince George's County, since no franchise is currently there.

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Prior to the ribbon cutting, I had the pleasure of talking to Glenn Ankney, president, of Synergy HomeCare of Columbia. Going from a career as an executive, building bridges all over the world, to managing a business in the health care field seems like quite a leap. However, Glenn's customer service experience and his wife Helen's nursing background led him to this industry.

The Ankneys had the opportunity to buy this franchise and took it. Helen Ankney, RN, is the nursing director.

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"Our mission is to allow people to age gracefully in their home," Ankney said. Promotional brochures stress that the company allows the older adult to maintain independence, dignity and control and the family caregivers a respite when needed.

State assessments are required every 90 days and the state must sign off on care plans for clients. He said that their services are just as important to the children of the older adult as they are to the client. Services are available for a few hours a day or 24 hours a day.

Synergy provides two levels of home care caregivers — companion and certified nursing assistant. Services may include companionship, personal care, light housekeeping, meal preparation and medication reminders, maintaining a clean and healthy environment, escort for shopping and errands and respite care. Through the screening process, caregivers are matched with the needs of clients.

The open house also offered a presentation by Ted Meyerson, president of United Seniors of Maryland Education Foundation Inc., on "Things that Enhance Living at Home." Technology devices allow the caregiver and senior to keep in touch, the caregiver to monitor the senior's activities and to track their health care.

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Some of the technology products available are simple, others highly technical; some cost little, others are expensive; but measured against the alternatives (institutions), they are relatively reasonable.

To help the senior in the kitchen, there are devices to turn on the faucet and safety features to turn the stove off automatically. Of course, for mobility, there are scooters and chair lifts. For the laundry, you can purchase a one piece washer and dryer. For the bathroom, there are special toilets, some of which can monitor weight and blood sugar.

A simple way to prevent falls is to use nightlights. There are robot helpers for vacuuming, cleaning, dusting and even lawn mowing. When you take your pills, your caregiver receives a report. A built-in alarm can alert you to the phone wringing. Emergency response systems are key to getting help when you need it. There are devices to help make things easier to use, such as a large face cell phone or a voice-activated appliance.

Meyerson promoted the Internet as the "Window to Education," providing brain exercises and online courses. He specifically mentioned Massive Online Open Course, which offers free online courses.

Meyerson advised seniors to use technology to find the technology that offers you the solutions that you need to improve the quality of your life and your independence and to keep you living at home. So, get on your computer and have fun searching for the latest technologies to help older adults or if you don't have a computer, ask a grandchild or another family member to search the Internet for you. Check out some of the other technologies Meyerson discussed, such as telemedicine, commercial online clinics, health care tools through your iPhone, Band-Aid EKG, Telemental Health, online second opinions from Harvard affiliated doctors and robotic surgery.

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