Albert Mittleman was an active, healthy 83-year-old when he woke up one morning to find he couldn't move. His daughter, Lisa Randall of Trumbull, says a tumor on her father's spine caused paralysis from the chest down.
Literally overnight, Mittleman had to use a Hoyer Lift to get in and out of bed and required care morning and night. Randall's mother cared for her husband as best she could but she was also elderly, so the family hired certified nursing assistants.
"This was such an indignity for a nice, kind, decent man," Randall said of her father. "Because of the care of CNAs it gave him back the dignity to live out his last days the way he wanted to ... at home."
Randall worked in corporate communications and as a substitute teacher in all of Monroe's public schools with the exception of Masuk and her husband, Tim, worked on Wall Street, but Lisa Randall never forgot the dedication of the nursing assistants who cared for her father.
A few years ago the couple decided to look into running an agency that provides services for the elderly and bought a franchise for Right at Home of Greater Danbury — now called Right at Home of Greater Fairfield County.
The franchise has more than 200 offices in the nation, as well as in Great Britain and Brazil.
Based in their office at 100 Mill Plain Road, Suite 354, in Danbury, the Randalls' provide care in Weston, Wilton, Redding, Easton, Trumbull, Monroe, Darien, Stamford, Greenwich, New Canaan, Southbury and New Milford.
On Dec. 1, Right at Home opened a second office in Monroe at 518 Monroe Turnpike, leasing space on the second floor.
"We love this space, right here on Route 111," Randall said during an interview in the conference room late last week. "It's easy to get to. It's visible. It's near a lot of businesses we can access and the offices are light and airy."
The conference room window overlooks Beardsley Brook, behind the propery, which is next to Rite Aid Pharmacy.
The Non-Medical Side of Care
"We've been married for 27 years, and we don't come into this lightly," Randall said. "We both have mothers in their 80s, and we also have a 20-year-old disabled son, so we understand the needs of people who need help."
The majority of Right at Home's clients have some form of dementia, including Alzheimer's and Parkinson's Disease, according to Randall. Right at Home has advanced Alzheimer's certification from the Alzheimer's Association.
"Needs vary, depending on how progressed someone is," Randall said. "Some just need to be checked on to see if they're okay."
Right at Home has a staff of 70 employees, whose hours vary. Some are companion homemakers and others went to school to become certified nursing assistants (CNAs).
"We're the non-medical side of care," Randall said.
Right at Home's caregivers will do things like help clients get out of bed in the morning, shower or bath, get dressed and shave. In the afternoon, they can prepare dinner for people who cannot cook.
Some clients who are no longer able to drive may need rides to their doctor's appointments and to go grocery shopping.
Randall said some clients are fine during the day, but their condition worsens later on and they can become agitated and wander off. Assisted living facilities sometimes call Right at Home on a short-term basis to assist with a resident in need of 24/7 care.
'How Precious Life Is'
Not all of Right at Home's clients are senior citizens.
"Everybody assumes it can only be seniors," Randall said. "The bulk of our clients are seniors, but we also have younger people with cancer or who are recovering from surgery or similar things."
Someone battling Muscular Dystrophy or Multiple Sclerosis may use a wheelchair and need help at the beginning and end of the day, she said.
Randall says she is still inspired by her father's last days.
"I do a lot of this thinking about him," she said. "This is my chance to help other people the way they helped my father."
Though many clients are in their 70s, 80s and 90s, Randall said they still think of themselves as young.
"It allows them to live with dignity," she said of the in-home care. "A service like ours is a way for people like that to keep their independence, not lose it. Stay in your home with your friends and have the social life you want."
"We feel really good about what we're doing," Randall said. "My husband's father died when Tim was in his early 20s. To realize how things can turn on a dime ... we realize how precious life is."