For residents of Miami-Dade, United HomeCare may just be the most important nonprofit they know little about.
Currently celebrating 45 years of serving the community’s senior population, the organization’s staff includes more than 800 employees and volunteers providing more than 22,000 hours of care each week to nearly 4,000 clients across Miami-Dade County. The organization’s goal of allowing seniors to age gracefully and peacefully in the comfort of their own home goes well beyond benefiting seniors and their families; their services and support can actually save taxpayers money.
“According to the Florida Council on Aging, Inc., home- and community-based programs save taxpayers a substantial amount of money when you consider that the average cost of home care is approximately between $8,000 to $12,000 when provided by Florida’s aging network of providers, versus $65,000 to $83,000 for nursing homes annually,” says Blanca Ceballos, United HomeCare community liaison. And with 26 percent of our population over the age of 60, Miami-Dade plays an important role in the future of senior care.
A little background: United HomeCare was founded in 1973 as a division of the United Way with a mission of “making a difference in the lives of individuals by offering community-based health care solutions that promote independence and wellness.” That means providing everything from assistance at home such as cleaning, cooking and laundry to post-hospitalization care, coordination of health and wellness appointments, shopping assistance and transportation.
United HomeCare also places focus on supporting an important piece of the home care puzzle — the friends or family members who act as home caregivers. While seniors are at the center of the action, caregivers often struggle with isolation and depression, prompting the organization to take special care to offer support groups and assistance to this crucial population. (UHC will even send an aide to the home while caregivers participate in support groups or training). “We want to give them a break and let them know that we are here for them,” says Alina Palenzuela, UHC’s communications and outreach manager, who notes that as more and more family members work outside the home, the traditional role of caring for elderly parents and grandparents must be outsourced to others in order to keep them from entering a nursing home or care facility.
Though they work closely with other organizations, including United Way of Miami-Dade and the Alliance for Aging, UHC is currently courting a specific group within Miami-Dade to help further their cause: young people. “It’s really not feasible to take a busload of seniors to Tallahassee to campaign for the cause,” says Carlos L. Martinez, UHC president and CEO. “We want the young people of Miami-Dade to connect with the idea, and to work on making a change for their grandparents and great-grandparents.” And more. According to Martinez, the seniors served by UHC’s programs are often those who have spent years serving their community. “We’re talking about former teachers, first responders, day care workers, office workers…,” he says. “These are people who may have outlived their savings but who want to stay home and enjoy what they have worked so hard for. We make that possible.”
Younger generations are also called upon to offer up their companion services within the UHC family. Those 16 and older can volunteer to visit homebound elderly through the organization’s programs. “It’s so wonderful for our seniors to have someone come by and have coffee or tea, play a game, watch a TV show,” says Ceballos. “Seniors are often forgotten and having someone come and spend an hour or two with them, even if it’s just a nice conversation, really lifts their spirits.”
Martinez emphasizes the opportunity for leveraged philanthropy, underscoring the ability for UHC to leverage $10 in federal and state grants for every $1 that is community and locally raised. “This is a powerful philanthropic tool that needs to be capitalized by our community,” he says.
This month, UHC will celebrate those who exemplify the ideals of the organization with their 25th Annual Dinner and Claude Pepper Awards, recognizing individuals and organizations exemplifying the spirit and ideals of the prestigious awards’ namesake, The Honorable Claude Pepper. Honorees include Chairman and President of Florida East Coast Realty, Tibor Hollo, who will receive a Lifetime Achievement award.
For more information on United HomeCare, please call 305-716-0710, or visit unitedhomecare.com.