WASHINGTON — A perfect Christmas gift for an elderly, homebound couple or that handicapped friend could be a "companion" for dinner and theatre, a chauffeured shopping trip or daily telephone "reassurance calls."
Melody Smith and Anna Iannarelli say they will provide tailor-made services through their new company, Service Extraordinaire, which is offering special gift certificates during the holidays.
"Our primary objective at Service Extraordinaire is to offer a means by which the elderly, handicapped or homebound can enhance the quality of their lives while being assured of their personal safety," said Smith, 36, the company president who is using an inheritance to bankroll the agency based in Falls Church, Va.
"We want them to know they are not alone. To have us is to have 'family.' "
A Special Market
Smith said the certificates are geared to those persons--like adult children or close relatives--who want to keep tabs on elderly parents or friends who have rejected previous offers. They also can be used to give spouses or others time off from day-to-day care of the elderly or ill.
"It's difficult to admit that you need help" but a person will accept a gift certificate "where they can choose what they want, when they want it and still have control over their lives."
The certificates can purchase a variety of services offered by the agency, which opened earlier this year.
Daily "reassurance" calls, at $25 a month, will be made to check on the safety and well-being of a person. The calls are made at the same time each day, seven days a week including holidays. A designated person is contacted or a mobile unit dispatched to the home, if the client cannot be reached as planned. A weekly status report is made to the purchaser.
For $16 an hour, someone will run errands, transport clients to business dates, a restaurant, worship service, the theater or to visit friends. The fee includes unlimited stops and miles and as many passengers as can fit comfortably in a vehicle.
A "basic companion," which costs $8.50 an hour with a three-hour minimum, can help with a variety of simple tasks such as reading or writing correspondence, preparing simple meals or just providing companionship. The companion will come to a home, nursing home or hospital. A status report also will be provided to those who purchase the service.
There also is a "secretary companion" who will handle light typing, bookkeeping, filing, financial affairs and household accounts for $11.50 an hour. A licensed masseur or masseuse provides 30- and 50-minute sessions in the home for $40 and $55, respectively.
A licensed beautician or barber can come to the home and cut, wash and set hair for $25. To have a one-bedroom apartment or condominium cleaned, including two loads of wash and ironing, will run as low as $36.
"Our whole reason for being here is to make people feel good. We custom make programs for people," said Smith, telling of one client who called to ride on the Parkway to see the leaves turn and of the frantic search for a pet for a companion to take for visits to a client at a nursing home.
"We don't stop with 'No we don't have that at the moment.' We will find a way."
The firm has a pool of about 35 specially trained employees who survived extensive background checks that included a search of criminal and credit records. Personality, patience level and ability to converse also are examined during personal interviews.