Skip to main contentSkip to main content
You are the owner of this article.
You have permission to edit this article.
Edit

Home and Happy looks to lighten the load for older adults who want to live on their own – and their caregivers

  • Updated
  • 0
Dana Robbins, Home and Happy

Home and Happy accepts donations of medical equipment no longer needed by some families so they can be put to good use elsewhere, says Dana Robbins, founder and executive director.

Support this work for $1 a month

Dana Robbins was born to work with older adults.

“I am the youngest of four,” she said, “and on my mom's side, I'm the youngest of all the cousins by a significant age gap. I always got pushed over to the older adult people. I learned how to play cards with them. They were my babysitters. I loved listening to their stories.”

Robbins became a physical therapist who specializes in treating seniors.

It didn’t take long for her to grow disappointed, then frustrated by the lack of support and services for patients who suffered health setbacks and found it hard to stay in their own homes, so in August she founded Home and Happy, a nonprofit designed to help.

Home and Happy gathers and provides donated medical equipment, aids in navigating short-term rehab discharges and give tips to prevent falls – all free.

Long-range goals include in-home therapy and caregiver support and home-modification planning.

“Our funding is obviously in the early stages,” said Robbins, an East Amherst native who lives in North Buffalo.

She is working with family members and a close friend, Samantha Kline, a fellow physical therapist she met while the two pursued PT doctorates at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. Her husband, Jake, who has a business background, serves as organization treasurer. Her mother, Karen Larkin, a retired family nurse practitioner and full-time caregiver, rounds out the nonprofit board.

Robbins has served in nursing homes, short-term rehab and outpatient settings while fulfilling her degree requirements and afterward. She works part time at Marabella Physical Therapy in North Tonawanda, mostly providing patients with fall-prevention and vestibular therapy because they have challenges with balance and dizziness. Kline works full time in an Ohio nursing home.

Both have seen how hard many in the older population strive to regain movement after an injury, surgery or both, often learning afterward that they have fallen just short of going home.

SoJo graphic - Where care is provided in WNY and Detroit

Most caregiving in the Buffalo Niagara, Rochester and Detroit regions takes place in the home.

“Maybe they needed a few extra hours of caregiver support at home in order to be deemed safe,” Robbins said, but didn't qualify for assistance. “That happened a lot more often than I thought. It's something that a lot of people don't understand.”

The Home and Happy website, home-happy.org, helps start the process. It includes tips on discharges for short-term rehab, the beginnings of what Robbins hopes will be a larger forum for caregivers and resource lists that can help seniors stay in their homes and address elder abuse.

There is no income requirement for help from the organization, Robbins said, partly because of what she has seen her mother go through as a caregiver.

“We grew up in a middle-class family situation and just because we didn't meet any requirements for government or insurance assistance, it still adds up,” she said.

Dana Robbins, Home and Happy

“We grew up in a middle-class family situation and just because we didn't meet any requirements for government or insurance assistance, it still adds up,” says Dana Robbins, of Home and Happy.

So far, much of the Home and Happy work has been accepting donations of medical equipment no longer needed by some families so they can be put to good use elsewhere.

“We recently got a large donation and it is all in my garage,” Robbins said. “We are saving up and working on getting a storage unit so we can get more and get bigger things like Hoyer lifts or ramps.”

Those able to donate can call 716-217-5644 or email homeandhappynp@gmail.com.

Two other things surprised Robbins since working with elders: How few support groups exist for caregivers who aren’t helping someone with dementia or children, as well as the high percentage of caregivers and those in their care with mental health needs.

A survey conducted this year among 1,000 caregivers in Buffalo, Rochester and Detroit showed that roughly four of five in those regions care for someone without dementia. Two-thirds of those caregivers reported they struggle with both physical and mental challenges.

“The main reason people end up moving into long-term facilities is because of caregiver burnout,” Robbins said.

She and her new nonprofit embrace the work ahead.

“I wouldn't call it daunting,” Robbins said. “I'm not nervous about it. This is a very big passion for me, so I'm excited to see where this goes and how it grows.”

Caregivers on the front lines logo

This story was produced through the New York & Michigan Solutions Journalism Collaborative's ongoing occasional series, Invisible Army: Caregivers on the Front Lines. The collaborative is a partnership of news organizations and universities dedicated to rigorous and compelling reporting about successful responses to social problems. The group is supported by the Solutions Journalism Network. Read related stories at nymisojo.com. The collaborative also has compiled a detailed Caregiving Resource Guide with links to online information about various issues of interest to caregivers.

0 Comments
* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Related to this story

Listen now and subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts | Spotify | Stitcher | RSS Feed | Omny Studio

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.

Topics

News Alerts

Breaking News