Optimal Aging helps “June Cleaver wife” get her life back

October 2, 2017

At “81½ and holding,” Donna Hecker says she feels like she’s 60. Learning to square dance is near the top of her bucket list, but her first goal is to drive again and her eye is on the prize: her 16-year-old Toyota Avalon XLS. Creamy white with gold trim. And only 22,000 miles.

“I haven’t even broken it in,” says Mrs. Hecker.

She’s hoping Optimal Aging will help her do that. The service, provided by Swedish and Providence Health & Services and open to anyone, connects people with nonmedical services that can help them with personal care and everyday life, from cooking to running errands and housecleaning. And, in Mrs. Hecker’s case, companionship while she recovers from knee surgery.

Trusted and affordable

Optimal Aging was born out of the organization's mission to innovate and continue to provide extraordinary care to those that it serves. 

“We were looking for innovative ways to better serve seniors and help them stay in their homes if possible,” says Melissa Taylor, director of the Optimal Aging program. “We know that people are happier, healthier and independent longer at home if they have the support they need. We decided to help with trusted and affordable services.”

Optimal Aging caregivers offer companionship and help seniors get around, do chores, take their medications and prepare meals.  Optimal Aging also connects clients to yard care, home repair and cleaning services. 

The Swedish Optimal Aging team carefully reviews and vets all of their partners to make sure their clients are in good hands.

A life on the go

Started in February 2016, Optimal Aging came along at the right time for Mrs. Hecker, whose busy life has been a mix of family and career. 

Married at 18 to the boy next door – literally – Mrs. Hecker says she started as a “June Cleaver wife.” She went on to work for the Bell Telephone Co., have a daughter and work as a teacher’s aide.  Later, she returned to school herself and earned a horticulture degree. After managing a floral shop, she opened her own floral business.

When her husband, a “golf addict,” retired in 1991, she caddied for him and they spent several years visiting the Caribbean and Hawaii. When he died in 1998 after nearly 50 years of marriage, Mrs. Hecker spent a couple of years at their second home in Arizona. She later settled in at Providence Point in Issaquah, a gated adult community nestled in the Cascade foothills where she’s lived for 15 years.

Help and company after surgery

When Mrs. Hecker had total knee replacement surgery in January, her active life came to standstill. Optimal Aging has provided the care she needs while she recovers.

“Let’s face it,” she says, “this is no picnic. But my spirits are up and I’m getting back to my old life.”

After surgery, her caregiver from Optimal Aging stayed with her 24/7 until she felt comfortable being alone again. Certified nursing assistants helped her shower and dress in the morning, and made breakfast. Now, three months later, Mrs. Hecker can meet an aide at the door, already showered and dressed.

“I’m still using a walker and cooking is a challenge,” she says. “So I still need help. And I like the companionship. They paint my nails, take me to my hair appointments, buy groceries and get my medicine. I’ve been told I can’t drive anywhere for a year, but I’m working on it.

“Having a one-stop service like Optimal Aging is a lifesaver for me. They not only help with everything that I have asked for, but they are also my friends.”

Flexible services 

Mrs. Hecker says her doctors at Swedish referred her to Optimal Aging. Taylor says many clients make their way to the service through their doctors. “We’ve even had doctors refer their parents,” she says.

Optimal Aging is open to everyone, regardless of their health care provider. Services are very flexible and no contract is required. 

“Maybe a client just wants someone to come in and cook pork chops like his wife used to. We can arrange that,” says Taylor.  “No one ever wants to say, ‘I can’t do the things I used to do.’ But when people use our service, they usually say, ‘I wish we’d done this sooner.’ ”

You can learn more about Optimal Aging on the Swedish website. To talk to one of our advisors, call toll-free 844-600-9787.

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