Column: Home care on Shelter Island

RICHARD LOMUSCIO PHOTO Russell and Jenny Smith, owners of Shelter Island Homecare.
RICHARD LOMUSCIO PHOTO Russell and Jenny Smith, owners of Shelter Island Homecare.

I really did not know much about Shelter Island Homecare.

They call themselves the “concierge caregivers on the East End” in their ad in the Shelter Island phone book published by the Reporter.

I decided to give them a call so I could find out more about their operation.

The owners of the company, Russell and Jenny Smith, invited me over for a visit. Their place is located deep into the woods off Thomas Street. The couple also operates a cleaning service out of the same commercially-zoned property.

“That’s how we keep our aides employed during their down time,” Russell said.

Jenny holds a master’s degree in health care management. Russell recently retired after 25 years as a navy chief with service in submarines and as a police officer. The couple was married by Pastor Bill in 2005 at the home of one of Jenny’s clients in Hay Beach. Jenny had been trained as an aide by Henrietta Roberts, the recently retired head of Shelter Island Senior Services.

“I owe all of this to Henrietta,” Jenny said, adding that after she and Russell were married, she had time to pursue her degree.

Jenny discovered Shelter Island when she came to visit her sister Prima Evangelista. Prima is a nurse and serves the agency as Director of Nursing. The company employs some 40 people full time, some as home health aides and some as personal care aides.

“And they are all thoroughly vetted,” Russell said, adding that “we try our best for a good match between aide and client.”

Russell said that as soon as he gets a call from a client or responsible family member, he goes and inspects the house looking for safety hazards. He will have ramps and grab handles installed where necessary.

“I must have good relationships with local tradesmen so they’ll come and make repairs when they’re needed,” Russell explained.

Russell and Jenny pointed out that individuals can live three to five years longer with personal home care as opposed to going to a nursing home.

When asked about the price of their care, I was told that they require money up front but will provide help with insurance company applications.

“We are in partnership with a Medicaid specialist who helps clients navigate the Medicaid system,” Jenny said.

Ninety percent of their clients are on the Island. But they also serve the North and South Forks. Their services include dementia care, personal care, respite care, hospice support, medication compliance, companionship and errand services, after surgery assistance and transition care.