NORTH SMITHFIELD/BURRILLVILLE – For the past year, many seniors who live alone have found themselves isolated, as fear of a global pandemic has left them unable to run errands and do daily chores, and often without companionship.
It’s a problem that one local small business entrepreneur and her team say they are helping to address with Silver Lining Concierge Service.
Silver Lining provides companionship and non-medical services such as grocery shopping, as well as trips to the drugstore or dry cleaners, assistance with meal planning and preparation, and light cleaning.
Founder LeeAnn Brigido, a northern Rhode Island native, calls herself a “natural caregiver,” and is familiar with serving the public, having worked in the family supermarket business for years.
Instead of a grocery store chain, Brigido now commands a small team of “compassionate, conscientious, and trustworthy,” people who are caring for seniors in need, in the geographic area from Providence to northern Rhode Island, with most in the northwest towns.
Probably the worst problem for many senior citizens today is that they’re, “seeing less and less people,” says Brigido.
The pandemic has destroyed opportunity for many older folks who live alone to have companionship, whether through chatting with the friendly clerk at the grocery store, sharing coffee with a congregation after church services, or spending time at the library, the mall, the fitness center, or in a class, a hobby, a civic, or charity group meeting.
Fortunately for those who can hire a helping hand and a sympathetic ear, Brigido has a staff of six, with each on average spending two or three days a week with clients. The company will occasionally have a client for the short term, such as a person in need of care for a few weeks after a surgery, but most are longer term.
The attention benefits seniors who live alone – even when they do have family locally. Often, adult children are overwhelmed by duties including work and watching their own kids, who these days are more often at home than at school.
Lauren Cleary learned of the service while volunteering with Burrillville Parks and Recreation Department’s Meals on Wheels and emergency grocery and prescription delivery program.
Cleary notes she began delivering meals to seniors and those in need in the community last April, right after the pandemic hit.
“As time went on I grew to develop relationships and realized it wasn’t always just a meal they were in need of,” said Cleary. “Some were just in need of a conversation and companionship. Many of their families were out of town or in a profession – like a nurse or teacher – where they just couldn’t visit and risk exposing their loved ones to Covid-19.”
It’s a sentiment that’s been echoed by many of the program’s volunteers, who say that in the past year, difficult circumstances have made loneliness a very real issue.
Some seniors are having difficulty getting out, when even getting a ride from a neighbor, relative or friend is a problem in precautionary times.
Silver Lining is giving rides, and even going to appointments with clients, offering support that has included taking notes during a doctor’s visit.
The staff also works with seniors on tasks like organizing, helping overwhelmed clients to control clutter and get items ready for consignment.
Sorting mail, paying bills, and navigating the internet with senior clients is another service. Brigido notes it is a hard time for those unfamiliar with technology, as everyone expected to have a computer and know how to use it.
Silver Lining also assists in health-related tasks, such as checking that the a client drinks enough water to keep hydrated.
Brigido says that helping to keep people healthy and happy is, “very rewarding,” adding that her clients are “wonderful.”
A few years ago Brigido was seeking a change, and assessed her skills, interests, and passions. She says she discovered a love for care-giving and cooking – not sitting at a desk.
Established in 2017, Silver Lining was an instant success. At first, she says she was so busy that she had to turn some potential clients away.
Brigido said she chooses other local caregivers who are mature-minded, and that her staff is, “passionate about helping others,” as well as reliable.
Just at the time of life when the presence of other human beings is most needed, and lack of contacts most keenly felt because of retirement, the shutdown has deprived many of normalcy. Late in life, when the brain requires stimulation the most, it seems Silver Lining can help.
Brigido’s booming company offers seniors needed time spent talking, or engaged in pleasant and stimulating activities, such as playing cards and other games, or making puzzles.
And she says she’s working to make life a little less tough for seniors in northern Rhode Island.
To learn more, visit her website at silverliningri.com.