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Nonprofit Egis helps fulfill seniors’ needs at home, provide care where they’re comfortable

November 26, 2018 GMT

For some Santa Fe seniors, the thought of living in an assisted care center or nursing home is bearable — just the next step in the aging process.

But for many others, the idea of leaving their own home is a nightmare.

Jeffrey Pine wanted to provide another option.

Two decades ago, he co-founded Egis Complete Care Inc. — originally known as Elders Getting Information and Services — a nonprofit that helps coordinate care and support for seniors in the comfort of their homes. Pine retired from his position as the nonprofit’s executive director earlier this month but continues to serve as a consultant.

Home, Pine said, is a place that allows continued independence and a stronger sense of self.

“It’s familiarity of surroundings, familiarity of experiences,” he said. “The emotional connection we have to home is huge. … Everybody says that’s where they want to be.”

In the late ’90s, when Pine was in charge of case management at Community Health Services for patients with HIV/AIDS, two senior couples approached him with an idea: Give seniors in-home care, based on a plan they create themselves.

In 1998, Pine and four partners launched Egis “based on a need in the community, expressed by the community,” he said.

Since then, the agency has grown from serving about 70 clients at a time to more than 200, offering a wide variety of resources for seniors.

Consultants with Egis offer information on how to address signs of dementia; hospitalization and discharge; insurance benefits and legal issues; mediating family problems and more.

In-home services the agency coordinates — from a few hours a day to 24/7 care — include cooking, housekeeping, medication reminders, errands, assisting with technology, and helping patients shower and use the toilet.

“Whatever in-home needs they have, really,” Pine said.

Clients’ backgrounds and ages range. In the past, Egis served a young woman with limited mobility after spinal surgery. It also helped a survivor of the Bataan Death March with daily food preparations and medications until his death. Currently, it is assisting its oldest client ever, who is 106..

The relationships formed between Egis’ employees and clients, Pine said, are what set the nonprofit apart.

The process of linking a pair, which involves a background check and annual assessments, is similar to matchmaking.

“It’s so reciprocal,” he said. “On the caregiving side, they’re filled to the brim, feeling like they’ve helped somebody. They feel fulfilled.”

Gary Denmark, a caregiver with Egis for more than 10 years, said the work has “increased my ability to be patient in life. … You learn how to identify with your client and identify what they’re going through.”

Pine acknowledged in-home care isn’t for everyone.

“If they stay at home and can’t get out … that’s detrimental,” he said. “It’s about making informed decisions.”

“Whatever the plan is,” he added, “I want to know it’s something they’ve agreed to.”

Sharon Cooper said Pine and his company have been a saving grace for her and her husband, Dick, who has suffered from renal cell carcinoma for more than 10 years.

“He was always there to answer questions,” Sharon Cooper said of Pine. “… He’s a man who knows what he’s doing when you don’t. In a time of crisis, he is there to straighten it all out.”

Cooper said choosing Egis over a nursing home was a no-brainer for her and her husband.

“Dying or being taken care of at home is more reasonable than it is in an institution,” she said.

An Albuquerque businessman bought Egis six months ago and has plans to expand its reach to the south, Pine said.

In his retirement — something he calls “totally bittersweet” — Pine plans to get more involved in volunteerism, spend more time with family and pursue hobbies such as tennis.

He didn’t know much about aging when he founded the company at age 46, Pine said, but he’s now more equipped to age. He’s learned myriad lessons from the people he’s served.

“I would say my clients have been teachers to me,” he said. “[The job] gave me this perspective on aging that’s so unfearful.”