LUZERNE — Ramona Bevan has been taking care of others since she started baby sitting at age 14.
She comforted her father as he died of lung cancer, and helped several other family members as they battled the disease.
In recent years, she survived two bouts with cancer, breast and then ovarian.
Now, she’s back to helping others.
The 53-year-old works as a traveling caregiver for senior citizens who need a little help at home. She is so good at her job she recently was named caregiver of the year for Luzerne County’s franchise of Home Instead Senior Care in Luzerne borough, which provides in-home services to senior citizens.
“I’m still in awe of it,” Bevan said. “I just do my job from my heart.”
Today, the Hunlock Creek woman will be honored at the local Home Instead headquarters by Luzerne Mayor James Keller and state Rep. Aaron Kaufer, R-Kingston.
Home Instead, a non-medical service for seniors, is different from home health care. Caregivers like Bevan help seniors with things like meal preparation, light housekeeping, and medication reminders. Another purpose is just to give seniors some company.
“The main thing is companionship — to make them feel better about themselves,” Bevan said. “If I make them smile, my job was done.”
Bevan, who runs an exterior plastering business with her husband, has worked as a caregiver for Home Instead for two and a half years. She saw an advertisement in the newspaper and decided to give it a shot.
“I said, ‘I want to see about working with the elderly — to pay it forward,’” Bevan recalled. “I knew it would be interesting and rewarding.”
Bevan’s boss Alyssa Maria said Bevan was a deserving choice for the award out of the dozens of workers employed by the Home Instead franchise. Maria said she and her husband, Jay, a Wilkes-Barre native, opened the business in 2003 after noticing a need for such a service in the area. They were living in Wisconsin at the time and recognized that his parents were having a difficult time caring for his grandfather.
Now, the company averages about 70 to 80 clients. Clients pay for the service, but some are subsidized by the Area Agency on Aging and the Department of Veterans Affairs.
“There’s a difference between home health care and home care,” Maria said. “We provide a service a family member would provide.”
The recognition for Bevan and spotlight on Home Instead comes two weeks after Gov. Tom Wolf announced he plans to increase funding to the Department of Human Services by $32 million and to the Department of Aging by $7 million to provide more in-home services to seniors to avoid them having to move into nursing homes.
“There is huge need, not only for assistance with activities in daily living, but there is also a huge need for companionship. Our seniors are isolated and lonely,” Maria said. “They not only need help with more concrete things, like preparing meals and housekeeping, but almost something overlooked is the socializing and having someone come pay attention to you. That’s so important for their mental health.”