She extends a home care lifeline for Hill area elderly

By Erin Flynn Jay and Len Lear
Posted 12/30/20

West Philly resident Tawanda Russell has been working as a caregiver for almost two years in Chestnut Hill for SYNERGY HomeCare of Bala Cynwyd.

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She extends a home care lifeline for Hill area elderly

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West Philly resident Tawanda Russell has been working as a caregiver for almost two years in Chestnut Hill for SYNERGY HomeCare of Bala Cynwyd. She has seen an increase in families’ need for senior care because of the pandemic. For 26-year-old Mejire Arijaje, owner of SYNERGY, the pandemic has been affecting his local 35 caregivers and care recipients.

Arijaje is the owner of this family-owned business along with his parents. They also provide home care services to other communities including Mt. Airy, Manayunk, East Falls, Germantown and Bala Cynwyd, among others.

Arijaje said Russell is one of his most reliable caregivers. “We can always count on her to show up and be wherever we need her to be, especially during this pandemic where it's tough to get around and everybody is trying to be careful,” he said. “Tawanda has really stepped up to be there for her clients. She wants to make sure that her clients are happy, appreciated and able to not feel as lonely with not having as much family over (given Covid-19).”  

Russell described a pleasant experience helping a Chestnut Hill senior out for about seven months when she lived at the Chestnut Hill Tower Apartments, 7600 Stenton Ave. “We would go outside sometimes. She loved going shopping. She had a little puppy. I would take the dog out to help her,” said Russell. “She couldn't walk well by herself. She would need help from me, so I would feed her, sponge bathe her, cook and clean for her.”

Russell would speak with the senior’s family and set up virtual calls so her client could talk to her family. In addition to the everyday essentials, she does arts and crafts with them, or if they like to go outside, she takes them to see Christmas displays in Chestnut Hill. Since some senior clients have been facing the holiday being separated from their families due to Covid-19 restrictions, Russell must act as a quasi-counselor or therapist. “Isolation is real,” she said. “Depression and loneliness can lead to not exercising and eating incorrectly.”

“Thankfully, so many families are recognizing the concern and the help that they need to get,” added Arijaje. “Many are having the holiday blues because of the way this year has been and recognizing that we have to keep our loved ones safe. We do what we have to do right now.”

According to one client, Becky B., “My father, who is in his late 70s was diagnosed with dementia about a year ago. He has been on a steady decline … A social worker recommended SYNERGY … We decided to start care right away. At first, my dad was confused as to who these people were that kept coming to his house. After time, he started getting used to them … and the caregivers wrote twice daily updates for us to read. I cannot explain how much of a help and relief this was to me. I live two hours away from my dad. This is literally my lifeline to my dad.”

Mejire Arijaje (pronounced Aree-jah-jay), the owner of SYNERGY, was born in Lagos, Nigeria, which he left with his family in 1999. His father, Jude, now 54,

was the features editor of one of Nigeria's leading daily newspapers and a prominent media personality, but when he came to the U.S., he had no job.

New to Philadelphia, he rented a basement room and worked for two years as a parking lot attendant for $7.50 an hour. Then he got a job as a Century 21 real estate agent in Overbrook through a welfare-to-work program. As he showed and sold homes between 2003 and 2010, he realized that "I was spending a lot of money on printing costs. I thought, 'If I'm spending so much on paper, why don't I get into that business?' "

That gave Arijaje the idea to buy a Minuteman Press printing franchise while he was still working as a real estate agent. His wife, Edith, meanwhile, studied to become a nurse. Their daughter Tejire, 24, studied biomedical engineering at Duquesne University, and Majire, 23, earned an MBA at Eastern University in Radnor.

Jude eventually opened two Minuteman Press franchises, and one of his main clients was Chestnut Hill College, for whom he printed countless admission booklets and t-shirts.

For more information about SYNERGY, visit synergyhomecare.com.

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