Companion care program helps seniors avoid loneliness

Osceola Council on Aging seeks more residents in need

KISSIMMEE, Fla. – Studies show loneliness can cause physical damage to a person's health, and a companion care program in Osceola County is working to keep seniors company.

"That's a strong bond that we share, very strong," said Rosaria Infantino, as she described her friend,Roenea Dixon-Dean.

Infantino has been a resident of Kissimmee for more than 20 years, but when her husband died in 2012, she found herself spending much of her time alone.

"It was just me. They would say, you know, what are you doing? How are you? I said, well, it's me, myself and my shadow, a lot alone, I didn't mind it, because I had beautiful memories, but it was a sudden change of life at my age to be alone," said Infantino.

Infantino said she struggled to arrange times for her family to pick her up and bring her to doctor's visits, so she signed up for the Care Companion Program and met Dixon-Dean.

"We just clicked. For some reason, it was just a happy click," said Infantino.

Thanks to a grant from Florida Hospital, the program helps match senior residents in Osceola County with companions who help with trips to the doctor, pharmacy and grocery store.

"That's what I'm there for, to help her, have a better life for herself," said Dixon-Dean.

But Dixon-Dean said the care goes both ways.

"Since her husband passed and mine passed, we seem to have that kinship," said Dixon-Dean. "At her age, she been through it. She's showing me how I can go through it at my age."

"When somebody's depressed, you know, they start getting sick. They don't take care of themself. If we can take away that and play, kind of, prevention role in this, then everything else is a domino effect from there," said Jennifer Caban, the Care Companion Program manager.

Caban said the goal is to create that connection, unlike some programs that are just transportation services.
The Osceola Council on Aging Care Companion Program is available for residents within the county, and Caban said they are looking for more residents in St. Cloud.

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