Web site gives assistBy Jerry Tune
Hawaii seniors who need information on retirement living, disability and chronic health-care services can use the Internet through a Web site called AssistGuide.
Kevin Sypniewski, 32, says his service also helps caregivers get basic information and link up with service providers.
Care providers pay from $25 to $100 a month to be put on the Web site, with text information and photographs. Nonprofit organizations are not charged, he said. There is no access fee for Web-site browsers.
"If you have a Web site, it's only $25 a month to link up and if we create the Web site its $50 or $100 a month for the larger Web sites," Sypniewski said. "But we don't have $1,000 setup fees."
AssistGuide takes photographs of the facilities and floor plans so that everyone can see what the different rooms are like.
Sypniewski got the idea from what the real estate industry is doing to sell homes. He believes this could be a first in the nation for care providers.
"I don't think anyone else is doing this," he said. "On the mainland they are putting up listings of facilities like a phone book but there are no photographs or elaborate Web sites."
Debbie Morikawa, executive director at The Ponds at Punaluu, praised AssistGuide.
"We've found it beneficial to give people a walking tour without having to come out to see us," she said. "To send out pictures (of the Ponds facilities) is very costly. With AssistGuide we get exposure to a wider audience."
The Ponds at Punaluu website includes several photographs of the dining room, living accommodations and the surroundings.
Morikawa said they also are working with AssistGuide to get a beds availability feature added to the Web site information.
Starting early next year, AssistGuide will be adding "Caregiver chat forums" moderated by professionals from the Hawaii Association for Home Care. Caregivers can link up and ask for advice on how to take care of elders in their home. No special software is required.
"The chat forums will be held in the evenings, maybe twice a month or once a week, when caregivers have finished their work for the day," Sypniewski said.
"Eighty or 90 percent of the (elderly) care is at home but people (usually children of elderly) don't have the expertise to deal with everything."
AssistGuide has signed up some 50 organizations, including about 15 assisted living, adult care and skilled nursing facilities. There are also companies for accessible transportation, medical supplies and home care on the Web site.
Before starting AssistGuide in 1996 out of his Kailua home, Sypniewski ran the Hawaii office for Unum Corp., a large disability insurance carrier based in Portland, Maine. AssistGuide is working with the Hawaii Association for Home Care, Hawaii Long Term Care Association and the state Executive Office on Aging.
AssistGuide is at http://www.assistguide.com.