In her book The Inspired Caregiver, Tia Walker has written one of the most profound sentences about elderly care, “To care for those who once cared for us is one of the highest honors.” Although Helen Smekhov, then owner of At Your Service Eurocare, never read the book, she performed her caregiving with the highest honorable values for the seniors she served. After all, she was an immigrant from Russia with the determination to achieve a better life for her family in a free country.
Every day, Smekhov exemplified with love the best qualities of a dedicated caregiver addressing the personal and medical needs of her clients. They became her family. She listened to their stories and kept them company in the moments of loneliness and physical needs.
Eventually, this educated nurse and cultured lady realized that she could not be everywhere, and working 12 to 14 hours daily were not enough to provide her services to many families who reached out to benefit from her individual attention for their loved ones.
In 1984, she established her organization, At Your Service Eurocare, which provides caregiving services for dementia and Alzheimer’s care, diabetes care, and other types of care management. She made it her mission to identify other caregivers with the same passion and accountability.
Every person who has been employed by At Your Service Eurocare goes through a thorough background check and a diligent process of assessment, so that Smekhov can ensure that the qualifications and commitment of her staff to go above and beyond the duties described for the position. They all embrace her vision, and their vocation becomes their mission. It has always been about more than just earning a paycheck. It requires human kindness and concern about the person being challenged as they age and slowly lose the abilities to live independently and require support.
Then, she realized that many Home Health Agencies, which assumed the responsibilities of a more advanced medical care for her clients, did not deliver what they had promised. She expressed her frustration to her future partner Peter Mandellos, an accomplished engineer, and he decided to resign from his job to join the team, and create a home health agency to carry on her mission to deliver professional services to the community. Smekhov’s son Daniel, a DePaul University Business graduate, was also inspired to join the leadership team, and performed the job of three people to make the project a success. On the Home Health side, he runs the whole operation providing intake inside the office day by day.
In 2001, Guardian Home Health Agency was born to provide skilled nursing, speech, physical, and occupational therapy, medical social workers, and home health aides.
Mandellos, a loving family man, had worked hard to get educated in his chosen field. But he wanted to make his own contribution to the betterment of life for the seniors and others who received Guardian’s services and top-quality care. He decided to join Guardian to provide his compassionate leadership to run the business office affairs.
Mandellos says that this type of work is very rewarding, for he and his team are building collectively a suitable living environment for their clients in need of assistance and various levels of care.
In 2007, the partners expanded the services to include Hospice Care. They firmly believed that it was their obligation to offer a dignified and strong program for the last stages of life on this beautiful planet.
“Hospice is not a privilege, but it is our duty to offer a comfort in the terminal state of existence,” says Smekhov. “Every moment counts and people should live this moment comfortably, and for the family to enjoy their loved ones who are in comfort.”
All of the services provided by Guardian Home Health and Guardian Hospice are covered by Medicare insurance, and sometimes additional private insurance. The At Your Service Eurocare arm of the business is a private self-pay agency, when someone needs a caregiver.
The Guardian leadership team also adopted a hyper-local focus, deciding to provide their care and services only to those located on the North Shore and Northwest suburbs. They are proud to be the only agency on the North Shore that Medicare has awarded with a 5-star rating.
The three programs provide stable and rewarding employment to more than 150 skillful professionals. The staff nurtures long lasting relationships with their clients. They often say they feel appreciated and validated by both Smekhov and Mandellos, and the family members and the people they serve regularly express their thanks to all of the staff for making a difference in someone’s life.
They pride themselves on being accessible to clients, doctors, skilled nursing facilities, hospitals, and other healthcare facilities—24 hours a day, seven days a week—including Whitehall of Deerfield, Glenview Terrace Rehabilitation Center, offices of Illinois Bone & Joint Institute, and North Shore hospitals.
Guardian and At Your Service staff participate in continuing educational sessions, and they discuss how they can improve for each individual case. It is a family gathering with a purpose.
In Smekhov’s Northfield office, three parakeets chirp softly. “It was snowing on the day of Yom Kippur 10 years ago,” she remembers. “We found a little parakeet in the snow, and I said to myself, ‘I think it is a good sign,’ so we took the bird in. Then, later, the bird needed company, so we got two more parakeets. I still think it was a good sign.”
It is apparent that Smekhov’s noble vision and Mandellos’ loving support have influenced the lives of thousands of seniors in the Northwestern Region of Chicago, and they have earned the respect and national recognition for their services. Along with their staff and their families, they celebrate the gift of life and giving from the heart. That’s a good sign for people in need of quality home health and hospice care.
Guardian Home Health, Home Hospice, and At Your Service Eurocare business offices are located at 181 Waukegan Road, Suite 301, in Northfield. For Guardian, call 847-441-5020, or visit ghh1.com; for At Your Service Eurocare, call 773-545-5100, or visit northshorecaregivers.com.