MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – “Cold Weather Companions” is a program designed and run by the people at Synergy Home Care.

They not only help seniors and the homebound continue to live independently, but they also make sure they aren’t unnecessarily exposed to the harsh elements.

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Anne Gerber uses Metro Mobility to run errands, but when it’s double-digits below zero outside, she counts on the help of Bethany Ekstrand from Synergy.

“For Anne, sometime it’s just telling her that it’s ridiculously cold outside and she shouldn’t be going anywhere,” Ekstrand said.

She is Gerber’s link to surviving on her own.

“Part of my responsibility is to do the things that they would normally do if they were going to go out,” she said.

Jim Zenk, president of Synergy Home Care, says his aides increase their visits when the extreme cold moves in.

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“You’d think of us like what we would do as adult children if we could for our parents,” Zenk said. “Making sure that the temperature is turned up to at least 70 degrees, making sure that they’re getting their medications.”

Ekstrand also helps clean and shop for Gerber, as well as provides conversation and companionship.

These services help keep Gerber from venturing out when the wind chill could kill. One in five cases of hypothermia happen to people 65 and over.

“I know she cares about me and about my needs and my disability,” Gerber said.

Zenk says his company does charge for aides to do home visits, but there’s assistance available for those who qualify.

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He says we can all be cold-weather companions by reaching out to seniors in our neighborhoods to make sure they’re doing well during these cold winter days and nights.

Reg Chapman