Hearts of Gold listed as a top Oregon workplace

Hearts of Gold Caregivers has been selected as one of The Oregonian’s Top Workplaces.

The Top Workplaces are determined based solely on employee feedback. The employee survey is conducted by WorkplaceDynamics, a leading research firm on organizational health and employee engagement. WorkplaceDynamics conducts regional Top Workplaces programs with 37 major publishing partners and recognizes a list of 150 National Top Workplaces.

Hearts of Gold Caregivers was formed by owners Thomas and Faith Keolker in 2008, when they recognized the need for professional home care services for seniors in the Columbia Gorge. Today, the company employs 56 people from the Hood River office, and averages more than 4,000 hours of care per month.

Hearts of Gold Caregivers provides skilled care givers to seniors living at home, to keep them living independently. Services are individually tailored to the client and may include companionship and homemaking services, assistance with personal care tasks, and medication and basic nursing services in Oregon. The company is licensed in Oregon and Washington.

“We are simply thrilled to have received this award. As an employer we always try to look after our staff, and every day we are thankful for the wonderful people we have working with us. Achieving this ‘top workplace’ award is a huge endorsement that we are on the right track,” said Thomas.

Earlier this year, the company was awarded 2013 Best of Home Care Provider of Choice and Employer of Choice, by Home Care Pulse. These awards were the result of customer and employee satisfaction surveys, also carried out by an independent, third party.

Over the past year, more than 5,000 organizations and one in every 88 employees in the U.S. have turned to WorkplaceDynamics to better understand what’s on the minds of their employees.

The Oregonian published the complete list of Top Workplaces on Sept. 15. For more information about the Top Workplaces lists and WorkplaceDynamics, visit topworkplaces.com and workplacedynamics.com.

Hearts of Gold Academy

The senior care industry has grown dramatically in recent years, along with the number of seniors needing care. More and more seniors are using the services of home care agencies to help them maintain their independence and enable them to continue living in their own homes.

According to Thomas Koelker, owner of Hearts of Gold Caregivers, “Training is the issue. Customers expect that the caregiver placed in their home possess the knowledge and skills to carry out the job. Without proper training their level of competence is questionable. And that’s a risk that no paying customer should have to face.”

In Oregon, all home care agencies must meet minimum standards. Many home care companies, some of them franchises, however, stop there and offer only the minimum caregiver training required.

Most home care agencies depend on the personal experience each new caregiver brings with them. That’s a scary situation when you are hiring someone to take care of yourself or a loved one. Without a solid training program, there are no predictable skill standards.

“Caregivers must be equipped with the tools they need so we can confidently send them to our clients’ homes knowing they’re doing the job right. Caregiver training has always been a priority for us, but now we are stepping it up a notch,” Koelker said.


Hearts of Gold Caregivers has partnered with aQuire Training Solutions to establish the Hearts of Gold Caregivers Academy that provides its staff with access to more than 60 online, interactive training courses combined with supplemental in-house training programs in caregiving skills.

The training delves into every aspect of caregiver duties and activities, including specialized training in Alzheimer’s disease and dementia and hospice care.

“This training is at the cutting edge for the home care industry and we are proud to provide this to our team,” Koelker said.

This month the first group of students has graduated from the Hearts of Gold Caregivers Academy. The celebration was held on Sept. 6 at the Elks Lodge in Hood River. The nine graduates were joined by their families and coworkers to honor their achievement. Of the nine, five also completed the postgraduate training that specializes in Alzheimer’s and dementia care and hospice care.

“Our caregivers are hungry to learn,” Koelker said. “They take great pride in their vocation and they want to deliver the best possible service they can to our clients.”

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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