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No Nonsense Enterprises: A single phone call for the elderly

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Zack Seward
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WXXI
Mary Guhin, left, Cheri Wilkinson and Shirley Edwards. The women behind No Nonsense Enterprises often meet at Max Market in Pittsford.

In the realm of international journalism a "fixer" is someone who makes obstacles go away.

Need a source? Need a translator? Need a car? Call your fixer.

In the foreign land that is aging and illness, No Nonsense Enterprises is Rochester's fixer.

"We try to be a single phone call," says Mary Guhin, one of the three Xerox retirees behind No Nonsense. "So that when people contact us we can say to them, 'Don't worry. This may seem overwhelming, but we're going to break it into manageable tasks'."

No Nonsense handles everything from tracking down benefits, to making new return address labels, to coordinating health care.

In short, Guhin, Cheri Wilkinson and Shirley Edwards are there to help.

"Because what all of us did, at various times and in various ways at Xerox, was project management," says Guhin. "And that's really what [aging] is: a big project."

Busting through silos

At the Gables retirement community in Brighton, the women behind No Nonsense are sorting through a potential problem.

A client's application for benefits is stuck in the bureaucratic back channels of the Veterans Administration. If it isn't sorted out soon, the Gables resident may have a hard time paying rent.

"These are the kinds of things that someone in the family would have to do if we weren't doing them," Guhin explains. "Or, God forbid, the clients themselves would have to do it. And many times they're not up to it."

Guhin says the VA issue is a good example of the problems No Nonsense is built to fix: Top notch care is out there, but it's often scattered across a mishmash of providers.

"What we try to do is cut across the silos and make sure that whoever we're helping gets what they need," says Guhin, "whether it's a rented wheelchair, or home physical therapy, or whatever."

Personal experience

The idea for No Nonsense Enterprises came a few years back, when Guhin helped a friend's mother move into an assisted living facility. "It's a certain kind of move," Guhin says - one that requires more than boxes and packing tape.

About a year ago, Guhin, Edwards and Wilkinson decided to make a business of it.

After leaving Xerox, each had accumulated experience in helping the elderly or ill. None more so than Wilkinson, who for 25 years cared for her husband as he fought Parkinson's. He died earlier this year.

"It's not something I would ever want someone to have to go through and start from the beginning," says Wilkinson. "If I could step in and help them just accelerate that timeline, I'm more than happy to do that."

Helping family caregivers is a key aspect of what No Nonsense offers. Wilkinson says families sometimes just need validation that what they're going through is normal.

A growing business?

No Nonsense is still small. They're working with about a half-dozen clients at any given time.

But they say demand for such services will likely grow as the baby boomers start aging into retirement.

"The number of people between 65 and death is growing exponentially," Guhin says. "Many adults who are starting to fail, they don't have relatives in the area, so they don't have ready resources to call on."

All three No Nonsense co-founders are in their early sixties themselves. They see their age as an asset.

"There are times you may get a crackerjack 22-year-old social worker trying to help you," Wilkinson says, drawing on experience with her husband. "But they don't have a clue."

After a free consultation No Nonsense charges an hourly rate. They readily admit they won't become millionaires by way of their second careers. But they say that's not the point.

Says Guhin, "We want to be busy, we want to spend time together and we want to do good work."

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