Is Elder Helpers a Legitimate Organization?

"Free" Elder Care

“One of the elders I helped was almost blind but loved to read so much, so I would read to him and he would give me such a nice smile. When I volunteer, I feel like I am the one being helped. “

– From the Elder Helpers site

Elder Helpers is a platform that matches volunteers with seniors. It is a great idea that I would endorse, but something seems to have gone wrong. This article is the author’s opinion, based on facts gathered from the internet. Decide for yourself. Do your own research.

Is Elder Helpers a legitimate organization? I think it started that way. Now, I am not so sure. My guess is that Elder Helpers is a well-meaning but under-funded organization to the point of being dysfunctional. Elder Helpers can be frustrating for both the volunteers and the seniors who use the website.

Volunteer Tasks You Can Request

Elder Helpers matches volunteers for all tasks a senior needs except for medical help. Volunteers help seniors shop, get places, and even fix things around the house. Volunteers mow lawns and cook dinner.

The Good About Elder Helpers

Volunteers pay for their own background checks. That means volunteers are motivated. However … please see below, as this is actually not quite true.

Most Elder Helper reviews are positive. View reviews on SiteJabber. However … many are not, which you can read about below.

An Elder Helpers customer representative has answered 40 questions on SiteJabber.com, the latest being 2 weeks ago. As of posting this article, Elder Helpers has 100 positive reviews,

Elder Helpers advises seniors not to pay their volunteers. It is ok to offer food or presents.

I cannot help but be impressed at the Elder Helpers staff’s responses to Complaints Board complaints. Some of the “complaints” are mistakes, such as the one complaining about lack of training for medical duties. The complaint is clearly in response to a problem at a different organization.

Elder Helpers Red Flags

I think it’s fine for an internet company with significant expenses to charge for their services. However, it is not fine if they tell their potential “customers” that the service is free. Despite posters and web profiles to the contrary, Elder Helpers is not free. The charge is a mandatory, monthly donation of $50.

Elder Helpers offers “free” volunteer help in their posters and volunteer site postings. This is a significantly misleading message about a service that actually costs $50 per month, or $600 per year!

Second… $600 a year is much too much to ask of elderly people who need volunteers. If they have $600, they can just hire someone.

As of this posting, Elder Helpers has 31 negative reviews on SiteJabber.com. There are over 20 unanswered questions. You can view complaints on Complaints Board.

To get a refund, you and Elder Helpers both have to exhaust all possible volunteer choices in your area. If you cannot get a volunteer after that effort, Elder Helpers refunds your donation.

Since it can be difficult to reach support staff, you might find yourself in a frustrating situation. You have paid for a volunteer list, but cannot get a volunteer, and cannot get help from Elder Helpers.

If this happens to you, write to your credit card company. Ask them to reverse the charge based on “failure to deliver services.”

Elder Helpers does not take phone calls. I am guessing it is because they do not have enough staff. However, it is a weird choice, when their clientele were born before the information age.

Elder Helpers’ Twitter profile is abandoned. Their Facebook profile is abandoned.  Their YouTube profile is abandoned. All of their CrowdRise donations are from 2016. The photo gallery has only 10 images.

Their donation address is a Post Office box in Michigan. However, their “brick and mortar” address is vague: “The brick and mortar location from where the Elder Helpers program is run is located in San Diego, California.”

It is hard to find the FAQ pages. They are here and here.

They claim that all volunteers pay for their own background checks, but then state:  “We conduct background checks upon request.”

In addition, on SiteJabber, they say: “No. It’s not mandatory to donate to be a volunteer in our organization.”

That means that volunteers are NOT background checked UNLESS they make a VOLUNTARY donation. Therefore, you should NOT assume that Elder Helpers volunteers are background checked.

Guide Star is a charity-rating agency. Elder Helpers joined Guide Star in 2009. Guide Star does not give it a rating. It simply posts the info that Elder Helpers gives it. Elder Helpers has a “Partners in Trust” Guide Star icon on their website. I cannot figure out what a “Partner in Trust” is, or what it would mean for you as a consumer of Elder Helpers’ services.

How to Get in Touch with Elder Helpers

Email: help@elderhelpers.org

Email: support@healthyyears.org

Donation Address: Elder Helpers, P.O. Box 4651 – Ann Arbor, MI 48106

Address: “The brick and mortar location from where the Elder Helpers program is run is located in San Diego, California.”

Phone: +1-734-330-2734. Their website says they do not take calls anymore, but they have not taken down their phone from SiteJabber.

How to Find Elder Helper Volunteers

Elder Helpers matches volunteers with elders in need.

Step 1: Search Volunteer Profiles

An Elder Helper volunteer creates a profile that includes his or her location. To search for a volunteer, you specify your ZIP code to match your location with volunteers.

Click here to search volunteer profiles in your area:  https://www.elderhelpers.org/people/search.php

Step 2: View Volunteer Profiles

Volunteers create profiles for you to read. Each profile has eight icons, representing services volunteers are willing to perform. When the icon is gray, the volunteer does not offer that service. When it is in color, they do.

The Elder Helper volunteer service icons are:

  1. Shopping
  2. Giving Rides
  3. Entertaining
  4. Reading
  5. Cleaning
  6. Cooking
  7. Gardening
  8. Handiwork

Therefore, for instance, if you were looking for someone who will give you rides, you would click and read profiles with the “Giving Rides” icon.

Step 3: Make a $50 Monthly Recurring Donation

Elder Helpers asks for a monthly donation to connect you with volunteers. It is pretty much the equivalent of paying a contractor for a few hours of work. In exchange for your donation, you get access to the volunteers’ contact information.

Step 4: Use Your Code

Your donation gives you access to the ElderHelpers.org website. Elder Helpers sends you a code, which you use to login.

Step 5: Contact Potential Volunteers

With your Elder Helpers code and login, you be able to see volunteer contact information. Elder Helpers suggests you talk on the phone first. If things go well, meet your volunteer in a public place, such as a coffee shop. Get to know the volunteer before entrusting him or her with volunteer tasks. Bring a friend or family member to the meeting, if you can.

Consider Your Safety

Elder Helpers says that their volunteers are background checked by IntelliCorp, which they call “a very serious and reputable company that also does background checks for other large organizations.”

I am glad they are a serious company. I would hope they are not silly, or whimsical.

Elder Helpers clarified on SiteJabber.com that volunteer background checks are VOLUNTARY. Do not assume a volunteer is background checked.

Elder Helpers Feedback

I wrote to Elder Helpers to ask about these inconsistencies in their offerings. I haven’t heard back yet. I will update this article if I do.