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She runs errands, and much more, for elders

Running errands for others in need is Bridget Heitman’s occupational mission.

It’s her passion, and something her client’s would be hard pressed living without.

“I like helping people, I like the variety,” said the 65-year-old Heitman, a former employee of Burns Drugs and the now-defunct Arcana’s Pharmacy in the Village, who, for the past decade, has been making ends meet aiding seniors with everyday tasks - shopping, doctor’s appointments, etc. “I like knowing I’ve made a difference in somebody’s life.”

Heitman’s role over the years has broadened and deepened to include caregiving. She’s even been called upon at times to become a surrogate parent. “I hired her (originally) to spend nights with my mother back in 1998,” recalled longtime Heitman client Nancy Petersen of La Jolla. “She would come and sleep in the room with my mother so she could help her with whatever she needed.”

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Petersen now utilizes Heitman’s errand-running expertise for herself and swears by the quality of her care and service. “I have found her to be the support I desperately need,” Petersen said. “She’s very good, very loyal. Not only does she run my errands, but if I’m ill, she comes with food, takes me to the doctors. She’s a very important part of my existence.”

Heitman has been working with Petersen for about 10 years. “We just do odd things,” Heitman said. “She likes to go to Warwick’s. We do dry cleaning, go wherever she likes to go. She doesn’t like to drive.”

Petersen said Heitman’s not opposed to going above and beyond for her charges by becoming an advocate for them, acting as a go-between looking out for their best interests and personal welfare.

“She goes right into the doctor’s with me and listens to what the doctor has to say to me,” Petersen said. “I’m getting old and forgetful, and she can remember. Sometimes she speaks up for me with the doctor, tells them about things that are bothering me that I may have forgotten.”

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The relationship between Heitman and all her clients transcends work. “We talk about philosophy,” Heitman said. “I’m very good friends with all of my ladies.”

Gethine Brown, 98, is blind and said she couldn’t do without Heitman’s personal assistance. “She’s been helping me for quite a few years,” Brown said. “She’s a very responsible person, a steady worker. She’s always pleasant, a delightful person to know.”

Heitman took Brown recently to Scripps Hospital to see her physical therapist. “Then I helped her read her mail,” she said, “and then we wrote correspondence cards.”

Lucille Handley, 86, was Heitman’s landlord more than 20 years ago. She never imaged Heitman would one day become her caregiver. Handley also recommends Heitman’s services. “She’s just such a pleasant, caring person who works just great with older people,” Handley said. “She’s very considerate to them, takes them right up to where they want to go, is always there to pick them up.”

The independent-minded Handley believes, with Heitman’s assistance, she’ll be able to continue to be self-sufficient.

Heitman started out running errands working for a La Jolla pharmacy. “I used to do deliveries,” she said. “I got the idea of putting my little notice on the delivery packages. That’s how I started out.”

How often Heitman runs errands for her individual clients varies with their needs and her availability. She charges $15 to $20 for her services. She drives a van that’s outfitted to carry a wheelchair, walker or any other type of apparatus her clients require.

Heitman advertises her services strictly by word of mouth. “Usually they (clients) call on the telephone,” she said. “I explain what I do. I describe myself as a helpmate. If it works for them, we meet. It kind of goes from there.”

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Mostly, Heitman takes on errands for people to accomplish practical purposes. But sometimes, the mission is far less goal-oriented. Sometimes she’s hired out just to give someone some companionship. “I was hired once by a lady’s grandson who just didn’t have time to go visit her,” Heitman said. “He hired me to visit her. We talked and we played cards. I’d take her out to get ice cream cones, things like that. It means quite a bit to people when they get into that position.”

Heitman is available at (619) 275-6009.


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