For many people, the college courses they take have little impact on their career choices, but a College of the Canyons course on communication and aging people changed Raagib Quraishi’s trajectory.
Quraishi was a personal athletic trainer who took the class at COC as a course requirement. Though he had worked with elderly clients before, the course opened his eyes to the kind of specialized care elderly patients need and the importance of services for the elderly population.
“The professor was taking care of her mom at the same time she was teaching, and her passion for what she was teaching us really changed my view on working with seniors,” Quraishi said. “The seniors have an endless amount of stories, and there’s so much to learn from them, so this doesn’t feel like work for me anymore. I think my favorite part of working with the seniors is the misunderstandings in communication we have, because I think it’s memorable when I say one thing and they hear something else.”
After working for two years as a caregiver, Quraishi opened his own facility, Young At Heart, in June 2018 with his parents’ help in the Stevenson Ranch house he grew up in. He said he appreciates the frequent opportunities to see his parents, who became licensed caregivers to help him run the business.
“I named the business after a Frank Sinatra song,” Quraishi said. “There’s a music theme to our facility and all the residents’ rooms are equipped with an Amazon Alexa device, so they can access their own music. With the elderly population, especially those with dementia and Alzheimer’s, music is a good tool, because they can forget a lot of things but as soon as they hear a certain song, they’re up and dancing.”
As Young at Heart’s licensed administrator and full-time caregiver, Quraishi lives with the residents and takes care of their needs, like feeding, clothing and bathing. The facility is not equipped to assist clients with serious medical issues and instead provides a social environment for seniors who need assisted living. He also helps engage his clients with activities like game nights and trips to museums.
The house had to be remodeled to comply with fire codes, including widening doorways and adding emergency exits in each room. Since opening for business, the facility has had seven clients, including the father of his first Santa Clarita neighbor. Under California law, the house can only accommodate six clients at a time, though the largest number of people Quraishi has worked with at one time is three. When he has four or more, he will have to hire a second live-in caretaker to help him address all the clients’ needs.
Quraishi said he decided to convert his childhood home into a hospice center because he felt it would be easier than finding another location.
“The house was already here and we owned it, and this way I didn’t have to worry about finding someplace else to run the business,” he said. “Plus, I already have all my memories here, so I’m not losing anything, just adding to them.”
As all of Young at Heart’s clients are elderly, four of them have died. This is the most difficult part of the job for Quraishi.
“It may take a while for people to trust me, but after taking care of them for months a friendship starts to form,” he said. “I had a client who I would always watch movies and sports games with who died of skin cancer recently. You get used to seeing someone every day and taking care of them and then suddenly they’re not there anymore.”
What Quraishi believes sets smaller hospice facilities like his apart from larger group homes is the amount of personal care he is able to afford each client. He said he believes that people he cares for have worked for a long time and deserve to live the rest of their lives in comfort.
“These people have lived their lives and now it’s time for them to enjoy what they’ve worked for,” Quraishi said. “I don’t see hospice care as a negative, because it allows people who have reached a certain age to live in comfort with the knowledge that they’re not a burden on their family. Everyone deserves to not have to worry and feel like a kid again.”