As the floodwaters were rising from hurricane Harvey's onslaught in Brazoria County, Texas, Mike Walls, who owns a Caring Senior Service franchise with his wife, Adie, received a panicked call from a client. He needed to get out of his home fast and had no one else to call.
"Without hesitation Mike got into his pickup truck, drove through the flooded streets, picked up our client, and brought him to a shelter," says Adie. "We assigned a caregiver to the client, who attended to him at the shelter."
Although most home care providers do not find themselves in such dramatic potential life-and-death situations, the best are committed to providing exceptional service to their clients.
"Homewatch CareGivers embraces the Eden Alternative approach to aging," says Ralph Fern, who owns Homewatch CareGivers of Phoenix with his brother Dan. "We don't just focus on the physical issues of our clients. Their emotional and psychological well-being are also a priority. Many elderly people start focusing on what they are losing -- their abilities, their friends, etc. We help them look forward to tomorrow by living their lives to the fullest every day."
The Eden Alternative philosophy addresses three things believed to account for the bulk of distress among seniors: loneliness, helplessness, and boredom.
"We had a wonderful client who was in hospice and told his caregiver he had one regret," says Ralph. "It was that he had been a chef, but had never written his recipes down for his family. His caregiver asked if he'd like to dictate the recipes to her. He did so as he fell in and out of sleep. His family learned what was happening and started making the recipes in our client's home. This made our client very happy, and in the end his family had his recipes to treasure when he passed."
Enabling people to remain in their home rather than move into a facility provides them with many benefits. Some homecare providers such as Caring Senior Service serve only seniors. Others, including Homewatch CareGivers, help people of any age who need care, including those recovering from surgery or with chronic conditions.
"Moves are difficult and disruptive for people at any time. By enabling our clients to remain in the comfort of their homes surrounded by good memories, we help to provide them with peace of mind," says Ralph of Homewatch CareGivers. "They tend to sleep better and be more relaxed."
Mike, Adie, Ralph, and Dan became interested in opening home care businesses because of their personal experience caring for elders they love.
Ralph and Dan Fern's mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, and their father had physical challenges. The brothers, who initially cared for their parents themselves, were both ready to leave their corporate careers to do something with more heart. Having experienced the challenge of caring for their parents, investing in a home care franchise resonated with them.
"We looked at several home care franchises and decided on Homewatch CareGivers because we liked the founder, thought the business model was strong, and felt that our ethics, morals, and values aligned," says Ralph. "Although there are systems and procedures to follow in order to be successful, the franchise doesn't take a cookie-cutter approach to each of its franchisees. It understands that each location is different, and its leadership encourages conversations about new ideas."
For the first few months after opening their Homewatch CareGivers franchise in 2004, Ralph and Dan ran it with the help of Dan's wife, employed about four caregivers, and had fewer than half a dozen clients. They now have 12 people working in the office, employ 200 caregivers, and have well over 100 clients.
Adie Walls was a stay-at-home mom when her grandparents' health started to fail. She was very familiar with Caring Senior Service since she had accompanied Mike (who was the brand's director of franchise development from 2009 until he joined Adie in running their franchise in 2017) to conferences over the years. At the conferences, she interacted with franchisees who shared their positive experiences with her.
"I was the eldest granddaughter and very close to my grandparents," says Adie. "I felt by opening a Caring Senior Service franchise near them that I'd be able to care for them, as well as others in need."
Adie and Mike opened their franchise four years ago. It currently is ranked number three in the Caring Senior Service franchise system, has about 40 clients, and employs 80 people.
"I never thought I would be doing such noble work. We believe every senior should remain happy, healthy, and at home, and we make this possible for our clients," says Adie. "There are days when our office is pretty teary because we become close to our clients and their families. We, however, know we helped make a positive difference in their lives. We love what we do."
"Home health care is a growth industry, and since every day is different you will never be bored," says Ralph of Homewatch CareGivers. "The emotional and psychological reward of helping people is incredible. We are regularly reminded that life is precious."