Busy season for care-at-home businesses

  • Tue Dec 24th, 2013 1:39pm

By M.L. Dehm <i>For The Herald Business Journal</i>

Mark and Victoria Johnston are in the middle of the busy season at their Right at Home franchise in Everett.

The home care and assistance company tends to get a lot of calls right after the holidays.

“When families have gotten together, they suddenly notice that there is no food in mom’s fridge or dad is slower or the oven got left on,” Victoria Johnston said.

That’s when adult children tend to take action and find a company that can send someone over to help mom or dad with various tasks.

“We generally provide two levels of service,” Mark Johnston said. Home care services can include meal preparation, medication reminders and light housekeeping. Personal care services are more hands-on, including transitioning a client from a bed to a chair, bathing and other personal hygiene tasks.

The company also offers home hospice care.

Home care businesses are popular because most people prefer to stay in the familiar surroundings of their homes rather than be moved into a nursing home. This can work out to be more affordable than living at a residential nursing facility. Mark Johnston said. In most cases, the Right at Home service can allow the client to dictate how many hours they require assistance.

Mark Johnston was with Bayliner boats when the company closed in 2010. Victoria Johnston was just finishing up a psychology degree. When Mark Johnston couldn’t find work right away, the couple decided to open a Right at Home franchise.

“Knowing how many people are going to need this type of service, I knew that there was room for a new business in our community,” he said.

According to projections from the Coalition on Aging, the ratio of home care workers to people aged 65 and older will increase from seven-to-one, as measured in 2000, to 24-to-one by 2050.

When employees come in for an interview, their son, Eric Johnston, is often at the front desk. He learns a lot from casual conversation with perspective employees who don’t realize he is the owners’ son.

“You wouldn’t believe the things people tell him sometimes,” Victoria Johnston said.

Caregiver staff has a high turnover. Often this is because caregivers are nursing students who leave to take a nursing job afer completing their degrees. Some are nurses with no experience that just need a foot in the door.

The dearth of qualified caregivers can make staffing a challenge. The Johnstons have more than 40 employees. Victoria Johnston is one of the home quality care managers. Mark Johnston handles the finances but also maintains a career at Boeing.

Overall, the couple are very happy with the decision to open a home care franchise three years ago.

Customers seem to be happy with the service. The Johnstons gauge this by the positive reviews that have been left at Care.com and Angie’s List.

“Those aren’t things you can buy,” Victoria Johnston said.