By M.L. Dehm HBJ Freelance Writer
ARLINGTON — It took a life-changing accident for Jon Senn and his wife Linda to discover their true calling. The owners of Cascade Companion Care in Arlington offer bonded and insured caregivers to help seniors stay in their own homes.
But the couple didn’t start out as business owners or even in the care industry. Linda Senn had a degree in bioengineering and Jon Senn was in the military. When he left the service in 1992, his intention was to start a career in federal law enforcement. But a car accident changed everything.
“I was in a coma for two weeks,” he said. It took a full year of rehabilitation before he could think about work or a career again. By that time, he found he had a new desire to help people in the medical field.
Jon Senn went back to school and earned a degree in occupational therapy. He worked in a few different places and settings, building his experience. Then, a few years ago, they had a revelation.
“A friend of ours from church had elderly parents who needed extra help. Jon lent them a hand caring for them,” Linda Senn said. “He’s always had a way with seniors.”
That’s when they decided to look into creating a home-care agency. A resource called The Senior’s Choice offered help and training to the Senns as they set up the business. There was a learning curve as they began to sort through the complex regulations of the caregiver industry. One thing they did know was the type of employee they wanted to hire.
“Our standard of caregivers is really high,” Linda Senn said. “When we’re hiring, we’re looking at who we would feel comfortable putting with our own parents. That’s the bottom line for us.”
They also try to match the caregivers with the clients to ensure compatibility and comfort. But the personal touch is always there because the company is a small, family-owned business, Linda Senn said. Although the company has grown considerably since it opened, the plan is not to let it get so big that the Senns can’t control the quality.
Something that makes Cascade Companion Care stand out among other caregiver outfits is that they offer more medical care.
“Most franchises are strictly non-medical,” Jon Senn said. “We are able to do nurse delegation where we have a registered nurse come to a home and delegate a task such as wound care, ostomy care or catheters to our certified nurse assistants.”
The company also offers hospice care, dementia care and live-in services. Family caregivers can use Cascade Companion Care to get a break, anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks.
The company’s phones are answered 24 hours. Caregivers can work anywhere from one hour a day to a full 24 hours depending on client needs. Most caregiver organizations have a four-hour minimum requirement in order to make it worth the caregiver’s while to drive to the job.
When the Senns began the business, they also had the standard four-hour minimum but quickly discovered that many potential clients only needed help for an hour or two. They were turning people away, Jon Senn said. So they adjusted their service to accommodate those requests and now are able to meet the needs of a larger client base.
It can be challenging for the Senns to find a qualified caregiver who meets the their strict standards and who is willing, not only to do just an hour’s work, but who also lives close enough to the client.
In fact, staffing is the most challenging part of the business and got more challenging with the passage of Initiative 1163 last January. The law now requires caregivers to have 75 hours of training.
“It used to be we could find excellent people and train them ourselves,” Linda Senn said. “Now our pool of options has significantly decreased.”
Nevertheless, they are pleased with their carefully chosen and well trained staff. The company has about 60 employees, 55 of whom are caregivers in the field. Their service area includes all of Snohomish County, north King County, south Skagit County and Camano Island.
Ultimately, the Senns credit their faith for their success. It provided them with the inspiration to start the business and with the standards to run the service in the way they feel in should be run. It’s all about helping people who need help, they agreed, and the dollar is not the bottom line.
On the Web
Cascade Companion Care is headquartered in Arlington. Learn more at their website, www.cascadecompanioncare.com.