Synergy bringing at-home elderly care to Jonesboro

Peter Tourian used to get calls to his health care staffing company all the time from people looking for home care providers to help with their elderly parents. The problem was, he didn’t have any home care providers to send. As he toured nursing homes and assisted living facilities across Arizona, it didn’t take him long to see that there was a definite need for that type of service. He ran across many seniors who could still be living in their own home — if, that is, they had someone who could come in for a few hours a day to help them — rather than being confined to nursing homes. 

“One elderly female just held my hand and talked to me for about half an hour,” Tourian said. “I asked her why she was here and she said she didn’t want to be a burden to her kids. I asked her if she could stay at home and said ‘well, yes. But they don’t want me. They want me here.’ So I asked her if she had the ability to stay at home and she said she did. All she needed was a little bit of help with maybe planning her meals and help bathing which is where she needed most of the health.” 

Those encounters gave him the idea behind Synergy HomeCare. 

Founded in 2002 in Mesa, Ariz., Synergy HomeCare provides high quality, non-medical home care to anyone in need of assistance. Caregivers are available 24/7 on an hourly, daily, or weekly basis and specialize in home care for seniors, children and adults with disabilities, adults injured on the job, expectant mothers, people recovering from surgery and anyone else who needs help with daily activities. 

“I saw that there was no one assigned to this type of service,” Tourian said. “And with the Baby Boomers coming of age, this is a service that is going to be much needed throughout the country.” 

The company is experiencing rapid growth. Tourian started with 100 caregivers in Mesa and today has over 700 employees just in Arizona. The company started franchising in 2005 and now has 21 facilities in 15 states, including one which recently opened in Rogers and another set to open soon in Fayetteville. Tourian said Synergy also plans to open offices in Conway, Fort Smith, Little Rock, Hot Springs and Jonesboro by the end of 2008. 

“We’re doing very well,” Tourian said. “We already have a lot of interest in Jonesboro. You have quite a population there. It’s definitely going to be there next year.” 

The concept of providing home care isn’t new. But Tourian said it’s a business that is about to explode. Today there are about 34 million Americans who are over age 65 —about 12 percent of the population. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, that number will reach around 76 million in 25 years. As a result, the home health care industry is expected to grow by more than 55 percent between 2002 and 2012. Tourian said surveys indicate that Baby Boomers want to remain at home for as long as they can. Most people only need a little bit of help to stay in their homes, he said. That’s where services like Synergy HomeCare can help. 

The company recruits and trains qualified caregivers who provide home assistance in three areas: 

Companionship: Tourian said staffers help with tasks like grocery lists, arranging appointments, organizing bills, medication reminders or even just providing conversation. 

Homemaking Services: This can include everything from light housekeeping, laundry service, grocery shopping, meal preparation and running errands. 

Personal Care: Staffers assist with personal hygiene, bed positioning, Alzheimer’s care, restroom care, bathing and hair dressing. 

“There are some clients who just want you to sit with them and play cards or watch TV or go for walks,” Tourian said. “Others need help bathing or going to the toilet or specialty type services where you might have to assist them in to bed with a lift. And they also assist with doctors appointments, shopping and errands.” 

Tourian said the service is also not just for seniors. Seniors make up the bulk of their clientele, but they also service workmen’s compensation cases where the person might be 20 or 30 years old, or a child who is disabled and needs someone to be with them all of the time. 

“We customize the home care plan to fit your needs,” Tourian said. “So whether you are a new mother, have children that need home care services, are recovering from an illness or have parents that need home care or simply need companionship at home. We do all of that.” 
Each franchise recruits its own care givers, but Synergy HomeCare requires caregivers to go through a careful screening process, background check and training process before they are ever allowed to enter the home. 

“We provide the support and training,” Tourian said. “Then if the caregiver has experience in a certain area that is compatible, we send the caregiver out to service them.” 

Tourian said the service costs about $16-$17 an hour. Most clients need about 20 hours of care a week, he said. That averages out to around $320 a week or $1280 a month, which is far cheaper than nursing home service would run. 

Michael Stevens, who along with his wife, Michele, opened the Fayetteville location, said they were looking for an opportunity to get in to the health care business and were impressed with Synergy. 

“I did a lot of research on line and ran across an article about their franchise,” Stevens said. “I did some more investigation and we liked what we saw and went out to see them.” 

Synergy HomeCare was ranked #3 by Franchise Business Review’s Franchise 50 Awards and has been recognized by Entrepreneur Magazine as one of the top 500 franchises. It also made MSNBC’s top 10 business list. 

Stevens said he sees a lot of potential for the service in Northwest Arkansas. They are currently in the process of recruiting care providers and hope to open a second location in Fayetteville in the next three to six months. 

“We have had several people wanting to get on board and use our services through referrals and word of mouth,” Stevens said. 

Tourian said he hopes to expand into 300 franchises nationally and eventually overseas. 

“We have a lot of interest in going international in Canada, Australia and Japan,” Tourian said.