As Economy Continues Downturn, Need For In-Home Care Increases

Over the past 12 months, the economic landscape of the United States has changed significantly. Instead of a steady job market and booming housing statistics, we’re met with news of layoffs and foreclosures on a daily basis. What’s worse, truncated pensions and the erratic stock market have made it even more difficult for the elderly to afford essential living expenses. One bright spot in the current economic storm, however, is the emergence of home care as a viable option for both individuals seeking assistance with their day-to-day tasks and qualified entrepreneurs and caregivers looking to embark upon new careers.

According to a recent study, it costs an average of $76,000 per year for a private room in a nursing home and $36,000 per year for an assisted living facility, daunting figures in general but especially so for someone living on a limited income. In-home non-medical care – where a caregiver provides assistance to individuals in their own homes – is significantly less at an average of $19 per hour and can provide specialized care to each individual client.

Despite the markedly lower fee of home care, cost can still be an issue so one way to combat this is through long-term care insurance. Unlike ordinary insurance, long-term care insurance covers far beyond medical care and nursing care with customized policies that ensure the individual can make their own choices about what specific services they will need. Consider this option early on, like Tom and Sandra Spellman of Houston did. Sandra first heard about this type of insurance in her 30s and later signed up for long-term care insurance as a precaution. Now 61, Sandra suffers from multiple sclerosis and utilizes the benefits of her long-term care insurance every day when a caregiver comes into her home and assists her with the daily activities she cannot complete on her own. Had Sandra not had the foresight to consider long-term care insurance, said Tom, he does not know how they could afford her care today.

The Spellmans aren’t the only ones who have benefited from home care. With the nation’s unemployment rate continuing to rise, more skilled workers are looking for work and they’re finding it in the home care sector. Home care agencies like Synergy HomeCare are finding the quality of their caregiver applicants has increased significantly over the past year. Synergy HomeCare of Michigan – despite being located in the state with the highest unemployment rate – has experienced one of the biggest jumps in clients as well as caregivers. Owners Ron and Nicole Greer have hired 15 new caregivers in the past month alone and have found those individuals seeking employment to have years of relevant experience.

“When we opened for business in August of 2008, we were immediately met with a wealth of qualified applicants but as the economy has continued to deteriorate, the quality of the applicants we’re interviewing has only improved,” said Nicole. “People are becoming much more educated about home care as well. In the past, you either moved in with your children or moved into a nursing home or assisted living facility but now the option to stay in your home – where you are most comfortable – is there. And with this increase in expertise on our staff, our clients know that the person caring for them is the most qualified one to be doing so.”

Home care providers across the nation – especially Synergy HomeCare – are experiencing significant growth this year. For example, Gilbert, Arizona-based Synergy is expanding largely because it does not limit its services to seniors and makes its high-quality, non-medical care available on an hourly, daily, weekly or 24/7 basis, 365 days per year to seniors, the convalescing, adults injured on the job, those recovering from injuries, the disabled and anyone who needs help with daily activities. The company ended 2008 with 50 franchises and expects to add 75 to 100 more locations in 2009 toward its goal of 350 U.S. franchises within the next five years. Currently, 7.6 million people receive care from 83,000 providers in the U.S. according to the National Association for Home Care and Hospice (NAHC) and the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports a growing population of seniors is expected to increase employment in home care by 51 percent between 2006 and 2016. Given these trends, Synergy founder and CEO Peter Tourian is confident industry growth will only continue.

“As more individuals are affected by the economy, there’s been an influx of highly-qualified business people as well as experienced caregivers looking to join the home care industry as it is one of the few segments that’s truly experiencing growth right now,” said Tourian, an active member of the NAHC. “The need for the services we offer is only going to increase as time goes on so by getting involved now, a stable future is all but guaranteed.”