When her Sunday school classmates at Seminary Baptist Church asked Dimple Mooney to travel with them on their annual fall pilgrimage to Ridgecrest in western North Carolina, she almost said no.
Mooney, whose 83-year-old husband, Martin, is homebound, knew how difficult it would be to find a qualified — and affordable — healthcare provider to travel to their home in Seminary, a rural town of 300 located a half hour from Hattiesburg.
After hearing good things about a new business serving the Pine Belt area — Home Instead Senior Care® — she gave them a call and learned the caregivers were fully qualified and that rates were fairly inexpensive. The maximum charge was $13.50 per hour for a three-hour minimum with no extra fees for travel.
"I was so relieved to find them," said Mooney, who, like most seniors in rural areas, lives on a fixed income. "It's so difficult to find anyone to come our way, let alone for a reasonable price."
For the week Mooney was gone, caregiver Audrey Hubbard came into the home for three hours, doing everything from fetching mail from the post office and picking up a blue plate special from the local grocery store deli to feeding the couple's parakeet, Sweetie, and walking their miniature Schnauzer, Fritz. She also checked Martin's vitals and assisted with calls to the VA Medical Center about prescription questions, prepped the coffeepot for the next morning, checked for spills on the floor that might cause an accident, and perhaps more importantly, kept him company.
"It's one thing to find someone willing to do the job, but it's another thing to be pleased with the service, and they did really great work," said Mooney. "I can't tell you what peace of mind that gave me. Now I can think about going out of town again."
Local Home Instead owners Karen Folkes and Terri Stringer met at Jones County Junior College in Ellisville, where both taught nursing courses. They often chatted in the break room about the challenges of aging seniors living at home. After doing some research online, they discovered Home Instead Senior Care, a business dedicated to keeping seniors at home as long as possible. The company — the world's largest nonmedical home care and companionship service for older adults — established its first franchise in 1995 and now has nearly 600 offices in the United States, Canada, Japan, Portugal, Australia and Ireland.
"We were sold," said Folkes.
Stringer, who had worked as a family care provider, wanted to help others in the same situation.
They established Home Instead Senior Care in July 2005, serving the four-county area of Forrest, Lamar, Covington and Jones counties. Hurricane Katrina hit the area hard a month later.
"If we'd started sooner, we would've established ourselves, and people would've known to call us for help after the storm," said Folkes.
Regardless, word about the new service quickly spread. Little more than a year later, the Pine Belt franchise employs nearly 40.
The caregivers assist older adults by providing nonmedical services such as cooking, cleaning, companionship, laundry, medication reminders, errands and shopping. Their services can be arranged for a few hours a week on an as-needed basis or up to 24 hours a day. Longer-term care is available seven days a week, including holidays.
Home Instead Senior Care has an exclusive multi-month caregiving and safety-training program for its caregivers, who are screened, bonded, insured and who have successfully cleared criminal background checks.
"We give special attention to matching caregivers with clients to achieve the utmost compatibility," said Stringer.
Home Instead is part of the $8 billion nonmedical eldercare industry, which shows no signs of weakening.
According to the latest United States Census Bureau report, more than 35 million people in the United States are age 65 and older. By 2011, the baby boomer generation will begin to turn 65 and by 2030, 70 million Americans will be age 65 or older.
According to the National Family Caregivers Association (NFCA), more than one-quarter of the adult population has provided care for a chronically ill, disabled or aged family member or friend during the past year. Many of these Americans are working and raising families while trying to care for elderly family members.
"We're doing our part to help older Americans stay in their homes for as long as possible and provide respite care for overworked family caregivers like Mrs. Mooney," said Folkes.