Business

Caregivers help seniors, others with their daily chores

By PAT JENKINS

Editor

Kim Sanchez and her father, James Bianchi, have started new careers by combining their work experience from the corporate world with the fast-growing home care industry.

Their market, as owners of a Comfort Keepers franchise based in Federal Way, is primarily senior citizens who donŽ’t need full-time nursing and want to stay in their own homes but need help with preparing meals, running errands, grocery shopping and household chores such as laundry and light housekeeping.

Many people in that position canŽ’t always get the help they need from relatives. Their adult children might have busy schedules with work and kids of their own.

Comfort KeepersŽ’ caregivers can fill the void. TheyŽ’re available 24 hours a day, seven days a week for $16 an hour (minimum of three hours per week).

Ž“Some people,Ž” Sanchez said, Ž“think their only option is a nursing home as they grow older. But if all they need is a little help, they can stay in their own homes.Ž”

Sanchez had some personal experience in home care when she helped take care of her grandmother, who suffered from AlzheimerŽ’s disease before dying.

After Sanchez had a second child, she didnŽ’t want to return to her job as vice president of an organizational consulting firm. At about the same time, Bianchi was laid off from his position as general manager of a construction company. Father and daughter decided to go into business together, researched franchise opportunities and picked Comfort Keepers.

The Dayton, Ohio-based company receives a franchise fee of $13,750, part of franchise startup costs ranging from $20,000 to $30,000. Royalty fees of 3 to 5 percent stem from a descending scale based on revenue.

Franchisees are granted an exclusive territory with a population of 175,000.

Sanchez and Bianchi have the south King County area. Since starting in May, theyŽ’ve signed up 18 clients. Nearly all live in their own homes, a few are in independent-living facilities, and most are 80 or older. But one client was a new mother who needed some help around the house, Sanchez related.

With a goal of 50 clients, the number of caregivers employed by Sanchez and Bianchi ŽÐŽÐ now 10 to 13 ŽÐŽÐ will likely grow. The caregivers, all of them screened and bonded, average 56 years old ŽÐŽÐ an age that generally gives them more in common with clients ŽÐŽÐ and are usually retired, though a few are stay-at-home moms.

The caregivers arenŽ’t licensed medical professionals and arenŽ’t allowed to dispense medication or give injections, but they can check to see that medicine laid out by clientsŽ’ relatives is being taken correctly.

Sanchez said caregivers, including herself, sometimes get emotionally attached to clients through the regular companionship. Ž“You canŽ’t help but become friends.Ž”

Comfort Keepers was launched in March 1998 and, seeing potential for growth, began issuing franchises in August 1999. It now has 204 locations in 39 states and is adding about 12 new franchises per month.

Systemwide sales were about $3.5 in 2000, jumped to $26 million last year and are projected to top $150 million by 2005.

The company (www.comfortkeepers.com) is getting ready to go international, negotiating new ventures in Canada and Australia, a spokeswoman said.

Editor Pat Jenkins can be reached at 925-5565 and editor@fedwaymirror.com

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