Safe at Home
Home Instead Senior Care enriches the lives of seniors and their loved ones
by Maria Martino Evans


Hurricane Irene, the destructive floods from earlier this summer, the worst back-to-back winters in Bucks County history—none of these natural disasters kept care from the more than 70 senior clients served by the Plumsteadville-based office of Home Instead Senior Care, the world’s largest provider of non-medical in-home care for seniors. 


“We have contingency plans for any reason for call-outs,” says Bill Rice, owner and general manager on Home Instead. “From sick kids to car breakdowns to the more dramatic issues like the weather, we will be there. Count on it.”


It is this commitment to service that separates Home Instead from the many agencies and registries that perform home care, according to Pamela Eelman, Home Instead’s director of community relations.


“We constantly raise the bar—we want to be better today than we were yesterday,” she says. “We proudly boast that we’ve never missed a job and we intend to keep it that way.” 

Licensed in the state of Pennsylvania, all potential employees must test negative for tuberculosis and drug use, have a clean criminal background and present with a minimum of six references. These hiring practices far exceed the state mandate. 


Each new hire must successfully complete a four-part training program, with an additional fifth module for Alzheimer’s training. Not all CAREGivers are chosen to take the additional training, however, because it is a special individual who can handle the unique challenges of this illness. An additional requirement of the Plumsteadville office’s hiring process—one not required by the state or by Home Instead’s corporate headquarters—is that all employees reside within a 20-mile radius of the Plumsteadville office.


“We do this for several reasons,” says Ed Rehrig, director of human resources. “We feel an obligation to provide jobs for our neighbors, but more importantly, we know the vulnerable position that seniors find themselves in, allowing a stranger into their home.  It makes it a bit easier if that stranger is a neighbor.”


Nourishing Relationships

“Home Instead is very relationship based, as opposed to task based,” says Eelman.  “Shared geography and history can be the first step in building a relationship. I tell people that just about anyone can make lunch for your mother—that is a task. But a relationship is about having the CAREGiver make your mom’s favorite lunch, sitting and chatting, encouraging her to eat when she might not be hungry. That’s a relationship and it’s the difference between making sure your mom has nutrition and making sure she’s nourished.”


With the many requirements for hiring, the Plumsteadville office hires only 11 percent of those who apply. There are presently about 120 CAREGivers and six office personnel who serve the seniors of Upper and Central Bucks County. All CAREGivers are insured, bonded and provided with liability insurance. Additionally, other requirements for hire include a valid driver’s license, reliable transportation and adequate auto insurance. 


“Not only do we want our employees to have reliable transportation to and from work,” says Rice, “but most of our seniors also enjoy the outings that our CAREGivers can provide.” 


After training, CAREGivers are placed in the home to do as much or as little as necessary to help a senior remain at home, instead of in a nursing home, hospital or long-term care facility: personal care and grooming, incontinence care, light housekeeping, meal preparation, laundry, medication reminders, transportation—anything it takes to allow a senior to be healthy, safe and happy, and to maintain his or her dignity. From as little to a few hours weekly to 24/7 round-the-clock care, Home Instead CAREGivers never lose sight of their focus, and that focus is service.


The Sandwich Generation

Middle-aged women today are facing an issue previously not addressed. While many of our mothers and grandmothers always took care of the elders, those women didn’t have jobs and careers outside the home. Also, most families stayed close together geographically and, lastly, individuals didn’t live as long. 


“This is new terrain,” says Eelman, “and we try to provide a compass.” 


Of the 44 million Americans caring for any aging loved one, nearly 60 percent work full time. Nearly one in every four Americans is caring for an older adult, and the stress can take its toll. According to industry estimates, 91 percent of family caregivers report anxiety and irritability; 73 percent report disturbed sleep patterns; and 56 percent report becoming ill more frequently. Experts in the field of women’s health are finding a huge increase in stress-related illnesses. The website enables locals to take a confidential questionnaire and see how caregiving affects them. 


The phenomenon of adult children caring for aging parents costs American businesses $39 billion annually in lost productivity. This is due to employee absenteeism, workplace interruption, phone calls during work hours, arriving late/leaving early and employees being stressed, tired and lacking enthusiasm. The numbers also take into account the need to replace and retrain employees who leave positions to provide full-time care for their loved ones. It is estimated that American businesses lose $2,441 per caregiving employee each year. Caregiver stress accounts for a 27 percent increase in use of company health-insurance benefits. 


Resistance to Assistance

Because they’re a proud and independent generation, having survived hardships such as World War II and the Great Depression, seniors are often resistant to assistance. They’re afraid that bringing someone in to help will cost them their dignity and make them dependent. In fact, the reverse is true, as even a little bit of help can go a long way. For many elders, declining eyesight, hearing and memory have them withdrawing from society. Fears of falling in the bathroom often have them neglecting their hygiene. Insecurity about driving or the inability to drive, in addition to the lack of public transportation in the area, has them confined to their homes.


“I tell seniors they’ll probably have more freedom and independence than they’ve had in years,” says Eelman. 


Often elders look to their children to provide care without outside assistance, especially among certain ethnicities. This causes stress on many levels. The discomfort around providing personal care for a parent, the time constraints, and in many cases decades of “family baggage” can cause resentment. “We can never take the place of family,” says Eelman, “but we allow adult children to be just that: family. We’ll take care of the work and allow family time to be enjoyable.”


Planning Ahead

“I strongly encourage adult children to be proactive,” says Eelman. “All too often we’re called in after the fall, after the accidental medication overdose, after the auto accident.  At those times it’s hard to think clearly. Do your research when you’re not in crisis mode.” 


Home Instead’s Plumsteadville office has developed the QRS Program, which provides a safety net for seniors. “Our Quick and Rapid Service Program is like an insurance policy,” says Eelman. “A no-cost 15-minute assessment results in a senior becoming an on-call client. If and when we’re needed, we can have someone out to them within two hours. It’s perfect for someone who might be recovering from an illness or hospitalization, require a ride to an appointment or outing, or for those days when one isn’t feeling 100 percent.”


In addition to providing care at a senior’s home, Home Instead’s CAREGivers support the staff of local nursing homes, Alzheimer’s facilities and assisted-living centers, providing seniors the one-on-one care that even the best facilities are not able to. Additionally, they can provide care as needed in a hospital setting, providing extra comfort and care, especially at night. Hospital delirium affects at least one third of patients over 70 and can extend hospital stays or necessitate nursing home care. 


“We want people to know us before they need us,” says Rice. “We take part in all the community activities, we support local charities and give back to the people of this area, and we’re here to serve the community.”


Eelman welcomes locals to call for a no-cost, no-obligation assessment of their loved one’s unique situation. With Home Instead by one’s side, locals can develop a plan of care that will ensure that their loved ones are safe and happy. “It will change your life,” she says.


Home Instead Senior Care

5891 Easton Road (Route 611), Plumsteadville



Maria Martino Evans is a writer based in Pipersville.

Rob Hall is a photographer based in Plumsteadville.