The Princes Are Visiting Angels

June 5, 2002
| By Katy Rent |
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GRAND RAPIDS — If home is where the heart is, then the owners of a new business are making sure the area's elderly have their hearts in the right place. David and Patrice Prince opened their Visiting Angel office in Kent County in January and are just beginning to get underway with providing caregivers to clients. The organization, one of 50 franchises of a company started by Jeffrey and Therese Johnson in Maryland, provides non-medical home care as an alternative to nursing homes.

The Visiting Angels philosophy is that the client is in charge of everything. The company will not, for example, dictate what time the client must get up, bathe or eat. Visiting Angels believes it is its job to adapt to the client's schedule and to see that the client remains comfortable in his or her own home.

"We know that it isn't easy to make the decision to invite someone into your home to provide home care. That's why the Visiting Angels personalized screening system is designed to maximize the client's peace of mind. Clients interview in advance any caregiver who is referred to them and only accepts a caregiver that they feel totally comfortable with," said David Prince.

In addition, Prince added that the criminal screening service Visiting Angels uses is the most thorough in the industry.

A great emphasis also is placed on the intangible traits of the caregiver — traits that mean so much in the day-to-day experience of providing home care. "A caring personality, previous experience in private duty home care, a desire to help people and personal experience of caring for a loved one can really make a difference in the quality of care that is provided," Patrice Prince said. "Our caregivers are also wonderful companions to our clients."

Visiting Angels is a natural extension for the Princes, who actually met each other through their concern for the elderly.

"Patrice was caring for my elderly aunt who was struggling with arthritis, in Holland Home, and she was her favorite patient and that was some common ground for us," David Prince said.

Not only common ground in their personal lives but also in their professional lives. David Prince has been involved in fundraising for the last 12 years and has always enjoyed taking care of the elderly. He began with fundraising for Calvin College while attending school there, then moved into various ministries and non-profit groups. Four years ago he became a consultant and recently a deacon of his church.

"Through home visits with the church I found a real joy in caring for the elderly," he said. "I was also the director of development for the Dynamic Youth Ministries, which is the official youth ministry of the Christian Reformed Church … and (I) was interested in helping in people's lives."

Patrice, who has a long background in taking care of the elderly stemming from her work during college at Holland Home, also feels at home assisting the elderly to live independently.

"We felt this was a perfect blend of our skills and also a business that we could do together," said David Prince.

He said the agency will have a blend of employees who are experienced in caring for a loved one, have some nursing training, or who simply love being with people.

Prince said Visiting Angels will match caregivers with care recipients based on the specific needs of the recipient. Factors that may determine a match could be geographic location, relationship, skill level of the caregiver and requests by the family.

"Our primary motive is to help the client stay in their home instead of a nursing home, and make them as comfortable as they can to be. By making correct matches, we think we can accomplish this," said Prince. "So far we have been impressed by the number and level of people that want to provide in-home health care."

In order to assure that this relationship is a working and enjoyable one for the care recipient, the Princes will make monthly visits to the home of the care recipient. David Prince said this will assure everyone that their needs are being met and make for a better future relationship.

"We hope to establish long-term relationships with our clients. But we also understand that needs change, and if the patient's needs change and they are healed or decide it is time to move into a nursing home, we certainly understand and wish them the best and will refer them to the next step," he said.

Referring patients to the next step is another area of the business the Princes hope to develop. They would like to partner with area organizations on a referral basis where if additional or further care were needed by one of Visiting Angel's clients, they would refer them to a partnered organization.

The process would work the other way, too, with hospital and nursing home referrals to Visiting Angels.

A service of this program would include respite care for the families who find hardships in caring for a loved one or are feeling overwhelmed and need support. Prince said Visiting Angels might set up a program or develop a relationship with an organization that could provide the service.

"We want to build a range of services because we think we have a better program than a nursing home because we can provide more services, be there longer because of our low costs and provide excellent caregivers," said Prince

These are all reasons the Princes chose the Visiting Angels franchise and the reasons they look forward to growing it in the West Michigan area. "We have found many intangibles in this business and that is what made it so attractive to us," said David Prince. "It has been proven that when you treat people well you get paid back for it over and over again. We are just glad to be able to provide a great service to the community." 

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