Visiting Angels Quality of life for homebound seniors

February 16, 2009
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When Trish Borgdorff bought the local Visiting Angels office in 2003, she liked the fact that the home-care service for seniors provides quality of life care to the elderly before they need services such as Hospice.

“I think for me it became an opportunity to merge some of the things I had learned in previous employment,” said Borgdorff. “I worked in the church and found there were a lot of people with needs and a lot of people that wanted to meet needs, but not a lot of bridges to connect the two.”

She left her work at Sunshine Community Church in 1998 to obtain a master’s degree in social work from Western Michigan University and began working for Three Rivers Hospice.

“It was great,” she said. “I love what Hospice does, but it focuses on quality of life at the end of life. I started really being impressed with why do we wait to focus on quality until people are at the point of sheer exhaustion from fighting the system, insurance battles and treatment and all of that.”

When Borgdorff bought the company, there were six caregivers and roughly eight clients. The company has since taken off.

“We’ve been in over 800 homes now and employed 100 people,” she said. “We want to serve each need well. We don’t want to just grow our business. My philosophy is not to focus on bottom-line business, but to give service provisions. The benefit of that has been the opportunity to grow a good business.”

The local Visiting Angels currently employs 96 people, but Borgdorff said the office is in a constant state of hiring. While people aren’t going to get rich through care-giving, Borgdorff said the flexibility of the scheduling is what attracts many of her employees.

“If I have a caregiver who says ‘I would really like to work, but we go to Florida for the winter,’ I need to be flexible for those three months of the year, so I can benefit from them nine months of the year.”

Other employees might take summers off to spend time with school-age children or travel.

“The flexibility we can provide, I think, is a draw, because that makes us different from other employers.”

Visiting Angels is currently visiting 151 homes. Each typically represents one person. The company uses homes as a measurement instead of people, because rates do not change if another person in that household begins to need care.

“We keep one basic rate,” said Borgdorff. “We have a situation right now where we’ve been caring for the spouse for three years and now he’s just been diagnosed with cancer. We now have two clients in that home, but we don’t change our pricing.”

Borgdorff said part of the reason the company is able to do this is because much of the care needed doesn’t change if the two people are in the same household.

Looking ahead, Borgdorff hopes to help educate the public on care options.

“I have a passion to really build on the education of our community,” she said. “In our culture there’s so much illness and crisis, and people are aging — they don’t know what to navigate until they get there; then they’re faced with big decisions and little time to find the information.”

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