By Lou Baldwin
Special to The CS&T
HAVERTOWN – It’s called aging in place. It is assisting the elderly who remain relatively independent in their own homes. Assisted living facilities are often the only solution for those who are frail, but it is a step both the elderly and their families or caregivers would prefer to avoid, if possible.
Consequently, a whole industry has sprung up to provide either medical or non-medical assistance to families that want to keep their elderly loved ones in their homes as long as possible.
One of the leading companies in the field of non-medical assistance is Havertown-based Visiting Angels, which over the last decade or so has spread to 46 states with almost 400 bonded and insured franchisees.
Larry Meigs, the CEO of Visiting Angels, co-founded the company along with Baltimore social worker Jeffrey Johnson, who pioneered the concept in 1991. In addition to all the training needed for startup, franchisees are provided with ongoing updates and seminars to keep abreast in their field.
Johnson had the social service background and skills; Meigs, who had extensive experience in franchise marketing, had the know-how to take Visiting Angels national. Between them, they came up with a product which has served about 200,000 to date – mostly seniors over the age of 75.
Visiting Angels works closely with families and caregivers and sends trained companions to the client’s home for tasks such as hygiene assistance, meal preparation, light housekeeping, errands and shopping and companionship.
Clients, or more usually their caregivers, contract for a specific number of hours per week, typically a minimum of 20 or so, but service can be provided from respite care to around-the-clock. Because it is not an institutional setting, home care is strictly at the client’s schedule.
The agency does not dictate when a client should rise or eat; in fact, it considers its task to adjust to a client’s wishes.
“The system Jeffery established in Baltimore was a very personalized service system and building strong relationships with clients and caregivers,” Meigs said. “Generally, people stay with us. We’ve had some clients for years.”
Obviously, such personalized service can be expensive, just like nursing home care, but people are willing to do it because they want to keep their loved ones in their homes. “They would be willing to do it even if it was more expensive,” Meigs said.
A member of Presentation B.V.M. Parish, Wynnewood, he and his wife, Gina, both teach CCD. They have two sons, Robert, who attends Archbishop Carroll High School, and Calvin, who attends Regina Angelorum Academy.
Part of Meigs’ reason for teaming up with Johnson at Visiting Angels was personal experience.
“When my dad was sick with Parkinson’s, I was looking into home care and there wasn’t any,” he said.
In any case, Meigs, who also owns a local franchise of Visiting Angels credits Catholic advertising along with a good business model for their success.
“We’ve been advertising in The Catholic Standard & Times from the very beginning,” he said.
For further information concerning Visiting Angels, visit www.visitingangels.com or call 800-365-4189.
Lou Baldwin is a member of St. Leo Parish and a freelance writer.