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Starting a Senior-Care Biz Catering to seniors is a hot service-biz trend. Get started with the basics and check out these six startup ideas.

Editor's note: This article was excerpted from Howto Start 6 Senior Care Businesses.

Most people start a particular type of business because theyenjoy doing that kind of work, and the typical owner of a seniorservices business is no different. You may find it frustrating thata major portion of your time will be spent on tasks other thandoing work for your clients. In fact, it won't be unusual foryou to have days that are extremely busy and you work very hard,but you don't have interactions with clients.

As a solo operator, expect to spend at least one-fourth of yourtime on general business management and administration, marketing,purchasing and billing. The bigger your business and the moreworkers you have, the more time you'll spend managing theminstead of doing the work yourself. By contrast, the smaller youroperation, the more likely you'll be doing much of the actualwork as well as running the company.

For example, the owner of a small senior concierge or relocationbusiness will typically spend a substantial amount of time workingclosely with clients and coordinating services. Operating a homecare (typically non-medical services) or home health-care businesswill often mean limited client interaction because usually thebusiness owner is responsible for supervising a staff of qualifiedcaregivers who are assigned to clients according to theirneeds.

No matter how small or large your company is, it's criticalthat you not neglect the administrative side. It won't do youmuch good if you do the work but never bother to issue invoices soyou get paid. Poorly maintained records can get you into troublewith the IRS and other government agencies. Slopping purchasingprocedures can mean you run out of important supplies at criticaltimes. And if you aren't marketing on a regular basis--evenwhen you've got all the work you can handle--your business willeventually dry up.

Although you must pay attention to the business side of yourcompany, you can still design an operation that lets you spend mostof your time on tasks you enjoy.

Do You Have What It Takes?

It takes a special type of person to work with seniors."You have to be a people person and have very good judgmentdealing with people and the issues surrounding them," saysAllen Hager, founder of nonmedical home care franchise Right atHome. "Whether you are working with clients, caregivers,family members, or with the professionals who are referring you thebusiness, there is going to be very intense people contact."While many of your clients will be able-bodied and lucid, otherswill suffer from infirmities and varying degrees of dementia. Inaddition to strong management and entrepreneurial skills, if youplan to work directly with seniors, you need:

  • Honesty and integrity. You may be trusted with access toyour clients' homes and sometimes even to their bankaccounts.
  • Patience. Even the sweetest, best-natured client willhave a bad day, and you need sufficient patience to work throughit.
  • Versatility. Often, providing services for seniorsnecessitates wearing more than one hat at a time. Be flexible andwilling to shift gears at a moment's notice.
  • Interpersonal skills. You need to enjoy being aroundseniors and not be bashful about making conversation. At the sametime, you need to be a good listener. Many seniors like toreminisce about earlier times in their lives, and they have sometruly interesting stories to tell.
  • Reliability and punctuality. Your clients willappreciate being able to depend on you to pick them up on time orkeep appointments as promised.
  • Compassion. You need to be able to demonstrateunderstanding and encouragement with seniors whose capacities arefailing.
  • Knowledge. You can be a tremendous asset to your elderlyclients by having information about various services available tosenior citizens, both locally and nationwide.

6 Senior Businesses to Start

Senior day-care center. Today's baby boomersand older Gen Xers face a dual challenge: They're caring fortheir own children, and sometimes grandchildren, as well as caringfor parents. Many people in this sandwich generation desperatelyneed the break a senior adult day-care business provides. Theburden of caring for older family members can be overwhelming, anda place where these seniors can socialize and participate inactivities in a safe, supervised environment is a welcome optionfor stressed caregivers.

Adult day-care centers range from small, individually ownedoperations that offer all the comforts of a close-knit family hometo commercially based businesses that include a wide range ofservices.

There are two types of senior adult day-care centers: social andmedical. Currently, informal social centers are more prevalent.They usually cater to seniors who have a higher level offunctioning, although some clients may be wheelchair-bound,incontinent or need limited assistance with daily activities. Thefocus in this type of setting is more on activities, socialinteraction and meals. A medical day-care facility provides a morecomplex level of care and has a registered nurse on staff who canperform tube feedings, administer medications and oxygen, andprovide other related care.

Typically, these programs operate during the same standardbusiness hours of a traditional child day-care center, which isusually from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Relocation service Many people in the rapidlygrowing 70-and-over population segment are selling their homes infavor of smaller houses or condos, either in traditionalneighborhoods or retirement communities. This is a perfect time tocater to the relocation needs market.

Moving is always stressful, and it can be especially traumaticfor someone who is leaving a home they've been in for decadesthat is full of precious memories. Adding to the challenge is thefact that families are more spread out geographically and notalways available to help with the moving process. Not only is thepacking and cleaning process physically demanding, it also takes anemotional toll. A senior relocation consultant can provide anelement of compassionate objectivity as decisions are made aboutwhat to keep, give away, sell or toss.

As a senior relocation specialist, you can offer a wide range ofservices. It's typical to provide a total turnkey package,which means you'll orchestrate every aspect of the move,including:

  • Assistance with selling the current home
  • Assistance with finding a new residence
  • Assistance with selecting a moving company
  • Sorting and downsizing
  • Estate sales
  • Coordinating movers, utilities, cleaning and other tasks
  • Packing and unpacking

Home care and home health-care services. By 2020,nearly 14 million people in the United States will be over the ageof 85, and 84 percent of them will want to continue living at home.To do that, more than half will need assistance with daily livingactivities.

Seniors and family members of older relatives are looking atalternatives to assisted living and nursing homes. The best optionfor most is home care or home health care, where a professionalcaregiver goes to the home to personally look after a loved one.This may include doing laundry, picking up around the house,reading the newspaper out loud and preparing meals. Most important,this service includes companionship--someone who adds conversationand friendship to the life of an elderly person who is homebound,physically impaired, has difficulty getting around or just may belonely.

Depending on the level of care the client needs, a licensedmedical professional may be required to administer medications,offer rehabilitative therapy or provide other skilled nursingcare.

Concierge service. In the corporate world,concierges are often referred to as personal assistance. Theyperform a wide range of services for clients. A concierge whotargets seniors performs many similar functions with a twist: Theirmission is to enrich the lives of their elderly clients bydelivering services that allow those clients to maintain anindependent, dignified lifestyle as long as possible.

Seniors turn to concierges for things they can't ordon't want to do for themselves. Some of the concierge servicesyou may provide include:

  • Companion/support
  • Administrative assistance
  • Organization of closets, cabinets, basement, attic, garage orfiling system
  • Errand and courier service
  • Mail delivery and pickup (if mailbox isn't atresidence)
  • Grocery shopping
  • Personal shopping
  • Fitness training
  • Computer training and support
  • Daily checkups
  • Reminder services
  • Cleaning services
  • Pet care services
  • Meal preparation

Transportation service. Nondriving seniors oftenrely on family members or neighbors for transportation, but theseresources aren't always available. Many communitytransportation systems, such as public and paratransit (specializedtransportation service for persons who are unable to use regularpublic transportation due to a disability or health-relatedcondition), are not considered senior friendly because many seniorscan't walk to a bus stop, can't easily get into or out of avan, or can't afford a taxi.

Seniors need reliable, comfortable transportation withsensitive, responsible drivers who will wait for them at thedoctor's office, escort them when shopping and running errands,and most important, be where they're supposed to be on time sothe client is not left waiting.

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