New business will link you to 'homemaker-aides' and other professionals HOWARD COUNTY SENIORS

April 07, 1993|By Dolly Merritt | Dolly Merritt,Contributing Writer

Howard County seniors who need help with household duties and home maintenance can turn to a new referral service in Columbia.

Home Care Connections, which Phelps Luck resident Pat Rausch opened last month, links seniors with people who can provide basic services for them. Ms. Rausch left her job as a national account manager for a computer firm last year to start the home-based company.

In preparation, she interviewed "homemaker-aides" and compiled a roster of 124 people who met her qualifications and live within 45 minutes of Columbia.

The aides will do light housekeeping, cooking, laundry, driving and other chores. She also works from her own referral list of about 50 "subcontractors" -- from roofers and electricians to manicurists and accountants -- who will give seniors discounts on their services.

All the aides are screened, trained and undergo criminal background and reference checks before placement, said Ms. Rausch. The subcontractors must be cleared through the Better Business Bureau and Home Improvement Commission.

Cost to seniors is $100 for the initial enrollment, $10 per day to Home Care Connections, and $7 to $8 per hour paid directly to the worker.

"A lot of the people who contact the office on aging are on fixed incomes and can't afford a private agency. It's not a bad idea if you can afford it," said Barbara Harris, project coordinator for the county Office on Aging. The idea for the business developed out of a three week visit Ms. Rausch paid to an elderly aunt in Alabama several years ago.

During the visit, she began to understand her aunt's fierce need for independence.

"I discovered the kinds of things older people need [help with], such as appliance repairs, yard work and roof leaks," she said.

The next step was convincing her aunt that she needed help. "I know what the customers are going through," she said. "I have had the same experience."

She knew she needed to find a caring person to help her aunt with her daily living.

"I wanted a person who would love and care for her," she said.

The problem was solved when she was referred to two homemakers who lived nearby. She contacted them, and the women agreed to an arrangement involving a series of basic jobs each week.

"It has worked out perfectly," Ms. Rausch said.

Now she wants to provide the same services for others.

Seniors interested in Home Care Connections' services will be visited by Ms. Rausch and Anne Fitzpatrick, a registered nurse with a background in case management, home health and gerontology.

Her job is to assess the progress and needs of each client with monthly or quarterly follow-up visits. During the initial interview, seniors answer questions about themselves and their needs.

"We also evaluate personality types in both the care givers and clients," she said. "We are trying to look for skills, personalities and the distances the workers are able to drive."

The information is recorded in a computer database, which provides possibilities for the right match between client and care giver, and Ms. Rausch gives the client a list of referrals.

The client takes it from there, interviewing and choosing their own worker. Once a senior is on file -- or if he or she needs immediate help -- service can be as quick as the same day.

Mrs. Rausch says she would like to make more services available and is still stocking her roster of homemaker-aides.

For information about Home Care Connections, call 730-0131.

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