When Michael and Ewelina Steinberg say flexibility is the key to the in-home care business, they mean it.
One client, a 28-year-old medical student, hired them to rouse her from sleep at 3 a.m., pack her lunch and otherwise get her ready each day.
But as the name of their business suggests, the vast majority of the couple’s clients are elderly people who need help with daily tasks to continue living in their homes.
"We’re basically a business of helping people age in place," Michael said.
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The Steinbergs opened a Wichita franchise of Home Instead Senior Care in March 2011. Home Instead is the world’s largest provider of non-medical in-home care, with about 950 independently owned franchises in 17 countries.
The Steinbergs met in Chicago, where both were working for a Home Instead franchise and earning master’s degrees – Michael in human resources and Ewelina in psychology.
“Ewelina understands more about what our clients want, and I know what it takes to hire great people,” Michael said.
The franchise employs about 50 full- and part-time caregivers, who offer services such as companionship, transportation, meal preparation, medication reminders, light housekeeping, personal care and Alzheimer’s and dementia care.
Michael said he evaluates potential employees for three weeks before hiring them, and Ewelina said their training is ongoing.
Employees tend to be people seeking flexibility in their work schedules, such as college students, homemakers and retirees.
As for the clients, about a third of them live in retirement communities and the rest reside in their own homes. Clients typically pay $17 to $19 an hour, depending on the kinds of services needed, with a discount for round-the-clock care. Most clients work with one or two caregivers.
“It’s a one-on-one relationship,” Michael said.
The average client receives about 33 hours of care a week, Michael said, but there are lots of variations. In some cases, Home Instead offers a few hours a week of respite to family members who are caring for an elderly family member. Accompanying an elderly relative to a family wedding or other event is a popular service.
The Steinbergs attribute the franchise’s quick growth to Home Instead’s reputation and marketing efforts, particularly in social media.
The most meaningful thing Home Instead can do, Ewelina said, is allow somebody to remain in familiar surroundings – “so they don’t have to cram their life into a tiny little room.”
As for their own new surroundings, Michael said he and his wife were too busy with work and school to take full advantage of Chicago anyway. They like Wichita, except for one thing, Michael said.
“I promised her (Ewelina) good weather all the time.”