Business lends helping hand to elderly still living on their own

One elderly woman needs help vacuuming. Another can't stand and iron clothes like she used to. A third requires assistance organizing her home after a recent move.

All are clients of a business called A Hand At Home Senior Services, which provides non-medical assistance to elderly customers living in their own homes or apartments.

Owner Lola Pierce said she designed A Hand At Home for people who'd rather not enter traditional nursing homes.

"A lot of them can stay at home if they just have a little bit of help with things they just can't do on their own anymore," Pierce said.

Demographic trends clearly point to an increase in the nation's elderly population, Pierce said. A Hand At Home has attracted 21 clients in less than three months in business, which Pierce called "a pretty good showing."

"I think it's a wide open market right now," she said.

Pierce spent 29 years as a food service director, 16 of them in nursing homes. Her new business is definitely a family affair. Her husband, Larry, her daughter, Mary Price, daughter-in-law, Crystal Pritchett, and granddaughter, Miranda Wadsworth, all work with her.

"We started it basically for the girls to have something to do down the line," Pierce said.

Price and Pritchett are certified nursing aides, while Wadsworth is a certified home health aide.

Lola Pierce said she is hiring only certified health aides because her business may offer medical services in the future.

For now, though, A Hand At Home provides services like housekeeping, cooking and shopping (either with or without the client present). Several customers employ A Hand At Home to come into their home and prepare two to three days' worth of meals at a time. Most of her clients are in independent living homes, a residential niche that appears to be experiencing explosive growth.

Pierce said her business isn't the first of its kind in the area, but she's positioning it as a more affordable alternative. Services cost $12.50 to $14.50 an hour, and customers can contract for as little as one hour at a time. She called that a bargain compared to the daily costs of living in an institutionalized setting.

"We try to keep seniors in their homes as long as possible," Pierce said.