Home Care Industry Grows in Mid-Missouri

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Longer lifespans and a desire for comfort are creating growth in the home health care industry, according to caregivers. 

Debbie Critchfield, owner of Home Instead Senior Care, said people are becoming savvier to their options, leading them to stay home rather than having to go to a care center.

"Homecare has really grown over the last five to ten years that we've seen," Critchfield said. "When we started we were really the only home care company that was concentrating on companion homemaker type services. Now there's, in Columbia alone, there's ten to fifteen different companies."

Home care workers are often hired to help senior citizens remain independent in their home. Many have flexible schedules, allowing them work in the daytime, evening, or even overnight to maintain safety and security for clients.

Responsibilities for caregivers include cooking, housekeeping, and running errands. One caregiver said the most important part is spending time together.

"I think the biggest thing though, with this wonderful opportunity as a caregiver is giving them the opportunity for companionship," said Margaret Brownlee. "I think these people enjoy when you walk in the front door, and they see you and you see them and you exchange that wonderful smile."

Twenty-eight percent of all businesses formed in 2012 came from the private household sector, especially in-home care. According to reports from the Missouri Department of Economic Development, at-home caregiving is one of the leading industries in terms of projected growth in Missouri's Central District.

Critchfield said her company began fifteen years ago with only four caregivers. Today, Home Instead has more than one hundred, and is still looking to hire more.

"We are offering and hiring people to combat the unemployment issues that are going on, but I think that again is going to be a bigger challenge as we go on," Critchfield said. "As the baby boomers age, and they become clients, having enough people to take care of them I think is going to be the big challenge."

Critchfield said her biggest challenge is to find quality, compassionate individuals to match with seniors. Caregivers must be trustworthy and have a mutually enjoyable experience with their clients.
Brownlee said the most important qualities for caregivers to possess are patience, compassion, and an overall positive attitude.

Brownlee said caregivers help not only the individual clients, but their families as well. "They know their loved ones are in good hands."

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