Business of Caring Grows in Moore County
BY TED M. NATT JR.
Laurie Smith did not do any market research before opening Village Caregivers in Southern Pines three months ago because she had run a similar business in Florida for a decade.
"I took two years off after selling my business and got my insurance license, but I just decided to do something I knew instead," Smith says. "Despite the competition here, it seems like there should be enough business to go around here."
The numbers back her up. The 2000 U.S. Census showed that 25 percent of Moore County residents were over the age of 60.
That percentage was estimated at 29 percent this year, and it is projected to grow to 32 percent by 2020.
"I definitely think it's a very growing and very needed industry," Smith says. "People are more aware of the different kinds of caregivers out there."
There are a growing number of businesses in Moore County that care for the elderly at various levels, whether an older individual or couple reside in their home, in an assisted living facility or at one of the many retirement communities in the county.
"There's nothing better than having quality options in a great community like we have here," says Jennifer George, a geriatric care manager for AOS Care Management in Southern Pines.
Patrick Coughlin, president and CEO of the Moore County Chamber of Commerce, is not surprised by the growth over the past decade in the number of companies that serve the elderly.
"I think it's reflective of what is happening in our community," Coughlin says. "Thankfully, we have entrepreneurs and educated people willing to step up and fill that gap in services. They're covering the gamut of not only services, but also the different income levels of the elderly in our community."
Smith, who has been a registered nurse since 1977, worked in hospitals and medical centers for 13 years after graduating from Kent State University.
"In 1990, I got into home health care through Medicare and hospital discharge planning for in-home care," she says.
Smith started her own business, Victorian Nursing Services, in 1998 in Boca Raton, Fla. When she sold it a decade later, she had about 100 clients and $3 million in annual revenue.
"It was all private care," she says." I think 75 percent of our clients had long-term care insurance. The industry is really huge down there."
Smith and her husband, Michel Durand, bought a house in Southern Pines in 2006 because he is an avid golfer, and they fell in love with the area.
"It's really nice down there, don't get me wrong, but it's getting busier and changing," Smith says. "We looked into buying a little business here, but this is all I know how to do."
She is also grooming her son, Brett, 24, to take over one day.
"I grew up in three family businesses," he says. "Caregiving is definitely something I like. It's a feel-good thing helping to take care of people."
George, who has been in the aging industry for almost two decades, can also speak from personal experience. She set up round-the-clock care for her 87-year-old father, John Pollard, so he could remain in his home in Tampa, Fla.
"It's my parallel life," she says. "It's exactly what I help families with up here. It's basically putting a plan together to allow an elderly individual or couple to live as independently as possible after identifying what needs have to be addressed.
"It's a comprehensive way to look at the whole person to develop a plan for them to live safely."
George notes that AOS Care Management is the only private geriatric care management company in Moore County.
"AOS allows people to creatively age wherever they live," she says. "We develop a care plan that includes medical management, bill paying, communicating with distant relatives and dealing with lawyers for end-of-life issues. The marketplace is demanding higher quality care options."
Most caregiving companies, she adds, solely deal with the activities of daily living, such as meal preparation, bathing, dressing, cooking, cleaning and transportation.
So far, the only difference between Florida and North Carolina that Smith can see is that the former state requires caregiving companies to be licensed while the latter does not.
"I was very surprised that you don't have to be licensed by the state here," she says. "I feel like someone should be watching what you're doing. To think that anybody could do it is kind of scary."
Fortunately, all of the -companies that serve the -elderly in Moore County have impressive track records.
"I think there's a really high standard of care in the industry in Moore County," George says. "We also have excellent doctors, medical facilities and retirement -living options here. I totally believe that when we're all doing a good job we make the entire industry look good."
Contact Ted M. Natt Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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