An aging population is creating a wealth of business opportunities for home health-care franchise operators
Walt Heaslip is a pretty happening 92-year-old: He makes his own wine, walks two hours a day and is quite the charmer with the ladies.
As a retired police officer, he was even featured in the Toronto Daily Star in 1947 for foiling a counterfeiting plot, and has the article framed on the wall of his Burlington home to this day.
Although he’s still spry and lives with his son and daughter-in-law, the former World War II flight instructor is admittedly getting up there, so he enjoys a bit of company and conversation to stay mentally active, and could always use some help around his basement apartment.
Enter Christopher and Lori Paton. The married duo and high school sweethearts run a franchise in the Oakville and Burlington area called Nurse Next Door Home Healthcare Services, which is right up Heaslip’s alley for his lifestyle needs.
The Patons and their team of caregivers offer seniors everything from simple companionship, errands and housework, to complete medical and health-care assistance – all in the comfort of the client’s home. Heaslip, for instance, is most comfortable sticking to a routine.
He likes to have a good gabfest when he goes for strolls or while eating his usual Subway sandwich at lunch, and sometimes he needs a hand with a bit of laundry and groceries.
“These people are so good to me. They make my life so great,” says the nonagenarian, their longest customer to date since launching the franchise west of Toronto last fall.
Even in a recession, the aging population is creating business opportunities in the home-based health-care sector, especially since plenty of seniors like Heaslip have no interest in spending their twilight years in a nursing home and are determined to remain as independent as possible for as long as they can.
The sector is considered a major growth area ,with 13 per cent of Canadians today over 65. In the next 20 years that figure is expected to nearly double to 25 per cent.
So when Heaslip’s family saw the flyer for the Nurse Next Door service they called right away.
“They changed my life. I was kind of lonely before. My family works long hours,” explains Heaslip.
The service is 24 hours a day, seven days a week in 30 franchise locations across Canada, with several more coming to the Greater Toronto Area this year.
The upbeat Patons certainly never expected to be in the homecare business – let alone driving around in a pink floral Mercedes – at the mid-point of their careers. But when Lori Paton’s mom was diagnosed with cancer just over a year ago, she started to do some investigating that literally changed their lives.
A registered nurse who was working in national sales for a medical device company, Lori started hunting for home care to help out with her mom’s illness and recovery.
“I just wasn’t comfortable with the options out there,” she recalls.
She stumbled upon Nurse Next Door on the Internet but unfortunately it was only available out west at that point. Still, the Patons liked the company’s culture and philosophy, along with the offerings – and noticed that on the website they were looking for franchise partners in Ontario.
At the time Christopher was an automotive engineer with 15 years under his belt at an auto manufacturer.
They decided to go out and meet the company founders in Vancouver early last year and soon quit their jobs, despite tough economic times and the fact that there are hundreds of senior care competitors cropping up across the country.
“We were both turning 40 last year and decided if we were going to make a move, this would be the time and the opportunity to do it,” says Christopher.
They now have 25 clients with varying needs and 39 thoroughly screened caregivers.
“My previous job was challenging and fun, but in this business you can quickly see how you’ve made a difference in people’s lives,” says Christopher, who mainly does the books while his wife is more hands-on being a nurse.
That’s exactly the motivation that company founders John DeHart and Ken Sim had when they decided to launch the first Nurse Next Door in Vancouver in 2001.
While they started franchising only two years ago, Nurse Next Door is now one of Canada’s fastest growing home health-care franchise operations.
The level of care ranges from companion care, personal care and complex care, with the price ranging from $21 to $28 an hour depending on the client’s needs, established by a free consultation.
The service goes right up to palliative care and post-operative care and even includes flat rates for travelling with clients and in-home care.
The service is located in B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia, with seven locations in Ontario including Brampton, Burlington, Mississauga, North York, Oakville, Ottawa and Windsor. The GTA is the next big push in the chain’s growth.
The Patons have been called at all hours to help seniors who have slid off chairs or fallen out of bed.
“The care is on a very personal level,” says 80-year-old Burlington client Jacquie Matte, who has Parkinson’s and is on dialysis.