The U.S. population is growing older. According to the U.S. Census Population Projections, by 2030, one in every five Americans will be of retirement age. By 2034, U.S. Baby Boomers will outnumber children for the first time in history.
“When I owned my sales and marketing company, I saw the demographics changing and really wondered why none of the retailers and providers of products and services were paying attention to the fact that our population was about to change dramatically,” says Jennifer Bauernfeind. “It piqued my curiosity as to how our society was going to take care of our elderly ...”
Five years ago, Bauernfeind became part of a local solution. After reaching out to a group called Comfort Keepers (an organization with about 500 nationwide), she purchased a franchise.
“My grandparents and other seniors in my life were so special to me growing up, that I wanted to be able to have a business that would really make a difference for people like them,” she says.
As its name implies, Comfort Keepers is about keeping comfort. Its mission: Elevating the human spirit.
“It starts when a care coordinator or nurse goes out to a client’s home for a safety assessment [to check their physical safety, general needs and home environment],” Bauernfeind says. “We offer a variety of skills to a variety of clients … some of our caregivers are nurses [who can provide nursing assessments], some are CNAs, some are home health aides and some are companions.”
Simple solutions can include the removal of an area rug or the addition of a shower handle. Complex solutions involve caregivers and caregiving.
“The biggest thing seniors fear is losing their independence and a sense of control over their lives,” says Bauernfeind. “I make sure that my clients know that they are ‘the boss,’ and we are all partners in developing a plan to help them stay at home, safely. We’re not there to change everything they do or do everything for them, but with them ...”
Bauernfeind shares a story of a client couple that wanted to do everything they could to stay in their home. “They were in their late 80s and struggling to get daily things done. I always ask my clients what they wish they could do better or more of or what they miss being able to do on their own. Charlotte said she missed cooking her favorite family recipes the most. Her hands were riddled with arthritis, making basic tasks difficult and painful ... Our caregiver, Mary, who loved to cook, would come in and pick a recipe or two from Charlotte’s collection ... Charlotte and Mary would then spend time together, in the kitchen, making the meal. Charlotte couldn’t do a lot, but she could do little things to help and most importantly, recall the stories behind the recipes. After enjoying the meal with Charlotte’s husband, Jim, leftovers went into the freezer, giving the couple homemade frozen meals for future use.”