Jennifer Pearce knows what it’s like when an aging loved one needs help staying in his or her home.
“Seniors want to age in place. They prefer to stay in their home. That’s where they’re comfortable. And finding caregivers to help them with that can be challenging,” said Pearce, whose personal experience has led her to open a business in Peoria specializing in in-home care for senior citizens.
The Dunlap resident plans to open a Right at Home office at 4325 N. Sheridan Road in Peoria in early April. The business will offer in-home companionship and personal care and assistance to seniors and disabled adults.
The Peoria Right at Home office joins more than 500 franchise locations in the United States and seven other countries. Based in Omaha, Neb., Right at Home was founded in 1995 by a former hospital administrator.
Pearce, a Michigan native who graduated from Bradley University in 1998 with a degree in family and consumer science, previously lived in Mexico and Japan with her husband, Jason, who works for Caterpillar.
“Traveling around the world and having grandparents that were aging, it was just really interesting to see how it affected our family dynamic,” Pearce said.
“One grandmother had six kids, and five of them lived in the area. So it was very easy for them to all pitch in and take a shift, and she was able to stay at home for a long time. But my husband’s grandmother just had one daughter, so it was a little more challenging in that respect in that all of the caregiving fell on my mother-in-law,” she noted. “It really opened up my eyes to the huge growing need in communities today.”
Previously, Pearce managed online sales for a catalog company and has worked as a substitute teacher in the Dunlap school district. She also volunteered at an orphanage in Mexico and is active locally with the Easterseals Ladies Auxiliary, United Way, the Junior League, Bradley University and the Peoria Riverfront Museum.
“I’m very involved in the community, and I was ready for a new chapter in my life. I really wanted to own my own business, so I thought about what I was passionate about,” said the mother of 12- and 14-year-old boys. “I felt that Right at Home could help me give back to my community, and it really helps seniors because the population is aging and they need some help.”
Pearce has been interviewing certified nursing assistants, as well as other caregivers who don’t need a medical background but preferably have experience giving care or just a passion for helping the older population.
“I plan to get 10 (employees) in place, and as the need grows I really see myself almost continuously hiring over the next year. My goal would probably be to have 50 caregivers,” she said.
Services will include companionship, socializing, driving clients to activities and wellness and safety, such as meal prep and personalized safety monitoring. “We can offer general help in and around the home, such as grocery shopping, running errands, light housekeeping and doing laundry. So many people have
CNAs will be able to help with activities of daily living, such as bathing, dressing and toileting, she added.
The caregivers will also be able to help clients with medication reminders and with transitional care after a surgery or hospital stay. “Sometimes they just really need someone to help them transition back home and make sure they’re following doctor’s orders,” Pearce said.
Most care will take place at the clients’ homes, but the service will also be offered for people in independent living or assisted living facilities who might need a little extra help.
“Our mission is to improve the quality of life for those we serve,” Pearce said. “We’ll come up with an individual care plan and we’ll monitor that plan to make sure it’s being effectively managed. At any time if they need to make changes, they can do that.”
While managing the business, Pearce said she will may act as a caregiver, as time permits.
“When I look at seniors, these are the people that have paved the way for society today,” Pearce said. “Specifically, I look at my grandparents. I wouldn’t be where I am in life without their guidance and care and love, so I just feel like it’s really important to kind of give back. They spent their best years taking care of us. Now it’s our turn to help take care of them.”
Because she’s lived away from her family, Pearce’s primary role has been to provide respite care to her grandparents to give the main caregivers a break when she could.
“I helped with things like providing companionship and taking them to doctor’s appointments. I felt like it really strengthened that bond we had and gave us a chance to have more in-depth discussions. I found out about how they used to love to go dancing together and different things that made me slow down in life to connect with them,” Pearce said.
Noting that census figures show nearly 17 percent of the population in the Peoria area is 65 and older, Pearce added, “I think there’s a real need for this in Peoria.”
The business will serve Peoria and Tazewell counties with 24/7 care available.
“Whatever the client needs, we’ll figure out a way to put it into place,” Pearce said.
Before the office has even opened, Pearce said three people have inquired about services. “One stopped by when they saw my sign go up, one was word of mouth and another was a lady I met through a networking group,” she said.