In the mid-1990s, when brothers Brian and David Krett Jr. were faced with finding suitable live-in care for their ailing grandmother, they made an unpleasant discovery: There was no such care available.
“There were absolutely no agencies that did live-in care then,” said David, who serves as CEO of the business the brothers started to fill the void,Family Care Plus. “Some did visits on an hourly basis, but none did live-in care.”
“She’d had a massive stroke, and was at the point where she wasn’t going to get any better,” added Brian, whose title is Member, Family Care Plus. “The family agreed that she should be home. We ended up going out, doing interviews, and hiring and firing to finally get her what she, and the family, needed.
“It’s really critical to be able to help people in their own homes,” he continued. “What we found years ago was caregivers lacking experience, who didn’t have the right background as to what to do. Sometimes they just didn’t show up.”
With backgrounds in health care — they’d both taken pre-med courses in college — and older brother David’s experience in the corporate world, the Krett brothers harnessed their entrepreneurial spirits and in 1997 started Family Care Plus. Based in Stratford, the agency, which specializes in live-in eldercare, has gone from a small office of about 200 square feet above a Baskin-Robbins to its current 8,000-square-feet office at 2573 Main St., as well as offices in New York City and Boston.
Dealing with what is usually a once- or twice-in-a-lifetime experience for most people looking for onsite care for their aging and/or ailing parents can be traumatic, they noted.
“Just about everyone thinks of mom and dad as invincible,” David said, “so it can be a shock when they get ill. A lot of folks go into denial, or crisis mode.”
“A lot of people say, ‘I don’t know what to do with Mom and Dad, and I don’t want to have to put them in an assisted living facility or nursing home’,” Brian added. “They don’t realize there’s another option out there. We provide one-on-one care — at a nursing home or assisted living facility, that ratio is usually 10 to 1 or even 20 to 1.”
Employing some 500 people, including administrative staff and a pool of caregivers, Family Care Plus has extended operations to Massachusetts and Vermont.
“We don’t really need a lot of office space,” David noted. “Most of our staff are in patients’ homes.”
Prospective Family Care Plus caregivers go through a rigorous training program. Applicants usually have some kind of background and experience in the industry; often they are a certified nursing assistant, home health aide, or patient care assistant. In addition to background checks on both state and national levels and drug tests, each is required to take an electronic personality test.
“We have to make sure they’re psychologically ready to do in-home work,” David explained. “It can be more challenging than a lot of people realize.”
Once cleared, the prospects go through more testing in an orientation process designed to assess their skills before moving on to a test involving a mock-up of a home environment, wherein they are asked to demonstrate such abilities as personal care, meal preparation, light housekeeping and laundry skills.
“Once they’ve passed all that, then there’s dementia training,” David said. “Over 80 percent of our clients have some form of dementia,” and often suffer such additional conditions as diabetes, congestive heart failure, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Field supervisors are assigned to each caregiver upon hiring, and make unannounced visits to client homes.
Family Care Plus also strives to serve its staff, via yoga, meditation and other holistic practices designed to reduce stress. “Living with someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s results in a high burnout type of situation,” David noted. “We want our caregivers to take care of themselves as well.”
The firm’s steady growth over the past two decades has been mostly due to word-of-mouth, the brothers said. “What sets us apart is that our niche is live-in care — that’s all we do,” David said. “And even though the landscape has changed a lot over the past 20 years, we can see another 20 years and further out for the agency.”
Pricing in the three states that Family Care Plus serves stands at $235 per day. “But we try to make ourselves very affordable at every level,” David noted. “We don’t want this to be something that only the super-wealthy can afford.”