Home-based care companies are trying to become one-stop shops for seniors wishing to age in place.
That’s why, when Omaha, Nebraska-based Right at Home’s executives saw a Home Health Care News article highlighting home modification franchise TruBlue Total House Care, they dialed up its president and began working on a partnership.
Cincinnati, Ohio-based TruBlue and Right at Home now have a preferred provider agreement, meaning that TruBlue will recommend its clients in need of home care to Right at Home. Right at Home will, in turn, recommend TruBlue for clients who need house work to age in place comfortably.
Right at Home — a franchise with over 500 U.S. locations — and Right at Home International are wholly owned subsidiaries of RiseMark Brands.
The new partnership will likely increase each company’s client base, executives from both told HHCN. For Right at Home, it will also advance its quest to become a home care organization that does far more than basic home care.
“In that aging journey, we want to be alongside that senior, helping them to navigate all the hurdles and the challenges that they face,” Kerin Zuger, the chief of strategic growth at Right at Home, told HHCN. “For us, that means providing them home care and doing everything that we can from a personal companion and skilled level, but also recognizing what community resources, tools, services and other providers need to come to the table to ensure they stay in the home as long as possible.”
TruBlue specializes in house care, home maintenance and safety modifications for seniors aging in place.
The partnership is launching at every franchise in TruBlue’s network that is within range of a Right at Home agency, so just under 50 locations as of mid-October. In June, TruBlue President Sean Fitzgerald expressed his desire to grow by 400% in the coming year.
The only roadblock to that was awareness. Now, after going into business with Right at Home, that shouldn’t be a problem.
“We feel that this is a key component that’s been missing in aging in place to provide complete peace of mind for families,” Fitzgerald told HHCN. “Combining home care with the maintenance of the home to make sure it is safe and comfortable, that can alleviate a lot of anxieties that families have over their loved ones aging in place.”
Many of TruBlue’s services are designed to cut down fall risk. Falls are the leading cause of both fatal and nonfatal injuries to older Americans, according to AARP.
The company also offers Age Safe America-certified home safety assessments, and its services span from general handyman work within the home to necessary yard work just outside of it.
Now that the program is in place, TruBlue’s expansion plans will be based largely on meeting Right at Home where they are around the country, Fitzgerald said.
Right at Home is excited about the partnership, particularly because it had been looking for one in the home modification arena before they found TruBlue.
“We were definitely seeking something like this out,” Zuger said. “This checks a box for us as we continue to look forward into the future and think about our brand and how we really want to position ourselves relative to all things aging.”
TruBlue will also help Right at Home as it continues to explore Medicare Advantage (MA) and its franchisees pursue plan partnerships. For the franchisees that will benefit, their value proposition will grow due to the TruBlue partnership.
In 2020, at least 44 MA plans offered supplemental benefits focused on “structural home modifications,” according to an analysis from research and consulting firm ATI Advisory. Those plans covered more than 450,000 Medicare beneficiaries.
“It’s just an excellent extension of what Right at Home and our franchisees have been looking to accomplish in terms of that value proposition to our clients and to our families,” Zuger said. “It’s a great marriage of resources and service.”
The vast majority of Americans prefer to age in their own homes, a preference that existed prior to the COVID-19 crisis.
The mental hurdle for family members in the past, however, has been allowing their loved ones to stay at home without constant supervision, which is offered in more facility-based settings.
“One of the reasons why people put somebody into assisted living facilities or nursing homes is because they feel like they’re doing the right thing,” Fitzgerald said. “They’re getting the medical care, and they’re in an environment that is being monitored and is perceived to be safe. But aging in place, it’s healthier. It’s what seniors want, and it’s what they deserve. But I think the missing ingredient has been the home environment itself.”
One of the reasons Fitzgerald got into the home modification business in the first place was due to a family member falling and eventually dying from complications tied to that fall.
That fall risk, with TruBlue’s services and Right at Home’s coinciding care, would have been preventable, he said.
Bringing in new business
Right at Home is confident that it can access seniors earlier in their aging process due to the partnership.
Frequently, TruBlue will enter a client’s home and realize that they could also use home care services based on their condition.
“Let’s say our average senior is 80, but because of the partnership with TruBlue in shared markets, we were able to back that up to 79. That’s a big deal,” Zuger said. “Because we were able to get to that senior a year or two earlier because of this partnership, what does that do long term for that client, in terms of quality of life… as well as from a cost and outcomes standpoint?”
TruBlue, Zuger hopes, will help seniors get home care when they need it, as opposed to after a fall or similar tragedy, which is often the impetus for a home care inquiry. It’s all about getting into the home sooner.
On TruBlue’s end, interest in its services have “exploded” during COVID-19. With its new partnership, more tailwinds are likely ahead.
Helping seniors with their homes is a way to help them and their families while they’re being cared for there, but also after as well, Fitzgerald said.
“When a home is in such bad condition, as it often is, it becomes a big problem for families and the home can lose tremendous value because it wasn’t properly maintained,” Fitzgerald said. “So by doing this, we can create an environment where it’s cheaper for them to age in place, obviously, and then also just help maintain the property. Then when families do have to sell the home, it retains its value versus the opposite, which is what typically happens.”