When Marilyn Oswald’s mother was battling cancer not long ago, the family turned to professional caregivers to help tend to her needs and ease some of the family’s challenges. Partially because of that experience, she and her husband Rob Oswald recently opened a new service on Vashon and the Kitsap Peninsula that provides home care for seniors and adults with disabilities.
The business, called Visiting Angels, employs 15 home-care workers who provide a range of services tailored to fit clients’ needs — including meal planning and preparation, help with bathing, light housekeeping, transportation to appointments and companionship. The support can range from a few hours of assistance a week to full-time, live-in care.
The Oswalds began serving the Kitsap Peninsula in January and have an office in Port Orchard. They expanded to Vashon this month.
“This is our home, and we’re part of the community,” Marilyn said. “We’re excited to start serving our Island.”
The venture is a new direction for the couple, who had been looking for a business they could work in together. Rob, formerly an environmental management consultant, now runs an IT consulting business from their Wax Orchard home in addition to his work with their new company. Marilyn has held a variety of jobs on Vashon, from gym teacher to working at Bob’s Bakery. Parents of three children, they are also well known to many in Vashon’s soccer community.
Currently, Visiting Angels is the only home care business on the Island. Last fall, governmental budget cuts closed a free home care program for seniors that the Vashon Health Center administered for more than 20 years. A new community effort called Neighbor to Neighbor, which organizers hope will help meet the needs of Island seniors, is not in place yet; it will likely launch next spring, according to Emma Amiad, one of the group’s organizers. At the Vashon Health Center, nurse Susan Pitiger maintains what she calls a “courtesy list” of private caregivers, but does not vet the list or recommend individuals on it.
At the Vashon Senior Center, director Willow Eaton said she sees a definite need for such a service to help people “age in place.” While many seniors do not talk about the more private aspects of needing care, they do talk about the less personal, she said, such as difficulty going to the grocery store and finding transportation to doctors’ appointments.
“I know there are seniors living on the edge, trying to hang on to their homes and finding it a challenge,” she said.
Helping people to remain as independent as possible is one of Visiting Angels’ goals, Rob said, noting that the recession is also playing a role for many seniors.
“In this economy, more and more seniors are reluctant to move,” he said. “We can provide a much more economically feasible alternative and allow them to stay in their homes.”
The services they offer are helpful for people facing a wide variety of challenges, they said, including Alzheimer’s Disease. The illness takes a heavy toll on families, they noted, and they are developing a team of caregivers who specialize in working with people with the disease and their families.
Also important is that they provide for clear communication among all parties involved in caring for a client, they said: family members, primary care doctors, specialists and visiting nurses.
“Our goals is to really bring the various groups that are caring for our clients together to bring a continuity of care,” Rob said.
The Oswalds say they run extensive background checks on all of their employees and place assistants carefully.
“We really work on pairing up good personality matches,” Marilyn said.
Currently, health insurance companies do not cover the cost of this type of care, though long-term care insurance does. As a result, many clients and their families pay for the services directly. Marilyn stressed that home care is not just for wealthy families, however, and is much cheaper than moving to a care facility.
Visiting Angels is a nationwide company with 425 offices, all individually owned. The Oswalds are pleased to be part of this franchise, they said, as the company has high standards and provides valuable assistance. But they also note the business very much belongs to them.
“It’s ours,” Marilyn said. “We have a huge vested interest in making sure our clients are satisfied.”
For more information, call the Oswalds at 408-7433, email firstname.lastname@example.org or see www.visitingangels.com.