Bickford Senior Living is stepping into the home-based care space with the launch of Bickford Home Care. To pull this off, the senior living operator has teamed up with the HomeCare Advocacy Network (HCAN).
Founded in 1992, Olathe, Kansas-based Bickford Senior Living provides care for more than 3,000 residents in 65 locations.
Meanwhile, HCAN is an Omaha, Nebraska-based franchise group for senior living providers.
The company, which operates with white-labeling approach to business, helps senior living providers enter the home care industry. The company also helps senior living providers with licensing to operate as independently owned and operated franchises.
The expansion into home-based care comes as the senior living world reevaluates traditional models built around congregate care. Sometimes, operators go into home care thinking it’ll be a walk in the park, but that’s hardly the case, according to Alan Fairbanks, executive vice president of operations at Bickford Senior Living.
“Providing services like assisted living and memory care is extremely hard,” Fairbanks told Home Health Care News. “I think, sometimes, [senior living operators] step into the home care space thinking that’s going to be easier.”
Bickford Home Care will mostly offer private-pay personal care services. Examples include housekeeping, cooking and dementia care services, plus companionship support and transportation assistance.
The home care company will initially operate through two Chicago locations and one in the Cedar Rapids-Iowa City area. It will likewise launch with a location in the Muscatine-Quad Cities market.
Under the partnership, HCAN will provide training, structure and systems to support Bickford Home Care. On its end, Bickford Home Care will be tasked with staffing its own operations — often the most difficult aspect of running a home-based care business.
In launching Bickford Home Care, it was important to team up with an organization as seasoned as HCAN, Fairbanks explained.
“They have a lot of experience in home care and, in my opinion, I think that’s what senior living operators need,” he said. “A lot of operators have attempted to do this, and it hasn’t always gone well for them.”
Among the things it brings to the table, HCAN provides ongoing business support, startup assistant and coaching services. The network is led by President and CEO Mark Goetz, who previously worked as an executive at Frederick, Maryland-based senior living nonprofit Asbury Communities.
“[Our services help] eliminate the decisionmaking that could lead to failure,” Goetz told HHCN. “[Decisionmaking that] has led to failure when organizations have tried to do this ‘on their own.’”
Within the first year, HCAN provides clients anywhere from 15 to 20 days of direct, hands-on support, through franchise training, operational visits and “train-the-trainer” sessions, which help companies launch caregiver training classes that take place within their home care businesses.
HCAN franchisees pay a one-time franchise fee of $45,000, which covers some of the business’s sales costs and initial operating costs, Goetz told Senior Housing News. The organization also takes a 7% royalty fee on growth beyond the initial business.
As far as the decisions that lead to failure, common mistakes include inappropriate pricing and wages, according to Goetz. Other mistakes include going with the wrong systems and a general lack of leadership support.
Additionally, senior living providers can sometimes underestimate how difficult it is to operate a home care business.
“I don’t think it’s easier,” Fairbanks said. “I think anytime you’re dealing with providing care to seniors, that’s a hard business.”
With this in mind, Fairbanks advises senior living providers to conduct the appropriate amount of market research in order to identify what makes sense for their business.
To ensure success, Fairbanks has begun shifting much of his day-to-day focus away from the operations of Bickford Senior Living and onto Bickford Home Care.
For Bickford Senior Living, the launch of Bickford Home Care was a natural progression of the business.
“It just feels like it really fits well, within the ecosystem of what we’re doing,” Fairbanks said. “We’re getting in a relationship with individuals earlier in the process. Our goal of Bickford Home Care is to keep them at home, but if there comes a time where they need other services, we’re already in a relationship with them. We are able to help them make the best decision possible, as to what that next step may be.”
The launch of Bickford Home Care falls in line with broader trends HCAN is seeing in the senior living industry.
“The senior living world is seeming to be waking up to home care and that they need to do something so they’re not flat-footed,” Goetz said. “There’s a hunger in the industry to do home care services successfully — and not just assigning home care duties to someone on their team, but actually running it as a competitive, local home care agency.”
Many operators have started to prioritize home care as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet a large portion had been doing so for years, research from aging-focused advocacy organization LeadingAge and Ziegler Healthcare Investment Banking suggests.
In fact, more than half of the U.S.’s largest nonprofit senior living organizations offer some sort of home- and community-based services (HCBS), according to their LZ 200 list. Non-medical home care is typically the most common (HCBS) offering, though senior living operators are starting to provide home health, adult day and CCRC-at-home services more frequently as well.
In light of the COVID-19 emergency, Goetz believes that senior living providers have an opportunity to have greater agency when it comes to their business.
“We give a lot of credit to Bickford,” he said. “Their vision meshed with ours. Their mindset was, ‘Let’s quit worrying about how, if we launch home care services, our occupancy will be affected,’” he said. “There are already 50 home care providers in the marketplace. They’re competing with you for occupancy now, so why not have your own [agency] and be more in control of your own continuum of care for current and future residents?”
Currently, HCAN is working with five other senior living providers to launch home care business lines.
As for Bickford Home Care, the company is officially slated to begin providing services in July.