Boom Predicted For At-Home Care Industry

PHOTO: Synergy HomeCare offers customized in-home care for seniors and those limited by Alzheimers or dementia.
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Aging Baby Boomers present golden opportunities for investors and job seekers alike, say entrepreneurs and labor experts.

Prospects for providers of in-home health care services look especially bright. Such in-home services can include everything from assistance with bathing and grooming, to help getting in and out of bed, to help with housekeeping, meal preparation and laundry.

Although some states, according to in home care-provider Synergy HomeCare, permit aides to administer medication and check vital signs at home, most do not. Ones that do permit it require that medical services be provided under the direction of a nurse or other healthcare practitioner.

By 2020, the ranks of home health and personal care aides will have swelled by more than 1.3 million—a 70 percent increase from 2010, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That compares with a growth rate of 14 percent for the U.S. job market at large.

The BLS's Occupational Outlook Handbook says the median yearly pay for home health and personal care aides is $20,170 ($9.70 an hour). That's less than the rate for other personal care and service workers ($20,420) and well below the median for all occupations ($33,840).

But though the pay may be low, so are the barriers to entry: a starting job requires "less than high school," says the Handbook.

Synergy HomeCare, a private provider of non-medical in-home care, says demand for such services is growing: Every day more than 10,000 Baby Boomers are turning 65, says company CEO Peter Tourian. He describes the field as well suited to anybody sincerely interested in helping elders. For the right personality, flipping grandpa (helping an older person turn over in bed) can be more gratifying vocation than flipping burgers.

Potential franchisees, says Tourian, have to have sympathy, drive, and a net worth of $125,000. They also have to pay a franchise fee of $45,000. Tourian says his current roster of 245 owners includes former lawyers, teachers, engineers and accountants. Kiplinger in 2012 recognized Synergy as one of seven franchise opportunities that combine a relatively low fee plus fast growth. Synergy, says Kiplinger, has grown about 950 percent since 2006.

Getting care at home, Tourian tells ABC News, can be less costly than getting it in a nursing home or other non-home venue. The average Synergy client pays $18,000 a year for 20 hours a week of care. The average annual cost per patient for a year's stay in a nursing home, he says, is $70,000.

How much of the cost for non-medical care at home is covered by government insurance?

Medicare traditionally picks up none. Medicaid picks up some, but only if the provider is certified by Medicaid. The Veterans Administration reimburses vets on a case-by-case. As an example of how much the VA may pay, Tourian says a qualified veteran in Connecticut, aged 65 or older, can be reimbursed for up to $26,000 of in-home costs.

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