Ethan Keiser saw the difficulty his wife’s grandparents faced when they couldn’t function at home safely or manage the tasks of daily living by themselves anymore. The family was at a loss when it became clear that it was time to find trustworthy,
reliable caregivers and establish a plan of care which included personal care, maintaining the house, preparing food and getting their loved ones to the doctor.
“Caregivers have a really important role in people’s lives,” Ethan said. “I realized that as my parents and their friends got older, we weren’t prepared to deal with the amount of attention and maintenance involved with caring for an older or sick person. And I’m not alone. Every day 10,000 adults are turning 65 and that will continue for the next 20 years.”
Ethan, a Teaneck resident for 45 years, decided the solution would be to create a business that would find and train caregivers, with an additional focus on helping Orthodox seniors. A day trader without contacts in the industry, he brought his idea to David Bersson, a businessman more experienced in growing and managing companies with a large labor force. After extensive research, they bought a SYNERGY HomeCare franchise. SYNERGY HomeCare provided all the training to get them started.
Ethan recalled, “We went to headquarters in Phoenix for a week-long training, and when we returned to Teaneck, our start-up coach was by our side every step of the way.”
The company opened on June 1. Keiser and Bersson are currently recruiting experienced, compassionate caregivers who are dedicated to their patients’ well-being. Caregivers must also understand how to work with clients who are sick or in pain, and can sometimes be gruff. “For every 20 people we interview, we often hire only one, ” said Ethan. “Our goal is for competence and compassion to be the hallmark of SYNERGY HomeCare.”
A thorough evaluation of the client’s needs and personality gives Keiser and Bersson the information necessary to match them with the right caregiver. “Some clients want an outgoing aide who will engage them with lots of conversation; others want someone who is quiet,” said Ethan.
SYNERGY HomeCare understands that timing is also an individual need. Some clients may prefer just mornings, others want evenings and many clients need 24/7 care. SYNERGY HomeCare offers many plans designed to keep people safe and optimize their quality of life, taking into account both the individual’s needs and family concerns.
SYNERGY HomeCare has developed a special focus on training caregivers about the needs of Orthodox Jewish clients. Caregivers who work with Orthodox clients are trained in kashrut and the laws and traditions of Shabbat and Jewish holidays. SYNERGY HomeCare provides superior ongoing training to caregivers about the requirements of clients from different cultures with which they may not be familiar. “We train caregivers for our Jewish community and for all the different ethnic groups in Bergen County,” said Ethan. “Our entire team is professional and fully prepared before they arrive at their client’s home.”
Office manager Sandy Contreras is a team member who started with the agency on day one. With 25 years of experience in the home care industry, Contreras is an expert in screening, hiring and retaining the best caregivers. She is literally a lifesaver for Shomer Shabbat clients. If an aide can’t come on a Shabbat or Yom Tov, she makes sure someone else can, and will go to a client’s home herself if necessary.
Ethan advises people with older parents to monitor them for changes or decline in either their physical or cognitive functioning that might make home care necessary. Perhaps parents are falling, their hygiene is not what it used to be, they are forgetting to pay bills, their refrigerator is empty, or their vehicle has noticeable new dents. He encourages anyone who may have parents who could benefit from help to contact SYNERGY for a complimentary assessment. A HomeCare specialist will evaluate their needs and identify interventions and ways to optimize the situation. Together with the patient, caregiver and a registered nurse, SYNERGY will customize a care plan, focusing on safety and maintaining a meaningful life in a stress-free, manageable, reliable atmosphere. Once SYNERGY HomeCare becomes involved and uses its resources, knowledge and insight to address the particular circumstances of a loved one, the situation often stabilizes as the stress is removed from the equation.
David calls on the expertise of his wife, Sarah Hiller-Bersson, a licensed clinical social worker in geriatrics with 14 years of experience, to facilitate this process.
The SYNERGY HomeCare team approach provides many benefits over hiring an aide privately. Families may not know that when they hire an independent aide, they need insurance as they may be held accountable if something happens to the aide in their, or their parent’s, home. Homeowners’ insurance does not cover laborers. Families are also responsible for paying payroll taxes and worker’s compensation. “Those fees and taxes add up,” David said, “making the cost comparable to hiring through an agency.” Then there is the problem of an aide who is sick or wants to take a vacation. If the person was hired privately, the family often does not have a backup plan. No worries with SYNERGY HomeCare. A backup aide will always be at the client’s home when the regular caregiver cannot be there.
“We understand the help that our clients need and the confidence their families must have in the people providing that help,” said David. “What really differentiates us is that Ethan and I are caring, conscientious people. We have a team that wants to be successful.”
By Bracha Schwartz