Just a few short years ago, home care for the elderly was a personal matter that a family handled privately. In many cases, the only reasonable option was to take advantage of long-term care housing or rest homes, even if the elderly person in question preferred to stay in their house.
However, as the demographics in the United States have skewed older for several reasons, and the opportunity to continue to live with some measure of independence becomes attainable to a greater number of seniors, we’re seeing the elderly care industry flourish with nearly 60 national franchise options and countless private companies offering various forms of in-home elder care across the country.
- The portion of the world population over the age of 60 is expected to triple over the next 35 years to a high of two billion with 112 million residing in the US.
- Continual improvements in medical care, increased common understanding of geriatric health, and the improved standard of living of seniors in the 21st century has led to dramatic increases in both lifespan and quality of life into old age.
- There are currently nearly 60 franchise operations offering either medical or non-medical home care in the United States today and hundreds of private companies.
Why is home care such a booming business right now?
There are a number of factors that have combined to make home care one of the most popular and lucrative franchising options available today:
- A larger aging population: As Baby Boomers head into their sunset years, they are making up the largest elderly population spikes the country has ever seen. To put this in perspective, in 1910 there were just over 6.2 million American citizens over the age of 60, or about 6.8% of the population. In 2010, that number had risen to nearly 57 million, or about 18% of the population. By 2050, those numbers are projected to be 112 million and 25%.
- A healthier aging population: In addition to their sheer numbers, the Baby Boomer generation and the generations immediately following have benefited from incredible medical advances that have controlled or eliminated diseases and handicaps that limited both lifespan and quality of life for their parents and grandparents. They are also far more knowledgeable about their own health and more likely to be taking an active role in improving their diet, exercise, and cognitive health plans.
- A wealthier aging population: On the whole, the Baby Boomers and their children are also in a much better position financially than previous generations as they reach their twilight years. This allows them to more readily take advantage of needed medical help and to remain active and engaged in life to a greater extent than previous generations have been able to.
For all these reasons, senior citizens are generally healthier, happier, and more active than their counterparts from decades ago. As a result, they are much more willing and able to remain independent later in their life and are less likely to be debilitated by health problems that require long-term residence in a care home facility.
That all being said, it doesn’t mean that these older folks are able to handle all the little details of independent living as well as they could when they were younger. So home care professionals can step in and assist with complementary tasks like:
- Routine housework
- Pet care
- Non-medical personal care
- Companionship and conversation
In some cases, home care companies also provide medical services such as:
- Administering medications
- Drawing blood
- Monitoring durable medical equipment
- Assisting with physical therapy
What does it take to get into the home care business?
As franchises go, the initial cost of startup in the home care business is fairly low. The ten most popular franchises have a median startup cost of just over $100,000 and a breakeven point of 9-12 months. Comparing this to a fast food franchise with over $500,000 in typical startup costs and several years to the breakeven point, home care appears to be an excellent investment.
Although there is already a lot of competition in the market, as we noted above it is also growing by leaps and bounds at the same time, so it is unlikely to reach a saturation point any time soon. That being said, specific geographic locations may be less desirable than others based on how many companies are already operating there and the size of the senior population.
During the first year or so, most home care business owners agreed that they were working 60-80 hour weeks and dealing with serious work/life imbalance issues. Most have reported that this phase faded off slowly but surely as the team grew and the company became more established in the community. However, this is a serious consideration for anyone getting into business as a lifestyle decision.
What other considerations should prospective business owners have in mind?
Although there are plenty of pros and very few cons at this point for the elderly home care market, this is really just on paper.
Professionals involved in the business on a day-to-day basis face an emotional and mental strain that can’t be so easily quantified. While non-medical care professionals will rarely be employed throughout a serious illness, they are working closely every day with people who are nearing the end of their lives. In-home medical care professionals may be witness to much suffering and loss of dignity as the client deals with ongoing health deterioration.
These factors will have an impact on the health and wellness of your employees who work directly with the clients, but also yourself and any support staff as names must be removed from the books due to death or permanent disability.
Home care business owners and workers must be working out of a desire to help the elderly, not simply for profit, which is a perfectly acceptable sole motive in other types of business.