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Home care industry grows to accommodate aging population

CDS Life Transitions has grown from 576 employees to nearly 800 employees over the past year.

CDS Life Transitions has grown from 576 employees to nearly 800 employees over the past year.

Every day 10,000 baby boomers celebrate their 65th birthday. It’s been this way since 2011 and it will continue through 2029, until the last baby boomer reaches this milestone.

Baby boomers represent individuals born between mid-1946 and mid-1964, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. This spike in birth rates followed the ending of World War II. As the population grows older, home care agencies must respond to the growing need for health care in the home.

Most seniors prefer to live at home rather than move into an institution such as an assisted living facility or nursing home. But many seniors cannot live independently. In fact, the number of people in the United States who need help with daily activities while living at home is expected to rise to 27 million by 2050.

As a result, the home care industry is expanding to accommodate the needs of an aging society. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the projected growth of employment from 2016-2026 for home health aides and personal care aides is 41 percent. That’s nearly six times the average rate of growth for all occupations (7 percent).

It is not just the elderly who require assistance with their living situations. Many disabled individuals living at home or in a group home setting require the help of caregivers. Founded in 1977 as Continuing Developmental Services, CDS Life Transitions is one such local company that offers support, care and affordable housing for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, veterans and seniors 55 and older.

Over the past year, CDS saw immense growth from 576 employees to nearly 800 employees.

“The biggest strategy in terms of growth was looking at the large population centers in Upstate New York and make sure that we had a strong network and presence there,” CEO Sankar Sewnauth said. “(Our growth) was really organic; it didn’t seem like it was hitting us and we were unprepared.”

Sewnauth credits iCircle, one of the newer divisions of CDS Life Transitions, as a driving force behind the company’s growth. ICircle offers health and social services to people with chronic illnesses and was created in anticipation of upcoming changes to managed long-term care in New York. ICircle Care is a Medicaid-managed long-term care plan (MLTC) that spans 22 counties in Upstate New York.

“The state is now moving in the direction (of managed care), so in the interim they’ve created these care coordination organizations,” Sewnauth said. “To move to managed care they said they want people who receive care management from CDS and from other nonprofits in the area, they want all of those care managers to be removed from those organizations and placed in a brand new separate organization to create an arms-length relationship between the care management organization and the provider.”

ICircle puts CDS ahead of the game. Right now iCircle Care serves the mainstream population, but Sewnauth says CDS is working on obtaining a Medicare and a Medicaid license in order to provide services to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Sewnauth expects to have the Medicare license within two years and the Medicaid license within a year.

“We’ve seen enrollment naturally increase month to month, and on average we were adding one care manager a month, and then that grew,” Sewnauth said. “It got to a point where we really had to step up the hiring, and it became a challenge to find qualified care managers in this area.”

Mike Wegman, CFO of Angels in Your Home, is also keeping a close eye on changes in the health care system. Angels in Your Home is a licensed home care services agency that is present in nine counties in Upstate New York.

“We try to be strict with compliance, and we’re constantly watching to see what changes are coming to the different systems, whether it be the federal Medicare system or the local Medicaid system,” Wegman said. “We’re always watching for the next trend.”

Similar to CDS, Angels saw growth in the organization with the addition of over 400 employees in the past year. Wegman says the company—which now has over 1,600 staff members—has been steadily adding 300 to 400 employees per year since 2013.

“For us, the industry is a minimum wage industry and we’ve always paid our employees above minimum wage,” he said. “We also offer benefits, insurance, overtime, vacation and paid time off, so that’s what we’ve done that a lot of our competitors don’t do. We’ve always chosen to pay our aides more to retain them.”

According to Wegman, servicing nine counties is not enough for Angels. Over the next year, the company seeks to expand into four or five new counties.

“Our target market is still Western New York,” he said. “We’re Rochester-based, but we’re going to be looking at expansion in both the Syracuse and Buffalo markets.”

Companion Care of Rochester opened an office in Buffalo just a couple of years ago, and this expansion has been a crucial player in the company’s growth with over 200 new hires this past year, putting the company at 773 employees. COO Chris Gauvin says the company is aiming for a similar growth trajectory this year.

In order to stimulate growth within the organization, Gauvin says that the company has implemented a more regionally focused business structure.

“We have teams that are dedicated to certain geographic areas to try to be both a big agency and a small agency at the same time,” he said. “We just named an administrator for the Buffalo and Batavia offices, so she’s going to be very focused on growing that area. This way, the Rochester office can be focused on what’s happening here in Rochester.”

Gauvin also noted an increased need of services throughout the Western New York region, and substantial growth is expected to continue over the next decade as the baby boomer generation ages.

“We’ve been doing our best to try to keep our organization at a size that’s going to be able to handle what the community’s needs are,” Gauvin said.

Nsheldon@bridgetowermedia.com / (585) 363-7031

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