Taking care of an elder family member is known to be far beyond an easy task. According to the Center for Disease Control 25% of US adults are currently providing care or assistance to a person with a long-term illness or disability. JoAnn Folsom became part of these statistics when she became her mother’s informal caregiver in 2000.
Folsom soon realized the choices were limited for middle class families who have to pay out-of-pocket for formal caregiving services. Like most people, Folsom began to seek for a sitter through friends and neighbors. The search was not easy. Deciding who to trust while dealing with the guilt of not being able to provide the service herself and the sadness of watching her mother age was enough to spark an idea rooted in preventing others from experiencing the same despair. She founded Companion Sitter Service working out of her home. “I felt as qualified as anybody to start this business. I started small with people I knew and some I recruited from local hospitals and nursing homes,” said Folsom who has a degree in education.
Sixteen year later the business employs about 35 caregivers, most of them certified nurse assistants both male and female. She recently moved her home-based business into a brand new office on Jackson street in downtown Harlingen. Folsom manages all aspects of the business from recruiting staff to matching the staff with families in need of formal caregiving services to completing all required forms. Her husband Wesley (Skipper) Folsom assists her with tax reporting tasks. Throughout the interview, Folsom’s passion for providing high-quality services that are affordable to her clients surfaced. She is adamant about being there to answer questions and listen to concerns from family members. “Being always available is of outmost importance to me. I want to be there for my clients. It is hard to uproot someone from their home of 60 or more years, and I want to help them keep their loved ones home as long and as comfortable as possible. Families across the country depend on us to take care of their families,” said Folsom.
One of the most important aspects of the business is trust. “You have to earn trust. It does not come automatically,” she said. For Folsom knowing employees well, for they all have different personalities and work schedules, and paying attention to the needs of each client is imperative for a satisfactory outcome. “Not everybody has the personality nor the experience to deal with hospice patients. It takes a special person. Others can only work weekends or nights. Each employee is different, and client needs vary,” said Folsom. One thing that keeps her awake at night is providing work for all of her employees. “I know how much they need to work. Some of them are single mothers or have large families and for others this is a second job. I feel responsible for their wellbeing.” Folsom wants to keep her business small and personal even though the industry demand is growing.
An AARP report states that the lifetime probability of becoming disabled in at least two activities of daily living or of being cognitively impaired is 68% for people age 65 and older. The number of people 65 years old and older is expected to double between 2000 and 2030. In 2030, when all baby boomers will be at least 65 years old, the population of adults in this age group is projected to be 71 million people.
Folsom touched on the importance of the approach acknowledging times when elders are not ready to relinquish their independence and controlling the direction of their lives. The transition to assisted living is not always smooth, for accepting the fact that you need to be taken care of is not easy for most folks. But agreeing to having a companion to go shopping or enjoy a visit to a restaurant is a much more welcome option. It is during these transition times when clients reach out to Folsom for guidance. In many ways, Folsom is a pioneer in this business that caters to private pay and long term care insurance clients and which is increasing in popularity and demand. The Valley fares well when it comes to high-quality health care services at affordable rates, and it is a competitive field according to Folsom who seldom advertises her business relying solely on word of mouth recommendations. She does think about the possibility of hiring office staff to manage the growth, but in reality she is a true believer in the personal experience. “If I am faced with this decision, I will probably just sell out the business and retire. But what would I do then?” she concluded.
For appointments please contact JoAnn Folsom at (956) 893-0991