After a serious injury in 1998 left Dave Eustis of Waterloo unable to care for himself, he needed a lot of help.
Home health care options weren’t as prolific then as they are now, so Eustis’s recovery was managed piecemeal by his wife, his parents, church members and friends and neighbors in town.
Now, nearly 20 years after the injury that laid him up for months, Eustis is bringing a home health care franchise — Right at Home — to the metro-east, managing the franchise out of a Collinsville office he shares with his service dog, a yellow lab named Zeke. He says he wanted to get into the business because he knows firsthand what it’s like to try to manage care when options are limited.
He’s also seen the statistics showing the need for businesses like his because the current system of hospitals, nursing homes and rehab facilities for the injured and elderly can’t handle an ever-increasing stock of Baby Boomers in need of care.
Eustis, who is currently accepting applications for caregivers, said he’ll begin accepting clients Oct. 17. The Collinsville office can be reached at 618-215-6797.
Q: How did you make your way to the metro-east?
A: “I am from upstate New York and after school I worked for a national retailer for about 10 or 12 years. I worked in Connecticut and in Detroit. I came to the St. Louis area in 1993. After that I worked in retail here until I got hurt in 1998, and then I was with (the Heartlands Conservancy) in Mascoutah. I started out as a volunteer and actually became president of the organization. I ran that for 16 years. I think my wife and I hit a threshold in our life where we decided to finish out and one opportunity we had was to invest in a business. I’m going to take that plunge and see how it goes.”
Q: It was that injury in 1998 that eventually led to you getting into this business. What happened?
A: “I went home after work one night and we had just finished building our house. We had an antique 1950 Ford 8N tractor that had a brush hog on the back of it and I ended up underneath the tractor and the brush hog. I got airlifted down to (Saint Louis University Hospital) and had 10 or 12 operations. When they were done doing what they could do there, they put me in rehab. They couldn’t do a lot for me because I wasn’t really ready to rehabilitate, but they couldn’t send me home either. I had to figure out all this care. We ended up getting my parents in from the west coast and they were my companion care. My wife switched her schedule around and was my personal care. Neighbors and people from church were running me to the doctor’s appointments and physical therapy.”
Q: So literally everything that needed to get done, you suddenly needed someone else to do?
A: “I went from fully functioning to not being able to do anything for myself. Usually it’s a different pattern, an end-of-life situation where capacity is gradually tapering down. I went from doing anything I wanted to not able to get myself a glass of water. So that’s extreme. Most of the clients here are elderly.”
Q: How did you feel about going from totally able to not able at all?
A: “I think there may be a blessing in it in that you learn you just have to give up. You just have to ask for assistance because you have no choice. I can see when someone is elderly, losing the privilege to drive or to live by yourself can be harder to give up because you still think you can do it. I had no choice, so that made it easier. It’s a lesson I talk to caregivers about, that they have to understand what someone is going through. You have to be there when they want help, and when they don’t want help, just step out.”
Q: Have you seen a local need for services like Right at Home?
A: “We might have 60,000 people in the metro-east over the age of 65 right now. In 20 years, it’s going to be 120,000 people. That’s why you see a lot of assisted living facilities and continued care facilities being built all over the place. It’s because of those kinds of numbers. People want to stay in their homes, but there are smaller family sizes to support them and they’re farther away. Kids aren’t around to take care of people. Where we used to have one wage earner in a family, you have two people working and it’s darn near impossible for those people to physically take care of somebody without sacrificing their jobs.”
Q: Why did you choose to bring a Right at Home franchise here as opposed to any other?
A: “Right at Home has the size and takes the leadership in this field. They’re doing a study right now with (software company) Clear Care and the Harvard School of Medicine to prove it’s cheaper to care for people in the home before putting them into the overall medical system. So by doing that scientific work and getting the data in order ahead of time, that’s leadership. When you look at their online training program for individual caregivers and overseers, it’s pretty phenomenal. It’s outstanding. Forbes Magazine listed Right at Home as the top franchise out of all categories in that size. That’s great for me from an investment perspective, but for recipient services it means they’re taking care of their clients.”
Q: Is it true that studies looking at the cost of care show bringing caregivers to the patients is cheaper than placing someone into a nursing home or rehab facility?
A: “Yes. It’s less expensive, and we have statistics showing savings in hospital costs and long-term care costs are reduced. If you get in and make sure safety hazards are taken care of, make sure that patients are getting nutrition and taking their medications, their chances of a hospital visit are greatly reduced. The ability to stay in the home is enhanced, and in the long run that saves money. So where I think Right at Home and other companies have worked to build name recognition over the last 20 years, the next 20 are going to be to get this to be a part of Medicare, so Medicare pays a portion of this. All those people aren’t going to fit in the current medical system. There’s going to have to be new ways of doing business.”
Q: It’s rare to have this double whammy of a service that’s been shown to improve quality of life while also being cheaper.
A: “Absolutely. People took out long-term care insurance policies years ago when this wasn’t available, so it wasn’t written into policies. Now you’re seeing it written into policies. You’re going to start to see long-term insurance become a greater provider in this field.”
Q: So do you think back on your accident and think that the business you’re into now would have been really great to have back then?
A: “Absolutely. I can see exactly what I needed at the time and being told at rehab that there was nobody to take care of me. That’s why we got on the phone to my parents and said ‘Don’t know what you’re doing this summer, but you’re coming home to take care of me.’ And we leaned on church to take care of things and find people for rides and all the other things. And the greater community of Waterloo came to my aid.”
Q: Are you optimistic that clients in the metro-east will be happy with what they see from Right at Home?
A: “Absolutely. This is a new industry for me but before we invested in it, we talked to many franchises. Some big, some small. Some new, some more established. The Right at Home template is time-proven and if we follow that, I think we’ll do very well here.”
- Job: Franchise owner, Right at Home
- Outlook: “The home health care industry is poised to expand, big time.”