No place like home

Posted: October 24, 2012

The Winchester Star

Jerry Tolley, a physical therapist with BestCare Home Care, works with client Sandy Ryan in her Frederick County home recently. (Photo by Ginger Perry/The Winchester Star)
Jerry Tolley, a physical therapist with BestCare Home Care, assists client Sandy Ryan as she maneuvers a step out her front door. Tolley was working on strength, balance, safety and mobility with Ryan. (Photo by Ginger Perry/The Winchester Star)

WINCHESTER — As the local population ages, the need for senior services continues to rise.

And businesses are working to meet the demand for in-home care.

While Valley Health and Home Instead have offered such services for years, another option is now available for local residents.

BestCare Home Care Inc., which opened in September 2011, aims to deliver professional care as well as other simple assistance around the house.

The Woodbridge, Va.-based company’s decision to open a regional hub in Winchester at 2971 Valley Ave. was based on one major factor: an aging area population.

“There’s definitely a need here,” said Missy Blitch, a BestCare marketing coordinator. “And I think there will continue to be a big need.”

The demographics prove her point.

According to the 2010 U.S. Census, there were 6,520 individuals who are 55 or older in Winchester, constituting 24.9 percent of the population. That was an increase of 1,177 individuals compared to the 2000 census.

Frederick County saw a larger jump, from 12,071 residents who were 55 or older in 2000 to 19,279 in 2010 — making up 24.6 percent of the population.

Ellie Cross, an ombudsman at the Shenandoah Area Agency on Aging, agreed that there’s a need in the Winchester area.

The large majority of seniors prefer to stay in their own home, she said.

BestCare, which currently has 35 staff members, usually cares for the elderly after they have been discharged from a nursing home or hospital, Blitch said.

The company also provides in-home assistance for the disabled or someone recovering from an injury, but the majority of its 110 Winchester location patients are senior citizens, she said.

The company is also formulating plans to launch live-in care for elderly residents who don’t want to move into a nursing home, although no date for such a service has been set.

Valley Health, which operates Winchester Medical Center, also offers home health services and has seen its popularity increase in recent years, according to Patty Klinefelter, director of home health services.

Not only are home services becoming more popular for patients, but Valley Health is focusing on ways to meet patients’ needs and eliminate trips to the emergency room — partly because of Medicare penalties for readmissions that were part of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, Klinefelter said.

Of the 550 in-home patients Valley Health services in the Northern Shenandoah Valley, about 72 percent are 65 or older, Klinefelter said.

Cross said cost should be taken into account when making decisions on in-home care versus assisted living and nursing homes.

But sometimes, it just comes down to what the patient wants, said Cross, who gave a personal example.

She takes care of her 93-year-old aunt, who’s fond of saying, “I was born here and I’m going to die here” about her house.

Cross’s aunt is the type of person BestCare is hoping to reach.

“A lot of folks don’t want to put a loved one in a nursing home,” Blitch said. “We can provide services that can prevent that.”

— Contact Conor Gallagher at cgallagher@winchesterstar.com