Becky Bigelow and Bobbie Ray, owners of Absolute Homecare, visit with a potential patient Carie Roman-Darling, in their staff training room.
Becky Bigelow and Bobbie Ray, owners of Absolute Homecare, visit with a potential patient Carie Roman-Darling, in their staff training room.

By Sue Moore

When people need home care, it’s usually an immediate need, say owners of Absolute Homecare service in Portage. “We get lots of calls after weekends and holidays, because families get together then, and realize that mom or dad need more attention than they can give them during the work week,” said co-owner Becky Bigelow.

“On the phone, mom sounds just fine,” she added. “She is likely afraid to give up her independence, so she doesn’t want her kids to know she needs help. Another feeling the senior can experience is not wanting anybody in her home as maybe the caregiver will talk about her.

“This is an aging generation that took care of themselves. As adults they didn’t rely on help. Now they need it but don’t want to be a burden on their children. The family should be able to come and visit and not have to clean the toilets. Let the family be family when they come to visit.” Bigelow added.

Another kind of call, according to Bobbie Ray, the other partner in the business, sounds like this: “Mom just moved in with me. I’m afraid she will set the house on fire while I’m at work. I need help!”

“We go out to the home and make an assessment of the needs. It could be socialization, companionship, or, more seriously, getting out of bed in the morning, getting dressed or some meal preparation. All of this can change at any time and we are flexible in planning the patient’s care,” Ray said.

It’s good if families can start talking about health care early on, Bigelow cautioned. “Here’s the information when you might need it. What are your wishes?” the two agreed. Long term care insurance is recommended. “It’s expensive but so is private care when it gets to be long term,” Ray said. “In the 1970s, this type of policy usually covered facility care. The pendulum has changed to home care, with the goal to keep people in their home as long as possible,” Ray said.

The women declare they love their job. “We love to go to work,” Ray said. “We see such a great group of diverse people every day. We never go home mad at each other,” even though they have been in the business together for over ten years.

Bigelow came to Kalamazoo 26 years ago by way of Minneapolis and LaCrosse, Wis. She married a policeman who took a job in Kalamazoo. She had worked at the Mayo Clinic and been in health care all her working years. Ray studied and worked in the finance and hospitality industries, then as a paralegal, while raising her family in Schoolcraft. Ray now lives in rural Mendon. She has done marketing for physicians, medical staffing, and been an administrator at an assisted living facility. The women hire a staff nurse along with three full time employees and lots of part-time people who are hands-on operators.

Home care is not licensed in Michigan and thus they cannot give medications. They don’t accept Medicaid and Medicare because it doesn’t cover services they provide. They are not equipped to offer skilled care such as physical therapy or occupational therapy. Their role is to provide custodial care as it relates to the activities of daily living, they said.

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