In 2013 Cork primary school teacher Tom Quinlan’s mother Anne was hospitalised in intensive care as a result of COPD, a serious lung disease.
When, thankfully, she pulled through the crisis, the hospital’s discharge co-ordinator gave Tom’s family a choice: either find a place for Anne in a nursing home, or pay for private visiting carers to help her at home.
The family ruled out the nursing home option immediately. "My parents had just celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary, we didn't want to separate them," says Tom.
But they found the cost of a private visiting carer prohibitive. At up to €200 a night and €25 an hour, they simply couldn't afford it.
“You could deal with it short term but if you’ve no other option but to go that route for the long term, I think even the richest family would find it hard,” he admits.
Resourceful as only a primary school teacher can be, he was determined to find a better option for his family.
Having previously set up a successful au pairing agency in Ireland, which specialised in bringing au pairs from Eastern Europe, he had an idea.
With the assistance of a contact there, he found a Polish lady called Lena who came to Cork to care for his mother in October 2013.
“Our carer, Lena took care of my Mum, and stayed with us right up until Mum passed away in April 2014. Lena became part of our family during that time and we still stay in contact with her.” It was a sad time but the family were very happy and relieved that they had found the right solution for them. “It was perfect. Our mum got the best possible care and we kept our parents together, at a cost that was fair and reasonable,” he says.
The whole experience prompted him to set up Affordable Live-in Homecare – ALHomecare for short - to provide that same affordable homecare option to other families.
Stay at home with one-to-one care
He believes that, given a choice, most elderly people want to stay in their own home and not go into a nursing home. “This natural urge or instinct to stay at home actually makes a lot of sense. In fact there is no shortage of research that shows that caring for the elderly at home means that they live longer and healthier lives,” he says.
But in Ireland nursing homes have become a popular choice for many families, supported by the Fair Deal Scheme “which enables elderly people to offset the cost of their nursing home care by agreeing to hand over a significant portion of their assets to the Government when they pass away,” he says.
But “Covid-19 has shattered many people’s confidence in the nursing home solution, leaving families to look at alternatives such as private homecare agencies,” says Tom.
“Some of the leading homecare agencies in Ireland employ thousands of staff and roster their staff to take care of many elderly people in their own home, but at what cost and at what risk? In terms of cost alone, a quick calculation will show that private homecare could easily wind up costing a family up to €2,000 per week” he estimates. “I am confident that our live-in care solution reduces the risk of Covid-19 transmission because the carers each live with just one client, and they are not moving from client to client every day and every week as visiting carers have to do,” he adds.
ALHomecare has placed hundreds of live-in carers around the country in what he believes is a positive, safer and more affordable solution.
A win-win solution
“The family wins because they have their own dedicated and professional carer for their relative,” he explains.
“The family pays their carer directly for their work. This means that the family gets the best possible value for their money. And because the family gives their carer good working conditions - a guaranteed 35 hour work per week, a fair salary and a nice place to live - the carer will be very motivated and committed to providing the family’s elderly relative with the best possible care,” he continues. That all adds up to “a resounding win for the family.”
The carer also wins because she or he has secure employment and good working conditions, he points out. “They normally care for just one person. They have no travel expenses to work each day. They are able to adjust their working day according to their client’s needs while giving themselves time to rest and relax.”
ALHomecare provides its carers with free training, to QQI level 5, as well as ongoing support. So “the carer feels they have the professional development and support they need to be happy and successful in their career,” says Tom.
“The carer can always rely on us to solve any issues that may arise, and we organise a follow-on placement for the carer, if and when required, making this a winning career choice for the carer.”
Trial periods are offered with all placements, giving the family an opportunity to ensure they are happy too, before committing.
High quality care at an affordable price
Families pay an initial placement fee to ALHomecare and after that, the weekly cost starts from €460 euro per week with accommodation and food for the carer included.
“The fact that the carer sleeps in the client’s home up to seven nights per week gives the elderly person and their family great peace of mind and reassurance. The carer can work up to 6 days and 8 hours per day if required and the family pays the carer an overtime rate for their work over 35 hours, which starts at a very reasonable €11 gross per hour.
“The carer does housekeeping, prepares meals, keeps company and provides personal care if required. And because the carer is live-in, the elderly person has the huge benefit of not being alone, day or night, especially during Covid-19 restrictions,” he explains.
ALHomecare’s live-in carers are professional, experienced and dedicated, as well as garda-vetted, reference-checked and provided with ongoing training and support by the agency.
It is, he says, a “win/win” solution for these challenging times.
Watch the ALHomecare story: