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Business brings care to senior clients' doorsteps


Family experience inspires Cedar Hills resident to take on ComForcare franchise

When Ivan Watts and his wife, Nancy, moved from Newport to Cedar Hills, availability of medical care was among the primary motivators.

When their son, Christian, started a Tigard-based franchise for ComForcare Senior Services last spring, they found the service fit perfectly for their particular issues — as well as lifestyles.

“I’m all for the opportunity to hire these people to come into my home, take care of me and make my wife’s burden a lot easier,” says Ivan Watts, who suffers from type 2 diabetes as well as back problems. “I can’t say enough for (the caretakers). For them to put up with people like myself, I do appreciate that.”

Christian Watts, who also lives in Cedar Hills, is a longtime Farmers Insurance agent based in Tigard. He opened what he calls Oregon’s first ComForcare franchise in March. Reflecting the growing number of retired seniors with mild-to-moderate health issues wanting to remain in their homes, the business provides assistance with daily-living needs such as meal preparation, errands and transportation, grooming, light housekeeping and companionship.

In addition to a recession-related drop in his insurance business, Watts, 44, credits the care needs of Ivan as well as his late grandparents with steering him into the field of non-medical, home-based care. As a 20-year-old, Christian helped care for his grandparents, allowing them to spend the rest of their lives on the family farm.

“My grandparents passed away, at (ages) 98 and 95,” he noted. “They made it all way through in their home. The flavor of that was in my blood. I wanted to make a living and feel good about the next stage of my life.”

For a rate of $19.95 per hour — regardless of time of day, weekday or weekend — the state-licensed ComForcare provides seniors an alternative to live-in senior care facilities.

“They can go home,” Watts says. “We see (new clients) well up in tears knowing they don’t have to be sent off to a home.”

Watts chose to form a business partnership with longtime friend Marissa Phillips, who handles all client intakes as ComForcare’s director of operations.

“Marissa was having a tough time as a widowed single mother,” Christian Watts says. “We looked at the resources to buy a franchise for something to feel good about. This gives Marissa an opportunity to run a business where seniors win and she wins.”

Phillips works with clients’ health care providers as well as trains and coordinates ComForcare’s pool of about 30 part-time, on-call caregivers, who bring a range of skills to the role.

“One lady has us come in every Sunday morning. She likes to have her hair done,” Phillips says. “We really do surround people and support them in whatever their needs are.”

Phillips and Watts follow up with all their clients to make sure services are being provided according to the clients’ specific requests.

“We really spend time talking about how important it is to meet the needs of a client. The above and beyond stuff,” Phillips says. “One thing is, when you have down time with the client, to take time to notice the counter needs wiped down, or the china is dusty. We really encourage a lot of communication between us and (caregivers). A company is only as good as its worst employee.”

Admitting how difficult he can be as a patient/client, Ivan Watts has nothing but praise for caregivers who work with him and Nancy. He sees in-home, non-medical care services as an obvious step for the growing pool of seniors who want to remain with the comforts of home.

“Going out and living in an institute is not what most people want to do,” he says. “There are some good homes out there, so to speak, that offer adequate health care, but you still wouldn’t be in your own home.”