During the nearly two decades Mike Walters worked for the Social Security Administration, he often encountered clients who were in unfortunate circumstances. They might have been living alone with no one to help them or even visit with them. Or they might have lacked transportation for such things as shopping or medical appointments.
But as much as Walters might have wished he could help them, federal regulations kept him from being able to. It frustrated him immensely.
So last year, Walters decided to retire from SSA, move to Florida from Cincinnati, and open a franchise of a company that not only would allow him to help clients, but was based entirely on doing so.
So Walters, his wife, Melissa, and their three preteen sons came to West Volusia the first of this year and opened Seniors Helping Seniors of East Central Florida, covering Volusia, Flagler and St. Johns counties.
The goal, he told The Beacon, is to match caregivers with clients for taking care of chores or simply providing someone to talk with.
“It can be housekeeping, doctor appointments or med reminders, but it’s mainly just companionship,” Walters said. “We try to match likes and activities, such as gardening.”
Seniors Helping Seniors does not provide medical care. It is bonded, licensed and insured, and the parent organization operates internationally, he said.
State regulations required him to hire at least six caregivers before taking on any clients. Since getting the go-ahead in May, Walters now has 36 caregivers. He has gotten at least eight clients since that was approved in early June, and the number continues to grow.
Clients pay $30 an hour for visits, and caregivers get half of that. The other half goes to the franchise to cover administrative expenses such as insurance and the like.
“We could charge more, but we want to keep it affordable for the clients,” Walters said.
The caregivers at Seniors Helping Seniors are mostly active, able-bodied retirees and mature adults who might want to pick up some occasional extra money, Walters said. But he said the real reward for many is not financial.
“You know you’re going to make a difference in people’s lives,” he said. “Caregivers get a rewarding experience, so it’s a win-win for both sides.”
Walters tells the story of one caregiver who noticed a huge difference in a client after just one visit.
“He was a successful businessman who said the client literally came back to life,” Walters said. “We also see the caregivers come back to life. They now have something to do, something to hope for, and it gives them a reason to get up in the morning again. It gives them a purpose.”
To learn more about services offered or to apply to be either a caregiver or a client, go to seniorcareecfl.com or call 386-985-2292.