PLEASANTON -- Barbara Proctor wants to be the best darn daughter to as many elderly people as possible. An energetic senior herself, she recently started a service to provide companionship and aid for elderly clients.
"What I really want to be is 'the good daughter' to parents," Proctor said from her Pleasanton home. "There are so many young people (with) both the husband and the wife working and (who) have young children of their own. They're torn between the children and the parents. I am so firmly convinced that there is a great need for me."
Proctor, 77, launched GG's Caring Companion Services in January. The GG stands for Gorgeous Granny, the nickname her eight grandkids have for her. Proctor, a retired teacher, cites her 22 years of experience with seniors, first in sales and marketing at a Fremont retirement community and then as a volunteer coordinator for Meals on Wheels. She was also a volunteer coordinator for a service that offers rides for seniors.
"I do very well with seniors," said Proctor, whose mother is a sprightly 100 years old. "I bond easily with them. I'm close enough to their age so that when they want to talk about the good old days, I know what they're talking about."
Proctor charges $20 per hour with a minimum of three hours to hang out with an elderly parent, join them at lunch, take them shopping or haul them to and from appointments.
"I'm a people person," she said. "I really know seniors very well. I'm very patient. I'll go most places that they want me to go."
While Proctor's business model is creative, she is by no means alone in the field of offering elder companionship. Several companies, many that offer health care, have branched into the growing field of helping elderly people with day-to-day chores. Keith Beck started his own Visiting Angels elder care franchise in Livermore after struggling to deal with his aging parents' needs in Texas while he lived in California.
"Once I had gone through that with my folks, I decided there were probably a number of adult children and families that could use some type of assistance with help in finding out what to do to help their parents," Beck said.
Beck was in the Peace Corps after college and worked in human resources before running a graphics design franchise. He started his Visiting Angels franchise in June 2005.
"We assist a client with their activities of daily living to help them maintain quality lifestyle in their home," Beck said."We're a nonmedical home care agency. We cannot do anything that the state of California defines as medical. For instance, we cannot give shots or do wound care."
Beck's services are a bit more extensive than the companionship and errands offered by Proctor. Visiting Angels employees will do light housekeeping, laundry, meal preparation, dementia care and assistance with bathing and toilet needs. They'll even do pet care.
"Whatever it takes to maintain the lifestyle of that person at home is what we do," Beck explained. "We meet with the prospective client, and we try to put together a care plan. Most of our (clients need us) two or three times a week. They don't need constant care. They just need a little bit of a foot up to keep them going in a clean environment with some good meals."
Sue Bormolini, 72, has used Beck's Visiting Angels service since 2009. The Livermore resident occasionally needs help with her 88-year-old husband, who uses a wheelchair.
"I truly rely on them every time there's a physician appointment or when we need a haircut for my husband," Bormolini said. "They're wonderful. I am just so pleased with them. They try so hard to match you with the right person based on personality and interests."
Bormolini has an adult daughter in Pleasanton, but she's a busy single mother who works full-time. Bormolini enjoys having a service she can rely on without having to burden well-meaning friends who offer to help.
"It's easier to hire someone than to rely on someone," she said. "The dependability is important. I know when I make arrangements, they're going to be there. That's important."
Alison Ronald, of Oakland, is a new client for Proctor's service. Ronald relied on Proctor for a few weeks as she recovered from surgery to repair a detached retina.
"I needed a nice person that I could feel comfortable with," Ronald said. "That was big for me. The biggest thing was knowing that I was going to have help when I needed it, and I was going to have pleasant help, good help. Plus, she brought me homemade chicken soup without asking."
Hiring help through a franchise like Visiting Angels or another company is a bit more expensive than Proctor's hourly wage. Beck's fees range from $22 to $25 per hour with a four-hour minimum. He currently has more than 70 employees and dozens of clients each week.
"The dynamics of our home and work environment helped generate the need for elder care in the home," Beck said. In the past, "if an older person got in trouble, they would go into a facility, he said. "People don't want to move from their homes," he added. "They want to stay in their homes until the end of their lives if they can. We help facilitate that."