Roughly 35% of people who seek out care for aging family members don’t have local support when it comes to personal care.

That’s according to recent data from Synergy HomeCare, a Gilbert, Arizona-based non-medical home care franchise that offers companionship services, in addition to personal assistance, housekeeping, live-in care and 24-hour home care services.

Synergy’s data was gleaned from online inbound inquiries to the company’s website over the past six months. The key takeaway for home care providers: There’s still a vast market opportunity for personal care and companion services out there, even during the COVID-19 public health emergency.

Synergy’s data also revealed that the majority of people seeking home care are acting on behalf of an aging family member. About 78% of people looking into care options are the adult children of seniors, while roughly 17% are the potential clients themselves, Synergy observed.

This is something for home care providers to consider when planning their marketing strategies.

“There is an opportunity for home care agencies to more proactively market the value of enabling seniors and … their independence,” Charlie Young, the company’s CEO, told Home Health Care News.

Another major finding is that Synergy has begun to see a return to normalcy in the midst of the COVID-19 emergency. Specifically, Synergy has seen a 70% increase in online inquiries over the past several months, according to Young.

“As we are entering into a new normal and people are becoming more comfortable living and operating in their daily lives, in the COVID era, we’re seeing that need for companion care coming back pretty strong,” he said. “It was the one area of the business that really fell off in the brunt of COVID, in the March-April time period.”

During that same spring period, Synergy also saw its hours per caregiver go up significantly.

“Those people who were in real serious need for daily, hourly, regular personal care — that really kicked-in, in a strong way,” Young said.

For those who weren’t seeking daily care for themselves or a loved one, about 27% were looking for care just a couple days per week. Another 47% were requesting care four or fewer days weekly.

About 29% of people were seeking care seven days a week.

These findings highlight that home care needs often range from long-term to short-term needs, according to Young.

“I think this tells you [that] home care takes on a lot of different flavors,” he said. “I think that COVID has really put a spotlight on that. You obviously have people who are in need of intense personal care with bathing, feeding, getting up [and] getting down — their ADLs. Those people are always going to need home care … but what we’re seeing, too, is that isolation is a serious issue for the elderly.”

Additionally, when looking at Synergy’s data on inbound inquiries, about 39% of people were seeking care for general aging, with about 20% seeking dementia care and roughly 14% looking for disability support.

Reflecting on the findings, Young believes the COVID-19 emergency has forced people to strongly consider their needs and what care fits best.

“It has caused them to rethink everything,” he said. “I think that you will start to see people who are thinking differently about their needs, whether it’s respite help for the sandwich generation child who is trying to figure out how to juggle a job, kids and aging parents — or a family who has a relatively active senior member far away and not close to them.”

Separate from the Synergy data, a study published in Health Affairs in August also stands as a reminder of home care’s market potential.

From 2004 to 2016, the use of “informal” home care among older adults with disabilities drastically increased, to where there were nearly three-quarters of adults receiving informal home care by the end of that stretch. Informal care remains the most common source of home care today, but formal home care is catching up, the study found.

From 2004 to 2016, the use of formal home care grew at almost twice the rate of informal home care.

Additional reporting by Robert Holly

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