San Diego, CA, February 13, 2013 --(PR.com
)-- Gabriela Brown knows she provides a service no one truly wants.
Ten years ago, she founded Constant Companions, a company that provides in-home care for the elderly. Yet she has discovered in her 25 years in the field that most people refuse to think about the topic.
When she set up a booth at the Rancho Bernardo Street Fair last year, it was as if a magnetic field was pushing people away.
She had a perfect spot, between a popular pet store and the San Diego North County Chamber of Commerce that was drawing a crowd with a raffle.
“We were right in the middle, and people who were the right age for our services, or approaching that age, would come about 2 or 3 feet toward the table and they would look and they would turn around and walk away,” she said.
“The people that actually need the care don’t want to think about it until some emergency, which is a big mistake.”
Of course, she understands their reluctance. She says we’re not programmed to think about the fact that we, or our parents, will someday need help. So that’s a big part of her goal with Constant Companions.
“Educate, educate, educate,” she said. “It does amaze me how little people know about resources for aging.”
Brown, 43, runs the business with her husband, John Brown, and oversees about 86 caregivers who provide live-in or hourly services for seniors across San Diego and southern Riverside counties. She said her path to a career working with seniors “was very direct indirectly.”
She began by working with her sister as a volunteer (a “candy striper”) at age 13 in the terminal pediatrics wing at a Texas hospital during the summers. The experience, however, was “devastating.” She knew she wanted to help people, but she knew she couldn’t do that again.
At 17, after graduating from Mt. Carmel High in Rancho Penasquitos, she went to work at the Escondido Convalescent Center and helped the elderly. She found it a perfect fit.
Her stepfather was a chaplain in the Navy and had been a minister in Texas, so she’d long been exposed to older people and their family dynamics. And through her stepfather, she’d read Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’ “On Death and Dying” and had accepted its concepts.
“I always loved older people,” she said. “I loved their stories, I loved their history, everything to do with hanging out with older people.”
From there, she worked as a home-care companion while in college, and then began a career with stops in the medical, nursing and home-care fields that took her from Virginia to Texas to Washington and back to San Diego.
Then, in 2003, she founded Constant Companions out of her Poway home. She began “just with a cellphone,” but the company has grown steadily.
She is the company’s CEO, and her husband handles much of the payroll and compliance work. Three years ago they moved to Murrieta, but most of her time is spent on the road in San Diego County, meeting with prospective clients, checking on her home-care providers, doing public speaking on home-care issues, and interviewing job applicants.
Her list of duties is long: She handles initial calls from families who need a caregiver, does in-home assessments, develops care plans, handles customer service, does supervisory visits, and arranges specific training for some of her caregivers.
Last year, too, she became a certified senior adviser through the Society of Certified Senior Advisors, an organization that helps educate and aid professionals who work with the elderly.
She admits that the work is stressful — it’s a 24/7 operation that can require her attention at any moment. So she combats it by working out in the morning, getting a massage once a month, and trying to block off time for family (she has five children, including four at home).
But, she says, the work is rewarding. When people finally realize they need help, she wants to be a person who can make a difference at a critical time.
“I remind myself what these families are going through,” she said. “It’s not just a business. … When I’m in a home or dealing with a family member, I remind myself to be present with them at that moment. Get every other thought, every other worry out of my head, so that I can absorb what they’re saying … and provide support.”
Doug Williams is a freelance writer from San Diego.
Doug Williams | Special to the U-T