Staying at Home, and What Makes that Possible

By Coral Gregory, Wayne County Area Chamber of Commerce Intern

Synergy HomeCare of Richmond opened their doors in 2015, but owners Tom and Mindy Deckard had firmly established permanence in the Rose City long before they decided to provide high-quality non-medical home care. “Early on, we decided we wanted to stay here. Our roots were here,” Mr. Deckard says. While Covid-19 has required a swift and stern response on their part, one thing remains prevalent in the service they provide —the value they have for clients and caregivers alike.  We interviewed Tom Deckard about his business and its unique place in the county’s COVID-19 response.   

At first, Covid severely impacted Synergy’s services. Clients were “not wanting someone to come in their home for fear of COVID-19 exposure. Caregivers themselves, some of whom are retirees who we employ, were worried about going out there into homes for the same reason—protecting their own health,” Mr. Deckard says. “We lost more than half of our client hours at that time.” The impacts and developments of Covid have begun to contrast that which we saw towards the start. “Some of the things that were prohibiting business before are now causing clients to come to us because they want to keep their family member at home,” Mr. Deckard says. “That’s caused people to come back our way.”  

Synergy HomeCare prioritizes a client’s mental and physical well-being. What has been unique about the changes they have made is their perspective when establishing protocol for caregivers. “The degree of PPE —whether that’s masks, footlets, or shields— assures people that they’re safe when a caregiver’s coming in. It is protection, but we also want the client to feel that they are safe,” Mr. Deckard says. He even expressed his openness to masks becoming a more permanent part of their tool-kit. “I like the mask idea because anything from a cold to basic flu makes mask-wearing a good practice. It is a requirement now, but I think I could see that being extended.”  

The Deckards place a lot of value on client experience because they know what it’s like to be in their clients’ shoes. “We know how much it meant to us,” Mr. Deckard says. “My parents, in their aging years, had this kind of help. Caregivers come in the home to help them, and those folks just became like family to us. So, we knew the value of this kind of service.” The Deckards felt that the more they learned about the service, the more they liked it. From there, it merely became a matter of realizing their goal to provide the quality care they had cherished. “The people we look for to hire as caregivers have that heart for helping people. They are with the clients for a lot of hours, and they become good friends and build good relationships,” Mr. Deckard says. “It’s the opposite of thankless work. You feel like you’re appreciated every day for helping families stay in their home.”  

The goal is to find a good fit in both the client and caregiver’s skills and personality. “We emphasize the hiring process and trying to really know a caregiver the best we can,” Mr. Deckard says. It all starts with getting excellent caregivers. “You’re a little picky in an environment where you’re trying to get as many as you can, and that’s hard, but you still have to have that standard.” Finding new caregivers is a multifaceted process, from employee referrals to online job sites. The greater benefit would be the comfort proximity can provide. “Something I’ve observed over time is that the closer someone lives to a client,” Mr. Deckard says, concerning a client’s comfort, “the more local, the better.”  

The Deckards feel that the community has welcomed them with open arms in the time their business has grown to provide for seven counties. “Some of that goes back to having relationships here for 30 years,” Mr. Deckard says. He worked for Belden for 31 years, ending his time there on January 15, 2015. Their feeling is that they have established a strong network between themselves and other business community members. “We’ve been involved with the Chamber from the beginning,” Mr. Deckard says. Maintaining communication in non-traditional ways has been important to Synergy. Referral partners have been harder to keep in contact with. “It’s been more over the phone and electronic. We did deliver some things around Christmas time to let them know we were thinking about them,” Mr. Deckard says.    

When entering the Synergy HomeCare office, you can’t help but feel at home in a somewhat subconscious way. From layout alone, it is apparent that the people working there are a team. “The way we’re situated in here, when things happen—a phone call, if somebody’s having a problem—we kind of all know about it because we can hear and talk about it,” Mr. Deckard Says. The place has character. Warm lighting and brass sculptures of Jazz Musicians bring out the heart in their service. It’s an environment like this that can make a person feel comfortable allowing Synergy HomeCare caregivers into their loved-ones’ homes because you already feel as if they have allowed you into theirs.