Do you want to start a sitter service for the elderly? If YES, here is an 18-step guide on how to start a sitter business with no money and no experience. If you enjoy helping others and appreciate the challenges of caring for the elderly, then starting a sitter service for the elderly will surely suit you perfectly. As the massive Baby Boomer generation heads into retirement, there’s a very huge opportunity for home care, even for sitters.
A lot of seniors in the united states prefer to stay in their homes as long as possible, but as the effect of old age starts to creep in, doing so unassisted becomes increasingly difficult. Your job in this business will be to help these citizens stay in their own homes and live out their last years with dignity and autonomy while also making a sustainable income for yourself.
This is also a business you can run from your own home, and you can scale your hours and availability according to the schedule you want. You can even open a business that employs others and operate in a sort of agency model. The most satisfying aspect of this type of work is the very real, very needed, and very appreciated service you offer.
You won’t only be meeting a real need for your clients by helping them, but you’re offering tremendous peace of mind for their adult children — many of whom aren’t nearby, and will appreciate knowing that someone is checking on their elderly parents regularly.
18 Steps on How to Start a Sitter Service Business for the Elderly
Table of Content
- 1. Understand the Industry
- 2. Conduct Market research and feasibility Studies
- 3. Decide What Niche to Concentrate On
- 4. Know the Major Competitors in the Industry
- 5. Decide Whether to Buy a Franchise or Start from Scratch
- 6. Know the Possible Threats and Challenges You Will Face
- 7. Choose the Most Suitable Legal Entity (LLC, C Corp, S Corp)
- 8. Choose a Catchy Business Name from the ideas Below
- 9. Discuss With an Agent to Know the Best Insurance Policies for You
- 10. Protect your Intellectual Property With Trademark, Copyrights, Patents
- 11. Get the Necessary Legal Documents You Need to Operate
- 12. Raise the Needed Startup Capital
- 13. Choose a Suitable Location for your Business
- 14. Hire Employees for your Technical and Manpower Needs
- 15. Write a Marketing Plan Packed With ideas & Strategies
- 16. Develop Iron-clad Competitive Strategies to Help You Win
- 17. Brainstorm Possible Ways to Retain Clients & Customers
- 18. Develop Strategies to Boost Brand Awareness and Create a Corporate Identity
1. Understand the Industry
With the advent of technology, medical science and public health, we will probably live to an age where we can no longer live fully independently. We will have to get to a point where our physical and mental capabilities may erode slowly or may decline suddenly, as with a stroke or serious accident.
When that happens, we will need help to accomplish the tasks of daily life we cannot do by ourselves; maintain our health for as long as possible; and finally, ease our transition to death.
Have it in mind that family members may not have the time, the skills, or even the physical strength to provide all these kinds of care, this is why there is a demand for the senior care industry. Experts estimate that in 2015 more than 1 million people were employed at establishments providing services for the elderly and persons with disabilities in the United States.
Indeed, some of these establishments are nursing homes or assisted-living communities where elderly people live, but others provide health-care services for seniors who are living at home or are being dropped off during daytime hours only. Reports have it that seniors take up about 13 percent of the population, meaning there are about 42 million seniors living in America today.
About 65 percent of elders get their long-term care and needs exclusively from family and friends, meaning that just 35 percent of elders need long-term care. Many of those seniors who do get help go to one of the main types of care: nursing homes, assisted living, and residential communities.
It’s very important to state that the government of the United States spends, on average, $26,000 per year on an elderly person—almost triple what it does on children and working adults. Note that some of these costs come from the federal government with Medicare and Social Security payments.
Report also has it that many of these costs go directly to healthcare, with an average of $18,424 being spent per person as of 2010. The report also discovered that as elders age from 70 to 90, their medical costs nearly double over time.
It simply means that even when not all seniors who need long-term care receive the help they need; the government is still spending money on the elderly. The key fact about senior care is that the senior population (or the overall population) isn’t getting any smaller. Note that by 2030, seniors are expected to take up over 20 percent of the population.
That number (about 20 percent) remains the same for the year 2050, but given how many people are projected to be living in the U.S. by that time, it’s expected more than 80 million seniors will be living in the States by then. The baby boomer generation should be thanked for this growing demand.
In 2017, more than half of the generation technically are not seniors yet, meaning it’s not very likely they need help with some form of assisted living. But experts believe that more than 76 million babies were born during the baby boomer generation, meaning it’s also reasonable to believe that more 40 million people in the U.S. will cross the “senior” threshold in just the next 12 years.
2. Conduct Market research and feasibility Studies
- Demographics and Psychographics
When gearing up to start this business, it’s advisable you conduct a demographic study of the needs of seniors in your area. Note that seniors are the demographic in greatest need of in-home care. The senior care industry tracks the percentage of households with people aged 65 and over by state, and also identifies the population of individuals 65 and up within a given state.
Gather accurate industry data in conjunction with more granular local data gathered by your state censuses to determine if there are enough individuals requiring in-home caregiving to warrant starting a sitter business. Also analyze and check the census data closely for projections about the number of seniors in a given area. Is it going up, down, or staying level? If it is holding steady or increasing, will your sitter business do well in that area.
3. Decide What Niche to Concentrate On
First, you need to understand that seniors of this age have a wide variety of needs, and there are also more instances of people aging with none of their adult children nearby to offer any kind of assistance or support. This has created a massively growing gap and a great opportunity to start a business that truly helps people. Below are few niche ideas you can consider or combine in this business;
- Patient Advocate
A patient advocate’s role is to aid the patient navigate through medical appointments, prescriptions, diagnoses, and more. Have it in mind that as a patient advocate, you don’t necessarily need to have a medical background, but you do need to be able to take clear notes, ask questions that the patient may or may not ask but will need to know, get clarification, and be prepared to explain things again to the patient and to the patient’s family.
Note that your job in this niche will be to make sure that your clients are getting the right information from their doctors and are able to make informed decisions.
- Home Upkeep and Support
Indeed it can be very difficult for seniors with various chronic health conditions to keep up with some of the necessary tasks of living. If you plan to venture into this niche, note you might be doing things like sorting their mail, paying bills, going grocery shopping (or taking them out shopping), doing some basic cleaning and housekeeping, or even troubleshooting their technology and helping with basic things like emails or programming the thermostat.
Losing the ability to drive can be rated as one of the hardest things to cope with as a senior. You can offer senior transportation services to help your clients get things done around town, visit their friends, go to appointments, and more. You may need to dig deeper into getting bonded and insured for this particular type of business, though ideally you’ll be bonded and insured no matter what business you open.
- Outdoor Maintenance
Although most people would say gardening gives great pleasure, but they can be difficult and tiresome with old age. If you’re interested in gardening and maintaining someone’s outdoor space, you can target your business to seniors who need a bit of help in this area.
For instance, if you’re working with a woman who used to love nurturing and grooming flowers, you can keep bringing that joy to her life even after she isn’t able to do the weeding and grooming herself. If you live in an area that gets snow, you can also add snow removal services and be a tremendous help (especially if your client has neighbours who aren’t inclined to pitch in).
- Pet Care
Research has shown that a lot of modern day seniors have small pets for the companionship and quality of life improvements that they provide, but at the same time it may become hard with time to keep up with the care that these animals require. As a pet care service provider, you might offer anything from regular dog-walking services to pet transportation to and from the groomer and the veterinarian.
The Level of Competition in the Sitter Service Business
Experts believe that the boom in seniors who will need care will create an exorbitant need for more professionals as well as a massive amount of new facilities. Reports have it that the U.S. will need almost two million more housing facilities by 2040 to provide living space for seniors who need care. There’s also been a general rise in building senior care facilities since 2010, with most facilities having over 90 percent occupancy at all times.
Note that the competition amongst a market like senior care will only improve the overall care for the patients. With more facilities to compete against, a certain facility won’t want to fall behind. It will also make sure its practices are up to standards set by its patients and the patients’ loved ones.
Also as we advance in technology, the hope is that we’ll develop better technology allowing us to survive. Indeed this is certainly true in the healthcare industry, and especially with senior care. Have it in mind that technology for seniors has already improved greatly over the last decade with phone apps that can remind elders when to take their medication, and GPS systems that can help locate a senior if they’re missing or not where they should be.
Also there are companies striving to improve senior care daily with inventions like virtual robot assistants. Inventions like these can help seniors age more comfortably and actively in instances where there may not be professionals available to help round-the-clock.
4. Know the Major Competitors in the Industry
- Caring senior services
- My stewards
- Jeeves Concierge
- Dunn Virtual Assistance
Taking care of seniors become more difficult for sitters or family caregivers as their loved one ages. A lot of sitters or caregivers start by supporting their loved one with small tasks, but this often escalates to become a full-time job. The average family caregiver is not properly equipped to handle many of these tasks.
On average, family caregivers spend 20 hours per week caring for their loved ones, with 13 percent spending 40+ hours of care per week. This time is often in addition to full time work – 6 in 10 family caregivers are employed. Report has it that these caregivers concurred to working late or taking leaves of absences, and many have been forced to leave work entirely.
This is problematic because caring for the elderly is costly: 47% of working caregivers have reported they have used of all or most of their savings in caring for their loved ones. Taking care of seniors can be very difficult emotionally and physically. People who have been caregivers for a long time are often in poor health.
They stop going to the doctor when they should, have poor eating habits, and they decrease their exercise activities. These habits have lasting impacts: their immune system’s defenses have been shown to be lowered for up to three years after they stop caregiving. Note that this dramatically increases the risk of the caregiver developing a chronic illness themselves.
Just because so many sitters or family caregivers work, their caregiving has an impact on their employers and the economy as a whole. Drops in caretaker’s productivity are estimated to cause businesses in the US to lose as much as $34 billion each year.
Employers also have to pay about $13.4 billion per year to cover caregivers as part of their health package. Other businesses lose their employees entirely to caregiving. Leaving the workforce combined with using up family savings means female caregivers are 2.5 times more likely to live in poverty and five times more likely to receive Supplemental Security Income.
Indeed family caregivers need help, and the senior care industry is growing to fit the demand. By 2020 there will be a 70% increase in home health and personal care aides to 1.3 million people. The senior care industry as a whole is growing more than the US job market at large. Prospects look bright for senior care, but the industry has to overcome the challenges that arise with a growing industry.
5. Decide Whether to Buy a Franchise or Start from Scratch
You will have to decide if you want to go into business for yourself or with a franchise. Indeed each option or route you choose comes with its own advantages and disadvantages. If you decide to walk down the franchise route and pay the fees necessary to join a larger, already established caregiving company, you get all the benefits that come with it.
Working with a respected brand means your senior care business will start with the positive reputation the brand has built. Have it in mind that starting from the scratch will require more time and energy. You’ll have to register the business, come up with a business plan, and set your own prices.
You will also have to engage in intensive marketing and develop your network to get your name out. But it provides you with more freedom in how you run your business and you won’t be constrained in the way you would be if you were operating as a franchise.
Start-up costs for starting your business from the scratch include staff uniforms and licensing costs. Ongoing costs for either starting from the scratch or a franchised business include office space, insurance, and staff training.
It’s advisable that you investigate new wage laws that could affect your ability to pay your employees. For example, many states have passed laws to increase minimum wage, with California and New York both planning to jump up to $15 over time.
Also, workers that make less than $47,476 per year are now to be paid overtime pay if they work more than 40 hours per week. There are also various state laws that differentiate between the treatments of independent contractors and employees. Check with your state’s own regulations to make sure you are adhering to them when hiring and paying employees.
6. Know the Possible Threats and Challenges You Will Face
Report has shown that this industry will keep experiencing and enjoying growth trends, largely because of the growing needs of seniors. Even with the growing demand and intense competition for market share, the industry is still very open if you plan accordingly. Note that hard work and persistence can see you through. Possible threats to this business may include;
- Market research and feasibility
- Penetrating the market
- Employing experienced workers
- Gaining patience in handling your clients etc.
7. Choose the Most Suitable Legal Entity (LLC, C Corp, S Corp)
This is one of the most crucial decisions you have to make when starting your sitter service business. You’ll have to choose the kind of legal entity you want for your business. There are different types of entities to choose from.
The type of legal entity you choose to form determines how much you pay in taxes, what type of organizational structure your business will have, and the personal liabilities that you assume as the result of that structure. Below are possible legal entities to consider for your sitter service business.
This is a business in which an individual owns an unincorporated business entirely alone. Note that as the sole proprietor of a sitter service business, you control the business and make quick business decisions to respond to a changing market.
Also, you expose yourself to legal liabilities from both your employees and your clients. If an employee is in a car wreck or a client is given the wrong medication, they or their family might sue you. As the sole proprietor of the business, you may have to pay those damages out of pocket. It’s advisable as a sole proprietor that you buy liability insurance for such events.
This is simply a business formed between two or more persons, businesses, or organizations who each contribute in some way to the business and share the profits and losses equally. In the sitter service business, this legal entity would be beneficial to partner with someone who has experience in the field, especially if you do not.
Also, you might enlist partners who bring different strengths to the company. Unfortunately, partnerships entail the same disadvantage as sole proprietorships, personal liability, as well as sharing control over operations and business decisions.
Note that this type of legal entity eliminates double taxation and personal liability for its owners, and is led by a board of directors. Although you can still be held accountable for criminal wrongdoing, but business losses, fines, or legal settlements won’t come out of your own account.
Have it in mind that corporations also tend to have easier access to capital and often enjoy significant tax breaks, which could be crucial considerations as you start up your own sitter service business.
- Limited-liability company (LLC)
This legal entity is run by members, who can be either corporations, individuals, or other LLCs. Also note that these businesses are highly variable in form, and must conform to state regulations concerning their makeup. If you are worried that the other members who you start the business with might bail, you should forgo this type of business in favour of a corporation. Like corporations, LLCs provide limited liability, so if your business is sued, you will not be personally responsible.
8. Choose a Catchy Business Name from the ideas Below
You need to be cautious when choosing a name for your business. Your Business Name will turn out to be the first identity you create for your business. It will be how customers identify you and the services you offer. With this in mind, your business name should be easy to remember, say something about the kind of business it is and sound professional and caring.
- Senior Pro
- Family Care
- Closest pal
- Next door help
- Fast ‘N’ ready
9. Discuss With an Agent to Know the Best Insurance Policies for You
In this line of business you need adequate insurance to protect you from problems and liabilities. It can protect you in the case of a lawsuit or claim. It’s advisable you check with your state about the basic insurance you need for a senior care business.
There are insurances you might need if you’ll be transporting seniors, driving one of your customer’s cars, or house and pet sitting. It’s best to check with your insurance company to learn what is required. Here are some of the insurances you should consider…
- Physical damage protection
- Liability insurance
- Medical payments
- Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist
- Commercial auto insurance
- Comprehensive coverage
10. Protect your Intellectual Property With Trademark, Copyrights, Patents
Intellectual property protection in the sitter service for senior citizens industry is about protecting the time, money and effort you put into your business.
Note that the protection will help you hold onto and protect what’s yours, shape your handwork and ingenuity into profitable returns, set you up for growth or business expansion, keep competitors away, ensure you’re not infringing on anyone’s right, prevent employees from helping your competitors, attract investors and also promote your business to investors or potential buyers. Intellectual properties in the sitter service for senior citizens industry may include;
- Registered and Unregistered trademarks – Your brands name of logo.
- Patents – typically a new way, process or material invented as a business innovation
- Secrecy agreements – contracts that keep valuable information safe and client confidentiality
11. Get the Necessary Legal Documents You Need to Operate
It’s very important you consider every option to avoid unnecessary problems when you must have started business operations. Note that forming your own company requires registering the business, filling out tax forms, and drafting a payroll. You need to make sure all your employees can legally work in the US.
Use their bank account info to set up direct deposit lines to save yourself the trouble of distributing paper pay checks. Note that medical caregiving agencies will need additional certifications from Medicare and Medicaid. These certifications will be granted after a Medicare/Medicaid surveying agent recommends that your business receive one.
Medicare or Medicaid dispatches a surveying agent to verify one or several of your clients qualify for Medicaid or Medicare, conducts an investigation, and ensures your caregiving agency meets Medicare/Medicaid care standards.
Have it in mind that to begin the process of getting certified, your business must have at least 10 active patients on your client roster, and must have patients actively receiving every type of care service your business offers. Businesses which are Medicare-certified ways need higher start-up costs to cover the certification fees.
Non-medical caregiving agencies, by definition, will generally not require medical licensing. But it’s important you check your state’s guidelines for specific rules as they might vary in different states. Requirements for specific licenses and registration processes vary by state. Check with your state’s Department of Health for specifics about your business.
Also do not forget to register your business with either your county clerk or your state’s Department of Treasury if your business is a corporation or a limited-liability company (LLC) or limited-liability partnership. Sole proprietorships and partnerships will need to register a “doing business as” (DBA) name, but can generally avoid much of the paperwork required of the other types of businesses.
12. Raise the Needed Startup Capital
There are many ways to obtain finance for your sitter service business. You can obtain a personal loan or fund yourself. If you have a significant savings chucked in somewhere, or can obtain a personal loan from a rich family member, you may be able to cover your start-up costs yourself.
Indeed this is the best option for covering your start-up costs. An interest-free loan means you don’t have to fill out all that daunting paperwork, and can negotiate a more generous repayment plan than you’d ever get from a bank or private funding source.
But be that as it may, there are a number of financing options available to a new senior care business. You could consult a local bank after setting up your business account and negotiate a loan with them. To do so, you’ll have to present your business plan and make a convincing case as to why your business is worthy of the loan.
You could also get a loan with a guarantee from a public or private organization, like the Small Business Administration (SBA). You can also apply for grants.
Grants from a private organization or government agencies are probably the most attractive option for funding a new business. With a grant, you aren’t spending your own money, or money you’ll have to pay back later. The money awarded with a grant does not need to be repaid. However, compared with loans, grants are much more difficult to get.
13. Choose a Suitable Location for your Business
Choosing a suitable location for your business is mandatory especially to the success of your venture. Before making this decision, its crucial you conduct a careful assessment of costs. The ideal location for your business should be one where costs are minimised. You should be able to look at the advantages each area offer as well as any government help which might be available.
A suitable location for your sitter business should have easy access to all major routes in your area. A suitable location for your sitter service or a dispatch office for your employees should be easy to locate, and convenient for both your clients and employees. Centrally located sites are best if you will be serving your entire city.
14. Hire Employees for your Technical and Manpower Needs
You need to understand that working with seniors and assisted-living patients takes someone special. It requires patience, versatility, dependability, and well-developed interpersonal skills.
Also if your sitter business offers medical care, you must hire employees who have all the necessary professional licenses and certificates to work in that field. Medical professionals commonly employed in home care include certified nursing assistants (CNAs) and home health aides (HHAs). Also make sure you bond all your employees.
Bonding is a process by which you provide a guarantee that any client who successfully charges one of your employees with theft in court will be repaid up to $5,000. For this reason, conduct rigorous background checks on all employees.
Also consider establishing connections with local healthcare professionals. Introduce yourself to discharge planners at your local hospitals. When a patient is discharged and in need of home care, they should think of you first. Strive to be calm and accommodating when you get a call asking for home care and say “yes” to as many offers as you can.
Also look for hospitals which are unsatisfied with their current in-home care providers. Also introduce yourself to hospital discharge planners at local or regional medical conferences. Have your business card and brochure ready with information about your business.
Have a good elevator pitch that explains that your business is expanding and looking for more clients. You could also call them on the phone or send them an email to the effect of: “We are a growing senior sitter service business that puts the needs of our patients first.
We would like the opportunity to partner with your institution to better fulfill our patient-driven mission.” Meanwhile, if your sitter business is non-medical, you will only need uniforms and a strong marketing budget. If you’re a medically licensed sitter business, however, you will need to invest in relevant medical equipment.
The Service Process Involved in a Sitter Service Business
One misconception about this business is the idea that sitters provide the same services as traditional medical caregivers certified home health aides. Although their roles are quite similar, senior sitters do not provide assistance with activities of daily living such as brushing teeth, bathing, dressing, getting to the toilet, changing disposable garments and so on.
Also, if the beneficiary is in a wheelchair, many senior sitter services and providers require that the individual be able to get into a vehicle by themselves if transportation is to be provided. In general, your job as a senior sitter is to be there to keep seniors company while their family or regular caregivers are away.
You also can provide company to the elder while they are in the hospital recovering from a surgery or incident while loved ones go to work or tend to other business. Some traditional services you will have to provide include:
- Providing company, companionship and friendly conversations with charges.
- Playing games or engaging in mind stimulating activities.
- Taking short outings to the yard or for short walks when possible.
- Offering seniors medication reminders, but not assisting with administration.
- Light exercise guidance within the patient’s limitations and comfort level.
You may also perform homemaker and errand duties as a part of your role, but at an additional cost. Some of these tasks may include:
- Preparing light meals such as soups, sandwiches or snacks.
- Assisting with light housework and chores such as dusting, laundry and light clean up.
- Running errands such as short grocery trips, picking up medications, etc.
- Transportation for elderly charges to doctor’s appointments and other outings.
15. Write a Marketing Plan Packed With ideas & Strategies
Trust in this kind of business is paramount if you really want to go far. If you succeed in gaining the trust of your first customers, they will tell their friends, and you will soon have enough customers to handle. A good way to start marketing is by checking on homes where there are seniors and tell them about your services.
Consider passing out business cards to everyone you meet, and leave flyers and brochures at places like senior centres and other places often visited by seniors. Other strategies may include;
- Maintain a separate business line that plays a professional message for callers.
- Design a flier, brochure and business cards and print a large quantity of all.
- Take the fliers and brochures directly to senior housing complexes, businesses, medical offices and lawyers’ offices, especially sole practitioners or sole proprietors
- Get shirts, hats and jackets with your company name and logo and wear the clothing when you are running errands.
- Apply your company name and logo to your business equipment, such as clip boards, messenger bags and envelopes.
- Attach signs or banners to your car, bicycle or other vehicles used to perform your services.
- Attach a magnetic sign to the cars of family and friends to cover more ground with your advertising message.
- Establish an Internet presence with your own website and a Facebook page. Find a free or inexpensive hosting service for a simple website people can find when searching for your services.
16. Develop Iron-clad Competitive Strategies to Help You Win
Indeed there are a lot of businesses in this industry, and any poor service or mistake on your part will only drive your customers towards your competition. Even if your services are satisfactory enough, always brainstorm for ways to push ahead of the competition. Grab every opportunity you have to improve your services so that your clients will keep hiring your services repeatedly.
17. Brainstorm Possible Ways to Retain Clients & Customers
In this industry, clients only stop patronizing any business if they are not satisfied. It simply means that ample service production and acknowledgement can keep your customers loyal and within reach. To keep your business profitable over the years, you will need to satisfy your customers by making them part of the business.
Make them feel like they own the business by being passionate about them and listening to their ideas. Also teach your employees to show hospitality and respect your customers. Your drivers should always be punctual and foster positive relationship with costumers.
18. Develop Strategies to Boost Brand Awareness and Create a Corporate Identity
Simply put, brand awareness is about making your customers aware of who you are and what you offer. That is why you need to make sure you promote your brand and get your name in front of as many people as possible. Note that it takes planning and innovation to be able to push your sitter business to a point where people can easily identify it and patronize you. Ideas for boosting your brand awareness and creating a corporate identity may include;
- By using the web
- By creating a social media presence.
- Advertising using traditional methods
- You can also Sponsor public events
- Join a professional association
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