Taking care of people at home

For more than two years, Peter Tourian, 33, worked as an Officer in Maricopa County’s Durango and Madison Street jails. He dealt directly with some high-profile inmates — including several who were extremely violent — in the high security sections of both facilities. 

“My experience as an Officer taught me some valuable lessons about people’s basic needs,” said Tourian, who graduated from Arizona State University with a business degree. 

“At times, it was very emotional and very demanding,” he said. 

Tourian also learned another important lesson from working at Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s jails: it was time for him to get out of the jail house business — and start his own company. 

So, Synergy HomeCare, a non-medical care giver service for children and adults, including the disabled as well as the elderly, was born. 

Today, the service has more than 250 care givers in the East Valley who work directly for the company as well as several franchisees who operate their own Synergy HomeCare companies in the Valley. 

Tourian’s Gilbert-based company has since sold more than a half-dozen franchises in several states, including Iowa, Washington, Oregon, Nebraska and South Dakota for between $42,000 and $65,000 each. It is expanding its franchises to Canada, Australia and Japan. 

Q: What makes Synergy Home-Care different from most care providers? 
A: “Unlike many care service companies, we serve anyone who needs home care — disabled children whose parents need to work, adults recovering from injury and illness and the elderly,” Tourian answered. 

Q: With all your educational training in operating a business, why did you start a home care service? 
A: “Primarily, because we help people. It’s also an industry that is growing, which makes it profitable.” 

He added: “Some nursing homes, for example, are nice but many people need the option of staying at their own homes. It’s disheartening to see someone at a nursing home who wants to be at their own home. That’s another reason I started Synergy HomeCare.” 

From the entrepreneurial aspect, Tourian noted that the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the home health care industry is expected to increase by more than 55 percent between 2002 and 2012. 

The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services said spending for home health care will surpass $90 billion by 2014, he said. 

Some of the reasons for the expected growth: 
The aging of our nation’s 76 million baby boomers. 
Hospitals are discharging patients earlier with more complicated home treatment needs. 
Because of medical advances, people with chronic conditions are not only living longer, but also they are able to live at home with help with basic tasks.

Most of the care givers are women between the ages of 25 and 40 who are paid between $8 and $9-an-hour and who work mostly during the day. Their services fall into three basic categories: companionship, light home maker duties such as cleaning and direct personal care. 

Evelynn Charlton, 78, of Mesa, hired a caregiver to help her daily with all three categories at her Mesa home after suffering a stroke. 

“My husband is away at work all day,” said Charlton. “Before my stroke, I did all the housecleaning. Now, I need help with a lot of things, plus companionship.” 

Carole Griego of Paradise Valley has a specific need for a home care giver. Her daughter, Jennifer, 4, has cystic fibrosis and requires regular treatment. 

“My care giver fills an important gap,” said Griego, who is an active fund-raiser for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. “She helps provide medical and special care and a lot of other help.” 

Average cost to a client is between $14 and $16-an-hour. 

Potential care givers who work directly for Tourian’s company must pass background checks, including an examination of police records, fingerprints and other information, although, unlike some other states, the screening is not required by Arizona law. 

“I’d rather pay a few dollars extra now and not be surprised later,” said Tourian, who relies on his experience with the sheriff’s department when he examines records. 

Care givers must be state certified in first aid and cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and must pass Tuberculosis and drug tests, he said. 

Tourian, when he’s not working, enjoys his time as an amateur race car driver as “a stress reliever” and collecting art. 

Success philosophy: Realize the customer’s wants and needs and supply those wants and needs.