Local business / Matchmaking software hooks up nonmedical caregivers with clients

Providing nonmedical care for people in their homes doesn't sound like a typical franchise operation.

Nor does it seem like the kind of business that uses advanced information technology.

Yet here is Synergy HomeCare of Marmora, matching clients with caregivers using software similar to what brings people together at online dating services, said Dennis Crippen, who owns and operates the franchise with wife Angela.

"We input all of the information we can about our caregivers, their likes, dislikes, allergies and more. We give as much information as we can about the client, and then the software chooses the best caregiver for that client," Crippen said.

So far the matching has gone well for Synergy, which hasn't had a client request a different caregiver in its first two months of operation, he said.

Another innovation is a computerized time clock, which caregivers "punch" by calling a toll-free number when they arrive at a client's location.

"If they're not clocked in within 15 minutes, I get a text message and an e-mail message that lets us know right away that we have a possible situation," Crippen said.

Families also like online access to the care plans for their loved ones, where they can check on who's caring for them, how things are going and exchange messages with caregivers, he said.

Synergy's caregivers -- there are 25 so far -- get background checks and bonding, as well as tuberculosis tests, Crippen said. Hours range from 10 a week to live-in positions.

"It's an ideal thing for someone who is compassionate, warm and wants to help people, primarily seniors but also people with disabilities and even special needs child care," he said.

The Crippens found out the business was for them after "experiencing the need for it firsthand" when Angela's sister was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease. They used Synergy services for her, liked the care provided and decided to open a franchise in this area.

Synergy franchises provide homemakers, daily living companions and personal-care assistance to anyone needing help with routine daily tasks in order to stay at home.

Or to stay in an assisted living facility. Crippen said two current clients hired his firm to provide care beyond what their facilities offered so they could stay there rather than move to a nursing home.

Founded in 2002, Synergy HomeCare Franchising has 30 units and expects to add another 45 this year.

Estimated initial investment is $50,000 to $100,000, which includes a $35,000 franchise fee. The royalty fee is 5 percent of monthly gross revenue, and a 2 percent contribution to the marketing fund is also required.