A residential care facility for the elderly is a group living environment in which seniors receive services appropriate to their needs. Different names used for the same types of facilities in different geographic areas can be confusing. Starting a facility requires extensive knowledge about the type of facility you want to open, issues with health and activities that seniors face, rules you need to follow, the competition you have and financing.
Develop a business plan that describes the type of facility you will open and how you will staff and operate it, obtain clients and generate adequate financing. Thoroughly research the organization and practices of existing facilities and the rules under which they operate. Facilities housing more than a certain number of residents must meet expensive fire safety equipment standards. Determine the industry minimum number of residents required for profitability for larger facilities, such as nursing homes, that meet the building codes in your state.
You may decide to start an assisted living residence, often called “board and care,” to provide assistance to seniors who do not have severe medical problems but need help with bathing, dressing and meal preparation. This facility could be a single-family home with individual bedrooms and sufficient bathrooms, plus a community room, dining room and kitchen. You may require a locked residence if you accept clients who wander. You need to know what medical supervision is required, how residents’ finances must be handled, what insurance you must carry and whether an attendant must stay in the facility at night. Knowing the rules and hiring trained staff are crucial to avoid fines and stay in business.
Nursing homes assist patients with more serious medical or mental health problems. They also have a wide variety of federal and state regulations they must follow to protect the safety and well-being of their residents. You require far more funding to start a nursing home and have to compete with large national corporations that own or administer many of them.
Develop a marketing plan for an assisted living facility that focuses on finding local clients; residents and their families usually do not like to be widely separated. Advertise in places where elders congregate or in local newspapers. Talking with doctors and hospital discharge planners and giving talks to church, synagogue and mosque groups are all ways to find clients. Providing your residents good service at a reasonable price is probably your best advertising.
You may need to provide added benefits, such as transportation and entertainment, to successfully compete. Volunteers who can offer classes in art or sewing are also beneficial to clients and your operation.
Decide how you can try to obtain the funding you need to start your business and operate until you become profitable. Some state and local funding may be available. You may be able to get investors or a bank to provide funds for your start-up costs. Explore the requirements to obtain a Small Business Association-guaranteed loan.
Roy Sylvan has a Ph.D. in communication studies. He directed a large city department of aging, was COO of a consulting company and provided management training to companies and nonprofits. Writing for more than 40 years, Sylvan has authored articles in trade journals, magazines and blogs, and wrote a how-to book on starting a business.