Bringing elegance and innovation to home care

~ By Cheryl Long

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Elegant isn’t a word that often comes to mind when discussing home care. But that’s how Jennifer Kazmaier describes the combination of simplicity and luxury that clients can expect from CalaCare.

The demand for in-home care is greater than ever, fueled by an aging population and a strained health-care system. When Kazmaier launched her business in Oakville, Ontario in 2012, she had already seen the gaps in the health system firsthand during her time working as a registered nurse in a hospital emergency department. Patients that were sick or dying were left in hallways; others were discharged without support at home or not knowing that support was available. She decided to take a risk and offer a level of care that maintained each person’s sense of dignity and self-worth.

“We see people on their worst days so we’re trying to be there to simplify the complexsituation, give families peace of mind and provide clients with the services that they need to make their life easier,” she explained.

CalaCare offers a range of private health-care services to residents in the Halton, Peel, Hamilton and Toronto areas. Available a few hours each month up to 24 hours a day, seven days a week, her team of caregivers provides everything from assistance with daily activities to more complex nursing care. There’s a strong emphasis on a level of personal and consistent care that can be missing from publicly-funded services.

“There’s nothing more satisfying than seeing the look of relief on someone’s face when they realize you’re actually able to help them when they hear “no” so often from the publicly funded sources,” Kazmaier explained. “With public funding it’s about eligibility and red tape, so when an elderly person is still able to bathe themselves but they need assistance getting their groceries or running errands, that just isn’t covered, so when we are able to help them with that, they think, ‘Wow, my life isn’t over.’”

Specialized services assist seniors at home

Home support services are ideal for people who want to continue living independently in their own residences but need help with tasks such as housekeeping, laundry, meal preparation, grocery shopping, and home and yard maintenance. The hours and level of service are flexible and tailored to each individual. Personal care offers assistance with private activities including dressing, bathing, medications reminders and other parts of a day-to-day routine. Trained and certified personal support workers provide compassionate and individualized support to each client. Nursing care services offer more advanced health care and are beneficialfor people who need support after a hospital stay or treatment for an ongoing condition.

Respite care is an area that benefits not only the client but family members as well. Ranging from a few hours to overnight to a temporary live-in arrangement, caregivers step in to provide a much-needed break to people caring for a family member. Palliative hospice care is a special level of service provided by CalaCare that combines flexibility with professional, dignified and compassionate supportive care. A team that can include a registered nurse, personal support worker and home support worker covers all aspects of the client’s needs while surrounded by the comfort and familiarity of their own home.

Palliative care has a special place in Kazmaier’s heart. She feels “incredibly passionate” about supporting people who need that level of care, allowing them to live and die with dignity at home. It also means going above and beyond to make that client feel special, something that is intuitive among the caregivers working for CalaCare. Kazmaier remembered one of her employees who was visiting with a woman in her early 50s who had cancer. Her appetite was poor but one day she really wanted an apple. Her caregiver was happy to provide the fruit … after she had carved it into the shape of a swan. The client was so delighted that she sent a picture of the creation to Kazmaier. “That is elegant care,” she explained.“It’s such a simple thing that gives such pleasure.”

Named among top 40 Under Forty

Though CalaCare is only a few years old, the business has been expanding steadily. Today, Kazmaier has three office staff and 50 to 60 caregivers in the field and saw growth of 500 per cent over last year. It’s no surprise that she was named a recipient of the top 40 Under Forty Business Achievement awards in 2014, an event that recognizes Hamilton and Halton’s next generation of business leaders.

Finding caregivers, primarily personal support workers and registered practical nurses, who embody CalaCare’s values is important to Kazmaier and that makes the hiring process a rigorous one, involving police and vulnerable sector checks, phone and in-person interviews, and extensive screening.“They have to be reliable and they have to have that elegance, that willingness to go above and beyond and be able to make that person feel special,” she said. “My bottom line is, would I trust this person to care for my mother? Do they create that sense of trust with me?”

Just as important as elegant care is innovation. CalaCare has embraced state-of-the-art technology as a means of enhancing quality of life, increasing independence and providing easing families’ concerns. Kazmaier has successfully integrated online solutions into home care with tools like the Family Portal, which allows families to log in and view GPS timecards, care logs and communicate with their CalaCare care manager.

Online tools increase safety and confidence

The Claris Companion is similar to a tablet and helps clients remember to take medication, manage treatments and check in with caregivers. Other devices like the Cookstop fire prevention tool, peephole viewers for doors, GPS shoes and ID tags containing life-saving information are helping seniors maintain a safer level of independence.

Eventually, Kazmaier would like to see CalaCare spread out across Canada. The demand is only going to grow as the federal government pushes for more and more aging Canadians to remain at home as long as possible. She would also like to see regulations allow people to choose how they spend their home care dollars instead of limiting coverage to the publicly funded model. “I think one of the biggest reasons I do what I do is that the culture of our health-care system just disagrees with me in some way,” she said. “I don’t like the way that it’s always ‘this is what you get and this is when you get it’ … the culture is not truly patient-centred. It’s not really about how everyone is different and what matters to them and their quality of life is really the only priority.”

At age 30, Kazmaier already can’t imagine running any other type of business. “I really believe in our model. Obviously providing care across Canada, we want to grow slowly and sustainably and make sure the quality of care isn’t compromised along the way. There’s just so much opportunity to continue to grow and make things better.”

To learn more about CalaCare and their range of home care services, visit