About three years ago, Atef Dabbech opened a senior-care company and quickly realized that pairing elderly clients with caregivers was more than just aligning schedules, it was about making a match.
Similar to online dating websites, Dabbech’s firm, Senior Concierge Providers, takes additional steps to ensure that personalities mesh and that values important to the seniors, such as religion or political views, are considered.
“We want our caregivers to become another friend, another brother, another sister, another child to the seniors so that they can have peace of mind,” said Lucille Appel, the company’s director of communications. “We’re not selling televisions, we’re selling care, companionship, emotions.”
Based in Delray Beach, the firm is family-run. Appel is Dabbech’s aunt. His wife, Claudia Dias, is general manager and accountant. The trio are originally from Canada where Dabbech had a staffing agency.
He used skills learned from his staffing firm to start Senior Concierge Providers, but added specialized elements, such as a compatibility assessment to make sure his senior clients and caregivers are well-suited for each other.
In addition to asking about medical conditions, attention is also paid to whether a person likes to eat out, travel, attend religious services, shop or go to the movies. Background values, such as faith and even astrological sign, are also probed.
One successful match paired a 90-year-old Holocaust survivor who keeps kosher at home with a Jewish caregiver and native of Israel.
“You cannot imagine the personal joy you experience when you can make the right match,” Dabbech said.
But it can be a delicate business where the firm has to navigate stereotypes and prejudices to make sure their elderly clients feel comfortable with the person caring for them in their home.
For example, one elderly woman liked her caregiver, but the woman’s daughter and friend were unhappy that the caregiver had a tattoo.
“We are an equal opportunity employer, but we know the realities, sometimes people feel more comfortable with someone of their own culture, or who speaks their language,” Appel said.
The firm’s caregivers don’t wear uniforms “because uniforms mean nursing and they don’t want that, they want a friend,” Appel said.
Senior Concierge Providers is licensed through Florida’s Agency for Healthcare Administration and has about 10 clients, and is looking to grow.
Lantana resident Ann Marie Farr hired a caregiver from Senior Concierge Providers about a year ago for her 82-year-old mother Mary Anne Giovannitti. Farr said Dabbech and other firm employees visited the house to meet her mother before suggesting a caregiver.
“Mom is very picky,” Farr said. “If there is something that bothers her, believe me, she lets you know.”
But the match made by Senior Concierge Providers stuck.
“I could not be more pleased with the company,” Farr said. “If there is anything we need, any issues, they take care of them.”