Dorothy Muffett founded St. Louis Park-based Baywood Home Care a dozen years ago as an alternative to nursing homes and assisted-living facilities.
Richard Sennott , Star Tribune
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Minnesota senior home care company Baywood seeks growth
- Article by: Todd Nelson
- Special to the Star Tribune
- April 21, 2013 - 12:39 PM
Dorothy Muffett, who left a corporate career for entrepreneurial autonomy, has extended that spirit to Baywood Home Care, an in-home care services company that she says enables seniors “to live how and where they want to live.”
Muffett’s challenge now is to persuade more seniors and their families to consider private-pay home care as an alternative to an assisted-living facility or nursing home.
“If we can do a better job of getting out this message that being home can be easy, affordable and allow you to keep your freedom and your privacy ... I think a certain number of people will say, ‘I’ll do that,’ ’’ she said.
An advertising campaign now in the works will emphasize those points. Muffett hopes to drive growth for Baywood, which she started in 2000 after leaving General Mills Inc., where her position as a vice president of research and development capped her 20 years in the food industry.
Baywood has held its own against competition from a rapidly expanding assisted-living market, Muffett said. But revenue has leveled off in recent years at about last year’s total of $5.45 million. “We have remained one of the big players in our little niche,” Muffett said. “I consider that a victory but I’m not satisfied with that.”
Baywood Home Care offers hourly assistance, 24-hour live-in care and overnight care. It places home health aides in the Twin Cities metro area and south-central and southwestern Minnesota, including Mankato, New Ulm and Owatonna. The company has 150 employees, including nurses who provide case oversight. All have training and experience in working with clients who need dementia care.
While families may view assisted-living facilities and nursing homes as a convenience, Baywood can make home care easy as well by arranging for home maintenance, lawn care and other services, Muffett said.
Home care does not have to be temporary, and Medicare-covered services such as physical therapy or hospice care also are available at home, Muffett said. “We can provide nursing-home care at home,” she said.
On average, home care is close in cost to a nursing home or assisted-living facility, Muffett said, although individual situations vary. Muffett said long-term care insurance offers home care coverage as an option.
Seniors who receive home care are not isolated, Muffett said, and can enjoy interaction with neighbors and family that they may enjoy more than organized activities at a care center.
Baywood clients get more consistent care because of low turnover among caregivers, Muffett said. She attributed that to competitive pay and benefits and a rigorous vetting process that only top candidates can pass. The process exceeds state requirements and includes knowledge and skills tests and driving record and state and national background checks.
Keeping clients and employees happy is a primary lesson Muffett has brought with her from General Mills.
Muffett, who has a doctoral degree in food science, enjoyed her early corporate years, working with a team that developed the still-popular Gushers and Fruit by the Foot snacks. “That was a fun, entrepreneurial time,” she recalled. That changed with a promotion to a vice president position that put her in charge of the all-important cereal division.
“The autonomy went away because it was so important that everybody was involved in every division,” Muffett said. “I couldn’t have enough influence over things I really cared about.”
Muffett left General Mills and did consulting work for several years before launching Baywood.
Gary Judd said he and his siblings began 24-hour home care for their mother, who was recovering from surgery and ensuing complications, in November after she had a bad experience in a nursing home.
“I told Dorothy that if it wasn’t for Baywood, we don’t think mom would have made it to Christmas,” said Judd, who added that the additional cost was not a deciding factor. “She’s living a better life. It’s a good investment for what you get, the extra time and extra care.”
The expert says: Jack Militello, management professor and director of the health care MBA program at the University of St. Thomas’ Opus College of Business, said the key differentiator for Muffett may be relationships and the way Baywood can or could expand its services to support clients’ social interactions.
“The thing to do if she wants to do something different is to sell relationships,” Militello said. What they’re saying these days is what really keeps people alive and healthy are relationships, staying connected to things. She’s got to position herself to say those social needs will be met.” That could involve arranging visits from neighbors, family or clergy members.
Todd Nelson is a freelance writer in Woodbury. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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