By Kimberly Hundley | Photos by Sam Nalven
Not even a year ago, Polly Morris said the real challenge in giving her new business wings was overcoming the misconception that home healthcare couldn’t be a luxury service.
It’s safe to say word is out about Hyde Park Home Healthcare Professionals, a true labor of love for Morris.
Last month, she and business partner Lisa Sniegocki practically collapsed in their chairs for a quick lunch, between interviewing staff candidates and attending personally to clients’ needs. At least one of their cellphones—which go everywhere with them (including the shower)—trilled every two to five minutes, and dutifully the women put their forks aside to answer each call.
Since inception, Hyde Park has set out to change the standard of in-home care, raising the bar with elite, highly trained staff who cater to client needs, ranging from concierge services to aid by certified nursing assistants. Whereas most Valley home-health companies dip into a general registry of CNAs to find temporary employees, Hyde Park works closely with a handpicked team and provides customized training. They then match their PCAs—short for “Personal Care Attendants”—with the individual. If a PCA doesn’t happen to be available, clients, to their shock, will find either Morris or Sniegocki standing on their doorstep, ready for duty. For instance, over the summer, an assistant took ill in the middle of a nightshift, and Sniegocki threw on a bathrobe and buzzed over to provide relief within 15 minutes.
“It would be easy for us to do it like everyone else and just pick up the phone and tell someone to go to this house or that one,” Sniegocki says, then shrugs. “But I don’t want to do it that way. It would be sweet, but no joy.”
Hyde Park’s velvet-glove service costs $28 per hour, which is $3 to $5 more than the standard “non-luxury” fee charged by competitors. The partners don’t want to price themselves out of the market or deny their brand of dignified care to those who need it.
After spending most of the wee hours with a client who called in when all her PCAs were booked, Morris looked weary but exultant as she sipped a coffee. “We now have a waiting list of two weeks, but we hope by October we can eliminate that,” she says. “We have 30 caregivers now—we’re five times as big, but I’ve learned I’ve got to be constantly hiring and training.”
These days, Hyde Park’s growth challenge is a positive Catch 22. Because Sniegocki and Morris have such high standards, they turn down 95 out of 100 applicants vying for a position with their company, which pays double the industry norm. Most hopefuls fail the alcohol testing or criminal background checks, despite being gainfully employed by other care providers. “We’ve been in facilities where we’ve run into [caregivers] that we turned down, and I think, oh my God, I wouldn’t trust this person with my dog,” says Morris, whose vetting process includes punctuality, manners and demeanor.
A single client with round-the-clock needs equates to five PCAs in a 24-hour period, so hiring has become a herculean focus in recent months, with caregivers then undergoing a rigorous training regimen. Morris is proud of the program, which includes culinary classes at Kierland Commons’ Sur le Table as well as instruction from Ritz-Carlton managers on the brand’s “five-star gold-standard service.”
“We are their servants as well as their caregivers,” Morris says of the company’s relationship to clientele. “And we get to know the whole family—we spend lots of time with families.”
In fact, Sniegocki and Morris’ goal is to create a family-like bond within the Hyde Park staff that extends to clients and their loved ones. Regardless whether a client needs a PCA only once a week, that person or family members are welcome to call Hyde Park at any time for guidance or support. As Sniegocki likes to say, “We are yours. All of us are there for you.”
So what kind of service can a client expect if signed on for the Hyde Park Home Healthcare Professionals treatment?
For starters … PCAs will drive you to the doctor’s office, and even act as your “patient advocate” in the examination room at your request. They’ll go with you on hospital visits and stay in your room overnight, fetch blood-test results or medicines, cook your favorite dishes, play cards with you, clean house, perform pedicures, style your hair, administer a therapeutic massage, arrange medical transport and take you shopping. They’ll stop by periodically to make sure you’re OK, and if a family member suspects you’re feeling down, they’ll make a special trip to cheer you up.
As a specific example, Morris relates a recent experience with “Linda,” an elderly Hyde Park client who lives in a Carefree estate. When Linda was still in a wheelchair, one of her main pleasures was receiving friends on her balcony, where she often reveled on her own in the spectacular view. After a serious fall, she became bedridden, and now requires 24/7 assistance. Determined to enrich her client’s life after the accident, Morris flew into action, ordering French doors installed in the bedroom for an open feel, and organizing parties so guests would continue to visit.
While homebound, Linda often reminisced about summering on Coronado Island in California, and Hyde Park arranged for caregivers to drive her in a gurney to her favorite hotel on the island, where she was accommodated with a suite and balcony overlooking the ocean. The PCA looked after her the entire time.
“She enjoyed seeing a different view!” Morris says. “I say, ‘never say no.’ We do not say, ‘no.’ I tell our people, if a client says, ‘I want a helicopter in my living room at 2 in the morning,’ you say, ‘OK, let me call the office and make arrangements.’”
Danger of Denial
Call it human nature, but denial flows strongly among the silver-haired population that they may someday—probably sooner than they imagine—need assistance at home. Sniegocki and Morris urge concerned families, spouses and individuals to make plans before the time comes.
“By the time we are 70 years old, 87 percent of us will have a life-changing episode where we are going to need help in our home. That’s just the fact, and that number goes up every day,” says Sniegocki. “Smart people are thinking ahead and building a relationship with companies like Hyde Park, so if something happens, they aren’t making calls at 2 in the morning trying to find home healthcare.”
To encourage prospective clients to pre-plan, the ladies of Hyde Park give freely of their time to answer questions, meeting with out-of-state adult children visiting parents locally, consulting with wary home-alone seniors, etc. One older gentleman, who is not yet a paying client, worries his mild dementia may worsen to the point he can’t care for his ailing partner. He calls daily to reassure Sniegocki he’s still holding it together; the day he misses that call, he’s asked Hyde Park to step in—and they’re ready.
North Phoenix resident Lynn Rich found Hyde Park only a few days before her husband, Jack, took a horrifying fall in the home bathroom. By pure coincidence, she’d just read a profile in the January 2014 issue of Scottsdale Airpark News about Morris’ budding business and had instructed their daughter, who lives in the Valley, to call Hyde Park in case they ever needed that kind of care.
Jack wound up in Mayo Clinic for almost 10 days, and when he came home he needed constant care for months. Lynn called Hyde Park, who sent a cadre of caregivers with expertise matching Jack’s changing needs as he healed in stages. Today Jack moves gingerly around the house with a walker, and Hyde Park sends a PCA to stay with him once a week from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. for a “respite” visit, giving Lynn a chance to run errands and have a break. “And believe me, it is a respite,” Lynn says, aiming a smile at Jack. “And a respite for him, too. He has new faces and someone to visit with for a while, and sometimes the boss herself shows up at the door, which is always a big surprise.”
The people that Hyde Park have sent to her home during these difficult months have made the experience easier because, Lynn says, they feel like family. “They are all exceptional, every one … I haven’t forgotten a single one of them. I think I can go right down the list.”
Kismet and Rewards
Hyde Park may have been born from Morris’ long-held passion to transform geriatric care, but she met her professional soul mate in Sniegocki. The timing was kismet. The day after Hyde Park’s phones had begun to ring off the hook, and Morris realized she wouldn’t be able to handle the workload herself, she met her feisty blonde counterpart.
Sniegocki had run her own home-health franchise while in Pennsylvania, embracing the calling after helping to care for her sick father for many years. When she moved to the Scottsdale Airpark two years ago, she worked for another local franchise but switched to independent care because she wasn’t happy with the company’s approach.
“And then I ran into Polly Morris … and her mission and goals with Hyde Park it resonated with me so much,” Sniegocki says. “Not only is she my best friend, my sister and my business partner, but our philosophies are the same. To see that relief on patients’ faces—it’s so rewarding.”
Coming Soon! Medical Supplies of Scottsdale delivering only the best, 24/7
The gals behind Hyde Park Home Health Professionals have a new venture in the pipeline: Medical Supplies of Scottsdale, the Valley’s first 24-hour, medical-supply store, slated to open in the center on the northwest corner of Tatum and Shea boulevards as early as December.
While caring for their home-healthcare clients, Hyde Park partners Polly Morris and Lisa Sniegocki were dismayed to discover there was no round-the-clock outlet in the Greater Phoenix area to buy supplies such as wheelchairs, walkers, oxygen, mattress pads and incontinence products—all of which are often needed after hours.
Rather than carrying a plethora of makes, Medical Supplies of Scottsdale will stock “only the best” brand of each item, Morris says. “We have done the research for the customers. We’re also contracting with some great new companies that are bringing cutting-edge things to the market.”
The store will feature a retail space where people can drop in to shop or find out about home care. Though store hours are not yet confirmed, customers will be able to call for Valleywide delivery 24/7.
Hyde Park Home Healthcare Professionals
14850 N. Scottsdale Road
Scottsdale, AZ 85254