When Conor McDermott ‘12 opened Kind Senior Care in the fall of 2019, a goal that’s been close to his heart since he was a teenager, he didn’t expect to be navigating an international public health crisis just a few months later. .
“Global pandemic wasn’t a part of the business plan,” says McDermott, a native of Rochester, New York, who now lives in Newburyport, Massachusetts.
This is something McDermott’s been saying a lot lately, and though it’s intended to provide some comic relief, its implications are no joke. Over the past couple of months, McDermott and his staff have had to adapt to safely serve their community, which happens to be one of the populations most at-risk to dangers posed by COVID-19.
Kind Senior Care is a nonmedical home care business that aims to help seniors live independently at home for as long as possible. Employees assist with everyday things like meal preparation, grocery shopping, prescription pick-ups, and transportation to appointments, but the job is so much more than checking off boxes on a task list.
“Even though we’re nonmedical, a lot of what we do is really important to help people live healthy lives,” says McDermott.
Because seniors are among the most vulnerable to COVID-19, the CDC recommends they remain in their homes to limit exposure. While this necessary precaution keeps them safe, it can be quite isolating. To prevent loneliness and promote holistic wellbeing during this time, Kind Senior Care not only helps seniors safely acquire food and prescriptions, but it also offers compassion and companionship.
“The social determinants of health are really important,” says McDermott. “That’s where our caregivers and our company come in to provide human interaction by listening and having conversations.”
Though the pandemic wasn’t part of McDermott’s long-term plans, starting an elder care business has been a dream of his for many years. After his grandmother’s battle with ovarian cancer, his family started a similar business in Rochester in 2007, where McDermott helped out as a teenager and a college student.
“The type of impact you get to have on seniors and people every single day is awesome. No other job could really compare,” he says.
Recent events have placed unanticipated demands on McDermott and given him a new perspective on the industry he’s passionate about, making COVID-19 the ultimate crash course in crisis management. On Monday, March 23, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker issued an emergency order requiring all non-essential services and businesses to halt operations. Kind Senior Care qualifies as an essential business, and McDermott’s team had to work quickly and resourcefully to acquire personal protective equipment (PPE) and train all caregivers to ensure compliance with mandated safety procedures and, more importantly, protect their clients.
“Quite frankly, without our services, many of our clients wouldn't be able to live independently at home,” says McDermott. “Maybe they don't have family close by, or they would have had to go into an assisted living or independent living facility. So we really, really had to be there.”