Comfort Keepers® franchisee Brenda Rosati shares a day in the life running her seniors home care business
By Georgie Binks
If there’s one thing Brenda Rosati knows from experience, it’s to take your mother’s advice. The co-owner of the Comfort KeepersÒ franchise in Brampton/Mississauga recalls personally hiring Comfort Keepers in Orangeville (a neighbouring territory) when her mother came to live with her.
“At certain times, we had to go out and I didn’t want to leave her alone. I was really happy with the care they provided for her,” Rosati explains. “One night my mom said, ‘Brenda, you’re really good at this. You should go and work for Comfort Keepers.’ So, after she passed away, I did.”
Rosati started as a caregiver for the brand, which provides in-home care for seniors. Over 14 years, she worked for multiple Comfort Keepers offices in various capacities, then joined the Brampton/Mississauga office in January 2019 as the General Manager. She became a franchisee and co-owner in October 2021. “I loved it … I could tell the clients I knew how they felt caring for their moms and family, as well as knowing what it was like to be a caregiver,” she says.
These days, Rosati gets an early start—at 6:45 in the morning. As she enjoys her morning coffee, she reads through emails, planning her day. “I make sure our clients are covered for the day as well as the next few days. If not, I follow up with the scheduler. I set some goals as to how we’re going to get those clients covered. Then I look at HR information with applicants, see if we need to bring any more people on, or if there are any applicants who need second interviews.”
Rosati often meets with clients who are looking for care of a family member. “I go out and do an in-home Care Consultation, talk to them about our services and what we can offer, talk about our personal support workers or nurses we would have on staff and give them their background and qualifications. We talk about what they can do when they come into the home. I also drop by facilities to see if they need more support, or build on our relationship.”
The next task is looking at business development, setting up meetings with clients or facilities. That’s done by phone, email, or by going to the facility.
Rosati began working for the Brampton/Mississauga office in January 2019 and became a co-owner/franchisee in October 2021, a year and a half into the pandemic. When COVID-19 hit, in addition to providing care for seniors in their homes, the franchise started providing staff to long-term care facilities and retirement homes. “It was very hectic, with pretty substantial needs there. [Care homes] didn’t have enough staff so they were asking for ours. We went in as an agency to support whatever needs they had.”
While her business tripled providing that support, it also lost residential clients. “Although our hours increased in long-term care facilities, [the pandemic] hurt our business. Clients didn’t want our staff coming into their homes,” Rosati recalls. She adds that as the pandemic recedes, “Some have come back.”
In terms of what constitutes a typical day for a Comfort Keepers franchisee, Rosati says you have to be prepared for an untypical one—things can change in a minute. “One of the biggest challenges is when you have everything in place for the day, not a crazy day, then a staff member calls in sick or with COVID. They have to be off 10-14 days and you have to replace them. This [has been] really hard because we don’t have a lot of extra staff.”
In fact, staffing was a huge challenge of the past two years. Rosati found herself having to replace staff who got COVID, or left because they were scared of getting it again. “Or they wanted to get out of the business because they didn’t want to be in a business where they were always exposed to it. We lost caregivers that way,” she says.
Despite the challenges, Rosati says the rewards are numerous. “Highlights are when you get a call from a client and they want your support or you get a call from a facility and they want your staff to come in and help. It’s always so rewarding when we get a new client, we’re able to help, and they’re happy with the staff. Also, when you get a contract and you’re able to support the facility with the number of people they need, that’s a highlight. Or when they call and say, ‘we want another 200 hours a week,’ or a client calls and says they want 24-hour care.”
Rosati says making clients happy is what she loves best. “When a client calls and gives positive feedback about the caregiver you’ve sent them, that makes me the happiest because I know I did something right with that client.” She also loves hearing continual positive feedback about a staff member from clients or facilities.
To be a successful franchisee at Comfort Keepers, Rosati says it’s necessary to care about the clients. “I’m passionate about helping people and getting people the care they need—and also helping caregivers get the career they want. I’m empathetic and a good listener when people talk to me about issues and problems, and what they need for their parents.” To be in this business, “You need kindness and compassion,” she says.
Growing a business and a community
Rosati feels her professional experience in management has been an asset for running the business, as her work now includes managing people, expenses and schedules, and her time. Being able to multi-task has also helped her. “You need organizational skills but also be able to drop what you’re doing to fix a problem.”
She says prospective franchisees should have good business skills, a health care background, and have had seniors in their life so that they understand their challenges.
Rosati is very confident about the future of Comfort Keepers. “Senior home care in general is such a growing business—it’s a great business to get involved in because more family members and children of elderly parents are recognising facilities are not a great living environment for their parents. They want to stay in their own homes, but they can’t often do that because family members are working and can’t take care of them.”
What sets Comfort Keepers apart is its philosophy of care, which the brand calls Interactive CaregivingTM. This practice encourages caregivers to do things with the clients, as opposed to for the client, depending on what is achievable for that individual. Interactive CaregivingTM allows for clients to have meaningful participation in their care, providing them with a sense of autonomy, maintaining dignity, and encouraging independence.
Rosati says other benefits of the franchise are the support from the head office team, as well as power of the brand itself, as Comfort Keepers has been in Canada for nearly 20 years, and is growing. She says Comfort Keepers also offers the opportunity to get together with other franchisees, attend conferences, and connect through zoom calls. “I’ve benefited a great deal from these calls.”
For new franchisees, patience is important. “It’s going to take some time to build up their business. Don’t be discouraged. Keep knocking on doors and making calls and sending emails,” she says. “Even if you send 50 emails and you get two back saying they will meet with you, then at least that’s two.”
Rosati recommends new franchisees connect with other people for advice, feed off client support, and make use of the head office team. She also touts the importance of listening to other franchisee’s challenges, and how they have overcome them. “Sometimes I get discouraged, but I think, ‘We’ve got to keep trying.’”
Rosati says what’s really kept her going has been a good sense of humour. “I find, when you’re working with other people, if you laugh and you make them laugh it [gives them] a better outlook on things—especially for support staff. We laugh together and we can come up with solutions together.”