“What do you want to be when you grow up?” is a question posed to youngsters throughout their school years.
Many envision that dream career and some even achieve it, but sometimes the corporate world can tarnish the dream.
That was the motivating factor behind Bubby Olsen and Donald Lirette’s decision to leave that world behind and open Bayou Home Care.
“Donald and I both came from big conglomerate home health companies that were becoming more profit driven. We felt that we needed to have a more community-based company that was less profit driven and more patient driven,” Olsen said.
But a moratorium on new home health care licenses meant the duo had to wait and find an existing license to buy.
Lirette did just that. He found a home health care business for sale in New Orleans, “And out of the blue I called Bubby and said, ‘You in?’ He said, ‘Yeah.’ We became partners and did it,” Lirette said.
Bayou Home Care opened its doors Aug. 11, 2003, in a small office above B.O.E. on Main Street.
At first Olsen and Lirette did everything from helping patients take baths, to motivating them to move around a bit, to running the business office.
“In the beginning we couldn’t get anybody to work for us. Nobody wanted to work for a new company,” Lirette explained.
But that quickly changed.
In seven years the business grew to include offices in Houma, Morgan City, Metairie, Mandeville, Hammond, Baton Rouge and Lutcher – plus Bayou Medical Staffing in Thibodaux.
“Even some of our friends don’t realize how big we are. We have between 250 to 300 employees and company-wide see about 600 patients,” Lirette said.
Home health care is a short-term service intended to help patients get back on their feet and become independent again. They have to be home bound but not bed bound to take advantage of the company’s services.
“That’s a big misnomer in our industry. It has to be a taxing effort for the patient to leave their home in order to acquire our services,” Olsen explained.
Bayou Home Care provides home nursing, wound care, IV therapy, home care aids, physical, occupational and speech therapy as well as short-term rehabilitation. The business also offers medical social workers that can coordinate problems with money or sitter services.
“We help restore quality of life to people who have diabetes or any other type of disease management. Whatever disease process they have, we can send nurses out to teach the patients and their families how to live with it,” Lirette said.
The staff also helps to safety proof a patient’s home to make it safe for them to get in and out of the tub, off and on the toilet, and live and work around the home.
“Social workers sometimes help coordinate services through the Lions Club and Catholic Services that go out and help them with hand rails, grab bars and ramps to the front of the houses. Then our therapists go in and show them how to use them correctly,” Olsen said.
Bayou Home Care’s services are ordered by a physician for 60 days at a time.
“Anyone is welcome to call and ask about the service. We can give them all kinds of information as to whether they qualify or not, but the service has to be ordered by a physician – like a prescription at a drug store,” Olsen said.
The nurses act as a liaison between the physician and their patient. They can suggest the patient may need a certain service, but the physician has to determine if it’s necessary.
Then every 60 days the nurses evaluate the patient to determine if care is still needed. If so, the orders must be renewed by the physician for home care to continue.
The main goal of the home care company is to keep their patients at home instead of in the hospital, which also can reduce their medical bills. If the nurses catch a problem the patient is having early enough, they may be able to help the patient avoid a costly emergency room visit.
“Patients are getting discharged earlier and earlier which means they’re being discharged sicker and sicker. Without our service to pick them up on the back end, a lot of these patients would have stayed in the hospital for days or weeks longer,” Olsen said.
Every employee of Bayou Home Care is licensed and trained with at least a year of hands-on experience. Olsen explained his nurses must have the experience to deal with many different issues on their own.
Business has slowed down recently. Olsen believes fears about the economy and higher deductibles are making people cautious about getting elective surgeries.
“It means fewer patients for us to see. The orthopedic surgeons have slowed, general surgeons have slowed – it’s eating into the amount of patients we see. We don’t know if we got a fair shake with this health care bill. It may hurt us in the long run. But they think about numbers – not the patients,” Olsen said.
To combat the decrease in revenue per patient, Bayou Home Care is expanding and seeing more patients.
“Our most impressive statistic that in seven years we’ve been able to grow as big as we are in such a short period. It speaks volumes for the service we provide,” Olsen said.
“Being nurses goes a long way with our staff and patients. We’re a patient driven, employee focused company. We don’t want our service to be dictated by the amount of money Medicare is going to give us. We take care of the patient first and hopefully the money will take care of itself,” Lirette said.
The men agree that home health care is very fulfilling.
“You get to take a patient from their sickest point to independence. It takes the right kind of person to be in home health. I tell therapists and nurses either you love home health or you hate it. There’s no in-between,” Olsen said.
“We’re not flashy guys, we’re very grounded, we still enjoy getting out there and seeing patients, we stay active with our employees. Our employees are like family to us and our patients are very important. We know the formula that made us successful and we haven’t deviated from it. It’s worked really well for us,” Lirette said.
Bubby Olsen (left) and Donald Lirette of Bayou Home Care say local flair and passion for home health care is their formula for success. JENNIE CHILDS