Harrison firefighters step up lifesaving game

By: Julie Snyder | Mount Clemens - Clinton - Harrison Journal | Published December 5, 2015


HARRISON TOWNSHIP/MOUNT CLEMENS — A trio of longtime Harrison Township firefighters have taken their passion for saving lives outside the fire station.

After a bit of research, Bob Mlynarek, Jason Groth and Mike Barnhard teamed up much like they do on any emergency call and opened Preferred Care at Home, an in-home care company based in Mount Clemens.

The independently owned and operated franchise now services senior citizens living in Macomb County, the Grosse Pointes and eastern Oakland County — seniors who need assistance in their daily lives and want to remain living at their homes. Preferred Care offers Activities of Daily Living (ADL) services, including companionship, meal preparation, light housekeeping, transportation, medication reminders as well as bathing, dressing, feeding and toileting assistance.

Mlynarek said that too often on the job, he and his fellow firefighters would be called to assist a senior in a medical emergency. He said it would be clear that these seniors, living alone, were in need of regular in-home care and aid.

“Senior care was a natural fit for us,” said Mlynarek, a Rochester resident who has been a Harrison Township firefighter for 18 years.

The three first ventured into business ownership in the 1990s remodeling basements. Things went well for 13 years until the market crashed in 2008, and “no one was getting their basements remodeled anymore,” according to Mlynarek.

It didn’t take long for these close friends and self-proclaimed “workaholics” to find a new venture, one outside the firehouse, but still with the same goal, and in 2010 Preferred Care at Home became available to all of Macomb County.

Groth, a Harrison Township resident and battalion chief who has been with the Fire Department for 20 years, said their franchise grew quickly, and they soon expanded into eastern Oakland County and the Grosse Pointes.

Preferred Care at Home, based in Delray Beach, Florida, currently services more than 500 clients with 140 caregivers, some who are on a live-in basis and some who provide temporary care. That first year, they were named Rookie of the Year for the best new franchise, and they have racked up awards from national headquarters every year since.

“We always make sure it’s a perfect match between the client and the caregiver, based on the caregiver’s schedule, because some of them have school, families. ... If it’s not a perfect match, we find a match that works,” Groth said.

He said this not only helps the clients — some of whom have dementia or Alzheimer’s — build trust with a regular familiar face, it also strengthens employee morale and promotes efficiency and employee retention.

“It’s a difficult job that they do,” Groth said.

That fact is why Mlynarek, Groth and Barnhard hold monthly raffles to reward their caregivers who go above and beyond, like those who have a perfect attendance record and who pick up emergency shifts at the last minute. To make it more interesting, they film the raffles for their YouTube channel for the caregivers to view.

It’s the technology that the men say is also helping in their success as in-home health care providers. They also have a phone app that allows for quick and easy communications between Preferred Care office staff and the caregivers.

And earlier this year, they expanded their services yet again, acquiring Great Lakes Home Patient Care, based in Southfield, a separate company that handles skilled home care using registered nurses, medical social workers, and physical and occupational therapists.

Mlynarek said they work under the direction of physicians, and Medicare and Blue Cross will cover such services for individuals suffering from an illness or physical limitations that keep them from living in or leaving their home without assistance.

He said their clients often hear about their services through family or friends who learned about them on social media or through the Internet, or just through word of mouth.

“Then they call us, we do an assessment, make sure that Medicare will cover it, then call their doctor, and we take care of everything for them,” Mlynarek said. “This is all about allowing them to get the care they need and remain at home.”

For more information about Preferred Care at Home, call (586) 298-1044 or go to www.Preferhome.com/Macomb or www.Glhomehealth.com.