During a routine meeting a few weeks ago, local caregiver and owner of Kind Hearted Homecare Diane Goetsch, got an unexpected invite from 35th Assembly representative Mary Czaja (R-Irma).
“I meet with Mary and Senator Tom Tiffany on a fairly regular basis to discuss various things,” Goetsch explains. “During a meeting in early November, Mary asked me to be a speaker at a public hearing of the Legislative Task Force on Alzheimers and Dementia. I was a bit surprised but I accepted of course!”
In looking back on Goetsch’s track record in Merrill, there is little wonder why she would eagerly accept such an invite.
Goetsch has not only invested the last 10 years of her life in providing services to those in need, but just over five years ago she stepped up her service delivery, in the opening of Kind Hearted Home Care LLC, at the intersection of Scott and First streets.
“I have always found it very rewarding to be a part of people’s lives and helping in their time of need,” Goetsch explained, during an interview shortly after KHC’s opening in 2011. “I have been inspired over the years to help people because of my family experiences, medical education, voluntary community service and a commitment to better the lives of others.”
Goetsch opened Kindhearted Home Care in an effort to provide what she felt was a needed service in the Merrill community. Based on the concept of a “Supportive Home Care” service, KHC offered a variety of services in client homes.
Services provided range from assisting with routine activities such as cooking, cleaning and shopping to performing general errands.
Then in 2013, Goetsch upped the ante yet again, expanding KHC to include a social center which not only offers a variety of activities for clients who require a bit of extra help and assistance, but also a break for their families.
What started as a crew of six, including Diane, has now expanded to 20.
Clients diagnosed with Alzheimers and dementia make up a large part of Goetsch’s clients.
“After speaking with Mary, I was under the impression it would be a while before the hearing was held, maybe a year or so. Then a few days later, I get a phone call telling me the hearing was scheduled for November 18 in Rhinelander,” she adds.
Despite the short notice, Diane was armed and ready with the message she intended to deliver to the 11-member, bi-partisan task force.
“Each of the 11 members are legislators who have been touched or affected in some way by Alzheimer’s or Dementia. The goal of the task force is to make it a priority to find out how to improve and sustain in-home care, promote community based resources, continue to raise individual and community awareness of the disease and determine ways to insure future quality of care, while lowering cost of long term care,” Diane explains further. “The end goal is to come up with recommendations on polices and initiatives to improve care for those with Alzheimer’s and dementia.”
Following the meeting, Goetsch realized she was the only speaker who brought hands-on experience with Alzheimer’s and dementia clients, to the floor.
“What I found particularly interesting about the hearing in Rhinelander, was it was the only hearing which wasn’t held in a large metropolitan area! This meeting was designed to hear the voice of the northwoods and that is exactly what I brought!” she says with a broad smile.
“As part of my message, I informed those present of the crisis we will soon be facing here in the northwoods.”
The following is an excerpt from Diane’s address to the task force;
“In the next 15 years, our senior population will double in our area. The senior population will only increase the further north you go. We live in rural communities where children have moved away, parents are reluctant to ask for help and there is a lack of knowledge of available resources. The issues we currently face and will continue to face include; lack of transportation, depression, isolation and financial issues.’
Overall, Diane was very pleased with the response from the task force.
“I was very impressed with how attentive the legislative members were. I absolutely felt like my message was heard and received of the current issues we have in the north woods. I think they came to understand these issues are faced here in Lincoln County and as far north as Bayfield County. It was by far the highlight of my career!”
As we near 2016, Diane is planning to take another step in her mission.
“We have plans to open a new facility next fall, with construction to begin as soon as the ground is soft enough,” she adds.
The new facility will be located at 900 E. First St. and will be twice the size of the current Kind Hearted Home Care and Social Center facility.
“We are moving forward with a two-story, 2,400-square-foot facility to allow for more space to serve our clients and expand our services,” she said.
The new facility will continue to offer existing services including dementia and Alzheimer’s care, supportive home care offices and services for developmentally disabled clients. Expansion of services will include care for traumatic brain injury clients, intellectual disabilities, respite care for children, and spa services.
In addition to the expansion of services, Goetch estimates eight additional job positions will be created.
Currently, Diane is looking to enter the RFP (Request for Proposal) process by the end of the year and is aiming for the facility to be finished by or around Sept. 1.
“We are very excited to continue to grow our services in the Merrill community, which we have been providing for the last 5 1/2 years,” Goetsch adds with a smile.