“When I decided to change careers, I knew I wanted to help people. I looked for about two years,” says Patty Andresen Knapp, owner of Visiting Angels, a franchise company offering elder care services across the U.S. and worldwide (635 agencies). Visiting Angels is committed to providing the best possible in-home care services. The goal is keeping the client at home and giving peace of mind to the family.
“I was impressed when I called for information one Sunday afternoon and the vice president answered the phone,” Knapp says. “He talked to me for hours. I also like that the company is spiritually based.” (There is no specific religious connection.)
Knapp’s mission to provide the best care for seniors was sparked by her own experience with her mother. She died after a brief stay in a nursing home where she received poor care. Knapp was able to make better arrangements for her father when the need arose. He lived his last days happily.
Knapp opened her franchise 16 years ago in a 100-square-foot office. She did not pay herself a salary for one year. Her franchise includes the Virginia Peninsula and, more recently, the Smithfield area.
“For me this is more than a job,” says Knapp. “It’s where my heart is. I expect my caregivers to feel the same. And they are a wonderful group. They are here because they care about people and our clients can sense this.” (The website contains many testimonials.)
The Visiting Angels website is very user friendly and explains services by leading the potential client or family member through various scenarios. Services range from once-a-week visits, allowing the family member caregiver a day off, all the way to round-the-clock attention. The client and family choose the best fit. Companion care offers a skilled caregiver who helps with “activities of daily living” to make independent living possible. There is “a program to help seniors after hospital stays to avoid re-admission. The dementia/Alzheimer’s care provides specialized assistance to improve quality of life.
Although Visiting Angels does not offer medical care, the caregiver can prepare meals, run errands, do light housekeeping and provide transportation for the senior to appointments or social events.
An assessment interview outlines available services and determines which ones meet the client’s needs. This personalized care plan can be changed as needed. There is ongoing communication to assure the client and family are satisfied.
Caregivers receive regular training and have quarterly meetings. They participate in activities, such as the annual Alzheimer’s Walk. “I love my caregivers,” says Knapp. “I enjoy doing the evaluations so that I can tell them how great they are. They know suffering from personal experiences. They have taken care of family members and experienced loss. Their hearts are in this.” Many are single mothers in their mid-forties.
“Most applicants learn about us and apply online,” says Knapp. The hiring process includes two interviews. “We hire only 5 to 10 percent of the applicants. The first 30 days are crucial to see if the person is a fit for this kind of work.
Knapp presents real-life scenarios in the interview and asks how the applicant would handle the situation. There are also drug tests. Currently Knapp’s office has about 100 caregivers and 12 office employees.
Visiting Angels partners with any family caregiver to provide a respite and remove any guilt from “stepping away.” The agency offers opportunity for seniors to live a “robust, active, happy” life in the home they love. Isolation is avoided. Instead, there is conversation and joyful companionship.
Knapp has an extensive and varied business background. She has a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Christopher Newport University. In 2005, she earned a Certified Senior Advisor designation. In her previous work, she was a consultant for Mary Kay Cosmetics and Tupperware and an administrative assistant in the curatorial department at Mariners’ Museum. She also ran the Executive MBA program at the College of William & Mary.
Knapp is planning to retire in early 2019. Her daughter-in-law Rebecca Andresen has bought the franchise. She has worked with Knapp for six years in various positions, most recently as marketing director.
“I will probably spend a lot of my time visiting grandchildren,” says Knapp. She and her husband have nine children and 15 grandchildren between them. Knapp says she traveled a lot growing up. Her father was an Army Colonel and the family traveled throughout Europe. “I would like to try a U.S. river cruise,” she says.
Knapp is looking forward to retirement, satisfied that she was able to succeed in her goals and provide a needed service: helping others.
TO THE POINT:
Address: 704 Thimble Shoals Blvd., Ste. 600B Newport News VA 23606
Contacts: Patty Andresen Knapp, owner, client concierge; Rebecca Andresen,
director of marketing