West Hartford-based Companions for Living broke ground Tuesday on a new ‘home office’ on North Main Street.
By Ronni Newton
After 12 years in business – nearly 10 of those in West Hartford – Companions for Living is getting a brand new home, and on Tuesday President Julianne Roth presided over the groundbreaking at 312 North Main St. in Bishops Corner.
“I’m excited to be starting the next chapter in the success story of Companions for Living right here in my hometown of West Hartford,” Roth said.
“This will be a home for our business as well as to make our colleagues, clients, and neighbors feel right at home here,” Roth said of the 3,400 square foot building that has been designed by Kemper Associates and will be constructed by J. Matthew Group.
“It looks like a home because that’s where we do all of our real work – in client’s homes,” Roth said. However while the exterior is a classic New England “Dartmouth style” house design, the interior includes contemporary office amenities and reflects the company’s philosophy of “living younger, longer.”
In addition to the Companions for Living team, the groundbreaking was attended by local business leaders and officials, including State Sen. Beth Bye, State Rep. Derek Slap, and West Hartford Mayor Shari Cantor.
Cantor told Roth it was such a joy to be able to attend the groundbreaking. “You’re everywhere, invested in the community, helping people.”
The North Main Street lot on which the new Companions for Living office is being built – which was covered with trees and had been vacant and for sale for years – is right next to the Bishops Corner shopping center where Whole Foods is located, but it was zoned residential. In order for an office to be built on the site, it had to be rezoned “residential-office” (RO) and a special development district had to be created because of the type of office it would be, which meant public hearings and a Town Council vote. The plan ultimately received unanimous approval.
“You came to us with your plan, your vision, and you had that spark in your eye, that entrepreneurial vision,” Cantor said. Cantor said that Roth was willing to do what it took, even though the process was cumbersome, because she felt that the site was ideal for her new home office.
Roth said that Companions for Living is bursting at the seams in its current 2,000 square-foot location, and she was determined to have the office in West Hartford and on a main thoroughfare.
The new home office will include a full kitchen so caregivers can learn how to properly prepare meals, a training room, and a library of reference materials. There will be space for support groups and for teaching family members how to cope when their loved ones have dementia.
Companions for Living is a specialized memory and home care company serving older adults, about 80 percent of whom have dementia. The company is the first home care company of its type in Greater Hartford that offers caregivers who are certified to provide specialized memory support services for seniors as well as their families, allowing them the independence to live at home safely, while providing holistic care.
“We specialize in dementia and do it differently than anyone else in the country,” Roth said. The company’s employees are trained to work with clients and meet them where they are at that moment.
“We’re behaviorally based, and that can change from moment-to-moment.” Clients can swing from angry to joyful and happy. “We’re trained to help shift their mood to a better place,” said Roth.
All care is done in a client’s home – wherever that may be. Caregivers visit clients in assisted living and long-term care facilities as well as in private residences.
Recently they have rolled out a new service, the ReNEW Memory Care program, which involves a cognitive assessment followed by development of a customized engagement plan for the client. Caregivers are trained to implement the plan.
Companions for Living has about 100 people on its payroll, but only seven are office staff. When Roth started the business from scratch nearly 12 years ago, she had already spent 20 years in the corporate world but wanted to do something to make a difference. “I felt like a cog in a wheel,” she said.
Roth’s business was launched to fill a need. She said that her grandmother had received terrible home care, and a friend who had a family member who needed home care was struggling to find a workable arrangement.
She started the company in her then-home in Granby, and two years later moved both her home and office to West Hartford. The office has been at 1216 Farmington Ave. (near Stop & Shop) for about seven years.
As soon as the ceremonial groundbreaking concluded Tuesday afternoon the large construction machinery took over. The building should be completed before the end of the year.
“We are, as a council, going to be so proud as this building goes up,” Cantor said.
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