Issue 4 » Aging with Power: Myles McNamara, Comfort Keepers In-Home Care Help Seniors Stay Home
“If you needed somebody to take care of your mom so she could stay in her own home, would you want to just Google somebody and get some stranger?” Myles McNamara, Comfort Keepers In-Home Care owner-president, asked rhetorically. “Of course not. You’d rather say, ‘Wait, I know Myles. He owns Comfort Keepers. He’s hands-on, they’ve been engaged in our community for almost 20 years. Let’s call him.’”
By Stephen K. Peeples
There’s been a “silver tsunami” rising in healthcare as Baby Boomers born between 1946-1964 hit retirement, and McNamara and Comfort Keepers In-Home Care have stayed ahead of the wave for almost two decades by helping Santa Clarita Valley seniors stay in their own homes.
McNamara established Comfort Keepers In-Home Care as a licensed home care organization, or HCO, in 2001, and it’s now the SCV’s top private provider of in-home care, serving hundreds of seniors.
“We help people with all their daily living activities, nothing that takes a medical license to do,” McNamara said. “We work in conjunction with home health, hospice, and other medical companies.”
Comfort Keepers’ care managers all have nursing backgrounds who conduct the primary assessment of prospective clients and create an initial care plan, which is flexible and can be modified as conditions change.
“Our care managers oversee every single case, including the caregivers, and maintain communication with the family,” McNamara said. “It’s a seamless process. The communication…you can’t have too much. The caregivers love it as much as the clients. It’s like having 20 sets of grandparents. They really bond with each of our clients. It’s pretty special.”
McNamara’s success with Comfort Keepers in the SCV combines a proven business model, long-range business planning and top-quality caregivers, underpinned by savvy marketing that directly involves the operation with local senior-related organizations.
Community Involvement, International Reach
As owner-operator of the SCV Comfort Keepers franchise and a second in Encino purchased in 2014 that now serves hundreds of seniors as well, McNamara is directly connected with Comfort Keepers Franchise Inc.’s nationwide network, which in turn is an extension of Sodexo, the progressive multi-national healthcare consortium based in Marseilles, France.
“Our local operations benefit greatly from the franchise network’s and parent company’s ongoing support,” McNamara said.
“And Comfort Keepers has just initiated an incredible partnership for senior services with Kaiser Permanente and AARP, who like Comfort Keepers’ footprint with all the franchises and coverage we offer nationwide,” he said. “So, there are lots of pros to our connection to the franchise network.”
Senior Advocacy, Engagement Builds Trust
By publicly and privately advocating for SCV seniors in myriad ways for 17-plus years, McNamara has demonstrated to them – as well as their younger family members and loved ones – how Comfort Keepers’ benefits extend beyond in-home care, to the local senior community at large.
“My team and I are very involved in our community, meeting the people who make referrals for home care,” he said.
McNamara’s a past president of the SCV Senior Center’s nonprofit foundation and has served on the Newhall-based center’s Committee on Aging operations board.
He and Comfort Keepers have donated substantial sums to the center, including an ongoing capital campaign to build a new Senior Center. One of the rooms will be named after Comfort Keepers in recognition of the company’s contributions.
McNamara currently serves on the Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital Foundation and Valley Industry Association boards of directors. The father of two daughters, he is a supporter of Soroptimist, as the nonprofit’s mission is to educate and empower women.
McNamara hosts the “Aging with Power” program monthly on Santa Clarita radio station KHTS hometown station fm 98.1-am 1220. He’s trademarked the name and has plans to develop a companion website to provide resources for seniors and their families.
Not surprisingly, when SCV seniors and their families are considering alternatives to assisted-care facilities or nursing homes, they contact McNamara and Comfort Keepers for advice and assistance.
“We’re not selling widgets, we’re selling trust, and that’s priceless,” he said.
Vetting the Comfort Keepers
To keep and build upon that trust, McNamara adheres to a rigorous employee vetting process to ensure Comfort Keepers’ caregivers are the best and most reliable available. This includes background checks for skills and experience, plus a TB test and security checks including LiveScan fingerprinting and U.S. Department of Justice and Homeland Security clearances.
“We go even deeper than the law or Comfort Keepers policies call for, by drilling down to check on the state and local levels, too,” McNamara said.
“Then every prospective caregiver goes through training with the staff at the Comfort Keepers caregivers’ skills lab in our office on Lyons Avenue,” he said. “They train people to help with ambulation devices, bed changing, taking a bath, cooking meals, house cleaning and whatever the need may be.”
Local caregivers consider Comfort Keepers the employer of choice, McNamara said. “People know we pay well and treat them well, and that’s important because the battle now and in the next decade is for the best caregivers.”
Interactive Caregiving, Management
McNamara incorporates Comfort Keepers Franchise Inc.’s trademarked “Interactive Caregiving” into his service philosophy, which invites clients to participate in their own care.
“The biggest things we see afflicting our seniors are isolation and depression,” he said. “They may have lost a spouse of 40 or 50 years. So, Interactive Caregiving involves clients in their own care, keeping our seniors active spiritually, mentally and physically, so they’re not just sitting on the couch inactive while the caregiver works around them. The caregiver and client find things they can do together, and the results have been tremendous.”
Interactive Caregiving keeps seniors more active and engaged, McNamara said.
“We’ve seen the difference when we come onto a case, and the client is depressed. We’re never going to replace their spouse, but if we can get them out of that dark place and re-engaged in life and society – just to watch them blossom is tremendous.”
A Universal Approach to Interactive Caregiving
“Interactive Caregiving” could also describe McNamara’s enthusiastic and colorful management style, which is informed by his pre-Comfort Keepers experience as an entrepreneur helping others create and run new businesses, and as an entertainer and actor with roles in popular TV shows, movies and commercials.
McNamara also enjoyed a nearly two-decade stint at Universal Studios, starting as a tour guide, then directing all the live action shows at the theme park, and climaxing with a seven-year stint in the “Miami Vice Action Spectacular.”
Why and how McNamara traded a career on the silver screen to surf the silver tsunami almost sounds like a live-action script. On a recent visit to the Comfort Keepers SCV office, we got a reading.
3W: Where did you grow up and go to school, and how did you break into showbiz?
McNamara: I grew up in Middletown, in Northern California. There were 26 people in my high school graduating class. Then I attended junior college in Yuba City, played basketball and baseball, and got involved in theater. After earning a Liberal Arts degree, I moved down to L.A. to pursue a career in acting.
Immediately I got a job as a tour guide at Universal Studios, which is where I met my wife, Jane. She was a tour guide that summer before heading off to college. She’s now an elder law attorney in the SCV, one of the best-known in Southern California.
Luckily, I got Taft-Hartley’d into the Screen Actors Guild and started working almost immediately. My first SAG job was a national Pepsi commercial. I was getting TV roles and a lot of commercials while also working as a tour guide.
Then the infamous 1980 actors’ strike hit, so I went back to college at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and got my business degree. Also played a little baseball and got involved with a little agency and did some local acting there.
When I came back to L.A., Universal Studios wanted me back, this time as a director of the entertainment center – all the live shows, strolling characters, and special events like “He-Man, Master of the Universe,” “Transformers,” “Barbie & The Rockers” and many others.
They were grooming me as the Director of Entertainment for Universal Studios Tours. But I was also still doing a lot of auditions and acting parts and eventually got so busy I was about to leave Universal.
Just then a new live show called the “Miami Vice Action Spectacular” was coming in, so I stepped down as entertainment director and took the steps to have myself cast in the show. I played the part of the emcee and “Director,” as the show was presented as if the audience were watching an episode of “Miami Vice” being filmed. I had an understudy so if I was off shooting a TV show or commercial, he’d fill in.
It was a great gig. The show ran for seven years. We were No. 1 in the park. Then Universal, for unbeknownst reasons, closed us down for a new show based on the movie “Waterworld” starring Kevin Costner.
Of course, the studio didn’t expect the movie would not be as successful as they had hoped. But the “Waterworld” show has done very well for more than 20 years now. It used basically the same set and the show followed pretty much the same action-type format, so I think those Miami “Detectives in Pastel” should get some credit.
3W: How did you make the leap from Universal Studios action show star to Comfort Keepers franchisee?
McNamara: I was also on the long-running NBC soap “Days of Our Lives” for a while, but by 2001 my storyline was coming to an end.
About the same time, I went to a family reunion and met an uncle who worked in the financial offices of a homecare company in the Midwest.
Home care, as we know it now, didn’t really exist back then, but when he explained the concept, it really intrigued me.
As we talked I remembered when I was growing up, my mom took care of my grandmother, who lived with us and had what we now know as Alzheimer’s. I’d seen what my mom went through and started connecting the dots.
Meanwhile, as I was ending “Days of Our Lives,” NBC wanted me to try out for a new soap called “Passions.” I decided to continue my acting career if I got the show, and if not, to just walk away from the entertainment industry and open a home care business.
Obviously, I didn’t get the “Passions” part. So, after learning about homecare from my uncle, then doing my own due diligence of what would be a good, recession-proof business venture that would also help people, and knowing the age tsunami of senior Baby Boomers was starting to build, I opened Comfort Keepers In-Home Care in 2001. I went through the training and never really looked back.
When I do, though, I’m so glad I started my own operation from scratch rather than buy an existing franchise with all the baggage. Homecare companies have come and gone, but after more than 17 years, Comfort Keepers and I are deeply committed to and deeply rooted in our community, and we’ve experienced tremendous growth.
VOTED BEST SENIOR CARE 8 YEARS IN A ROW