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‘It was an answer to a call:’ TenderHearted Home Care celebrates 10 years of providing care at home

SALISBURY — From the young age of 11, Renee Gray was entrusted by parents in her Ohio neighborhood with babysitting their children, many of whom were only a few years her junior.

The oldest child in a large family, Renee had been caring for her younger siblings for years.

“These ladies trusted me with these two babies,” Renee said. “But I was pretty mature being the oldest daughter and raising my brothers and sisters.”

Caring for others never felt like a chore to Renee. It felt like a calling. That’s why she started assisting mentally disabled people as a teenager and continued to care for others professionally.

When Renee and her husband, Peter, moved their family to Salisbury over two decades ago, she started working as a registrar, first in the emergency room at Novant Health Rowan Medical Center and then at the Heart and Vascular Institute. She started to notice a trend among the older patients who she checked in. Many of them didn’t seem to have someone in their life providing assistance at home on a daily basis, even though they desperately needed it.

In an effort to fill the void, Renee and Peter started TenderHearted Home Care in May 2011. The company’s name and mantra comes from Ephesians 4:32, a verse that states “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted …”

“It was an answer to a call that I felt God put on our life and my life,” Renee said.

Caregivers from TenderHearted Home Care don’t provide nursing or rehabilitation services, but they do help older adults with everyday tasks they might not be able to do themselves, including getting dressed, bathing, laundry or household cleaning.

When they took the leap of faith and started TenderHearted Home Care, Renee and Peter were practically the businesses’ only employees, along with a registered nurse and a few caregivers. 

As it approaches its 10-year anniversary, TenderHearted has grown to almost 10 full-time office staff members and about 70 caregivers who provide more than 1,500 hours of care per week to clients in Rowan, Cabarrus and Davidson counties. The business was awarded Best of Home Care Providers in 2018, 2019 and 2020 by Home Care Plus, and boasts a bevy of other honors.

“It’s a surreal feeling,” Renee said. “Some days it still feels like we’re learning so much. There’s so much yet to do and to learn.”

Renee Gray and her husband Peter stand next to one of the numerous awards hanging on the wall in TenderHearted Home Care’s office. Ben Stansell/Salsibury Post

Each caregiver hired by TenderHearted Home Care has undergone a background check and pre-employment drug screening so that family members feel comfortable with them entering the home of a loved one. TenderHearted Home Care also provides monthly and yearly training to all caregivers to ensure that they have the most up-to-date knowledge and caregiving techniques. Many of the company’s caregivers, Renee said, are hired with experience and know CPR.

Most of TenderHearted Home Care’s clients are referred to them by Novant Medical Center, the VA Hospital or a skilled healthcare facility.

TenderHearted Home Care’s growth had been steady, Renee said, but has increased dramatically since the pandemic started. At first, Renee thought that the pandemic was going to negatively impact the business, since adults were working from home and had more time to take care of their aging parents. 

“A lot of agencies lost maybe 50% of their revenue, but we just lost maybe one client,” Renee said. “They were afraid, but the family also wasn’t working so they could do it.”

When adults started to go back to work and kids started to go back to school, the need for care providers grew once again.

“Then school went back in and kids were bringing COVID back in the home, so they thought: we need to bring a caregiver and stay away from mom and dad now,” Renee said.

TenderHearted Home Care’s caregivers have always taken health and safety precautions when providing care to clients, but they’ve doubled their efforts since the pandemic began.

Renee said her business is poised for even more growth in the future, as members of the Baby Boomer generation continue to reach retirement age. Salisbury itself has a large older population, Renee said.

Renee said she is also witnessing a greater need among families for care providers who have the expertise required to help people who are suffering from dementia and other cognitive-related diseases, like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

“Any home care agency is going to continue to grow, grow, grow astronomically, because with the aging up, the possibility for dementia is coming and that’s one of the hardest things to provide care for,” Renee said.

Providing care to those dealing with memory loss and a decline in cognitive function is personal for Renee. Her mother suffers from memory loss and her father has been her primary caregiver for the last few years. Since her father passed away in January, Renee has become her mom’s primary caregiver.

Renee said that TenderHearted Home Care is teaching its caregivers techniques for helping patients with dementia.

With April being Parkinson’s Awareness Month, TenderHearted Home Care is hosting an awareness event at Rufty-Holmes Senior center on April 23. The event is designed for families of those suffering from Parkinson’s to learn about local treatment and care options. To register, call 704-312-7023 and ask to speak with Sarah. Masks and socially-distancing measures will be in place.

Sarah Goforth and Ashton Fleming, two of TenderHearted Home Care’s office staff members, pose in front of the care provider’s awards. Ben Stansell/Salisbury Post

TenderHearted Home Care’s core staff is Renee, Peter, their son Trevor, Sarah Goforth, Asia Randle, Traci Collins, Susan McClary, Ashton Fleming and Starr McDaniel.

TenderHearted Home Care is hosting its 10th anniversary celebration on May 19 from 4-7 p.m. at Monterrey Mexican Restaurant. An RSVP is required by May 12 and can be made by calling 704-312-7023.

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