They wanted to make a difference. That was clear when sitting in the offices of Matrix Home Care and speaking with co-founders Pernille Ostberg and Janice Williams. Their vision in 1999 was to start a full service home care agency where people took care of the total client, not just the medical needs. Their mission included hiring employees who shared that same passion.
When visiting with Pernille, CEO of the company, the first impression you have is her surroundings. There are pictures of her family and one very special one of her mother. The vision was now clear. It was personal. She was, for many years, the caregiver for her mother. She was, as is so often the case, the responsible adult child of an aging parent.
“The philosophies, mission, and principles of Matrix are an extension of very personal insights I’ve never let go of. Our clients deserve and receive a very broad spectrum of care,” Pernille offered.
Janice, Vice President of Client Services for the company, added, “Often times, adult children are not close by to oversee care and offer input. They live out-of-state and have families of their own and can be torn between what mom or dad needs and the need to care for their immediate family. Some of our clients have been living in Florida for years, too, and do not want to move back north. They are comfortable here, have made friends here, and wish to stay in familiar surroundings. Our mission is to help them do just that and keep family who live elsewhere apprised.”
You can find those philosophies, principles and mission prominently displayed on a wall in every Matrix Home Care office. They are the heart and soul of a company the founders envisioned and make the company unique. “There are many choices out there,” the CEO readily admitted. “If you want to make a difference and you believe in what you stand for, believe that your model will truly take home care to the next level, you have to move forward with passion and let others judge if you are what you say you are.
“Here’s a scenario,” she added. “A home health agency is contacted by a family member who may just have been looking through the Yellow Pages or asked a neighbor or received advice from a family physician. Someone from the agency comes out, a treatment plan is agreed to, and service begins. That’s standard. But what makes us different and has become a cornerstone of our success, is our ‘Champion’ Program.”
She went on to explain how the program worked. “The clinical needs of the client are taken care of, not unlike what others in our industry would do.”
“What we add is a tiered, team approach led by a ‘Champion,’ someone who, on an executive level, oversees all the non-clinical needs of the client and the family. For example, family members often have concerns that have nothing to do with the day-to-day administration of care. They need an attentive and understanding ear and a knowledgeable, soft-spoken person who can communicate with them, guide and assure them, in language they can understand.”
Janice adds, “For clients who have family far away and that I am the Champion for, I make calls weekly, sometimes more often, just to share some supportive words about how the loved one we’re caring for is doing, what physician visits are coming up, etc. Sometimes, I’m the person who alerts them to changes in condition, too. Delicately, with words they can comprehend, I provide updates and let them know that we’ll be there at every turn.”
Abbi Bentz, Director of Nursing for Palm Beach County, offered this: “As a Champion for a case, I pay close attention to medication compliance. Sometimes I’ll notice too much or too little of a prescribed medication has been taken. Under these circumstances, I take the initiative and advise an appropriate family member and consult with the physician. One of the key factors in re-hospitalizations is mismanagement of medications, since it can lead to injuries. As a Champion, I consider myself an advocate for the clients I manage. My goal is to assure safety in the home and avoid unnecessary hospitalization.”
Pernille finalized the point. “As a registered pharmacist, I consult with the company’s nurses about the mismanagement of medications. Sometimes, it happens inadvertently. People forget what to take when, choose not to refill because of cost, or if they feel better, decide on their own to stop taking what was prescribed.”
The Champion Program is only one of the actionable philosophies the founders had in mind before starting Matrix. Some of the others don’t have a particular name attached to them, but hold the same weight. Pernille explained. “We match a caregiver to the client not only based upon clinical needs, what’s in the treatment plan we’ve been charged to execute, but also with respect to social needs, surroundings, personal environment, and likes and dislikes. It’s all about making sure quality-of-life issues are addressed. What was the client’s daily routine in the past?
“Our goal, then, is to bring as much of that prior life into the overall care we provide. We help our client get ready when friends drop by. We might take them shopping, or just walk across a parking lot with them to a clubhouse for a game of bridge with friends.”
“All in all,” Williams added, “We’re doing what family would do if they could. Just as a matter of practice, we put the magnifying glass on lifestyle detail, which can never be fully documented in a treatment plan.”
Matrix was founded in 1999 and opened its doors on Federal Highway in Boca Raton, with its beliefs firmly grounded and a clear mission in place based on sound principles. Immediately, the founders began thinking of how to best market the company.
They knew there were so many positive points to make, confident in their belief that Matrix would be a refreshing change in the industry. However, they also knew that “doing and proving” was more important than everything they said about themselves. As if the skies parted and a message was sent from above, they one day received a postcard that featured the art of a disabled person. Upon further review, it was learned that the artist was the brother of one of the company’s nurses.
Today, nearly all the marketing material Matrix has produced features a very poignant illustration the postcard’s artist created for the company. The artist, Roger Skelton, who suffered a traumatic brain injury after being struck by a drunk driver, rendered a scene that speaks volumes to all who see it.
After just a few short conversations, Roger began painting from his heart and from personal experience. It all started with a bridge he visualized people wanting to travel over. On the far side of the bridge, he painted a bright morning sun to welcome them. The finished work, the bridge to be traversed and the welcoming light of new day, became known as “The Bridge to Recovery.”
“The art provided us with an opportunity to step into our varied marketing propositions, rather than pound away our message head first. It offers a pause before a reader reflects on what we stand for and how we do business. Roger’s art, and other artwork created by disabled artists we hope to include, helps to set a stage from which we can discuss plans, set goals, and work toward positive outcomes. Roger’s art becomes a focal point everyone can agree on, because all of us who touch the lives of others understand what those people are coping with,” Pernille explained.
Over the last 5 years, the company has grown at a remarkable pace, doggedly adhering to the vision. As Abbi commented, “Physicians now know who we are and trust that what we say, we’ll do. They know, too, that we will go above and beyond for their patient. The Champion Program is part of it, however, recruiting the best home health care professionals- RNs, Specialty Nurses, Therapists, Geriatric Specialists, Aides, and others-and orienting them to our way of providing care is so important. We make it clear that we’re different, we take it to a new level, and an extra level of commitment is needed on their part, too.”
Janice added, from her perspective as a Licensed Healthcare Administrator, “Those who manage Independent Living Communities, professionals I deal with every day, have come to trust us as well. It goes back to ‘doing and proving’ everyday. Doing helps us to grow and earns us a new level of respect. Then we can have the opportunity to prove ourselves all over again, helping assist new clients who require home health care services.”
Pernille, Janice, and Abbi are also very active in the community. Pernille is co-chair of the annual “Honor Your Doctor” luncheon, now in its seventh year. The GFWC Royale Women’s Club sponsors the event to recognize dedicated physicians while raising funds for deserving medical students at area colleges. She is the Treasurer and past Director for Soroptomist International, Deerfield/Boca Raton, and is on an advisory board for Palm Beach Community College. This year, all east coast offices participated in the annual MS Walk, with Matrix as a sponsor. Matrix is also a member of the Boca Raton Chamber of Commerce.
Janice is a member of the Royale Women’s Club and The Rotary Club of Boca Raton. She’s been active in the latter group’s Opal Ball, raising funds for college scholarship. Relay for Life, a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society, and Future Stars, a youth talent show that supports scholarships, are other activities she’s involved in. Janice is also a board member of the Chiera Foundation, a non-profit organization whose annual event raises money to send cancer stricken children to camp and provide scholarship money for children who have lived with cancer.
Abbi heads up the congregational nursing component of Temple Beth El’s Health, Healing, and Wellness committee and is co-Chair of this year’s Mitzvah Day. Abbi is Chairperson of the annual “Cookies for Caregivers” event, which honors family caregivers. She is also a founding and board member of Interfaith Health and Wellness Association, for which the Governor’s Council for Community Health Partnership presented her an award. As a highly credentialed nurse, she is a member of the Palm Coast and Broward chapters of the Association of Rehabilitation Nurses.
Abbi offered this conclusion after being asked about her involvement in the community. “You know, when I was doing home care visits before joining Matrix, there was something missing. I joined the company after seeing Matrix everywhere, supporting so many important causes. It told me-and Pernille validated it all-that Matrix supports the part of nursing I was missing, the ‘quality of life’ component. She, Janice, the whole team, understand on a very personal level to be attuned to needs of our clients that have nothing to do with clinical care. Things like arranging to get a client to a religious service. I’m involved in the community because Matrix encourages it, supports it. Now, I feel I’m part of providing a wholeness in people’s lives in every part of my day.”