Florida, being home to the nation’s largest senior population, has many elderly residents in need of hands-on care to manage the challenges that come with old age.
There is one local business that is taking on the challenge with initiative, and in the process has become a saving grace for Miami’s senior citizens.
“When we first began, the Visiting Angels founders told us, ‘It’s not like flipping hamburgers; it’s very involved,’” said Anthony Acevedo, owner and director of Visiting Angels Miami. “You have to have compassion; you have to have patience.”
Neither Acevedo nor partner Mirian Montano ever imagined they would be working in healthcare. Before joining Visiting Angels, both were managers at Borders Books & Music, as well as proud parents of two toddlers.
However, back in 2004, their days at Borders were numbered, with the now-defunct book retailer struggling to keep its doors open. Acevedo soon found himself jobless for the first time in his adult life.
“The dominoes were beginning to fall for that corporation,” Acevedo said. “Mirian also saw the writing on the wall and knew there was a possibility that she might soon lose her job as well.”
With pressure mounting to make ends meet, the couple made the bold decision to invest the remainder of their savings into founding what would become Miami’s first Visiting Angels franchise.
Inspired by the legacy of Montano’s grandmother, Luz Gonzalez, Visiting Angels gave the couple an opportunity to support a cause near to their hearts — advocating for senior citizens by providing quality, personalized home care referral services.
“My grandmother was extremely active in her community, teaching arts and crafts to other seniors well into her eighties,” Montano said, fondly recalling her grandmother’s commitment to service. “Unfortunately, she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Doctors said she had six months to live, and truly in the sixth month, she died.”
After her passing, Acevedo and Montano became more determined than ever to honor Luz’s legacy of assisting the elderly. The couple dedicated their business to her, vowing to deliver the highest standard of caregiving through staff that valued compassion over everything else.
“If someone could work with my now-passed grandmother, that person certainly should be able to provide services to other seniors,” Montano said, emphasizing the importance of empathy. “These are elderly people that we’re caring for. They don’t move as fast as we do; they don’t function as well as we do; they need our assistance.”
Visiting Angels Miami has since established itself as a leader in caregiving through customer service with compassion. Despite significant growth and numerous accolades throughout the past decade, Acevedo and Montano remain deeply involved in the day-to-day details of operating their business.
“Two ears, one mouth — that’s the key to this work,” Acevedo said. “If someone wants to tell us a story about their journey, or about their parents, I’ve got time. That’s how we’ve built our business.”
Their willingness to listen also has helped develop an uncanny ability to pair personalities, creating lasting bonds between clients and caregiver candidates.
“You have to think about personality,” Montano said, underscoring the challenges of matchmaking. “We want to place people together who can successfully join in a long journey together. After a client meets a caregiver, if they have that connection, everything works out beautifully.”
Once the caregiving process begins, the results speak for themselves, she said.
“These situations become overwhelming for family members, both emotionally and physically. After we get started, they usually say ‘why didn’t I do this sooner?’ They’re very impressed because we take the time to make sure we put the right people into the right situations.”
Acevedo and Montano urge families to be advocates for their elders when considering caregiving options. Acevedo said he understands the appeal of cheaper services, but cutting costs could carry serious consequences.
“Please do a criminal background check, at the very least. If you don’t do your homework, it could be putting your family member in much more jeopardy than paying a few extra dollars.”
Visiting Angels Miami is located at 8501 SW 124 Ave. in Miami. Experts are available for consultation at 305-728 -3153. For more information, visit www.visitingangels.com/miami.