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|Articles - July 2010|
|Thursday, June 24, 2010|
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Romanians dominate the adult foster home market by showing how to replace overpriced, impersonal care with the homey and affordable.
STORY BY LINDA BAKER // PHOTOS BY LISA BAUSO
Dorina Crainic, owner of Dorina’s Adult Care Home in Portland, walks into a bedroom, where an elderly man is trying to put on his shoes.
“How are you, papa?” Crainic asks, wiping saliva from the man’s chin. Battling a urinary tract infection and encumbered by a feeding tube, the man was up much of the night coughing and choking. The evening before, Crainic spent several hours attending to another resident, a woman suffering from dementia.
“There is always something coming up,” she says.
Running an adult foster home, a private residence licensed to provide care for up to five dependent seniors, is physically and psychologically demanding. But the 48-year old Crainic, soft spoken and articulate, isn’t complaining. In 1992, the former electrical engineer emigrated from Romania where she and her husband faced religious persecution under the notoriously hard-line communist regime of Nicolae Ceausescu. After working in another foster home for several years the couple bought their current residence where they care for clients on the first floor and raise two children on the second.
“I’m very happy, very thankful, “ says Crainic. “This is a very good business for us.”
On the surface, Crainic’s story is a familiar one: Hard-working immigrants build a successful new life in the United States. But Crainic’s story also spotlights a lesser-known tale about Romanians and how they have cornered the market on adult family homes in the Portland metropolitan area.
Some 85% of the 900 adult foster homes in metropolitan Portland are owned by first- and second-generation Romanians. “They dominate the industry here,” says Grover Simmons, a lobbyist for the Independent Adult Foster Home Association of Oregon.
The story of how Romanians came to control this niche is simple on the surface. But it also underscores the importance of traditional values such as thrift and diligence as the nation and Oregon grapple with the complexities and expenses of health care reform. More specifically, as the state’s elder population soars, the Romanian foster-care model offers a compelling example of creative adaptation. Oregon is “at the forefront” of a larger effort to provide more cost-effective, less institutional alternatives to nursing homes, says Sylvia Reiger, policy analyst for the Oregon Department of Seniors and People with Disabilities. Combining Old World values with New World marketing savvy, Romanians are at the cutting edge of modern-day health reform trends by showing how to replace overpriced, impersonal care with the homey and affordable.
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The New Yorker recently published a sharply worded critique of “disruptive innovation,” one of the most widely cited theories in the business world today. The article raises questions about the descriptive value of disruption and innovation — whether the terms are mere buzzwords or actually explain today's extraordinarily complex and fast changing business environment.
Update: We caught up with Portland's Thomas Thurston, who shared his data driven take on the disruption controversy.
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