Twenty-two years ago, Robert Weink founded Midwest Home Care right here in Madison based on an emotional caregiving experience he’d had with a man living with Parkinson’s. His focus on the emotional and spiritual fulfillment of caregiving as a career and a service has helped facilitate the growth of Midwest Home Care into a local fixture, providing in-home care to the Dane and Jefferson county areas. Robert’s vision is to see a world without the “business” of care, a world where we all know how to and are happy to care for one another in our own communities, and if we can’t, that others will step up to provide the tools and aid we need to flourish.
I sat down with Robert for Mom and Pop Business Owner Day to talk about his vision and what created the impetus to found Midwest Home Care. I think, a lot of the time, we don’t have the philosophies of those who run the companies we seek services from out in the open. We don’t know who they are, but I hope by the end of this interview, you, the reader, understand a little of who Robert is and what goes into Midwest Home Care’s heart.
When did it really strike you that care was so important that you needed to start a business about it?
It was based on seeing somebody smile who is living with a degenerative disease and think, hang on, we can multiply that? We can do that for more families? How cool would that be? And then, what does that do for the family? For the individual receiving the care, being able to dance with him in his living room, and he’s living with this disease that most people would say, “You can’t dance, not with Parkinson’s,” but he’s doing it anyway. Knowing the joy that it brought to him, and the peace of mind that it brought to his family, seeing their dad having fun because of something someone else is doing; man, you want more of that.
Some people, some givers of care, they get it, they understand it, they love it. For those who get it and find the joy of giving care and matching them with someone who needs care, that’s a win-win situation, and we should have more win-win situations, right? In a dream world, that would happen at home, then in your neighborhood, then your village, in your city, then your state. If one family can “buy into it,” not that they’re being sold to, but it’s like, wow, you’re inspiring me. If I can watch you do something and that inspires me to do it, that’s just a win. And then I don’t need you, or need you to inspire me, I can do this on my own.
It feels really good to be giving care to someone else. So being able to do that with other families, I think that’s probably the thinking that was going on at that time.
That kind of covers your philosophy, your mission, to see the world without the business of care. In the industry right now, what’s missing that would also create that “without the business of care” ideal?
Maybe it’s just my eyes, my perception, and I’m part of it, but it seems like we’re so focused on the financial gains. That’s just my perception, and I’m in it, too, because I get confused sometimes or allured by the idea of: here’s the family, they need care, what does this mean in terms of dollars? Dollars should be the last thing we talk about. It’s the result of something we did, it shouldn’t be the primary reason we did it. The primary goal is you, the care receiver, will feel really, really good about what’s happening, and I, the caregiver, will also feel really, really good about what’s happening.
When people talk to you about care at all these conferences and summits and meetings with other businesses, when you think of care, what does that mean to you?
Going to conferences, often we don’t even talk about care. We don’t. We talk about all the stuff around it, but we don’t talk about care. Care, I think, is forgetting about, “Who am I?” and asking “Who are you?” and what are you made up of, what makes you thrive, what makes you smile, what makes you laugh, what brings you joy? And then trying to do anything to illicit that and to move or motivate that. The joy, the smiles, you know, if it’s just finding out your interests and talking about those things, I think that’s what care is.
What kind of future do you see for the industry, whether it changes or not?
If putting money first is our primary driver, and we continue to do that, we will be bankrupt. Emotionally, we’ll be bankrupt, and, for having a sense of purpose, we’ll lose. And I think our industry will just be hollow.
Midwest Home Care’s been around for 22 years, and that’s quite a long time, so what’s kept you from selling or franchising or expanding to the point where you’re like one of the nationwide companies?
My vision of a mom and pop business, to be a reality, because I don’t think it’s quite yet a reality, should be investing everything I can here and not forgetting about people in need around me. I don’t want to ever lose that mom and pop feeling, and I only want to grow at the pace we can keep that mom and pop fabric of business.
In your opinion, how can we begin to build a community of care in Madison and how does Midwest Family Care factor into that?
I think we need to communicate. I don’t think we’re communicating like we need to be, even though I’m totally guilty of this, but I believe it has far more to do with listening than speaking. We could just go into the market without saying a word and learn tons of stuff, and that’s one way we can do that. If I can ask questions in our community, that’s the beginning of how we can do more, work with more families, and it’ll be by listening, asking questions, and then potentially just connecting the dots.
If a family needs hospice or to move to a facility or in-home care, we connect people with people and people with organizations. The only thing we might do is be the conduit, and, to me, that’s beautiful.