Marsha Goldsmith Kamin was 12 when her mother announced that her daughter was too old to spend her summer days lounging about the house.
There was a nursing home within biking distance of the Goldsmith’s southeast Michigan home, her mother pointed out. Go. Be productive.
So, Marsha and two girlfriends pedaled to the nursing home and went room to room introducing themselves to the elders. For Marsha’s friends, visits at the nursing home were nothing special. But, for Marsha, getting to know older people was a pleasure – a pleasure she has parlayed into a long career of working in eldercare.
“I was reading to people, hearing their stories, learning their recipes and loving every minute,” Marsha said. “I didn’t want to be a nurse, but I knew from that summer on that I wanted to work with old people.”
Friends and family chuckle every time she darts away mid-conversation to help a senior struggling with something. Rarely is it anyone she knows. “That’s just how I am and I’m never going to change,” Marsha said.
Seven years ago, Marsha teamed up with Chris Corbett, and a woman who has since retired, to establish Marisa Home Care. She describes this as the last chapter in a happy lifetime of working with senior citizens.
Marsha finished a bachelor’s degree in social work at Michigan State University, and then earned a master’s in social work and certificate in gerontology at Wayne State University. She worked a decade in Denver helping Colorado seniors before returning to southeast Michigan to become executive director of Jewish Senior Life, a nonprofit organization providing seniors with a continuum of care on two housing campuses.
In conjunction with her master’s studies, Marsha had an internship at Jewish Senior Life. When the director of that program decided to retire, she encouraged Marsha to apply for the position - which she did, and the Board of Directors hired her. She served as executive director of that $23 million agency for 20 years, but stepped away following a merger with another nonprofit agency.
Marsha recognized growth potential in the at-home care industry, but said she was reluctant about going into business for herself. She excelled at relating to clients and families, but didn’t want to fracture her time by attending to the regulatory and dollars-and-cents issues of running a business.
“I think of home care, “ Marsha said, “and see the future of us all. Although I had run a large non-profit, I can’t say that I’d always dreamed of starting my own business. I just morphed into it.”
Everything worked out. A woman who had been chief operating officer at Jewish Senior Life agreed to help for the three years remaining until her retirement. And a friend from high school introduced her to Chris Corbett, who was already running a successful temporary staffing business.
They chose the name Marisa because it’s a mash of their names, Marsha and Chris. Although Marsha’s experience is in senior care, they decided to extend services to any patient who needs a helping hand at home.
While some Marisa clients need 24/7 care, others need help just for a week or two after surgery. Others use Marisa workers to drive them to and from medical appointments, help them run errands and remind them when to take medications.
There have been many unconventional requests. Some adult children living outside metro Detroit hired Marisa to help their parents pack for a cruise. Marisa workers have been hired to accompany clients on airplane trips to visit family members. When work duties pull adult children out of the country for a time, Marisa gets a call to “check in” with elderly parents to make sure they are healthy and well supplied.
Since the beginning, Marsha said Marisa Home Care has value by providing compassionate, dependable, affordable at-home care. Referrals have grown exponentially since its second year, when a local publication named Marisa the area’s best home care agency, based on a community ballot voting process.