Diane Goetsch,

Diane Goetsch, owner of Kindhearted Home Care in Merrill, helps the aging and disabled maintain their bodies, minds, and sense of self.

Kindhearted Home Care, LLC, started as a home care service rooted in values of sincere, warm and kind-hearted care. It has since grown to become a source of numerous health-oriented services, and its location at 120 S. Mill St. in Merrill is a popular community destination.

Diane Goetsch, owner of Kindhearted Home Care, started the business in 2010 to provide supportive home-care services to help people in Lincoln County remain in their homes and be independent. At the time, she was working parttime as a medical assistant, but saw an opportunity in the community for elderly needing assistance with everything from bathing, housekeeping, transportation, doctors’ appointments and laundry. Goetsch made services available short-term and long-term, be it during recuperation from a surgery like a knee replacement or a health issue like a stroke, or longer-term as clients aged.

“I simply saw a need in the community for people who wanted to stay in their homes, in their surroundings and in their community, but just needed different degrees of help doing so,” she said. Goetsch was well aware that the client base for such services would only continue to grow with the upswell of aging baby boomers.

“I contacted my mentors in the community to learn if this was something that was needed, the answer was yes, and I jumped right in.” Little did Goetsch know at the time that the original business would flourish and expand into services that today include not only supporting home care, but also an adult social center, health and fitness center, showering, nail care and respite services.

“I just kept looking at what the needs in the community were, and we’ve expanded into what we are today,” she said.

One of the earliest additions was an adult social program for individuals who need varying degrees of supervision and social interaction. Once again, a client approached her to ask if she’d consider offering that kind of programming. The answer was yes.

“We have a lot of community involvement that incudes therapy dogs, music and other programming as we deal with people with intellectual disabilities such as dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease and Parkinson’s’ Disease, as well as traumatic brain injuries,” Goetsch said.

Of course, the business needed a location, so it expanded into and rented a building to do so. By 2014, Goetsch continued to receive calls about serving children. At the time, she was only serving adults, but then a social worker approached her about adding children to the mix. That year, Kindhearted Home Care began offering respite care for children with intellectual disabilities and mental health diagnoses; the business can provide services to children at their homes anytime as well as in the facility on nights and weekends.

“Once again, we responded to a need in the community,” said Goetsch.

When Goetsch agreed to offer an adult social center and also sought homecare offices, she had plans in motion to build a small building. However, other forces were at work in February 2016 when the local hospital, which provided a wellness program for people to work out after physical therapy, discontinued those services. About 60 people were affected by the news, leaving a gap in community services. A small group of those individuals approached Goetsch and she listened to what their needs were.

Once again, Goetsch acknowledged it was something she’d never done before, but there was a need in the community. So, she approached the city about obtaining a larger lot that the city owned kiddie-corner to the site where she was originally going to build. She was able to secure the larger lot, and as a result, she scrapped everything she already had in motion for the original site: building permits, blueprints, etc.

“I scrapped it all and started over in February 2016 and worked to get a new plan, figure out the space we needed by my goal date of September 2016,” she said. “We broke ground in May and we moved in Sept. 26, 2016.”

That site now houses the adult social center, supportive offices and fitness center, all within a 5,000 square-foot building in downtown Merrill. She also opted to add a shower room for people in the community who aren’t able to get in and out of the shower safely and need stand-by assistance or full assistance. She also added toenail care for people who are not diabetics.

In 2017, the onsite fitness center began adding classes including chair yoga; chair tai chi; Stable and Strong classes that focus on strength, flexibility, mobility and bone density; a toning time circuit that’s of higher intensity; as well as the Kindhearted Life weekly meetings that highlight the seven dimensions of wellness and how to incorporate them into your life.

“We want an environment where members can learn about and set goals, and understand what they need to be fully well and healthy,” she said. Goetsch believes the popularity of the fitness center is a tribute to the overall warm, welcoming environment. “After all, we’re staffed by people who are in the field of caregiving,” she said.

Today, the business has 38 employees, “and it just keeps expanding,” she said. Walk into the facility today, and you’ll notice one side is devoted to the adult social center and the other, to the health and fitness center as well as supportive care services.

Since the children’s component onsite is primarily provided on nights and weekends (except for school breaks), they’re offered in the adult social center’s space. If it’s summer break, Goetsch said that the children are not often in the building anyway as their programming includes a focus on community inclusion, walking, visiting trails, stopping at the humane society, checking out things at the library and enjoying food in the park.

The business’s original offerings are flourishing. In today’s world, seniors don’t go straight from home into nursing homes as there are so many more options available including adult daycare, home care and the like. The home-care services are particularly popular as a result, and the facility works closely with a lot of seniors’ children and even grandchildren, many of whom don’t live in the immediate area.

“It comes down to, ‘What do you do for that extra set of eyes when you no longer live in the area,’ ” Goetsch said. “Rural communities are typically very tough in that regard because most don’t have access to services like these.”

Kindhearted Home Care serves about 180 to 200 people with all services combined.

“Unlike some national chains, we have handson ownership and quality staff who have been here a long time,” she said. “People know me, they meet with me and we look at each client’s needs individually because everyone’s are different. We have a good reputation because of the way we serve people, and because I’m always open to new ideas and listening to the needs of the community. If I can help, I do.”