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Saddle River Man Creates New Model Of Home Health Care

Ron Gold, founder of LeanOnWe, and Dr. Saraswati Dayal, his surgeon at Hackensack University Medical Center.
Ron Gold, founder of LeanOnWe, and Dr. Saraswati Dayal, his surgeon at Hackensack University Medical Center. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Hackensack University Medical Center

SADDLE RIVER, N.J. — Ron Gold of Saddle River, a paraplegic and founder of LeanOnWe , knows the home health care business from all angles.

Five years ago, he was bicycling on East Saddle River Road at 1 p.m. on a Saturday when an SUV driver hit him head on.

After extensive surgery at Hackensack University Medical Center and 51 days in its intensive care unit, he emerged from the experience unable to walk.

Before the accident, Gold ran a desk selling Asian equities on Wall Street. Mobility was his middle name.

“It was a high-pressure job. I was at my desk at 6:30 every morning,” said Gold, now 56. “I did a lot of travel, domestically and in Asia.

“If I’d stayed there, I would have had a completely different role,” he added. “Professionally, I went in a different direction.”

When he returned home from rehabilitation, he discovered his health care policy only covered home health aides for two months.

The home health agency he was using told him he could pay out of pocket.

“A four-hour minimum, $25 an hour or $100 a day, for the rest of my life,” Gold recalled. “That’s a lot of money. That’s why most people hire people on their own.”

That’s the course Gold took, too. Until he realized there was no way to vet the people he was letting into his home.

“It’s a broken system,” he said.

So Gold took on a new mission: fixing that system. Two years ago, he and his wife, Betsy, opened LeanOnWe – a new and different model of home health care.

The company helps people pair up privately with well-vetted and well-suited caregivers.

“We give people choice,” Gold said. “We help them take control of their own health.”

Customers can call LeanOnWe and explain what they need: how much help doing specific tasks on what days and for how many hours. They say where they live, whether there’s a dog in their home, and whether they need a caregiver who drives or speaks a certain language.

“We send them profiles of specific caregivers who meet their criteria,” Gold said.

Next, people go onto the LeanOnWe website, where they can view videos of each caregiver talking, just to get a sense of who they are.

Customers pay only after they found the caregiver they want to hire, Gold explained. They pay a lifetime charge of $395, for which they get an ongoing service relationship with LeanOnWe.

“We have liability insurance, theft insurance, and unlimited backups,” he explained. “So if your caregiver is sick or goes on vacation, or if you want to replace your caregiver, we’ll do that.”

The system is designed to deliver just the right care at an affordable price.

Gold knows people need that because he needed it.

Statistics show 90 percent of Americans want to stay at home, he said.

“The question is, How are we going to afford that?” Gold asked. “And how can we incentivize caregivers to go into this profession if they’re making $10 to $11 an hour?”

These days, Gold doesn’t think as much about what happened to him.

“I proceed with the new reality,” he said. “Many people encounter a lot of challenges. You hear about Michael J. Fox and Christopher Reeve or Muhammad Ali. But you don’t hear about the people who just move on and do tremendous things.”

LeanOnWe works in the northern half of New Jersey and the five boroughs of New York City as well as Nassau, Westchester, Rockland, and Fairfield counties.

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