Former NBA Player Dwight Davis: When It Comes to Home-Based Care, We’re All on the Same Team
Athletes and sports fans are probably familiar with the concept of “next player up”: on a well-built team, when one of the best players is injured or isn’t performing at their usual level, there’s always someone ready to hop off the bench and compete — someone ready to be the “next player up.”
Dwight Davis, a member of Prospero Health’s National Advisory Council, uses a “next player up” approach at Senior Helpers of Southern New Hampshire. Since opening their doors in 2014, Davis and his team of trained caregivers have provided both in-home companion care and specialized care to older adults across the region.
Dwight’s emphasis on teamwork brought him and Prospero together. Based in Boston and currently serving patients in ten states, Prospero utilizes comprehensive care teams of doctors, nurses, social workers, and coordinators to provide compassionate care and support for those facing serious illness.
If a caregiver in the field needs an extra hand, Dwight, who was the third overall pick in the 1972 NBA draft and played five seasons in the league, sends someone to fill in the gap. Ideally, the substitute is another caregiver from Davis’ roster. If he’s in a pinch, he’ll tap a member of his office staff to help out, or Dwight and his wife Gayle, who runs the service with him, will step up to the challenge themselves.
“That’s something that my wife and I are never going to stop doing,” Dwight said. “Anybody who works in the office, they’re gonna do it, too. Sometimes a caregiver is out working with a client and the client becomes disoriented or has a bodily function accident at an inopportune time. If the caregiver calls the office for back-up, they need to have somebody who can empathize with them. I never want to lose touch with what it feels like to care for another person.”
Knowing what it’s like to care for another person inspired Dwight and Gayle to enter the home care field in the first place. A number of years ago, Dwight and his siblings faced a dilemma common to families everywhere: their aging parents were growing more frail and needed help around the house. Dwight’s sister lived close to their parents, so she assumed the bulk of the caregiving duties. Seeing the toll caregiving was taking on her, Dwight suggested the family hire a professional. They were underwhelmed by in-home service providers in the area.
“We couldn’t find the complete package — the quality, the level of care, the level of trust in the caregiver — that we wanted,” he said.
Unwilling to compromise on the quality of his parents’ care, Dwight started regularly flying out to Texas from his home in New Hampshire to give his sister a break. Not long after, it became clear that Gayle’s mother needed more support, as well.
“We had to go through the whole process of, ‘OK, Nana, we’re going to take your keys away now because you can’t drive anymore,’” Dwight said. “Then, about a year later, after a couple of falls in her house, we had to convince her to come live with us.”
While the couple was more than happy to help their ailing parents, the experience was physically and emotionally draining. Watching proud seniors lose their independence and rely so heavily on their children for help with everyday tasks was painful.
“No parent wants their children to have to take care of them, to have to shower them,” Dwight said. “Plus, parents know their adult children have lives of their own and want them to go about those lives.”
After their parents passed away, Mr. and Mrs. Davis made a joint career change: following decades of success in the real estate, nonprofit, and technology fields, Dwight and Gayle set out to provide the kind of in-home care they wished had been available to them when their parents’ health declined.
“We saw how difficult [caregiving] was and we wanted to find out if we could provide care to seniors that would allow them to retain their self-respect,” Dwight said. “[Care] that would challenge them and not be a ‘sitter service.’ That would meet their needs if they wanted to go to a museum or to a play.”
Dwight and Gayle immersed themselves in the “senior space” and met with leaders in the field. In the end, they decided to open a franchise of Senior Helpers, a company founded by two men who had also been disappointed with the home care options available for their aging parents.
The next step was filling out a team of caregivers. Here, again, Dwight took inspiration from his parents.
“My parents were married for 65 years,” he said. “They loved each other and they loved their children. One of the things that helped my parents have such a long-lasting marriage, to be able to love their children so much, was empathy. They had a deep, abiding care for people.”
When interviewing potential caregivers, Dwight identified people who showed the kind of empathy he saw in his parents.
“That’s the first thing I look for,” he explained. “If you have empathy in your heart, the skills you need for nursing, for caregiving — we can teach you those. But if you’re an impatient person, if you’re a person who likes shortcuts, even if a shortcut might be inefficient or ineffective, you’re not a good fit for us.”
Since opening their franchise six years ago, Mr. and Mrs. Davis have made a profound impact in their community by modeling an approach after their personal experiences. The husband-and-wife duo is sensitive to each family’s needs and is dedicated to providing caregivers the support they deserve.
Two years ago, Prospero CEO Doug Wenners heard Dwight tell his story in a commencement speech for a nursing assistant program Doug’s daughter had just completed. Listening to Dwight speak about values such as empathy and teamwork, Doug knew right away that Dwight was aligned with Prospero’s mission of empowering people to live their best lives now. Earlier this year, Dwight agreed to join Prospero’s National Advisory Board.
“[Senior Helpers and Prospero Health] are both working to provide in-home care and support for people facing serious illness.” Dwight said. “We want to be there in a very special way for our clients. We understand things about the diseases of aging that other people are overlooking. And we know this matters in seniors’ lives.”