Inside Athena: The Purpose And Passion Behind Care at Home’s Executive Dir.
FARMINGTON, C.T. — It’s what she said she’s meant to do and said it’s not a passion nor a pleasure, but a purpose.
Rachel Ciarello is the Executive Director of Athena Care at Home, a division of Athena Home Health & Hospice specializing in non-medical assistance in the home. The nearly one hundred companions and homemakers Ciarello oversees travel Connecticut to help people in their home, go out into the community, and so much more. She joined in 2021, but her history with Athena dates back to 1999.
After graduating high school, her mother took her to Shady Knoll Health Center in Seymour where she had a friend working in the kitchen. Ciarello began working there too and later became a receptionist where she stayed for years. She later moved to Admissions Coordinator at Abbott Terrace Health Center in Waterbury and back to Shady Knoll to be the Director of Admissions and Marketing. During that timeframe, she had her three sons and would put them in the daycare Abbott Terrace once had. That’s why Ciarello said Athena has always been like family.
She left the company in 2010 and began working in assisted living doing sales and outreach and then got into home care. She had also opened a CNA school for another home care agency at the time. However, with her passion to continue to help others she was ready for a larger role within the home care industry.
“I came in August  and we had about 30 clients then and then within the first six months we were up to almost 100 clients.”
She had always had a love for Athena even while venturing into the assisted living world. That’s why it was an easy decision to return. She also loved the continuum of care provided by the company and how family-orientated it is, referring to Athena’s Taking Care of Our Own Foundation, which helps staff members battling cancer with expenses.
In her role, she helps families find the best solution for what their loved one is looking for, even if Care at Home may not be the answer. Ciarello admits that sometimes there are better options for families depending on finances or needs, but she isn’t going to shy away from offering help to find the right fit elsewhere. Especially since the new journey into healthcare for families can be overwhelming.
“I think the families appreciate that because it’s not all about getting the business. It’s about the person really having the best quality of life,” she said. “When the families say, ‘I’ve made a dozen calls and everybody says, ‘No, we don’t accept this insurance, good luck,’ I take the time to really educate them and make sure that, at the end of that call, they feel like, even if they’re not using us, that that was a very helpful conversation.”
As for the families she does work with, she prides herself on overcommunication. She doesn’t believe they need to call and ask questions. Instead, the Care at Home team provides them with all the information so they feel like they have everything they need. Many people may not know where to start and Ciarello likes to be that beginning.
“It’s just my passion for seniors in general. I’ve loved them. I like when people call and they say, ‘I don’t know where to begin. I’m so confused. My mom ended up in the hospital. What are my options?’ that way, I can steer them, and really educate them on whether the skilled nursing world is the right fit or home care with us,” she said.
She is always looking for new patients and expanding the brand of Care at Home. Overseeing the day-to-day operations is a big part of her job to make sure the clients are happy with the care they receive from the team. As for that team, the ones providing the care, Ciarello said it takes a certain person and they are always on the lookout for adding companions and homemakers to the Care at Home team. They have to be dedicated and able to make a family comfortable in their own home. That comes with a passion for seniors and wanting to make a difference in their life.
An important difference the companions and homemakers make is letting family continue to be family.
“I know the adult children today they’re now dealing with their own kids and trying to take care of their children and take care of mom and dad, so they’re kind of in this sandwich generation where they’re on both sides. So when they call and say, ‘I don’t even have to worry, you’ve put me at ease,’ that’s the most rewarding part of everything,” Ciarello said.
Her passion for seniors began at a young age. She used to visit a loved one in a nursing setting and would help others in need at the center in any way she could, like picking up something they dropped. She liked hearing their stories about their past.
Ciarello didn’t imagine that when she walked into Shady Knoll in 1999, she would end up where she is now. Seniors would always be a part of her journey, though, she said. She showcases how success is based on passion, not a degree or certification. The Zumba enthusiast says the sky is the limit if the ambition is there. That ambition continues to grow for Ciarello and her vision of expanding Care at Home to provide the best home care in Connecticut.