CEO Tina Marie Romero: ‘America has a caregiving crisis’

At Eastern Point Retreat House in Massachusetts in September 2020 where Tina Marie discovered her ‘life’s purpose and calling.’ 

By Maricar CP Hampton

Back in 2000, Tina Marie Romero visited homebound seniors as a volunteer at her parish in New Brunswick, N.J. She thought she was helping them but unbeknownst to her, they were helping her discover her life’s mission. One in particular, Grandpa Joe, aka GPJ, became her BFF. It was a friendship that would change the course of her life’s path.

In their conversations, GPJ adamantly expressed his wish to stay at home rather than “die in a nursing home.” When he passed away, years later, it would prove to be, in a strange way, Tina Marie’s “lightbulb moment.” It happened at a time when she was looking to start a business but did not know what kind.

“This is exactly the reason why I opened my homecare business. I realized that homecare granted the wish of GPJ, his sister and their friends to stay at home and live with dignity and independence,” she said in an interview with The FilAm.

Tina Marie is the owner and CEO of Synergy HomeCare of North Central NJ, a franchise nonmedical agency that provides certified home health aides and companion caregivers to anyone needing care at home.

The demand for both caregivers and in-home care services is far way more than the supply. She said, “With aging comes an increase in chronic conditions such as obesity, diabetes and hypertension. Then there’s the increasing wave of people with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia who will need assistance with daily living, further increasing demand.”

She disclosed how a lot of agencies including hers had to turn business away because they do not have sufficient caregivers. “The caregiver shortage makes it challenging to consistently deliver the quality of care I want to give because I am limited with what I have.”  

Tina Marie substantiates with research that just like GPJ, 61 percent of Americans would rather die than live in a nursing home. Stanford School of Medicine puts the number at “approximately 80 percent.” The New York Times echoed a parallel finding that says “more Americans are dying at home than in hospitals.”

With former business partner Tom Horanoff receiving an award in recognition of year-over-year revenue growth at Synergy HomeCare’s Annual Franchise Meeting in 2019. 

A caregiving crisis

Unfortunately, she exclaimed, “America has a caregiving crisis.” It’s a problem that will only get worse by 2040 as the U.S. population grows older and America will soon consist of more old than young. 

The solution she sees requires a retooling of the immigration system where foreign caregivers, such as Filipinos, are granted fast-track visas to fill up the shortage. Tina Marie is lobbying for new visa categories designated for low-skilled home care workers. 

She is specifically looking to source caregivers from the Philippines. “I want our beloved American elders to experience compassionate and high-quality care in the hands of Filipino caregivers at the end of their lives,” she said.

In 2020, when COVID-19 was raging, she felt helpless seeing seniors highly at risk while quality of care was compromised due to shortage of caregivers. She was set to take a lucrative opportunity to sell the business. Coming out of a week-long spiritual retreat to mull over her options, she decided to buy out her partner and keep the business.

“I clearly discovered my life’s purpose and mission: Be part of a solution to America’s caregiving crisis by bringing in caregivers from the Philippines. This will not only elevate lives of thousands of deserving caregivers but can also raise quality of care. Home health aide certification in NY/NJ only requires a three-week course whereas in the Philippines, caregiver training takes a minimum of eight months with emphasis on value formation,” she said.     

Filipinos are fortunate to have large extended families who can provide care to parents and grandparents. “Having a caregiver living in the same household provides a safety net that many families in the U.S. do not have,” she said.

Not to say that Americans do not take care of their elders. She said, “Close to 42 million Americans today serve as family caregivers, but 60 percent of them also work full-time, creating a challenging work/life balance.”

Sharing her story, ‘A Million Dollar Decision That Led to a Mission,’ in this anthology published February 2022.   
The entrepreneurial Romero family. They all help out at Merrick Blvd. Animal Hospital in New York or Villa Romero de Boracay in the Philippines.


Born and raised in Bacolod City, Tina Marie came to the U.S. in late 1990s to join her dad, a veterinarian with his own animal hospital in Queens, NY.

In the U.S., Tina worked in hotels and in Corporate America while pursuing her MBA and MA in Diplomacy and International Relations at Seton Hall University at night. 

“It was a big culture shock. Even though I was fluent in English, I found everyone talking so fast and I couldn’t understand what they were saying. I cried so many times because I felt so out of place,” she said.

And then she met Grandpa Joe. The connection set her up on a path fraught with risks and challenges. She is proud that after eight years, Synergy HomeCare has consistently made the grade as “Best Home Care Provider of Choice” in industry and client reviews.

Homecare costs vary from state to state. In 2022, the typical annual cost of in-home care in New York and New Jersey is $58,240 for an average of 40 hours of care per week. “That is about half the annual cost of a private room in a nursing home,” she said.

The pandemic has put into clear focus the importance and value of home care. She said, “This is true especially for older Americans at risk of worsening physical health and social isolation.”

Passing immigration reforms that will ensure supply to match increasing demand for homecare is critical. Tina Marie knows it is a long shot, but aren’t most dreams? She believes the world always conspires to make dreams come true when one passionately pursues something she is meant to do.  

(C) The FilAm 2022

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