Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

This is Valerie Van Booven with the Senior Care Industry Netcast, where leaders with three or more years of experience in the senior care market share their advice. So let’s get to it. In a few sentences tell us who you are and what you do.

Cathy Sikorski: https://cathysikorski.com/Speaker/

Hi, Valerie. My name is Cathy Sikorski. I am a speaker, author, humorist, infotainer, oh yeah, and an elder lawyer. And I want to tell you that I found my mission when I lost my grandmother. And when I say lost, I don’t mean she died. I mean, I actually lost her in the local shopping mall. And then I realized, “Wait, this baby boomer sandwich generation thing is really hard.

            And ultimately I became an unpaid caregiver for eight different family members and friends over the last 25 years. And the biggest thing I learned was that that mission of being in the sandwich generation is kind of full of baloney. And so you’ve got to learn what you need to do. So I educate and I help women especially learn about the pitfalls legally and financially of aging and caregiving, and I help to prepare them for the crisis so that they’re ready for when it comes, because it’s coming for everyone like a tsunami. That’s what I do.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Absolutely. And that sounds awesome. I’m so glad you’re here. So being an elder law attorney and a humorist at the same time. You know what? My opinion is that if we’re not laughing, we’re going to end up crying. So, we need a little [crosstalk 00:01:43]-

Cathy Sikorski:

So true. So true. Someone says, “What’s the worst advice you ever got?” And it said, “Don’t make humor out of what you do, which is helped the elderly and the seniors.” And I’m like, “Are you kidding? It’s the funniest thing I’ve ever done.”

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

It is. It can be a very fun experience and sometimes the best giggle is the cutest stuff. Because sometimes our seniors will tell us or say to us, or my dad was in a nursing home for a couple of years and I just some of the interesting things that would happen there and the conversations, I mean, and some folks were totally with it and able to have a conversation and others were completely in space, but it was fun. It was interesting. There was a boyfriend and a girlfriend that were like little teenagers. And I said, “What’s going on over there, dad?” And he was like, “They’re together.” And I said, “No, no. No-

Cathy Sikorski:

They’re together.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

… that is not happening here. Right?” And he was like, “Oh yeah. they kind of are. They’re boyfriend and girlfriend.” And I was like, “Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh!”

Cathy Sikorski:

Adorable.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

And I couldn’t like, I said, “Dad, I can’t wrap my head around this right now.” But you know what? It was fun. It was fun. I mean, they were just, it was just holding hands and stuff. It was great. It was great. So anyway, yeah, you got to have a little humor about some of the stuff.

Cathy Sikorski:

For sure.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

All right. Well, what is the best thing about serving aging adults?

Cathy Sikorski:

So I have always loved old people even before people thought I was one. I actually love old people. And I think there’s a lot of reasons for that, but one of them is of course, I get to help them. I get to really help them with something important that’s going to change their lives and make it better for not just them, but their families.

            And I also love helping their families, even if the elderly person, the senior person isn’t capable of making the decisions or whatever. I mean, I really bring strong help in a simple way to the table and that makes me feel very good. But honestly, one of the best things I like is what we were just talking about is the stories. I get to spend time with people, number one, who are often hungry to tell their stories. They’re hungry for companionship and entertainment, and I get to spend time with them and I am happy to feast at that table because the stories I get are incredible.

            I remember one lady telling me that her father-in-law proposed to her during the second World War because her husband-to-be was still in Italy. So he wanted her to have the engagement ring so her father-in-law did the proposal. That just gives me chills telling you that story. Or my best friend’s father-in-law who used to always wrap his false teeth in a napkin when they went to a restaurant and put it on the bread plate. And one day the waiter just enthusiastically took that plate away and the teeth went flying across the room.and that is humor, family humor for generations to come so I get to share that.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

That is awesome. That is so good. I would imagine that in your life and in your career, there have been people, you said you were a caregiver, an unpaid caregiver for a lots of folks in your life, but I would imagine there are people who’ve been mentors to you, inspirations to you. Maybe it was some of those folks or organizations that you think do a really good job. So who would you like to talk about?

Cathy Sikorski:

So there’s a lot of great organizations out there and Alzheimers.org is one of the best for sure. And there’s caregiving.com and I’ve met some of the people around those organizations, but I particularly am lucky enough to be on the board of a local organization called Nancy’s House.

            And what they do in my area is provide weekend retreats for caregivers and the whole idea behind that is to get them to rest, to get them to learn how to care for themselves, maybe a little bit better, and to get them to take time and energy for themselves, and honestly get some good food and good sleep for two or three days. It is one of the best things I have ever associated myself with and I am happy to say that we are trying to gear up as much as we can because we do it at local bed and breakfast, but we’re trying to get our own house for Nancy’s House.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

I was getting ready to say, it sounds like a bed and breakfast with a little therapy mixed in.

Cathy Sikorski:

That is exactly what it is. Yoga, therapy, food, sleep, and we even provide a caregiver for the person you’re caring for, because that’s usually the big objection. “Only I can take care of my person,” to give you some peace of mind. It’s wonderful. Yeah.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Sounds amazing. I know that, I think it’s Home Instead Senior Care has a cruise for caregivers every year and you can-

Cathy Sikorski:

I think that’s true, yeah.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yeah. You can go on a cruise and I don’t know, I don’t know all the details, but I always thought, “That would be a wonderful thing.” And even if you’re not that far away, I mean, if you’re within a hundred miles of your loved one, I mean, truly if something happens you can go home, but what a nice thing, just to sleep and somebody else taking care of you for the weekend. Oh, my goodness.

Cathy Sikorski:

That’s what we do. So how great is that?

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

A million dollars. Oh, oh it’s worth a million bucks, easily.

Cathy Sikorski:

A million bucks and it’s free or very low cost. We don’t charge them for it either.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

How nice. Oh my gosh. So how do you pick who can go? I mean, how is that arranged?

Cathy Sikorski:

So you would be shocked that our biggest problem is getting people to come. We actually find the funding, we get grants, whatever, and we can almost never fill it completely.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Wow. Oh my goodness.

Cathy Sikorski:

I know. So I’m hoping people hearing this out there will be looking for Nancyshouse.org on, yeah, on Facebook.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yeah. Is it in a certain part of the country or where you are?

Cathy Sikorski:

It’s in Pennsylvania, in the Philadelphia area where I live, but we serve Philadelphia and New Jersey, but if you would come in and we could service you, I think we could make that work.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Very nice. Wow. Yeah. They need to do that for new moms too, right?

Cathy Sikorski:

Yes, yes.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

They’d be way more likely to take you up on that.

Cathy Sikorski:

Yeah.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

All right. Well that is really cool. Yes. We’ll put the link to that with the video so folks can, in the Northeast, that would be perfect. All right. So let’s talk about online marketing a little bit. You’ve been around the block for awhile. You understand that it’s an ever-changing thing. It can be very confusing and the last year has prevented us from really being face-to-face too much. So what has been your experience with online marketing? What are your thoughts?

Cathy Sikorski:

So I started out as a blogger about, Oh, I don’t know, five or seven or 10 years ago. My blog has kind of been dormant for this last year because I’ve spent a lot of time doing video stuff, right? Because here we are Zooming like crazy people.

            I would say don’t get discouraged. Marketing through LinkedIn, through Facebook, through Twitter, it’s effective because people just need to know you’re there. You’re there and what do you have to say that can help? Because most people in this industry want to help. They’re doing something to help people. But I want you to remember two things.

            You have two people or two groups you’re marketing to. Your marketing to individuals. You’re telling seniors, “Look, you got to have your legal documents. You got to talk to your financial advisor,” but you’re also marketing to bigger groups like their children or where they work or so, or conferences. So make it personal, make it relational into big, different ways. One to the people you want to talk to, and the other to the companies, corporations, situations that you want to see you.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Absolutely.

Cathy Sikorski:

To be seen.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yes, definitely in this market, there are definitely two audiences. There’s the audience of the actual seniors and there’s the audience of all the people in the community that surround them and hold them one way or the other. So people ask a lot of times, “Well, I’m really,” they’ll say, “Well, I’m really marketing to seniors.” And I’ll say, “Well, wait a minute. There’s a great story about that. You’re really not marketing to the senior technically. You are but usually they’re not the ones that make the phone call. So you have to think about that.”

            A million years ago, I got a call on an answering machine. This was before, well, not before cell phones, but we had bag phones. This is how long [crosstalk 00:10:00]. I got a call on an answering machine at my house and I was calling in to check the messages and it was a message from a producer at the Oprah Winfrey show. Oh, and I thought, “This is it. This is it. I’ll never have to work another day in my life.”

            And so what they wanted was they were, I was doing case care management at the time, and they wanted me to hook them up with a senior who was living alone, who knew they should not be living alone or would say that they should not be living alone at home. And I thought, “Okay, exciting, exciting.”

            And then it dawned on me, the reason they couldn’t find this person is because who is going to go on TV or their adult children and say, “Yeah, we know this is dangerous. We know she shouldn’t be living by herself, but we’re letting her anyway.” I was like, “Well, you can’t find this person because who’s going to go in front of 63 million people and say that?” So then-

Cathy Sikorski:

Which means that person is not that hard to find.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Right. So I got a whole sweatshirt out of the deal, not a million dollars.

Cathy Sikorski:

Aw. I’m sorry, but-

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

But anyway, but truly, I mean, so you’re marketing… If a senior is private and they’re and they don’t want to invite trouble typically, or when I say trouble, I mean, they don’t want to disturb everybody in their life. They’re not going to say. “Yeah,” most of the time. So, that’s sort of, that’s why I say you got to market to the people who surround them for sure.

Cathy Sikorski:

Exactly. So you’re marketing to two different groups, so pay attention to that and produce accordingly, but remember this is about relationships. This is about people saying, “Wow, she’s kind, she’s generous, she’s got good information. I like her. I like that she looks prepared. I like…” That kind of stuff, right?

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yeah, absolutely. Yep. And trustworthy. Trust and authority and expertise.

Cathy Sikorski:

Yes.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Show that and it’ll go a long way.

Cathy Sikorski:

Yes.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

All right. Well, what piece of advice would you give to other senior care providers?

Cathy Sikorski:

I think I would say hang in. This group that we’re trying to help is large and getting larger every day and it feels like we’re looking for a needle. We’re the needle in a haystack, right? We’re the needle. Nobody’s finding us, but hang in because you have to stick with what’s going on here. Look how COVID has changed everything. Who knew, right?

            And the cream will rise to the top eventually. You don’t have to be Brene Brown or Suze Orman or anything. It doesn’t mean you can’t be a great provider and earn a great living, doing good things for seniors. And that group that will purchase your product, ultimately, whether it’s their children and them will be there for you for a very long time. Hang in.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

You’re right. And it doesn’t take… People worry about their competition a lot. Business owners worry about their competition. And what I always say, whether it’s a home care agency or assisted living or whatever it is, if you are the, I mean, it doesn’t really matter how many home care agencies or how many providers like you there are in your city, yes it gets more competitive, but you all together right now, if you took a snapshot from way up high, you could never serve all the people that need care or in the next year are going to need care. So working together works way better than saying, “Uch.”

Cathy Sikorski:

Can I tell you who’s thriving the most right now with COVID vaccines where I live? Small independent pharmacies. They are doing the best job. People are flocking to them. And believe me, that’s going to go a long way. They are not going to stop coming to you once they have the vaccine, you have proven what we all knew a long time ago, that small, independent businesses are great on service and that’s what you want. Right? So that’s just an example of why hanging in can serve you.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yes. The and the older I get, the more impressed I am when I go somewhere and someone remembers me. It’s not just my name, but they’re like, “Oh yeah, yeah, absolutely. We’ve talked about this before,” or whatever. And so those small, independent pharmacies are absolutely right and very few people I would say in their lifetime have been so excited to get a shot. So, this is a very happy event.

Cathy Sikorski:

Its free.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yeah. It’s a very happy event for most people. I know there’s all kinds of stuff out there-

Cathy Sikorski:

Right, right.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

… but for most of us, we’re like, “Thank you so much. I’m done.”

Cathy Sikorski:

I know. For most of us, we’re like, “When can I get my shot?”

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yes. “Can we get this done?” So, yeah. I just got shot number two this week.

Cathy Sikorski:

Oh, congratulations. I’m so happy for you. I’m not there yet, but the people who surround me are doing very well, so I’m happy and I’ll wait my turn. I’m just biding my time. Yeah.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

It’ll come. So, yeah. And so it’s funny when you go into and get it and nobody there is sad. I mean, this is like, “Whew, we can see the light at the end of the tunnel here.”

Cathy Sikorski:

Right.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

So, yep. Independent small pharmacies. I hope they get tons of business out of this when they get [crosstalk 00:15:20].

Cathy Sikorski:

It’s a lesson for us. It’s a lesson for all of us, especially serving this community. Don’t give up hope.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

That’s right. I also think that small, independent care homes that are serving six to 10 clients maybe, or maybe even less, I think that is going to be a very good business to be in. It probably already was. But I think those small family owned and operated well-run care homes are going to see a boom in business. I can see it from our end. I can see a lot more people going into that business refitting homes-

Cathy Sikorski:

Yep. I believe you. Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

… because it is more, it’s more intimate, it’s easier to manage infection control issues if they’re [crosstalk 00:16:04].

Cathy Sikorski:

And the family is happier with the care.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yes. They are. They are, absolutely. So I see that as a big trend. All right. My last question is when you have a win in life or business, how do you like to celebrate?

Cathy Sikorski:

So when I have a big win, like I’ve done a big event and I’ve gotten great feedback and I put a lot of time and effort into it and sold a lot of books because of it or whatever. Honestly, my big, big takeaway, my gift to me is a nap.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yeah.

Cathy Sikorski:

It really is because that’s the sleep of the dead. That’s the sleep of the satisfied. I really have everything off my plate and I can really truly rest. So I guess caregivers would appreciate that for sure. When I have a little win like today, which is a great thing for me to be able to do this with you, I’ll probably have a nice cup of coffee or a piece of chocolate to go with it and maybe a glass of wine for dinner. It’s really honestly, simple celebrations have become really appreciated things in life, right?

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yep. Yep. We have learned a lot about ourselves in the last year and what we truly are happy to be with and I mean, things have settled in life a little bit and it’s a happy place to be, I think for most of us.

Cathy Sikorski:

Yeah. And the other thing I do is I’ll call a friend, I’ll call someone and just have a nice chat with someone I care about.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yeah. That’s a great one too. Well, thank you. Thank you for your wisdom and your humor and your advice and we will make sure all of your contact information is with this video so if folks are interested in any of your books or any of the things that you do and that wonderful bed and breakfast.

Cathy Sikorski:

Nancy’s House.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Nancy’s House. Is it Nancy’s House?

Cathy Sikorski:

Yeah.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

I’m not even really a caregiver and I’m in.

Cathy Sikorski:

I know, right? We need to do if for-

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

I’ll figure it out.

Cathy Sikorski:

We’ll just make up a reason why we need to do it.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yeah, that’s right. That’s right.

Cathy Sikorski:

Thank you Valerie so much.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Thank you. All right. We’ll talk to you again soon I hope.

Cathy Sikorski:

Hope so too. Have a great day.