Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

This is Valerie VanBooven 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. And in a few sentences, tell us who you are and what you do.

Sue Gibson: www.slgseniorcare.com

Sure Valerie. I help families find assisted living, memory care, independent living, and board and care facilities for their aging loved ones. I do an in-depth care assessment to understand the care needs and then I hand pick two to four options that I think would be a good choice for the family and I provide the family with detailed fact sheets on each of the options. I check the state care and violation reports to be sure that I’m only recommending safe options and then I send the care assessment to the care homes or communities to make sure that the client is the right fit for the home or community. I then tour with my families, either live these days or sometimes still virtually via Zoom. I follow up 2, 7, and 30 days after move in to be sure all is going as planned. And my white glove service is absolutely free to the family. I am compensated by the hundreds of homes and communities in my territory.

Sue Gibson:

I have been doing this for six years and I’ve worked with over 600 families during that time. I’m a trained certified senior advisor and there’s actually 150 of us across the country so I can help you anywhere in the US. I have a master’s in pharmaceutical marketing and over 20 years of experience developing online educational programs for doctors and patients.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Nice.

Sue Gibson:

My father who has dementia and Parkinson’s was one of the real triggers that introduced me to the senior placement space and got me interested in pursuing it.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Very nice. Well it sounds like you’ve had a lot of experience over your lifetime and in your career here. 600 families?

Sue Gibson:

Oh yes.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Gollee. That’s like 100 a year for six years. That’s a lot of planning. So I know that you’re really good at what you do. What is the best thing about serving aging adults?

Sue Gibson:

Well the best thing for me about serving aging adults is the satisfaction from making the right placement. I often hear clients say, I wish I had done this years sooner and I love the emails and the notes and the letters that I get from families saying, I couldn’t have done it without you. I step in at a critical moment to get the family on the same page and to get the senior engaged and to help facilitate the transition to senior placement. I also connect the seniors and their families with other resources such as geriatric care managers, real estate agents, estate planners, fiduciaries. I try to be a catch all to help people in the process of senior care.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

And it is a really complicated time in our lives when this issue comes up. And so having somebody like you on our side is really important because knowing where to turn for all of these resources, if you’re not in this business it is really hard to know where all that is and it’s a big stress for everybody involved because we want to do the right thing by our parents or our aging loved ones, whoever they may be in our lives, and we don’t want to make the wrong decision or help them make the wrong decision. So having someone like you on their side is really important. So tell us, in your lifetime I would imagine, you mentioned your dad, but in your lifetime I’d imagine there have been people out there who have really made an impact or maybe organizations that have made an impact on your life and kind of led you down this direction with helping people with placement. So who would you like to talk about?

Sue Gibson:

Oh, indeed. It’s more than a handful of people that have helped this person along. But a couple of people that I’d like to recognize today. One is [Kathy Fiansy 00:04:16]. She’s a gerontologist in San Mateo County and is an amazing resource to her clients. She’s always one step ahead when it comes to problem solving for the family and she helps her family navigate the senior care journey. She’s been very helpful to me in my practice as well. Also [Carmen Santoni 00:04:37]. She’s director of programs for the Catholic Charities Senior Center in San Carlos, California. And Carmen runs a tight ship, but she provides a compassionate haven for their dementia clients. She runs a support group for caregivers as well and she’s always looking for resources to support her clients. And she’s called upon me many times to help with placement of her clients.

Sue Gibson:

And then one other person that I’d like to acknowledge is [Teepa Snow 00:05:05]. I don’t know if you’ve heard of her Valerie, but she is a renowned national dementia educator and runs workshops on how to work with dementia clients. Her methods are revolutionary and her teaching inspires all who take her classes. Really, everyone should just check her out online and try to log into her classes whenever possible. She’s a great resource. And lastly I’d just like to acknowledge the Society of Certified Senior Advisors. This is a national organization with more than 8,000 members and it’s responsible for educating and certifying those of us who are interested in working with seniors. It’s a rigorous program by all means. It’s a one-week live training program, an 800 page book, three months of home study, and 125 question exam. But I’m proud to say that I’m a CSA and I have been since 2014.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Very nice. Yes. All of those and those people that are local to you that are doing such a good job, what an honor to work with them. And Teepa Snow, absolutely. She is brilliant and amazing and you can see a lot of her stuff for free on YouTube. And it’s great to guide people toward her to find out more about what her philosophy is for helping folks with Alzheimer’s and dementia. And then of course the CSA Organization, they’ve been around a long time, they do a great job of educating, and we liked them very much. So thank you for that.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Let’s talk about online marketing. It’s been really challenging lately to be able to network in person. And you’re in California, right?

Sue Gibson:

Correct.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

So I see that Governor Newsom has finally said, we’re going to try to open back up in, I don’t know, is it June? Did he say June? I think.

Sue Gibson:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

So that’s awesome. But I know that it’s been a real challenge for the last year for so many people, everybody basically. So online marketing has become very important, it always has been. In-person networking is even more important. So what is your thought or what have been your experiences with online marketing?

Sue Gibson:

Well online marketing is difficult because the assisted living space is a very competitive one. And the key words that bring us up are not broadly known of. For example, there’s very few people who know that placement agencies exist. So they don’t really go online and search for a placement agency. There’s actually only a handful of people doing what I do in my geography. But when people are searching they’re usually searching for assisted living communities or memory care communities or senior living facilities, they’re not searching for an agency to help them. So it’s hard to come up in the mix as an option.

Sue Gibson:

However, I’m currently subscribed to a couple of programs designed to get me to the first page of Google. One is by a company called HLM and another is by a company called TrueTalk. So I should see in the next few months if I end up getting results. And I can tell you with my TrueTalk campaign I already am featured on the first page for Hillsborough Heights. It’s an area that we focused on, it’s a high value niche area in San Mateo County and they have gotten me to the first page of Google. So I know there’s hope. I have tried some other FTO marketing services with marginal success, but I keep trying because nowadays you have to find a way to be visible online. I also have a Facebook page which adds to my visibility online as well.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yes, absolutely. Facebook is our demographic right now and it gets older by the day. So Facebook, LinkedIn, and anybody who can help you get to page one for the right keyword phrases, which you mentioned, are challenging because what you and I would think would be a great keyword phrase is not really what people are typing in. So you have to kind of modify your belief about… I always tell people you are not your client. You have to step out of your box and say, okay, if I didn’t know anything at all, what would I be typing in? And that’s hard to do. It’s hard to separate yourself from what you know. So you’re right. That’s great. I’m glad you got somebody helping you get to the first page. That is really, really important. Absolutely. All right. What piece of advice would you give to other senior care providers?

Sue Gibson:

I’ll just wait until you unfreeze. Oops.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

I think you’re unfrozen now. Go ahead.

Sue Gibson:

Okay. Exactly. So key advice. My key advice is to listen with an open heart and mind and allow families and seniors to share their story with you. Note your questions as they talk, but save your questions till they exhaust themselves telling their story. It helps them to get it off their chests. Then come back with your questions to round out the story and get the information you need to help them. But it’s very important to give them the permission to share.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Time and permission. Be patient, let them talk, and listen. Be a good listener. I hear that. And that’s awesome. So thank you for that advice because it’s so important. So can you still see me and hear me or am I frozen? I’m good?

Sue Gibson:

[inaudible 00:11:14] there.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Great. Okay. When you have a win in life or in business, how do you like to celebrate?

Sue Gibson:

Well the first thing that I like to do is I like to send my clients flowers or a plant or some other relevant gift as I’ve gotten to know them. Most recently I sent one of my clients a small radio because his wife said that he would enjoy having that in his room and I know that the facility didn’t provide that to him as a resource. And I knew he didn’t like the challenges of dealing with the TV and remote controls. So the radio was what I provided to him. So I do try to provide something special to my clients to welcome them to their new home.

Sue Gibson:

But for myself, I usually treat myself to something special as well. And if it’s a new client I might just open a special bottle of wine for dinner and toast to the new client. If it’s a larger win, for example a care home is giving me six of their residents to place because they’re closing down, I may celebrate with a massage or a dinner on the town. Something like that. The other thing that I did is I framed my first [inaudible 00:12:25] my first placement. I have that on my wall. So I look at that every day and say, you can only go forward from there.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

That’s right.

Sue Gibson:

I always like to include my significant other [Bob 00:12:37] in my celebrations as he is my rock, he’s my support, and I couldn’t do it without him in life.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Very nice. Very nice. All those things sound great. I agree. There’s categories of celebration. There’s the little wins and there’s the big wins that include the massage. So I totally agree with you there. That’s perfect. Well it sounds to me like your area of California has a great resource in you and I want to thank you for being on the show, for sharing your wisdom with us and talking to us about what you do. So I appreciate that. Thank you.

Sue Gibson:

Thank you Valerie. I really enjoyed my time today. Appreciate it.