Full Transcript:

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

This is Valerie VanBooven with the Senior Care Industry NetCast, where leaders with three or more years in the senior care industry share their advice. It’s six questions in nine minutes, so let’s get to it. In a few sentences, tell us who you are and what you do.

Rick Graffagna:

So my name is Rick Graffagna, and my company is Senior Solutions and we are a senior housing and in-home care finding service. In essence, we’re kind of like matchmakers. We try to learn and find out as much as we can about what the situation is with the family and understanding what’s important to them, what levels of care they’re looking for, what types of housing, what’s their geographical preferences, what’s the budget kind of look like. And then we become matchmakers, literally we’re trying to connect them with the situations and the options that make the most sense based off of what their circumstances are.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Thanks. That is a great service. We need thousands of you because this is a challenging place to be when you’re a family or a senior who’s having to make these kinds of decisions.

Rick Graffagna:

Absolutely. They don’t even really know in many cases what questions to ask.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

That’s right.

Rick Graffagna:

They don’t know where to start.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

They don’t even know what they don’t know. So, it is. It’s hard when you haven’t been through something like senior care or long-term care issues or changing how you’re going to live, or where you’re going to live. It’s a tough time and it’s hard to manage all those decisions. So, thank you for what you do. What is the best thing about serving individuals and seniors, the family members and the seniors? I’m sure you do both.

Rick Graffagna:

Yeah, I do. I think relative to the seniors, I think it’s finding out about their story, what is the story of their life? And it’s not necessarily this 80 something gentlemen that is presenting himself to you. It’s what was his life like? I remember helping a family a couple of years ago and long story short, I mean, the gentleman was from Puerto Rico and he was in the last segregated military unit that we had as a country. And his son proudly showed me a picture of him, of his dad standing next to President Obama as their group had received the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Wow.

Rick Graffagna:

And so again, everybody has a story and trying to find out what that story is, I think, is fabulous. And for the families, I think it’s a getting to know them and understanding a little bit of the family dynamics and helping educate and helping them develop some options that they’re yearning for to help solve whatever situation is that they’re trying to solve.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yeah. A lot of good listening skills comes in really handy-

Rick Graffagna:

Yes.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Because everybody does have a story and a life. It’s not just what you see today. So yeah, absolutely. They deserve our respect and they deserve to live in whatever way they want to live with dignity for the second half or maybe third half of their lives.

Rick Graffagna:

Of their life, yeah.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yeah. So, all right. So I’m going to switch gears for a second and ask you a question about online marketing, because it’s been tougher to do business in person lately, especially. So what is your experience or what’s your thoughts about online marketing? How do you do that?

Rick Graffagna:

Well, I think I’m doing more now than I would have done in the past for obvious reasons. And so there’s a few buckets. I was always involved with three senior service networking groups. I have leadership roles with them. And so now, in fact, right prior to this, I had a Zoom meeting where I was hosting about 45 people. And so that helps develop and continue a presence that I’ve had in the marketplace.

Rick Graffagna:

One other thing is that I’m involved with two other groups and I co-host and help sponsor two CE events each month,. Tonight I have another event and I think as of this morning, we had like 55 professionals that have registered and signed up for that. So, that allows me to again, maintain and develop and enhance my presence from a marketing standpoint.

Rick Graffagna:

And then thirdly, I’ve got a presentation I call Senior Housing 101 that I’ve done quite a number of times, mostly affiliated through the libraries. And so now libraries have pivoted, where a year ago I was doing them in the library and now we’re doing them via a Zoom presentation. So, I don’t think it’s challenging. I think it’s just different and you just have to pivot and go with the flow based off of what’s going on right now.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

You’re right. Everybody needs to just do the best you can with the tools you have. And actually, you said you were doing Zoom before the coronavirus, before our pandemic issue happened. And I think that this opens a lot of opportunities for people who couldn’t get to the library or didn’t have the option to be in a group because they weren’t going to travel or they couldn’t get to the meetings or whatever. And now it’s not ideal maybe, but it’s a great way to invite more people who maybe didn’t have the opportunity to join us before and to have even a bigger presence outside of your small area.

Rick Graffagna:

There is no doubt, especially to see presentations where before they were face-to-face and maybe in a restaurant. So geographically and financially, you maybe kept the group a little bit smaller and now, the more the merrier. So it works out great.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

I think people right now, I think we’re getting kind of back to a little bit more busy, but for a long time, there was nothing better to do than get more education to those projects you couldn’t do for a while. So, it is a great time to express your ability to do Zoom and do other kind of meeting techniques and get more people involved. So, thanks for your insight on that. I’m glad you were doing it before and now, too. Okay. There’s probably other successful leaders in your area or organizations that you really admire, they do a great job. Is there anybody you’d like to give a shout out to?

Rick Graffagna:

Sure. One gentleman that comes to mind is Pete Miska. He owns and operates Phoenix Home Health here in the Chicagoland area. They have been a five-star rated agency for the longest time. Pete not only is a great guy, but he is amazingly knowledgeable and he’s just a real testimony to doing things the right way. And he’s really a true leader in the industry. So yeah. Pete is fabulous.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Well, thank you. It’s always helpful. I ask that question because no matter where you’re located, it’s helpful for people to know who our leaders trust. So, if you trust another leader in your local area or you feel like they just do a great job, it’s always great to get that recommendation and to know that, hey, there’s a home care agency in the Chicagoland area that somebody recommends. So that’s why we always ask those questions and we get answers all over the place but-

Rick Graffagna:

Exactly, exactly.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

That really helps us.

Rick Graffagna:

Yep.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Okay. What piece of advice would you give to other senior care providers?

Rick Graffagna:

I think there’s two things that come to mind. First, especially if somebody’s new and just getting into the industry, you need to be patient. Okay? Especially in my line of work. When you’re working with families and they’re wrestling with a decision, and it was always difficult, and now in the COVID environment, it’s even more challenging. You can’t force the issue, and you just have to be patient and understanding and very empathetic to the environment. If and when it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen, but you putting on your sales hat probably isn’t the right industry for doing that.

Rick Graffagna:

And I think the other part is listening. You have to understand what the situation is and button it up a little bit. And it’s not about you, it’s really about the situation. And then once you’ve done your listening, then you can go into your educational mode, which is really key, is sharing your knowledge with the family and the people that are involved, so they have the tools in order to make a decision.

Rick Graffagna:

Family sometimes will ask me after we’ve visited a couple of properties and we’ve narrowed things down, they’ll say, “So Rick, where exactly should we put dad?” I will never answer that question. I’ll go revisit the options that they have and revisit what’s important to them, but it’s that knowledge that hopefully I’ve instilled in them so that they can come to a conclusion and a decision that they’re comfortable with.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

What you just said reminds me of buying a house. You wouldn’t ask a realtor necessarily, “Well, which one should we buy?” I mean, I’m sure people do ask that question.

Rick Graffagna:

Yes.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

But it really is a matter of revisiting all the amenities, all the things, the location, all the things that the place offers and then you have to really make that decision.

Rick Graffagna:

Yes, exactly.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yeah. But it’s good that you’re not bias towards one or the other. That’s key in this industry is that family really has to feel comfortable with this big decision.

Rick Graffagna:

Yeah. A lot of times families will say, “Well, Rick, we don’t want to go to someplace that’s maybe not particularly good.” And I said, “Well, you know what? Any places that I think bad about them, you’re not even going to know about.”

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Right. I’m not going to show you a place that’s not good.

Rick Graffagna:

Yes, exactly, exactly.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Okay. Awesome. All right. So my last question is supposed to be fun and happy. When you have a win in life, and that could be anything, it could be just celebrating a birthday, or it could be a new baby in the family or a wedding or a graduation, it could be a business with some placement and someone is just so happy and they say, “I wish I’d done this 20 years ago.” When you hear something like that, it makes your heart feel good, I call that a win. Win for you, a win for them. How do you like to celebrate?

Rick Graffagna:

Well, relative to a housing placement, the first thing I do to celebrate is generate an invoice. But anyway, but besides that, I really try to think about were we able to get a family from point A to that decision point. And that really does warm the heart. I don’t say that kind of tongue in cheek wise, I mean, that’s really why we do what we do, and try to help families get to a point where they’re more comfortable with the decision. And when it does finally happen, I celebrate in my mind knowing that they’re now in a much better place than where they were when we started.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

That’s awesome. Yeah. It is such a gratifying and rewarding feeling to know you’ve helped someone else or a whole other family who started out with maybe a lot of overwhelm and now they’re settling in and they have some peace of mind. So, that’s great. All right. Well, I want to thank you for being on the show, for sharing your wisdom and advice with us and with other professionals and consumers out there. That’s why we do this for good news, and to share our wisdom so that others can either be better stewards of their resources and knowledge or so that consumers can know where to turn. So, thank you.

Rick Graffagna:

Well, thank you for inviting me, Valerie. It was great.