EP 141 SCI Netcast: Julia DelGreco, Preferred Care at Home

https://preferhome.com/florida/cape-coral-and-fort-myers

Valerie VanBooven:

This is Valerie VanBooven with The Senior Care Industry Netcast, where leaders with three or more years of experience in the senior care industry share their advice. Let’s get to it. In a few words, tell us who you are and what you do.

Julia DelGreco:

My name is Julia DelGreco-Cesana. I am the director of Community Outreach with Preferred Care At Home. In addition to that, I am the founder of Aging Care Options and Resources of Southwest Florida.

Valerie VanBooven:

Nice. You have a busy schedule then, I would imagine.

Julia DelGreco:

I do.

Valerie VanBooven:

That’s a lot going on. Well, tell us, what is the best thing about serving aging adults?

Julia DelGreco:

Well, I’m a little biased. The aging population, truly, they’re my favorite demographic to work with, and I really firmly think it’s paying it forward and giving it back. And just making sure that those that go before us, as they age, they receive the best quality of care and live the best quality life possible. I’m thrilled and honored to be a part of that.

Valerie VanBooven:

Well, I think that almost everybody I interview, I love hearing that because I hear it a lot. And I think if everyone in the world knew how many people are out there who absolutely adore our aging population and love working with them and make it their life’s mission to work with them or their career mission to work with them anyway, people would be amazed. Because, we have a lot of folks out there like you who are trying to make seniors’ lives better every single day, and trying to bring providers together to make seniors’ lives better every day. Thank you for that.

Julia DelGreco:

Thank you.

Valerie VanBooven:

In your life or in your professional career, there’s probably been people or organizations that you think have really made a difference, that have really inspired you professionally or personally. Who would you like to talk about?

Julia DelGreco:

There’s two. The first one being HOPE Hospice. I work with them daily, being the folks that I provide service for the seniors. Typically, what we see is a medical diagnosis that one might be failure to thrive, and we want to make sure that their wishes are carried out, and HOPE hospice is extremely instrumental in making that happen. It is a definite benefit. It’s not an additional stress that when folks do meet the criteria to be admitted to HOPE Hospice services, there’s not a lot of out-of-pocket expense. So, really, at that point in time for family members and for individuals, I think that’s a saving grace. And they are intermittent in their services. And that’s why we do work tandemly, where my team is there with the everyday living tasks to better support the whole hospice team, which the end result being that those folks remain comfortable. They’re not suffering, the family support is there. Again, that’s truly a tandem effort.

Julia DelGreco:

And then, the other company is Mederi Caretenders. Mederi Caretenders, they have a skilled division of registered nurses, and the rehab division, PT, OT, speech, if you will. There’s a gal that I work with specifically, her name is Leanne, and she just goes above and beyond. Seven o’clock in the morning is no different than seven o’clock at night. And if somebody needs help, she’s there to help them. And she knows that I’m in line with that. We work together to make sure that if we see that folks do need additional support, being that it’s nursing or are to gain strength from PT or what have you, they go above and beyond. A Saturday is no different than a Monday. Like I said, 7:00 AM is no different than 7:00 PM.

Julia DelGreco:

I think her passion that drives her is right in line with mine. If we can’t help somebody, we find the help for them. The buck doesn’t just stop at our desk and say, “Okay, it’s not in line,” or they didn’t meet the criteria. Those are the two organizations that I truly offer as resources when I’m out in the community, because I know that the right hand will know what the left hand is doing. That’s super important. And the follow-up. They sound simple. Follow-up sounds simple, but it’s the absolute key. When you deal with human beings and folks, loved ones, you want to make sure that if you do refer it out, that they’re going to be well taken care of. Those are the two organizations that I tend to lean into to better support the folks in our community.

Valerie VanBooven:

Sounds like you’ve got all the bases covered. You’ve got you all that do the nonmedical, the companion care, the personal care, the housekeeping and the laundry, errand running, and just being a friend to that person, a support to that person in the home like meal preparation. Then, you’ve got your home health care, which is doing more of the medical stuff for the physical therapy, or the doctors’ orders kind of stuff. And then, you have the end-of-life care. You really have the whole gamut covered. And that’s awesome. It’s awesome that it’s not just your company, that you are willing and you are working as a collaborative team in three different companies, in three different capacities, and that you’re willing to refer to each other. And that’s what it’s all about.

Valerie VanBooven:

I’ve had a few interviews lately where we’ve talked about that we can view each other as competition anytime, anytime, but as you know, living in South Florida, there are not enough… There are lots and lots of home care agencies, lots of home health care, lots of hospices, but there’s never going to be enough companies to serve the amount of people who actually do need some care or discover that they need care.

Julia DelGreco:

And to speak to that, Valerie, I think this new word “community outreach” is designed for people like myself. We’re not salespeople, we’re not marketers. Competition does not exist in my everyday life, even though the home care arena is an absolute successful revenue-driven business. There’s those that get into it for revenue reasons, and then there’s those that get into it for their passion. And I think that people in the community pick up on if you’re genuine. And so, those that do give referrals to grow the business, to offer employment to wonderful care providers, we all need that. But at the end of the day, it’s just about doing the right thing.

Valerie VanBooven:

Yes, it is, especially for those folks who have raised us, who have fought in wars for us, who have done all of those amazing things that have come before us. Doing the right thing is making sure they’re taken care of.

Julia DelGreco:

That’s right. That’s right.

Valerie VanBooven:

That’s right. Absolutely. All right, let’s talk about online marketing a little bit. COVID… No, wait a minute, let’s back up. Florida has been pretty open for a while, or forever. I don’t know.

Julia DelGreco:

Yeah. Forever.

Valerie VanBooven:

Never really shut down, right?

Julia DelGreco:

Yeah.

Valerie VanBooven:

And everybody I interview is in a different space, they’re in a different state, in California that’s on complete shut down. We have Florida that’s like, “Woo hoo.” Wherever you are though, the last 18 months has been a challenge, and we’ve all had to work through that. I’m sure that people have been a little bit beep, even if the state’s not shut down. I’m sure assisted living facilities and places like that are full grip, “Vulnerable population here. Careful, careful, careful.” So, networking in person has probably picked up, for most of us. It’s picked up in the last few months, but I know it’s been challenging. What has been your experience with online marketing and community outreach through social media and all those other things that are out there?

Julia DelGreco:

That’s a nice segue into Aging Care Options And Resources Southwest Florida. The reason that I developed that group was because the door was closed to me. And so, again, I’m a person who wants to help others, and the only way that I could do that, even though our state was up and running for restaurants and stores, the health care facilities, per their own policy guidelines, more doors were closed than open. And actually, it is pretty similar at this current day. The online piece was to continue to connect with the appropriate folks, community outreach, who continue to support folks. And I find my group was designed to help the seniors, and I thought that I would have more seniors become members of the group, but it’s actually the reverse. I have more community outreach, other referral sources, other home care agencies, anybody that has anything to do in health care truthfully, and then adult children that were taking care of or are taking care of their loved ones.

Julia DelGreco:

That’s why I did develop the group, but I will tell you, home care in my experiences through the pandemic, because the facilities did have to close the doors and isolate patients, if you will, residents, that in itself made a lot of family members look at where their loved ones were positioned. Nobody expected the emotional destruction that it really caused to our seniors. And so, a lot of times people think that maybe it hurt our industry, but even though we want to practice universal precautions, I can’t tell you how many calls I was getting in the trenches of the pandemic and currently to break mom or dad out of ABC facility because, emotionally speaking, they were so lonely. Those that suffer from dementia and Alzheimer’s, they lost that structure to their day, which then heightened their confusion and anxiety. And then, the loss of muscle mass, because they weren’t able to get out and about as they normally did.

Julia DelGreco:

People have really been, and again, I’m an advocate. Wherever home is the best fit for you, if it’s a facility, great. If it’s your residential home, great. But, to answer your question, our biggest challenges is finding enough care providers to go out to the homes because the increase is there due to the pandemic, but then on the flip side, recruitment, recruitment, recruitment, right? Because, they all have families and they want to be cautious, and they don’t want to be going into facilities, taking care of folks, and getting COVID and bringing it back home. So, the virtual piece, as you initially said, is crucial at this point in time, to continue those relationships, to find the resources, and to look at different ways how to reach those objectives of healthy mind, soul, and body for our seniors and our care providers, but doing it in a different way.

Valerie VanBooven:

Yes, absolutely. And to your point about bringing people home, my dad is a young man considering how old people normally are when they go to a nursing home. He’s 71 with vascular dementia. He was in a nursing home for almost two years or maybe two years total. And about six months in, seven months into the pandemic, his wife took him out and brought him home because you could see no matter how many FaceTimes we did, no matter how hard that activity therapist worked, there was no way that what we were doing could replace his interaction with humans outside of the nursing home, or being locked in his room, not locked in his room, but isolated in his room.

Julia DelGreco:

Yeah, they were isolated. Yeah, for sure.

Valerie VanBooven:

And it’s super hard. And I think part of that was the dementia piece for him. On the flip side of that, he is home but he is mobile, and his medications control his dementia fairly well. He can read books and I’ve taken him fishing and things like that. We can do those things now. The flip side of that, my husband’s mother is in a nursing home and they’ve been in and out of lockdown. People have COVID, people don’t have COVID, whatever, but she’s got her faculties about her. She understands what’s going on, but she’s completely immobile from the waist down. She doesn’t walk. She’s had to stay there because we physically cannot, we don’t have a home where we can take care of her that way.

Julia DelGreco:

To accommodate her needs, yeah.

Valerie VanBooven:

She has to have 24-hour care, but she’s with it and she’s okay and she can watch TV. We go to the window and visit, or we go visit outside on the patio or do whatever. I know she would love to have us visit more, but she is okay. We talk to her on the phone every single day. She has her own cell phone. Everybody has to make a different decision, but I would agree with you, that for a lot of people, yanking folks out of that nursing home or assisted living facility even has been the way they’ve had to go, because the failure to thrive for my dad just went through the roof. You could see him aging right before your eyes.

Valerie VanBooven:

And back to the point of internet marketing and forming groups of folks that don’t have to meet, if you can’t get into the facility, people can come out of the facility to meet and safely meet, or online meet or Zoom meet. And I think that’s become a great alternative. It’s not where we all want to be necessarily, but on the other hand, doing interviews like this or meeting with a bunch of people in the Zoom meeting or whatever platform you choose has been a great way for people to not have to drive somewhere but they can still get on a meeting and talk to each other.

Julia DelGreco:

I think that employers are getting a big bang for their buck with the virtual. I think that we are able to spend more time being productive at our desks so to speak, because those of us in home care, health care, we’re on the road, there’s a lot of windshield time that’s involved. If you look at the positive in a negative situation, it does allow for more time to produce work and to help other people. Again, like you said, it’s just done in a different way. And I do want to say this. It’s all up to the individual as far as residents and facilities and what works for some and what doesn’t work for others. But, I think the big kicker here is this pandemic has affected the ones providing the care, the nurses, the CNAs, the homemaker companions.

Julia DelGreco:

And the facilities are in the midst of a pandemic. They’re short-staffed more so than they have been, which is an always ongoing challenge. And so, it made things look differently. And so, now, especially here in Florida, as we see our numbers increasing, I think fortunately but unfortunately we had a trial run on how to better serve our seniors during a pandemic. We kind of have learned what worked, what didn’t work. And so, as the numbers are currently increasing, I think the decision makers have, for lack of a better word, a blueprint for success to get through the challenging times, whether it’s this current pandemic or what we’re going to face in the future. We’ve now gained that experience to sum it up to network referral sources, to add additional resources virtually, to check on our loved ones virtually.

Julia DelGreco:

Those that are 70, 80, and 90 years old, before the pandemic, they didn’t know what Zoom was. They didn’t know what Duo was. We maybe did this at holidays as a treat, and now it’s truly an everyday way of life for employers and families and certainly for our seniors. It’s much bigger than just the business world now.

Valerie VanBooven:

Absolutely. Yeah. And our seniors have become very resilient and shown that they’re very capable of learning technologies from their phone or their tablet or whatever they’re using. It’s great to see yoga classes and all kinds of crazy stuff happening on Zoom with seniors that we thought, they didn’t know what a smartphone was two years ago, but now they definitely know.

Julia DelGreco:

Yeah, and now they’re pros.

Valerie VanBooven:

Yeah. What piece of advice would you give to other senior care providers out there?

Julia DelGreco:

Do not go into this industry without the passion in your heart. Don’t go into this industry because it’s a recession-proof business. People will always get sick, people will always pass away, so it is recession-proof, but it is not the reason to go into this industry. I’ve been doing this for 25 years. I’ve been with companies that I’m right in line with their mission, and they really, it’s just not something on the wall. They actually participate in it with actions every day. This is not one of those industries where, as an example, you say, “Okay, I’m going to go into the home care business as an owner or maybe a part of the inner office team.” This is a huge responsibility. It’s tremendous. If you’re in it for the wrong reasons, unfortunately, at the end of the day, your actions directly impact somebody’s life.

Valerie VanBooven:

Yeah, absolutely. They do.

Julia DelGreco:

I’ve even had, again, 25 years, I don’t think I’ve not heard it or not seen it. Been a part of it. But if you are somebody that wants to be a care provider and you don’t show up for work, somebody might go without medication that they can’t go without and they could suffer some amazing consequences. It’s different, if you work at a movie theater and you call off of work, well, they can always call somebody in to serve the peanuts and the popcorn. It’s not going to hurt anybody. But in this industry, it’s no joke. If you’re going to make this commitment, you’ve got to make sure that it’s from the heart and your best interest is more about others than yourself.

Valerie VanBooven:

Yes, absolutely. It is a full 100%. You’re either all in or you’re going to end up being all out one way or another, I think. Yeah, and the people you hire and the people you trust to help you run the business also have to have a good heart.

Julia DelGreco:

I will tell you, I think to really answer this question in the most honest way, I have seen business owners that have come into this arena saying, “Wow, it’s a 24/7 business. It’s quite a lucrative business to be in. The only thing we need to do is hire people to put them in mom and pop’s home, to help with their everyday living tasks.” And they do not do the appropriate justice to making sure… They might pass a criminal background check, but they might be somebody that’s absolutely not accountable to be at work, or to go to work and to fall asleep, or to go to work and be on the cell phone and not engage with the seniors. And if you do not do the right thing, even on the care provider side, to get on into this business as an owner, not so sure you’re going to sleep so good at night.

Valerie VanBooven:

Yeah, and it trickles down. The company culture trickles down from the top. Your attitude and your position will be reflected in the people who are walking into that house.

Julia DelGreco:

Yeah, and those that come into this business, if I could say, it’s really about quality. Quality care providers, quality office staff, quality leadership, taking care of your own that take care of others, and not lean into increasing billable hours just to get the clients to fill the shifts too. No. Any successful business owner that I know, one man, his name is John Keane, and he’s gone before us now. He was the owner of Interim Healthcare in Farmington, Connecticut. And that man did it right. He really led with passion and care, and then the revenue followed. He was a millionaire, but the revenue followed, but he just did the right thing. He took the time to hire quality people, do the right thing, and then everybody benefits.

Valerie VanBooven:

Yeah, and you mentioned staffing and retention, we’re in a situation right now where our caregivers have a choice. They have lots of choices. The way you treat those caregivers, the way you treat that staff, as challenging as it can be on some days, dealing with humans, we’re all, humans dealing with humans can always be a challenge. Everybody’s struggling, there’s no doubt about it, but the healthcare agencies that I find that do the best with the right caregivers that stay are the ones who almost take the approach of or have someone in the office who takes the approach of house mother. And I know that sounds weird but…

Julia DelGreco:

No, it sounds right. It’s absolutely correct. Yes.

Valerie VanBooven:

You need somebody who is a little bit more mature, who understands that life is going to bring you lemons as often as possible and what you do with that is up to you. I see owners who are the house mother, or they have someone on their staff, and they listen to “My car broke down,” “I can’t feed my kids today,” or whatever, or “My kid is sick,” or “I don’t have daycare.” And they try to work as best they can with those folks to help them through not just coming to work but other life issues that might occur. You can’t do everything for everybody, but you can be a resource.

Julia DelGreco:

You have to be a mentor and a resource to care providers. The demographic of CNAs, home health aides, and care providers, they are typically young, females, moms. They are under so much stress at the home front. And you’re right, Stacy Adams is my boss, and there has been many times that she has stepped up to pay for an Uber, to get over the obstacle so that care provider can get to the elderly person in need of care. We can deal with the broken down car after the shift, but then the care provider didn’t lose pay that she needs to provide food to her family, so you’re right. There needs to be that mentor, that support system from the internal home care agency on the other end, understanding that lemons do happen in life. You’re right. They do, Valerie. It’s just every day…

Valerie VanBooven:

And also that they care, right?

Julia DelGreco:

Absolutely. We live in a world of lemons. We’re swimming in lemons. You do have to come up with, it’s an easy word, but it’s a solution. I used to be a director of a certified nursing assistant school, Home Health Aid School, if you will. Even just to get through the program to become a certified nursing assistant, it’s a 16-week program. The girls had challenges because their only job wasn’t a care provider. They were also moms.

Valerie VanBooven:

Yes.

Julia DelGreco:

Home care, health care, it’s much bigger than the average person can even wrap their head around. And it is a 24/7 business. And our seniors, a lot of them are fall risks, so they do need that care overnight to remain safe. Even to find care providers that can work for overnight shifts to support our seniors from fall prevention, or because of facilities running short staffed and they have residents that are fall risks, they don’t even have people to work third shift. A lot of people do… And I commend you for doing these types of podcasts, Valerie, because we need to get the information out there so that we can all collectively work together to come up with solutions. And that just goes back to, again, why do people get into this business? Because, they’re very passionate about it. And when you’re passionate about it, it is your job, but it doesn’t seem so much like work. It’s a challenge to get through it together, whether it’s on the carer side or the recruitment side, or during a pandemic, if you will.

Valerie VanBooven:

Absolutely. It’s definitely a heart-centered business. For sure. And, like you said, it can be very lucrative, but it doesn’t come without a lot of work and a lot of blood, sweat, and tears along the way. Absolutely. I think people need…

Julie DelGreco:

I always say, Valerie, this industry chose me. I did not choose it.

Valerie VanBooven:

It’s a calling. Truly. If you talk about a calling, it is definitely a calling.

Julie DelGreco:

It is.

Valerie VanBooven:

All right. Last question is a fun one. When you have a win in life or in business, how do you like to celebrate?

Julie DelGreco:

Me, personally?

Valerie VanBooven:

Personally or professionally, when you, it could be a wedding, it could be a birthday, an announcement of some kind. It could be a new client that’s happy and you know the family is so relieved. It could be whatever you want to celebrate.

Julie DelGreco:

All right, we’ll stick with the business of signing on board a client for services. The cherry on top for Julia is if I go and maybe write a contract for 24/7, well, that’s the 168 hours and that’s the best you can do in the home care arena, right? And I guess the celebration is just really sitting there and realizing that I helped somebody today tremendously. I made my boss really happy. And then, I afforded the opportunity for first shift, second shift, and third shift, for care providers to generate a paycheck to provide for their family. I sit in that.

Valerie VanBooven:

Yeah, it helps like five families all at ones.

Julie DelGreco:

Yeah. By getting one signature for a 168 hours a week, it’s not just about me feeling successful in my job, but my gosh, I got somebody great care and I’m helping people to support their families. That’s pretty big. I don’t go out and drink wine. I don’t buy myself a new handbag. I sit in the humility of helping a lot of people due to my direct efforts.

Valerie VanBooven:

Yeah, it’s a great feeling. It’s a great feeling when you get in the car and you just think some good things are going to happen for a lot of people today. A lot of good things happened.

Julie DelGreco:

I don’t think you can walk away with any more of a celebration than knowing that you were an instrument in helping a lot of people. And you know what? It’s even the adult children. I’m like the saving grace when I come along, and daughter has been taking care of her mom who suffers from Alzheimer’s. And instead of being able to be daughter, she’s been daughter and care provider, and she loves her mother but she’s burnt out and she hasn’t had any time to go and maybe get a mani or a pedi, or maybe just to sit and read a book, or take a nap. You’ll walk out of their home and they feel when you are genuine. And I say to them, “You know what? No worries, Valerie. I’m going to make sure your mom is well taken care of, and you’re going to get that break,” and you can just feel it. So, even in that in itself, this job is extremely rewarding. Every day, even if you don’t get 168-hour contract, if you help somebody take a shower for one hour a week because they’re seniors, what’s better than that?

Valerie VanBooven:

Oh yeah, oh yeah, it’s the little things that go along way. Absolutely. Well, I want to thank you for doing this interview and for being on the show and helping us learn more about what you do and also the organizations that you represent, but also your wisdom. That’s what this is all about, is sharing the wisdom of veteran healthcare providers and people who’ve been in the industry for a long time, help others learn from their years of experience. Thank you.

Julie DelGreco:

If I may, Valerie, because I do honestly believe in the group that I founded, I would love to encourage the listeners. Again, it’s Aging Care Options And Resources Southwest Florida. It’s a private group. You do have to answer some general questions to be a participant of the group, but it’s really a safe forum to ask questions, to find resources. And then, again, Stacy Adams, my boss, I want to put a plug in there for her. Why? Because, I actually hired her company to take care of my grandmother. There’s a lot of owners out there that they don’t do the right thing, and she does. Preferred Care At Home. I should sing their praises. They have great care providers, and people like yourself, you’re appreciated as well. It’s a good day in Southwest Florida for everybody, I got to say.

Valerie VanBooven:

All right, cool. Well, we will put your Preferred Care At Home and your organization, the Southwest Flo- I know you’ve said it 30 times, but say it one more time.

Julie DelGreco:

It’s a tongue twister. Aging Care Options And Resources Southwest Florida.

Valerie VanBooven:

All right. Well, we will put that information with your interview too, and hopefully, you’ll share this with the group so people can get to learn more about you and about what you guys do. I will absolutely make sure that everyone has all those links so they can get ahold of you.

Julie DelGreco:

And Valerie, I’m looking for working with you on and on and on. I’ve heard wonderful things about you, and I’m flattered that you had me today so thank you so much.

Valerie VanBooven:

All right, thank you.

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Founder, Co-Owner, Wife, Mom, Author, Video Nerd. The buck stops here. Serving the Home Care and Senior Care Markets since 2008! Our services include home care seo, home care websites, home care marketing, home care social media, home care recruiting, caregiver recruiting, and home care Google My Business strategies.
Valerie VanBooven RN BSN
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