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 industry share their advice. So let’s get to it. Tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do.

Alison Emerick:

Hi, my name is Alison and I am an occupational therapist by training and I started a company called Ease Living where I sell home medical equipment online, but there’s a little bit of a twist. It’s more upscale home medical equipment because as an OT, I found that the most commonly used products don’t work very well and they’re ugly. They make people feel bad about themselves and people don’t want to use them.

Alison Emerick:

From a health standpoint that leads to two different issues, either they don’t use the product, say a cane or a walker, and they go out and they fall and break a hip, hit their head, or they feel so badly about needing something like a walker and continence products that they stopped going out, they stopped doing the things they love, they stopped seeing people pre-COVID and that then starts the downward spiral of depression and poor health that is really hard to get out of. So I curated products from all around the world that not only work well, but also look good that people actually like to use.

So I curated products from all around the world that not only work well, but also look good that people actually like to use.

Alison Emerick

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Very nice. Okay. So my husband has had back surgery and when he left, so we’ve had this issue. So when he got done with the back surgery, we had PT and OT out to the house, a few visits, and he was walking with a walker when he first … Because it was a pretty big surgery. Just around the house, he really couldn’t go out or anything, and then transitioned to a cane, which was fine. And he kept saying to me, “I want a cool cane. I don’t want an old man cane.” And that is hard to find. Walgreens doesn’t have cool canes.

Alison Emerick:

Right.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Glittery ones though, I can tell you that. So we did order one online. It’s probably not the … It is a cool dude walking stick kind of cane. It’s not exactly what I would say an OT would recommend, but it is at least a little cooler and he feels like if it’s icy or … He walks one or two miles a day, so if it’s weird outside, he’ll take it with him and he doesn’t feel embarrassed. So I appreciate that you’re doing this because …

Alison Emerick:

I came to it because it initially started with my grandmother. When she started to get dementia, my mom wanted to buy a clock that showed not only the time but the day and the date and everything that we could find was really industrial looking. And she said, I wish there was a site for people that were willing to spend more money for nicer things. So that’s what planted the seed actually to get it started, in addition to the experiences with my patients.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Very nice. Yeah, I would say too that even like home modifications, like grab bars and that, they don’t have to look industrial anymore.

Alison Emerick:

Exactly. There’s some amazing things out there.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yeah, you wouldn’t even know that it was made to be senior friendly. It kind of just looks like it’s part of the decor.

Alison Emerick:

Right.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

And beautiful. So really truly there are some astonishing things you can do and people aren’t going to go, “Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, that’s great.” They just wouldn’t even notice. Very cool. So what is the best thing about serving aging adults?

Alison Emerick:

I have always been drawn to older people, which I think is why I went into therapy to begin with. It’s so rewarding to be able to help people continue their lives and be able to start new things. I mean, the message out there tends to be that you can’t start new things once you’re past the age of what? 40, which of course we know isn’t true. So I just … I love to see the light in people’s eyes when they realize that they can still travel or still start a business or do whatever they want to do.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yeah, that is good to know that life doesn’t end at 40 because I would be in trouble right now.

Alison Emerick:

Yeah.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yeah, I do. I think giving people ideas and information that they had no idea existed that makes their life better, that is so rewarding. Oh my goodness. Yes. Whether it’s help or resources or equipment, and there’s just so many things that are available out there.

I love to see the light in people’s eyes when they realize that they can still travel or still start a business or do whatever they want to do.

alison emerick

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

So what other successful leaders in the senior care industry may have been mentors to you or inspirations, or maybe it’s parents or organizations? Who would you like to talk about?

Alison Emerick:

I think there’s been a lot. I’ve been a therapist for a long time, so I’ve met a lot of interesting people. In the aging industry specifically, I like the way that Chip Conley and David Harry Stewart approach their content in that it’s very inspirational but realistic at the same time, in terms of, like I said, starting new things and having new ideas. The people they interview and the way that they present the content are very … I like the way that they portray aging people, as everybody know, the way that older people are portrayed in advertising is awful. It’s awful. It’s so bad. And they’re not necessarily advertising people, but the way that they portray people as a lot more realistic and not in that traditional declining narrative.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yeah. Not in a sick role.

Alison Emerick:

Yeah, exactly.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, we do see … And I would even say, if anybody out there is interested in some stock photos that aren’t ridiculous that we haven’t all seen like 4,000 times, there’s a business right there.

Alison Emerick:

Actually, there is a guy out there that’s doing that.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

That’s awesome.

Alison Emerick:

Of course I’m not going to remember his company off the top of my head, but I will find it and send it to you.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

I’m telling you, oh my goodness. And being in the business we’re in, finding good stock photos that haven’t been used 40 times is …

Alison Emerick:

Exactly.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Hard, tough, tough row to hoe there. So yeah, but yeah, I think seniors being portrayed not in a sick role or not in a constantly chronically ill or depressed role, especially in commercials is something that’s very needed.

Alison Emerick:

Or overly joyful.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yeah.

Alison Emerick:

A lot of the stock photos. Yeah, exactly.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

I have urinary incontinence problems. Yeah, I know. And being realistic is so important. I mean, I get it that no one wants Debbie Downer in their ads, or their product is meant to bring joy or meant to bring ease of use, but the whole back and forth is just kind of weird. It’s either overly happy or overly …

Alison Emerick:

Right.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

So okay, let’s talk about online marketing. You are selling products online and on the other hand, you also see people in person too, right? So we know it’s been a little challenging in the last year to do in-person networking. So what has been your experience with online marketing?

Alison Emerick:

I actually do a lot of online marketing via social media because people don’t know that alternatives to the products that you most commonly see exist.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Right.

Alison Emerick:

They walk into a chain drug store or their local home medical supply store and they figure what’s there is all that’s available. They don’t know that there’s an alternative to the stainless steel cane or the white plastic tub bench. So I do a lot of social because of the visual aspect of it with pictures to show that there are different options out there. And in terms of the pandemic with selling online, I haven’t had to shift my marketing that much really since I was online already anyway. If I’d been a brick and mortar store, that would have been a huge, huge change.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yes, absolutely. Yeah. Well, yes, online marketing and online store, I mean, I don’t think anybody’s really had anything other than their normal challenges with running an online store. It hasn’t … The sales have probably picked up more than anything because everybody’s having everything shipped to them, so that’s awesome news. And using social media, especially with the visuals, there’s nothing that can replace that. It’s the visual, the story for Facebook, Instagram, and wherever else you are advertising and posting even on your website, so you’ve got it made there. If you’ve got good visuals that tells a thousand … A picture’s worth a thousand words, right?

Alison Emerick:

Right.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

So it really helps a lot.

Alison Emerick:

I also think in online marketing that testimonials are very helpful for people. When they can’t see a product hands-on to just hear from other people that have used it hands-on is helpful for people.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yes, absolutely. And I can’t wait to put your information in and go check out your store with your interview because I know people are always looking for alternatives to the standard, even people in my life, parents, and that are looking for something that’s not, like you said, institutional looking, for all the things that they might need as we age.

Alison Emerick:

Right.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

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

Alison Emerick:

TO be genuine and to think about the person that you’re trying to serve and what they need, not what you are trying to sell them.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yeah.

Alison Emerick:

One of the things that makes me completely insane in our tech enabled world is all of this robot caregiver type stuff that’s coming out. Nobody wants that, people want a human connection.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yes.

Alison Emerick:

So no matter what way people are serving seniors, they need to remember that they’re dealing with people that are in a phase of their lives that might be challenging for them and they need to have empathy and they might need to listen to the same story over and over again, and that’s fine. If that person needs to tell that story, there’s a reason.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yes, yes. It might be the only story they have on their mind for a long time.

Alison Emerick:

Right.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

And that’s okay. Let them tell it a thousand times. So yeah, the robot thing. So I’ve seen the robot thing for … I know they just do a lot of testing with this in Japan. I know it’s a big deal there, at least from a PR point of view, they test a lot of them or have a lot of them, and I have seen some folks here in the states sell robotic helpers. I’m not exactly sure what they do here because I don’t know … First of all, they have to be very expensive, I would imagine. And second of all, not sure how much they really do. I don’t … I haven’t investigated it enough to know, but I would say that I’m with you on this. I’m not sure that this is going to be an adequate replacement. Maybe there are some physical things that a robot can do to help a caregiver in the home, like maybe it’s stronger, help lift someone up off the floor or help roll them in the bed. I don’t know. I don’t even know about that, but I don’t know about the whole caregiver robot thing yet.

Alison Emerick:

There are some products, and I can’t think of the brand name specifically, but I think there are some things that are helpful early on in the caregiving journey where you know that your mother always has her coffee by 9:00 AM, and there’s some electronic things where it’s like oh, it’s 9:30 and the coffee maker hasn’t been turned on yet, and it will inform. I think some of that can be useful, but some of the tech solutions that are out there are so invasive, and we have to remember that just because people are getting older and might need help, they’re still people. They don’t want their privacy invaded.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

True.

Alison Emerick:

They don’t want someone telling them what to do.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Right.

Alison Emerick:

Especially a computer.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yeah, I do appreciate some of our virtual caregiving is nice when it is not so much monitoring you with cameras, but more about the tablet and you can talk to a person and they just check in on you or have a call with you.

Alison Emerick:

Right.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

In a situation where there’s a lot of isolation, that can be really helpful. But I would agree with you that just having someone monitored by camera, or I don’t know, there’s certain things that, you’re right, they are fairly invasive and a lot of people wouldn’t want that. I don’t want somebody to know how late I sleep in on Saturday.

Alison Emerick:

Exactly.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

If I don’t feel like getting out of the bed, I ain’t getting out of the bed. So I can see that, absolutely. I do like being able to talk to people like a Zoom call for those seniors who have no other means of really connecting with someone because their family lives far away or whatever it is, at least right now. So yes, there are definitely good and bad with all this tech, for sure. Absolutely. All right. When you have a win in life or in business, how do you like to celebrate?

Alison Emerick:

Celebrations have been so curtailed in the past year, it’s difficult to say.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yeah.

Alison Emerick:

I mean, I’m someone who, I like to exercise, so I mean, I’ll go for a walk or go out to eat, depending on what phase my state is in.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yeah.

Alison Emerick:

Nothing super crazy.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yeah. You know what, I think even … We’ve had the answers that are all over the map from … I had a … One of the first interviews I did, a doctor, a hospice physician pulled out a bottle of tequila from under his desk and he said, “Sometimes you just need a shot of this.” And I thought, “You know what, if I did what you did, God bless you because I could not and I would definitely need a shot of that once in a while.” But he meant it more in celebration, not in that way. So yeah, we’ve had people dancing, but usually a good meal in or out, a good meal and a nice walk or go for a run. I had one lady said that she likes to, obviously in a warmer climate than I’m in, go jump in the ocean in the morning. Those are some nice ways to celebrate, but any little thing, just sitting in your car and thinking ah, we did it or that was great, or just the little things. Sometimes they’re all you need.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

So that’s awesome. Well, thank you for informing us about the business that you run and letting us know, especially love it that it’s nationwide, and we can all go online right now and just take a look at what the amazing, cool things are that are available out there for our home use to keep us safe and to help us function better.

Alison Emerick:

Exactly.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

I’m guessing that you’re not selling the reacher grabbers that they sell at Five Below.

Alison Emerick:

No, exactly. No. Yeah, that’s not … I mean, they serve their purpose, but they don’t.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Not really.

Alison Emerick:

Right.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yeah, but yeah, people were joking with us and giving us gag gifts when Charlie had his surgery and one of them was a reacher grabber from Five Below, and I said, “I don’t think that’s going to reach anything or grab anything. Please don’t use that to get a glass out of the cabinet. That’s not going to work.”

Alison Emerick:

No, that would end badly.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

We had a good laugh about it. So yeah. Well, thank you so much for doing the show.

Alison Emerick:

Thank you.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

For sharing your wisdom with us. We appreciate it.

Alison Emerick:

Thank you. Have a good day.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

You too.