Episode 51 of the Senior Care Industry Netcast is LIVE!

We were fortunate enough to have Annalee Kruger Founder and President of Care Right, Inc. on the show and she offered some great insight and #advice for other #seniorcare and #healthcare providers.

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About This Episode:

EP 51: Senior Care Industry Netcast with Annalee Kruger, Founder & President of Care Right, Inc. 2
Annalee Kruger Founder and President of Care Right, Inc.

For Annalee, providing proactive senior-care planning to families is more than just a career – it’s her passion.

At a young age, Annalee witnessed the challenges seniors face while living with her grandparents (Dad’s father and Mom’s mother) in her childhood home. Annalee’s grandfather, a significant role model, instilled in her the importance of family. Her grandmother, whose health was poor, taught Annalee about grief, loss and how medical issues can affect a senior’s quality of life.

Similar to most caregivers, Annalee’s parents needed to take only a minimal role in caring for her grandparents at first. But over time, the grandparents’ increasing needs demanded more attention and involvement. As Annalee’s parents honored their wishes to avoid a nursing home, they encountered the toll this level of sacrifice requires – ultimately affecting their family, relationships and work-life balance.

Annalee credits her compassion, empathy and in-depth understanding of senior issues to what she witnessed as her parents transitioned from adult children to caregivers of their own parents. Today, Annalee is entering the role of long-distance caregiver to her own parents, and as a result, she understands, firsthand, the guilt and stress associated with the role.

Annalee has spent her entire 25+ year career in the senior care industry and has become a nationally recognized expert in the field of senior care planning having presented at a number of healthcare, senior housing, and financial conferences as well as hosting dozens of webinars.

In addition to Care Right, Annalee has also founded Care Right U which provides specialized training and consulting to caregivers in corporate settings (i.e. home health care providers, senior living facilities). She is also the co-founder of Plan4Life which educates, via its Elder Planning Specialist Program, members of the financial planning industry on the unique skills needed to manage their clients as they get older.

She received her BS in Social Work from the University of Northern Iowa and her MBA from Cardinal Stritch University in Wisconsin. In addition to being a Licensed Social Worker (LBSW), Annalee is a certified Family Mediator with further certificates in Greif, Trauma & Loss as well as PTSD Counseling. Annalee has served as an adjunct faculty member in the Human Services and Organizational Development departments at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee where she also received her Six Sigma Black Belt certification in lean process improvement. Currently, she is in the process of earning her Certified Senior Advisor certificate from the Society of Certified Senior Advisors.

In 2019 Annalee will publish her first book titled The Invisible Patient which outlines the emotional, physical and financial toll experienced by family caregivers.

Connect with Annalee on LinkedIn

Full Transcript:

Valerie VanBooven :

This is Valerie VanBooven, with the senior care industry net cast, 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.

Annalee Kruger:

Very good. Thank you, Valerie. My name is Annalee Kruger. My company is called Care Right Incorporated. I am a geriatric social worker consultant. I used to work in longterm care centers as a social worker and in 2011, decided to start my own company to help families actually have a family aging plan and talk about the, what ifs of aging before they end up in medical crisis.

Unfortunately, most families wait until they’re in a crisis like mom dies. And what do we do with dad? He has dementia or dad’s dementia progressed now, what do we do? So I work with families across the country.

Annalee Kruger:

I’m nationwide. I’ve used video conferencing for at least seven years because families just don’t live down the block from each other anymore. So I work with families to develop an aging plan. It reduces the caregiver burnout that these daughters and sons call me with. And it also helps families make more informed decisions and receive better quality of care.

Valerie VanBooven :

I totally love your business concept and of course we’ve been virtual for many years too. And so I totally get where you’re coming from. There’s so much that can be done. And I think that all of us who are accustomed to working in a more virtual environment are very lucky right now.

Annalee Kruger:

Right.

Valerie VanBooven :

We’re very lucky, but also the piece you said about your original inspiration and thought process was you’re going to help people plan ahead for that crisis. I think I had the same thought a million years ago and quickly realized that doesn’t happen very often.

Annalee Kruger:

It does not. One tool that I encourage families to get to purchases is I’ll just show this it’s the grab and go binder. It’s an organizational tool to get all of your paperwork in order, there’s at least 50 different checklists of what what you should have in place at your fingertips, so that when, or if that medical crisis happens or that unexpected death, your family isn’t left in the lurch, trying to figure out what accounts do we have, what insurance is there that we can leverage. And what’s, dad’s social security number. So that’s been really helpful for families to also get completed. And that also gives them peace of mind.

Valerie VanBooven :

And is this something that we can find on your website? Or where do you get that?

Annalee Kruger:

Yeah, so that’s actually on my www.carerightinc.com website.

Valerie VanBooven :

That’s making a great, great gift too,

Annalee Kruger:

It is.

Annalee Kruger:

Yeah. I usually sell about 50 of them a week or I wish a week, 50 a month. But yeah,

Valerie VanBooven :

I think we’re going to be on your list here in just a minute. Cause I know some parents that could use that. Yeah. So, okay. So let me get back to my, what we’re talking about here too. And that is the next question, which is what is the best thing about serving aging adults and their families?

What’s the Best Thing About Serving Aging Adults?

Annalee Kruger:

Oh, that’s easy. I’ve actually known since I was nine years old, that I was going to be a social worker. And what prompted that is my oldest sister went missing and my parents were also taking care of my aging grandparents. So they, I had two sets of grandparents living with us when we were growing up and we were farmers. And so when my oldest sister went missing, she was out of state.

Annalee Kruger:

She was at college out of state and she got abducted. And so mom and dad had to spend a lot of time and energy away from helping take care of grandma and grandpa. So us kids, the rest of us kids that were still at the house, we really stepped up to help make sure that grandma and grandpa were well taken care of. And that just really solidified, like I need to help families who have aging loved ones and we need to help support them because it gets overwhelming quickly. So the best thing is about helping families and serving families is with these aging plans and the grab and go binder. It gives them the peace of mind that we have a plan clicked together. So that if for when their health condition changes, we know which home care companies we’re going to use.

Annalee Kruger:

We know which retirement communities that we may move into. And we also know that they have their legal documents in order, their funeral arrangements in order and all of that kind of stuff. So that, that improves their quality of life for the whole family. And it also obviously improves the family dynamics. So it prevents a lot of fighting when you already have these conversations while things are going well.

Valerie VanBooven :

Yes, absolutely. There’s this function in families comes to a head very quickly when there’s a crisis, that’s just the nature of the beast. And so, yep. I’m getting all this out of the way in advance is so important. That’s right. I hear from other senior service providers, we’re going to talk about online marketing because you are virtual. So you’re going to have a great answer for this. I hear from other senior service providers that marketing online is challenging because it’s confusing and ever changing what has been your experience.

What has been your experience with online marketing?

Annalee Kruger:

I don’t find it to be that at all. In fact, I find it to be easier. It’s more time-efficient because nobody has to keep driving to and from people’s offices or to, and from various Starbucks to meet with people. So it’s no different than cause I do video conferencing with families and with potential referral sources. So it’s like we’re sitting across the table from each other, but we’re not. And so it’s much more time effective and time-efficient so that we can focus our time and energy and resources on our clients instead of spending five or 10 hours a week driving to, and from places to market with people.

So for me, it’s been a lot of, it’s been a huge time saver and it has, it helps people still understand the value of what Care Right services are. And I understand what the value is that they bring to the table too. So I really think that healthcare needs to kind of up their game and just get into this century and realize that this is how the world is going, is all virtual. And we need to start getting comfortable with that.

Valerie VanBooven :

Yes. I would say that having, getting accustomed to being on a Zoom call or whatever platform you use is going to be a feather in your cap, whether you are the owner of a company or you’re someone who works for a company, this platform, or whatever one you choose to use is going to be definitely integrated. I don’t, you know, I know the human connection is so important, but we’re in a moment in time where that’s not really a great idea for a lot of people, especially our seniors. So this is definitely helpful. Absolutely.

Annalee Kruger:

And with, with my business model, cause when I built my business and it was in 2011, so it was right after the economy had tanked and it was like trying to slowly crawl back up and to the defense economy. And when I built my business, I thought what is going to be as recession proof?

Annalee Kruger:

And apparently now pandemic. I didn’t think about a pandemic, but what’s going to be as recession proof. That’s going to be a need as long as I’m alive, that I’m passionate about that. I’m good at that. I can help people. And so that’s why I went virtual. And the reality is that it increased my business by 80% versus just focusing on my immediate market. I help families in 28 States and that changes by the week.

Valerie VanBooven :

Sure.

Annalee Kruger:

It’s really cool to be able to offer that to people nationwide. And no one has to jump on an airplane to meet with me. We just Zoom.

Valerie VanBooven :

Yep. We just Zoom. Yeah, we do. That’s awesome. I’m glad

Valerie VanBooven :

It’s refreshing to talk to someone who’s been doing this at least as long as I have or, and you know, it’s, I mean, 2011 was I think the fallout from 2008 really hit home, at least for our business in 2011, it was craziness and being virtual and being online was the savior of all of, you know, whatever we do.

Annalee Kruger:

Well, you always have to be a pioneer and think outside the box instead of just following mainstream, how things have always been done because that’s not going to keep you in business, you know?

So you always have to innovate whatever that means to each industry, but you have to be innovative if you want to be effective and successful.

Valerie VanBooven :

Exactly. Okay. So we talked about this earlier. Okay. This is my next question.

What other successful leaders or mentors or inspirations have there been in your life that sort of catapulted you into this?

Valerie VanBooven :

You told us a great story about your grandparents and your family, but what has got you started down this, this business road and who would you like to say hi to her?

Annalee Kruger:

Yeah, I would have to say it’s truly my family and my most immediate friends who see how difficult this work really is when you’re constantly faced with crisis. When you’re a social worker and you’re compassionate and you care, you absorb that, that crisis energy that you have every single day because no one ever calls me because things are going well, right. Things have already turned really bad really quickly. And so we have to jump on things quickly. So I have to do a shout out to my amazing friends and family who have put up with a lot of me canceling things at the last minute. Cause I have to Zoom with a family at seven o’clock when I’m scheduled to go to a pizza party.

Annalee Kruger:

So I just have to do a shout out to my, to my closest friends and family and my board of directors. I’m a corporation. So my board of directors has been alongside with me every step of the way since 2011 and given me so much guidance. And I really appreciate that and value that.

Valerie VanBooven :

That is great. Yep. Our families do have a lot to do with in one way or another probably how we get into our business, but having good friends that get it is really helpful. Always.

Annalee Kruger:

That’s right.

Valerie VanBooven :

Okay. So what piece of advice would you give to other senior care providers out there? You run into a lot of them.

Annalee Kruger:

Yes, I do. Number one, one is to really be the better, be a better advocate for your clients. So we have to make their lives easier and make their family’s lives easier.

Annalee Kruger:

And so when you know that there’s a resource out there that can help them, we need to be better at making sure that we’re connecting each other with each other’s organizations. For example, I’ve asked every single company home care and all those that I’ve worked with down here in Southwest Florida, if there’s another business like Care Right. That does aging plans and the grab and go binder. And the answer has always been no. So my phone should ring off the hook, but unfortunately it does not from, from our healthcare providers. So that’s one thing of advice is when you know that there’s a resource, it’s a value add, you need to start addressing those needs and making those referrals to those businesses that can help. Another piece of advice is not only that, which is part of advocating for your clients, better outcomes, but also using more technology, not to be afraid of it.

Annalee Kruger:

Seniors are getting more and more tech savvy. And that’s fantastic. That means we have to catch up to that too. And so those are two pieces of advice is start, you know, make referrals to other providers. We, we can’t just keep focusing in our lane. We have to work as a collaborative team and that’s just been a downfall of healthcare for a long time. That’s one of the other reasons I started my business. Everybody works in silos. So that would be, my advice is stop working in silos.

Valerie VanBooven :

You are not the first person to say that word stop working or that phrase stop working in silos. And in fact, I think it was another social worker we had on who was in the Atlanta area and she works for a home care agency and she’s wise beyond her years. She was just, she’s so young and so fabulous.

Valerie VanBooven :

But she said the same thing, excuse me. She said we work in silos and we have to do better and working together. So yeah, we’ve heard that from, she might not be even the only one besides you, but you’re right. We tend to focus on getting our job done and you know, moving on to the next, instead of saying, okay, let’s get, make sure this, this and this. I totally agree with you. Even in the hospital setting, oftentimes people don’t communicate with each other and they’re in the same building.

Annalee Kruger:

That’s right. And the hospital is one of the reasons why I started Care Right. I started Care Right for a lot of different reasons. But the reality is when I was working as a social worker in longterm care, I was doing tours of these families and they were always in crisis. They had no, they would literally come to the care center with this like stack of brochures.

Annalee Kruger:

And they had no idea what to look for and ask about. So after 18 years of that, I’m like, this is ridiculous. We have to do better. Our patients and our families and clients deserve better. And so we have to stop passing the baton because these people drop off. You know, they, they get lost in the shuffle and then the hospital doesn’t know it. And the oncoming organization doesn’t know it because no one’s communicating properly and really taking these families by the hand. And that’s what they need.

Valerie VanBooven :

Yes, they do. They don’t know no point of reference for any of this, unless they’ve worked in the industry. And even then when it’s your mom or your dad, it all goes into it’s family. You don’t know what you’re doing anymore. It’s a much different scenario. I would totally agree with you on all those points.

Valerie VanBooven :

All right. My last question is this. When you have a win, it could be in life. It could be a graduation, it could be a party for something. It could be that a client is super happy and you know, in your heart that you did a great job for them.

When you have a win in life, how do you celebrate?

Annalee Kruger:

This is how I celebrate.

Valerie VanBooven :

Oh, look at the baby.

Annalee Kruger:

This is Reggie. So this is how I celebrate. He has been a godsend. He is a hurricane Irma rescue poodle. And so when I, cause I have wins every day, cause I get these families in a much better position than they were. So we spend a lot of time together and we hang out and he’s, he’s how I celebrate.

Valerie VanBooven :

He’s your office staff. I see.

Valerie VanBooven :

I have to make my office staff leave the room when I’m on a call like this, otherwise it’s bark city.

Annalee Kruger:

So he’s actually on almost every single zoom call I do either on my lap or behind me. And then sometimes he pops his head out and everybody, most people like dogs. And so they’re like, Oh my gosh, he’s so cute. So this is, this is Reggie. So he’s how I celebrate.

Valerie VanBooven :

Nice. I love it. Oh, dog lover here. Yes, absolutely. That is the first answer we’ve had with a dog in the lap. So I love it. Love it. Awesome. I want to thank you for being on the show and we will make sure that everyone who sees us knows how to get in touch with you nationwide. And you know, and I will be going to the website and looking at the grab and go binders for parents and for ourselves because we have 13 year olds. And certainly if something happened to one of us, easier for them to go to an adult and say, you know, or for one of us as an adult to go to help, get help with a binder full of everything we need.

Annalee Kruger:

That’s right.

Valerie VanBooven :

All right. Well thank you.

Annalee Kruger:

Thank you so much. I appreciate the interview and yeah, we’ll be in touch. I really appreciate the time today.