Michelle Lowack talks marketing, referral sources, and the value in helping seniors stay in their own homes. Learn from this seasoned home care agency marketer!

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. In a few sentences tell us who you are and what you do?

Michelle Lowack:

Well, good morning. And thank you for having me. I am Michelle Lowack. I work for Assisting Hands Home Care owned by Becky Moultrie. And I am the business development director,

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

all right.

Michelle Lowack:

title. But what I do is I connect people. Good people to other good people for the benefit of seniors.

There’s not that much time left for me to get to influence people. And so that’s my paycheck of the heart. Is when we have a win to go, “okay, how can we take this to the next level?” And that makes me feel good. It’s my selfish pleasure.

Michelle Lowack

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yeah. And we love Becky’s office. And we’re so glad that you guys are doing this. I know Becky’s done an interview with us, but it’s great to meet other people on the team because everybody plays a different role. And everybody has a little bit of a different perspective to add to all of this, when it comes to senior care.

Michelle Lowack:

We’re definitely a good match. As much as we both have the same vision of where we’re going and what we want to ultimately do for seniors, we come at it from two different perspectives. So that that’s great.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

That is great. Awesome. Well, what is the best thing about serving aging adults?

Michelle Lowack:

For me, it is that I get to do what I know God meant for me to do. I’m not 12 anymore, not 20, and I’m not 30 and I’m not 40. At different parts in our life we think that we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing. But when I got out of my own way and let God’s plan takeover, when my father was diagnosed with dementia, the reception that we got from doctors was find a place to put him. As though he was furniture. And that was very upsetting to me. So, I had to switch gears, or I chose to switch gears. I sold my restaurant and jumped into home care to see what options and how I could lend support to families. Because I needed to learn that for my dad.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yep, absolutely. You know what I’ve heard somebody say is that, “every 10 years of your life is a new chapter in your life.” If you looked at it that way. And I would say that you’re right. We often think in our 20s that we’re doing the thing that we’re supposed to do. In our 30s, we think this is what we’re supposed to do. And then I think sometime in our 40s and 50s, we look around and we think, okay, I’m halfway to 100. Is this really what I’m supposed to be doing? And a life event happen. A father, a parent gets sick or needs additional help. So there’s some thing that happens and guides us down a path that now we know, we’re in the right place in this part of our life anyway. So, I would agree.

            And I would also say that that is very true. It is challenging to take care of someone with dementia. My father also has dementia. He’s vascular dementia and he was in a nursing home for two years. But his behavior at that time was originally uncontrollable, not uncontrollable but, scary. It’s frontaltemporal dementia. So, personality changes and can be very aggressive for a very docile person.

Michelle Lowack:

Right.

But what I do is I connect people. Good people to other good people for the benefit of seniors.

Michelle Lowack

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

And so he did need to be somewhere where they could help him 24 hours a day, without anybody getting hurt. And then once that was taken care of with medication, he was better. And when COVID hit his wife, yanked him out of the nursing home because after seven or eight months of not being able to see him, and he’s a pretty young guy, he was starting to decline. So home is where he is. And so there’s always options. You’re right about that. It doesn’t have to be facility driven because the diagnosis is dementia. So, I appreciate you saying that.

Michelle Lowack:

Yeah.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

But for some people it does need to be facility driven. It just depends.

Michelle Lowack:

Well, and I think that’s something, again, that learning along the way. And that’s one of the places that Becky comes in well, and puts me back in my place. That just because it’s right for my dad or was right for my dad until he went to heaven in October, doesn’t mean that it’s right for another family

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

[inaudible 00:04:34].

Michelle Lowack:

and we get to help support them wherever they choose to call home.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

That’s [inaudible 00:04:42].

Michelle Lowack:

So, that’s really awesome. That’s [crosstalk 00:04:43]

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

That is great. And that is good to know. And a good point to make. That home care doesn’t mean that it has to be in a house. It could-

Michelle Lowack:

Correct-

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

be in assisted living. It could be in a nursing home. It could be anywhere where they call home. And I think people gloss over that a little bit. But,

Michelle Lowack:

Right.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

you can have your own private aide in a nursing home. Assuming everyone’s in agreement to give a little extra help at night perhaps, or whatever it is that you think that they might need. So.

Michelle Lowack:

Yeah. We have a lot of our clients that we have great partnerships in the community because of the fact that, Becky and I are both pretty well known in our community. We’ve both lived here a long time, so there’s a lot of trust factor going on.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Okay.

Michelle Lowack:

And so they’ve opened their doors even during COVID with her making the choice to have us all tested. So, we do have a majority of our business that is not taking place in personal homes. It’s augmenting the care of the staff in memory cares and assisted living.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

And you know what? Even into the future-

Michelle Lowack:

[inaudible 00:05:50] yeah.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

That’s amazing. And for those facilities to trust you guys, to bring somebody in, that is rare and great and amazing. So that speaks volumes to you guys, to your trust factor. You’re willing to go the extra mile and get tested. Because not everybody can afford to do that, or will do that, or whatever the case is. It’s just a challenge all the way around. So great. Kudos to you. That’s amazing. [crosstalk 00:06:22] I would love for more people to have their own private aide or whatever, just to hang out with them during the day when there’s nothing else to do.

Michelle Lowack:

Well. And the thing is, I think we talk about how horrible COVID has been, but God really truly does use everything for our benefit. And I think that, that has been one of the silver linings. I serve on the board of directors for the Guardian Association and for Seasons Hospice also for Rotary and for Better Living for Seniors. And it’s frustrated me and also amazed me at how many seniors didn’t have a vision, of home care being a good care partner. It’s one or the other. And it really shouldn’t be one or the other.

            It shouldn’t be, “okay well, mom’s in an assisted living so now she’s taken care of.” I think that’s not true. There isn’t one-to-one care there. So the silver lining is them seeing that, the loneliness, and the helplessness, and the boredom that seniors feel when they’re isolated, we can solve that. And the silver lining is that there are professionals who have been in the business for years, that now don’t have the knee jerk reaction of, “Oh, home care is so expensive. They can’t afford it.” And-

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

That’s true-

Michelle Lowack:

now they’re waking up to the fact that they can’t afford, not to have it.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yes-

Michelle Lowack:

Please go find a way.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yep. They find a way. I can’t tell you how… With two family members, one out of the nursing home, but my husband’s mother is also in nursing home. She’s with it. She uses her phone. She talks to us every day, we do window-

Michelle Lowack:

That’s awesome-

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

visits and all that stuff is great. But there’s other folks in that facility who could definitely use their own helper.

Michelle Lowack:

Yeah.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

So, yeah. Absolutely, I totally agree with you. And what an awesome thing that you guys have been able to accomplish there. So I’m going to ask you my next question, which is-

Michelle Lowack:

Okay.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

probably, I can’t even imagine you have a million mentors and inspirations it sounds like. But, there’s probably folks out there, whether it be parents, grandparents, or organizations or people out there who’ve been inspirations to you throughout your life or mentors. Who would you like to give a shout out to?

Michelle Lowack:

My mom and dad first off. And they’re both in heaven. They are who I am. I am who I am because of them. But for people who are still with us, I would say Linda Burhans has been incredible. We’ve been associates for 20 years, both in different fields because life hadn’t hit us yet. She’s an amazing connector. She is the person who influenced me to become even certified and to have that person directed care skills, and put them into action. We rely on each other very much for support groups and to make sure that even if, we at Assisting Hands can’t serve the client or serve the caregivers that she cans. And also Terry Collier, he’s a doctor here in the area who runs the Anona Counseling Center. And again, silver lining from COVID. The mental health aspect not only for seniors, but for the caregivers.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yeah.

Michelle Lowack:

It’s important because the health of our team, if they’re not healthy, we’re sending them out to be unhealthy with others.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yeah.

Michelle Lowack:

That-

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yeah-

Michelle Lowack:

[inaudible 00:10:00] a lot of sense.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

No doesn’t-

Michelle Lowack:

Yeah.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

That’s great. That’s great that you have those resources and people don’t take enough time. Or it’s hard to realize the importance… I think we all know that mental health is important. But to take that step and to have a resource available, to help with those mental health issues is a whole nother ball of wax. And that’s great.

Michelle Lowack:

It is. Yeah.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

All right. Let’s talk about online marketing a little bit. I know you guys do a great job and I know that as an Assisting Hands franchise, they do a great job with online marketing. It can be challenging, it is confusing, I know that. But what has been your experience or thoughts with the online marketing aspect of it? You’re involved in so much. Personally, it sounds like

Michelle Lowack:

Yeah.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

it’s been really hard for people to get together in the last year. And now I also know the Florida’s wide open, so that might not be the case for you guys there, but still.

Michelle Lowack:

Well as far as us being wide open, again, there’s another silver lining. And I’ve said this from the beginning, since back in March, is that when the masks went on, the masks really came off. You can really see who’s in the industry for themself and who’s in the industry for others. So, I think our online marketing has really helped us better our relationships. I’m not doing 15 events that are meaningless [crosstalk 00:11:37].

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yeah, yeah.

Michelle Lowack:

[inaudible 00:11:38] and, “Oh, we were there. We were there. We were there.” Everything that we’re doing is very relationship rich. And that is why we’re growing as we’re growing and we’re growing deeper but also, the outcomes of our seniors it’s very evident. And reaching people through social media is way better than sending an email, that nobody opens anyway. They just-

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yeah, that’s true. And you know what, I’m glad you said that. You just said something instead of you attending 15 events, you’re now picking and choosing those events that really are going to have a meaningful impact, for you all. And I actually think that is a fabulous… Because you can run yourself ragged. You could go to an event a day, have a lunch in a day, a women’s group, a professionals group, or rotary group. You could go to a networking event, I’m going to guess almost every day of the week. I can remember those days-

Michelle Lowack:

Oh yeah-

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

And.

Michelle Lowack:

Yeah-

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Or a senior fair, an expo or some of these health fairs. Some of these recruiting-

Michelle Lowack:

Got you-

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

fair. Oh my goodness.

Michelle Lowack:

Can I just give somebody $500 and not go.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yeah.

Michelle Lowack:

Seriously.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yeah. [crosstalk 00:12:49] I totally agree with you.

Michelle Lowack:

Yeah.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Just let me make a contribution and let’s be done with this. Yeah. So I think that is a great piece of advice. Instead of running yourself ragged, pick the events that are meaningful to you and meaningful to your organization and really dig in. And really become a part of those and be more helpful with those as opposed to, every little thing that’s going on out there. I think that’s a great idea.

Michelle Lowack:

It was very refreshing to not do 37 Christmas parties in a month. [inaudible 00:13:26]. You think about that. In 2019, it was 37 Christmas parties.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yeah. We over network ourselves to death.

Michelle Lowack:

Yeah. Yeah.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yeah. And so I’m glad that… And I realize that, it is always seemed it would be more noticeable if you were not there than if you were just there. There is something about exclusion is more noticeable in some cases, inclusion. So I’m glad we’re getting away from that. It’s settled everybody down a minute and said, “okay, what do you really want to do? What is worth your health and what is worth your organization and your business mission and values, to really participate in.” And I think organizations who continuously have all these things have had to take a step back and say, “ah, okay. What do we really want to do versus what are we doing all the time, that’s not doing anything at all?”

Michelle Lowack:

Correct. Okay. I think or I hoped that we’re going to be more mindful as things do start opening up more, of what are just time-sucks.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yeah.

Michelle Lowack:

To say we did something, what’s the value in it? Because if nothing else, we should really, really be mindful of the fact that time is the one thing that we only have a limited amount of.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yes.

Michelle Lowack:

Everything else we can get more of.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yeah, that’s [crosstalk 00:15:08] true

Michelle Lowack:

But we can’t get back that time. So let’s make it rich. Let’s make it rich with relationships and experience and learning and getting better. And not being everywhere and everything to everybody, just for whatever. I don’t know why we got so crazy like that.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

[crosstalk 00:15:26] I think it evolves over time. You see what other home care agencies are doing, what other assisted living facilities are doing. And you think, Oh, that must be the way it is. That’s what I got to do. That’s where I got to go. These are the thing… If they’re there, then I better be there. Why wouldn’t I be there?

Michelle Lowack:

Right.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

And it just, it snowballs over time and everybody thinks they got to do what everybody else is doing. I can see how that goes. And this is just let us all hit the reset button and say, “wait a minute. I don’t have to go to 50 health fairs this year. How many clients did I get-

Michelle Lowack:

Right.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

from the last 50 health fairs? How many can I attribute to that?”

Michelle Lowack:

Right.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

And I know that’s a gray area. But still, how enriching was that? So, anyway, this is a very wise conversation. And I appreciate this insight because I know there are marketers out there running their absolute tails off, to try and keep… And they may also be appreciating the reset button. But we can just take a step back and say, “let’s do something that is real as opposed to just being everywhere.” So thank you,

Michelle Lowack:

Yeah.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

for that. All right. What piece of advice would you give to other senior care providers? You’ve already given so much, but.

Michelle Lowack:

Well I know that it’s, make sure that you’re doing things with integrity. If you’re just doing it to hit a number, please get out of the industry. Seriously. And I’ve said this before at public forums and I really truly mean it. These are human beings that we are influencing and that we are becoming part of their life. And if you’re just doing it for a paycheck, shame on you. Obviously, these are businesses and we do have to make money. That’s a given. But if you’re doing it with integrity and you’re surrounding yourself with other like-minded individuals, who really want to have a great impact and enhance the quality of the life of a senior, I think it’ll take you far and it will fill your heart. I know it fills mine.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yeah absolutely-

Michelle Lowack:

I feel better when I’m around people with integrity. Could I get some more business from others? Sure, sure I could.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Mm-hmm (affirmative) Yeah.

Michelle Lowack:

But, yeah-

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yeah. [crosstalk 00:17:54].

Michelle Lowack:

Stick with people with integrity. Because it’s all you have at the end of the day is your [inaudible 00:17:59] and your reputation.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yeah. And it is the human impact. Oops, sorry. I have a dog that’s wanting my attention.

Michelle Lowack:

[inaudible 00:18:09].

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

So, it is the human element. And I often tell folks who are not… So we’ve been in the home care market as far as marketing for a long time. And I find myself explaining over and over again, when a family is making a choice like this. When we’re talking about people looking for help. Or looking for a solution to their challenge they’re having with an aging loved one. This is not like calling a roofer or a plumber. This is not a one-time transaction. This is a financial issue. This is an emotional, this is a physical. This hits every hot button that you can imagine with a family. Not just the senior, but the entire family that’s involved in this is hit with these overwhelming decisions, that they have to make.

            So this is not about, a one-time transaction that just is… It’s as a big ticket item, that is a huge decision. It’s emotional and it’s a mental decision. So we’ve got so many things to consider that integrity is 100% up there on the list of things, that you have to consider. Your mission, your vision, your values. These are humans and their entire family sometimes is involved in this. So. And when done right, they will never forget you. And they will never forget you in a good way.

            They will remember you or your organization, or that caregiver who took care of their loved one until the end of their days. They will always remember that compassion and that integrity. So this is a big, big deal in the life of a family. So I agree. Integrity is 100% the most important thing. All right. My last question is supposed to be a fun one.

Michelle Lowack:

Okay.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

And I think you sound like you probably can have a little fun. So when you have a win in life or business, how do you like to celebrate?

Michelle Lowack:

Couple of things. First off, I usually, and this is going to sound really silly, but I do reach out to the people that are on my guest list, from God. And I brag to them because I know they’re not going to see it as bragging, but they’re going to be cheerleading with me and appreciating that success. But then I set another goal to do better.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yes.

Michelle Lowack:

There’s not that much time left for me to get to influence people. And so that’s my paycheck of the heart. Is when we have a win to go, “okay, how can we take this to the next level?” And that makes me feel good. It’s my selfish pleasure.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

That’s an awesome-

Michelle Lowack:

Yeah-

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

way to celebrate. Awesome-

Michelle Lowack:

Yeah-

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

way. And I feel the same way. I don’t know how old you are, but I have often-

Michelle Lowack:

[inaudible 00:21:05] Yeah. I’m close to 60.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Okay. [inaudible 00:21:08] am I just turned 50. And I’ll tell you that when you get to this piece of your life, you realize you may not have as much time as you think to influence others. So it is important that every day, is a good day. You have something to celebrate and that you are making a difference in other’s lives. So, I totally get where you’re coming from.

Michelle Lowack:

Yes.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

So, absolutely. And-

Michelle Lowack:

And I put in champagne too.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yeah. Yeah. I’ve had [crosstalk 00:21:40] that. [crosstalk 00:21:40] That’s perfect. Perfect. Yeah, We’ve had those answers. I had a hospice physician, one of my first interviews. I said, “how do you like to celebrate?” And he’s a well-respected, highly educated, hospice physician and just the kindest heart ever. And he holds up a bottle of tequila from under his desk and he says, “a shot of this goes a long way, baby.”

Michelle Lowack:

Yeah-

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

And that was, “wow.”

Michelle Lowack:

[Inaudible 00:22:03].

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

So occasionally, a little bit of extra is a good thing. So. Well, you did a great job with this interview and I want to thank you for your wisdom and your spirit. You’re so-

Michelle Lowack:

[inaudible 00:22:17].

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

fun to listen to you and to get to know. So thank you so much.

Michelle Lowack:

Thank you, Valerie. You have a blessed day.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

You too. Thanks.

Michelle Lowack:

Thanks.