EP 95: Senior Care Industry Netcast with Ruth Busalacchi, Owner, SYNERGY HomeCare, Milwaukee, WI
EP 95: Senior Care Industry Netcast with Ruth Busalacchi, Owner, SYNERGY HomeCare, Milwaukee, WI

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. So let’s get to it, in a few sentences tell us who you are and what you do?

Ruth Busalacchi:

Wonderful. Thank you for having me on the show, Valerie. My name is Ruth Busalacchi. I’m the owner of Synergy Home Care in the greater Milwaukee, Wisconsin area. And what I do is I match up wonderful caregivers or personal assistants with folks who might need support in the community. It could be anything from a couple of hours a week, some errands, some grocery shopping, housekeeping, all the way up to end of life, 24-hour care. People who choose to stay in their own home or age in place.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Thank you for sharing that with us. And so you’ve been doing this a long time, and I imagine you’ve had some amazing experiences. So what is the best thing about serving aging adults and their families?

Ruth Busalacchi:

I come from this industry, I’ve always been in this industry the last 35 years. And so when my own parents needed support and we brought in home care, I look back on those instances, and I think back on those employees, I’ve never forgotten them. We as a family have never forgotten the kindness that they showed our family and how they helped. So I like to think that for the families that we serve, that the same is true, that the small gestures to the large gestures, that our employees, that our caregivers are doing really make a difference and, forever will be remembered fondly.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

That’s a great way to think about this because your entry into someone’s home is usually at a kind of a crisis moment in everybody’s life in that family. And it might be a blip on the radar screen for some people needing a little extra help around the house. But for most, I would imagine it’s a time when the family is very nervous, and they’re very overwhelmed, and they hate having to make these kinds of decisions or they are… Want the best for their parent, right? So this is an emotionally overwhelming time in everyone’s life and I call it a brain burner moment, when you remember something or someone significantly in years later, because it was such a pivotal time in your life, or in your parent’s life, or a family member’s life.

            So you’re right. This is what you enter into when you go into someone’s home and start services is a chapter in their life, and so it’s not soon forgotten. Even if the person passes away or maybe they don’t need care, having someone in the house that’s really helping them live their best life for whatever amount of time that is, is probably a chapter that they’re not going to forget. The whole family is [inaudible 00:03:13] for you.

Ruth Busalacchi:

Absolutely. We are really honored to be able to be a part of that very important chapter in someone’s life.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Very nice, very nice. Okay, I would imagine in your lifetime, maybe it’s grandparents, parents, maybe it’s organizations, maybe it’s other people in your life, there have been some folks that have been really important to you and have maybe been mentors or just inspirations to you. Who would you like to talk about?

Ruth Busalacchi:

I would say the first people that come to my mind are my parents. My father raised us to be creative, and to search for the stars, and always challenge yourself. And he was the first of my parents who needed support. So when he passed, I reflected back on that experience and I thought I can do what I did for my parents, which was helped them identify what they needed so they could continue to be on their journey. And that’s why I was inspired to even start Synergy.

            So when I have those challenging moments, and even when I have those successes, I think back on my parents, and my mother has also since passed. And so I look to them and say, “Am I doing a good job mom and dad?” So they’re always there to inspire me. I also think that organizations that support chronic conditions are priceless. They’re critical lifeline often for families who don’t know where to start. And often they are 24 seven call centers that you can call at any time. So that’s a great partnership for home care so that we really can provide a great team effort for those families who need our support.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Great. That’s awesome. Yeah, I think a lot of us get into this business because of our family history, grandparents, parents, I talk… I do, we do these interviews and these shows all the time. And I would say that and probably 90% of us who are caregivers by trade, whether we own a business or we’re a nurse or whatever, how would we have a grandparent or parent in our life that kind of shaped that trajectory? That kind of catapulted us into that direction and just think about it, your parent, your father received care, and you remember how nice that was. And there’s probably families out there that you’ve provided care for, maybe one of those children or grandchildren will remember this time and they’ll be a home care agency owner too someday.

Ruth Busalacchi:

[inaudible 00:05:46], that would be wonderful.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

And then nice. All right. So let’s change gears a little bit and talk about online marketing. I know it’s challenging, I know it’s ever changing. What has been your experience and thought? We have been through a really rough time in our world and we cannot network in person necessarily, at least not the way we’re used to. Every area is a little different right now, but overall, we’re still not walking into any [inaudible 00:06:12] facility and saying, “Hi, how are you today?” That is not happening. So what has been your experience in the last few months with online marketing? Have you taken it up a notch? Have you… What has been your experience?

Ruth Busalacchi:

I’m so grateful that I have a service that helps me figure out what it is that I need to do to be out there, because I’m really good at home care. That’s my specialty. It’s not my specialty to do digital marketing or search engine optimization and all of that. So gratefully, I have a service that helps me identify and looks back and to see how we’ve been doing and make changes. And I think what we fortunately have all learned is virtual meetings like this, we cannot only meet a client who we can’t see in the hospital, let’s say rehab, but then we also get to meet the referral sources who help identify, who might use our services. And so gratefully Zoom, once we’ve all learned how to use it properly, has really been a blessing. And I think that in many ways it brings families who are out of state and often not able to attend a meeting. It opens up an opportunity now to have meetings from people all across the country.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Isn’t that interesting how this has helped us see the light in other ways like being able… If someone’s in a hospital and their family member does happen to be there, or maybe they’re with the discharge planner, daughters [inaudible 00:07:45] discharge planner, all they have to do is hold up their phone and talk to you and, answer questions and go back and forth. We would have never thought of doing that in the past, not in a million years. It would have been a phone call, a fax and see you at the house. [inaudible 00:08:02] now we get to maybe talk back and forth a little bit, make some decisions on what we’re going to do and have a more collaborative meeting because I know it’s been in the last, I don’t know, even 10 years almost, it’s been harder to get inside the hospital, to get to those discharge planners.

            Most of the hospital systems have cut that off a little bit. So now we’re able to initiate a conversation with a family member and they can share the screen with that hospital personnel, or whoever’s standing there to help them and say, “Here’s Susie, she’s…” And you actually get to talk to them. So Zoom has really… And then of course, family members who are out of town, it was just like who’s the person we’re just pass this message onto them. But now they feel like they’re part of that experience. So I think we have this whole pandemic [inaudible 00:08:57] a lot of negatives, but some of the positives are that we have helped increase our ways of communicating, and been forced into being a little bit more creative. And I think Zoom is… There’s many things you can use, but Zoom is definitely one of those that has helped us. So thank you for bringing that up. That is interesting. Yeah, you can Zoom with anybody anywhere if they have a cellular internet connection. So that’s awesome.

Ruth Busalacchi:

We encourage our families to do sing-alongs through Zoom. Music as you know, as a nurse, motivates, music sparks memory, and so we really do encourage… We did sing-alongs, actually my team did sing-alongs with some of our clients we couldn’t see for Christmas, and it really… That’s the beauty like you said, of having this virtual format.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yep, you do what you can and you can actually see each other, so that’s good, that’s a lot of fun. All right, what piece of advice would you give to other senior care providers?

Ruth Busalacchi:

I would say the best thing that you can do is to determine what you are really wanting to keep in your mission and your goals. What aspect of the business are you wanting to maintain? And what will you then hire out for? Because if we really want to be able to serve properly and to serve as many people as possible, you can’t do it all by yourself. And we want to, right? Because we’re really good at it, and that’s why we decided to start off on our venture. So that’s what I would say, is really give yourself a heart to heart, what do I really want to hang on to as my business grows and as I’m able to serve more people? And what do I need to hire in, so that I have a strong network and a strong team?

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

That’s great advice for all entrepreneurs. You can’t do it all, you have to let go, or you’re going to drive yourself crazy and get burned out. So you’re right. You can wear a lot of hats, but sometimes you got to give a hat away.

Ruth Busalacchi:

That’s right, that’s right.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

All right. When you have a win in life for business, how do you like to celebrate?

Ruth Busalacchi:

Well, I could not have done what I’ve done in the last 10 plus years without the support of my family. They are my number one cheerleaders, they believed in what we do, they helped me through the struggles, I always say, my husband walks me off the ledge many times. And so they are there when I have success and when I have wins, and they are the first people that I think of. And I also include my team, my management team, they’ve all experienced these situations themselves and they’re dedicated and we win together. So it really is a family affair.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

That’s awesome, that’s great. Well, thank you so much. Thank you for being on the show, for sharing your wisdom with us and some of the things that you’ve learned over the last 10 years. So we appreciate that, and I just want to say thank you.

Ruth Busalacchi:

Well, thank you for what you’re doing, Valerie. I really do appreciate it.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

No problem.