Caring Founder and CEO, Jeff Salter, was featured on an episode of Business Black Belts hosted by Laura Hoover. Jeff shares the history of Caring Senior Service and discusses current trends in the industry. Jeff also discusses the role technology plays in senior care and how it could be leveraged in the future to provide better outcomes.
Listen to the complete episode or read the transcript below.
0:00 – ANNOUNCER
Thanks for checking out this episode of Business Black Belts. I really appreciate you listening and hope you get some great insights out of today’s leader. Let’s dive into the show.
0:14 – Laura Hoover
Welcome back to Business Black Belts. Laura Hoover here with you. Another fantastic leader graces us with his presence today, Mr. Jeff Salter, the Founder and CEO of Caring Senior Service. Jeff, why don’t you go ahead and take us through a little bit about who you are, what you’re doing, a little bit of your story.
0:35 – Jeff Salter
Sure, well it’s now 31 years ago I started a senior care business. At the age of 20 I thought that the next step in my career would be to help seniors with the challenges of staying at home and trying to remain independent as possible so I began working with families that wanted to have a caregiver come into their home to help with cooking, cleaning, personal care issues, things of that nature so I found that I had a good knack for connecting folks and started off with a small location in west Texas and that just continued to grow and opened up a second, third and fourth location. Then in 2003 I became a franchise owner so today you kind of fast forward about 31 years and today we have got 50 locations in 20 states and helping thousands of seniors across the country remain at home, independent, avoid relocation to a nursing home, and it’s just a great, great business to be part of.
1:42 – Laura Hoover
Yeah, I mean we all have gone through or will go through something, a choice of some similar nature. I know one of my grandparents went to a nursing home and then subsequently passed there. Another one had the you know kind of stay-at-home option, and eventually passed at home essentially but it is something that no one really likes to think about but then we always have to cross that bridge because it is inevitable.
2:22: Laura Hoover
What got you into it because that is a very companionate field to get into? It is very emotional. You’re dealing with a lot of emotions all the time.
2:31: Jeff Salter
Yeah, they say we will all be caregivers at some point in our lives and whether it is caring for a spouse, a mother, a father, a grandparent, an aunt, an uncle, we will all do some level of caregiving at some point in our lives, and for me I kind of fell into it.
I was working at a home health care company actually as a secretarial role for a home health company in 1991. They didn’t provide non-skilled services, someone to just go and be with someone for hours at a time, and I just saw that there was a niche and a need for people to be getting additional help, so I just recognized that having the skills of coordination that I did, the ability to connect with people that I did, I felt that it was something I could get involved in.
I didn’t really, I was originally in school for computer science. I was going to be a computer programmer/information systems, but once I got involved in this business, you talk about the emotions that come into this, sitting across the table is a 20-year-old with a 55-year-old parent or child looking for care for their 80-year-old mother you know put me in a unique position. It is not very often that someone of those ages would trust a 20-year-old to coordinate things but I found that it was something they were really needing and they were in some ways desperate for this. I just found that many, many families were dealing with this challenge.
You see, America started probably 40 to 50 years ago the idea that family unit and taking care of your grandparents really changed. It changed in two ways. First, families moved away and children moved away from mom and dad but also in America you had a unique situation in a lot of ways where the actual parent moved away from the kids. You see that when people move down to Florida, move to Arizona, and it happens much more than people realize and that creates that separation so with that separation someone has to help out. Someone has to step in and fill that need, and I found that there was a huge demand for it in the early 90s and it has only continued to grow throughout this entire last three decades, and the numbers are actually staggering as you look for the next three decades what this business is going to grow, just the sheer population numbers it is really staggering and I think a lot of people aren’t even prepared for the change in demographics that we are going to be dealing with especially when you analyze that 80-year-old group. It is amazing, so.
5:20: Laura Hoover
Yeah, that is something else I was going to you know ask you about was that I have heard a lot about that in the recent weeks actually about this, you know, the population shift as COVID prematurely had a lot of people going to retirement, willingly or unwillingly, oh it’s just a good time to go to retirement. It’s become this “oh no” moment on the employee front, but then that is also going to be the “oh no” moment if we can support everybody who is going into retirement and is getting of age especially with better health care and expanding life expectancies.
6:02: Jeff Salter
Yeah, I spent a lot of time, a lot of discussion about the baby boom generation that has happened. It has been over a decade since I have been entering the over 65 population. I have been looking specifically at the 80+ group which doesn’t get a lot of focus but for me and our business in senior care, our average age of admission is 83.2 years old. So, we really want to look at that group of people.
It is important to know what that population change is, and if you study it, you look at the last two decades, and the last two decades about 1.2 million new entrance into that 80+ has happened which is a lot of people but it is steady growth over a two-decade span. Well, in 2020 to 2030 that number almost doubles so it goes to about 2.4 million people will become 80 in this decade between 2020 and 2030, and then in 2030 to 2040 that number grows to 5.3 million, so it is going to double again.
It is staggering unbelievable numbers being involved for as long as I have been, even myself was a little surprised by that number and it is because of all of the advances in technology, advanced in medicine allowing people to live older and you have a huge population of baby boomers and as they age and get to those advanced ages there is going to be a lot of work we are all going to have to do to figure out how to help them live their best lives, and that is something that the baby boomer generation changed everything about America. They demanded more, and they will demand more, and that is something that I don’t think we as an industry in health care and senior care specifically have been dealing with the greatest generation. Those folks that had a certain mindset and expectation and they were almost easy to deal with in some regards, the baby boomer population will present all kinds of challenges that none of us really understand fully just yet.
8:11: Laura Hoover
Yeah, so okay. You have the challenges of the shifting mentality in generations, right? You have the challenges of the explosive amount of population that are going to be reaching this need relatively soon, how do you begin to try and tackle those issues?
8:29: Jeff Salter
One thing that is a positive for us with the generation that is coming through is their adoption of technology is more positive. They look at it as something that will help them versus the previous generation doesn’t I say fear technology but it is such a change and a shift from what their life was like, so moving into health care and everyone loves technology when it relates to expanding my life and going to extend my life but as it gets into the areas of caregiving we start dealing with privacy concerns. Nobody wants a video camera in their house to monitor them, but there are some really exciting interesting technologies that are out there that are going to really help identify who needs help the most, and that will allow us to really rethink how we deploy our teams to help those seniors.
Right now, we have a situation where if someone needs to be safe at home the only real solution is to place someone with them during that time when maybe another family member is not in the home or they are on their own, but in the future we will be able to use technology in ways which will allow us to understand when someone is most vulnerable. There is really interesting technology that is more motion sensor and there is also some really, really interesting sound technology in which you can place sound devices in someone’s home and through the sound that is going on you can discover what is happening within that house, and between that and motion sensor technology, you can see the patterns that someone has on their own. So you are not really invading their privacy but when you see a change or a shift in pattern then you can say, okay, there might be something here I need to investigate. You can call, you can send someone out to go visit, you can spend some time during that crisis mode or that time when they really need some assistance.
So I think we are going to really have to rely on some of those things. We are not to the point to where we have got robots that can do the care but that is coming as well. I know people think that is kind of crazy but the reality is that it is going to be necessary. We try to look to countries that are in a similar situation but were behind from a timeframe and you look at Japan as an example. They have been dealing with this crisis for over two decades themselves already and so they are just now catching up and developing technologies that are really able to be deployed in other countries that will be dealing with this.
11:02: Laura Hoover
Yeah, I know there is like already a lot of technologies out there that have already assisted almost anyone in a medical profession like the automatic lift assists and sometimes on the more clunky side that is but it is still something that expands the ability of people giving care to be able t ogive the care that is needed. Is there anything else like on the medical technology front that you guys are front-of-the- line with or do you kind of tow, or not the front of the line but like the next step?
11:39: Jeff Salter
Yeah, we try not to be on that bleeding edge but at times we find ourselves doing some of that. We were deploying this motion sensory technology nearly 15 years ago but it really was early in the process and the systems that they had a the time couldn’t really keep up with what the demand was and they kind of didn’t work the way they do now. It has been really interesting to see the technologies all got smaller. They used to have to put these large motion sensor in the house and you had to kind of network the house but now with the wifi technology so easily deployable the devices are super small, I mean just really little things that you can put in the house that aren’t even noticeable and then the backend technology, the alerts and the algorithms and the AI that is built into these things helps determine where those emergencies really are. You had tons of false-positives in the past and that meant that you actually were creating more work for yourself than solving the problem of reducing the amount of work, and we are really going to need that to be to continue to advance.
But there are even things like the military right now and even companies are using things like exoskeletons that sounds crazy, you know, but those are designed to help someone that can lift a heavier amount than you normally would be able to physically and to reduce strain so you can image a world in which a senior client has a list of items that they typically get for, you know, a bath chair or maybe a hospital bed in their house and now they are going to need an exoskeleton for whoever is there to do the lifting and moving when they are in that position.
So, those things, I don’t know of anyone using that right now but I have been really keeping a close eye on those things because as the price comes down to reasonable and as you see Amazon trying to help their workers not get injured, it is easy to see how that technology can apply in a health care setting where you are taking care of lots of people and you need some additional help. The devices get smaller, they are easier, they last longer, right now there are kind of bigger battery packs and it looks like something out of a Terminator movie or something but it will get much, much more practical and affordable for families. So, I can see a future in the next 10 years when that is kind of a normal piece of medical equipment that individuals will order when they want to live at home, as part of the process.
14:14: Laura Hoover
So, is the exoskeleton, this is just out of pure curiosity, is the exoskeleton, I’ve seen like a few different versions, um is it like the caregiver-to-patient help or is it more like being able to extend the ability to physically move, pick up and get up from the patient’s standpoint?
14:39: Jeff Salter
I think there is going to be both aspects at some point, but I think primarily where I would be looking at it is from the caregiver aspect. You have the shortage of caregivers, you got to solve that, and you’ve got let’s say you have a 180-pound male or 210-pound male and you’ve got limited caregivers and you need to be able to send any caregiver to take care of that client, well not a lot of people can handle a 220-pound individual even with a Hoyer lift or some other device in the home, and there are limits where that can go, those devices.
So, you know a caregiver that is a smaller frame caregiver you give her the ability to lift that person using one of those devices then it’s a complete game-changer, I think for health care in general. It opens to many more people can do the tasks and that is what we are up against as companies’ caregiver shortages are the primary focus of every single one of our companies.
15:35: Laura Hoover
I was going to also ask you about that as well because I have known three or four nurses due to COVID leave hospital situations and go into either private practice kind of situations or home care-giving situations like a traveling nurse. Is that becoming more popular or is that just, it is still going to be an issue?
15:57: Jeff Salter
I think it is going to be. You are going to see individuals that are going to always navigate to a different segment of the work force that they are in. A nurse in a hospital that is dealing with the front lines and the sickest of the sick, she gets, you get tired of that at some point, and you look for something else. In caregiving we hire individuals mostly that are certified nurse’s aids or individuals who are able to care for someone and have experience in doing that.
It is not that anybody can do it because I think you have to have the right mindset for it but it does provide a lot of advantages to an individual in a facility setting, it is one to many, one person is caring for many patients. In home care it is completely different, it is one-to-one, so I am with one person for an extended period of time. If I do see a couple of clients it is only three clients in a day versus that facility where I am going from bed to bed to bed to bed to bed to bed, it can be very, very taxing. Some people enjoy that, they like the environment so you are at least in environments where you are with a lot of other co-workers and you are interacting with people a lot, and that is the right environment for some people. But for many others, the idea of being one-on-one with a person, being able to focus all your attention and to really make a difference it can feel like that is a better environment. I have found that most of our caregivers who come to use have come from those settings where it is a one to many situation and they really find that this type of work is much more rewarding for them.
17:38: Laura Hoover
Yeah. So I want to toss a curveball at you, a little bit. Um, stepping back just for a second, you know, the ship is running itself more or less, what do you do to kind of get away, distress, regroup at the end of the day or weekend, or whatever time off? (laughs)
17:59: Jeff Salter
Yeah, I was at a conference recently and they did a unique thing and put on the badge like activities you like and I had on my I got a lot of questions because mine had bicycling and rugby so I played rugby pretty actively, not as much now, I’ll turn 52 in about a month from now so I have had to slow down on that to some degree but that for many years was my main de-stressor was getting out on a rugby field and enjoying that activity.
18:32: Laura Hoover
18:32: Jeff Salter
For me the big thing that has changed in the last two years is last year in August of last year I decided to celebrate 30 years of our company’s founding and we created, we launched a movement in which was to close the gap in senior care and to launch that movement which has now become a nonprofit in which we are really trying to understand local communities where the gaps are in senior care in their communities, we decided during that launch and in celebration of 30 years in business that I would travel to all 50 locations that we had and the mode of transportation that I chose was to ride an electric bike so for four months I rode an electric bike to each and every location. I traveled 9,500 miles and I chose an electric bike because it was a symbol of assistance, and I was not an avid cyclist before I started, I would not have ever dreamed of riding my bike that kind of a distance, but the electric bike gave me the opportunity to do that that I would have not been able to. So, we look at that and say it is the same thing we do. We provide assistance to seniors so they can do something that might not have been possible. They might not have been able to stay home without the help of someone else so for me it was fantastic. It was an amazing four months.
It allowed us to raise money for specific causes well. not only did we launch the movement, started a nonprofit, but we raised $170,000 to install grab bars into senior’s homes and so far to date we have installed into 110 senior’s homes grab bars so that they can avoid a fall often very, very detrimental fall, falls are in fact the leading cause of injury-related death among seniors and 80%+ of those falls happen in the bathroom. What we are doing is installing these grab bars in senior’s homes so it makes it a little bit more safer in their bathroom when they are getting into and out of the shower and trying to really impact things in a positive way. But that love of bicycling that I have developed now has kind of continued on so I try and get out and ride as much as possible. Often I will do 60 to 100 mile rides when I do it. During the trip I did 80 to 120 miles every day for four months with only eight days off the entire time. (laughs)
21:11: Laura Hoover
Wow, do you still use the electric bike on your rides or have you converted to like a road bike kind of situation?
21:18: Jeff Salter
Actually I still use the electric bike because it just allows you to get that much further. You travel a little bit faster probably about five miles an hour faster than you would on a regular bike and you can take a break when you want to, so it really just allows you to go further, allows you to explore more. I like that side of the road riding where you can just get out and about, you know, it is something that is enjoyable. I enjoy mountain biking, downhill biking as well. Those are fun but I live in here in San Antonio, Texas and there are not a lot of really great places to go and get away for a full day and the electric bike lets me get out in the country and see all kinds of things.
21:57: Laura Hoover
Yeah, I get that. It is pretty flat down there too, right? Like it is fairly, or if anything it is just rolling?
22:04: Jeff Salter
It’s rolling hills and surprisingly there are some spots. It is kind of funny when you become a bicyclist and you’re doing road cycling you suddenly discover that there are a lot more hills than you realized.
22:17: Laura Hoover
A lot more gentle hills. I used to be an avid biker. My family has always been avid bikers but ever since I got a series of knee injuries I have just kind of fallen away from it a little bit more.
22:31: Jeff Salter
22:33: Laura Hoover
There are a lot more hills than people realize because it is all gentle slopes up and gentle slopes down and that gets tiring after a while.
22:41: Jeff Salter
Yes it does, it does. I don’t think people when you drive in your car you don’t realize how much there is to the terrain.
22:48: Laura Hoover
Exactly. Especially in the flatlands people don’t realize it is not actually flat. There are contours.
22:57: Jeff Salter
22:58: Laura Hoover
It is hard to see them but you can feel them.
23:01: Jeff Salter
Yeah. It is funny, I was in Nebraska and most people think of Nebraska they think about flat cornfields and I definitely experienced in the eastern part of that country it is very much hilly and then you get to one point where it just flattens out all the way to Denver, and it was pretty wild because it was really, really flat in that part of the country, but outside of that there are lots and lots of hills.
23:32: Laura Hoover
There is like a very narrow strip right through the center of the country. This is a flat and everything else is flat.
23:39: Jeff Salter
23:42: Laura Hoover
All right well I want to thank you for coming up on Business Black Belts. If anyone wants to get in contact with you, learn more about you, learn more about Caring Senior Service, is Linked-in the best way, website, email?
23:56: Jeff Salter
Yeah, they can find me on Linked-In obviously, Jeff Salter on Linked-in Caring Senior Service. On the website my information is there and I am happy to share any stories or any advice that I can with anybody that is either involved in senior care or wanted to get involved in some aspect and hear more about what we are doing.
24:17: Laura Hoover
Awesome. Well, thank you so much. It has been an absolute pleasure. I hope you have a wonderful rest of your day and the same to all of our listeners.
Thanks again for listening to today’s episode of Business Black Belts. Should you want to see more content on both the show, marketing and business in general, feel free to check out my Linked-In. Thanks.