One of the most underserved sectors in the U.S. is senior home care. Jeff Salter understood this predicament three decades ago, and the same holds true today. He experienced it first-hand while working for a home health company in Odessa, Texas, in the late 1980s and the early 1990s.
Many seniors wanted assistance with everyday living tasks, such as bathing, running errands, and preparing food, but home health care companies didn’t provide this type of service at the time. The void was evident and extensive, and it was at that moment when Salter decided he wanted to be part of the solution.
With that in mind, in 1991, he founded Caring Senior Service (CSS), a national in-home, non-medical care provider committed to improving the lives of seniors. Salter’s mantra—in position with CSS’s—has been that every senior should be able to remain healthy, happy, and home.
By 1994, Salter had moved to McAllen, Texas, and opened a new CSS location there. Within a few years, he expanded the CSS footprint across the state to Corpus Christi, the Coastal Bend, and San Antonio.
During his first decade as Owner and CEO, Salter learned how to create a successful business model. In 2002, he determined the best course for CSS’s growth was through franchising, which presented him with the opportunity to share his model with other entrepreneurs.
This decision helped expand the reach and quality of non-medical home care to more seniors in need. This year, CSS marks its 30th anniversary in business and boasts operations in 48 locations in 17 states, coast-to-coast, with 12 new cities planned in the coming year.
Redefining Benchmarks of Excellence
With the growing population of seniors, comes a greater need for home care and tailoring it to meet the needs of the individual, from short-term home care following a hospital discharge, to a more permanent solution for a family member with dementia who one might not be able to care for at that moment, or in-home services 24 hours a day.
CSS’s services include personal care, transportation, meal preparation, medication reminders, companionship, respite care, errand service, light housekeeping, family portal, and home care assessment. CSS also offers specialty programs, specific care plans, and training for individuals with conditions like dementia, pneumonia, and stroke.
Earlier this year, Salter double-downed on his life’s work when he launched the Close the Gap movement, a multi-year effort to address underserved aspects of senior care so that aging adults who want to live at home may do so as safely as possible, for as long as possible.
The movement’s name—Close the Gap—is symbolic. In cycling, riders ‘close the gap’ between themselves so they can draft off each other. They get farther and faster working as a team, so closing the gap is critical for peak performance. That concept epitomizes what CSS does and everyone can work together—engaging communities to help seniors safely and happily age in place.
To launch the movement, in April, Salter embarked on a four-month transformative coast-to-coast, 30-state trek on his electric bike to start a national conversation about senior care needs. All told, he biked more than 9,400 miles and raised tens of thousands of dollars to be allocated toward the installation of grab bars for more than 600 seniors, which will help prevent falls.
Like many companies and businesses, the global pandemic provided a new set of challenges for the way CSS operated, especially being on the front line. With an adopted motto of ‘We are in this together,’ CSS kept its most vulnerable populations safe and continued to deliver exceptional care for its clients.
Staff and caregivers received training to prevent the spread of COVID-19, which included following recommendations and guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization.
The pandemic reinforced that aging in place is the best model compared to aging in a facility (e.g., nursing homes and assisted living communities). It also accelerated the digital transformation of the industry, pushing providers like CSS to do virtual interviews with caregivers, virtual care supervision, and paperless office management. Caring Senior Service’s digital transformation commenced in 2015, so it was prepared by the time the pandemic was here.
Leveraging Technology to Enhance Quality Care
As technical advancements have evolved, so have the needs and preferences of the patients. With a caregiver shortage, the traditional 1:1 care model is being challenged. While technology has afforded CSS the ability to do more with less, the biggest hurdle is the lack of integration of all the senior care technology in a simple, easy-to-use package that works without a technician team backing it up. And there are many things to assimilate: Smartwatches, pillboxes, cameras, motion sensors, scales, blood pressure machines, and any number of other ‘connected devices’.
For voice commands, there is Google Home, Amazon Echo, and Apple HomePod that can control the lights, fans, and TVs of the house. Though all these devices can ‘talk’ to each other, it can take an engineer to set them up, a computer programmer to get them to play nicely with each other, a data analyst to monitor them, and a technician to fix them when they inevitably stop working. By bringing all these into one system, it can make aging in place manageable, and getting assistance can be on request or based on perceived need.
The Future in the Right Hands
Salter experienced the future of the senior health services sector up close and personal during his transformative e-bike tour. He found there’s an increased need for senior caregiver businesses post-pandemic and more technology development to support this population.
Nursing homes were the most impacted places during the pandemic, so CSS sees an expansion of the aging-in-place model, which will require more people to get involved – caregivers, entrepreneurs, tech developers, innovators.
Caring Senior Service also anticipates more third-party payers getting involved in-home care, as there are very few people today who have long-term care insurance or who can get these services covered by their Medicare Advantage supplement plans.
Salter also foresees that with more care required, planning for the future, aging in place, and getting coverage will be more common and more accessible. To meet those demands, CSS is continuing to invest in technology and caregiver training programs to elevate the skills of its caregiver base and offer a career path for individuals who will become future caregivers.
“The future of this industry is daunting, and the numbers bear it out: One out of every seven Americans is 65 or older. As of spring 2017, there are now 50 million people over the age of 65, accounting for around 15% of the population and that number is projected to grow to 24% in 2060. And many of these seniors suffer from chronic illness, loneliness, and other ailments. As the senior population expands, the need for home care is growing in stride and as seniors seek to maintain their independence by staying in their own home, home care will become a high-demand option for them,” shares Salter.
For Salter, working within the senior care services sector continues to be an extremely rewarding career. “Over the past three decades, CSS has impacted tens of thousands of people by providing jobs and companionship, safety, and peace of mind to senior citizens and their families. There remains an ever-growing need for senior home care today – and for the foreseeable future,” adds Salter.
So, Salter’s mission for CSS that began 30 years ago marches on, along with his mantra: every senior should be able to remain healthy, happy, and home.