Interview with Theron Ahlman, Care Patrol - Boyum Law
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Interview with Theron Ahlman, Care Patrol

In this interview

Theron Ahlman of Care Patrol discusses how Care Patrol works with seniors and their families to find the best care facilities and options to fit their needs.

To contact Theron Ahlman, call 402-580-2116

To contact Brad Boyum, call 402-991-5410 or click here

Interview highlights

 

[0:30] About Care Patrol

[4:31] Benefits of using Care Patrol’s service

[7:09] How tours are scheduled

[9:17] Debunking assisted living facility misconceptions

[14:33] Timeline of Care Patrol process

[22:33] Understanding when to take the step to assisted living

[29:07] How to contact Care Patrol

 

Questions?

Thank you for listening. We hope you enjoyed this interview. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to us:

To contact Theron Ahlman, call 402-580-2116

To contact Brad Boyum, call 402-991-5410 or click here

Interview Key Points

Brad: Hi, my name is Brad Boyum of Boyum Law Firm, and I’m here with Theron Ahlman, the owner of  Care Patrol. How are you doing, Theron?

 

Theron: Good, good.

 

Brad: We just wanted to talk a little bit about Theron’s business and what sort of services he offers and how he helps his clients. In thinking about that, can you give us a brief overview of Care Patrol?

 

Theron: Absolutely. Care Patrol helps families find the safest and best care for their needs. Whether they’re looking for assisted living, independent living or memory care communities or in home care, we help them navigate through that process to find the best and safest care for their needs.

 

Brad: Sure. If someone called and said what do you guys offer?

 

Theron: If somebody calls me, initially we start off with I want to know about them, what’s going on, what’s making them reach out, what’s happening in their life, what are they struggling with, what’s making them look at maybe taking that next step. Then, it’s learning as much as I can about them, setting up an appointment to go meet with them to really understand more about them, what’s happening in their life, their needs, wants, likes, dislikes and really the care. What’s affecting them cause then from there it’s just working with them to look at assisted living, if that’s the right fit, or maybe an independent community or maybe it’s memory care for one of their loved ones. Maybe they are doing okay; they just need a little bit of help at home, so it’s learning enough to suggest the in home care and the right company. We are not necessarily tied to any communities or in home care, so it’s all about helping them and guiding them to the right fit. Similar to what a realtor would be doing to somebody looking for a new home.

 

Brad: Sure, and I understand it’s ideal in a similar market to you and I use the same comparison. What I found is a lot of people aren’t aware of your service. They find it very helpful and I use the same analogy you just used. It’s kind of like a realtor, they’ll go out and literally show you different places and things like that. It’s very helpful, it’s been my experience that people are unaware of some of the different levels of care. Talk to me about getting the awareness out that people like you are out there. Is that a struggle for you or what do you see that in the market place?

 

Theron: It definitely is. In other parts of the country, it’s well known. This is just a service that’s there and people use that just like they would use a realtor. Here it is a little different. Care Patrol itself has been around about 25 years, but say in Nebraska we’ve only been around a year and a half.  Yes, it’s a struggle, every day we are marketing, talking to people, letting them know that we are here to assist. The best thing is our service is 100% to the families we’re helping, so it does make it that no brainer. To me, it’s a no brainer to use a service like us because we’re here to help.

 

Brad: What I tell people is to use you guys because you know the questions to ask when you go into these places, so if your customer or my client has never lived in there, never shopped around, they might not even know what amenities or what questions to ask. That’s one of the things that I like about going with them and just the knowledge to know and help them make a decision or letting them know what they should be looking at in these facilities.

 

Theron: Absolutely. That’s the biggest thing. A lot of people like to get online and do their searches. They can get in with a place online that might just shoot them a list of communities and it’s up to them to go search and try to find on their own. What we’re really doing by going out and meeting with them, learning as much about them and it’s come down to even as much as here’s the care I need. We’re narrowing it down from that talk to them. I’m narrowing it down to here are the best two or three communities that really are gonna fit your needs.

I then personally will schedule the tours, I’ll even pick up whoever wants to go on the tour, whether it’s the son, daughter, maybe the senior themselves. I go with them, it’s still 100% up to the community to give the tour, walk them through it, but I am there to go through that process and ask different questions for them that they might not be thinking of. To me, it’s obvious anymore because this is what I do and constantly tour. You might see that a neighbor has a Dodge vehicle and they ask questions. They know a little bit about different vehicles and stuff, but on the senior market, most people don’t just occasionally drop into a community to check it out just because they’re bored for a little bit, like somebody might swing into a dealership or something like that.

 

Brad: Yeah.

 

Theron: It is, they don’t know what to look for, what to ask for and most don’t understand, especially in Nebraska, assisted living does not mean the same level of care across the board.

 

Brad: Sure.

 

Theron: Some communities will do a lot more than what others will. Some won’t push a wheelchair down to the dining hall, which to me in assisted living seems like a pretty obvious thing that somebody might need help with.

 

Brad: Let’s talk about the process. Someone comes to you and says I need help. Walk me through the process from start to finish. You mentioned that a lot of the tours, you have kids, these are adult kids obviously, but kids with parents. Walk through the process from start to finish.

 

 Theron: Absolutely. Depending on who calls, if it’s the senior and or even the daughter or son, typically I like to go out and meet with them. We like to do a face to face meeting so we can really get eyes on the person that we’re trying to help. Really talk to them to understand what their thoughts are on the process. Maybe that can’t always happen, maybe the senior is in a different situation that they’re not able to, but after going out and meeting with them, talking to them, doing a full care discovery. I try to learn absolutely everything I can about them. From there, narrowing it down, scheduling the tours for them, picking them up, going on the tour and then even after they’ve decided what community, cause it’s still always 100% up to them. I’ve been on tours where they’ve asked me “Which community do you want, which one would you think would be the best, which would you pick for me?” That’s not my choice.

I’m not the one that’s gonna live there. I might in my mind thinking this one’s a better fit, but you never know which one feels more comfortable to them and which one feels more like home. From there, depending on the situation, we might have to help a little more. Some other situations, they might say alright, we’re good, we can walk through and wrap this up here with the community, get it done.

There’s some situations I help way more and depending on what they need. Do they need to get some of their financial situation figured out, do they need to get their estate figured out, do they need to sell their house? I then can recommended different professionals to them to help guide them in the right direction. Ultimately it’s up to them to who they want to call and use, but there’s people that I’ve met with that I trust and similar to yourself, that I recommend out to others to say “Hey, here’s somebody I’ve met with, I recommend, here’s who you should call to help that.” We just try to help walk them through the process and in the end to make this process as easily as it can be for them.

 

Brad: So you mentioned the first meeting is information gathering. Should they come to you with questions, concerns, a list of places or what do they need?

 

Theron: It’s a whole scenario of them asking me questions, me asking them a lot of questions. I do want to know all their wants, needs, likes, dislikes, finances. On the financial side, I don’t have to dig super deep, but if they do have a care policy or they do have some savings, it is crucial to know because some communities expect you to private pay the whole time you’re there. Others will accept Med Wave after two years, some after a year or six months. Although financials is probably the thing I like talking about the least with somebody because that’s kind of prying in to their personal life, it’s unfortunately what starts us off as to where we can go in our network of communities.

 

Brad: I’ve been in a number of these facilities, or independent living center facilities, assisted living. You mentioned peoples’ perspective or what their idea of what they are is not necessarily how they are. I’m sure you’ve seen some interesting reactions when people walk in because the places are really nice. What sort of reactions do you get from people that had a different opinion of what these places were when they walked in?

 

Theron: The one that always sticks out in my mind, I had a husband and wife, she was ready to go, really wanted to go, he was against it. Totally just fighting it. We got to the community, he got out of the car, he was just gruff, grumpy, didn’t want to be there and you could just kind of see through the tour, he started loosening up a little bit. I made sure and said “Hey, check out the menu here” because at home, they had been eating just peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and popcorn. They weren’t being healthy at home and he seen the menu, seen everything they had and at the end of it I asked him “What did you think?” and he said “This isn’t what I thought it would be.” That’s probably the biggest thing I get. I asked him “What did it for you, what put you over to say life wouldn’t be too bad here”? It was the coffee shop.

He had gotten to where the kids took the car away from him, so they weren’t driving, they weren’t socializing. He was thinking he was okay just doing crossword puzzles and his wife, it was really affecting her because all she really had was him to talk to. They weren’t getting the social aspect, but then for him to see the coffee shop. It really opened him up too, he knew he could be in his room, under one roof he could walk down the hall and have all the meals he wanted. He could have the exercise area, but he could have the coffee and the socialization all under one roof.

That’s the biggest thing, most people I meet, they’re struggling with they’re not getting the socialization. They’re not eating correctly, and they’re having some issues maybe taking their medication. All of that gets handled in a nice assisted living community, but they are still free to come and go as they want. That’s probably the other big misconception. People think that they’re getting put in there, they’re getting locked down at 7:00 at night, they’re getting woke up at 8:00 in the morning. It’s not that. They can come and go as they want. If their kids want to pick them up and go somewhere for the weekend or whatever, they can do anything they want.  It’s just they have somebody there to help them as needed.

 

Brad: The meal plans, I see a lot of people they’ll say they’re gonna cook their own meals in these places and they do for a while and they get tired of that and they end up just going down and eating with the group. The food is good and it’s real food.

 

Theron: Absolutely. You see that especially on the independent side where they have full kitchens and the communities that offer the three meals a day or couple meals a day, they have the full kitchens. You can go in and tour them and the stove looks brand new, yet that stoves original from when that community was built maybe 15 years ago. It’s more of the mindset of we’re moving in, I want to still be able to cook and do these things and it works out that once you get in, if you can walk down and all the meals are cooked there and stuff that you just don’t cook.

Even my parents are that same way, why would you cook or take that time, your mom was the best cook in the world when she was cooking for four or five people every night. Now she’s cooking for two people, they don’t want to eat leftovers the next four or five days. They go out all the time. I think you really see that scenario of how much you really go down and enjoy the food because they’re not eating and cooking the meals they used to. They get it right down the hall, so why cook in your room? They still have that option, if they maybe want to do a casserole or bake some different cookies, they can still do that. Life’s not totally getting stripped away from them just because they moved into a community.

 

Brad: Sure. Ignoring any waiting lines or anything to get into the places, how long does it take from when they first contact you to actually getting in.

 

Theron: Absolutely. Every situation is different, last week I met with a lady who was at a rehab, she was getting discharged in four days, so we had to kick it in the tail and go out. I met with her that night, got figured out exactly the right places to go and sent out to a couple different communities that were fits. Found out these two have availabilities right now, so I scheduled the tours, picked her up, we went ran and made it happen quick. We can make it happen, it’s tough to do it in the exact same day, we can do that if that’s a situation that comes up and somebody has to find something. We can do it instantly.

Better scenario that I always say is the people that are looking out a month, two months, it just makes it more enjoyable as opposed to waiting until something happens or in rehab and now the son or daughter making the decision as to where to go for the senior. That stuff makes it a little tougher, but we can do it darn quick, that’s our specialty. We can do it instead of a family sitting there trying to call around to multiple communities, ask questions and say “This one’s got an opening, let’s go there.” We’ll make it work.  I can just from a quick conversation, narrow down. Even when I’m meeting with a family or somebody, as they’re sitting there, I can pretty much in my mind, I’ve already come up with here’s the best two or three fits. The biggest difference of why even when I’m meeting them I don’t say “Here’s the three communities we can go to”, is because I go home or back to the office and before I even look up and suggest those communities, we’re looking up the state’s care and violation history to make sure that community isn’t having issues.

We want it to be safe as well.  Once we do that and we see, yep that community’s safe, we’re good, let’s go check it out and go down that road.

 

Brad: Yeah. You mentioned the safety.  The information you get is a public database or filings or what is it exactly?

 

Theron: Everything that we look up – the state care and violation history – is online. Anyone can find it, but I always say good luck trying to do it. Thankfully, I’ve got the link on the computer because I lost, when my computer went down here this last year, trying to find that link again, it took me probably a half hour to re-find that spot. It can be a pain. The state doesn’t just put it out there easy for everyone to find it, unfortunately. It’s the state records, I’m looking it up and I do that every time. Even if I suggested that community yesterday and looked it up, I’m doing it again today because it might be the right fit again for the next person. I’m looking up to make sure something didn’t pop up.

People would be amazed at some of our communities. We’ve got some wonderful communities around, but even some of the nice communities at times they’ll have it where they’re having a lot of medication errors popping up. If I have somebody that needs a lot of help with medication, I’m probably not gonna be suggesting that community. If they say we really want to see this community, I’ll let them know, here’s what’s going on there, keep this in mind of what’s happening or you have a community that’s got some allegations of abuse, so we check with that. That’s also tied in to the database that we’re always looking up for safety, but we stay in contact with those that we’ve helped place.

Those that have picked a community, we’ve built a friendship, so it’s fun to stop in, visit with them, say hi, see how they’re doing. Also, they are now our eyes on the inside to say that we can talk to them and they’ll let us know that a community is doing everything they promised and said comparative to nope, they’re not doing this, this and this for me and that’s what they told us they would do on the tour. That’s another reason we go on the tour is because we’re not there to try to fill a room. Unfortunately, most of our marketers are wonderful people and do a great job, but their job is also to fill a room. I’ve seen it different scenarios where maybe they’ve said a few things that maybe aren’t 100% accurate because they’re trying to fill that room.

I truly feel that by having someone like us tour with them, they’re not gonna go and say anything or if they are, at the end I’ll let a family know and tell them “They said this, maybe they’ve changed, maybe they’ll do that, but from everything I know and everything I’ve seen, don’t take that as one of your main factors to pick this community.”

 

Brad: Sure. You mentioned that you stay in contact with them after you place someone, if they needed to change levels of care, would you step back in at that point? I realize a lot of these places have full spectrum where they can just move, but is that something that you would step back in if they actually had to physically move to a different location?

 

Theron: Absolutely. I would say, I really try to focus on, if we’re looking at assisted livings, I really try to focus on the assisted livings that give higher levels of care. I don’t want anyone to have to move in to a community just because it’s fancy, nice lobby and everything else is really neat there, and then have to in six, eight months, move back out of that community. That’s the biggest thing. We want them to be able to stay there as long as they can. If they’re in a very high level assisted living, they should be able to stay there til end of life unless they get to the point where they definitely need skilled services or maybe they’ve got Alzheimer’s, something’s kicked in and now they’ve become an escape risk.

Once you become an escape risk, then it pretty much makes it to where that community has to ask you to leave and then definitely, we’re there for that family again to assist them that said a couple years ago or even six, eight months ago, mom went into assisted living, now we’re having this kind of issue, what are your thoughts? Even if they need to go to skilled services, it’s talking to them to help guide them in the right direction to another good community in the area

Brad: Sure. As far as your clients, a lot of them married couples still, widows, a mixture?
Theron: It is a pure mixture. You never know. You see a lot of single men, single women, married couples, lately I’ve had a grouping of married younger couples that, especially one of them is having a lot more issues than the other and it’s working through that dynamics. I have, unfortunately, a couple right now that he really could use some assisted living, she’s trying to really help him and do as much as she can, but she’s getting burned out at home. In her mind, she doesn’t need assisted living even though he does, so it’s tougher for her to accept that. In her mind, they don’t want to accept that.
Brad: Yeah.

 

Theron: It’s a tough struggle, but yeah, it’s all over the board. I’ve helped some 60 year olds that need to go into assisted living because they have ALS or whatever it might be to 95 year old that it’s finally just time. They feel maybe it’s not safe to be at home anymore.

 

Brad: Yeah. Let’s say they bring in in home care. Do you help with that sort of stuff, or do you advise on that kind of stuff?

 

Theron: Absolutely. I’ve talked to a lot of in home care and it depends on what service they need because a lot of your in home care, you’ve got your medical and then your non-medical. The price difference between the two is different. If you don’t need any medical help at home, you just need someone to come in and help with maybe some bathing, some basic grooming, clean your house, cook a couple meals for you, there’s no need to have a medical company coming in that you’re paying maybe $30 an hour to when you could be getting by at $18 or $20 an hour.

 

Brad: Yeah.

 

Theron: Absolutely, we help do that and then I would say most of the companies we work with and even suggest understand that at some point, too, that person maybe needs to take that step to assisted living that the in home care becomes too much, too expensive. I think that’s great, the companies that are out there, you’ll have some that will milk that person til they’re dry and then they have no money to really make that jump into an assisted living community. It makes it tougher.

 

Brad: The advice I give my clients is to call you and just ask questions. I know a fair amount, but the details of the specific services these places offer, I don’t know that stuff. That’s what I tell them to get from you because it helps in the decision making process, as you know, but also the getting comfortable process with making that move. We talk about the speed, but the issue I run into with that is it just takes a while to emotionally prepare to do that. Generally it’s not the fastest moving process for my clients.

 

Theron: Absolutely, and it’s a tough step. That’s the biggest thing, I understand and I’ll get people that call that are “Yep, I know, it’s hit me. We’ve gotta do something, I’m ready, let’s make it happen.” That’s wonderful, we can have a great time walking through and going, then you got the others that just are not ready for it, they’re trying to put it off, they’re trying to be tough. Unfortunately last month I had a string of them that, I had some that were trying to do the taking care of themselves at home, having in home care coming a couple times and unfortunately, most of us are not nurses, we can’t take care of our loved one like really needs to be taken care of. Three of the scenarios, that person had an issue, had a fall at home, which then put them into the hospital, through rehab and then to a community.

 

Brad: Yeah, as you’ve seen, the caregiver winds up getting worn out and then having issues as well. It’s a tough job, especially when you’re getting into memory issues. The people who care for those people in the facilities are trained and that’s what they do. It’s a tough scenario when you stay at home and the couple is older and it’s a lot of work.

 

Theron: It is.  The good thing is, those that work at the community with them, they get to go home every night, so they get to get out of that situation. For the loved one that’s living with them, they don’t get much time away. That’s why I even suggest respite care. We can help recommend a community or a place that they can go to or maybe even an adult day service, so they can drop their loved one off and go have time for themselves. You talk about caregiver burnout, most people don’t understand it. I’ve even had people I’ve met with, they feel guilty of how they’re feeling towards their loved one. They’re no longer a wife anymore or a husband, they are that caregiver and it’s hard. I had a lady that was ready to put her husband out on the front porch, close the door and was done with him.

Thankfully, she called me, we were able to get her husband into a nice community and then I ran into her a month later out at a different event and she was bouncing off the walls like a different person. I was amazed at it and every time I’ve run into her or seen her, she’s happy, he’s happy, yes, he’d still love to go home, but she couldn’t take care of him. Now, she goes and visits him I think every day, and she’s back to being a wife again as opposed to a caregiver and it’s wonderful to see how different it’s changed both their lives, but especially hers because she was done.

 

Brad: Yeah, there’s definitely some emotions and guilty feelings, I guess, when they split up like that as far as one of the spouses moving into a home, there’s some guilt there but they need to also be healthy and maintain their relationship because like you said, it kind of changes if you’re the caregiver.

 

Theron: That’s just it, just because you say “I do” doesn’t necessarily always mean that you’re gonna go above and beyond and take care of them. You think taking care of them at home maybe is the best thing, but maybe for them, that’s not the best thing. Maybe if they knew the situation they were in, they wouldn’t want you to be stuck at home or dealing with them every day. They’d still want you to be enjoying life. I know I’d be that same way with me; if I was there just dragging down my wife, I’d rather, put me to a place where I can be taken care of, you still enjoy life and come visit me occasionally would be nice.

 

Brad: Yep. Well, this is all great information. How do people get in touch with you? Phone, website, how do they reach you?

 

Theron: Absolutely. Multiple ways. Care Patrol Nebraska, Facebook page. You can like us on there, message us on that. Otherwise, you can call us direct. My cell phone is probably I would say the best number because I’m out and about all the time. If you call my office, it’s ringing typically to my cell. Best number there is the 402-580-2116 or email me, therona@carepatrol.com, so therona@carepatrol.com. That’s great. I try to respond, right away and always have my phone on me. Even if I’m touring, I’ll step away. It’s about taking care of the families as soon as we can and helping them out.

 

 Brad  Generally how quickly can you meet with someone as far as scheduling?
Theron: Usually right away. Although my days may be planned out to do a lot of marketing and running, unless I’m meeting with another family, it’s usually pretty quick. I know how important it is that if somebody calls and they need my help, and like I said, every situation is different, I’ve had some that call “Hey we’re thinking about assisted living or independent living in the next six months.” Alright, maybe we meet in a couple days. The one gentleman that I initially helped find in home care, all of a sudden out of the blue he called me and said “My wife had an issue, I need to meet.” I cleared up my schedule and said “I’ll be there in 15 minutes.” Blew right over to his house, met with him and then went on to meet my next people that I was meeting after that.

 

Brad: Sure.

 

Theron: I’m here to jump. I’ve had people text me in the middle of the night, calling right away at 6:00 in the morning. My phone lives with me, this is my business, this is what I do. I love to help people, so you can call at any time and not feel guiltily about it.

 

Brad: Sounds good. Why don’t you give me your phone number one more time?

 

 Theron: Absolutely. Theron Ahlman with Care Patrol, 402-580-2116.

 

 Brad: Alright, thank you for your time, Theron.

 

Theron: Thank you.

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