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Mar 18, 2021 | General

At The Option Group, we provide private case management, advocacy, and placement services for families with a loved one declining cognitively or physically, due to age, catastrophic injury, chronic disease or disability. We assess and create a care plan to support them so they’re safe, independent and comfortable – either in their home or at a facility that can offer the care they need.

Things turned upside down when COVID came. We had case managers, social workers, nurses and people in the field who were no longer able to access facilities where many of our vulnerable clients resided. I had also purchased a 1950s-themed adult medical day center franchise in Maryland. We had to put all that on hold because Maryland adult day centers were one of the first the state closed down. That was supposed to be our big growth opportunity for 2020.

Also, we deal with a population that’s been greatly affected by COVID-19, and we couldn’t get into facilities. It was a CDC and a state of Maryland requirement to close the doors and not allow outsiders to come in. They wanted to protect the people and staff from exposure. The problem is we have clients who are non-communicative. Their loved ones aren’t allowed to enter facilities and they’re unable to leave, so we had to find ways to stay in touch and advocate from afar.

We got Zoom and other technologies so we could see our clients and get more information. But you’d have to schedule an appointment, and the staff member would stand there holding the iPad or cell phone, so clients weren’t able to freely speak or have private conversations with their families.

We followed that up with the GrandPad, a tablet designed for seniors. We would program their “circle of trust” into the tablet so they could contact them. They would see their daughter’s picture, hit send, and immediately they’re in a video chat. It was a way for them to talk to family members whenever they wanted. This also allows telehealth, so physicians could stay in touch with patients.

Getting the GrandPad to our clients has become quite a success. It helps families stay connected and helps us do our job better. It’s actually become a marketing tool for some facilities to bring in clients hesitant about moving into an assisted living facility.

We had Vistage speaker, Mark Debinski, talk about artificial intelligence and how to use technology right around the time I was researching the GrandPad. So the timing of that speaker was great. It gave me some insights to think about as I moved forward with that program and created processes.

While this was happening, a colleague in Pennsylvania was looking to retire. And it just was good timing. Again, I wasn’t really planning to expand, but we made the purchase and now we’re in five counties in South Central and Southeastern Pennsylvania, and I recently spoke with a colleague in a couple of other states about doing the same thing.

To do that, we had to think creatively. I was able to get a Paycheck Protection Program loan, which carried the payroll. We were able to come up with some new programs that families were asking for – care management and advocacy for private groups. And we continued to do what we do well. We’re excited to say we’re actually growing. We’ve hired three people since things shut down, and families are looking to us now more than ever to help them navigate this crazy health care situation.

One of the biggest takeaways from all this has been solving problems. We have to think creatively to create our care plans, but now we have to manage our own care and find ways to do what we do differently…and as well as before. This entire summer, we met with our clients outdoors. We do all the protocols of taking temperatures and making sure we’re not exposing our clients, but we’re also trying to think one step ahead and get protocols in place early. We’re had to be versatile, flexible and creative.

The funny thing is, our Vistage group started in March 2020. So we had one meeting before everything shut down. But we gelled very quickly and we’ve become a really tight-knit group. We’ve had weekly Zoom meetings, but we’re continued to do our in-person meetings using the safety protocols. We’re distancing, but we all feel that we benefit greatly by being together. So I’ve been really pleased to be at Vistage, and I joined at a really auspicious time.

The View from 10,000 Feet

“Our group was concerned about the impact COVID-19 would have on a managed care company, as nursing homes and assisted living facilities were locked down in Maryland. Ellen, determined to rise above the pandemic, pivoted and embraced technology to overcome the pandemic challenge. She crafted a strategy with her key employees, discussed in our one-to-one, presented the issue to our group, and then implemented a plan to not only survive, but thrive!”

Wayne Coffey, Ellen’s Vistage Chair


About The Option Group: Founded in 2010, The Option Group’s compassionate team of experienced Certified Life Care Managers serves families, their loved ones, medical professionals, and professional family advisors in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. The firm understands the challenges of caring for an individual who needs assistance due to aging, dementia, disability, or serious illness. Their skilled providers possess over 100 years of combined experience navigating the healthcare maze and accessing hundreds of quality resources. The Option Group helps families spend quality time with their loved ones, providing clear choices that lead to better care. For more information, visit www.theoptiongroup.net or call 410-667-0266 (MD) or 717-287-9900 / 610-885-8899 (PA) / or 302-362-9057 (DE).