Author Archives: boparker

When Help Arrives: A Love(s) Letter to Customer Service

One of my favorite things to talk about is self-care. I mean, I talk about it a lot. At leadership events, as a mentor, and with my team. Because, at PyxisCare we have a busy team of women and men who balance their personal lives with the lives of those we serve as care managers. This can be emotional and draining, so our philosophy has always been about “whole person care.”

I love talking about whole-person care so much, that sometimes I forget to do it. And recently, I paid the price for neglecting the basics.

A few weeks ago I decided (at the last minute…because….planning) to take my two young kids on a road trip to surprise my family in Indiana, whom we don’t see nearly enough. The kids and I love a road trip and I can prepare for them in my sleep. Healthy snacks, a YETI full of waters, all devices charged, podcasts downloaded, and all the things that get us comfortable on our 10-hour trip.

That week was a very high energy week with onboarding new clients and nurse client advocates; a business pitch and integrating a new training system. I was ready to get on the road, but I was also exhausted from working night and day to get everything done.

Fast forward a few hours and it’s midnight in rural Tennessee. Quiet, dark, remote. The kids are asleep and I’m at peace. I have time to think big thoughts, with the long, lonely road ahead of me. And then I ran out of gas. Just like that.

I know the gaslight must have been on for 30 miles, but I didn’t see it. Or it didn’t register. Maybe because I was so anxious for a moment alone–a moment of quiet with no one needing anything from me. Unfortunately, my car DID need something from me, and without it, it couldn’t go on.

The closest gas station was a Love’s Travel Stop –several miles down the road. I called them in a panic, hoping someone would answer the phone (because who does these days?) hoping they were open, and hoping they were closer than Google Maps said so the kids and I could walk there.

Thank goodness they answered the phone. Store manager Greg Chandler, who had just clocked out for the evening, listened to my story. I was apologetic and embarrassed. He was kind and concerned. And then, he came to my rescue. He brought gas and made sure three people he had never met before, got home safely.

Greg was off the clock. I don’t know the truck stop industry. But I’m guessing by midnight on a Friday night he had seen and dealt with a lot of things I’ll never know about. I’m eternally grateful and humbled by his human kindness. Also called customer service.

@LovesTravelStops made good old-fashioned customer service come to life for me in a way I never expected. Good culture breeds kindness and caring. As a customer and as the owner of a service company, I learn over and over that customer service isn’t a joke. It’s a practice and something that you work for every day. And something that you reward team members for modeling.

You might think this story is about me and how I got bailed out of a stupid situation. But it’s not. In fact, I’m a little sheepish about telling this story. I wasn’t following my own rules about preparation and self-care. I found myself in a vulnerable position, and I needed someone to step up. Luckily, this story is about what can happen when you raise your hand and ask for help.

This story is about Greg, the value of kindness and the generosity of customer service. It’s about the amazing people of Love’s Travel Stops that came to my rescue. It’s about a culture that fosters a sense of responsibility for people. That night, I knew my family MATTERED to them. I knew we were being CARED FOR; and I knew we were SAFE.

I hope that my clients feel that same way after each and every interaction with PyxisCare and our people. That’s our purpose and that’s our aim.

We appreciate the extraordinary reminder, all in a day’s work @LovesTravelStops.

Meet the team: Nurse Client Advocate Rene L.

“I can authentically say this is the best job I have ever had because I can see results with clients every day. Helping these families manage their struggle brings me great joy. I take pride in making their lives better.”

I have spent my career taking care of people in every way I could—clinically as a nurse–but also by providing compassion and empathy to people who need support. My early interest in science, anatomy and physiology led to volunteering at a hospital in high school, then to nursing school and clinical practice for over a decade.

The next logical step for me was case management so I went to work for a large insurance company helping people gain access to benefits. This gave me a deep knowledge of how to help consumers and patients navigate their insurance limitations. I understand policies and can educate and inform on how clients can make the most of those benefits, plus how they can augment their plan to ensure they get the services they need. It’s an important viewpoint and I’m happy to offer this expertise.

My next position as a Registered Nurse Life Care Planner was focused on developing and facilitating care plans for people with catastrophic injuries. This was intense and rewarding, but I found myself behind a desk writing reports more often than being with the patients I was advocating for.

So, I joined PyxisCare a couple of years ago, hoping I would be able to use my clinical degree to make real change for individuals. Hoping I could use nursing skills and creativity to address the whole person–to advocate, to heal, and to work as part of a team of other committed professionals.

That leads me to now, and a story I’d like to share, that makes me smile every day. One of my clients was in a devastating car accident that left him with a significant brain injury and left most of his family deceased. It was an unspeakable situation, with too many complex issues to count—emotional and physical pain with a life-long recovery horizon, financial and legal strain, and a home that could no longer accommodate his many physical challenges.

His stepfather stepped in to take care of his most urgent needs but realized that his stepson was languishing at home with no stimulation. The client was being fed, cared for, and had a safe, accommodating place to live, but seemed to be regressing. His guardian knew he should be doing more but was overwhelmed with trying to understand the options. Fortunately, he was referred to PyxisCare for an assessment on how he could improve his stepson’s situation—so that he could still have a rich and full life despite his challenges.

Several months later, we’ve reached a wonderful milestone in our journey with this inspiring client. We were able to define additional therapies and clinical support they needed, as well as educational and occupational stimulation. Today, he is serving as a mentor to other young people who have similar intellectual abilities. He is taking cooking classes and water aerobics therapy to help with mobility. Within a few months, we have been able to help him gain more independence than he has ever had—he is even considering a move to an independent living facility where he can discover even more and have a long-term living space with peers and friends.

To me, this is what success looks like. For me…and most importantly for the client. He has a long road ahead but is well along the way to building a sustainable and happy life.

I wish I could share every story like this, because they warm my heart and lift me up. Working at PyxisCare uses the skills I’ve built for years but also keeps me in the field, working directly with people and families who are collaborating to create a better life for someone.

And that’s why PyxisCare is the best job I’ve ever had.

Rene L., PyxisCare Nurse Client Advocate
Registered Nurse

The “Care Economy” Should Companies Really Care?

From my point of view, the short answer is YES.  And the good news is that many are beginning to incorporate “Care Economy” strategies into their future planning.

What is a “Care Economy”?  It’s roughly defined as an economic system in which genuine caring for people is a top priority.  Care economy strategies were first associated with countries offering generous policy and cultural benefits for those in need of care. However, the strategy of making people-based decisions that also make fiscal sense is hard at work for American companies right now.

Almost every week I see another large U.S. company joining the conversation about care economy issues such as caregiving… and what they’re doing to help and engage employees.   Bank of America just published an independent study on caregiving which outlines the strategic opportunity for employers who choose to address this issue now.  Now, before they experience the brain drain and loss of productivity that data shows is sure to hit employers as caregiving concerns rise.

In the U.S., the economic stakes are particularly high and growing more so, with U.S. private sector payroll exceeding $5.6 trillion in 2013. This number includes the many trained professionals who serve in care-related positions—nursing, home health, care coordination, and other health related services like what my team at PyxisCare provides.

The most commonly quoted stat is that 1 in 5 U.S. workers is providing caregiving for a loved one, and it’s hurting our economy in lost wages and increased stress levels.  Qualified talent is walking out the door—most frequently at the executive level. For example, the Bank of America study states that:

  • 53% of “manager of managers” name caregiving responsibilities as the reason they voluntarily left a job. 61% of senior executives said the same.
  • ALL working-age demographics are affected, and all reported that their productivity was undermined to some extent.

There are so many reasons for a company to care—and there are real business benefits to doing so. Of course, there is also the biggest reason to engage employees—because it’s the right thing to do. It’s hardly a business plan, but let’s talk about what you gain: 

  • Reduced Absenteeism: Employers identified that unplanned absences and missed days of work, late arrival to work and early departure from work impedes an employee’s career.
  • Improved Employee Retention: 53% of employees named the inability to find trustworthy and qualified paid help as their primary reason for leaving a job.
    • Noteworthy: 62% of US workers expect they will need caregiver referral services in the near future.
  • Recruiting Advantage: Today, 1 in 5 U.S. workers are also serving as caregivers, and that number is rising as the population ages. Companies responding to this need will benefit as “knowledge worker” talent becomes more difficult to find.
  • Improved Productivity: 59% of all employees agreed that “Caregivers are perceived to be less committed to their careers than non-caregivers.” This is just a perception—but you know what they say about perception and reality….
    • Just in case you think its only older employees who are affected: 88% of high achievers (25-35 years old with senior executive titles) said that caregiving impaired their ability to perform their best at work.
  • Loyalty: Employees ranked “Caregiving provider referral service” as the most important of the “very important” reasons to stay with an organization, ranked slightly above personal time off, paid leave and flexible work hours.
    • Most importantly, don’t you want to reward the team who ensures you succeed every day?

You might think it’s easier for large companies with deep pockets to tackle this issue/opportunity.  Maybe that’s right…perhaps they have more expendable budget.  But keep in mind that thousands of employees also means a huge investment. If you have a small or midsized company, offering support might be more of a reality than you think.

If you’re ready to explore your options to participate in the care economy, you can start small. Don’t build a program that doesn’t have value.  And please don’t offer a benefit that becomes a utilization game—affordable but not useful as a real benefit. Employees want benefits with value.  We have more data today than ever, that can lead us to the best use of time and resources.  Caregiving support as a real benefit can engage your front line, and improve your bottom line, too.

The Self Care Trend: Is It Working?

No doubt about it, the self-care trend is on the rise. Just this week I received an invitation to a conference educating retailers about how to plug into the wellness and self-care opportunity. Companies from Massage Envy to Peloton offer to kick start your self-care habit. I’ve seen countless TED Talks on topics from emotional first aid to managing caregiver stress.

All of this attention, this flood of content, can be a really good thing, if it helps focus us on improving our lives, reducing stress and becoming more involved in managing our health and well-being.

One undeniable fact of self-care is that the very name states that YOU indeed, are responsible for ensuring your health is managed. You have a care team comprised of your physicians, pharmacists, nurses, specialists, therapists, insurance providers and even your workplace. It’s a lot to handle.

And what if you already have existing conditions like diabetes, Alzheimer’s, a physical disability, addiction or cancer?

What about a catastrophic incident like stroke, brain injury, heart attack or traumatic accident?

Your ability to navigate and manage the world of healthcare directly affects your outcomes. The self-care journey takes on a whole new meaning at that point.

I’d argue that self-care is more than a trend. In fact, I’ve based by entire career on building a better way for people to practice self-care. But PyxisCare’s care coordination model doesn’t treat people like they’re one dimensional retail sales opportunities.

We look at the fully integrated aspects of a person’s well-being– including healthcare and the important roles that finance, environment, and other aspects affect.

We do this for companies, who want their employees to be supported and empowered during tough personal situations. We do this for families, who want to be at peace with decisions and next steps. And we do this for estate and trust lawyers, who need a professional to care about what happens to the individuals they represent.

So try yoga.
Meditate, if you can find 10 minutes in a day to be still and quiet.
Walk barefoot and reconnect with the earth.
I do all these things and more.

Because I take self-care very seriously. I see it in action every day as we help clients manage through significant challenges and opportunities to improve their lives.

Sometimes, self-care can’t be done all by yourself.

Meet the team: Nurse Client Advocate Angela W.

“Our work touches not only the client, but the whole family. We have the ability to positively affect an individual’s health, but also the well-being of everyone in their lives.”

My life experiences help me help others every day. I firmly believe that experience and compassion make the difference at PyxisCare.

I’ve been a registered nurse for over 12 years and am licensed in three states. As a nurse client advocate, I have to quickly build relationships and trust so I can best support client wishes. Through experiences at hospitals, geriatric dementia units, mental health facilities and hospice, it’s been easy to personally relate to any situation with a client.

I was blessed with a hearing-impaired child and have a special place in my heart for parents who are doing the best they can for children with challenges. It’s difficult for someone with no experience in benefits management and medical diagnosis to find their way. And that’s where I step in.

A few years ago, I lost my husband and my mother within months of one another. It was devastating, but that experience helped me deeply understand the challenges of navigating illness and our healthcare system. One of my specialties has become crisis intervention for families who are coping with significant and escalating life changes. I spend time at hospitals and facilities advocating for clients. It’s one of the most rewarding aspects of my job, to support a family though their toughest times.

Of course, the biggest difference is that you’re not providing direct care, but you’re influencing the full spectrum of their care. Especially with clients who are not in crisis but are proactive in their holistic wellness.

It’s my job to help people think about their next steps whether those steps are toward wellness or toward quality of life planning decisions. I like to think of myself as a “Healthcare Quarterback,” and I couldn’t have chosen a better way to help people.

Angela W., PyxisCare Nurse Client Advocate
Registered Nurse

The Longevity Economy

Putting “longevity” and “economy” in the same sentence may sound like the start of a great joke. Our bouncing economy goes from great to grim with each change of the news channel. This significant “demographic sea change”, as AARP’s CEO calls it, is about to crash into and forever change our American generational normal.

When I read the research and try to synthesize the information, here’s what I’m taking away:

  • Over the next generation, the entire globe’s population of humans 60+ years of age is going to more than double;
  • This demographic today is currently the largest consumer market;
  • We – businesses, lawmakers, caregivers, and marketers alike – need to start paying closer attention to their needs.

With this seismic demographic shift, a new audience will be birthed, and the market will be forced to listen to the powerful den of voices and begin to make space for them. You can already see this swivel in how Apple is marketing their devices with heart activity tracking and the innovation showing up in glucose monitoring or major partnerships (think: Aetna and CVS, for example).

To take it one step further, what I’m seeing in the healthcare industry is an increase in responsibility for the generation behind this silver tsunami who will soon be the care coordinators for their parents and grandparents. The development of tech as well as interconnectivity for the purposes of remote monitoring or real time care updates is going to take on a heavier importance as this increase begins.

There’s never a better time than now to pay closer attention to these changes and get ahead of the swell. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself on the wrong side of the wave.

Feeling Squeezed? Explaining the Sandwich Generation

The “Sandwich Generation” is one of those terms that shows up and gains traction because it perfectly captures the squeeze that millions of Americans face every day.

First of all, what is the sandwich generation? When I first heard it, I didn’t like it. I didn’t want to be a part of a group that sounded like something you grab on the “go”, something messy, like fast food in the car.

In fact, I often call it the “Panini Generation” because I feel squeezed AND pressed!

And now, well, I’ve accepted that life does get messy, you have to move fast, you get pressed, you’re under stress…and sometimes…we all feel squeezed by our commitments, even those that bring us joy.

Over HALF of middle-aged adults are taking care of children AND aging parents at the same time. We’re literally sandwiched in between the needs of multiple generations, providing emotional, physical and financial support for others. You may not identify as a “caregiver” but you ARE.

The height of the squeeze usually hits in the 40s- 60s. But don’t rule out millennials feeling the pressure—remember that millennials today are aged 23-38. 38! That’s solidly in the “approaching middle age” category. They’re busy “adulting,” perhaps with children of their own, busy careers and parents–even grandparents—for whom they are caregiving.

So where does this leave us sandwiches? Often exhausted from the pressure to succeed, and dealing with chronic stress. We know we have to plan for the future but how do you prioritize your health, your family, your job and also your finances?

The Sandwich Generation is growing as people live longer, and hopefully, healthier lives. Today, a person may have six or seven generations of family living at the same time. This puts even more of us in the category of balancing multiple priorities and trying to be all things to all people.

Remember that we’re also working longer as life spans extend—The Economist calls it the “graying workforce.” This is significant for employers attempting to stay on top of benefits offerings and sustaining a multigenerational workforce.

SO HOW DO WE COPE?

Articles and evidence-based research papers all say the same thing—reduce your stress, take time for yourself, breathe deeply, meditate, get good sleep, spend time with friends, take long walks, do yoga. All excellent suggestions—but how? I often get frustrated by this good advice when it’s not always practical.

I have three pieces of advice to offer, from personal experience:

  1. Do all of the above activities, if you can and when you can.
  2. Be acutely aware of your stress levels and what you can manage within a day. Watch it closely and determine for yourself a way to consistently evaluate your state of mind. Ask a friend to help you stay accountable to yourself.
  3. The best advice I have to offer, and also to take for myself—is that there is a limit to what you can be an expert at. I get as much help as I can. I have a financial advisor. I hire a math tutor for my kids. I’m pretty good at math, but my child actually responds better to a professional. I can accept that! Although I can do it myself, I have hired support to manage health needs within my own family. Why do I do this? Because I know the value of my time and I am also a full-time working mother. And I don’t want to let anything fall through the cracks just because I can’t do it myself.

Being a part of the “Sandwich Generation” doesn’t have to be a negative. I draw strength from my sense of humor and my faith Every. Single. Day. It’s a blessing to have a full life—and it keeps me filled with purpose. However, on my journey I’ve learned to ask for, and receive, support in so many ways…so I can focus on what matters.

From Tipping Point to Turning Point

Two of the most common words that we hear in client interviews and as we begin engagements with individuals and companies are: TIPPING POINT.

As in….

“We had passed a tipping point for my mother and we didn’t know it because we were so overwhelmed with our day to day.” “I knew we were approaching a tipping point, but I felt like we couldn’t avoid a crisis.” “Our company hit a tipping point where many of us were balancing caregiving duties with full time jobs and I could see the wear and tear on our team.”

You tend to HIT a tipping point. Usually “tipping points” like these force decision-making because action has to be taken. PyxisCare shines in this area—we take pride in intervening and mitigating crisis as it happens and making a difference immediately. Often clients come to us needed immediate help.

However, we DO have clients who are focused solely on wellness and prevention strategies to ensure they avoid costly mistakes down the road. Our vision is that one day, health and wellness transition into a proactive space where there is more planning and preparation for the challenges that people face…BEFORE you hit a dangerous tipping point.

Until then, we at PyxisCare are focused on turning tipping points into TURNING POINTS. And we have a proprietary process that creates that turning point for our clients. It’s our thorough custom assessment that kicks off most engagements.

I’ve been passionate about ensuring the “whole person view” is used when we are working with individuals; our assessment uses a multi-factor approach. Your health and sustainable wellness is a combination of many factors, chiefly: medical, psychosocial, environmental, legal and financial. These key drivers define your capacity to progress in the right direction and stay the course with treatment, prevention and intervention.

A client recently said:

“When I look back on that time in my mother’s life, I see the IA (initial assessment) and care plan as the turning point to get her back on the road to self-sufficiency.”

“When I look back on that time in my mother’s life, I see the IA (initial assessment) and care plan as the turning point to get her back on the road to self-sufficiency.”

I think often about this statement, and dozens of others like it, when I think about what we do and what makes PyxisCare special. That particular person used the resulting care plan as a road map back to health for her loved one.

Some clients even go back and do an assessment if we began with a “quick start” program. They want that full spectrum view of their needs without the pressure of an urgent issue needing resolution. One client said the assessment put him “out of his comfort zone” but also mentioned it was the most valuable part of the service because it allowed him to prioritize some unresolved safety issues in his environment.

This feedback and other customer-centric data helps us to be better partners. To provide a consistently improved experience for clients. To proactively identify pain points and step in to help.

I’m heartened to know that we are offering something unique and valuable that truly allows people to reach their TURNING POINT.

Meet the team: This Business is Personal

These days, every CEO and management expert says that “people” or “employees” are the key to success. It’s practically irresponsible to NOT say it in every leadership article or business speech that you find.

This is a business…but let’s be clear…care coordination and navigation is THE MOST PERSONAL of businesses. We work with people going through some of the lowest, most frightening and challenging points in their lives.

When I established PyxisCare, I didn’t want to just start “a business”, I wanted to help people.

So, we hire people who want to serve others. Our planning conversations at work are about how we can improve lives — how we can alleviate stress and confusion for families —how we can enable companies to support their teams—how we can save time and provide peace of mind—–and about how we can bring clients back to health or stability.

This is the first in a series that celebrates the team that works together at PyxisCare. The caring individuals who do everything from create strategic care plans and advocate at doctor appointments, to ensuring that your loved ones are in safe environments.

I’m proud of the PyxisCare Management team. At the beginning, it was just one registered nurse and myself, building trust with a handful of clients. Today, we have worked closely with hundreds of clients to bring peace of mind to families and improve outcomes for wonderful people.

Over the years, each nurse, each care coordinator, each team member is carefully recruited and trained to ensure that we are providing the most consistent and most experienced care coordination in the market.

So, look for my upcoming posts featuring our team. An experienced team that holds over 25 specialty certifications and accreditations. A kind team that supports clients as well as each other. A team that I treasure.

Mindy

Am I a patient or consumer?

The media and the services industry are flooded with articles and discussion forums with titles like “The Dawn of Healthcare Consumerism” and “The New Consumerism of the Patient.”  Not exactly compelling reading for the average person.

As a leader in this industry, I stay on top of where related laws and policy are leading us. I know what value-based payment structures mean to revenues; I see the implications of moving from hospital to home-based care; and I have a staff that understands insurance plans and reimbursements because they manage those issues for PyxisCare clients.

However, as a mother and a wife who manages a budget and healthy household of my own, I think about how confusing these changes would be to manage if I didn’t have a decades-long career in care management.  It’s difficult to be a “smart shopper” when you don’t know your options.

For most, the biggest impact is that YOU as a patient/consumer/smart shopper are more responsible THAN EVER for your healthcare and wellness decisions.  This is not meant to be scary—but it does mean that you have to be vigilant about coordinating and managing the full spectrum of services that you may need: physicians, specialists, therapists, mental health professionals, and more.  All the while managing financial and legal implications of decisions you make for the future.

By the way, the answer is… you are both a patient AND a consumer.  Today, you have both more control AND more responsibility for your health and wellness decisions. So treat care and care process like any other large investment: do your research, stay informed, get qualified advice, and most importantly, put yourself and your loved ones or clients in the center of decision making.