From Referral Company to Provider: New Home Care Exec Shifts Gears

An executive with a major senior housing and care referral company has jumped ship and come aboard a major home care provider.

Katie Roper formerly was vice president of sales and marketing at Caring.com, one of the largest referral resources for senior care, including assisted living, independent living, memory care, in-home care, nursing homes and continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs).

With years of experience under her belt getting to know all the major players in the senior living space, Roper now has crossed over to home care as the vice president of health care and strategy with Home Care Assistance, a San Francisco-based provider serving more than 150 market areas in the U.S., Canada, Puerto Rico, and Australia.

Home Health Care News caught up with Roper to hear about her transition, including her appreciation for the “three spirits” involved in home care, the senior living versus home care rivalry, and her top challenge in her new position.

Why home care and why now?

The thing I’m really jazzed about with Home Care Assistance and the reason I chose to jump ship from Caring.com and come to this role is that we know everyone wants to stay home [to age]. We are going to have to get to a place where everyone can age at home from a cost standpoint.

There’s the role of technology, and it’s interesting to leverage tech to make [aging at home] easier to do. No one has been able to get [widespread] adoption. We ran survey after survey at Caring.com and never got more than a handful of people saying they had adopted any of these new technologies, even when it made their lives easier, cheaper and more convenient.

It’s a “last mile” problem for these older people who aren’t comfortable with technology. A company like Home Care Assistance can provide what we call the last mile. We can be the interface between the technologies and the people who really benefit from them.

What about your previous role overlaps with your new position at Home Care Assistance?

At Caring, I was selling to the national players in senior care. I’m really familiar with the marketing. I had no idea of the operations, and it’s an ongoing process. This is a difficult business to do well, because, if you think about it, you have to be doing reasonably well to be able to afford to have someone come in privately to stay with your elderly mom or dad.

There are three parties involved, usually. There’s the pretty well-educated, high-powered type of adult children who are often footing the bill. They have certain service expectations and ways people should engage with each other. Then you have the people who provide the care, who don’t live their lives like that. Then you have the elderly person. It’s three completely different constituencies, and the challenge of finding in-home care is that you have to manage those three spirits, each with expectations and challenges.

A week before I started, in my own family, my mother-in-law had a medical situation and we ended up having to contract with someone to provide in-home care. At the same time I’m starting this job I’ve been living the experience of dealing with the family situation. I am both the employee and the client. I thought I knew [home care], but I know nothing.

What in the senior living space overlaps with home care? Do you see more convergence across the two industries?

When [Caring] started actively getting involved in home care, we were afraid it might cannibalize our senior housing businesses. In about 20% of cases, if a family member called us asking about in-home care, we ended up referring to senior housing in place or in addition. And the same was true of the senior housing referral.

Typically when families get into this, they don’t know what their options are. It’s stressful and confusing and overwhelming. Normal people not in the senior care industry don’t know that non-medical home care exists. They don’t go looking for it because they don’t know it’s there. Moving to home care, [I find] I’m a salesperson, and it’s easier to sell something that people really want.

What’s your biggest challenge this year?

The biggest challenge for me is that people don’t know the Home Care Assistance brand. They will mention our competitors before they mention us, yet we provide really phenomenal care. We’re just not a known brand. I’m looking forward to diving into it.

In terms of the challenges for the industry as a whole, I’m not sure I’m able to comment on that yet. Six months from now, I’ll give you an answer.

Written by Amy Baxter