Increased Media Awareness
Perhaps you’ve seen the cover story of the June 11 issue of Time magazine. Titled “How to Die,” the political columnist Joe Klein tells the story of how he was able to help his parents spend their last days with dignity. While I would encourage you to read this powerful and touching story, what occurs to me is how frequently I’m beginning to encounter articles on end of life and aging in place issues in the magazines and newspapers I read. For instance, in recent months “My renovation saga: needing a lift later in life” by Mary McCutcheon appeared in The Washington Post and “Remodel your current home with retirement in mind” by Chris Farrell ran in The Chicago Tribune. The subject has been covered in the pages of Forbes magazine, in numerous books, and even on "The Rachel Ray Show." It has also become part of the conversations I have with my friends as our roles shift and we edge toward the day when we’ll become caregivers for our parents.
What I’m getting at—and what you already know—is that these concepts have entered the mainstream, becoming part of the general media we consume and the national dialogue in which we are engaged. This is being driven by a number of things, including the retirement of approximately 10,000 Baby Boomers every day for the next 18 years, and our ongoing attempts to restructure the U.S. health-care system. Whatever the reason, this type of acceptance is laying the groundwork for those of you who are beginning to adopt retail strategies to escape a business model perhaps too dependent on reimbursement from Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance.
Think about it for a minute: Should you choose to begin advertising locally, you’ll find a more-receptive audience than you might have in years past because people have been reading about this issue in newspapers and magazines. And because of this they’ve probably discussed their concerns with their physician, so the door may already be cracked open when you reach out to that doctor to begin building a solid referral network. And you benefit in other ways, as well, since people will begin seeking you out wanting to learn more about PERS, or home monitoring systems, portable oxygen or bed and support products. That means that any investment you make in attractive signage, well-structured displays and showrooms, and even highly visible and well-traveled locations will definitely pay off, as will hiring or training employees to shine in the retail sales environment.
Less visible but just as powerful are the types of conversations I mentioned that people are having about aging in place. As an example, hanging out with friends recently—all of whom are in their forties and fifties—the conversation turned to the challenges we’re currently facing such as sending kids to college, progressing in our careers and, inevitably, taking care of our aging parents. There was a time when the words “nursing home” would’ve entered the conversation much earlier, but with the home-based services and technologies we now have available to us, we never got past discussing aging in place. I was happy to find that my friends already knew about HME providers, and one who is caring for her aging mother even mentioned how much more professional her local store had become lately. She said the staff helps her learn about new products and technologies when she visits now, rather than just taking her order, so the provider has become an information resource for her. We all agreed that this knowledge is changing the way we communicate with our elderly parents about the future, and how we see our own as well.
So take heart as the market evolves. Embrace change and ride this wave of growing awareness and media coverage. Reach out to the local community and help them understand what’s now possible, and make yourself available to newspapers, magazines, and broadcast venues as an expert source on the subject of HME/DME and aging in place. Become an advocate, and everybody wins.