Friday, January 12, 2024
Senior Living shot
Twenty percent of the US population are Baby Boomers. One in three have a cognitive impairment. Seven out of ten will need some form of long-term care. Kenny Ossen, a Senior Advocate assists families looking for exactly that.
By Robert Gad for The National Business Post
August 29, 2023
Are you a baby boomer or the child of a baby boomer? If your answer is yes, you may be surprised by this statistic from the American Association of Retired Persons.
Seven out of ten boomers will need some form of long-term care before they die. Since boomers comprise 21% of the current population in the United States, we are talking about a growing number.
In Southern California, there are 13,000 long-term care facilities to handle this growing number of seniors. One of the biggest challenges facing these older adults and their families is simply knowing where to start. The world of senior living is complex and constantly evolving, with new options and opportunities emerging all the time. For many seniors and their families, it can be overwhelming to navigate this landscape on their own.
Emotions can run high during this process, and typically, the older adult doesn’t want to leave home. Often, it is the spouse or other family members who are faced with making tough decisions, and they are not equipped to make needed calls and take the steps due to lack of time or knowledge of the process. This can lead to high stress and anxiety levels for the adult children.
Fortunately, there are trained professionals who are certified Senior Advocates to lend a hand. They provide a huge service in finding the best suited communities that can match a senior’s needs and desires. There is no “one size fits all” with these placements.
Maybe the best part of working with a Senior Advocate is they do not charge for this service—it is absolutely free. When a senior is placed in a community, the Senior Advocate receives a placement fee from that community.
Kenny Ossen is one of them. After a very successful career as a media sales executive, Ossen took many of the skills he developed while working with some of the most influential ad agencies and brands in the country. Geico, Wells Fargo, Ford and Toyota were just a few of his clients.
Known for his hustle and honesty, Ossen earned the trust of marketers and media buyers who often awarded him with $100,000 or more of a budget to place on radio stations around the country. Media buys need perfect execution to be successful, and Ossen always makes sure nothing was left to chance.
“I have always had a lot of energy,” says Ossen. “Even as a kid growing up.”
He’s now harnessing that energy as his own boss, which is a big thing for him.
“Not reporting to anyone other than me is something I have aspired to for few years,” he explains. “That and actually making a difference in people’s lives who are trusting me to help choose and execute the move into a community. I have learned how really important this is in a loved one’s life.”
The hardest part was obtaining his certification. He had 1,500 pages of information to memorize, covering everything from the different kinds of dementia to social security, taxes, and insurance.
It took Ossen—who was 54 years old at the time—six months to go through the process of intensely preparing for and passing his exam. After he passed, his first goal was to attend networking sessions and meet as many people as possible.
He decided that the best way to brand himself was to meet with professionals that have clients who need his services, such as elder law attorneys, fiduciaries, estate planners, and geriatric care managers.
“The mantra is TOM—or Top of Mind,” Ossen says. “They may not need my services today, but when they do…my name has to be the one they recall.”
It’s perhaps the biggest challenge, and like most things in life, timing is everything.
“I went to a networking meeting in the South Bay and presented my business to the group,” he recalls. “After the meeting, I got a text from a lawyer who attended that he knew a client of his who needed my services. He realized that I could help him solve a problem.”
Ossen learned quickly that narrowing down the huge number of facilities in Southern California to maybe a handful was the best way to get started with a client. Sitting down with family members, he could discover the most important elements on their list.
Geography is often the highest priority. A 20- to 30-minute drive from where they last lived to the residence is important to many. There is a comfort to staying close to friends, family, and “the neighborhood.” They still can go visit “their library or park” and feel comfortable with those surroundings. However, there are other preferences that Ossen discusses when starting the search.
Budget, type of care, amenities, and activities are all examined with the older adult and their family. And, of course, there are often food restrictions to deal with. Vegetarian or vegan meals, kosher, keto, and gluten-free menus can be in the mix for choosing a community.
After this information is gathered, Ossen will pick three to five communities that match up with the preferences chosen and take thorough tours with everyone.
“My ultimate goal is meeting the needs and wants of the family, while I find a home for their loved one where they will be happier, healthier, and most importantly—safer.” His focus is on advocating for the best possible care for seniors. In many cases, this involves negotiating with the senior living communities to ensure that his clients receive the highest quality care and support possible.
Kenny Ossen with Jodie Kendall, Director, Community Relations at the Kensington of Sierra Madre in Sierra Madre, CA
Ossen manages all of the paperwork for his clients as well as the actual transition into the community — complex tasks that he handles with ease.
“One of the biggest challenges is once you have the referral, the senior often does not want to go. It can be frustrating, and the perception of the facility is that it is the ‘old age home’ and I don’t want to go. Everyone is in wheel chairs and the food is terrible.”
In an effort to overcome this challenge, “we’ll take them out for a bite to eat at a community and the response is often, ‘wow these people look like me.’ There may be entertainment after dinner with a singer or magician performing, which can also help ease the negative perception.”
Last year, Nikole Elias tried to navigate the process to place her father in a facility on her own. Caring for her two-year-old at the time, she became overwhelmed with all the things she did not know.
A friend of hers is a Senior Living Specialist and knew of Ossen through her networking within the industry and put them together.
Ossen did his research, and the two of them went to visit six or seven places and narrowed down to two.
“Kenny’s got an assertive style which I certainly do not have,” she recalls. “Having him guiding me through the process was amazing.”
Ossen asked tough questions and knew the vocabulary, which he translated to Elias. “He did so much on my behalf and I kept thinking, I don’t have to pay you !? It seemed too good to be true. Everybody should know about this.”
As Ossen was in the process of getting the contacts worked out, Elias’ dad had to go into the hospital and was diagnosed with Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease. This is the human version of mad cow disease, with only one or two in a million cases a year worldwide.
They had to quickly pivot and find another facility with the staff to handle him with his new diagnosed condition. It took Ossen five days to get him into another unit. Unfortunately, he passed away the following day.
“Tough with them and kind with me…he has no qualms about opening up refrigerators and examining the contents,” Elias remembers.
Another client, Lori Motyer, chuckled when Ossen made the same move as she toured communities for a former university professor who became a family friend in need of care.
“Kenny was great with his follow-up in my case making the transition comfortable,” Motyer remembers. “He was always there…very responsive, even if I really did not need him. It made all of the difference in what is a very, very difficult task to deal with—he handled the negotiations…thank God.”
Ossen stepped in and helped Motyer re-negotiate a better deal, as she had brought in her own caregiver into the unit to help her friend, Sylvia, five days a week.
“He did more than I would have expected.”
In the end—through hard work and dedication—Kenny Ossen has made the transformation from successful radio executive to a senior living advocate. He has helped his clients navigate the often overwhelming landscape of senior living with confidence and peace of mind. With his guidance and assistance, he has tamed the challenging transition into a more manageable and fulfilling journey.
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