On December 15, 2021, our Beacon team in the metro St. Paul – Minneapolis, MN region branched out into a new service area after acquiring Hometown Senior Living. Hometown is a boutique assisted living program centered on care for senior citizens in the community. Assisted living services are similar to those provided in licensed group homes but with a primary focus on individuals aged 55 and older. Part of Hometown’s mission is to provide a level of care and compassion not found by its competitors. They established their organization with an “at home” feeling that helps residents feel comfortable and at home, not in an institutional setting, but a relaxed, traditional style neighborhood setting.
Assisted living communities in Minnesota provide a specific scope of services that include medication management, daily meals, activities of daily living such as dressing, bathing, and grooming, transportation to medical appointments, a schedule of social activities and access to connection within their communities. All of these are things are components of Beacon Specialized Living Services’ residential programs. One of the primary differences in services is while training and habilitation are a primary component of our residential programs, those things are not a focus of assisted living, where support is provided as needed to enable people to live the life they choose. Many of the folks in the assisted living program have retired and the new Hometown services is one piece of the puzzle in assuring that their wants, needs, and choices are a primary focus of their support.
We spoke to Mary and Gregory Hendricks, the Mother-Son team that started Hometown Senior Living in 2008, and LeeAnne Graetz, the Executive Director of Operations in charge of supervising the day-to-day transition to Beacon Specialized Living.
How did Hometown Start? What Drove you to this Calling?
Well I started in home care 30 years ago and went from there to assisted living. I got a pretty good experience throughout the years of different aspects of the business by working my way up into management positions, eventually getting into the director of marketing role at my previous company. At that point, I was exposed to residential care homes and thought that was the best thing to offer our seniors as another option. From there, that’s where I realized what I wanted to do in life. Greg and I got together with our spouses and made the decision to start a business of our own. That took place back in November of 2008. We grew from our first home into multiple homes because the interest and need were so great; we had people really liking the concept and wanting that for their parents and loved ones.
We opened Crestview as our first home. Prior to the acquisition, we opened seven care homes throughout Minnesota and Wisconsin. What we focused on from day one that made us so unique was offering assisted living and residential care homes that were very familiar. We offer comfortable residential care with continuing traditional values and that was our vision and model that came from Mary on day one. She was raised by her grandmother from a young age, so she always had a heart and passion for seniors. She wanted to see that model of care in a home-like setting continue with a high staff to resident ratio.
The acuity of our residents was a lot higher than most assisted living locations. It was never ‘No, we can’t take them,’ but ‘What do we need to do to be able to take care of them’.
That was exactly my mission when I was in an assisted living position working for another company. When we had to discharge our residents, it was because we could no longer care for them. It was heartbreaking. At that time the only option they had was a nursing home and although I know things have gotten better in an assisted living world, it was my goal to provide nursing home level of care in a familiar, home setting in a traditional neighborhood so our residents could have the dignity of living in a home setting.
Why did you Want to go Into the Assisted Living Field?
I was working for a supercomputer company prior to getting into health care and I just really felt a need to do something more meaningful that helped people and made a difference to families and the people in their lives. I had a need to do something deeper and more meaningful related to helping people.
Why Partner with Beacon?
My husband and I were getting closer to retirement, so that was more the future plans for us. To step back, retire, and still be young enough to enjoy doing the things that we love to do like spend time with family or traveling. Being in the health care industry, you would see situations where people were at our age and in assisted living facilities themselves. We decided that at some point, we thought it was time to move on.
It was time for us, personally. I had started a number of other ventures and wanted to do other things with my professional life. More so the business, what I saw with the trend of the industry and senior care, our company would need to continue to grow and scale. From the business perspective, Mary and I wanted to continue to offer that level of care and that style of care into more communities. In order to do that, we’d have to grow with our infrastructure. Partnering with Beacon will allow Hometown to grow. We saw it as a win-win to be able to offer these services in more communities moving forward. What I’m proud of is that the acquisition that Beacon took on is that it’s also a win-win for our management team. Beacon will bring many improvements like Information Technology support, Human Resources, and benefits for employees. The team is excited to join Beacon’s team and it’s been a blessing for both organizations through this acquisition.
A win-win is always great. You’re putting your employees and residents first with the merge, and everyone benefits.
I’d like to compliment the Beacon leadership team. That experience and resident knowledge of our industry will continue to allow them to be good stewards of Hometown’s vision. The fact that Beacon offers a similar type of service, but to a different age demographic, they already know residential homes. There wasn’t a big learning curve with Beacon to learn Hometown. It was a natural outgrowth. I’m confident that Beacon will continue our legacy.
From everything I’ve seen, the core values and philosophies are so similar, it really leads to helping us grow and supporting us. There aren’t a lot of growing pains.
I think that’s what sealed the deal for me. After having a conversation about services and the future, they really hit it on the mark when they said ‘Where are these people supposed to go? Someone needs to take care of [these people].’ I’m happy Beacon has the same philosophy of taking care of even the most difficult residents. Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.
What Direction Would you Like to see the Business Move?
Our vision, even when we first started the company, we had dreams of it going nationwide and having clusters of homes in a lot of areas around the country where the option would be offered to as many people as possible. This is what people want. When [families] come into our homes, they can’t believe what they’re seeing. Our homes are as well known and aren’t as traditional as the larger assisted living facilities and so I would just like to see it grow into a product that is more commonplace and more available to people because I know it’s the number one choice. Seniors want to live in a more traditional home, the families feel better about it, and it’s a more comfortable place to visit. My vision is for Beacon to take it to that [nationwide] level, making it a more commonplace option for seniors.
What Helps Hometown Break out From Their Competitors?
We’ve always had the highest levels of staff to resident ratios. We maintain a 1:3 ratio in all of our homes. The other thing that helps us stand out is the boutique, upscale homes that are in neighborhoods, hot institutional settings. There’s not a lot of places that are truly like homes, like how Hometown is.
One of the things that sets us apart from some other residential care homes is the fact that we were willing to go above and beyond to make move ins happen. I would hear a lot of ‘We’d accommodate customers the best we could.’ I hear from social workers that they face limitations when move ins can happen from other companies, if they were willing to take them because of this or that, and they just really appreciated the fact that we were willing to do whatever it took to facilitate that transition. Just little things like changing the paint color of a resident’s room, or adding new curtains, or other personal touches, the families and residents really appreciate the small things. It was something they couldn’t find anywhere else.
Our care team is so strong and unique in the industry. We have not one but two full time nurses on staff, which is almost unheard of. For 55 residents, we have two full time nurses. Then on top of that, we have a medical director who, once a month, directs the nurses, plus the 24/7 care staff. The medical team surrounding the residents is second to none.
This level of care is something we’d expect to continue through Beacon. It will need to stay at that standard, if not better.
Mary Hendricks is the founder of Hometown Senior Living. Mary’s health care career began as a Certified Nursing Assistant, providing direct care for seniors in their home through an agency and later as a Resident Assistant in an assisted living setting. For more information on Hometown Senior Living or Beacon Specialized Living, please reach out to Beacon’s Director of Marketing, Alexander Furman, at firstname.lastname@example.org.