As the owner and CEO of Right at Home Greater Twin Cities, Paul Blom believes there’s more to caring for people than just providing in-home care services. He personifies this belief in his work as a Right at Home franchise owner, as a leader of his business and local community, in his work with the Parkinson’s Foundation, and as an advocate for the aging LGBT community.
“It takes a certain type of person to do this type of work,” Blom said. “When people are struggling to remain in their homes, they want to be treated with genuine compassion and respect. This is a transformative time in their lives, and we can be there for our clients. We can honor their wishes and help them remain comfortably in their homes!
“There are a lot of things that can be taught, but compassion is not one of them. This franchise is structured to leverage an individual’s compassion and genuine drive to improve the lives of others. Almost anyone coming into this type of work can be trained on the practical and operational aspects of being successful, but you have to show up with compassion.
“Staffing can be challenging at times, and we’re extremely selective when it comes to hiring staff. Every time we consider welcoming someone on board, we ask ourselves whether we’d let this person into our homes or place our parents in their care. The answer has got to be yes, every time. There have been occasions when we’ve referred potential clients to other agencies or facilities because we simply didn’t have the staff and bandwidth to help them properly. We’d rather do that than lower our standards of care.”
In 2001, Blom and his husband, Bob White, became the third franchise owners to enter into the Right at Home franchise. Blom and White’s mission is to provide clients and their families with caregivers who truly understand the course of their journey and their unique needs.
“Our team of compassionate caregivers helps clients navigate the winding road ahead—whether that means preparing meals, assisting with personal care, or providing 24-hour care—they are devoted to understanding and fulfilling clients’ wishes to remain at home,” Blom said.
From Lawn Care to Elder Care – Serving the Community
“I grew up mowing lawns and helping my neighbors with simple tasks around their homes,” Blom said. “Through the years, as my neighbors aged, I noticed that they needed more help. Can you open this jar? Would you pick up some milk for me when you go to the store? As I matured, I developed a great deal of compassion for my aging neighbors and for my community as a whole.”
In 1995, when Blom and White moved to the Twin Cities, they quickly befriended several elderly neighbors and continued the tradition of helping them with tasks and chores. This endeared Blom and White to their new community, and the feeling was mutual.
Blom worked in the IT and administration sector for 15 years. In the late 1990s, when concerns about technology and Y2K began to escalate, Blom started saving money to prepare for the unexpected. “In 2001, when the IT industry started to implode, there was no work to be found,” Blom said. “That’s when I started thinking about opening my own business. I thought, if I’m my own boss, I’ll have more control over my livelihood and future.”
Around this time, White’s mother, who had spent many years working as a registered nurse, retired and began providing non-medical caregiving services to seniors. She often told White and Blom how meaningful this experience was to her, and she suggested that they look into senior care services as a profession.
“I didn’t think I had the guts to start a business from scratch, not to mention taking care of the elderly, so I decided to go with a franchise,” said Blom. “Initially, I was considering food concepts, but then I saw Right at Home on a franchising website. I loved their founding story and their business model. Most of all, Right at Home would provide the training and support I’d need. I remember calling Bob and saying that there was a franchise offering exactly what we wanted to do!”
All of these experiences combined inspired Blom and White to explore how they might be able to help elderly citizens and their families with their day-to-day and long-term care. Combining their professional skills and experiences and their desire to help the elderly, the two opened their own Right at Home franchise.
Conscientious Leadership in Elder Care
Blom subscribes to the servant leadership philosophy. “It’s not the leaders who get the work done,” he said. “A leader’s job is to inspire and support workers to do their best. My leadership team and I exist to support and serve the caregivers in the field who are providing such excellent care for our clients. It’s a very symbiotic relationship.”
An advocate for work-life balance, Blom said, “Flexibility is a key element of effective leadership. Our philosophy is Life and Family First. When there are challenges or obstacles, we believe in finding a way to make it work, and we work around those two priorities. We find a way to say yes, within reason. We will troubleshoot a situation in an effort to find a solution that works for everyone.
“I had to do quite a bit of troubleshooting over the past few years, especially during the pandemic. In 2020 and 2021, the bar was constantly moving—for client safety, for worker safety, to address mental health challenges … the list goes on. The key is to have clear, conscientious communication every step of the way.”
Caregiving and Giving Back
Since it opened in 2001, Right at Home Greater Twin Cities has received numerous awards, and Blom himself has been recognized multiple times as a Twin Cities Top CEO.
“We’ve received awards through the years from the Right at Home organization, the Better Business Bureau, Quorum, the Star Tribune, the Business Journal, and a variety of others,” said Blom. “They are all wonderfully meaningful and so validating! But, I have to admit, it is the absolute best feeling to have employees and co-workers respond to an anonymous survey and rate our business as a Top Workplace and for Top Leadership compared to hundreds of other businesses in the state. It is truly humbling and so satisfying to know we have built an organization that reaches that level of employee satisfaction.”
Because of his work in elder care, Blom has been invited to join many Alzheimer’s awareness groups over the years. However, he decided to commit to the Parkinson’s Foundation instead. “Alzheimer’s awareness groups have received a great deal of attention and more funding than the Parkinson’s Foundation,” Blom said. “Most people don’t know a whole lot about Parkinson’s disease. They think it’s about uncontrollable tremors, but that’s not always the case, and that’s not even the tip of the iceberg. So, I began to focus my attention on raising awareness about Parkinson’s.”
In the early 2000s, Blom became involved with the National Parkinson’s Foundation to raise both awareness and funds. When the sitting CEO was getting ready to retire in 2015, Blom was asked to be the interim CEO of the National Parkinson’s Foundation—a position he readily accepted and successfully held, alongside operating his own Right at Home business, until a permanent replacement was found. Blom said, “My Right at Home team really stepped it up while I was navigating both positions!”
Training to Serve the Aging LGBT Community
Blom and White are locally and nationally known as advocates for older adults in the LGBT community. In 2008, Blom was a founding board member of Training to Serve (TTS), a nonprofit organization in Minnesota that provides education, tools, and resources to improve the quality of life for LGBT individuals as they age. TTS has since been acquired by Rainbow Health.
TTS grew from a group of representatives of the University of Minnesota, Metropolitan Area Agency on Aging, and Minnesota Department of Human Services/Minnesota Board on Aging, as well as LGBT community advocates, who recognized the need to train service providers on the unique needs of LGBT older adults.
As a founding TTS board member, Blom and his team surveyed a number of senior care service providers, asking them if they believed that LGBT individuals have a unique set of needs and barriers regarding finding appropriate care. “At that time, none of the service providers knew what we were talking about,” Blom explained, “So we asked if they’d be willing to learn more about LGBT elder care, and the response was overwhelmingly positive.”
It is not unusual for aging LGBT individuals to fear prejudice and misunderstanding when seeking care. “Letting a virtual stranger into the home can make anyone feel vulnerable and intimidated,” Blom said. “We strive to help caregivers understand what makes an LGBT individual feel the way they feel about seeking care. It’s not about treating them; differently; it’s about inclusivity. It’s about providing comfortable space for our clients and their families to express their needs and desires and to achieve greater peace of mind.
“I tell people, you already serve people who identify as LGBT. If you can help them feel more comfortable and develop a relationship of trust and acceptance, you can provide them with a better plan of care.”
In 2009, Blom played an integral role in developing a TTS training program that addresses caring for LGBT older adults. Although the program started in Minnesota, Blom facilitates LGBT elder care training throughout his community and across the U.S. and Canada. He has presented in session for the National Conference of the American Society on Aging.
“It’s important for caregivers and their clients to create an authentic relationship, which includes sharing information with a caregiver at the level the client is comfortable with,” Blom explained. “Caregivers, for example, may not know that a client’s ‘roommate’ is, in fact, their life partner. An aging family member may move into the home of a son or daughter who belongs to the LGBT community. Understanding these dynamics is critical to improving communication and better meeting a client’s needs.”
Blom also introduced LGBT elder care training to the Right at Home franchise network via their e-learning platform—an online professional care education platform provided by the Right at Home franchise that allows franchise owners, caregivers, and staff members within the organization to learn more about inclusive care. The program is called Gay and Gray: Working With LGBT Older Adults. It is a detailed training curriculum based on research that focuses on the unique issues facing older LGBT adults, including their trepidation in seeking out services. The curriculum explains the concepts of gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, and gender expression, and it dispels LGBT stereotypes.
“I think the fact that Bob and I are a couple can help make the conversation easier about whether a client is part of the LGBT community,” he said.
Is a Right at Home Franchise Right for You?
There’s a rapidly growing need for home care in the U.S. It is estimated that by 2050, nearly 84 million Americans will be age 65 and older. Despite the challenges that most aging adults face, the majority wish to remain in their homes. Right at Home provides the in-home care services that can help make that possible. As a Right at Home franchise owner, you’ll have the ability to make a real impact on your local community.
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