A Plan for the Ages

Connie Hintsala's eldercare placement service doesn't charge her clients a dime, but her business is thriving.

TRAVERSE CITY – Sometimes you find a job. And sometimes the job finds you.

Connie Hintsala had no intentions of starting her own business. She was perfectly happy working in sales and administration, particularly when it involved working with the elderly.

Fate stepped in when she met a man with an idea: helping people look for adult foster care. The idea made sense to her, though it wasn't something she ran with right away. But after working in the industry, meeting some of the players and learning about the challenges and pitfalls, she took the leap.

The result is the Senior Housing Alliance, a resource for people who themselves need some sort of assisted living, or have family members that do. "I started in May of 2000 with nothing – no money, no loan, no business plan, just a car, a phone and an idea," Hintsala says.

Time has proven her leap was a good one. Hintsala's Alliance has expanded into four neighboring counties and is in the process of hiring additional staff. The needs of the elderly and their families, as well as Hintsala's level of service certainly deserve credit for her business' success, but her unique business model cannot be overlooked. Her service is absolutely free to her clients.

How does she manage such a unique equation?

"I'm compensated through the homes registered with me," she explains. There is no out-of-pocket expense for those utilizing her services, and what's more, the homes are contracted not to charge any of her clients more if they've used Hintsala's service.

Hintsala says her process is basically two parts. "First I find out their likes and dislikes, see their current living environment, and find out about their finances," she says. Based on that, she narrows her list of potential homes from her list to a more manageable number that she thinks will fit the client's needs and wants.

"The second part is to actually show them the homes, so they can see them for themselves. Then they select where to go."

Paul and Pam Boesen of Traverse City have used Hintsala's service for both their moms, and on multiple occasions.

"She has been a big help," Paul says. "In fact, we just used her again. Pam's mom is having some dementia, and we needed to find someplace with accelerated dementia care. We just called her and said our needs have changed."

Boesen says Hinstala's search method suits them well. "Her process is to interview the subject that's going to be moved and us as well, to determine their strengths and needs. With us, I think she picked out three or four homes and took us on a tour. Then we were able to choose which one worked best for us."

Hintsala currently works with more than 70 homes in the Traverse City area, and she also works with Leelanau, Benzie, and Antrim Counties. She is also expanding into Wexford County, and has just hired another person to work with her.

As if that wasn't enough, Hintsala has also chaired the Senior Expo the last three years, and coordinated the Parade of Senior Homes.

It's all in a day's work for her.

"When I was in high school I volunteered in a nursing home," Hintsala says, "and I've volunteered at hospitals. It's always been an interest." BN

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