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50 Innovative Companies to Watch 2021

Redefining the Next-Normal ‘Caring at Home’ Model Sunland Home Care & Medical

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“All people want is hope. It is our goal and mission to give them that.”

Sunland Home Care & Medical provides one-on-one caregivers, companions, or personal care aides to assist their clients with the activities of daily living, from personal care to meal preparation. Sunland Home Care & Medical nurses provide home-based medical care to those individuals who need medical oversight at home. The company is focused on preserving the independence, dignity, and quality of life for aging loved ones who prefer to stay in their own homes.

To highlight and further understand what Sunland Home Care & Medical stands for and seeks to explore in this segment, I sat down with Traci Beagley, who serves as the company’s Chief Executive Officer.

Below is an excerpt.

Q. How did Sunland Home Care & Medical come to the fore? Was there any prior experience that led you to the establishment of the company?

Sunland Home Care & Medical was founded on the principles that those who want to age independently at home should be able to. Over 60 years ago, my great grandfather and grandfather, Joe and Ross Farnsworth, began developing 55+ active adults in Arizona. Later, it changed the entire landscape of the city and state. Thousands of homes were built, and people moved here from all over to retire and enjoy the beautiful Arizona winters.

While building these homes, my father, Craig Ahlstrom, Sr. learned that seniors want to age in their homes safely and independently. It was from this experience that Sunland Home Care & Medical came to be. I had previously started a company, built it up, and sold it. Gaining on this experience as an entrepreneur, I set out to assist seniors in their golden years.Sunland Home Care & Medical was started with the mission of providing peace of mind to seniors and their families and to know that they are safe and cared for while living in their home with caregivers that work one-on-one with the client while in their home.

About two years into the business, it had grown tremendously fast, I was diagnosed with stage-2 breast cancer. I felt completely hopeless and didn’t know if I could beat cancer. I had to step away from the day-to-day affairs of Sunland to take care of myself.

Thankfully after 13 months, I was declared cancer-free. Although it was a challenging time in my life, I have learned lessons about dealing with a debilitating illness, mental health, activities of daily living, working with doctors, and finding out what is most important in life to me. Although I would never wish anyone to go through something this traumatic, I am thankful for the perspective it has given me as I am working in the senior healthcare industry.

Q. Given that Sunland’s mission is focused on preserving the independence, dignity, and quality-of-life for aging or infirm loved ones, how uniquely do you address their needs?

Sunland provides a holistic approach to our care. Not only do we assist with activities of daily living, such as personal hygiene, making meals, transportation, and more, all of our caregivers are trained by an RN and a physical therapist. Our goal is to put a caregiver with our client who is trained to meet the client where they are at and assist them with their care plan goals. All people want is hope. It is our goal and mission to give them that.

Q. What are your focus areas?

One of my core values is to be a continuous learner. As I have developed knowledge over the years about what makes a successful company, a recurring theme stuck with me. It was if you put your employees first, then your customers will be happy. As the Sunland grows, one of my highest priorities is to take care of my team. I know the fragility of life, and people and relationships are the most important to me. If I can genuinely and sincerely make people feel valued and important, then I will feel successful.

Q. Can you provide us with one or two case studies describing the challenges these individual caretakers faced? And how did your solutions help them overcome those challenges?

Recruiting and retaining talented caregivers and nurses is an industry-wide challenge. Economically fragile caregivers is a phrase used by Stephen Tweed, who wrote “Conquering the Caregiver Crisis.” These are people who have unstable financial, food, housing, and transportation needs. Many times, these people are trying to maintain their dignity by disguising their needs.

One of our highest priorities is to take care of our own because that is how we give back to our community. Sunland pays higher than the industry average. Most of our caregivers and nurses frequently deal with grief and loss as part of their job working with aging seniors. We have a bereavement policy that they can use when grieving for a client that has just passed. Sunland has worked with our local Chamber of Commerce during the holidays, in which we have identified some caregivers that may have some special needs, and we have provided those things for them. Many times we have paid rent, mortgages, hotel stays, car repairs, and medical bills. Many of our caregivers are women who are raising children or grandchildren, and I feel it is a responsibility to take care of our own.

Q. How do you plan to transform your company into a future that is unfolding before you?

The future of the healthcare industry is caring at home. After many years of being in the in-home care industry, I noticed a continual problem that most of our clients had. They needed medical care at home. In 2020, we pivoted and started another company, Sunland Medical, which provides home-based medical care. We have a medical director and several RNs that tube feed, administer and manage medications, wound care, and so much more. The goal is to prevent hospital re-admissions which are so prevalent and costly among our seniors. In addition, by having an RN, our patients get their questions answered by a medical professional instead of feeling anxious and alone and going to the emergency room because there is no other option.

As we continue to build and grow both Sunland Home Care & Medical, other ancillary businesses continue to assist seniors in their homes which we will explore. We will continue to provide and create an excellent culture to attract top talent to our company. We already have a caregiver and nurse shortage, and it will continue to become even more problematic, so it is imperative that we continue to stay mission-based in our goals and align ourselves with people who feel the same way.

A Relentlessly Reliable Leader

Traci Beagley is the Founder & CEO of Sunland Home Care and Medical. She is a 4th generation native to Mesa, Arizona. Her great-grandfather and grandfather, Joe and Ross Farnsworth, built the first over 55 active adult community in the East Valley in Arizona in 1958. Since then, her father, Craig Ahlstrom, Sr., has continued building several active adult communities in Mesa. Many of her memories growing up, involve serving and working with seniors. Sixty years later, she is still following in her family legacy.

Traci has lived nearly her entire life in Mesa. She graduated with a Bachelor’s of Interdisciplinary Studies Degree from Arizona State University with an emphasis on Business and Communication. In 2009, Traci opened Accent! Window Treatments. Her entrepreneurial spirit built this company to 5 years of success when it sold in 2014. Then, in 2016, she was ready to start another company, Sunland Home Care. She has been actively involved in all aspects of the business.

It’s clear that her devotion to this special group has never waned. Sunland was awarded ‘A Great Place to Work in 2019’ and 2020 and was named #4 on the Fortune ‘Best Workplaces for Aging Services 2020’. Traci, herself, has been featured in Scottsdale Lifestyle and in Volume-2 of ‘The Know Book Phoenix’, a global group of female entrepreneurs and businesswomen, and was recognized by Healthcare Insights as one of ‘20 Most Influential Health Care Entrepreneurs’ to Watch in 2021 and featured in the ‘Top 100 U.S. Business Leaders Magazine’ in 2021. She was also named the ‘2021 Honorary Bat Girl’ by Major League Baseball and the Arizona Diamondbacks for her fight against breast cancer.

“One of our core values is innovation, and by that, we are continuously searching for ways to show our team members how much we appreciate them and to connect with them.”