Welcome to the Healthcare CEO podcast. Join us as Daniel Fernandez, healthcare leader and patient experience advocate leads dynamic one-on-one discussions with healthcare executives, consultants, and other industry experts. Listen in as they share actionable insights and unique perspectives into the day in the life of a healthcare CEO.
*The following has been adapted from our full-length interview, which can be found here.
Meet Kris Chana
Kris is the founder and CEO of Chelsea Place Senior Care, providing senior care with a range of solutions for assisted living, home care, and daytime care. His purpose in life is to help families navigate the complex world of senior care and to transform the lives of our aging population. He’s been in the industry for almost a decade, yet he’s still one of the youngest CEOs in healthcare at 32 years of age.
Getting Started Young
Daniel Fernandez (DF): A lot of people may go into healthcare thinking that it’s going to be lucrative. But you’ve really had to hustle. And that reflects a passion for what you do — especially to get to the point where you’re at today, now having become a thriving, booming senior care solution provider.
Kris Chana (KC): I definitely have a passion for it, and there aren’t a lot of young people getting involved in this industry. That in itself has been a catalyst to move forward, because this is so important as we move into the next 30 and 40 years.
DF: What was it like getting started, being such a young person taking care of seniors?
KC: People didn’t understand why. We started with our little assisted living facility. We didn’t have a lot of backing. We moved into it and stayed there for three and a half years. Did everything from caregiving to cleaning — every job you could possibly imagine. I’d put a suit on in the morning, help some residents get up for the day, help with the shower, make them a meal, then go out and do marketing. It was a completely surreal experience. Looking back, it’s always my reminder of a humble beginning, and never losing touch with what that was like. Especially knowing what it takes for our team to actually take care of people, and care for our residents, and all the seniors that we care for on a daily basis.
DF: Do you think being involved in the day-to-day operations on the front lines like you were early on, gave you an appreciation for the team around you today?
KC: A hundred percent. Because I did everything, when they have a story, I can totally understand. The level of empathy I can have towards what they’re going through is something that’s so valuable because if you didn’t know what it was like to do their roles, it would be like sitting on an ivory tower and making decisions. It has to be hard to be an investor or being a large organization where the management team hasn’t had to put themselves in those shoes. How can you manage or invest in a company in senior care if you don’t really know what it’s like on the ground floor?
Disrupting the Senior Care Industry
DF: Speaking of investors, this is an interesting thing I read the other day: Reddit co-founder, Alexis Ohanian, predicts there’s going to be a major change in senior living over the next decade. He thinks that new change will be led by disruptors. And I would certainly consider yourself as a disruptor in this space.
KC: I’m fighting that battle every day. ‘Cause everyone’s so used to the status quo. We’re trying to switch it up a little bit.
DF: You are very much challenging the status quo. Tell us a little bit about the daytime care you provide. That’s one of those unique features in your company.
KC: When looking at what would be our next step — how we’d continue to grow — we looked at opening other assisted living facilities, but we came across several people specifically asking for respite care/daytime care. I hadn’t looked into it all that much, but when people started asking about it, we explored the option. We looked into what daycare centers were like. What exists out there? What options do families have? I was appalled by the options that existed. I thought, there’s gotta be a better way. There has to be a better experience for these families. What I learned was that the majority of adult daycare centers are Medicaid funded. Because of that, they’re limited when it comes to financial freedom to create an experience for people. What ends up happening is that you end up attracting a lot of Medicaid participants instead of private payors. You can’t provide the services that private payors might want to be serviced.
We saw this opportunity where the cost of care is so great. Bringing someone into your home for one-on-one care over the years is so expensive. How can you bring the cost of care down, but increase the value you are giving to seniors and create an option for families?
When we opened a senior daycare center — it’s licensed for 60 people — our entire focus at that center is to create an incredible social experience for our members who come every day. Really give them a reason and a purpose, and a meaningful life. A reason to live.
DF: When I was learning about your brand, the one thing that stood out for me was the experience that you guys are creating. Typically, when I think of the senior living experience or any sort of daycare environment, I think of wood paneling and dated carpet and things like that. But your facilities aren’t like that. You’ve created an environment where they can thrive — not just survive.
KC: The mindset of the past has been to just provide a place where people can be safe. Ours is to create an environment where these family members, when they go pick up their loved one, mom and dad are like: “We’re not ready to go. We wanna stay.” If that’s the kind of experience we’re creating for people, then I know we’re doing the right thing.
I’ve tried to put myself in the shoes of someone who attends our centers. For a moment, think of yourself as being 85 years old, all your friends are gone — they’ve either passed away or are no longer near you — you don’t have the ability to just go downtown. You have to rely on others. And you wake up and you’re by yourself, you have nothing to do. Who are you gonna call? Family’s all out of state. What is your purpose anymore? What’s the point to life anymore? So I put myself in that scenario, only looking forward to Christmas or small moments with family. Nothing on a daily basis. So I want to give someone an experience at our centers, where, in the morning, they cannot wait to get up, they cannot wait to go to the center for the day, and see their friends and have fun, and be connected with people. There’s no greater gift. It’s literally one of the coolest experiences.
Redesigning Adult Day Care
DF: In the same manner you put yourself in your seniors’ shoes, I put myself in our listeners’ place, and they’re gonna want to know, what is daycare? There’s maybe not a lot of information out there about that. Most people aren’t familiar with it. So can you explain what adult daycare is?
KC: It’s the perfect solution for families who need caregiving during the daytime for someone. I hate to compare it to a child daycare center because we’re not treating people like that. But at the end of the day, you have families who are caring for mom and dad, families who are caring for their spouse, and because of maybe safety or concerns of leaving them alone at home, they need their loved ones to be in a safe environment. And they have two options: You can choose homecare, where someone comes into your home and they can sit with that person, or you can choose a daycare center. We’re open Mondays through Fridays, 8 am to 5 pm, and Saturdays 9 am to 4 pm. We provide transportation to and from people’s homes or their loved ones can drop them off for the day. They can stay for a couple of hours or they can stay all day. There’s no minimum amount of time they need to stay. We provide that break for families so they can do the things they need to do.
DF: Because of this global pandemic, we’ve all experienced what it’s like to be isolated. Do you think that it’s given us more empathy towards our seniors? Because a lot of them tend to become more isolated as they age. We all have this need to interact with each other, and they do as well.
KC: I think it’s compounded it. You put isolation on top of COVID and comorbidities that people have. At the end of the day, having a will to live makes all the difference in the world. If you don’t have that will to live anymore, all of those things are gonna take you out. The isolation factor eliminates the will. When I think of my grandpa, for instance. He passed away in May. The whole reason was because they shut down his entire living community. He had no one to talk to or communicate with on a daily basis. He couldn’t go and visit them at lunchtime or dinner time. He became isolated and depressed, and ended up passing away. He had stopped eating. He just didn’t have a will to live anymore. And it was just crazy to see someone who was perfectly healthy all of a sudden give up on life.
DF: That has been an unfortunate byproduct of this crazy year.
KC: It’s tough. That’s why there’s been such a focus on how to keep people safe and mitigate this COVID issue, but at the same time give people something to look forward to every day. Being connected to others. Things like that.
DF: What are some of the fun activities that you guys offer?
KC: Everything you could possibly imagine! It kind of reminds me of a cruise ship. Every 30 minutes to every hour we have a new thing going on. A lot of times we’ll have multiple activities going on. Different tables with groups of people, live music every day, catered meals, dancing, and singing, we have themed parties every week. A lot of times, families get into it, too. They look at their loved ones dressed up in whatever theme that week, and it’s cool, because they’re all taking pictures and posting them on social media. They’ll be dressed up as a pirate or a 1960s theme. It’s just a lot of fun. What’s cool about the center is that our entire focus is on having fun. In other environments, there are a lot of logistics about care concerns. And we provide care in our centers, but our entire mission — our entire focus — is to have fun.
Baby Boomers and Social Media
DF: You just alluded to the fact that people will have fun and then upload some stuff to social media. This is something I learned recently. There are 10,000 Baby Boomers retiring every single day in the US. And they are more engaged with digital platforms. My mom will jump on Facebook — she’s in her 70s — and comment and things of that nature. They’re utilizing smartphones more than ever. So they’re definitely more engaged with digital platforms.
KC: I have two residents who friended me on Facebook. They live in our facility. Now they comment and like everything. I gotta be careful of what I post now.
DF: Yeah! I think one of the most interesting things is what you’re doing with leveraging your own social channels to engage with seniors. I ran across the Chelsea Place YouTube channel, and it’s just amazing.
KC: I appreciate it, man. Thank you!
DF: How did this idea come about?
KC: That kind of inspiration for all these different industries — a landscaping company with 250K subscribers — and I’m like: “What? You’re just mowing lawns!” But people like that and digest this content. But there was nothing in senior care. And what I noticed when I would watch these landscaping videos — I was searching for videos, like construction and septic tanks — Like this one guy I follow, he has like 100K followers, and all he does is septic tanks. And in the comments sections, you would have these young, aspiring entrepreneurs using that content. It was exciting them about the industry. And they’re asking questions and they’re trying to learn, and they’re seeing the behind-the-scenes of these operations. And I just felt like, what a way for us to — over time — build an audience of young entrepreneurs, showing them the logistics of what we do. What our ideas are, what we’re doing, and helping to attract people in a fun and exciting way to an industry that doesn’t seem fun and exciting.
DF: I think that’s one of the most fascinating things. We talked earlier about how you’re being disruptive. Who would’ve thought that a company that does senior care would have as many followers as you do on social media? I think that’s impressive.
KC: Someone will message us or leave a comment, and it’s those little nuggets that keep us going. There are so many people out there who want to see this content. I would love to inspire more people to get involved in this field. And we can show them behind-the-scenes, and what it’s all about, and get them excited, there’d be nothing more rewarding.
DF: Now, you have some interesting content on your YouTube channel. What are some of your favorite stories that you’ve published?
KC: We have a variety of things. But my favorite for sure, we took Lee — she’s about 70 — we took her on a parasailing adventure. It was something she’d never done before. We documented the whole journey. We surprised her about it, and she had the time of her life. She told her daughter that it was her favorite day of her entire life. When you do that for someone, at that age, she had a smile for days. It’s amazing.
And we took one of our residents on a ride. We rented a convertible Mustang on a beautiful sunny Florida day. Things like that. We have some crazy things planned — some other adventures we’re going to be doing. We got an airplane ride. We did an airboat ride the other day. That was cool.
Fostering that Sense of Fun Within the Company Culture
DF: We have healthcare executives, CEOs, and physicians listening. I think one of the beautiful things is that yes, the seniors are having a great time and you’re engaging all of them. But this seems also like it would be a very good thing for your internal culture, too.
KC: Yes. 100%. We actually threw a launch party. Invited all of our team to join us, and be a part of this. We want our team to be involved in it, too. Of course, some get camera shy. But at the end of the day, they get to see how we feel about the industry. They get to see the real, authentic stuff we want to do for people. It really does help create the right kind of culture. It helps make the work more exciting, more meaningful for them, because they know we’re making a difference in people’s lives. And they can actually see it and be a part of the experience.
DF: That’s been echoed by many of our guests. Leaders conveying more of their authentic selves. And they’re doing it in different ways. But you’re on the next level of authenticity.
KC: I’m trying! Like today, we had a massive issue with our plumbing — which is part of the joys of owning your own business. I wish it was all fun stuff, when you’re an entrepreneur, you’re always facing all these crazy challenges and figuring out how to solve them. Whether it’s operations, marketing, billing — there’s such a variety of things, you have to learn how to figure out. Owning a business is very complex.
DF: It’s never linear. It’s a roller coaster.
KC: That’s a very true statement. It’s learning to appreciate those highs and lows and the entire journey.
Life Lessons to Live By
DF: Few closing thoughts. It is said that leaders are readers. What’s your favorite book?
KC: I have come to really love Patrick Bet-David. I don’t know if you’re familiar with him. He’s someone I came across maybe about two years ago. He has a lot of educational content on YouTube, and he’s very methodical. His book is called Your Next Five Moves. He’s taught me more about business than anyone — as far as mentorship is concerned. Great guy and a lot of great information.
DF: What’s your favorite quote?
KC: I love Napoleon Hill. “Whatever the mind can conceive, it can achieve.” I love the principle behind it. You set your mind to something — you have a dream, a vision, an idea — believing in yourself, having the confidence, believing in the idea so much, that you look past the failures and all the reasons why it may not work, because you truly believe in it, and just pursuing it until you see it through.
DF: 2020 was a trying year for everyone on this planet. There’s no question. What has it taught you?
KC: To slow down. I just want to get to the end goal as fast as possible. Sometimes, the hard thing is realizing that there are steps to a process. You can’t go from the beginning to the end overnight. You have to lay the foundation along the way. So when you build on top of it, you’re continuing to create a strong organization. We really took a step back this past year to hone in on in-house training, laying some foundations and principles and putting into place a more robust platform to keep our team and culture strong and keep everyone on the same page — our mission and our vision and what we’re trying to accomplish. Taking a breather. Taking a second to slow down and really focus on the foundations.
DF: What would you tell the CEO, founder, physician, the person listening right now, as closing thoughts?
KC: I would encourage anyone in this industry — whatever age, whatever role — from a senior care perspective, we need all the talent we can get. And a lot of that talent can be about excitement, inspiration, and energy that flows into actual care for people. Band together as a group and find ways to inspire people to get into this field. Maybe explore and pursue a passion and idea in senior care. Not as much as technology-focused but care model-focused. Senior living, senior housing options. Inspiring more younger people. How can we do that? What can we do to inspire younger people to get involved in senior care? Because when I go to these conferences and I see 40-year-olds, 45-year-olds — that’s 95% of the population there — what happens when they’re all in our facilities and we’re caring for them? Who’s going to be running these organizations? Who’s going to be making these executive decisions and coming up with these new ideas to meet the care needs of an ever-growing population of people?
Learn More about How Kris Chana and Other Healthcare Leaders Are Shaping the Future of Healthcare
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