The Sandwich Generation has it tough. Middle-aged people are often faced with the task of caring for young children or teens while simultaneously helping their ageing parents, all while in the prime of their careers. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day to deal with all the demands.
But for the ultra wealthy, also known as “high net worth individuals,” there is the option of trading money for precious time.
Joanna Gordon Martin, pictured at right, a former high-powered consultant and marketing executive in the pharmaceutical industry, has founded a company called Theia Senior Solutions that aims to relieve some of the burden from the Sandwich Generation.
She is a member of that generation herself. Martin, who is married to state Department of Environmental Protection director Bob Martin, has two children at home and a mother who is in declining health.
Martin grew up in Upper Saddle River before moving to Switzerland at age 10. Her father, who ran a commercial airline, died when she was young. Her mother, a homemaker, remarried to a New York oncologist who died 10 years ago. “He was one of my very best friends and mentors,” Martin says. “He certainly had a lot of influence on my career path.”
Martin graduated from Boston College and later earned an MBA from Wharton while working and caring for her young daughter. Most of her career has been in the biotech sector. She moved to Princeton 20 years ago to work in the marketing office of Bristol-Myers Squibb, where she was in charge of the global launch of the antidepressant/antipsychotic drug Abilify. “It was the most successful launch of a drug the company has ever had,” she says.
She left BMS to work for the startup Celgene, which at the time had 400 employees. Martin says she was willing to leave a promising, stable job at a large company because she liked the idea of getting in on the ground floor of a smaller company. Furthermore, Celgene was working on a treatment for multiple myeloma, the disease that killed her father.
She stayed at Celgene as head of global marketing for the hematology division. In the six years she worked there, Celgene grew 10-fold. Better still, Celgene helped to improve the treatment of multiple myeloma to the point where it is now a chronic disease that people can survive for decades, rather than a death sentence.
Some of Martin’s compensation came in the form of stock, and since the company was taking off, she was able to leave her tenure there with no worries about her own finances. “It put me in a position where, as a parent, I can say now that my kids are limited only by their abilities when it comes to education.”
In 2010 Martin set off to found her own company. Her consulting firm, JL Gordon Associates, advised venture capitalists and helped out biotech startup companies that needed executive talent to help them grow. But even as Martin enjoyed the success of her own company, she had to deal with a problem at home. Her mother’s health was beginning to decline.
“Cognitively, she was in terrific shape, but she was starting to deal with joint disrepair,” Martin says. Martin was all too familiar with what can happen to people as they age, thanks to her experience in the biotech industry and from being the stepdaughter of a physician. “The risk of her taking a fall was not low, and once that fall occurred, life was going to change for everyone.”
Martin soon became overwhelmed by the task of finding caretakers. She was used to delegating important tasks to trusted professionals: her family’s taxes and finances, for instance, were handled by accountants and advisors.
She and her husband were both busy career professionals, and neither had time to do all the myriad tasks that were inevitable. Furthermore, her mother lived in Florida, so she would be hard to visit on a regular basis. The best choice seemed to be to get professional help in this case, too. But whom to trust?
Martin found that some of the people in the senior services industry had conflicts of interest. For example, advisors were getting kickbacks from senior facilities for placing residents there. State agencies she called for guidance never got back to her. She wanted to hire someone who would be paid only by her, so that there would be no question about where their loyalty lay.
The kind of company she wanted to hire, it turned out, didn’t exist. And that’s what convinced Martin it was time to walk away from her successful consultancy and found Theia, a concierge senior care service for very high net-worth individuals.
Theia is named after the Greek goddess of light and clarity. The name has personal meaning for Martin, because her mother, a classics major, often read her Greek myths as a child. The typical Theia client is someone in his or her late 30s to late 50s who has to care for a parent. A growing clientele, however, is people who are in their 60s to 70s and are in good health, but who want to plan for their own futures. “We are trusted advisors who give our clients a holistic view,” Martin says.
The company has eight full-time employees in its office, which it shares with the Edison Partners venture capital firm. It also hires contractors to meet the needs of its clients, which are more diverse than what a typical senior care firm would do.
Theia does all the typical things, like keep track of medical records and coordinate care. Where the service earns the title “concierge eldercare services” is by offering a 24-hour line where clients can get any kind of service at any time.
The service starts with the creation of a customized strategic plan. Beyond coordinating care, Theia will send patient advocates is the client is hospitalized. It also digitizes all medical records and puts them on a HIPPA-compliant secure cloud server so the client can access them at any time. It also provides the same records to the senior, but in a paper binder rather than in digital form.
Theia even partners with younger people to offer companionship to the senior clients. In one case, they arranged to have a graduate student from a local university visit a senior to discuss his thesis.
The service continues if the senior enters hospice care, and Theia will even help with funeral arrangements.
Throughout, Theia emphasizes warm and friendly interactions with the clients. Martin says the clients have compared their staff to friends of their own children. “We don’t want this to be sterile or difficult,” Martin says. “People who are approaching a vulnerable part of their lives need an advisor who can be a quarterback for them.”
While Martin plans to grow Theia at a moderate pace, she expects it to become a nationwide service at some point. She also plans to offer a service at a mid-range level, based on the cloud medical record platform Theia has developed.
Martin recommend that anyone with ageing parents begin to make plans as early as possible, since arranging things ahead of time will make everything go more smoothly and be less costly than if done during a crisis.
The cost of Theia’s services can vary depending on what is needed. Martin said that while it’s not cheap, it does ensure that someone will be looking out for the client instead of some other interest.
“We are strictly fee-based and don’t accept any kind of kickbacks whatsoever,” she says. “We work for your family, and any recommendations made are exclusively made if they are what’s best for your family.”
Theia Senior Solutions, 281 Witherspoon Street, Suite 300, Princeton 08540. 844-843-4200. Joanna Gordon Martin, founder. www.theiaseniorsolutions.com.
#b#Ten Questions for Seniors#/b#
Theia has compiled a list of ten questions you should be asking as you age. Company founder Joanna Gordon Martin says asking these questions sooner rather than later can end up averting trouble and saving money in the long run.
1. How and where would you like to age?
2. Have you had a conversation with your family about aging?
3. Are you having any trouble maintaining the homes you own with your current help?
4. Are you concerned with your ability to care for your spouse as you both age?
5. Do you expect your family members to act as your caregivers?
6. If you had a medical emergency, could someone locate all of your critical documents quickly?
7. Do you have an identified patient advocate should you become ill?
8. Do you have advanced directives already in place?
9. Do those closest to you know your end of life wishes?
10. Have you consulted with anyone to help you navigate long-term care or other eldercare resources?