GRAYSLAKE – Mike Steiner knows what he’s getting when he hires a veteran to help him provide care to seniors in their homes.
He knows because he’s a veteran himself and so are many of the seniors he serves.
Steiner has become a Lake County voice for the hiring of veterans, as well as an advocate for seniors and ”age-friendly” communities. Like his father before him, the Lake County native and owner of Right at Home Grayslake served in the U.S. Navy.
He now prioritizes hiring local veterans and said they are the untapped labor market amid a statewide shortage of employees.
“It’s a known entity,” he said of hiring veterans. “I know the training they’ve been involved with. I know the discipline they’ve learned, their dedication to helping others.
“It’s something that’s so cool and makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up when I’m able to assign a veteran caregiver with a client who’s a veteran.”
Opened in 2013 by Steiner, Right at Home Grayslake (www.rightathome.net/northern-lake-county) provides “care partners” to help seniors have the support they need to stay in their homes, whether it’s preparing a meal or providing 24-hour care.
With a team of about 140 employees, the business has 13 clients right now who receive assistance from caregivers daily or several times a week.
“We help them with personal care, showering, companionship, light housekeeping, transportation and medication reminders and making sure they’re eating healthy and following up with any medical appointments,” Steiner said. “It really is a less-expensive option than going to a facility.”
Steiner took a winding path to the business he now calls his dream career.
On active duty in the Navy for four years, he served on the USS Puget Sound in Italy in the Navy.
He also was part of the Navy’s wrestling program, advancing to a championship competition at the United States Military Academy West Point. He went to Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville on a wrestling scholarship before entering the service.
“Wrestling was my life,” he remembered.
He eventually decided to learn computers, and, upon returning home from the Navy, landed a job at Motorola. Eventually given a severance package as the company downsized, he needed to find a new path.
He had helped his family care for his mother, stepmother and great-aunt as they aged and had been introduced to the in-home senior care field.
“I found there was a business that you could make a living at helping others,” he said. “I decided to take the plunge. … I was like, ‘Wow, this just feels so good.’ ”
Since forming the business, Steiner said he’s strived to not only hire fellow veterans but to advocate for both veterans and seniors. Along with hiring veterans, he helps connect them and the senior veterans he serves, as well as their families, with resources.
Steiner serves as co-chair of the legislative committee for the Illinois chapter of the Homecare Association of America and co-chair of the Senior Advocacy Committee for the Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office.
“Several years ago in a seminar they talked about elder abuse, mostly from a financial perspective,” he said. ”I see a lot of that in my business and it just makes my skin crawl because many seniors are vulnerable to get scammed. I wanted to do something about it.”
Steiner helped Grayslake become one of the first dementia-friendly communities in Illinois as part of a Dementia Friendly America initiative that encourages communities across the country to address dementia at a community level. He’s now helping other communities follow suit.
He’s also worked with Grayslake community leaders to help train first responders and others to work with people with dementia and on a movement to make communities “age friendly,” which encompasses everything from transportation, jobs, volunteer opportunities and housing to a general sense of feeling welcome.
“What I really love is my team is just golden,” he said. “It allows me to get involved with so many other extracurricular activities.”
“Helping others, it’s a good way of I think helping yourself, too.”