By Kat Halfman
GREEN BAY – For Home Instead Green Bay owner Steve Nooyen, his mission to help Wisconsin seniors live safely and comfortably from home runs deep.
He started Wisconsin’s first Home Instead branch in 1997, after he and his family struggled to care for his grandfather and family patriarch, Al DeCleene, when he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
Through his personal experiences, Nooyen said he wanted to help older adults stay “home instead,” providing older adults, like his grandfather, and their families more options as they cope with the challenges of aging at home.
“There wasn’t a lot of what we now call non-medical caregiving, so initially the mission was to just see if caregiving for seniors had the legs, if you will,” he said.
Nooyen partnered with Home Instead in Nebraska, and credits his wife Kristi with helping get things off the ground by offering unconditional support.
“Kristi has never been a part of the day-to-day functions of the company, but none of this would have been possible without her allowing me to quit my paying job,” he said. “The summer of 1996, I was in my 20’s and we had two children – a one-year-old and a three-year-old – and if she hadn’t said, ‘go for it, I trust you,’ I wouldn’t have. So I have to give her a lot of credit for supporting me and making this possible.”
Twenty-five years later, Home Instead has franchises across Wisconsin — in Green Bay, Appleton, Burlington, Cedarburg, Madison, Racine/Kenosha, Sheboygan and Stevens Point, with satellite offices in Oshkosh and Sturgeon Bay – and employs approximately 850 full- and part-time employees.
Today, Nooyen said his group of Home Instead franchises is among the highest performing of the 600-plus North American franchise groups.
Home Instead offers customized senior home care services – from Alzheimer’s and dementia care to help around the home – so older adults can stay safe at home, whether it’s a few hours a week or 24/7 care.
Home Instead assists with elder care, chronic illness care, home care assistance, in-home care and end-of-life care, among others.
Shift in focus
While retaining 100% ownership, around 2002, Nooyen stepped down as CEO and company president in order to focus on giving back to the community through nonprofit organizations, such as Wheelchair Whitetails, Challenge the Outdoors and Global Brigades/Eskala.
Nooyen said his time helping find care for seniors changed his perspective on life and business.
“Someone might say, ‘I love the Green Bay Packers,’ or ‘I love fishing,’ but the idea behind love (as a) verb is how we treat others, which is with patience, kindness, humility, selflessness, respectfulness, forgiveness, honesty and commitment,” he said. “It’s kind of weird because we’re in the senior care industry, that’s what we do, and we’re very good at it. But our actual purpose as a company is to teach others about love the verb.”
So how do Home Instead and We Care Senior Care, Inc. accomplish this?
Nooyen said there are two aspects to the company, the for-profit side and the nonprofit side. While his goals at age 20 were to start a company by the time he was 30 and sell it by the time he was 50, he said his years of life experience taught him that he was interested in more than just profit.
“I began to more formally acknowledge the role of God in my life, and God’s role in the company,” he said. “By honoring God as CEO, which I began to do, the mission of the company transformed from just a business experiment to our core purpose, which is now to teach others about love as a verb.”
When Nooyen began focusing more on the nonprofit aspect of the company, he hired an executive leadership team headed by Albert Selker.
“It’s kind of a Robin Hood factor, although that’s not exactly what we do,” he said. “I’m taking money from my own company, which is for-profit, and giving it to nonprofits.”
Just as he was inspired by his grandfather to start Home Instead, Nooyen said a friend of his was the inspiration behind Wheelchair Whitetails.
“I had a friend who was wheelchair-bound just about from birth because he had spina bifida,” he said. “It always dawned on me that it was unfair that I was able to go out into nature and enjoy it, while he was stuck in his chair, only able to look. So we started doing adventures together as we got older, and as I had more financial resources, I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to create a place that he could explore like an able-bodied person?’ – and that’s what we aim to do.”
In 2021, the Home Instead brand was purchased by Honor Technology, the world’s largest home care network, in a bid to revolutionize care – which Nooyen said he hopes will help with one of the biggest challenges the senior care industry faces – paying CarePros enough, while keeping costs low for seniors.
Another one of the biggest challenges Nooyen said he’s faced in the senior care industry is preparing for the needs of each generation as they hit the age where they need full-time care.
“It’s been kind of an uphill battle as we position the company for what we expect to be an incredible wave of need,” he said. “So it’s always a supply versus demand – supply in the form of having enough CarePros to meet the demands of the current population of seniors, but more importantly, the baby boomer population, which is going to flood the market in the next 20 years.”
Nooyen said over the years, his proudest moment is the transition the company has been lucky enough to make.
“The hallmark event in the company’s history has been the transition from just a business venture, to see if I could lead a company, to what it became,” he said, “which is a ministry that focuses on teaching our concept of love as a verb, with those eight attributes.”