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The right Choice for many seniors

Lodi private in-home care service flourishes

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Posted: Tuesday, July 26, 2011 12:00 am | Updated: 12:35 pm, Mon Jul 29, 2013.

Ernest “Ernie” Barry crossed his arms and looked warily at Brenda Lowe.

He seemed to question her motives as she tried to get him to lift his legs up and out from his wheelchair to keep his blood circulation going.

The routine is nothing new. In fact, it is the same routine Lowe and Barry have been doing every Monday, Wednesday and Friday since Christmas.

“I never do anything that will surprise him,” Lowe said. “The routine helps him, I think. He has some semblance of knowing what comes next.”

Barry suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, but until about six months ago could still function fairly well on his own.

But once the holidays came around, things changed drastically, his son-in-law Joe Silva said.

“It was overnight,” he said. “He suddenly became very disoriented. He couldn’t walk or eat on his own. He went from being this smart, handsome man who wore suits to sitting and napping in his wheelchair most of the day.”

Silva and his wife, Diana, who have four children, realized they could not take care of Barry by themselves.

So, they turned to Senior’s Choice.

Silva had met Susie Klusman in a business group where they are both members. Her husband, Phalin, started Senior’s Choice, Lodi’s only in-home care provider for seniors or those who are going through rehabilitation.

“I will admit my father was reluctant to use any type of service at first,” Diana Silva said. “You lose some of your independence. But he had been living with us for a while and with four kids, I was at capacity.”

Senior’s Choice, which is celebrating its 10-year anniversary Tuesday, prides itself on its ability to maintain strong relationships with its clients as well as grow in a tough economy.

The company, started by Phalin Klusman after he decided he wanted to be his own boss, has certainly seen its fair share of difficulties.

Klusman, who had worked in the health industry both as an emergency medical technician and as a corporate instructor for the Red Cross, said he had worked on the “extreme ends of the health care continuum.”

When he discovered that Lodi Memorial Hospital’s home care unit had been hit hard by the economy and had laid off many of its employees, Klusman knew his idea of a private home health care business could flourish.

He began his company in his one-bedroom apartment, setting up a small office space for his office manager near his front door.

But after a year, business was growing so quickly, Klusman said it was time to find a real office space. When he started renting an office in the Lakeshore Professional System on Kettleman Way and Mills Road, Klusman said the space seemed too large for his small company at the time.

Business continued to boom, even when Klusman suffered a major accident paintballing in October 2005. His wife, Susie, had to take over until Klusman’s body healed — a process that kept him out of the office for two years.

In early 2008, the economy hit Senior’s Choice, and Klusman said things began to look bleak.

“There was nothing we could do,” he said. “But after a while, we became the only business that covered the hinterlands — Galt, Herald, places out in the boonies. That is what kind of brought us back.”

The caregivers’ attention to detail when taking care of patients was what stood out to Penny Beckman, whose mother used the service from August 2010, when she was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, until she passed away in October 2010.

“Mom called (her caregivers) her ‘girls,’” she said. “They catered to her, knew how to cook even her oatmeal. I’d even say they pampered her.”

The Klusmans are “the perfect owners” for they type of business they own, said Pat Patrick, CEO and president of the Chamber of Commerce.

“I am certainly am glad they are here ...” he said. “They are extremely caring and honestly just loving people.”

Contact reporter Katie Nelson at katien@lodinews.com.

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