Published November 18, 2008
Volume 16, Number 11

Lou Ann Mowry Touches Many Lives with All Seasons Homecare

By Nicole Zaro Stahl

We’ve all heard the old saying, “When one door closes, another one opens.” For Lou Ann Mowry, now president and chief executive of All Seasons Homecare, that adage became a tangible reality back in 2007 when her employer of five years suddenly shut down the business. A licensed respiratory therapist, Mowry had moved into business development for a provider of caregiver services and relished her role helping seniors remain independent at home. But that fateful day the joy evaporated. The shuttered doors not only left workers unpaid but also stranded dozens of clients who counted on the company for their daily care. 

“It was a traumatic, frustrating time,” Mowry remembers. “I couldn’t believe the owners would just close the doors without notice, especially when so many people depended on their help. And the families, many of them adult children living outside the Bay Area, or even out of state, looked to me for answers.  I was receiving phone calls at all hours of the day from clients seeking help and asking what the next step should be.” 

So, like many an entrepreneur who spies opportunity in the midst of adversity, Mowry set to work figuring out how to turn the lemons into lemonade. “This unfortunate scenario prompted me to reevaluate the experience and knowledge I had acquired over the past several years,” she says.  She came to the realization that her passion was in homecare and helping others remain independent as long as possible. “I knew I had the desire and drive to be successful, and therefore All Seasons Homecare was born!”

The Opening    
The door to the new company’s headquarters at 5673 W. Las Positas Blvd. opened literally in June 2007, simultaneous with offices in Santa Clara and Walnut Creek. Now All Seasons is positioned to provide a wide swath of the Bay Area with non-medical caregivers for seniors who are comfortable in their own homes but need extra help due to illness, injury, or a chronic condition. 

“My head was spinning initially for the first year,” getting systems in place and building a business identity, Mowry recalls. Although she enjoyed favorable name recognition on her own, now she was representing an entire company, in a very competitive environment. “When you walk into a care facility to introduce yourself, you might see a brochure-holder with information from dozens of different companies,” she observes. Sometimes the brochures are the product of a solo operation started in a home office, but the competition can just as easily be a large national outfit. Regardless of the size of her rivals, Mowry finds the word-of-mouth generated by her 10-year relationships in the industry to be one of her best marketing tools. Her sensitivity, enhanced by her own clinical experience, is another.

The first encounter with clients usually occurs in a crisis situation, for instance a senior about to be discharged from a rehab facility after a stroke. Clients are often fearful about going home on their own, or putting too much of a burden on their spouse.  An adult child, often hundreds of miles away, typically initiates the search for homecare. When the call comes in, Mowry frequently makes “a U-turn on the entire day’s plans.” 

“I’m off to the hospital to work with the family and the discharge or care coordinator. We all usually shift into high gear, because the discharge happens without much notice. I sit down with the family to identify the needs—bathing, dressing, light housekeeping, companionship for safety supervision. Then we talk about the options, for example, whether a live-in or hourly caregiver is more appropriate.”

Mowry takes seriously the responsibility of matching a caregiver’s skills and personality with those of the client. “No matter what the scenario, homecare is not something that everyone can do,” she stresses. Caregiver screening includes fingerprinting and a criminal background check with the Department of Justice. All Seasons employees are insured, bonded, and covered by workers compensation. Clients can sometimes be resistant to strangers, so tact and compassion are essential.

Expanding Early Horizons
Although she has always been involved in healthcare, starting her own business was not one of Mowry’s original aspirations. She had her first exposure to the medical field growing up in Charleston, West Virginia. Her grandmother, a nurse, later developed a breathing disorder that required oxygen, an indelible experience that left Mowry with a strong desire to help. In high school she talked to a hospital representative about the various career options available. In college she trained to become a respiratory care practitioner, or RCP. On graduation, she worked at the University of Charleston’s trauma center, a fast-paced teaching environment.

Although she thrived on the constant challenges, it wasn’t long before she was lured to California to continue a long-distance relationship with Bill Mowry, whom she had met “over chicken wings and champagne” when they were both in the wedding party of a childhood friend in Charleston. In the Bay Area, she worked at Stanford Hospital as an RCP, then moved into the home setting, instructing individuals on how to use oxygen, ventilators, and other respiratory devices. She enjoyed this new environment, where every situation was different, often understood only after listening carefully to the concerns of her charges. “Even though I had been in the respiratory field for years,” she says, “in homecare there was never a cookie-cutter approach. It was always a question of what works best for the individual.”

After 14 years with the respiratory company she decided to expand her skills by earning the professional designation of Certified Senior Advisor. Throughout the years her husband Bill has offered steady encouragement as she moved forward on her professional path. “He knew I had the skills and the passion, the relationships and tenure in the field, so he was a key influence in my starting the business,” she comments. The final piece was a partnership with Edd Ozard, of Hacienda’s PacWest Solutions, who brings operational and financial expertise to his post as All Seasons’ CFO. “We were compliant, competitive, and competent the first day our doors opened,” Mowry remarks.

Touching Lives
Mowry and her husband, who will celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary next April, have two daughters, one in high school and the other in fifth grade. During the week she is an efficient working mother. “My day starts around 5:30 on the exercise bike. Then I make my girls’ lunches and walk the dog before they leave for school,” she relates.

Downtime, scarce since the new business, is mostly reserved for family, cheering at soccer matches or serving Thanksgiving dinner at a community center. “I did have the privilege of going to Maui with my family last year,” she says. “It was so nice!” They also recharge by going back “home” for a dose of West Virginia hospitality. Noting that it is “important for my girls to see the environment I grew up in,” Mowry would be hard-pressed to leave the West Coast, especially because of the life she has carved for herself locally. 

“I am one of the fortunate individuals who truly enjoys getting up every day for work, because it isn't work to me,” she reflects. “It’s a pleasure and a privilege to touch so many lives.”

For more information, call (925) 226-2884or visit www.allseasons-homecare.com.


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