Care with Compassion
Sue Heinle recognized early on that her role has always seemed to be the “family caregiver,” and she’s just fine with that because nothing gives her more satisfaction than caring for others.
In her professional role as the president and CEO of two Visiting Angels franchises, she gets to, as she said, “help people live happy and safe in their own home! How cool is that!”
This married York native who is mom to five and a “very lucky Mimi” to one grandson has been working in the home health and hospice field since 1987 and is an RN and a BSN, graduating from York College of Pennsylvania in 1982.
“I found my passion — caring for individuals at home and most especially the elderly,” Heinle said.
Coming from a family of entrepreneurs, she always knew she would someday have her own business but wasn’t sure what that would be.
“In 2001, I recognized that a new care-delivery opportunity was developing in the home care arena due to changes in Medicare reimbursement,” she said.
It wouldn’t be long before she would become a big part of that development.
Heinle defined home care as care that is considered nonmedical, which includes assistance with bathing, dressing, toileting, meal preparation, and laundry.
“This type of care is typically offered by nursing assistants or companions,” she said.
Home health and hospice is considered medical care, provided by nurses, physical/occupational therapists, and social workers.
It was in 2002 that Heinle made the decision to purchase the Visiting Angels franchise in York, housed in one small office at the time. As the team grew, they expanded to two office locations, one in York and one in Hanover.
In 2013, she purchased a second franchise based in Lancaster, giving her three locations.
Heinle can pinpoint three incidents that set her on the path to Visiting Angels. She recalls how difficult it was for her grandmother when she had to be moved to an assisted living facility.
“She never accepted this change and told everyone for five years that it was a temporary situation — it broke my heart,” Heinle said.
A second indicator that this was the right path for her was when she was helping to care for her father after his cancer diagnosis while simultaneously working full time and raising a family of five children.
“One night in the hospital, my dad said to me that I should start a business where I could help family members like I was doing for him,” she said.
And third, she recalls the challenges faced when her mother-in-law was diagnosed with dementia. Heinle helped her husband in the care of her in-laws so they could be independent yet safe in their residence.
Visiting Angels provides assistance primarily to older adults, but they also assist adults recovering from illness, injury, surgery, etc.
“Our team members are highly trained, and we continue to add more training offerings for our staff to help us expand our services and meet the needs of the community,” she said. “I am so incredibly lucky in that I work with amazingly talented individuals who share my passion of caring for older adults.”
Over the years, Heinle said she has learned, through training and experience, that “any space can be adapted, and a care plan with specially trained staff can help older adults be safe and live in a safe residence and have a quality life for their remaining days.”
Heinle says she feels driven to help older adults live safely and independently in the “least restrictive environment possible. I truly believe this is my ‘why’ for being on this earth.”
Heinle works hard to remain a leader in the industry, monitoring what is currently happening so she can “lead our organization to act or respond accordingly,” she said. “I also have administrative oversight of all operations, ensuring that we are compliant with the Department of Health, whose regulations oversee our industry.”
She is an active participant as well in care-management meetings, where her knowledge and expertise as a nurse help ensure the organization is meeting the needs of every client and his or her family.
Heinle feels that being a woman has helped her in the industry because “women are the nurturers and caretakers of our families,” she said. “I find it impossible to separate these character traits [from] being a businesswoman … I look at situations with two lenses: one way with my brain or analytical business side and the other with my heart.”
And like so many professional women, she still goes “home to care for my family, making dinner, doing laundry, checking on my parents, and challenging myself to find more balance in my life,” Heinle said.
That life balance includes community service work to which she is very committed. Heinle has served on various boards and committees with a focus on home health care and aging, as well as being “honored to have been asked by Gov. Corbett to serve on the first Pennsylvania Alzheimer’s State Plan Task Force,” she said.
Most recently, she served on the steering committee to launch Dementia Friendly America in central Pennsylvania and is very “active and supportive of the Alzheimer’s Association, specifically the Walk to End Alzheimer’s in both York and Lancaster,” she said.
As far as what the future may hold for Heinle, she believes she still has much to offer in the field of home care. Although she sees her role perhaps evolving as toward consultative work or new developments in technology or technique within the industry, her approach will not change.
“I don’t understand ‘no’ or ‘it can’t be done,’” she said. “I am supportive, compassionate, and loving of others — and persistent when I believe in something.”