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Ep. 131: Jarald Cosey

Senior healthcare motivational speaker, Jerald Cosey is the ED of Greenwood Meadows, a 166-bed SNF where he found a passion for empowering teams, residents and families. In this episode, Jerald discusses his experience volunteering in a nursing home before going through a health crisis when he decided to serve God by serving the senior citizens of the world. At 45 years old, he left an 18+ year pharmaceutical sales management role in order to become a nursing home administrator.


Lucas: Welcome to Bridge the Gap Podcast, the senior living podcast with Josh and Lucas. We’ve got an exciting show for you today. We’ve got the one and only Jerald Cosey. He is the ED of Greenwood Meadows, 166 bed SNF. He’s also a senior healthcare speaker, a motivational guy. I can’t wait for you to hear. Jerald, welcome to the podcast.


Jerald: Thank you. Thank you for having me this morning.


Lucas: So we came across you on social media and I watched a couple of your videos and I was like, how have I not seen this guy before? He is a big voice in the industry. And it’s got a lot to say, that’s encouraging to people. And so Gerald, we’re going to go over a couple of things today. We’re going to talk about burnout. We’re going to talk about isolation and we’re gonna talk about the bridge that may be the solution to all those things, which is engagement. And you speak to these things. You’re in the industry on the front lines and you’ve been months and months and months into this COVID pandemic. And I think that these things to your point earlier, before we even hit record are more relevant than ever. Tell us more about your story.


Jerald: I started out five years ago and I volunteered in a nursing home for about four years and went through a health crisis, and while I was in the hospital, I made the decision that I would serve God by serving the senior citizens of our world for the second half of my career. So at 45 years old, I left an 18+ year pharmaceutical sales management role in order to go become a nursing home administrator to get my license so that I can lead a facility. 


What I found in the past six years is that this job is very demanding. You’re on call 24/7. You’re caring for people’s most cherished loved ones. You’re depending on people to care for those cherished loved ones. And it just takes a lot of you emotionally. Well I always had the dream of being a motivational speaker. So I just started capturing videos that allow me to speak what was on my mind, but in the same breath, give back to the industry. So that’s when J. Cosey Speaks was birthed. 


Lucas: How has the message been received from your coworkers?


Jerald: Oh my goodness. It’s been tremendous. It been tremendous when you go last year, I spoke in Michigan, I speak in Texas and Idaho next month and I tell you, people want to hear from their peers. People want to be inspired from someone who has the same perspective as they do. There’s no way I can talk about leading through COVID-19 had I not experienced the different scenarios that I had to lead through in the past three to four months.


Josh: Wow. You’re so you’re so right. I have firsthand witness and I know Lucas has so many people on that topic of burnout. We’ve probably been on the brink of that ourselves at points. Tell us a little bit about some of the reasons why that is, and that may lead us into that kind of discussion of how we can overcome some of that, but, you know, understanding the why. I think it’s good to just kind of flesh that out even from your perspective now being in the industry for quite a while.


Jerald: Yeah. So the why is very easy. It’s all consuming. So when you’re caring for someone’s loved ones, you have to do that right. When you’re caring for, in my case, 166 residents, you can’t afford not to answer the phone call in the middle of the night when a charge nurse has an issue. So those requirements are necessary if you’re going to be effective as a leader. Those same requirements are necessary if you’re going to be a caregiver. So all the professionals within my facility are dealing with similar requirements if you will, you see we’re held, I don’t know how true this is, but they always say that senior healthcare is the second most scrutinized industry after nuclear science. So rightfully so, the consequences are human beings. So we have to have that oversight. But with that oversight comes a great deal of responsibility. I call it the pucker factor. Things can go pucker factor of 5 to 10 real quick. And so those are the experiences that we gather as leaders. So when I’m in front of a crowd, I want to talk about the pucker factor because I’m pretty certain, the audience knows exactly what I am talking about. I’ll give you an example during the COVID-19 season my wife and my daughters, they all quarantined at home. So it was imperative for me to make sure that I didn’t compromise their health. What if I’m a carrier, see we’re dealing with an invisible virus. And so you can present as completely healthy, but be a carrier. So for 10, I want to say 11 weeks, I slept in a different room for my wife. We just celebrated our 26th year of marriage. So I’ll tell you, I wouldn’t wish that on anybody. That’s a big deal, but we would do it again in a heartbeat because it allowed for my family to remain safe. And that’s a big deal. That’s a big deal.


In Indiana, the governor had asked us to stay at home unless your role was essential. And I’ll never forget driving to my facility around four 65 in Indianapolis and seeing basically like a ghost town and then the turn into my building and see our parking lot packed. At that point in time, I said, wow, I work with some incredible people. This is an incredible industry. There’s nothing more valuable than placing the needs of someone else before your very own. I get to see that firsthand. And that’s where the burnout can occur because everything is emotional. Everything is intimate.


Josh: And you’re so right. And what a clear way to describe that as the pucker factor. I have never heard that said that way, but when you said that I’m like, that is a perfect explanation and anyone that’s ever worked in the position or been really close to those in a supportive role that have been in similar positions to you know, exactly what you’re talking about. When you say pucker factor.


Jerald: I’ll never forget the better day that I already had. Our first COVID-positive resident. Can you imagine the previous four weeks, five weeks doing everything we could to manage this process? We stopped visitation from families. We screened everybody at the front desk. We did everything that we needed to do to put ourselves in a position, not to allow this nasty virus in our place of service. And on this particular day, we got the, we got the positive. So we had to implement the disaster plan that we had been practicing for the past three weeks. And that ride to the facility is one that I’ll never forget. I never thought that placing my life on the line would be a requirement for a career that I’ve chosen. I’m not a police officer. I’m not a fireman. I’m a senior healthcare operational leader. And now putting my life on the line is now a part of this role. And it’s now a part of everyone who works within the senior healthcare industry, from housekeeping professionals to dietary professionals, to activities professionals all the way up to speech and therapists and PT and OT therapists, everyone within the facility has the exact same reality.


Josh: So talk us on through here as we continue discussing some of your different touch points and talking points, as you’re kind of encouraging you’ve already encouraged us even prior to this show before we hit record. And obviously our listeners are gonna get a small snapshot today of your talking points, but what are some of the other things that contribute to factors that lead to burnout. And we’ve talked about the stakes being so high and then, and then go ahead and like lead us into some of your talking points that you help to help other leaders overcome some of those things.


Jerald: Absolutely. So this was all birthed out of a church service. Believe it or not. On this particular weekend, our pastor asked everyone to give your neighborhood a hug, shake their hands, say hello, obviously pre COVID and you know how in church, sometimes people enjoy doing that. I’m one of the folks who like, ah, I really don’t know if I want to do that again, but we have multiple services. So our pastor said, would you believe last service a lady came up to me and said, pastor, thank you for encouraging us to embrace our neighbor. She said, you know, it’s been four months since I’ve had any human contact. And he went on to talk about isolation and as I’m driving home, that message kept sticking with me. So I looked up senior isolation and I saw some facts and stats that just took me back.


Like one senior isolation increases the risk of mortality. I never thought that feeling of loneliness negatively impacts both physical and mental health. Loneliness is a major risk factor for depression and the perceived loneliness contributes to cognitive decline, perceived loneliness. So if one perceives, they are lonely, then that’s going to contribute to their cognitive decline and the risk of dementia. So that’s our resident population, but then you think about what’s going on with our staff. Many of them, millennials and 50% Americans will tell you that they have no one to talk to. Nearly half of Americans today say they’re lonely, only half Americans having me meaningful, extended conversation on a daily basis. And one in four millennials will tell you they have no friends. So I’m sitting here and I’m seeing this. And I’m like, wow. So our residents have a high potential of being lonely. Our staff and myself have a high potential of being lonely. Well, what’s the thing that connects us all? Our stories, our stories. They’re important, our life experiences. And when we find something that we could connect on, then we have engagement.


We had a new resident in our facility. They had traveled across state lines from down south and they wanted to be closer to their family. And I stopped by the room because she had some concerns and I just wanted to get a feel as the executive director. It means a lot to our residents when I personally go talk to them. So she was telling me about a colostomy bag. And for your listeners who have experienced wearing a colostomy bag, it can be very difficult if the seal is not secure. So she continued telling me this story and when she was finished, I told her my story. 


I said, well, Ms. such and such, would you believe that I will class me back for seven months? You know, I have ulcerative colitis Crohn’s disease. And I went into my story just like that. There was a connection. That conversation took us to her childhood. It took us to her living accommodations in the state of Florida. It took us into so many different stories, all because we connected and engaged on the fact that both of us wore external devices to hold our feces. That’s a big deal. So that engagement was really, really tight and really, really strong.


Josh: You know, Lucas. We talk a lot about stories how our industry needs to be connecting more with Sharon stories. And we sometimes refer to those as the love stories. And you know, it’s ironic to me is I’m hearing you talk Jerald. We’re living in this time where we’re probably the most technically connected of any time in civilization, but yet we in many ways are the most disconnected from a life sharing, from a story sharing. And, you know, I’m sure that’s a whole nother podcast, but I’m just sitting here just thinking how ironic it is and how true, what you’re saying, that there’s so much truth there. And there’s got to be an intentional to taking the time to share those stories. I would imagine.


Jerald: You just hit a very important point. Intentional. That’s very, very important because in senior healthcare you’re pulled in so many different directions, so you have to make it a priority. I work for American Senior Communities and we began a program a couple of years called Care Companions. And basically all of my residents should have a person assigned to them that visits on a regular basis now assigned to would take away some of the intimacy if you will. But believe me, it’s very emotional and it’s very rewarding. And most of our staff members are able to choose the residents that they’re going to go in and visit every day. So then the company took it another step forward and said, okay, what are some critical questions that we would like to know about people? Favorite hobbies, biggest advice you want to give to somebody. And we placed that in the room. 


So it’s caregivers come in, who may not be familiar with that resident’s life story. They can get a brief little look and maybe ask a question that applies, maybe ask a question that on that day, you’ll have engagement and through the COVID-19 experience, what could be more important than spending time with people who can’t move as freely as they would like to who are the highest age population with at risk factor of dying who have worries because they can’t see their family members.


I have a CNA. I know she wouldn’t mind me saying her name. It’s Nikki. And one day we were talking and she was working on a COVID unit. And she said, Jerald, I have to bring extra love to work every day because our residents can’t have their family visits. So it’s my job to provide the love that they may be missing. I thought that was a very profound and meaningful statement and I’ll never forget it.


Josh: Me and Lucas have had the privilege to get to know some of your team, your organization a little bit, and then getting this opportunity to get to know you. It’s obvious that you all have a culture that embraces and encourages intentionality on engagement. And, you know, I think there are a lot of organizations out there in our industry which is a wonderful industry in spite of some of the negative PR we get out there of individuals just like yourself and team that we know, like you guys that are out there on the front lines, doing this kind of awesome work. We know that there’s also a few organizations out there. Maybe some of our listeners are finding themselves in the state of burnout, in an environment where maybe they’re not encouraged or they’re feeling pulled in a million directions. I would imagine, and I hope that if they’re listening to this, it’s kind of that light bulb moment that somehow encourages and empowers them to be intentional in this area. What has been the response, Jerald, as you are speaking to leaders, healthcare leaders across the country, what are some of the responses you’re getting back?


Jerald: Interesting. So I recently wrote an article and it was published in McKnight’s Senior Living. And right after it being published, I started to receive messages from peers across the country saying thank you for sharing our story. And that meant the world to me. You see, we went through a phase where the media was, if you lack a better way of saying, attacking us at the facility, and I can see how that was hurting my staff. I mean, we did not lay off one single employee. When we were COVID positive, basically my marketing and admissions team, they made phone calls every day. So families got a phone call every single day. And if your loved one had COVID-19, we went into their vitals. We went into if there were any nurses notes that were recently shared things that would be important for a family member to know. We tested all of our residents multiple times. This is back in April when that wasn’t a normal. And you know, so with that, we were able to identify people who are asymptomatic, but also positive, which means we’re early on finding out who has this invisible virus, so that we can kind of give them a better chance for surviving it as well as their roommate. So I give you that as a backdrop, just a couple areas. But when you have staff who are sacrificing their life to provide care for others, it gets a little emotional. When you hear a perspective, being driven that, you know, with all your heart is not accurate. And so that article, not my story. That article was our senior healthcare story. It was every guest that you’ve had on this podcast who’s in senior healthcare. It was their story, whether their building was, you know, villainized or not, it’s their story.


For instance, it’s very clear that the heroes are the residents. I hate taking a COVID test. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve tested our residents and they power through, you know there is, there is, I lost my train of thought, but when we, when we’re looking at the COVID test Oh, the sacrifice. So when you have residents who are doing the COVID test, their heroes, when you have residents who aren’t able to see their family members, their heroes, when you have residents who are afraid of this virus, you know, hitting them and they can’t sit at home like maybe some of their friends are doing, they’re heroes. When you look at the family members of the employees that charge nurse, who’s working on a COVID unit, going home to her family, they’re heroes, the administrator, who’s going home to his family, heroes. And so that came out of just being within this industry and on the battlefield. Those are the those are the areas that you quickly relate to.


Lucas: If you will, Jerald, let’s transition this podcast into leadership. Talk to us about white flag moments.


Jerald: White flag moments is a term that I coined as a speaker. And it’s really, really important for a couple of reasons. First of all white flag, back in when white flags were first started to being utilized, it was a sign of saying you had no other means to resist. So as part of my speaking, I want to identify those white flag moments that call the middle of the night that a resident is not in a facility. Pucker Factor of 5 to 10. That’s a white flag moment, a COVID positive resident in your facility, five to 10 pucker factor, white flag moment. Being away from your family for 10 weeks while you’re working, white flag moment. It’s my thought that these white flag moments are what develop us as leaders. So it’s important because they give us the seasoning that’s needed to be a more effective leader.


So doing these white flag moments, the key is to identify them, but then also make sure that we do not lose the leader to the white flag. So before I close every conference, I ask my audience members, what calls you to serve within this industry? Mine was to serve Christ by serving seniors. Everybody can have a different answer. And at that time I want them to write down on the white flag and take that white flag back to their facility. And the next time a white flag moment comes up, I want you to embrace it because of the seasoning that’s going to come from it. But I also want you to reflect upon what caused you to this industry in the first place. And that’s really, really important because it’s devastating as a white flag moments can be for the individual and for the industry. They are also so valuable because you learn things real time. And so I’ve been in this industry six years it’s so intimate and emotional. That’s 20 years. It’s like dog years. It’s a difference. So six years in industry is 20 years. Trust me. Enough Pucker Factors will take you to run up those years really quickly in a short amount of time.


Lucas: So powerful.


Josh: I can appreciate the dog ears, comment, Lucas. And I think that might be web you and I both are losing our hair, you know, in dog years, we’re actually really old in this, right?


Jerald: I shaved off my head as an administrator.


Josh: Yeah. What an important message. You know, I’m sitting here thinking about this Lucas and it’s so relevant. The message is so relevant, regardless of what level you are in your career as a healthcare leader. Regardless of if you’re in a small community, a large community working in any capacity on the front lines, through regionals, through the corporate, particularly for those corporate individuals that may be listening right now, and I know we have a lot of large group of our listeners that are in that category. I think hearing these messages and keeping your frontline in mind and supporting them and helping them and being cognizant of those white flag moments and not being disconnected. You know, I think during times, like we’ve been in, I’ve often heard, and we’ve heard on this podcast that a lot of the corporate team, the regional team have not been visiting. So it’s real easy to get out of touch really quickly and forget. There’s probably been a lot of white flag moments for our healthcare teams over the last several months. So what a great reminder and just kind of a cue that you’ve given us this morning, for sure, Jerald.


Jerald: Thank you. What’s interesting is for us as the industry, we don’t have those refuel points. So if you’re in a hospital, you come back home at the end of the day, your neighbors may give you a standing ovation and senior healthcare, we don’t get that. So it’s very important that we learn how to support each other. We learn how to develop skill sets that are going to allow us to practice. At the highest level, I read a book by a great author, Walter Bond, it’s called Swim, the shark, the sucker fish, and a parasite. But the takeaway he says is you’ll use my business as an example that J. Cosey Speaks is a management development company, camouflaged as motivational speaking company or American Senior Communities is a leadership development company camouflaged as a senior healthcare organization. So the key to our growth and development is always going to be looking to challenge yourself for the next level, and then looking to see who you can bring with you and raise up to the next level.


And that mindset is something that I’ve kept since the moment I put that book down. We always want to make sure that we’re training and developing leaders so that we can have more effective leaders in the future. And as we lose leaders, because some people may say this isn’t what I want to do anymore. It’s our job to reach back and develop other leaders who will be leading a facility in 10 years with the next worldwide, God forbid, pandemic pops up.


Lucas: Jerald Cosey on the podcast today with an amazing message of positivity, unity, and engagement, to so many workers out there that are giving their life to this and risking their life for this. And there’s so many heroes that the know the media is not really heralding, but in this industry, to your point, Jerald, we know who you are. We see you and we’re rooting for you. Great message today, Jerald, thank you so much for taking time to come and speaking to us.


Jerald: Thank you very much for having me and for all of my senior healthcare professionals who are listening today. I want them to know what you have chosen to do is an honorable career choice and we need you. So every white flag moment that presents, I challenge you to turn that into a positive. You know, my mother used to fix beans and she would let them sit in the refrigerator overnight because they taste better the next day. And that’s the seasoning that we get from these white flag moments. They’re going to make us better leaders, better professionals. If we embrace them and use that as motivation to keep moving forward.


Josh: Good stuff, good stuff. And I’ll tell you what Jerald Cosey. I can’t believe this is your first podcast. I don’t believe it. I don’t believe it by hearing you talk. And I don’t believe it by seeing that studio you’re in right now, but thank you for spending it with us. We are honored to have you. Can’t wait to connect our audience to you.


Jerald: Thank you. Thank you. I can’t wait to connect with your audience. So I’m on social media @Jcoseyspeaks, and then you can reach me through this podcast.


Lucas: You got it, we’ll put it all in the show notes to connect to Jerald and his message. You’re going to want to stay close and stay connected and engaged on our social media sites. You can go to to connect with all of our shows and links to all of our social media. So you can check out all of our content, including Jerlad on this show. Do y’all have a great day. If we were all in the same room, we’d be given hugs and high fives. So I’ll give you a virtual hug and high five. And this definitely won’t be our last conversation. Thank you so much.


Jerald: Thank you guys. Keep doing it. We need you as an industry. Okay. We appreciate this. Let’s keep it going.


Lucas: We’re going to keep it going and thanks everybody for listening to another great episode of Bridge the Gap.


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Ep. 131: Jarald Cosey