She had built and run an all-things website for some of the biggest venues on the Vegas Strip — Bellagio, Treasure Island and Caesar’s Palace to name a few — and was lured to the desert from her native Los Angeles by hotelier Steve Wynn to work for him.
But today, PK Fields harnesses that experience gained in the fast-paced and frenetic hospitality industry of Sin City into ElderSense, the online directory and marketing tool that connects assisted-living and residential-care facilities to seniors who need them.
It works like a hotel search engine and allows case managers, social workers and individuals to search facilities by location, price and real-time availability. They also see photos and can connect directly with the community.
“It’s similar to a hotel. You just stay a lot longer,” said Fields, who launched her Scottsdale company in 2015.
The two worlds seem to have little in common. But Fields was able to find a connection between them in a venture that she hopes will save others the frustration she endured when her father needed help.
During her career, Fields’ LA-based father fell ill twice, once while she was living in Las Vegas and again while she was in New York City. She was surprised at how difficult it was to do a suitable search for a care facility, even online. She left her job with a national hotel chain in New York and returned to Los Angeles to assist him.
Fields’ father, Hollywood agent Freddie Fields, who worked with Judy Garland, Steve McQueen and Woody Allen, ended up returning home before his death in 2007. Her mother, Emmy Award-winning actress Polly Bergen, left an assisted-living facility and died at her home in 2014.
Fields shared her frustrations searching for an appropriate residence for her ailing father with friends. She learned she was not alone. They didn’t want to tour every facility, they just wanted to see what was out there first.
“There was no place to look by price or other filters. Or, you could look but not ask about pets, whether you would have a private room and bathroom, whether there’s a putting green or parking for your car,” Fields said. “There was no Hotels.com for assisted living.”
Fields knew about building websites, was savvy about marketing and knowledgeable about the hospitality industry. She poured that into ElderSense. She moved to the Valley to run the business.
Fields’ research informed her that there is a higher concentration of care facilities and communities in Arizona than in her home state. She said there are about 2,000 assisted-living communities here spanning the traditional large housing communities in resort settings to smaller residences owned by individuals called residential care facilities.
“People are looking to create different products in the marketplace and everything has an app. But at the end of the day, no one took into consideration that there are all these homes in Arizona and most don’t have a website. So how do you find them?” Fields said.
There is a need for this service. Around 1 million Americans live in some kind of senior-living community, with this number projected to double by 2030, according to American Senior Communities.
ElderSense’s database currently includes 123 communities and homes, Fields said. She has expanded to an operation in Colorado and is partnering with health-care organizations like Banner Health.
Searchers do not pay a fee. Revenue is generated through the ads placed by facilities. Fields receives no extra money for placements made through ElderSense.
Fields and her team personally visit each facility that wants to be on the site, she said. In addition to the vetting, they must be licensed and the property must meet Fields’ standards.
“When you call us, we’re not a call center. You’re talking to someone who knows that community,” Fields said.
Among those is Anderson Assisted Living in Mesa. Owner Jennifer Anderson turned her home into a residential-care facility that specializes in women with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia. She accommodates up to four residents at a time and currently has two, both of whom are in hospice care.
A friend in the business recommended ElderSense two months ago, as Anderson had just opened and sought clients. Two weeks after calling Fields and getting on the site, Anderson got her first resident, who came through a Banner Health referral.
In addition to the ease of getting on the site, Anderson likes Fields’ connections with local health-care providers and the $75 a month cost — a fraction of the typical referral service fees that usually amounts to a month of full room and board paid upfront.
“It’s very reasonable and I like she’s connected with Banner. It opens things up quite a bit,” said Anderson, who is about to earn her RN degree from the University of Arizona. “She’s so easy to work with, and I appreciate that it’s been pretty simple.”
Fields is hands-on. She answers the phone and assists individuals who aren’t good on the computer with searches and emails them the information or prints it out and pops it into the mail.
Although it’s tough to track exactly how many ElderSense users found their residences through the site, Fields is encouraged by the feedback she gets from both sides of the process. She talked about one hospital representative who told her that they wanted to build a site like ElderSense but didn’t have the time or resources.
There’s also the woman who got Fields’ information from her ailing mother’s case manager. Her mother couldn’t go home and she was overwhelmed with the thought of finding a good place for her. Fields made it happen. “She said, ‘I don’t know what we would do without your service,’” Fields said. “Hearing things like this validated the last few years my life.”
Interesting stat: Of residents who require an assisted-living community, 35 percent will remain in assisted living for a year or more and 16 percent will stay for three years or more, according to American Senior Communities.