MANSFIELD -- Anthony Coleman spent most of his life on wrestling mats, battling for individual victory.
Two years ago, the North Ridgeville resident began battling on behalf of seniors and their families across a five-county area, including Richland and Ashland.
Coleman is a franchise owner of CarePatrol, founded in 1993 and now the largest senior care placement franchise in the U.S., with more than 150 locations in 44 states. His area also includes Lorain, Medina and Wayne counties.
"CarePatrol was founded by a medical social worker in Phoenix, who saw a need to help families become more educated and to make more informed decisions on where they will place their loved ones when they get to the point they are not safe at home anymore," Coleman said.
"I feel very blessed and fortunate to be a part of a great organization."
PERSONAL JOURNEY: When Coleman was growing up in northwest Ohio, becoming a certified senior adviser wasn't on his list of career goals.
He was a wrestler at Bellevue High School, one of the best the school ever produced. Coleman, who graduated from BHS in 1999, posted a career record of 111-31, became the school's sixth state wrestling champion his senior year.
The state title came one year after he tore his ACL in his first match at the state meet, launching a long, painful rehab process that ended with his hand raised in the title match one year later. Coleman was inducted into the school's athletic Hall of Fame in 2012.
He wasn't done with wrestling after high school. Coleman competed at Division I Cleveland State University, posting a career record of 87-59 and earning two NCAA tournament berths. He was selected the school's most outstanding wrestler as a redshirt freshman.
More importantly, Coleman was a three-time recipient of the CSU Athletic Academic Excellence Award and earned a degree in communications in 2004.
He stayed with the sport he loved as a coach, first at a small college in South Carolina for a year before returning to CSU for several years as an assistant, pursuing his master's degree in sports management/exercise psychology.
Coaching, with long hours and low pay, takes a toll. Coleman made connections with the father of one of the young men he coached. That man had asked Coleman to come to work for him on more than one occasion.
Coleman decided it was time for a change. He altered career paths and accepted a job in the man's document management company.
"I wore a lot of hats for him. Sales and marketing. Customer service. I could get on a tow motor, building racking. I could drive any truck he had. Pretty much whatever he asked me to do, I did it with the most excellence I could," Coleman said.
The duo got into other lines of business, including medical waste and then restoration. Still, in the former wrestler's mind, there had to be new challenges to conquer, more victories to earn.
"Two years ago, I sat down with my partners and decided on a buyout. That gave me the money that I could go on ahead and look for an opportunity to start something on my own," he said.
PERSONAL EXPERIENCE: Coleman helped with arrangements for his own grandparents as they transitioned into assisted living facilities. One experience went smoothly and one was more difficult. It opened his eyes into the rapidly growing world of options for senior citizens.
"I was looking for an opportunity and I learned about CarePatrol. It really hit home and resonated with me on a personal level," said Coleman, who has been married for 10 years and has twins, a boy and a girl.
"I thought, 'This is refreshing.' I can help people, educate families, advocate for safety of seniors, advocate for consumers and help them make the the best decision that fits their needs based on whatever it is at that time," Coleman said.
He attacked his new profession with the same zeal he once attacked opponents on the mats.
"There is always a learning curve," Coleman said. "My background was not medical. There is so much slang and acronyms and diagnosis that I didn't have any idea what they were talking about. I did my research and learned and feel I am becoming more proficient. But there is always more to learn."
In his work for CarePatrol, Coleman meets with seniors and their families, assesses their needs and takes them on tours of potential senior communities. He asks questions, answers questions and then makes recommendations and assists in the family's decision making.
CarePatrol offers its services at no cost to the families since it's paid by the senior communities with which it works, including independent living centers, assisted living centers, nursing homes and more.
Coleman said he spends about one day per week in each county he serves, though that can change quickly.
"This business is unpredictable because you never know when you will get a call from a family that needs you NOW," he said. "They didn't know mom or dad were going to be discharged and they have 48 hours to find some place to go because they are not safe living at home on their own."
EDUCATING SENIORS: Coleman said many seniors and their families have misconceptions about today's senior living communities.
"A lot of times, it's an apartment with care if you need it, meals, housekeeping, laundry, activities, transportation ... they encourage independence, not dependence," Coleman said.
Coleman, who stresses the need for families to pre-plan with the seniors before a crisis situation develops, admits it can be a difficult situation.
"You can have a difficult senior and a difficult family dynamic sometimes," he said. "The senior doesn't want to leave their home, but they are not safe there anymore. Everyone in the family is concerned. Perhaps a doctor has told them it's time to begin the transition into assisted living.
"(The senior) just doesn't want to go. That's probably the biggest and most difficult battle I fight. I try to align myself with the children so we can fight the battle together. Often, the senior citizen receives a message from someone who is not in their family better than from their own children," he said.
"I ask them to approach it with an open mind. At the end of the day, after we take some tours and look at options and educate them on what's out there, hopefully they are pleasantly surprised. Then we can make a decision that's going to help them live their live instead of battling to survive in their own home."