How to help ease concerns of prospective residents

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Angela Copeland
Angela Copeland

Will I find the activities interesting and thought-provoking? Will anyone talk to me? Will I be stuck in my apartment by myself? How is the food prepared, and is it fresh? What exercise classes do you offer? How do I go about downsizing from a house to an apartment? Is this the right time for me?

These are some of the questions team members have to answer when talking with prospective residents, because moving into a senior living community is a big decision for seniors and their families. Our job as community leaders is to do more than just answer questions. We need to reassure them, provide support, act as a resource and clearly articulate the key differentiators that embody the lifestyle and culture of our communities.

Identifying needs

First and foremost, when older adults visit a community, it is imperative to have a transparent discussion about their challenges, goals, lifestyle expectations and concerns and how they hope we can address them. From this point forward, you can begin to list ways in which your offered services, programs and amenities stand out and offer solutions to their stated challenges.

We realize that moving is a hurdle to overcome in the first place, and picturing life in a community is difficult with just a simple tour. For those reasons, we have developed very specific programs and experiences to assist along the way.

Educational conferences, then leave it to the experts

For those having to downsize as part of their transition, the process can be daunting. Seniors have questions anyone would have: Where do we start? How do we know what to keep? How do we part with things we aren't ready to part with? What should we do with the items we can't take with us?

To help future residents navigate through this process, we offer educational conferences with an outside vendor that specializes in consolidating homes and is able to provide perspective on this process and address questions. Seniors and their families have the opportunity to hire her and have her walk them through the process.

It is important for seniors to truly understand the apartment they are about to move into — the layout, the dimensions of their floor plan and how the furniture will fit into that space. We're here to assist with step-by-step recommendations.

Case study: Estelle Nail

Estelle Nail, an 89-year-old retiree moving from Tennessee to Shenandoah, TX, will be living in an apartment for the first time in her life. Although she was apprehensive about leaving her three-bedroom home, she decided that downsizing and moving to be near her son and his family made the most sense.

After her husband of 64 years passed away, Estelle felt isolated and needed help with daily tasks. A few months after her husband's death, she met with her son, Larry, and the two (pictured) discussed a move to Avanti Senior Living at Vision Park, which is close to the family in Houston. Estelle struggled with the idea of downsizing.

Estelle acknowledges that it is only natural for possessions to remind people of their loved ones, whether it is a favorite chair, the painting they bought at a local fair or something they purchased. When it comes to downsizing from a home like the one she spent the past 20 years in with her husband to an apartment, however, she said she simply cannot take everything with her. So where to start?

Estelle started by:

  • Getting the exact measurements of the new apartment, then measuring the furniture and large items she wanted to bring with her to ensure that they would fit.
  • Passing furniture and other sentimental items to family members and friends, because it made parting with those items much easier knowing they were going to the home of a loved one.
  • Converting mass collections of pictures to a digitized format and saving them on external hard drives and her iPad.
  • Making arrangements to donate everything she didn't need and wasn't planning to take with her.

These tips and more are covered in the educational conferences held at the community, and residents such as Estelle can speak to what it is like to go through the process. Getting residents involved in advocating for your community or the transition speaks volumes to those who are looking to move and need some guidance with making the transition.

We also have an expert we can call on to provide guidance on Veterans Affairs benefits, if applicable. The more of a resource you can be, and the more resources you can provide to residents, the better you will assist them during their transition.

Test driving the Avanti experience

In addition to being problem-solvers, it is critical for communities to ensure that future residents get a true feel for life at the community.

Talking about services and amenities at the community only will get you so far with some seniors. Some will want to “test drive” your community, much as one would test drive a new car before committing to the purchase.

To make seniors and their families even more comfortable with the decision, we offer respite stays for prospective residents wishing to submerse themselves in the Avanti experience. Such stays allow prospects to get a real sense of life in the community and will help them determine the chemistry with other residents; whether the services, food and amenities are up to their standards; and whether they are truly inspired by where they live.

Fully integrated teamwork approach

Once an older adult decides to make the move, you must transition into a truly individualized planning mode.

To ensure the utmost satisfaction and a customized experience, we have each of our eight department heads meet with each new resident to address their specific needs, answer any questions they might have and listen to their concerns. Each member of the management team has a specific task, such as showing them how we offer our fitness classes, how we prepare our food or how activities are planned around residents' interests.

It's imperative to involve the entire management team in making residents feel welcome and at home. Whether they are touring the community for the first time, attending a class, trying out the restaurant or enjoying their new apartment, we make ourselves readily available. Our role as a team is to help them integrate with ease so that within 48 hours they have made friends, have plans for the week and feel comfortable in knowing where everything is and how it works.

Taking a personalized approach communicates to prospective, future and current residents that they are top of mind and that their interests and opinions are being considered. We have a very customized approach, so it is important that we take the time to communicate and include every resident in our planning. The team's goal is to discover preferences, food allergies, dislikes, new interests, physical limitations, hobbies and more. All eight department heads will set aside time for these discussions, including our fitness coordinator, engagement coordinator, head of maintenance, business office manager, director of wellness, executive director, Salize (luxury suite) director and culinary director.

We work tirelessly to be an excellent resource and to make these transitions as seamless as possible. Our residents and their families are at the heart of what we do and why we come to work ready to fulfill such a meaningful purpose.

Angela Copeland is executive director of Avanti Senior Living at Vision Park, Shenandoah, TX.

McKnight's Senior Living welcomes guest columns on subjects of value to the industry. Please see our submission guidelines for more information.

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