Monthly Archives: February 2017

Acceptance by choice or circumstance

Helping our seniors transition into senior living communities

By Troy Ann Kasuboski, Director of Business Development

Acceptance. It’s what happens when we consent to a change in our lives, a new reality.

What does acceptance mean today in the world of senior living?  For the millions of people who live in senior living communities across the United States, acceptance came to be through two avenues, acceptance by choice or acceptance by circumstance.  As I look back on my own life, I realize that when we are of sound mind and body, we often make plans for our future lives based on the belief we’ll have acceptance by choice. I grew up in a home where my parents were caretakers to elderly parents of their own.  Both my parents vowed to never repeat this reality of forced round-the-clock caregiving. It can take years off someone’s life, and they didn’t want to do that to their own children.

So when the time came that they needed care, they were on board, right?  After all, those many years ago, they had chosen to accept the need for care down the road.  At the time, the conversation started when I was witness to the formation of modern senior living communities.  Built with senior community in mind, many of these buildings feature neighborhood-style areas where the residents socialize together with their peers and family, while maintaining their own living space.  As circumstances change, one can easily transition into a greater level of care while still maintaining independence.

Reality sets in

In theory, it sounds perfect.  But, for my parents of today, the idea of leaving the home they had created was met with reluctance.  The conversation continued as both parents became physically disabled.  Eventually, one parent was diagnosed with dementia.  Choice was still there as the other parent began to assume a larger caregiver role.  While choice was there, acceptance was not.

Last year, the caregiving parent suffered a fracture in the spine after a fall.  Again, one would assume the next step was apparent.  However, acceptance still was not there by either parent or my siblings.  The message of choice went unheard.  My parents accepted home care, but the one parent—now clearly a fall risk—continued to be the main caregiver.

One year and a fractured pelvis later, acceptance by circumstance was thrust upon them.  Neither can care for themselves or each other, and sadly, with different medical needs, they are now living in separate senior living facilities due to bed availability during this emergent time.  This has led to unhappy parents living a life they did not intend and siblings trying to make the best of the situation.

It didn’t have to be this way.

The road to acceptance by choice

How do we as an industry try to change the mindset of seniors to choose transition over forced acceptance?  Do we change the messaging from acceptance by choice to prevention of the inevitable?

For both personal and professional reasons, I would love to know the answer and look to others in the senior living care game to weigh in.  Let’s share the stories and successful messaging so we can all better assist our seniors toward acceptance by choice.

How to Reduce Social Isolation for Seniors

Easing loneliness in older adults is only part of the equation

Many studies over the years have shown a link between social isolation and loneliness and an increase in mortality rates. This is particularly true when it comes to loneliness in the elderly, with AARP claiming a 26 percent increased risk of death due to subjective feelings of loneliness. With 51 percent of the senior population aged 75 and older living alone, loneliness and social isolation are serious concerns.

There isn’t one specific reason, but rather many that lead to social isolation. Factors that can increase the effects of social isolation include:

  • Lack of transportation
  • Health challenges
  • Being a caregiver
  • Loss of a spouse
  • Loss of friends
  • Poverty
  • Living in remote or rural areas

Senior care facilities have a special role to play in preventing social isolation and loneliness by providing many ways to counter the effects of social isolation and loneliness, depending on the person’s situation.

Differences between social isolation and loneliness

With social isolation leading to so many health issues, it’s critical for senior care centers to reach out to the elderly through various social isolation interventions. Providing social opportunities will help alleviate social isolation and loneliness in the elderly.

Here are some ways senior care centers can get seniors involved with others in their facility and community:

  • Providing social opportunities, including group meals and outings
  • Providing transportation to social activities or adult day care programs
  • Provide opportunities for regular volunteer work
  • Help residents discover hobbies and arrange group activities for people who share those interests
  • Have regular walking and exercise groups
  • Hold classes to teach seniors something new
  • Set up visits with residents of other local senior centers

If transportation is an issue and people can’t get out, it may be necessary to go to them. Different social isolation intervention methods that can be used to reach people where they live may include home-delivered meal programs, such as Meals on Wheels, or visits by a home health aide.

How senior care facilities can help reduce social isolation

If you’re concerned someone you know may be suffering the effects of social isolation, it may be a good time to reach out to them and see what services you can offer. Your facility may already offer programs such as group dining, group activities and opportunities for outings, all of which can provide a strong social network for people experiencing social isolation. Personal care assistants may also help alleviate social isolation whenever a loved one needs it.

If you are looking for ways to design or remodel your facility to accommodate community and social programs for seniors, contact Community Living Solutions. Simply contact us, or call 920-969-9344 to discuss your plans.

Implementing Your Senior Living Facility Project

How to take the final steps toward opening a new facility

In recent blog posts, we’ve been discussing the steps to completing a senior living facility building project. A successful project starts with a comprehensive building master plan. Once that plan is in place, it’s time to focus on market drivers to create your design. This design will then help you develop a budget to use when seeking funding.

Next, it’s time to begin the steps toward implementing your project. These steps include choosing your architecture and construction firms, planning your operations and staffing and marketing the facility.

Choosing architect and construction firms

Undertaking a building project—while exciting—is never easy. It’s often accompanied by the stress of hoping you make the right decisions while staying on budget and getting the project completed on time. To alleviate this stress, you need to feel confident that the architecture and construction firms you select have the right expertise and will be your partners from start to finish. By selecting a design/build firm, the process is streamlined, and your architect and construction partners work on the same team. This can benefit your project greatly by reducing costs and virtually eliminating the rework that is so common when working with multiple companies.

When choosing a design/build firm, consider the following:

  • Does the firm have experience designing senior living facilities? Senior living communities have unique requirements that are not necessary for other commercial construction projects.
  • Do the key project stakeholders have experience in senior care? Working with firms who know and understand your industry will streamline the design/build process.
  • Does the firm understand national, state and local code requirements?
  • Is the firm cost competitive? Ensure that you are comparing apples to apples when reviewing cost proposals from various firms. The lowest bid may not necessarily provide you the greatest value.
  • Is the firm completely transparent in its costs?
  • Does the firm use qualified local and regional trade contractors?
  • Does the firm have a high level of responsiveness after construction is complete?

In addition to asking these questions of the firm itself, it’s best to seek referrals and references from clients who have recently completed senior living facility projects. The insight of your cohorts in the industry will prove invaluable.

Operation and staffing considerations

Operational budgets

Once you’ve chosen a firm, you can turn your attention to the details of operating your new senior living facility. One of the most important considerations is developing a budget to cover costs both before and after you open your doors. Your pre-opening budget may include costs for:

  • Staffing and payroll
  • Insurance
  • Supplies
  • Marketing expenses (printed materials, website, etc.)
  • Membership dues
  • Staff education and travel
  • Accounting
  • Bank fees

If you already operate a senior living facility, you likely have a handle on the operating expenses needed to run the facility day to day. Make sure to take into account, though, that building a new and likely bigger facility translates into added costs for staff, utilities, property taxes and the like.

Staffing

Ideally, key staff should have input into your building’s design, so having them in place early will ensure the facility meets their needs. When determining the types and number of staff needed, keep in mind you’ll likely face challenges in finding qualified staff as you compete with other health care facilities. So, start recruiting early. You’ll also need to account for enough time to train new staff on your facility’s processes and procedures.

Marketing your senior living facility

Marketing your facility can begin even before ground is broken. Consider inviting and involving city officials, chamber of commerce representatives and others to join you in an official ground breaking ceremony. In smaller towns, local media generally cover the event, and your chamber of commerce may also be willing to promote your good news to supplement any marketing you are doing to build your census.

If needed, this is the time to enlist help from a marketing firm to develop your logo, tag line, business collateral (like business cards and letterhead) and other marketing materials.

Finally, when construction is complete, build in a day or two to offer tours of the new facility before residents move in. Hosting an open house and tours for your community is an economical way to not only tell your story, but to market yourself to potential future clients and generate referrals.

At Community Living Solutions, we walk you through every step of your building project—from concept to completion. If you’re planning a senior living facility project, contact us via email, or call 920-969-9344 to schedule a free introductory meeting.