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I Have Never Met The General Manager

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By Steve Moran

I am always amazed at how often I run into random people who have a senior living story to tell. A couple of weeks ago I was sitting in an airport waiting for a flight and got into a conversation with a fellow passenger. Along the way we got to talking about what kinds of work we do and I explained that I ran blog for the senior living industry.

He started talking about how he has an aunt who was in memory care . . .

The Saga

The aunt had been living at home and was become a reclusive pack rat. The house was filled with junk and falling down around her ears. She was clearly “not all with it” (his term). It finally got to a crisis point (not quite sure what that crisis was) that was compounded because the aunt was living in her hometown with no nearby relatives. The family rushed in to find a memory care community in the aunt's town and it was a terrible experience.  

As the story unfolded, it turns out the aunt was eccentric and difficult her whole life. As the cognitive decline set it in, she got much worse. The hope was that the memory care community would at least stabilize her condition (emotionally and physically), but it didn’t. She seemed to continue to decline.  

They were further frustrated because the cost was high and each month receiving the bill was like a bad Christmas gift . . . there were hundreds of dollars of incidental charges. Between the high cost and the distance, they finally made the decision to move this aunt to a memory care community run by a different organization that was closer to the family home.

Better & Worse

It was not an easy transition. It required getting the aunt in the family car along with a nurse from the new community and driving several hundred miles. They got it done.

When I asked how it is going with the new community, the response was that it was much better. They get a consistent bill. They believe the aunt is doing better than at the old place, but they are frustrated because they feel like the old place left her worse off.

Furthermore, she is still a very unhappy camper and there is a sense that the new community could be doing more to relieve the aunt's frustration and anger. It is actually tough to know if that is true, since this seems to be that this woman was always kind of miserable.

The Punch Line

During the course of the conversation I asked his thoughts about the leadership of the community. Here is what bugged me:  

This family is managing the care and responsibility for making sure the bill gets paid each month. They are paying around $80,000 per year and yet they have never met the executive director.

I just don’t get that. I would think that if I were the executive director, I would want to make sure I had at least some kind of relationship with my good customers. There are at least 3 reasons for this:

  1. It is just plain the right thing to do. With rare exceptions, residents in this situation have made the decision to hand over a significant portion of their lifetime of accumulated wealth to the senior living community. That deserves to be honored.
  2. Developing those relationships are absolutely critical to word-of-mouth marketing. Without a personal relationship, you not only blow a potential marketing opportunity, you have no idea what they are going to say about you.
  3. No matter how good your community is -- no matter how good you are as a leader -- sometimes bad things happen. Having high quality relationships is the number one best defense (after good quality care) against legal actions.

The last thing I would add is that this is not a large memory care community. I looked it up . . . under 75 residents. It should not be that hard to have at least a little bit of a relationship.

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