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"Settling in" team transitions smooth moves at La Posada

August 12, 2008
by John Oberlin, Online Editor
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In the summer of 2003, the La Posada continuing care retirement community in Green Valley, Arizona, finished the construction of a 153-unit independent living facility.

La Posada took on this task by creating a “settling in” team to facilitate the large move in a timely and organized manner. Team members visited each resident with a scaled floor plan of each of the apartments, helped plan the transition, took inventory of the items that were to come along, and mapped out the new apartment. The team also coordinated with a moving company, which the resident selected from a preapproved list, by explaining how the trucks should be packed to efficiently move in the new apartments. La Posada’s goal for the move was to have each resident’s entire apartment complete, with pictures hung and moving boxes out of sight, in one day. “So all they’d essentially have to do is turn the key, go into their apartment with everything in its place, and not have to worry about being in boxes for weeks on end,” says Tim Carmichael, vice-president of marketing at La Posada, where more than 700 residents live on the 100-acre campus.

The move was a success, settling in 90 families within 30 business days. “We were essentially moving two to three families per day over a month’s period,” Carmichael says. “The only way to do that was to help coordinate the moves and to do it in a very organized fashion. So we assigned a ‘settling in’ staff to assist every single resident with his or her move.” La Posada then began incorporating the Settling In Team into every move since then, whether transferring residents within the campus or moving in new residents. The team coordinates the entire move from beginning to end and gets residents transferred in one day, if not sooner. The staff, residents, and families have found that the program removes the stressful element of moving to or transitioning around the campus and has ultimately increased resident satisfaction and referrals.

When it comes time for a resident to transfer to another level of care at La Posada, the case management staff, or the resident, directly informs the Settling In Team of the transition. At this time the resident services director has a face-to-face meeting with the resident and then invites the Settling In Team coordinator to the conversation. Together the three begin planning the transfer, which includes selecting and coordinating with the movers, selecting and packing items for the move, and distributing other items that the next level of care cannot accommodate.

La Posada provides both new and transitioning residents with a moving stipend that covers the staff and moving company hours. “We know by the unit square footage how much time it would take a Settling In Team of two people to unpack and get people settled, so we set the package accordingly,” Carmichael says. If the resident chooses to have more staff beyond what La Posada provides in the stipend, he or she can pay an extra hourly fee per staff member. But rarely does the move go over what La Posada allocates, he says. The second element of the stipend, the physical move cost, is also based on an average price that moving companies in the area are charging to move to a certain unit size. La Posada has developed a set of standards that it expects the moving company to comply with. For example, the company must be willing and able to pack its trucks per the Settling In Team’s directions so that they can then efficiently unpack and move into an apartment.

At its most basic level, the Settling In Program executes organized, safe, and low-cost moves. But it has also yielded other positive outcomes for residents, families, and La Posada’s business.

When new residents are making the move to La Posada, the program inherently makes the staff and the resident communicate and begin building a relationship. It brings together people who wouldn’t ordinarily meet quickly and builds a rapport between residents and campus employees, whether they be Settling In staff or other employees such as the maintenance staff, which could be involved with picture hanging and other special requests related to a resident’s apartment or garden home, Carmichael says. “By doing that and getting people involved with them, they become our extended family right away and they just feel comfortable about the whole process.” The one day it takes to move a resident in blossoms into a “family feel” in which he or she usually invites the Settling In Team back for a visit to enjoy the surroundings that they helped to create.

Six Settling In teams work flexible shifts to help organize resident moves. Above, Bonnie Walsh, left, and Debbie Lanford, right, situate a resident’s new unit at La Posada.

Residents’ family members are relieved that service is available. Some of the families will choose the program just because they’re interested in the novel idea. And others are relieved that they don’t have to complete the move itself. Instead of worrying about the responsibilities of packing and unpacking boxes and organizing movers, families can enjoy their visit and the campus experience with their parents. “It is overwhelming when it comes to transitioning on campus. Before we started the Settling In Program, it was up to the family to pick up the details of the transition of the move,” Carmichael says. “And now the families who are generally out of town or out of state, all they have to do is call and talk with the Settling In coordinator. They can help with their parents’ transition to a new area of campus without having to hop an airplane to direct it.”