“Settling in” team transitions smooth moves at La Posada

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.”

From a marketing perspective, the details of a move to continuing care generate psychological and physical obstacles between a prospective resident and new business. Leaving his or her home and the extreme familiarity associated with it can be traumatic. La Posada addresses these obstacles upfront by offering the Settling In Program to new residents. It has enabled La Posada to attract more residents more quickly than if prospective residents were left to their own devices and decisions about how to make the move, Carmichael explains.

“We know that it has accelerated peoples’ decisions to move to La Posada, and as a result we get more residents sooner than had we not had the program in place. That can be measured in dollars and monthly service fees that are paid more quickly. It’s measured in entry fees that are paid sooner. It’s measured in happier residents once they are here and to the extent that more referrals are being generated as a result of the experience of moving to campus. It’s no longer traumatic. They tell their friends. Their friends come, and they get the same level of service. It’s an ongoing process feeding referrals to La Posada.”

Carmichael attributes much of the program’s success to the staff members. Six two-member teams comprise the Settling In Team. The staff consists of mostly retired nurses and community volunteers. The nature of the program requires them to have flexible schedules and a caring character. La Posada looks for people who have the patience, compassion, and empathy to understand that residents and prospective residents are making what could be the last move of their life.

“Dealing with the psychological issues that prospective residents are dealing with at that point, we just have to have a better understanding about how to go about getting the job done without adding extra stress and anxiety to what is already a very stressful situation. We have been very lucky to find people within the community who have this kind of natural talent, understand the process, and are able to relate to the residents in such a way to make them feel comfortable about what is about to happen,” Carmichael says. The number of moves at a community the size of La Posada requires the Settling In Program to use part-time and flexible-time staff. Carmichael explains that they have to be able to create their own work schedule based around the residents’ schedules and requirements.

The costs of employing the staff and hiring the moving companies are justified by the program’s ability to attract residents and facilitate their decision to choose La Posada sooner rather than later. “It’s not a money maker for the campus by any stretch. At best we try to break even with the service,” Carmichael says. “But we know that down the road with a happy customer, referrals will come tenfold and ultimately we will continue to fill and keep the campus occupied, which will be the bigger payback from a financial standpoint.”

Absorbing costs, such as those for the moving companies, is getting more challenging. Because moving costs in the Green Valley, Arizona area, where la Posada is located, have doubled since the program started, Carmichael is considering building a physical moving team complete with a moving van as part of the Settling In Program. The moving team would go out into the greater community to move in new residents and move residents transferring to another level of care.

“One of the major challenges with the program is to help keep the cost relatively low for the residents to, again, relieve the obstacles of the move,” he says. “When people are sitting in their house making a decision about moving, it’s all the detail about the move that runs people away saying, ‘No we’ll stay right where we are.’ The main goal of the program is to eliminate as many of the obstacles, whether emotional or physical, created by the move as possible. So one (obstacle) was all the details—we handle all the details. The second half of it is the expense and moving. So we want to reduce that now to a level that is at least break-even.”

For more information, phone (520) 648-8131 or visit https://www.laposadagv.com.


Topics: Articles , Facility management , Staffing