Are you or a loved one looking to move into senior living? In our recent Senior Living LIVE broadcast, we talk with Tammy DeCaro, the executive director of Barrington Terrace of Naples, about expert tips when moving to senior living. Watch below or read through our transcript.

Feel free to ask any questions you may have in the comments, and we will be sure to answer them.

And, if you'd like to watch past episodes of our live broadcast, you can find them here.


Chris: Hello there, and welcome to Senior Living LIVE. I am so happy that you're here with us today. I'm Chris, your host for the next 20 minutes or so, and I am joined here by Tammy. How are you doing today, Tammy?

Tammy: I’m great. How are you, Chris?

Chris: Good. Welcome. Tammy joins us all the way from sunny Naples, Florida.

Tammy: Yes, beautiful town.

Chris: Great. It's not so beautiful where we are. It's a little overcast, but that's good. So thank you for joining us for that. So for those of you joining in, you might have guessed from our name, but just in case you didn't, this is a live online broadcast that's all about, you guessed it, senior living. If you're watching this, perhaps you're a senior and you're wondering if senior living might be a possibility for you at some point in the future, or maybe you know someone who may benefit from senior living at some point in the future.

That could be your mom or dad, maybe your grandparent or even just a friend. Our hope is that broadcasts like these will help you start to find the answers you're looking for. We know this can be a confusing process and we're kind of pulling back the curtains, that’s what we would like to think of it as, on important topics like these so that you can make informed decisions for you and your family. So as I said before, I'm Chris and I work with the Arbor Company. We're an operator of senior living communities, with communities such as independent living, assisted living and memory care. And your community is?

Tammy: Barrington Terrace of Naples.

Chris: And that's assisted living and memory care down in Florida. We've got about 30 years of experience as the Arbor Company in the senior living field, and that's really why we decided to launch Senior Living LIVE, the broadcast you're watching right now. We want to put that experience to work for you. We want to share our knowledge and hopefully help you make some informed decisions. We were just talking about this before we went on air. This is not always a decision that people make several times in their life. It's like, you know, buying a car, right? You buy a car once when you're young and you've got to keep buying them and you get better at it, hopefully, as you go, but this is kind of a once-in-a-lifetime sort of thing for a lot of people. Do you encounter that?

Tammy: We do. So many  people don’t know where to start. So this kind of broadcast is perfect. You are answering a lot of questions that people don’t even know they should be asking.

Chris That's exactly what we're trying to do. So, great. So since we were just talking, I should probably introduce you a little better to the group. Tammy is an executive director, which is the head honcho, so to speak, at one of our communities down in Naples, Florida. It's called Barrington Terrace of Naples. The Arbor Company has operated that community for quite a long time. Do you even know how long?

Tammy: At least 10 years.

Chris: How long has the community been open?

Tammy: Thirteen.

Chris: Yeah. So, so we've been there for a while. So, I know you've had a great experience in the industry. Tell me how you got into this role or into senior living.

Tammy: So, I've got 25 years of health care experience and I was a vendor with hospice. I'm working in all of the assisted living facilities in the Naples, Fort Myers area, and always referred people to Barrington Terrace, because I knew that the care level was second to none, and when it came time for me to consider after 10 years in hospice switching careers, I had the opportunity to meet the CEO of the Arbor Company and really just loved talking to him. And over a few years we followed each other, and when an opening came up in Barrington Naples to be in the senior care counselor role, I jumped on that because I had been waiting. I tell everyone I waited many years to find a position with Arbor. Because I didn't want to work for anyone else. I already had my administrator’s license. I was ready to go, but I wanted to only work for Arbor Company and I'm so thrilled and happy that I have been there more than three years now. Now [I’m] the executive director in that community and really just love our team. Our team has great longevity and tremendous tenure of our staff. So that's been fantastic. Nine percent turnover versus the industry standard, which is like 80 percent of the staff.

Chris: That’s really nice. That’s something to be applauded. Well, Tammy is here in town for a meeting, kind of like a little training session, and I pulled her out to do this video with us today. So, we'll send you back there in a little bit. But so with Tammy's help and her extensive experience, I think we've got a good show planned for you today. So what we have is, a few months ago we published a blog post at ArborCompany.com. You can just go to blog.arborcompany.com if you ever want to look at our posts there. That post is titled “15 Expert Tips for Preparing for a Move into Senior Living.” And so what we did was, we asked people around our entire company for their tips and advice on like things in their experience, what people should think about when preparing for a move into a senior living community.

So we thought that would be kind of helpful. We look at this stuff every day. Um, so the blog post has some really good information and we'll put a link to it below in the show notes after we finish the broadcast. Um, but we kind of took things a step further. We, we recorded some of the people who are featured in that blog post and we've got some really quick tips that we thought we would share with you today and then I'm going to ask Tammy's perception or interaction with those, um, those tips. So we thought we could show some of those to you and then, you know, Tammy and I talk about it a little bit more and then we'll kind of maybe add a little more color to it and move on from there. Uh, so before we get into it, as I mentioned, this is a live broadcast.

So right now it's Wednesday, January 10, and we are beaming this video up right now, live in real time, to Facebook. And it looks like right now we don't have a ton of viewers on, but we're just kind of getting started doing these videos. If you happen to be joining us live right now, leave a comment. I want to hear that you're watching and if you have any questions for us as we go, we'll be happy—I’ve got them up on my laptop here—I will do my best to answer those for you. And if for some reason, um, you know, you're watching this after the fact, which most people end up watching these videos a little bit after we're not live anymore. Still go ahead and leave a comment below and we'll get a notification of those and we'll respond to those, um, as quickly as we can.

And, and even if there's certain questions, we'll try to cover those in a future video because we're going to keep doing these things. Um, we'd love it if you would click or tap on the like button and let us know that you liked this and I really recommend that you follow The Arbor Company on Facebook. There should be a follow button right there. That way when you, when we do videos like this in the future, Facebook will let you know so that you can watch them at your leisure and, um, you could watch it live or you could watch it later on; it shows up in your notifications on facebook. Our next video, just so you know, is planned for next Wednesday and in fact, we're planning to go live every Wednesday at least through the end of February or so, and we're kind of just getting a feel for how this works and you see if you've watched any of our other videos, we'd been in a different studio setting and now we're kind of setting up something different where, you know, we're, we're trying different things. We're trying new tables and new chairs and we're playing around with it. So, uh, we'd love to get your feedback on that. And again, if you think of anything else that you'd like to hear us talk about on these shows, let us know and, um, we'll kind of see how it goes. So let's get on with the program.

The first video clip that we have to show today is from Dana, who is a senior living counselor at Arbor Terrace of Middletown, and that's in New Jersey. So let's watch.

Dana:  I always empower my families to pay attention to how the community makes them feel when they're visiting the community. Ultimately the decision to move your loved one into a community comes from the heart. If a community feels like home to the family, then it will feel that way to their loved one too.

Chris: OK, so Tammy, Dana talked about how the community feels, and I think that's super important because, you know, we want to find a place to live that feels like home, right? Like we want to feel like we belong there. And how's that worked out in your experience?

Tammy: Most of the folks who do move in with us, we find, chose us because they said it felt like home and that the staff was personable, and taking care of their parent or their loved one was paramount to us. And, you know, I always caution people, just like you talked about, you don't buy a new car all the time. When you go to buy a new car, you might go and look at a fancy sports car or something like that and say, “Oh, I'd really love to have a red Mustang.” But then when you go back and you start looking at gas mileage and all of those things, you've got to probe deeper. You have to do some really strong decision-making on what's important to you. And making sure that you're a mom or dad is comfortable and feels like they're at home and not in a somewhat more of a sterile environment is going to be the most important aspect of getting them to adjust well and settle into the assisted living facility and be happy and engaged with other residents. So if the other residents are friendly and welcoming and the staff is friendly and welcoming, than Mom and Dad will settle in well.

Chris: We call them senior living communities and it really is a community. What's interesting, particularly where your community is, you’re not the newest building on the block. You’re 13 years old and there's buildings that opened up last year. And that may sound like it's hard to compete with from a typical, you know, competition standpoint, but you guys tend to do very well because you do have that family feeling in the building.

Tammy: We do. And you know, we talk about our care, and care is what matters the most. It is the number one reason why people will leave a community: because they're not receiving the care that they need. So, you know, sometimes families aren't prepared to ask questions about care, but I would just encourage folks who are out there looking for either themselves or a family member to ask about the care, find out what the staffing ratios are, talk to other residents and their families and make sure, because at 3:00 in the morning, the care is what's going to make a difference in making sure that Mom and Dad is taken care of. Not so much the marble floor. And the chandelier.

Chris: So, let’s transition for a moment to after the decision to move and think about the act of moving in. Let’s watch the next clip here.

Karen: Try to have your entire apartment set up before you move in so that the transition is less chaotic. Stock your fridge with familiar items that make you feel good and comforted.

Chris: That was Karen from an Arbor Terrace community here in the Atlanta area, and she talked about stocking the apartment before moving in and that seems like a great touch and something that everyone may not think about. You do the Target run at the last minute and don’t think about it ahead of time, right?

Tammy: I would set up the entire apartment prior to bringing the resident. Make sure that the favorite pillow is there, the favorite blanket or throw, whatever it is that that person likes to cuddle up with at night is ready, and making sure that snacks and, you know, if they’re a coffee drinker or if they like juice or certain waters, all of that is on site so that when that resident walks in, it feels like home from the beginning.

Chris: That's an important step. Similarly, from our next video, Caroline from another Arbor Terrace community talks about some personal, more personal touches. Let's watch that.

Caroline: At our community, one thing we like to do is put fresh flowers or a house plant in the apartment. I think those small personal touches can really go a long way toward making a great first impression when a resident moves in.

Chris: Any other ideas about the fresh flowers and personal touches?

Tammy: Pictures, pictures are so important. If someone has a favorite piece of art or—my mother has an heirloom piece of art that, you know, I would include in her apartment when and if she's ready. She's watching and she's going to get mad that I'm already planning her apartment. But that would be an important thing for her to feel like it's home to her. You don't need a hundred photographs, but something that's sentimental that makes that person feel like it's home, and the lighting is good for them if they’re a reader, or if they’re a crafter that there's a table for them to be able to do crafts. Those are, those are all important things to think about because we want them to settle in and feel comfortable and feel like they're home and they don't have to worry about anything.

Chris: That's great. However, though, it is a change and it's a different size living arrangement. Typically people live in much larger houses than an apartment. And so that's probably a topic of another conversation, another episode of this show just to talk about downsizing and how do you think of those things. But there's always something, there's elements that you could bring from, kind of, current life into the senior living community. So for those of you watching us live or watching us, watching the video after the fact, if you have any ideas about adding personal touches, we would love to hear those. Just leave those in the comments below and I'm sure that other people watching this video would really find value in those. So now this next video that we're going to watch is one of my favorites. Rodney is another executive director like Tammy at an Arbor Terrace community. It's a pretty new community actually, and he talks about furniture placement. Let's listen to that.

Rodney: It will help if you spend extra thought into being strategic about furniture placement. For example, if a resident has been getting out of bed a certain way for a number of years at home, let's set them up in the same way here in their apartment. It'll keep them in the same routine and can help reduce the risk of a fall at the same time.

Chris: That seems so obvious to me, but I don't know that I would have thought about that. I mean, you kind of think about like the, the feel of the room, the Feng Shui, if you will, whatever. But you know, this person may have slept in this same position on the bed for the past 60 years of their life and, oh my goodness. So why is that important in your mind?

Tammy: Well, fall risks are always important to pay attention to. And Rodney is 100 percent correct that this would help them not only to feel more comfortable in their new apartment, but also to reduce their fall risk. When that resident gets up in the middle of the night to go find a new bathroom in a new location, it's going to be important that they get out of the bed on the same side. And sometimes it's a small little thing like that that can make such a difference in how someone adjusts to living in senior living. And you know, along with fall risks are high heels and things that, you know, all that stuff that may have worked well at home and may not necessarily work well in the assisted living environment because of the risk of falls.

Chris: You know, we do these videos and the way I like to approach them is that we— obviously we’re in the senior living industry in we're advocates for assisted living and other forms of senior living, but that is not always the right decision for everybody. And so we really want to be open to that and just provide as much information as possible. But in the sense of being an advocate for this, I mean, there are things that people in the home just don't necessarily think about, but through your experience and Rodney’s experience and other folks like that, you can say, “Oh, we've seen this before. So there's this.” I mean, before we went live today, Tammy was talking about how it's important that people treat walkers, the little walkers with the chairs on them as, as a walker. I mean, the chair is there as sort of a convenience, right? It's not a wheelchair.

Tammy: It's not a wheelchair to be pushed around on. Right.

Chris: And we see that all the time at the shopping mall and in whatever.

Tammy: Yeah, so unsafe and also that is something that may have worked well at home. A throw rug or a coffee table or something low, um, because that person's had that item in the same spot for 20 or 30 years, it wasn't a fall risk. But in a new environment, that footstool or that coffee table or that throw rug can suddenly become a major fall risk. Vision changes as people age, and they may not be able to see it well.

Chris:  So when you have a new family, a new resident moving into your community, do you talk about these types of things with the family as they're moving their furniture in?

Tammy: We do. In part of our new admission paperwork that we have for a resident and their family, we have a list of things recommending not to bring these things, like high heels, and things that are helpful to bring, like a special item from home. Make sure that the chair, you know, especially, folks that have a, a La-Z-Boy type of chair or something, that's crucial. The most common complaint we get is that “I miss my chair.” We really don't hear “I miss my bed” too much. And a lot of time they  bring their own bed and their own furniture. But I hear “I miss my chair” a lot.

Chris: So figure out a way to wedge that chair in the apartment somehow.

Tammy: And work with the folks in the community and say, “OK, this is the measurement of my furniture.” That's a really great way to get the maintenance director on board and— TV placement and putting the bracket on the TV to get it off the stand, and get it mounted to the wall so it won't fall over. and getting an idea and plan out where that furniture will go, so you can get that special chair.

Chris: That's great. Yeah. And these are things that really any great senior living community should be able to provide. I mean, we're not everywhere and people watching this video could be in states where we don't operate even, but hopefully this information is, is good for them. So let's watch the next clip:

Rebecca: Plan to send out a note to close friends and family with your change of address and an invitation to come visit.

Chris: So that was Rebecca, who's a vice president with the Arbor Company, and she talked about the importance of sending a change of address, which is something that you do a lot of times when you move, and, you know, invite others to come visit, I think this is so important because it's really the same thing that you would do if you were just moving to a new house down the block. Right? This is really no different than that. We want—you want people to come and celebrate your new home with you. So how do you deal with that? I mean, how have you seen that work well in the past?

Tammy: So absolutely sending the change of address things, inviting those family members and friends to come in for maybe an afternoon Happy Hour event or something like that to welcome the new resident into their home. I think it's also important to have family members know that you want them to visit and you want them to visit often and bring their pets, and those are all important things to share with families. But as well, think about newspaper subscriptions and magazine subscriptions, because that won't be forwarded. So, you know, again, that's one thing that in the part of someone's day-to-day routine, “I do this every morning, I walk the dogs, I pick up the paper.” If I was missing the newspaper—I'm already missing the dog. I'd be missing the newspaper too, that would be a tough transition for me. So, you know, thinking about those things and changing the newspaper subscription over. If somebody has [a] baseball package on their cable provider, get that also added. Make it as much like home as possible with individual preferences. Those are, those are important things to do. And fresh plants, of course Caroline talked about that, are always good.

Chris: There's really no cookie-cutter approach. It's different for everyone. So finally our last video, we've got a two-for-one with Erica and Cynthia.

Erica: The transition into any senior living residence is difficult for both residents and families. Please give the community time to get to know your loved one, their routines and their moods. Also plan to provide the community with as much information as you possibly can about that. This is a huge help in ensuring a smooth transition,

Cynthia: If either you or a loved one is thinking of moving into an assisted living community, just remember that it's a change and change requires time. You’ve got new faces and new places to get used to. It will happen, but it's not gonna happen right away.

Chris: So that was Erica from a community in Virginia and Cynthia from a community here in Georgia, and you know, I think they really get to the heart of a lot of this. Change isn't always easy, and that's probably what drives a lot of the fear that people might have about moving, particularly into a senior living community. So Tammy, in your experience, what are some ways that people can think through this a little bit more about the change?

Tammy: I think preparing the resident for the change is important. Having a conversation with them and saying, “We know this is going to be new and it's going to take a little time for you to get adjusted.” Sometimes the family can be too involved and sometimes not enough involved. I think it's important to work with the staff and kind of find out where that happy medium is. It's really important for the facility team to really make sure they get the resident involved in things and matched up to other residents right away so that they can meet friends, they know who they're going to eat lunch and dinner with. They know what activities are happening today. Those are super important. If we can get the resident busy and active, then that transition will be much easier, but it isn't always perfect and it's important to communicate what the wants and needs are, so that the community has the opportunity to meet those needs.

Chris: And keep the communication and dialogue open with the community staff. That’s important.

Tammy: Absolutely. I think, too, checking in with family members in 24, 48 hours. Have other family members call and say, “Hey, how's it going? Do you need anything?” Send them some fresh flowers or um, maybe a box of chocolates or something just to have them reassured that, you know, their family's still there. They're still going to be close and make sure that the follow-up and the phone calls are important. Many times Facetime is a great option to do, also, with iPads and cell phones and things like that so they can see their faces.

Chris: These are even more topics for future shows. We might have to fly you out here for another show.  So I think we've had a great discussion today, and I know that Tammy, you need to get back to, to that other meeting. As I said, Tammy's in town today for a training session and I pulled her out of it for this broadcast, so we've got to get you back before anybody notices. This is the third broadcast that we've done like this in the last month or so of Senior Living LIVE, and we have several more planned in the coming weeks, primarily on Wednesdays. That's the day that we're kind of trying out. We're working to build out a list of topics that we think are relevant and we could use your help. We know this stuff. Tammy knows this stuff. She knows what she’s talking about. What I want to know is what you, as someone who doesn't talk about senior living every day, someone who doesn't live and breathe this industry, what do you want to know? What questions can we answer for you as it relates to senior living and you know, even things like senior health and lifestyle? I think, you know, we're, we're open to answering any of those types of questions and we've got people on staff who are truly experts and can answer those. So leave those questions and topic ideas in the comments right here, right below this video. And it's like right down here, and uh, we'll work to address those in a future show. As I said before make sure you like the Arbor Company on Facebook, and that’ll just let you get notified when we have new broadcast like this. They'll show up in your Facebook newsfeed among the different cat videos and grandkids videos and things that you see.

And if you saw anything today that you think someone else might find helpful, share this video with them. There's a “share” button. Or just leave a comment and mention their name. That's a way to do it too. hat way they'll see it and you know, if they happened to be in a time when this material could be helpful to them, I know that they would be very grateful to you for sharing it to, to them. Uh, so I think that just about does it for us today. Thank you, Tammy, for spending time with us, and safe travels back to sunny Florida. I hope you get some good weather down there. From all of us here at The Arbor Company and this new Senior Living LIVE show, thank you for joining and we'll see you next time. Bye, bye.

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