Darlene Agag, CEO of Hesstia Group, concierge and relocation services, joins us to share her knowledge on transitioning loved ones to senior living. She gives valuable tips to help seniors and their families make the move to assisted living as efficient as possible, from logistics and organization to providing empathy and support.

Video Transcript

- Hello, everybody. And welcome in to Senior Living Live. My name is Melissa. Thanks so much for being with us here today. Well, we are chatting with Darlene Agag of the Hesstia Group. They are the go-to pros for helping you make that move to assisted living. And she's got some really, really good tips to share with us today to help make that move as efficient for you as possible. Darlene, how are you today?

- I'm good, thanks for having me today.

- Absolutely.

- Really appreciate, really appreciate it.

- Yeah, we're happy to have you. We're happy that you were kind enough to join us to share your knowledge on this topic. And it's an important one. And this is that kind of time of year, we are in summertime right now, where people are making those moves, right? It is sort of, you know, kind of start anew. So this is a good time to get this topic out there for our viewers, but before we actually start diving into it, Darlene, tell us a little bit about yourself and your company.

- Yeah, great, thank you. So my background is that I worked for Fox Television for over 20 years, lived in Manhattan, and made a move back to Northern New Jersey. And I personally found the move really challenging, just uprooting, leaving everything that was familiar, and moving to somewhere new. So as a result of that, I started a company called the Hesstia Group. And we really help and take care of all the details for our clients. But it's not just about logistics with us. It's about, which logistics are important, you know, getting the move done, getting people moved to where they have to be. But it's also, we take a very empathetic approach to how we handle and work with our clients because especially with seniors, we're meeting them at a time in their lives where sometimes they wanna go, sometimes they might have to go because they don't have a choice. But regardless, even if it is their choice, uprooting your life and moving sometimes 100s of miles away from where all you've known can be really challenging. So we really try to approach it with empathy and kindness, and really customize everything that we do to fit the individual needs of our families.

- Yeah, and that is so important, the empathy part especially. People want, when they want help, they want somebody who's been there and done that, right? It's not their first rodeo. And they know exactly what questions that are going to be asked and how you're gonna answer them. And then, the fact that you tailor it to each individual, I think it's fantastic.

- Yeah, and I think anticipating things before they happen, because where a lot of the stress comes in is when things happen, and then, you have to deal with them in that moment. So what we do is we have done it so many times that we understand the process and we run triage a lot behind the scenes that our clients don't even see. And we have laughs about it afterwards, about all the things, 'cause something always inevitably goes wrong, right? But we don't get our reputation by everything going right. We get it by when things go wrong and how we handle them. And I think that's really important to just know that there are gonna be bumps along the road, whether you use us or you don't use us, or use a company like ours. There's gonna be things that maybe zigzag. It's not always a straight line. And it's try trying to stay calm and nonemotional about it, which is challenging, but it's important.

- Yeah, and that's why people come for you.

- Exactly.

- You're battle-tested. And boom, here you are.

- Exactly.

- So like I said, we're so fortunate to have you here today. So when a senior or family member comes to you asking for this kind of help, right? About helping that loved one move to assisted living, what usually happens during that initial meeting with you and your group? And how do you help alleviate some of that stress and anxiety that people have for this process?

- Yeah, yeah. I mean, it's really important to listen. I think that's the top thing that we do. Hear what people have to say. Sometimes you just need to get it out and you need somebody to hear you. And then, it's also very important if possible to empower the senior. So as long as they are mentally capable, and they can function and and make decisions for themselves, it's very important for us to include them in as many decisions as possible. This includes what community they live in, what realtor they might use, what belongings come with them. All of those things are really important. And it's balancing that overwhelm with these little details and helping them to feel like they're still in control. And I think that's the way to really make them feel like it's a smooth, you know, like it can be a smoother transition.

- Yeah, yeah, and that is huge. And we talk about that all the time, you know, don't wait until there's an emergency, right? And you've taken that sort of control away from the person that's actually making the move. Don't do that.

- Right.

- But sometimes it happens.

- Right.

- So, and again, that's where you guys come into play.

- Yeah, another thing--

- What were some of the-- Yeah.

- Just one other important thing that I think we do is we really help balance the kids' and the parents' dynamics sometimes, because sometimes the children have one idea and the parents have another idea, and they just need a neutral party, an unemotional party to come in and help them to work through those decisions, right? And we work with the assisted living facilities in a lot of cases as a team and as a partner to understand what their needs are as well. So it's kind of a, it really is a group effort. It's not just one person dictating.

- Yeah, yeah, and I think that when you do have that group, you know, the professionals sort of involved, you almost always end up with sort of a better outcome. Right?

- Right.

- All the way around for everybody, everybody's happy.

- Right.

- So what are some of the reasons that kind of prompt people to make that move into a senior living community? And how does your company go about choosing that right community for each individual?

- Sure, sure. So, I mean, it can be anything from loss of a spouse, worsening medical conditions, inability for self-care, difficulty managing finances, a caregiver, a child can't care for the parent or the relative anymore. So it can be any combination of those or one of those. Or they just wanna simplify their life, right? Where they need more socialization. They wanna be part of activities. And, you know, it can be lonely and isolating living by yourself. And moving into one of these communities, as challenging as the move can be sometimes, what we see the beauty of it is once they get there and we get them out of their home and into the community, they thrive because they didn't realize that sitting in their home by themselves was debilitating. And they're at an activity, they're out having breakfast with somebody, meeting new people. And it really is a great thing to see. So there's a lot of emotion involved in this. There's a lot of high pressure situations that can sometimes prevent families from making the right informed decision. And what we've seen is that when you don't make the right decision and you have to uproot the person again, or the people again, it becomes more distressing. So we really stress the importance of making the right decision, not rushing into it, really being thorough, doing the research. We understand our clients' capabilities, and we work with assisted facilities, like we work with you and your teams, and really understand what your capabilities are. And when we refer, we make sure that we're very transparent about what whether the ailments are, you know, any issues, financial, anything that they have, because if you don't have full disclosure and you hide something, then you're only doing yourself a disservice. So we really try and support and make recommendations, but ultimately, it's up to the family or the the senior where they end up.

- Yeah, yeah, and I love that you said that, because it's key, you know? You wanna make that move once, really, if you can, because it can be traumatic to do that over and over again. And one thing that the Arbor Company does do, it is the aging in place. And we talk about that all the time. We have a video on that as well. And what that means, it means that when you need additional care, you just move to a different neighborhood within the same community. You still keep your friends. You keep, you know, everything stays the same. And so I'm glad you pointed that out because that's huge.

- Yeah, and I think that's really special. I think that, you know, that's something that's very unique. And what I really appreciate about your communities is that you do offer that because people don't realize how stressful it can be to be one place, get comfortable, but they're not thinking five years down the road or 10 years down the road. And then, you can just continue along that path. And it becomes much easier and less stressful. So I think it's really an important consideration and something that your community really does well.

- Yeah, yeah, thank you for that. So if you have someone who's already made that decision to go to assisted living, what are the top three things that they should focus on while preparing for that move?

- Yeah. Well, people tend to, I think the first thing is people tend to get very overwhelmed at the thought of, "Where do I even start?" Right? So what we really do is we break things down, the approach, right? You can't say, "Oh my gosh, I gotta get this packed up. "I have to move everything out. "I have to donate, I have to sell, I have to sell my house. "I have to..." Slow down, first thing's first. Let's come up with a plan of what the timeline is gonna look like, right? If you have to be in, in four months, this is what we're gonna do in month one, month two, month three, so that it's not so overwhelming to do everything at once. Because everything's not gonna get done at once, right? So that's the other, that's one thing. I think another thing is, what do you keep and what do you get rid of? And I think a lot of times we run into children or people who want their parent's room, they're like, "Finally, I can get rid of everything in the house "and start over, their room can look like Pottery Barn. "And we're gonna redecorate it, and everything else." That's absolutely, in my opinion, the wrong thing to do. I think you need to have, they need to have things that they're comfortable with. Things that they've had for, you know, they bring with them. The rooms, when they get set up, we're very attentive to detail. You know, their favorite cookies, their favorite ice cream, flowers, their belongings, whatever it is. If you have to supplement with new things, and what we do find is we've brought things, and then, the parent says, "Oh, you know what? "I think I want a new chair now." But it has to be their decision, right? So what do you keep? And the other thing, we worked with a woman who could collected all these antique teacups from around the world. She couldn't possibly bring them all with her. So we had her choose her favorite three or four. And then, we photographed all the other ones and made an album for her. So at least when she came, she felt like she had them with her, and she could look through it, so she didn't feel like she was just giving up her entire life. So you have to come up with creative solutions sometimes to make people feel like they're not just getting ripped away from everything. And then, I think that another thing is just get support. Don't feel like you have to do it all by yourself. Whether you use a company like ours, or you get friends, or family, or someone, enlist help. And don't be afraid to ask for help.

- That's a big one, right?

- Yeah.

- And it's a big one because everybody wants to feel like they can do it themselves.

- Exactly.

- Like they're Superman or Superwoman.

- Exactly.

- Please, reach out to Darlene and her company because they can really help and really make a difference, and help you sleep a little bit better at night for sure. And I like that teacup idea by the way, with the photos. I think that's fantastic. So let's do this. Let's end this with you telling us how people can get in touch with you and your company if they have any additional questions about making that move to assisted living.

- Sure, that's great. So again, my name is Darlene Agag. Our number is 201 632 3991. My email, you can email me directly. It's D-A-G-A-G @thehesstia H-E-S-S-T-I-A group.com. And our website is thehesstia H-E-S-S-T-I-A group.com. Happy to help, you know, consult, talk. If you have a question, just feel free to reach out and we're here.

- I love it, yeah.

- Thank you.

- You're here and you're helping, helping everybody individualize, one person at a time, one family at a time. We love it so much. Darlene, thank you for being with us and for sharing your knowledge today.

- Thank you so much. Appreciate your time.

- Absolutely. Now, if you enjoyed this interview with Darlene, you'll wanna head on over to our website. We've got content there all about senior living at www.seniorlivinglive.com. It is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We appreciate you watching and being with us today. Have a great day, everybody.

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