It’s exciting when things change, especially when they’ve been done the same way for a long time. Care for the aging population has long been a hospital model of care served up long-term to seniors who can no longer live independently – but the industry is seeing transformation, and this week’s guests are leading the pack in Atlanta.
I’m happy to welcome Andy Isakson and Dave Wahn of Isakson Living. We talk about the exciting changes coming to senior living, and the surprising impact those changes are having on customer happiness and staff retention.
Recognize Changing Needs
Just because the demographic you serve stays the same, does not mean that demographic isn’t shifting from within. Seniors today are living independently much longer, and they desire more freedom and control over their lives, even after they begin to need some assistance. The community care model employed by Isakson is making that happen.
Retirement homes are things of the past. Says Isakson, “Nobody likes that word. So many people in their 70s, or seniors, are still working, and work for a long time. So that’s not really the appropriate word for it anymore.” As people age, they do see a need for more readily available healthcare, but they need it in a way that supports their active lifestyles. Isakson supports this through providing resort style senior living communities with either an entrance fee or condominium (ownership) style of buy in, and a monthly fee for amenities. As the residents grow older and need more consistent care, they can move into one of several homes, which have replaced the old school hospital model. It’s this home model of assisted living that is providing a revolutionary change for seniors.
New Models Make Customers Happy
Taking changing customer needs into consideration is necessary regardless of industry. For Isakson, the change came from watching his own parents age. He saw the challenges they faced and was inspired to do something that would make a difference for people like them. Coming from a real estate development background, it was a natural shift for him to make in his own career.
Isakson Homes does everything they can to support their customer’s independence as long as possible. “We have a lot of tools in our toolbox,” says Isakson. They offer an on site medical clinic, home care, adult daycare, and assisted living.
Discussing the assisted living model, Isakson explains that it is, “a different way of running long-term care …instead of being institutional, they’re set up like homes. This entire thing is not ‘home like’, it is home.” Members live in households of 18, with in-home caregivers to help with meal preparation, care, and medical needs. The caregivers work in the same homes daily, so a sort of family unit is formed with residents and caregivers. Residents follow their own schedule, eat what and when they want, and have help where they need it. This model is uplifting for both residents and staff.
5 Surprising Differences About the New Model
1. This new model makes a lot of sense for aging customers, and in taking a deeper look, there are some surprising business advantages, as well. The household model of care is better for staff. They enjoy getting to know and better serve the residents, and they don’t have the experience of getting “lost” in the operations of a large organization. They can see their direct contribution, and have the opportunity to form close, meaningful relationships with the residents and other members of the staff. Many other long-term assisted living centers in Atlanta see as much as a 50% staff turnover rate annually. This is not the case for the household model.
2.In long-term assisted care, labor related costs make up about half the operating budget. The new model is about the same as the old model in overall staffing costs, but it has a much better record of retaining staff. This means that, without the high cost of staff turnover, costs can actually be lower in the household model of care.
3. Millennials are drawn to working in this kind of model. Millennials like to have jobs that make a difference, and they like to feel like they are contributing to the way things are done, even as new hires. The household model makes this more attainable. Isakson explains, “Healthcare has been a top-down system. The orders come from the top, and they filter down to the people on the floor -and really all the action is really on the floor. In the household model, we have self-organized teams.” More of the decisions about scheduling and day-to-day procedures are made by the teams, and team members have more control over their experience. They are able to see their efforts have a direct, positive impact on residents. Wahn says that staff members frequently come into work on their days off to visit with residents and other staff members. This kind of connection and contribution is key for retaining staff members, and millennials in particular.
4. In the smaller environment, staff members are motivated to perform better. Isakson says, “I worked in a small office a lot of my career, and when you work in a small setting it’s self-managed. If you’re not carrying your weight, you’re let know pretty quick. So it’s a better way to manage things, unlike sometimes getting lost in a big organization, in a small organization you’re peers aren’t going to let you get lost.”
5. With the full toolbox of care options and economic models that Isakson offers, they have found that their community is attracting younger residents. The active community and resort style living, coupled with more independent options for long-term care, mean that younger residents are moving in with plans to stay for the long term. This is great for the business.
How to Make an Innovative Leap
As with any change, it’s important to do it at the right time, in the right way. The key is to know your customers. Don’t assume that just because the demographic you serve remains consistent, that there aren’t changes happening within that demographic. Listen to what your customers say, but listen deeply. Look for the root cause in the needs they express, and always look for innovative ways to serve them. Like Isakson Living, you can find great solutions with surprising benefits for your business as well.