Is For-profit or Non-profit Better in Senior Housing?

Is For-profit or Non-profit Better in Senior Housing?

Tug of WarWhat’s better? What’s the senior housing spin?

My mother moved into a not-for-profit Continuing Care Retirement Community. That’s where I started my senior housing career. I sold the not-for-profit status as better and more mission driven than the money grubby for-profits, because that was what all the not-for-profits said and did.

I was naive for three reasons, because later I learned:

  1. A non-profit board that did not understand seniors or senior housing made financial decisions for the entire senior living community.
  2. Most of the profits at the non-profit went towards other ministry work instead of being reinvesting back into the senior community.
  3. A resident was sexual abused by a non-profit staff member, even though every employee professed to be Christian.

Then my senior housing career switched to for-profit. It can be pretty dog-eat-dog aggressive at some companies. It really varies in the senior living industry if the resident is number one or the stockholders are the primary concern. So you better find out before you consider moving there or working there.

If a sales person can’t hit the required sales numbers, you are simply fired at some for-profits. Maybe that’s why so many sales people are impersonal and just want to know if you are ready now? If a senior is not ready now, the sales person has no interest in calling a senior back after they have toured. This is sad, because most seniors need to come back several times before making a decision to move. A relationship needs to be built. 

At for-profit senior living communities, most financial decisions go towards the benefit of the stockholders. But there are some amazing administrators that love, adore and would walk on hot coals for their residents and staff. So resident centered communities can vary by location and not the owner in my opinion.

There are actually two types of for-profits: Those on the stock exchange and boutique communities that are run by families or attentive owners. I am lucky to work for a for-profit that is run by attentive owners. They have the heart of a not-for-profit and are completely resident centered and mission driven.

The communities I represent do something very unique for Continuing Care Retirement Communities. They offer a Guarantee of Care for life, if a resident outlives their resources. Every resident has the same offer, it is not limited to 5 or 10 residents on a good Samaritan fund or foundation. 

Do you agree with my analogies or am I completely off base?  How would you evaluate the differences?

Your Senior Housing Options,” has a simplistic title, but what’s inside this new book can save a you months of research time.  Hear Diane Masson’s interview of how her mother and in-law’s faced the pivotal decision to plan ahead or wait until a crisis.  Learn the pitfalls from transitioning from your home to senior housing.  Understand what questions to ask, insider tips and dirty secrets revealed. For weekly tips join at: 

Diane Masson has worked in senior housing for 17 years and is the regional marketing director for two debt-free Continuing Care Retirement Communities in Southern CA (Freedom Village in Lake Forest and The Village in Hemet).  Her first book “Senior Housing Marketing – How to Increase Your Occupancy and Stay Full,” is being utilized by senior housing professionals across the country.  Both her first book and second book, “Your Senior Housing Options,” have a 5-star rating on

How Can Skilled Nursing Communities Describe Lifestyle? (Part 2)

Part 1 described how the lifestyle of long-term care resident was not discussed in the admission process of the skilled nursing facilities I toured.  It was so bad that I could not call them communities, but instead considered them institutional facilities.

These were the 10 worst skilled nursing tour experiences that I encountered recently:

1)   Not one receptionist stood to greet me

2)   No one invited me to sit down

3)   I were not offered a beverage

4)   There was no sales – just admissions needs

5)   They did not talk about the quality of their care

6)   No one mentioned how the residents minds would be engaged

7)   No activity program or menu was offered

8)   Lifestyle for long-term care was not discussed

9)   They used terms like facility and diapers

10)   No one asked about my mom as a human being and what was most important to her – such as what does she enjoy most?

These would be my top 10 recommendations to discuss lifestyle for long-term care residents in the skilled care nursing admissions process.

1)   The receptionist should stand to greet the guest with a warm smile and a friendly greeting.

2)   The admission counselor should offer a beverage and invite the guest to sit down to discuss his or her parent’s needs.

3)   The counselor should have empathy for the guest by listening to their full story and determine if it is long-term or short-term stay.

4)   The quality of the nursing staff should be addressed and how this will benefit the guest’s parent on a long-term or short-term basis.

5)   On the way down the hall to show the available bed in a room (semi-private suite is better terminology), talk about how life can be vibrant at the community and mention some of the residents by name.

6)   Paint the picture of the live music coming in on a weekly basis, how a sitting room can be place where the guest can visit with their parent in the future and how residents are engaged on a daily basis.

7)   Show the activity calendar and share an example which happened today such as — how many residents enjoyed the morning exercise program.

8)   Talk about how they can make their parent’s side of the healthcare suite (nicer word than room) more home-like with personal touches and give examples (so many are two-bed suites).

9)   Find out what the resident can currently enjoy and what they could possibly do in the future through excellent therapy at your community.

10)   After careful listening, give examples of how their parent could be mentally engaged through an activity program, visiting volunteers or caring staff.  Give the guest a copy of the activity calendar and dining menu.

No one ever wants to be admitted to a skilled nursing facility. And no one wants to picture their parent trapped in a wheel chair for the rest of their lives with no brain stimulation.   So an admission person has an opportunity to treat the family with compassion and care.  They can paint the picture of great activities in the long-term lifestyle and bring some hope for the future of the long-term resident and their family.   A better admission process – produces better feelings from the family – and can increase your referrals.

Diane Twohy Masson is the author of “Senior Housing Marketing – How to Increase Your Occupancy and Stay Full,” available for sale at  For volume discount pricing or to inquire on Diane’s availability to coach and/or train your senior living marketing team (CCRC, independent living, assisted living or memory care) – please call: 206-853-6655 or email  For more information: Twitter: @market2seniors Web: Blog:

Do Any Skilled Nursing Communities Describe Lifestyle? (Part 1)

After working in senior housing for 13 years, I thought the majority of skilled nursing communities had broken the mold of institutionalized care from the past.   After recently touring three skilled nursing communities in one day for my mom, I have changed my mind.  The old skilled nursing concept of institutionalized seniors that helplessly live boring lives of eating, bathing and sleeping – still seems to exist.   The admission folks did not paint a picture of any type of lifestyle such as: music to lift spirits, social activities to engage the mind or fellowship with other residents, volunteers or staff… I was shocked and discouraged.  So in my examples, I have to call them facilities and not communities.

The first facility offered to show me their only available bed.  It was down a dark hallway with no natural light.  The available bed was the middle bed of three-bed ward.  Almost everyone was in bed at 2 PM in the afternoon with the curtains shut.   Everyone else was in a wheel chair.  The dining room had no chairs.   There were institutional lifts and medical carts in the hallway.   This tour guide did not mention how my mom could enjoy anything!  She did not offer an activity program or talk about the quality of care.  All she said was, “You will be lucky to get a bed and take it when it comes available.”  I had to ask to see the dining room and had to request an activity program and menu.

The second facility had a slightly friendlier admission person.  This person showed us an available bed and then proceeded to talk about the majority of residents wearing diapers.  He actually said, “Don’t worry that the two-bed rooms only have one bathroom, most residents don’t use them – because they wear diapers.”  What???  Are you kidding me?  Why would you tell us this?  Then we were shown the dining room with an activity happening – a funeral.  We were told they had a monthly funeral for all the residents that were gone.  Wow, that sounds like a depressing activity to look forward to every month.  I thought he would follow up by talking about some vibrant activity, but he did not.  He did not talk about the lifestyle my mom could enjoy, how they keep residents engaged or the quality of the care that my mom could enjoy.  I had to request an activity program and menu.

The third facility had the most unwelcoming receptionist.   I said, “Hi, can we have a tour?”  She said, “Oh, you want a tour?” (In a very bored voice, like maybe we would not want a tour).  I said, “Yes, is a tour possible?”  She said, “Well — Mary can help you with that, she’s in that room.”   She pointed us toward a doorway, so we had to approach the room… They did not accept Medicaid, even though several websites said they did – so no tour was offered.

Several years ago, my sales and marketing office was located in a skilled nursing community.   Some residents were very ill, but others led lives with hope and purpose through wonderful activities.  I personally saw the joy and loved the ice cream cones served by volunteers every Friday afternoon.  The admissions person was a lovely woman who painted the picture of living the best quality of life that someone could with the best possible care.

So my number one question, after touring three skilled nursing facilities, is do skilled nursing communities currently describe lifestyle for incoming long-term care residents?   Thank goodness we were not in rush to place my mom immediately, since she is safely in an assisted living community.

Diane Twohy Masson’s top 10 ways to discuss lifestyle for long-term care residents in the skilled care nursing admissions process will be coming in part 2.

Diane Twohy Masson is the author of “Senior Housing Marketing – How to Increase Your Occupancy and Stay Full,” available for sale at  For volume discount pricing or to inquire on Diane’s availability to coach and/or train your senior living marketing team (CCRC, independent living, assisted living, skilled nursing or memory care) – please call: 206-853-6655 or email  For more information:  Twitter: @market2seniors Blog: Web:

Do you discuss T.E.A.M. with your senior living team?

Inspiration can be planned or it can come from out of the blue.  As I was setting up for a pancake breakfast at church, I was encouraging the other volunteers.  Then another volunteer inspired me – Michael said, “We are working as a “T.E.A.M.,” which stands for TOGETHER, EFFORT, ACCOMPLISH, MISSION.”

As we start this New Year with each of our senior living teams, are you going to give an inspirational talk to build a team approach toward filling and marketing your retirement community?  Why don’t you discuss T.E.A.M. (TOGETHER, EFFORT, ACCOMPLISH, MISSION) with them?

TOGETHER – we can support marketing!   It’s all about the first impressions each of us can provide the future resident and their family.  From the receptionist standing to greet every guest with a smile; to every director “accidentally” running into future residents on a tour; to housekeeping/maintenance paying special attention to the front entrance area, community spaces, restrooms and hallways; to a caregiver or staff member greeting guests in the elevator/hallway to say, “We look forward to you choosing to live here!” or “This is a wonderful place to work.” or “I would love to take care of your mom.”

EFFORT – is going the extra mile to be welcoming!  Can every employee smile and greet the customer who passes them in the hallway?  Out of the hundreds of communities that I have toured, only one retirement community in California blew me away when – every single staff person smiled at me during a tour.  A dining room server said, “We would love to spoil your mom.”  This community wide impression of caring and a happy staff was a huge “wow factor” for me.  I would want to visit my mom at this assisted living community any time.  That particular tour experience is forever itched in my “good moments” memory.

ACCOMPLISH – the occupancy goal!   With everyone working together to make residents, future residents, guests and family members feel welcome – it creates an atmosphere of positivity, good energy, compassion, homelike warmth and a feeling that everyone is happy and well cared for.  Does every staff member know the names of all the residents and continually use them?  Residents love this and they are your best referral sources too!  Your senior housing community will fill to the brim.

MISSION – is your retirement community’s purpose come to life!  Do marketers speak about your mission and/or values during a tour?  It can say a lot about your community when any resident will volunteer how much they enjoy living there.  Discuss how your team can live/show your mission, so future residents can see that your team walks the talk.  Differentiate your senior living community from competitors by showing how your unique staff is enhancing the lives of your residents through excellent service and compassionate care.

Showcase your senior living community through the T.E.A.M. approach!  Here is wishing your community 100% occupancy in 2012!

Diane Twohy Masson is the author of “Senior Housing Marketing – How to Increase Your Occupancy and Stay Full,” available for sale at  For volume discount pricing or to inquire on Diane’s availability to coach and/or train your senior living marketing team (CCRC, independent living, assisted living or memory care) – please call: 206-853-6655 or email  For more information: Twitter: @market2seniors

Web: Blog:


Can an Assisted Living Save the ER Bounce?

Seniors have emergencies every day that send them to an emergency room (ER), sometimes two or more times in a week.  Adult boomer children can watch helplessly as their parents bounce between their home and the ER.  Enduring ER protocols can be a new definition of suffering for a senior with dementia.  Are the ER bounces really necessary?  Can an assisted living community minimize the ER visits?

Emergency rooms save lives everyday and I am grateful for them and their procedures.  But seniors with dementia can have reoccurring symptoms that cause 911 personnel to recommend transporting them to an ER.   It’s hard for emergency staff to handle the time consuming questioning of a dementia patient, who can’t remember what was said 10 seconds ago.  So a senior with dementia can repeatedly ask in vain for a glass of water, a cup of coffee or some food…and unfortunately the answer from ER staff is usually no.  In fairness, if someone needed surgery that very day, he or she can’t have anything to eat or drink beforehand.  But a senior with dementia does not understand why they are being denied.

My mom was sent to the ER for chest pains two days in a row and endured 8 hours of dementia confusion the first day and 3 hours the second day, before I was able to rescue her and take her back to her assisted living apartment (this happened even with the POLST in place). My mom’s POLST (physician’s orders for life-sustaining treatment) state that because of her age and dementia that no extraordinary measures should be taken such as resuscitation or a surgery.

The first day in the ER, my poor mom asked 65 times, “Where is my purse?  Where are my glasses?”  They had not been sent with her to the ER and when I told her they were at her home, she could not remember where home was located.

After I arrived at the ER on the second day, my mom said, “I have been in a living hell with no water and no one will talk to me.”  Then she thought she was in her childhood state of California instead of Washington State.  It was a complete nightmare for her and I became very protective.

I decided to sign paperwork at her assisted living community stating that if my mom had chest pains again, she was not to go the ER.  Her assisted living community agreed.  The doctor documented that her chest pain was not caused by her heart and gave a prescription for pain medication.  The next morning my mom had the same chest pains and the assisted living nurse saved her the anguish of going to the ER again.  The nurse gave her the prescribed pain medication, the pain subsided and she ate her breakfast with a smile.

If boomer children have parents with reoccurring symptoms that send them to an ER, an assisted living or memory care community may be a good solution for your stress.  Check it out…

Diane Twohy Masson is the author of Senior Housing Marketing – How to Increase Your Occupancy and Stay Full.

15 Senior Living Competitors in 3 days

Have you ever visited all your assisted living competition in a couple of days? Maybe your first thought is that you are too busy? Or you just need to keep working hard and the occupancy will go up? Well I ran this competition marathon two weeks ago in Salt Lake City and it was a real eye opener.

Here are some of the areas that were of particular interest to me:

What did the exterior look like as I drove up?
What kind of shape was the landscaping in?
How was I greeted when I entered?
Was I welcomed with a smile and handshake?
Was I offered any refreshments?
Did they have a “wow” lobby/entrance?
Did the marketer just ask fact questions or did they interject feeling questions too?
Did they introduce me to anyone on the tour?
Was it a “wow” tour?
Would I want my own mom to live there?
Would I want to eat with my mom in their dining room?
Were the apartments rent ready?
Would my mom like the apartment and the view from it?
Could I sleep at night, knowing my mom lived there?

Now it was evaluation time… How did all of the above impressions compare with my communities? There was some room for improvement…but I walked away proud of my marketing teams. I encourage you to run the marathon now…

Diane Twohy Masson is the author of Senior Housing Marketing – How to Increase Your Occupancy and Stay Full.