Ep. 4 How The Solutions Team Adds Value to 12 Oaks Senior Living

Sep 18, 2023 | Podcast

Listen to Greg Puklicz, President of 12 Oaks, and Eilleen Aldridge, Vice President of Solutions, discuss how 12 Oaks’ communities have increased resident retention and referrals through the Symphony of Life program and how their “sit in a seat” model provides continuity in leadership roles.

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You are listening to The Roots Podcast by 12 Oaks with host Greg Puklicz, where we’ll be joined by industry leaders to discuss and highlight the character, competency, and care that is required to successfully manage senior living portfolios.

Greg 00:15

Welcome. I’m Greg Puklicz, the host of The Roots Podcast, brought to you by 12 Oak Senior Living, and I am really pleased to have a special guest with us here today in our studio. It’s Eilleen Aldridge, who’s the Vice President of our Solutions Group here at 12 Oak Senior Living. That’s a really cool title, Solutions Group. Guess you’re the lady with all the solutions.

Eilleen 00:40

We do. We have all the solutions. Absolutely.

Greg 00:42

Good. Well, before we talk about that, why don’t we learn a little bit about Eilleen. So tell us a little bit about how you got into the senior housing business.

Eilleen 00:52

I’d love to do that. So I actually fell into senior housing, like so many people have done. I knew someone that was in senior housing and met some people and ultimately came in as an Assistant to an Activities Director.

Greg 1:16

So you did you carry the bingo cards into the room?

Eilleen 1:17

I could call a game of bingo. Let me tell you, back in the day. Couple months later, became the Activities Director, which and in all honesty was looking at moving more into a corporate marketing position and ended up loving, absolutely loving the people, loving the families, and enjoying being able to help people engage. So that engagement process was really important. Learning about dementia and how to work with people. So stayed as an Activities Director for quite a few years, and also at that time worked with their in-house companion program. So we were able to increase revenue and help people stay in the building as we had a personal assistance services.

Greg 2:10

That was something a little unique to 12 Oaks Senior Living, wasn’t it?

Eilleen 2:13

It was very unique and very successful. We were actually able to keep people there. Probably at that time you were looking about a four year span and we probably kept people more, probably closer to that six year span.

Greg 2:29

So average length of stay was increased 50% up to six years.

Eilleen 2:33


Greg 2:33

Through the use of the companion service.

Eilleen 2:35


Greg 2:36

And that generated significant revenue for the community as well?

Eilleen 2:40

It did. It created quite a bit of revenue. It also helped with that word of mouth. So we had a lot of families that were really pleased that they could stay, they didn’t have to move. And didn’t have to go to a skilled nursing environment, which is different. So that was absolutely wonderful. That was a great success. And after a while went to the marketing piece of it and became a Marketing Director and was very successful in keeping our community at that time, a hundred percent for the most part, and then decided to head off as an Executive Director. So headed off as an Executive Director over two different communities, and now in the Solutions, came in as Solutions and now in the position that I’m in now.

Greg 3:38

Great. You came in as a Solutions Consultant. Promoted to Vice President of Solutions, running that group.

Eilleen 3:45

I have. And the growth in solutions! So the growth and the talent that we have now, the growth in what we’re able to do and help and support has grown immensely as well.

Greg 3:58

Tell our listeners a little bit what is Solutions? I think people understand, okay, we’re senior housing operators. We have RVPs, they’re probably familiar with our high-touch model, where we try to minimize the number of communities that an RVP has so that they can spend meaningful time in the communities and build those connections and relationships with the ED and leadership at the community and with the corporate office. So we think that’s important, and here we have this Solutions Group. So explain what exactly is Solutions and what is it you guys do.

Eilleen 4:37

Because Solutions is so unique and it’s unique to 12 Oaks and what we’re able to accomplish and do. We know that the RVPs are so busy and have so much going on with operations, and we’re able to come in and put a focus, a true focus on a certain avenue that we’re looking at at that time. So we have people that specialize in sales and marketing. We have people that specialize in dementia related programming, which is our Symphony of Life program. And we also have people that can specialize in first impressions, and we know how important that is. Right? We help support those RVPs in just several different ways. Being able to go in with sales to be able to train, train our Sherpa (now Aline), train our prospect centered sales, dive into KPIs and where can we coach them? How can we help them to move up and move forward? Symphony of Life is huge and we’ve had great successes with people engaging with our memory care residents. So in that dementia supportive environment is now a happy place. It’s a comforting place to go to.

Greg 5:57

Can you describe, what is Symphony of Life exactly? I mean, it’s a really cool term, but what does it mean and can you provide some specifics of the Symphony of Life programming that you’ve installed at some of our communities?

Eilleen 6:12

Absolutely. Symphony of Life is a whole body programming for dementia care. So it is a program that doesn’t just have words to it, it has actions. So from dining to resident care to activities to the Executive Director, and even maintenance and housekeeping, that they’re all trained in understanding, how do I go about approaching someone with dementia? How do I help them when they’re upset? What is validation? How do I validate? What does that look like? And that’s across the board. How do I work with somebody who doesn’t want to take their medication? Along with the engagement part of it, who is that person and not who they were, but who are they that, I don’t know if you’ve ever seen that picture, the lady that’s sitting in the wheelchair, but her reflection is the ballerina on the wall. So we want to make sure that we understand and we know that person and who they are. It’s not who they were, it’s who they still are. If they were a nurse, we know they’re always a nurse. Right? That never changes. So that is a piece of our Symphony of Life. We train in three different chairs. So being a symphony, we have first chair, second chair, third chair. So we learn how to work with those that are first chair, maybe those that are new in their journey with dementia. Onto second chair that are a little bit more advanced, and how are we going to engage them all the way to our third chair and even our audience that is having more difficulty with connecting with people. So we bring in families, we do a virtual dementia experience. All of our employees, and hopefully a lot of our families, if not all of them, can actually go through this experience and understand what’s really happening. You’ve seen those people, right, that say, “don’t you remember?”, Well, they don’t remember, right? So go through this virtual dementia experience and they actually get a feeling of what this is like. That’s a piece of the program. It is so much and it’s growing.

Greg 8:32

So obviously there’s a cost to the community to implement some of these programs, but what are the benefits? So from the analytical side, right? The return on investment, if you will, clearly there’s impact on the resident and their families because they see the positive impact, right? And the calmness you bring to the resident and their family. And that’s very satisfying from an ownership point of view, what positive attributes are there that you’ve seen result from this program when it’s been implemented?

Eilleen 9:09

Oh, absolutely. Definitely a cost and we see one retention of people being able to stay and actually they’re healthier. We don’t have to give, sometimes, as many medications because we use aromatherapy or something that would help somebody stay calm. Families that are happy are going to stay. And on top of that, you’re going to have word of mouth. So you’re going to have families that are telling people, “Hey, look at what mom is doing now, look at what mom has done. And this has been comforting not only to her, but to us as a family.” So retention is certainly going to be good for revenue and ongoing word of mouth of people coming into the community.

Greg 10:01

Yes. And that word of mouth and in the memory care business particularly reputation is a paramount importance because it’s largely a referral business. Right? So the residents that come into the communities are largely referral based. Talk a little bit about the impact of that reputation on the referral and the impact on occupancy then.

Eilleen 10:25

So the impact on the referral. So we know that we have doctors, not only families, but doctors and vendors and other people coming in. So that’s what spreads out into the community. And we know that travels fast, right? So when they do see what is happening and it’s spreading out to doctors and physical therapists and home healthcare and hospice, then that is a huge impact on what’s coming back to the community. So what we’re seeing, actually, we have a community right now, for example, that has grown and it’s grown a large factor because of Symphony of Life and what they’ve been able to do, and the people that have come in and said, “Hey, this is different. This is a different program that nobody else has. This is where you should probably come and see what’s going on in this community.”

Greg 11:17

And I know and I’ve seen the census growth particularly two communities where we’ve recently installed this in Katy, Texas and in Tucson, Arizona, two standalone memory care facilities. We look at how well they’re doing, we look at our standalone memory care communities in West Texas. Memory care, which was thought to be one of the harder parts of the business seems to have become easier for us through implementation to these programs.

Eilleen 11:49

Absolutely. It definitely has. I think the piece that we do as well with the going and maintaining and supporting the people that are doing these programs every single day that are working with these people every single day is absolutely huge. So it’s not a one and done. We’re going to implement this and install it and put it in and we’re going to be there to support.

Greg 12:12

Well, and that’s what’s nice, the continuity of the 12 Oaks team being in the communities, visiting the communities, making sure that the initial training is being used, correct procedures adhered to so that the long-term impact can really take hold.

Eilleen 12:30

And you have Solutions that is all trained. So Solutions is trained with Symphony of Life and with that sales part of it. So they know how to speak to families and help them understand what we’re doing.

Greg 12:44

That’s awesome. So I want to pivot here. Let’s go back to the first thing you said, marketing, helping with the sales and marketing effort, right? Increasing that time in the selling zone and how important that is. How does Solutions support the onsite marketing director and the corporate team and the RVP to enhance the sales opportunities and build census at a community?

Eilleen 13:11

Yes, that’s huge and dear to my heart. I love this. They are able, one, to go on and look at the community through the lens of the people that they’re working with. So through that lens of that Marketing Director, that Executive Director that might be pulling that Marketing Director out of the sell zone a bit and what’s really happening. So we’ve actually allowed that time to go in there and look at this and be able to help people understand how we need and why. The why behind the why of why we need people to be in the sell zone. So we have five vitals in our sells. So the five vitals. One is of course, staying in the sell zone. We have to stay in the sell zone, and there should be amount of time that’s in the sell zone. We know that if we have four hours or more in our sell zone, that we’re going to make a difference because we’re going to be able to touch lives. We also understand that we have to connect, untangle, emotionally, untangle and advance. So again, we’re given that time to help people understand how do we connect, what does that look like? How does that Executive Director support that? Through top 10 every morning, through wrap up every evening, and how are they going connect as well? And how are we gonna untangle somebody? Create a follow up. Create a follow up is absolutely huge with that. And then how are we going to advance them to that treasure? We also coach to understanding that it’s not as much about the brick and mortar, really, it’s about what we’re doing inside the community and what’s important to that family member and what’s important to that person that’s going to be walking in the building. So that’s a huge part of sales and marketing. We support them throughout. We’re constantly having cohort calls, which I might say we do a Symphony of Life as well, by the way. But we have cohort calls with all of our marketing staff, and we do that twice a month. So not only do we focus in on competency, but we also focus in on character. So we know we’re a lot about competency and character, and that helps them to have a group that they can talk to, a group that they can be close to and talk to as they’re trying to move forward in their sales process. There’s so much to sell.

Greg 16:00

What I really love that you said is it’s not about the brick and mortar and that is so very true. Because if you think of our portfolio, we have the grandest of communities recently opened in South Texas, and we have middle market, ultra affordable, clean, safe housing, right? For the seniors here in the metroplex. And from a brick and mortar point of view, they’re very, very different communities. But the one thing that’s the same is the level of care, attention that the residents get. And that’swhat spreads the word, that’s what builds the reputation of the 12 Oaks Community. The ability to connect with the residents, connect with their families, and provide them with a safe, caring environment.

Eilleen 16:57

It really is. It really is understanding how to connect, understanding attunement and active listening. So many people can actively listen, but they really have learned how to attune to what’s really happening. So if mom is falling, well, tell me more about that. Has she just fallen? Has she fallen like 10 times? Are you afraid? What does your fear look like? So that they’re actually able to find out what’s really going on and how can I really help you?

Greg 17:31

One I think extremely positive benefit that Solutions brings to our portfolio and our ownership groups is the ability to sit in a seat. So what does that mean exactly? And and why is that so important for the continuity of leadership at a community when we need to do that?

Eilleen 17:53

It’s so important. And we’ve just seen recently actually a Solutions member who is just an excellent Executive Director, was able to go in, sit in a seat, so she was able to keep everything going.

Greg 18:11

Sit in a seat, meaning if the seat’s vacant right?

Eilleen 18:14

The seat’s vacant, right.

Greg 18:16

An ED leaves, right? Perhaps a Marketing Director leaves. Not having that leadership position role filled at the community can be really traumatic for the community.

Eilleen 18:30

It can be detrimental. Sitting the seat is exactly that. If somebody’s not available, if they’re not there, if they’re on vacation even, maybe it’s extended or we don’t have anybody, then we’re actually able to bring somebody in and be there and be in that seat as an Executive Director, as a Marketing Director, activities if we needed to. And we have plenty of people that can go in and do that and make a difference and that community, they also are very versed in our impact. So the character end of it, and they bring that to communities as well. So they’re doing standup, everything an Executive Director or Marketing Director would do, they’re doing that. So they are working that position as they’re there.

Greg 19:23

Well, thank you. It’s been wonderful speaking with you, learning more about solutions and all the great things you do for 12 Oaks and the residents and staff at all of our communities.

Eilleen 19:34

I appreciate you. Thank you.

Greg 19:35

And thank you for listening to The Roots Podcast, brought to you by 12 Oaks Senior Living.


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