By Amira T. Fahoum

Is it possible to hit and maintain 100% occupancy?

This is a question that is frequently asked and many in our industry have offered answers.  There are two answers you hear frequently:

  • It is impossible/unrealistic in the current marketplace.
  • That some marketing organization has an easy magic cure-all available to you . . .  for a price.

    By Amira T. Fahoum Is it possible to hit and maintain 100% occupancy? This is a question that is frequently asked and many in our industry have offered answers.  There are two answers you hear frequently:

    • It is impossible/unrealistic in the current marketplace.
    • That some marketing organization has an easy magic cure-all available to you . . .  for a price.

    My answer is neither.  And yet my team and I did it and you can too. A few weeks ago I met Steve Moran at the Oregon Health Care Association Convention in Portland. You may have seen his article about the keynote presentation in which we all learned to ask “what is going well?” I shared with Steve that I had a community that hit 100% occupancy, and that it was a community that for the year prior, had really struggled with occupancy.  Perhaps as important, this community has a mix of low income and market rate and in addition to hitting 100% occupancy, we were able to increase the number of market rate residents.  Here is the story of Chateau Gardens Memory Care in Springfield, OR

    Challenges

    My “go to” action to increase occupancy is to do events.  The idea is that we use events to attract prospects, then nurture those prospects to move-in.  A great idea, but, this particular community is relatively small with limited common space.  Our best area for events is the backyard, but in Oregon, weather makes this challenging for large parts of the year. Making it even more difficult, is that it is all memory care and they have a few residents that just don’t appreciate it when a big group of strangers come into their home without “being invited” (by the residents, of course). Location is also not a referral source this community can depend on. It is located in a residential neighborhood tucked far away from any main thoroughfares.  To compound the problem, one of our competitors is located on the corner just before this community.

    Opportunities

    What changed was this: how the staff looked at their community; dispelling preconceived notions, and focusing on a layered marketing approach.  I often ask our community marketers, “what really makes you different? Do you know?”  When they answer “it’s the home-like atmosphere and the fact everyone feels like family,” my response is “try again (everyone says that)”.  When the staff took a hard honest look at this question they discovered they could offer a true elder-directed environment.  The figured out they could take advantage of their small size and  hold meaningful resident and family councils.  The elders decide on the menus; the elders create the life enrichment calendar; and the elders talk with visitors when they come in.  Families have a forum to voice concern or praise, raise questions, or find support. What is really cool is that this community was recently was added to The Eden Alternative Registry and received high praise from The Eden Alternative for their innovative approaches to even the simplest of tasks such as serving meals. This little community let go of the idea that differentiating themselves meant having a lot of amenities, or having a fancy building. 

    They let go of the idea that elders with dementia couldn’t do certain things. On the contrary, they found their elders thrive when they contribute; and families work side by side with staff instead of feeling ignored or at the mercy of the staff.  This didn’t happen overnight! This environment is the result of hard work over several years by dedicated individuals.  It was the trust of the Administrator and Assistant Administrator that they were moving in the right direction, even though they had no idea exactly where they were going to end up.  They just knew they had a vision.  When they began articulating to others that vision and explain what they were trying to achieve, the staff got on board; families got on board; other professionals got on board; even the state surveyors were amazed at what a memory care community such as this could accomplish.

    Part 2 will be published on Thursday. Amira T. Fahoum is the Director of Sales and Marketing for Ridgeline Management Company based in Eugene, Oregon and operator of seventeen assisted living and memory care communities nationwide.  She is the President-Elect of the Emerald Marketing Association and holds her assisted living administrator certificate in the state of Oregon.  She can be reached at afahoum@ridgelinemc.com