Cindy Senke, President of Mosaic Management Group, a Wisconsin-based senior living management company, told me an amazing story.

By Steve Moran

While at NIC I attended the Blue Willow launch party, (they’re a Senior Housing Forum Partner), at the National Press Club and had a chance to spend some time visiting with Cindy Senke, President of Mosaic Management Group, a Wisconsin-based senior living management company.

I asked her if she had an aspirational story that would make me laugh, cry or get goosebumps. Here is the story she told me:

Sometimes these stories come to you in ways that you could never imagine. Every senior living operator gets letters from residents, family members, team members and others. Some are kind and supportive and others are critical. The very best are those that are

inspirational . . . .

I received this letter from someone who was living in one of our communities for around ten years. It was difficult for me to get through. The letter was five pages long and mostly filled with the love he had for his wife of 65 years . . . personal meaningful moments that made her and their relationship so special. He told me stories about her and them through their 65 years.

He went on to say that he had learned that she had Alzheimer’s disease and that now, because of the way populations are segregated by care needs in senior living, and the unique characteristics of Wisconsin’s assisted living regulations, he was . . . after 65 years of sleeping in the same bed every night . . . was facing the prospect of her living not only away from him, but in a different building . . . although on the same campus.

This letter was all about asking me if I could find a solution that would allow him to continue to share the same bed with his wife. Actually it was more than asking . . . he was begging me to find some way for them to stay together.

In Wisconsin there are two licensure categories, the lower level includes independent living and assisted living, the higher level includes memory care. It is not allowable for someone who needs a lower level of care (or no care) to live in a community licensed for the higher level of care.

I had some connections in licensing and made some calls . . . then made the ask. It was a huge ask.  

Would they allow me to allow someone who was independent to continue to live with someone who has been diagnosed . . . not only with Alzheimer’s, but who had been declared incompetent?

Because of the relationships, the request went up and down through the system and the answer that came back was yes.

What we were allowed to do was very unique. We took what is normally a two bedroom roommate style apartment and added an extra door to the second bedroom creating two studio apartments.

On one side we had an independently living resident (the husband) and, in the other bedroom, his wife with Alzheimer’s. This allowed him to still live an independent living lifestyle and yet come back home and be with his wife in the evenings. It also put his wife in the place she needed to be to experience the highest quality of life that she could achieve.

Why This is So Important

There were several really important lessons that came out of this story for me:

  • We need to be open to hearing the heartfelt stories of our residents and to let those heart-driven requests drive the way we deliver service to them.

  • It would have been very easy for Cindy to say, “Sorry, the regulations just don’t allow that to happen; we are really sorry but that’s the way it is.”

  • It proves the value of having a great relationship with regulators and working hard on those relationships.

  • It sends a powerful message to staff that management and the whole community is committed to doing what is right and what is best for the resident.

These kinds of stories get told over and over again with huge benefit to the community. Family members tell prospects; team members tell other team members. Just a single story like this can percolate for months or even years.  

You can watch my interview here: