An Executive Director's Keys to



enovating a senior living community while it is presently occupied is a little like trying to replace the wing on an airplane in flight. Maybe it’s possible, but it sure isn’t easy.

There’s dust and noise, and sometimes the contractor shuts

off the water. Residents may have to shift rooms. Common areas get blocked. Staffing routines may be disrupted. The stakes are high: It is important to avoid the missteps that com- promise resident safety or undermine satisfaction. For an executive director, a community renovation can be

a trial by fire, but there are ways to win—tips and tricks to not only survive a renovation, but to come out on the other side with a better, stronger community. We talked to four executive directors who have been down that road:

Sherry Fischer, executive director Canyon Trails (Integral Senior Living) Community Project: A $4 million total rehabilitation

Ann Ricci Kenah, executive director The Oaks at Denville (Springpoint Senior Living) Community Project: A dining room rehabilitation; the first phase in a four-stage overhaul

Christopher Barstein, executive director Edgehill (Benchmark Senior Living)

Community Project: A 35,000-square-foot addition and renovation of 55,000 existing square feet

Amber Foster, executive director Commonwealth Senior Living at Front Royal (Commonwealth Senior Living)

Community Project: An eight-residence addition on an existing building

Residents first “This is their home.” This is the mantra repeated by every executive director in the midst of a renovation. Resident satisfaction is by far the predominant concern and proactive leaders take steps early on to ensure those living in the com- munity will be comfortable when the loud, dirty, intrusive, and unpredictable realities of residing in a construction zone come to fruition. “It starts with communicating the benefits of the project,”

Barstein said. “Before we even talked about the negative impact, our residents needed to really understand the need for a dedicated memory care neighborhood. Once they un- derstood the need for the renovation, that helped to get everyone on board, because they could see that these were good things for the community.” Selling the benefits of a renovation can help ease frus-

tration when the inevitable disruptions begin. Even with residents in a positive frame of mind, however, executive directors still must engage in some heavy lifting to ensure a smooth process. Much of it comes down to communication. Kenah, for in-

stance, engaged residents early on in the planning process, both to ensure buy-in and to help set expectations. “We had a group of residents on the renovations committee and they were in the discussions with the architect and with our team. They in turn became the town criers; they let the other residents know that a lot of thought had been put into this,” she said. When the work began, the community went from a sin-

gle-seating dining approach to a shift system, with resident dining times staggered. “They weren’t used to that and so we had to explain it. We had many town halls to talk about what we had to do and we also offered free room service to lessen the number of people coming into the dining room. That went over really big and it took of a lot of the pressure


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