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A "Moving" Story

Posted: December 20, 2016

We recently published the inaugural issue of Thriving in Community, JCHE's newsletter featuring timely stories and information. The front page story is reproduced below. 

     Let’s face it, moving is stressful. In fact, because moving is such a major disruptor of routine, it’s ranked right up there with the death of a loved one, divorce, and major illness, as one of the top stressors in life. 

     So when we embarked on an ambitious apartment modernization project currently underway at our Gitta & Saul Kurlat House in Brighton, and soon to begin at our Golda Meir House in Newton, we were keenly aware of how stressful the moving process would be for our residents. And for those who are frail or have memory loss, we knew that the stress could be far more acute and could affect their health and wellbeing.

     And this isn’t just an ordinary move. In fact, for most residents, it’s two moves. Initially, we planned to move residents just once into an identical new apartment. But we decided to accommodate the many residents who are attached to their homes and feel strongly about moving back in following renovation.

     The result is that each resident needs to be packed up and moved into a temporary apartment. Then, most residents move again back into their remodeled apartment. And the project’s scale! We are remodeling 209 apartments at Kurlat and 199 apartments at Golda. That’s hundreds of residents having to move…twice.

     Because the heart of JCHE’s mission is a tireless commitment to treasuring our wonderful residents and supporting their independence and creativity, our biggest and most immediate priority was to minimize our residents’ stress and anxiety.

     Many thought their apartments were fine and didn’t understand why we were upending their lives in such a drastic way. Brighton campus’s Executive Director Gaye Freed explained in detail the major reasons for modernization, including necessary upgrades in decades-old plumbing and electrical systems, new amenities including upper cabinets, better lighting and air conditioning in bedrooms, transforming apartments to be fully handicap accessible, and many other features that residents had for a long time told us they wanted. All residents got to see a model of the renovated apartment and offer their recommendations for improvements—many of which our architect incorporated in the final design.  

     From personalized letters to communicating with anxious family members and personally visiting each resident, we took meticulous care to support our residents during this tumultuous time. And two of our Resident Service Coordinators (RSCs), Marina Breydo, who is an expert on dementia, and Sarah Green Vaswani served as liaisons between the relocation company and our residents.

     Underscoring how much we value a personal touch, on moving day, Gaye served residents a comfort-food meal of brisket and mashed potatoes.

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     One innovative initiative spearheaded at Golda Meir House by RSC Blaire Smith was a stress reduction group. “It’s easy to say ‘Don’t worry, it’s going to be fine.’ But that tells people to suppress their feelings. And that doesn’t work,” explains Blaire. By encouraging residents to openly talk about their anxieties in a supportive, caring environment, Blaire helps residents differentiate between reasonable and unreasonable fears, which ultimately helps alleviate stress.  

     Many of our residents have lived in their apartments for many years—some over 25—and you can imagine how much “stuff” has accumulated over that time. To help declutter for the move, Golda staff and residents organized a yard sale with the proceeds going to support JCHE. This gave residents a sense of control over their move, helping them prepare for a life change by learning to let go. It also opened a window for more personal conversations with our residents, who eagerly shared with us which possessions were meaningful to them and why.  

     Residents were also encouraged to donate their old books to youth-serving nonprofits. This had the dual effect of instilling residents with a sense of purpose while also helping them to pare down.

     “We’re constantly thinking of ways to make residents smile and relax,” says Golda Meir Executive Director Myra Marshall. And one way we’re doing this at Golda is by holding Happy Hour a couple of times a week thanks to a newly purchased beverage cart!

     To make light of a stressful situation, Golda also ordered the hilarious “I survived my move” buttons.

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     Many of our residents were distraught by the news of having to move. Reinforcing our reputation as the gold standard for senior care, through a combination of expert logistics and unrivaled personal care that is the lynchpin of JCHE’s mission, we make sure to make the inherently stressful process as smooth as possible.    

     And as a result of working with our residents every step of the way and addressing their needs and anxieties, we turned a stressful and chaotic experience into yet another community building opportunity. 

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