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Combat In-Home Services with the Power of Community

Ken-Curnes1I was recently asked by a community’s board member how to combat in-home care services. The thought behind the question was that in-home services help individuals stay in their homes, and thus delay moving to a community. There’s a longer answer to the question, but the short answer is to be what you are and what in-home services can’t ever be – a community.

There’s a reason they’re called service providers. The entire relationship is based on the delivery of a service; there is no larger relationship. At a community, any service offered, whether it’s a health service, such as physical therapy, or something more mainstream, such as dining, housekeeping or special events, occur in the context of a larger relationship. Because of this, there are intangible benefits that are hard to communicate in marketing materials, but are tremendously powerful and speak to the board member’s question about how to position against staying in the home, whether you need services or not. A story that was shared with me helps illustrate my point.

Bob and his wife moved to a community. Sadly, Bob’s wife passed away within a year of the move. To help cope, and as a way to expand his social network, Bob became an avid user of the fitness center, taking a number of classes. Bob was well liked and joined more than one class, giving as much as he got from the experience. Unfortunately, during one of these classes, Bob fell and broke his hip. After a stay in the hospital and rehab, Bob was able to get back to his apartment, but wasn’t very mobile and needed the aid of a walker at all times. Without his wife, and struggling with the idea of needing a walker, Bob isolated himself and depression set in. I’m sure many of you have experience with situations just like this, and know that in many cases the ending of a story like this isn’t always a happy one.

In this instance, though, it is. The community’s fitness director, who knew Bob from the classes, made sure she checked in on him when he was back in his apartment. During her visits, she could see where this was headed. She started working with Bob on exercises in his apartment, one-on-one outside of his regular therapy. Her personal attention and interest got Bob from a walker to a cane and from a cane back into fitness classes, where he was warmly welcomed. Bob regained something important to him and avoided the spiral of isolation and depression.

Would this have happened if he had received those same services in his home? I don’t think so. The power of this success story is in the relationships that existed before the accident, the support of a community that surrounded Bob, and the value he saw in regaining the connection with others. Bob was part of a community, and the community helped Bob when he needed it.

By the way, this true story occurred at that board member’s community. I think they’re in a very good position to deliver the power of community.

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