Senior Move Management: A new niche for movers?By Eric Anders • Feb 7th, 2012 • Category: FEATURED STORIES, Senior Move Management
Although I'm not sure why, this article has garnered a lot of search engine interest in the last few weeks. To make it more relevant, some of the older content has been removed and the defunct links updated.
Otherwise it's basically the same post issued back in 2010
Several years ago I received an call from a customer who said he needed help to quickly move his 82 year-old mother from his boyhood home in rural southern Illinois back to his family's house in northern California.
The relocation was unplanned. His mother, Dorothea, a widow, had lived alone independently for 26 years on the family farm where he grew up – until she fell and broke her hip while baking cookies. A staff social worker had helped make arrangements to have her temporarily transferred to a local nursing home after being released from the hospital until more permanent assisted living arrangements could be made by the family.
Don, her second oldest son, was the only one of three surviving siblings or close family relatives who was either willing or able to attend to the unanticipated situation. Just after his mother's accident, however, his 58 year-old wife was hospitalized with a brain aneurism that required immediate and extensive treatment.
His voice shaking, Don quietly explained his daughter was a single mom and medical specialist who worked in Denver. Their married son was a high-tech sales executive living in Texas but working at a temp assignment overseas. Either could fly in for a couple of days during the next few weeks to help any mover I recommended to pack up his mom's house and ship her things to his home. Unfortunately, neither sibling had any idea what things their frail and emotionally distraught grandmother or her family wanted removed from the residence and out-buildings on the 80+ acre property.
Talk about feeling professionally inept!
Fortunately, I had just read an article in a trade publication about a fairly new organization that had recently formed specifically to facilitate all types of local and long distance relocation issues for older adults.
Dubbed the National Association of Senior Move Management, NASMM is a 501(c)(6), not-for-profit group of professional senior care specialists who cater to the unique – and frequently unexpected – physical and emotional needs of America's aging population and their families who find themselves faced with any type of moving or relocation arrangements. Initially formed by two dozen independent operators and small businesses in 2002, today the rapidly expanding national organization boasts over 500 active, involved members.
Relocation Stress Syndrome (RSS) – Real or not?
The word ‘moving’ has always conveyed change – either a physical transfer of motion or action, or an emotional response. To anyone contemplating relocation, however, the term generates a lot more anxiety. The Holmes-Rahe Life Stress Inventory ranks 'moving' 32nd out of 43 of life's most traumatic events.
The routine process of picking up 'stuff' in one place, transporting it and then dropping it in a new location, however, can trigger intense physiologic and psychological reactions in some people – particularly older adults! Annoying things like:
- unexplained muscle tension
- anger or apprehension
- loneliness and depression
- unexplained skin irritations and rashes
- painful headaches or migraines, or;
- intense emotional anxiety or withdrawal
Minor characteristics include changes in sleeping and eating habits, insecurity, lack of trust and need for excessive reassurance.
The term 'relocation stress syndrome' is a nursing diagnosis recognized during the early '90s that describes a cluster of bio-psycho-social symptoms that healthcare professionals recognize as a clinical challenge to seniors, families, and professionals.
Typically RSS (also called Transfer Trauma) is characterized by symptoms such as anxiety, confusion, hopelessness, loneliness and perhaps dementia in older adults like Dorothea. The condition usually manifests itself shortly after an older individual is moved from a private residence to an assisted-living facility, nursing home, intensive care or hospice facility.
Although some scientists question the validity of RSS, those devoted to senior care issues almost always agree that a feeling of 'loss' occurs when an older person's normal routine is affected by the unplanned lack of the exposure to family and friends, or unexpected withdrawal or removal of familiar everyday things or schedules that their life revolves around.
For some of these individuals, the results of an unanticipated move can be devastating to their personal health. The sudden deprivation of personal autonomy that's so comforting in their usual, everyday daily routine is what characterizes the onset of RSS.
Geriatric care providers familiar with the condition and it's symptoms believe RSS is experienced until a sense of control is regained. When experiencing relocation stress, the re-acclimation process depends on a number of variables, such as age and stage of life, personality, number and types of personal losses, amount of preparation and the degree and type of support received before, during and after the move.
A new meaning to the term moving
That's why, whether they're NASMM members or not, trained senior move managers (SMM) typically provide a list of ancillary services that aren't necessarily related to the labor intensive or physically demanding process of relocation.
Senior consultants normally try to access not only the entire scope of the physical move being considered but also take into account all the emotional aspects of the parties involved in the transfer decision. Usually the first item on a their agenda is listening.
There can be a lot of unspoken or private baggage that's hidden amidst these types of transitional related decisions. Sometimes it's not only difficult to decide what to take during the actual move, but there is frequently a lot of internal turmoil, emotional confusion and potential for arguments about how to divide up or dispose of what does and doesn't go. That's why it's extremely important to let each party involved in the relocation decision to define their personal expectations.
While many senior specialists in business today are quite capable in handling all the aspects of the discussion, planning and preparation phases, the logistics of the actual relocation to a new home or personal care facility are frequently outsourced to trained moving professionals.
Due to the often sensitive and emotional nature of the situation, experienced SMM professionals usually have a selected group of service companies and resources they've already pre-qualified to assist them in completing the final relocation arrangements.
Specialized niche for qualified movers
As the need for senior care specialist continues to grow because of the number of aging boomers, some well established local and long distance moving and storage companies and national van lines have recognized the need to provide seamless quality move management relocation services for older customers and their families.
Anthony Baumer is a good example. As the owner and President of BD Movers, Tony operates a well established, mid-sized local and long distance moving company in Manahawkin that's been servicing customers in and around Ocean County, New Jersey since 1989.
As one of the more involved participants of the New Jersey Warehousemen & Movers Association, and a sitting member on the Board of Directors, Tony has long recognized the unique physical and emotional needs of the moving industry's older customers.
Initially, his company partnered with local NASMM business owners in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania by providing specially trained moving crews for their clients. Since BD Movers sits in the shadow of the greater New York City market, however, his office was constantly being contacted by retired snowbirds who participate in the annual ritual of moving between the NY-NJ shore and warmer Sunbelt states, or directly by older NYC residents or their families who required professional help to plan their 'special needs' move.
Recently Tony decided to become an NASMM member . His familiarity with the organization combined with the growing number of word-of-mouth (WOM) requests for his specially trained BD Movers SSM crews made the decision pretty easy. When contacted about this new role, he responded:
Senior moves are a unique move. The mover should be familiar with the facility the move is into or at the very least, get the contact information for the management or move in coordinator. The often have rules much like high-rises on hours of availability and parking areas. Often they have "off limit" areas when residents may be taking lunch or common areas for meetings. Occasionally we must avoid an area of offices for doctor screenings.
The management will usually have a fact sheet they provide the move with their rules. Most are common sense, and will most likely have the requirement of a certificate of insurance to be provided in advance. Expect that some may require the move to be completed within a specified time, especially if they are scheduling an elevator for multiple moves. They may require that all packing material be removed also.
Before the move, we meet with the client and or the family. Many variables are common, kids are out of state, parents are in the hospital, one spouse may have recently passed away. We cover all the moving requirements but most likely the discussion will include cleaning , hauling away old items, donating items the family does not want but is in good condition, delivering to multiple locations (kids, grand kids, storage, etc).
I may offer the services of a estate sale planner. Sometimes the home needs minor repairs and we provide the contacts to that. Our client may not be up to arranging all the peripheral chores involved with moving, either because of health or distance. We step up and do that. – Tony Baumer, BD Movers
Definitely not the kind of options provided by your typical 'full service' local mover! And what's more remarkable, when you consider all the value-added SSM services that BD Movers provides, is that the company doesn't charge anything extra to make their senior customers' moves as worry and problem free as possible.
Combining local and long distance senior move services
For the most part, that's the same with Professional Movers, Inc , another family operated moving & storage and specialized transportation logistics company serving the Detroit market from it's office in Walled Lake, Michigan.
According to Andrew Androff, Director of Sales, his family has been managing the special needs of seniors throughout Michigan and northern Ohio almost since the day his father opened shop in 1979.
Although Professional is not part of NASMM, for years they've worked closely with one of the national move management organization's founding members. Their growing involvement in senior relocations led the company to develop their own internal senior moving consultant program. This small group of specially trained SMMs have come up through the ranks of sales and operations within the company. As a result, they're familiar with most of the building layouts and unique service and equipment requirements of senior care facilities throughout the area.
Like their colleague in New Jersey, the Androff family has worked hard to develop an excellent WOM reputation in local senior care communities. In addition to their partnership with local NASMM providers, they've also developed unique relationships with auction houses, elder law practices, in-home nursing providers, and assisted living facilities.
Approximately 80% of local and long distance relocations that Professional Movers Inc. handles for seniors involves multiple moves. Of these 20-25% involve moves traveling more than a few hundred miles. To meet those needs, Professional's senior moving consultants co-ordinate the interstate transportation with Wheaton Van Lines.
Wheaton, a midsized, financially strong, employee-owned household good carrier is the only national van line to offer an internally managed senior benefits programs.
Created for those age 50 and older, Wheaton's 'New Beginnings' program offers many of the same senior move management coordination services as those offered by Professional Movers, Inc.. That's the primary reason company management selected Wheaton as their prime nationwide household goods carrier in 2008.
The two companies use their expertise working with seniors and their families to provide their mutual customers peace of mind during each step of the planning, loading, transport, and unloading process.
In addition to the no-cost, value added services in included in their filed household goods tariff, Wheaton's move management group offer a variety of incentives and senior discount services through various national affiliate programs.
Planning for the unexpected
All too often unexpected family emergencies force a family care giver like Don to make extremely bad decisions. The first time we talked, he was simply physically and emotionally unprepared to handle the long distance arrangements for his invalid mother! If I had done what he originally asked, it would have cost a fortune.
As it turns out, the NASMM move manager he contacted was well qualified. She not only discussed Dorothea's situation with her at length in the hospital but, with the family's approval, coordinated her transfer to a less expensive, but equally qualified assist-living facility closer to her home when she was released.
Then she determined what household and personal items or family mementos would be considered necessary in her new home in California. Using this list, she took pictures and measurement and sent them to Don to see if everything would fit in his home.
Good thing! The spare room he'd initially decided to move his mother into, unfortunately, was on the second floor. Her injury and age would have made normal access and egress a problem for everyone involved – especially since Don's wife also needed special long term care.
After several emotional but productive family discussions, Dorothea decided to move into a small, rural senior living facility close to Don's office. Here she could cook and garden, entertain with family, visit with other residents, and bake cookies in the community kitchen. The driver who delivered her things reported her quarters were large enough to accommodate all of her things. Several heirloom items were sent to Don's home for when she visited.
Meanwhile, the NASSM facilitator had a handyman complete some necessary maintenance and repairs on the property, coordinated an estate auction through a member of Dorothea's church, and arranged the assessment and sale of the farm through a local Realtor.
Her professional experience and understanding of many of the processes involved in making life-changing living arrangements for older clients like Dorothea saved the family a ton of money, worry and heartache.
The need for the physical, emotional, and psychological support provided by well managed senior move management services like those mentioned above will continue to escalate as the growing number of seniors and boomers crossing the retirement threshold face the inevitable prospect of downsizing, eldercare or long term medical treatment.
Unfortunately, as this need increases, the more scam artists will be attracted to the senior move management business.
Some Better Business Bureaus(BBB) and attorney general offices reported a dramatic rise in the number of unresolved complaints against illegitimate movers and bogus move managers when the economy started unraveling and the real estate market took a nose dive. The internet has made it extremely easy for these shiesters to prey on the residents and families of the huge population of seniors making plans to move into retirement communities and assisted living centers.
Sadly, these incidents don’t usually make it to the news because of embarrassment, health concerns or resigned relief that occurs among all of the participants when the problem-ridden move is finally completed.
That's why it’s best for all parties who might become involved in arranging for or participating in a senior’s relocation in the foreseeable future to discuss the arrangements in advance of an emergency with reputable senior move management organizations like those mentioned above.
Here are some question to ask when shopping for a well qualified senior move management professional:
- Are you insured with full liability and workmen's compensation insurance? – If so, ask for proof. If not, keep shoppin'.
- What are your professional credentials and industry affiliations? – Organizations like NASMM, BD Movers, and Professional Movers, Inc. list their professional relationships at their websites. Verify them if you're in doubt.
- How are fees determined and when are they accessed? – The list of services provided and their related charges will vary among companies that specialize in senior move management. Request a copy of their contract and a list of potential fees so everyone involved understands the costs.
- How long have they been in business? – Although tenure doesn't necessarily guarantee quality, a long history with few or any BBB complaints is a good indicator. Ask for proof of their good standing from the state their registered in.
- What have former customers said about their service? – Due to privacy issues, many companies today don't hand out personal references from previous customers. User generated testimonials can frequently be found at company websites and in their collateral material. If your suspicious, request to have some of the company's satisfied clients contact you to verify their claims.
Senior Move Managers – Source: NASMM
Relocation Stress Syndrome in Older Adults – Source: Social Work Today
The Secret Caregivers – Source: Gail Sheehy
Have questions or need professional assistance with an upcoming moving and storage issue, or help choosing a domestic or international relocation product or service supplier?
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