A Welcome Home
Homecomings are often filled with reunions and reminiscing. They can be simultaneously heartwarming and bittersweet. They are also frequently preceded by moving—a process that can only be described as difficult.
For seniors and their families, the physical challenges of moving are only the beginning. They also face the emotional challenges of finding the right home and the appropriate level of care.
As her medical needs have changed, Carmen Cullen and her family have faced these challenges on three separate occasions. However, with the help of Senior Transitions, Inc., a firm specializing in relocating seniors, Carmen has always moved into a welcoming home.With the expert assistance of a senior move manager, Carmen Cullen and her family have faced the physical and emotional challenges of moving on three separate occasions.
A native of Baltimore, Carmen spent several years living in Florida after her husband of 50 years passed away. While she enjoyed the warm weather, she was far from family and friends. As Carmen’s 90th birthday approached, her daughters, Beth Kay and Marjorie Johnson, became increasingly concerned about her safety.
When Beth found North Oaks Retirement Community in Pikesville, Md., she knew it was a comfortable place where her mother could enjoy the company of lifelong friends. Because North Oaks is a continuing care retirement community (CCRC) offering care levels ranging from independent living to nursing care, the family could also be confident that Carmen would always receive the care she needed.
The staff at North Oaks suggested the family enlist the help of a professional to make the long-distance move easier. They hired two move coordinators, Sharon Cofar with A Move Made Easy in Florida and Charna Kinneberg with Senior Transitions, Inc., in Maryland.
“Once we knew that Charna would be the mastermind of the move, all our anxieties were allayed,” said Beth. As one of the founding members of the National Association of Senior Move Managers, Charna has helped spur the growth of this vital service industry. She created Senior Transitions, Inc., 10 years ago and has orchestrated thousands of seamless moves.
“Charna directed the movers, devised a floor plan, and even planned the contents of the drawers,” Beth said. “We walked in, and it was unbelievable. It was set up like a magazine shoot—so inviting and warm,” Beth recalled.
Carmen was able to immediately begin enjoying her new home, including many reunions with old friends. “The initial move was made much easier because the apartment was so lovely, and she knew the majority of the other residents through social relationships,” Beth said.
Beth and Marjorie returned to their respective homes with newfound peace of mind. Beth lives in New York with her husband, Stuart, and Marjorie lives in England with her husband, James, so knowing that their mother was with friends and surrounded by caring staff was a relief for them both.
In what would prove to be a prescient decision, Stuart kept Charna’s card just in case the family needed help in the future. While he knew Carmen would not be moving from North Oaks, he suspected that she might need to move within the community as her need for care increased.
As years passed, Stuart called on Charna a couple of times to help with small items, including getting signatures on various forms. It was outside the normal scope of her work, but Charna was always happy to help.
When Carmen’s mental status started to deteriorate, it became evident to the family that she needed to move to Autumn Ridge, the assisted living facility on the campus of North Oaks. With Charna’s assistance, Beth and Marjorie decided what should be included in the new unit. A new bed was purchased, a few wardrobes were obtained, the items from Carmen’s apartment that could be used were moved, and everything was set up. Although the move was difficult for Carmen, Charna and her crew eased the stress.
“Charna transmits the feel that she has everything under control—which she does,” said Beth. “No task is too insurmountable or too insignificant for her.”
Despite its smaller size, Carmen’s assisted living unit had the same feel as her independent living apartment, and she quickly began to adjust to her new home. With the help of home care aides, Carmen was able to remain in her new unit for several years.
Following a recent visit, Beth and Stuart were confronted with the reality that her mother needed additional care, which would mean another move. The staff at North Oaks agreed that Carmen needed to move to the nursing center in Autumn Ridge. Stuart again pulled out Charna’s card, and they met the next day.
It is never an easy thing to move a loved one into a nursing home. In addition to being a move coordinator, Charna is also a Registered Nurse, and she assured the family that they were doing the right thing. Beth noted, “Charna made all the necessary decisions in a few hours and then came back and took care of the move while my mother was in the dining room.”
Charna quickly and efficiently arranged clothing and personal items, hung pictures, and decorated the new space so Carmen would be comfortable. She made sure to keep things that would serve as memory triggers for Carmen. She also sent pictures of the new home to Beth and Stuart to reassure them that the move went smoothly.
Knowing that help is only a phone call away has made moving much easier for Carmen and her entire family. “A daughter really could not ask for anything more,” concluded Beth. “Charna has been our guardian angel.” With the expert assistance of Senior Transitions, Inc., Carmen and her family have managed several moves in the last few years—each ending in a welcome, new home.