You did your research on continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs, or life plan communities). You selected the community that was the best fit for your lifestyle, budget, and location preferences. You cleaned out and sold your house, and moved. Everything has gone according to plan, and you’re comfortably settled into your new home. But then, the executive management team of your community unexpectedly changes…and not for the better, in your opinion. What now?
For CCRC residents, and even at other types of retirement communities, this scenario is something that is nearly impossible to plan for. Everything is great when you move in, but for one reason or another, the executive director leaves, and the new one isn’t up to the job. Or, in the case of a nonprofit community, maybe the board of directors takes on a new mentality, and you believe it isn’t in your best interest or that of other residents.
How is a CCRC resident to feel about this, perhaps after years of happily living in a community that has become their home?
A change of leadership, a change of heart
I recently received an email from a resident of a CCRC who shared the story of friends of his who had chosen the CCRC and put down their deposit, but then discovered that the community is searching for a new CEO. He notes that, while residents have little interaction with the leadership team, the CCRC’s governing board has said almost nothing about the CEO search to current residents.
The email from this resident goes on to share that this CEO issue has given his friends pause about their decision to move to that CCRC, not knowing what the new leader’s approach and philosophies may be.
>> Related: What About a Rogue CCRC Board?
Put it in writing
Residents of a continuing care retirement community are depending on them to make decisions that are morally and fiscally sound. Ideally, the leadership team should have an open line of communication with residents about their plans for the community in both the short and long term. The situation described in the email from my colleague definitely raises some red flags when it comes to transparency and resident involvement in governance.
I cannot say specifically what should happen in such a scenario where a CEO is departing — after all, the executive management team roles are jobs, and people change jobs for any number of reasons. However, I think that every community’s board or management team should have it in writing — either in their bylaws or some other governing document — that residents (or individuals selected to represent the residents) should have the opportunity to interview any potential new leader before they are offered the position.
Additionally, I would propose that there should be an open forum, or a “town hall” of sorts, between residents and the potential new leader. After all, the residents of the CCRC will indirectly be paying this person’s salary, and the decisions he or she makes will have a direct impact on the lives of the residents. They should be allowed the opportunity to have any questions or concerns addressed prior to hiring the new leader.
Resident involvement in leadership
Further, I also believe residents (or members of this resident-leader group) should get at least two to three votes on the board, depending on the size of the board and required number for a quorum.
In other words, resident-leaders should be given enough votes to where it can make a difference in a matter, but not so many votes that the board loses its fiduciary independence and objectiveness. I can’t think of any good reason why this should not be regular procedure within all CCRCs. It is simply the prudent and respectful thing to do.
Making a hiring decision that could potentially change a CCRC’s culture and management for the worse is not good for anyone within the organization, especially the residents who have made a big financial commitment to live in a community that provides a plan for their future and peace of mind.
I have never worked within a CCRC, but if I were in a CCRC leadership role, there’s no doubt I would want the input of residents on decisions like this. Could it get a little messy at times? Sure it could. Could I please everyone? Of course not. But I cannot imagine ever keeping the residents in the dark about major decisions that could affect their everyday lives. For me, it is simply a matter of respect, right versus wrong, and good business practice. And as indicated by the example given above, it also affects occupancy. After all, if residents’ lives are negatively affected by management changes and decisions, how likely are they to encourage others to move to the community?