News & Blog

Rapid Growth Means New Team Members for Solvere

In addition to opening the new Homestead at Hamilton, Solvere is also rapidly expanding in other areas of the country as well. Solvere Senior Living has three more communities opening in 2018 in Florida and Texas and has an additional six communities coming under their management purview. Because of this growth, and to prepare for future opportunities, Solvere has strategically expanded their already best-in-class team:

Marika Tufteskog-Johnson, Chief Strategy Officer

Marika Johnson brings over 18 years of successful and progressive experience in the senior living industry in community, regional and corporate level positions. Her experience encompasses a broad range of senior housing environments including independent, assisted living and Alzheimer’s care for portfolios up to 54 communities. Marika’s operational knowledge and skills encompass both start-up construction as well as acquisitions.

As Chief Strategy Officer, Marika is responsible for the overall operational strategy of Solvere as well as pre-development and pre-opening initiatives.

Laresa Colvin, Director of Team Engagement and Values

Laresa comes to Solvere with varying roles of Human Resources experience. She began her career as an Information Manager while on active duty military. Following her military career, Laresa worked in roles including Contracts Administrator, Project Manager and Human Resources Manager for a variety of different companies in diverse fields.

As Director of Team Engagement and Values, Laresa has the formidable task of driving Solvere’s recruitment and retention practices as well as being responsible for traditional human resources functions.

Kim Brawley, Regional Vice President

Kim offers more than 26 years of experience in senior living operations and has held a variety of positions both at the community and corporate level including Regional Director of Operations with Harbor Retirement Associates, Senior Lifestyle Corporation and Emeritus Assisted Living, as well as Area Director of Operations, Corporate Operations Specialist, Executive Director and Director of Business Affairs for Texas.

As Regional Vice President, Kim is responsible for managing all aspects of the Solvere communities located in the Southwest and Southeast regions.

Joseph Brendlen, Controller

Joseph joins Solvere with over seven years of accounting and finance experience and has worked with Solvere’s Vice President of Finance in a previous position within the accounting department of a start-up CCRC, where he developed a strong understanding of the retirement living industry and all accounting functions involved. He supervised all aspects of the budgeting process, monthly close process, cash management, payroll processing and monthly reporting.

As Controller for Solvere, Joseph has responsibility for implementing best practices, managing the monthly closing process for all managed communities and providing financial analysis for capital investments, pricing decisions and contract negotiations.

A Combination of Manager and Consultant

A Consultant Mindset

What makes Solvere stand out from other senior living management companies? Kutac Ward’s response to this question is not what you might expect from a management company: “Our consulting mindset, and what I mean by that is we have processes, procedures and best practices that we implement and we brand.”

This mentality is grounded in the fact that many of Solvere’s employees have been consultants in the field. “We will work with different owners in different ways. We will brand it or we won’t brand it if they want their name to be in the forefront versus ours,” says Kutac Ward. What’s more, she says, is that Solvere doesn’t have the need to “plaster our name over everything.”

Solvere works with owners to either transition them to self-manage one day or take it to the long term. “So, honestly, it is that consulting mindset [and] we don’t have a box that we have to fit in.”

About Those Occupancy Rates

As the end all and be all of senior housing benchmarks, having an occupancy of 100 percent is of course what all operators strive for but is not particularly realistic to achieve at any consistent level. So what does Solvere consider to be an optimal—and achievable—occupancy level, as well as a reasonable goal from a budget standpoint?

According to Kutac Ward, 96 percent is the standard goal. “With different owners and different banks, it may vary, but 92 percent is what we pro forma,” she says. “Every community breaks even at a different point, based on the market and the fill rate.”

Short-term Versus Long-term

Senior housing management contracts are different from traditional real estate investments in that their cancellation periods are shorter term and therefore pose more difficulties with regard to staff development and training. While Kutac Ward acknowledges that the five- to seven-year holds are shorter than other entities, she and her team have found “really good results with good team recognition orientation and training programs, within 90 days.” She notes that Solvere has its training programs “down” so well that they can implement them quickly “and see results very quickly.”

In fact, Solvere is building out a training and development program as a platform for the company to utilize with all of its clients, “so whether we have a contract for a year or we have it for 10 years, we will implement it consistently across all the communities.”

Referring again to the consulting mindset, Kutac Ward explained that “we create programs for other organizations all the time and we want to make it so they can take it and do it on their own.”

Does Form Follow Function?

Just because a senior living community is beautifully designed and luxuriously appointed doesn’t mean that it’s a good option for your loved one from a programmatic standpoint, Moran contends. Indeed, Kutac Ward concurred on this point. However, she maintains that it’s still possible to create the right atmosphere “if the training program is solid and you’ve spent that time on it,” she says, noting that Margaret Wylde, Ph.D., president and CEO of ProMatura, and her research around resident satisfaction, engagement, and camaraderie in communities resonates with the Solvere philosophy.

“It needs to be focused on building that sense of camaraderie with residents and also about being really intentional about your programming and what it looks like and then training for every single staff member and involvement with every single staff member,” she says.

By Meg LaPorte

Senior Housing Forum Publisher Steve Moran sat down recently at the NIC 2017 conference in Chicago, where he interviewed Kristin Kutac Ward, president and chief executive officer of Princeton, N.J.-based Solvere Senior Living, to talk shop about the industry and discuss the company’s operating philosophy.

Senior Housing Forum

Using technology in memory care to increase engagement and improve communication

In neighborhoods created specifically for individuals with memory impairments, technology can play an active role in both the engagement of residents and communication with family members.

But it’s important that technology is used properly – particularly when it comes to resident care.

Technology in a memory care setting should always support a culture of engagement and participation rather than simply providing entertainment, says Lorie Dancy, Vice President of Clinical Services at Solvere Senior Living.

“If technology takes a resident away from participating and being actively engaged,” she says, “that’s when we might shy away from using a device.”

Memory care communities managed by Solvere Senior Living integrate a unique wellness philosophy, called Valeo™, into all aspects of care and service. The philosophy’s programming is adapted to the individual and is focused on increasing awareness, creating purposeful moments, stimulating pleasant long-term memories and providing moments of joy.

Technology for Engagement

Technology doesn’t need to be complex or expensive. Digital music players like iPods allow people to listen to tunes they love, and some free or low-cost tablet or phone apps provide brain puzzles or mimic musical instruments.

If the individual is capable of engaging with an app or device, there’s no harm in using it, Dancy says. All staff in Valeo communities are encouraged to engage with residents, and that can include technology as appropriate. Staff, for example, might ask a resident about his or her favorite artist or musical genre, then pull up a song on their phone.

There is also no one-size-fits-all approach around technology. Some individuals may be more accustomed to using technology in the past, and could benefit more from it than others.

If technology us used in one of our communities, it must enhance the Valeo philosophy of engagement.

Technology for Communication

One of the most valuable uses of technology in a memory care setting is maintaining communication with family. Technology offers another avenue to connect beyond only those instances when adult children or family members visit the community.

Several Valeo communities have incorporated the Caremerge system. With it, each family member can download the free Caremerge Family App, and use it to view photos of their parents or loved ones throughout the day and communicate with on-site caregivers via text message.

Technology like Caremerge can also ease feelings of caregiver guilt. Despite the comforts and security that a memory care community can offer, many struggle with the choice to move their parent into a community. Having a technological touchpoint can provide more peace of mind knowing a loved one is only an app-click away.

Caremerge also provides management and program directors with numerous tools to help coordinate events through a central calendar or to communicate with families or other team members.

Before officially incorporating technologies into a community, clinical leadership should assess the service to ensure it will enhance–not take away–from the resident experience. At the end of the day, use of technology in a memory care setting should engage residents with positive, legacy-building experiences and provide another communication channel with families.

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