Industry Spotlight: Assisted and Independent Living

Learn More about Assisted Living Renovations, Regulations and More 

Vanguard Vice President Chris Morgan has worked in senior housing and skilled nursing for almost 25 years. During that time, he’s worked on almost every type of project, from small single-owner properties to companies spanning over 1,000 properties. He’s also developed industry standards for FFE (Furniture, Fixtures and Equipment), renovation protocols, and assisted living regulations documentation.

In all, he’s had a hand in nearly 25% of the nursing homes and assisted living properties in the country spanning from Seattle, Washington, to South Florida. For our latest blog, we spoke with him to discuss how Vanguard got involved in the assisted living world, our biggest success stories and how the industry has changed over the years. 

SEE MORE: Is it Time for a Remodel of Your Assisted Living Property? 

How did Vanguard get involved in the assisted living industry? 

Vanguard was focused on energy efficiency, an area that’s been neglected in the nursing home and assisted living area. Mike brought me in and let me build multiple divisions to be able to service the needs of the operators and owners of all these properties. It all started with energy-efficiency renovations, and based on my experience, customers came to me and asked, “Can you help with renovating the buildings as well?” 

What has led to Vanguard’s ongoing success with these projects? 

Fortunately, we have a strong, talented team that can take on these types of project management responsibilities. By partnering with multiple large-scale operators and REITs, we were able to bridge the communication gap and find ways to make the projects aesthetically pleasing and effective in terms of cash and cost management. As a result, we expanded extremely quickly across the entire industry, and now we’re working nationally for some very large operators. 

The biggest challenge is goal alignment. You have operators, residents, families, staff, the city and even the federal government with different agendas and metrics dictating their success. Finding a way to bridge the gap between all of those parties is what makes the job challenging yet extremely rewarding. It’s really about building trust with all the parties individually and as a group. When you do that, you’ll be able to understand what motivates people and find all the areas le and find all the areas where you can insure a successful partnership. 

How do you think the industry has changed over the years? 

Assisted living regulations and funding sources are always moving targets. Every few years, there are also new philosophies on how to care for the elderly, and not everyone is willing to have a paradigm shift immediately. Some like to wait and see, while others will embrace it immediately. Often that depends on funding. 

People are starting to understand that it is important to put dollars into improving the quality of life of staff and residents. Twenty years ago, it was more about profit. Today, profit is still important, but the path to those profits is creating high-quality care and patient results. 

The market is shifting where you’re going to find patients and residents with higher acuities pushed into traditional assisted or independent living environments. Meanwhile, people who wouldn’t move into assisted living are moving in sooner. So you have a dichotomy where you have one property that you have to find a way to meet all those different needs. 

How is Vanguard approaching this changing landscape? 

You need to take an existing building and create an environment for people that still want to go to restaurants or bars. So we repurpose dining rooms for a restaurant-style setting. We also focus on therapy rooms to make sure that residents coming in for physical therapy have the right facilities with state-of-the-art equipment.

A majority of the properties are for the average person, and you want to do everything to make it affordable while still giving them a high-quality environment, so family members feel comfortable with them living there. Entertainment areas, putting greens, therapy gyms, outside entertainment and even field trips help. You want people up and out of their rooms and socializing with or without their family members. 

What are some of the biggest impacts Vanguard has had in the industry? 

We played a really important role in the post-COVID world. You had a situation where inspectors couldn’t go into the buildings for a year and a half, and we are helping address a lot of delayed maintenance, upgraded lighting, or energy efficiency. You need to go in and refresh all these properties and help people feel comfortable going back there. There was a lot of negative press in the past couple of years in nursing homes, specifically, that spilled into the assisted living industry. We helped them regain that trust while also retaining staff, which is a huge challenge right now.

If you want to learn more about our assisted living renovation services, feel free to reach out. Vanguard has a team of experts that would be happy to help you with your next project. Connect with us by calling or filling out our contact form