CALA News & Views - Summer 2016 - page 8

J A N U A R Y 2 0 1 0 , V O L U M E 1
8
T
hose of us who have traveled to foreign countries can attest
to the truth of this statement. Everyday occurrences like
getting a cup of coffee, checking email, or running an errand
can become a whole new experience and learning opportunity
when you have to navigate a different language, a different
environment, and a different set of customs.
The same can be said for operating a business in another
country, something with which
Patricia Will, CEO of Belmont
Village Senior Living
, has first-hand experience. As Belmont
prepares to open its first-ever international community
in Mexico City this year, I caught up with her to get her
perspective on the challenges and opportunities of developing
and operating an Assisted Living community in another
country.
"We recognize that we’re creating a product in a different
country," she says, "and that we will be working within the
local culture, the local customs, not simply recreating the exact
same thing as we have." For starters, the building itself will be
different than Belmont Villages locations in the United States.
Ms. Will explains that it began when she met with the CEO of
ABC Hospital, Belmont's health care partner in Mexico City. "I
said, 'What would you like to see on this piece of land?' And he
said, 'Well, seniors housing and care, an extended-stay hotel, oh
and we need more retail and restaurants, and oh by the way, a
medical office.' And I said, 'On an acre and a half of land?' But
that’s what we’re making."
The building will include retail and restaurant space on the
ground floor, an 11-story Assisted Living community, and
an eight-story hotel. One of the Assisted Living stories will
be connected via a skybridge to ABC Hospital, allowing
residents easy access to health facilities. "But our relationship
with the hospital system is deeper than just the skybridge
connection," she adds. Belmont Village is partnering with the
hospital system to give residents access to medical treatment
for chronic conditions, as well as to the hospital's rehab and
outpatient services. "In addition, their doctors will be making
rounds in our building, and we are going to be collaborating
on advancing neuroscience as it pertains to Alzheimer’s and
related dementias."
In fact, it was partly a growing understanding of the specialized
needs of individuals with dementia that has helped to generate
interest in bringing Assisted Living to the country. According
to Ms. Will, "A very strong community of people in Mexico
understand the terrific need for dementia care," including an
Alzheimer's Association chapter, Mexico's National Institute of
Geriatrics, and others involved in educating the public about
the benefits of therapeutic care for people with dementia. "But
other than one very high-quality dementia day care program,"
she says, "it doesn’t exist in Mexico City today."
Another thing that doesn’t yet exist in Mexico City is an
experienced pool of front-line employees. “Here in the states,
we can readily find trained caregivers who have worked for
other companies, or who have worked in nursing homes and
related fields. In Mexico, this industry doesn’t exist.”Ms. Will
says that Belmont is addressing that challenge by “recruiting
employees for their integrity, their values, and their personal
experiences,” and then putting these employees through very
extensive training.
And there are other challenges unique to Mexico that Belmont
Village hopes to address for its new residents. Ms. Will points
out that the traditional view was that residential services like
Assisted Living weren't needed because families will take care
of their loved ones at home. But she says, "Mexico—especially
in its major cities like Mexico City—has changed dramatically.
Women are very prominent in the workforce. They are bankers,
lawyers, doctors, politicians, and scientists. They have the same
constraints as family caregivers do here in the states."
What's more, she says, traffic in Mexico City is "brutal. It is a city
of over 20 million people that wasn’t built to handle the cars or
the people." Taking your mother to a doctor's appointment in
such a congested city, she says, can take all day, which explains
why "many people find appealing the idea that you can have
quality time with your parent without having to do those types
of chores." What Belmont Village hopes to do is to appeal to
the cultural importance placed on caring for older relatives
by giving family caregivers the ability to do so with assistance
from professionals.
The hiring and training of these professionals is another
instance of Belmont’s collaborative and inclusive approach.
Because Assisted Living doesn’t yet exist in Mexico, the
leadership team for the new community is being recruited
from two talent pools: Spanish-speaking Americans with
substantial senior living experience with Belmont; and highly
qualified Mexican nationals who are in training in Belmont’s
stateside communities. “We also have Spanish-speaking front-
line employees that have been selected to go train our line
employees in Mexico City, so there’s a great exchange going on
already.”
And this inclusive approach also helps in terms of introducing
Assisted Living to a new audience. To address this challenge,
Belmont has tapped a Mexico City agency to collaborate with
the U.S. communications team on messaging that will be
appropriate and engaging to this new audience. “I think that,
whenever you open a brand new market, in this case, a brand
new country, it always gives you the opportunity to look at
your business with a fresh lens again,”Ms. Will explains. With an
anticipated move-in-ready date of November and a waiting list
that’s already growing, these cross-cultural efforts have already
been effective.
When asked what she thinks the future holds, Ms. Will laughs
and says, “Lots of lessons to be learned.” She adds, “I think
that we will bring to Mexico the 20-year foundation that we
have here in the states. And I think it’s important to have a
foundation from which we can lift out all the good. It’s also
important to be respectful of the local environment, the local
customs, the local culture, and the language.” In the end,
she says, it’s about the residents and family members, and
about introducing Assisted Living as a solution to resolve the
challenges of aging in Mexico City and giving families back the
gift of quality time and quality of life.
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