The COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the daily lives of the senior population has evidently heightened the need for specific care provisions and services – specifically for those in need of assisted living.
Compassion and commitment are the foundation of quality care, even more so when the provision of care concerns the growing senior population.
These exact values, and more, are what Artis Senior Living delivers through its mission to develop communities for individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia and memory loss.
Founded in 2012, Artis Senior Living is a premier developer, operator, and owner of assisted living communities nationwide. Its network has grown since inception to include 27 communities operating in 11 states across the country, with over half of that portfolio growth taking place in the last 2.5 years.
“In our communities, we provide care The Artis Way, employing innovative techniques to meet the needs of memory-impaired individuals,” says Don E. Feltman, the CEO of Artis Senior Living.
“Artis’ approach to care may seem counterintuitive to some – we do not “do” memory care. We do, however, provide human care for people who happen to have memory diseases,” adds Feltman.
The Artis Way philosophy emphasizes the human being, rather than solely focusing on the limitations of the residents imposed by a disease. Don believes that when care is hyper-focused on the disease, it leads to limitations. On the contrary, in Artis communities, person-centered care helps its residents to realize their potential beyond the confines of the disease.
Artis’ commitment to human care extends beyond its philosophy; it is engrained in the very design of its communities which bridge the gap between economics and architecture by creating unique spaces that improve resident experiences without sacrificing aesthetics.
As a result, Artis’ residence design emulates the industry’s design excellence principles for people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias: a neighborhood model with secure outdoor space purposefully designed with visual cues for supportive yet independent wayfinding, and navigation.
Artis’ industry position as a developer-owner-operator conveys added accountability to its residents’ families. The responsibility for the entire process, from selecting the markets it enters to setting the rates and salaries in each community, rests with Artis.
“We have far fewer business relationships to manage behind the scenes, so we get the credit – and the blame. It also means our investors understand and are just as interested in the holistic culture of the company, as they are in the management of our communities,” says Feltman.
Building Expertise through Experience
Don E. Feltman has been at the helm of Artis’ ceaseless journey towards success since its inception in 2012.
As a young man, Feltman was first exposed to care for seniors where his grandfather was sedated and restrained in a nursing home. “He had been in an accident where his body recovered but his mind did not. That was traumatic to me, seeing him unable to freely walk around,” said Feltman.
“Subsequently, I obtained a part-time job at a small healthcare company when I was a sophomore in college. As an Accounting & Finance major, I soon learned that at a small company, people have the opportunity to wear multiple hats. The position highlighted the importance of maximizing customer satisfaction while meeting resident needs.”
“The company grew rapidly, enabling my experience in diverse aspects of senior living. I was especially drawn to the enhancement of the quality of life for residents. One memorable assignment was to assist in pioneering units in the company’s nursing and rehabilitation centers, where I was especially drawn to the enhancement of the quality of life for residents.”
“In my professional journey, I followed other aspirations and ultimately returned to the same organization to help create and roll out memory care assisted living communities across the country.
“Providing secured freedom with external and internal areas for our residents and families to walk and enjoy was an integral focus then, and I was keen on ensuring it translated over to Artis. While I could not provide this for my grandfather, with our associates we provide this for other grandfathers, and other loved ones, every day.”
“Artis is a Latin term defined as character, knowledge, and skillset, all of which are critical for those that we serve. We have been fortunate to attract many talented and experienced industry veterans to the company, with many of them having more than 25-years’ experience serving seniors. One of the cornerstones of importance is The Artis Way, which is described on our website.”
“One of the many elements of our philosophy that I particularly appreciate is that beyond enrichment opportunities for our residents, our Artis teams nationwide find avenues to assist residents in partnering with local charities. As human beings, we have an innate need to contribute to others, in order to obtain personal satisfaction in life. This brings Artis’ emphasis on positive partnerships full circle.”
“Artis began as an entrepreneurial company and has since experienced significant growth over the past 4 years. My largest objective since before the pandemic has been to work with our team. Together we have fulfilled that objective and so much more. We are continuing on that path while keeping our focus on the quality of life of our residents, their families, and our associates.”
“While the lingering effects of the pandemic remind us to be diligent, the age-wave truly is coming. That means that Artis and other Senior Living companies will have increasing opportunities to serve those that have provided so much for the generations following them. We will do well if we serve them well,” expressed Feltman.
Opinions that Matter
Sharing his opinion on the effects of the current pandemic on the healthcare sector, and the challenges he and his team faced during the pandemic, Feltman said, “Artis faced the same challenges as every other assisted living provider during the initial phase of the pandemic. Fear, stress, and loss among residents and staff. The revenue loss, supply shortages, staff shortages, communication challenges, hero pay, the list goes on. We knew early on that we were in uncharted waters so one of our first steps was to create a safety council in partnership with Johns Hopkins. They advised us on our COVID-19 health and safety protocols. They also provide our residents their families, and associates with current information, advice, and confidence. It was apparent very early that where we were headed required heroic actions and sacrifice. The Artis frontline staff, like those in so many other healthcare companies, rose to meet that challenge.”
“The pandemic was unprecedented. Beyond the human loss and tragedy, senior living occupancies and revenue plunged to historic lows. Now we’re confronted with the variant. Still, the recovery is well underway, but it will take time for the market to absorb so many vacancies. The rate specials you see everywhere means revenue will lag as the census climbs. But at the same time, the fundamentals remain intact. The county continues to age, and we have not yet experienced the full effect of the Baby Boomer generation. We believe memory care, in particular, will recover as the decision to place really isn’t discretionary. In the long term, the senior healthcare sector will regain strength and flourish.”
We asked Feltman for his prediction about the future of the senior care services market considering the continuous technological development in the healthcare space, to which he said, “Rapidly expanding advancements, coupled with pandemic challenges, expedited the prioritization of technology in senior healthcare.”
“Within our communities, we have seen a positive shift with adoption of technology that assists with family engagement and communication, as well as new marketing practices. Adoption, however, also presents inherent hurdles; including reliable infrastructure, and staff or dedicated resources to support it.”
“Technology is here to stay, and with the demand for senior care services increasing year over year, I expect that Artis and other providers will continue to improve community design and operational models to leverage more impactful tech solutions,” says Feltman.
Bequeathing the Keys to Excellence
Feltman believes that those aspiring to venture into senior care services, typically have an attraction to some aspect of the opportunities that are derived from serving seniors. His observation over the years is that typically people have the gift for working with seniors or they do not have the gift. “Like any other career, early immersion is key to recognizing one’s gifts,” he adds.
Sharing his advice to entrepreneurs aspiring to venture into senior care services, Feltman says:
“If you’re contemplating working in senior living, consider opportunities to volunteer or work part-time to immerse yourself in the industry. If it proves to be a good fit, seek out rotation opportunities. Observing or shadowing other associates has immeasurable value.”
“If you’re looking for advancement in an existing position, spend time with the leadership of different departments at the residence and corporate level, asking them about their own career track. Ask them for advice for where they see opportunities and what else you can do to contribute to the success of the organization.”
“Consistent with Artis philosophy, integrity – the ‘I’ in Artis – is a critical key for long term success. Being totally candid and honest, no matter what. Each of us builds a reputation over time and it can be destroyed quickly.”
“If you’re addressing problems, don’t forget to deliver potential solutions. Whether your supervisor agrees with any of your suggestions is less important than demonstrating that you are learning to address issues that arise,” Feltman concludes.