SOM Pod: Caring Transitions of South Jersey, with Doug and Bari Wachs

On this episode of the Seekers of Meaning Podcast, the guests are Doug and Bari Wachs, who own Caring Transitions of South Jersey, which helps families organize downsizing, decluttering and relocation transitions for seniors.

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Seekers of Meaning Podcast, 1/25/2019
Bari and Doug Wachs, owners of Caring Transitions South Jersey

Rabbi Richard Address: [00:00:08] Shalom and welcome again to today's edition of Seekers of Meaning, the podcast of Jewish Sacred Aging. I am your host Rabbi Richard Address. We hope to explore some of the issues that touch on our families, our communities and ourselves, as a result of the revolution in longevity and you can contact us via our home page, or via our Facebook page, Jewish Sacred Aging on Facebook. And we welcome your comments, either on the voicemail icon that you can find on the Web site, or to me directly, And we welcome now to our Seekers of Meaning podcast microphones Doug and Bari Wachs, the owners and operators of Caring Transitions, senior relocation, downsizing, and estate sales. Hi Bari. Hi Doug welcome, welcome to Seekers of Meaning.

Doug Wachs: [00:00:56] Thank you very much.

Bari Wachs: [00:00:57] Thank you so much.

Rabbi Richard Address: [00:00:58] How are you doing?

Bari Wachs: [00:00:59] Very well thank you. Thank you for having us.

Rabbi Richard Address: [00:01:01] Caring Transitions. This is part of a growing phenomenon and certainly something that in our work in Jewish Sacred Aging, as I move around North America and talk to families, Baby Boomers' families etc.. Gen Xers, children our children's age. This comes up an awful lot. I may have to move mom or dad, and I don't know how to do it, and they've got 40 years of collected stuff, and in boxes that are all over the place, we don't know, and we don't know where to go and how to get there. Who do we call? And for that purpose they can call you, correct?

Doug Wachs: [00:01:41] That is correct.

Rabbi Richard Address: [00:01:42] Tell me what Caring Transitions is?

Bari Wachs: [00:01:45] So Caring Transitions is part of an national organization. We provide senior relocation services and offer help in selling unwanted or unneeded household goods, so we can provide basically any number of services from soup to nuts. We like to say we're a one stop shop for all those things that you just mentioned. So if mom or dad are getting ready to consider moving, we can help in any area, from helping declutter, so if they're getting ready to move in they say we need to bring a realtor in, but the realtor comes in and they said, oh, we can not even begin to look at putting this house on the market because you just have too much stuff. Well, we can come in at that point and help declutter the home so that the real realtor can start that process. We can then come back in the home and help pack and sort and organize, so they can figure out what it is that they want to take into that smaller home, because mom and dad say, I want to bring everything,right? Everything to them is extremely important to them. So we come in and we start looking at all of those things and we try to look at it from the perspective of what is it Mom and Dad really need to bring, and then we kind of go from there, and say, What is it that they want to bring, and then we you know try to prioritize it ties from there to see what else is left and help them figure out how we disperse the rest of those things. So we do all of that, and then we can, whatever is remaining, if the children no longer want those items, because in the next generation for some reason, doesn't seem to be as, and you know.

Rabbi Richard Address: [00:03:40] They don't want our stuff. I had that conversation I was where one of my kids. I don't want that now.

[00:03:51] They don't seem to want. They want. They don't want the belongings any longer. So we can do an estate sale, or we auction, actually have a proprietary online auction site, so we can do as an internal eBay. So if somebody lives in a an area, we were like, we're actually at a home today that's in Philadelphia, and there's no parking for an estate sale, so we can do an online auction in that situation, or if they live in a gated community, we can do an online auction, or they just don't want the foot traffic in their home, we can do an online auction in that situation, so we can really just do the whole gamut, don't have to hand them off to anybody else, and just handle every element of that that situation.

Rabbi Richard Address: [00:04:29] And then you then move them into the assisted living or CCRC, if they if they you know they're going into Shady Acres, and you have to you've decluttered and made the priorities and gotten rid of the stuff that isn't going. Then you move them into their apartment?

Bari Wachs: [00:04:45] Yes, we do everything other than the physical move itself, but we help them through the moving process.

Rabbi Richard Address: [00:04:52] When you say physical move ...?

Bari Wachs: [00:04:54] We don't pick the furniture up and move it. We work them through, we'll help figure out a moving company that works for them, and we can either work that in part as part of our service, and we work with a moving company, or we can give them a couple of options of moving companies. But we will unpack the boxes on the other side.

Rabbi Richard Address: [00:05:14] So they don't have to worry about picking up and schlepping and no bending and saying you'll send in people and ABC moving company moves mom and dad into Shady Acres and then you guys come in and put the little...

Bari Wachs: [00:05:28] Everything else...

Rabbi Richard Address: [00:05:29] to the you know the little thing where it belongs etcetera.

Bari Wachs: [00:05:32] And we do it to the point, especially with some of the older adults that have some memory issues, we try to make sure that things are exactly where they're supposed to be. In some of these places where they're moving in that they still have a kitchen, muscle memory is extremely important so we will take pictures to make sure that objects are in the exact same spot in that smaller apartment or home that they were in the last house so that it really can mimic that old home to make sure that it is set up for a successful transition.

Rabbi Richard Address: [00:06:03] And now there's, this, you don't obviously do this for free, so it's like there's a fee for this?

Bari Wachs: [00:06:08] Yeah.

Rabbi Richard Address: [00:06:08] ...For this so they purchase Caring Transitions service and there's a fee for those a sliding fee, or a set fee? How do you...?

Doug Wachs: [00:06:19] It's based on the size of the job. Okay so if we're coming in and we're just doing a cleanout, it would be a charge based on how densely packed rooms are, and how many rooms there are, the size of the rooms. So there would be the cleanout. Maybe there's a different charge for the organization and then there's another charge for, for the packing. It really depends on the size of the job what the fees would be.

Rabbi Richard Address: [00:06:48] So this is obviously something that's encompassing more and more families and it's only going to grow. So somebody is listening to this and they say I really would love to get a hold of these people, how do we do that?

Bari Wachs: [00:07:01] We have a Web site they can contact us via our Web site. It's They can contact us through our phone number. Which is (856) 288-1467. Or they can, we have a Facebook page and they can contact us, Caring Transitions South Jersey, so they can contact us a number, any number of ways. We always do a free consultation. Absolutely. There's no obligation for us coming in. I always recommend us coming in and doing consultation with the family, even if we're not able to help somebody, we can provide other resources that might be an option for them if we're not the right fit for that family.

Rabbi Richard Address: [00:07:52] So what this is a you've both changed careers. I mean this is another example and we've done several interviews on on on Seekers of Meaning of people of relative, you know ,in our generation, so to speak, who have for a variety reasons shifted gears in the middle of life for some. Bari, you came from the health care industry, right?

Bari Wachs: [00:08:16] Right right. And that was actually a change of careers for me as well. So I was really fortunate that in my mid 30s I still had all four of my grandparents. Doug and I moved down to south Jersey at a time in my life that I know my grandparents were very much involved in my and our family. and we really wanted my kids to really have a strong relationship with our grandparents. and we always said that our family has been a cornerstone of our family. our relationship. So my grandparents were an active part of my children's lives and my first grandfather got sick and has you know in his early 90s is in my mid 30s, and it came on very suddenly and it rocked our world. My mom is an only child. My grandfather was very much involved in her life, and really much care a caretaker to her. So when he got sick, it really was a very hard time for all of us. And his his doctor addressed the hospice topic the way you want any doctor to do it. He actually made a house call, discussed what was going on, and we brought hospice in, and it was very short but very impactful for our family. So he's on hospice for about six days. And I made a career change at that time, and I've spent the last decade or so in home care and hospice, and those types of industries, advocating for seniors, because at the time, we had no idea these services were out there for our family and I was bedside with all four of my grandparents for those various illnesses.

Rabbi Richard Address: [00:10:06] So this is a natural transition for you.

Bari Wachs: [00:10:08] Right.

Rabbi Richard Address: [00:10:08] In many ways and Doug you you came to this. We were talking before we started to record because you walked the walk also, with your your parents right you had to move them.

Doug Wachs: [00:10:18] I did. My parents are now in their early 80s and we went through this with them where they were living in a house where they no longer could continue to live. It was unsafe for them. There was too many stairs for them to have to climb, everywhere they had to go, there was stairs ,they had to do to get in and out of the house. So we, my brothers and sisters and I, decided that we needed to get them out of the house. And fortunately my mother was on board with it, my father not so much. And through, over time, we we convinced them we found them a place that they found acceptable. And my father kind of fought it the whole way. And it was hard for us. We didn't know what to do, we didn't know who to turn to, we didn't know how to get rid of the stuff that they had. They had a lot of stuff in their house, only so much was taken by myself or my brothers or my sisters. And there was just a lot that had to be got rid of and a lot of it wasn't worth anything either. But let me rephrase, it wasn't worth anything to the general public. And we it was it was worse ...

Rabbi Richard Address: [00:11:28] It's personal.

Doug Wachs: [00:11:29] Right. It was all sentimental.

Rabbi Richard Address: [00:11:31] Right.

Doug Wachs: [00:11:31] This empty cardboard box was very important to my father. And so it it took it took some work for us to figure out how to deal with everything and it ended up with a lot of stuff just going into a dumpster, because nobody wanted it. They didn't know what to do with it. Boom, into a dumpster. So at that time I was I wished, Gee I wish there was somebody who could have helped us with this. And then until Bari came along with this idea, she'd been researching this for quite some time, not back then, but since that day she'd been researching it for quite some time, and so it just seemed like a natural progression for us.

Rabbi Richard Address: [00:12:14] What's the greatest challenge in your experience now that you're working in this and you're doing this? And from your own experiences you both had experience with your own parents and grandparents in walking this walk a little bit. What's the greatest challenge that families face when they come right up and say we have to do this for our parents. What's the greatest challenge?

Bari Wachs: [00:12:33] I think it's meeting the expectation of the child versus meeting the expectation of the parent.

Rabbi Richard Address: [00:12:38] What do you mean?

Bari Wachs: [00:12:39] I think that, you know, the kids want to get this job done. You know, they they're living their lives. They have a goal but they the parent the the client which is who we are. Our goal is to meet the client's expectation. They don't necessarily have the same goal in mind. So I find that to be the most challenging.

Rabbi Richard Address: [00:13:01] Have you run across the situation where your client may be Mrs. Goldberg, but there Mrs. Goldberg's adult children pick up on what Bari was saying, may not see this in the same light, and your your loyalty, if that's the right word, is to the client correct?

Doug Wachs: [00:13:18] It is.

Rabbi Richard Address: [00:13:19] Have you ever had a situation where you've had to sort of intervene between the adult children and the client with varying degrees of what people want or wish or see.

Bari Wachs: [00:13:32] Well I think it's always a matter of explaining to the adult child that we we have to meet even even after the adult child is paying for it, which oftentimes the adult child is paying for the service, we have to meet the expectation of their parent. We have to, first and foremost, make sure that their parent is comfortable with the decisions that are being made, and we have to try to meet everybody in the middle. So it's not an easy conversation, but that those are the conversations that have to happen.

Rabbi Richard Address: [00:14:10] Oh yeah. Sometimes often more often than not more often than not. Do you get involved with actually helping a client choose an appropriate second facility to live in?

Bari Wachs: [00:14:21] No. Those decisions are you know I'd like to say we're Switzerland when it comes to that. Yeah. Yeah. Those those decisions are either made before. Yeah we're getting those referrals from either the assisted living or CCRC. They're calling us saying Mrs. Goldberg is moving in to our facility, can you reach out to them, because they're, you know, we know they are made that you know known to us that they don't know where to begin with packing and organizing and what they need to bring.

Rabbi Richard Address: [00:14:55] Caring Transitions is part of a national network correct?

Doug Wachs: [00:15:00] That is correct.

Rabbi Richard Address: [00:15:01] So we were just talking a little bit before we started recording about the growing phenomenon of reverse migration. So if mom is living in Boynton Beach, can no longer really manage on her own, family decides, listen, we need to move mom back to Cherry Hill, or to wherever they're living. How do you you get in touch with the group down there in South Florida and work together with them? Is that how that works?

Doug Wachs: [00:15:29] That is how it works. Caring Transitions has a network of 200 franchises across the country throughout the continental United States and in Hawaii. So what would end up happening is we would reach out to whatever the closest Caring Transitions is to them in Florida, work with them to get them moved, packed up, and ready to move back up north, and then we would take the job once it got up here. Now the beauty of that is as a franchise, Caring Transitions has a continuity of service, so that you're gonna get the same quality of service that we're gonna give you up here, from from the franchise down in Florida. So to us, we know that it's two separate franchises, but to the client it's Caring Transitions. Lee DeVoe down in Florida is gonna help them pack up when they when they're in Florida, they're gonna get here, Doug and Bari are going to take it from here. We're going to unpack them, we're gonna take the pictures that they were given to us from the from the from the franchise down in Florida. We're gonna use those to help set up our place here and then we're gonna just make it make it.

Rabbi Richard Address: [00:16:41] So like Bari was saying, you really really are offering like one stop shopping so to speak and taking that pressure and stress because this is obviously as you know, and extremely stressful and...

Bari Wachs: [00:16:53] That's why you asked why why this. Why do we get into this? You know, having been on the healthcare side, it's always the house, you know, it's always something having to do at home. You know, the home, and I don't want to leave my house, sometimes I don't want to leave my pet, I don't want, you know, I, I, it's it's so hard, these decisions are so so complex and that is where we do everything we can to minimize the anxiety associated with that move.

Rabbi Richard Address: [00:17:21] Change is very frightening and the older we get the more frightening it becomes.

Bari Wachs: [00:17:26] And on that note, this is a very much an unregulated industry which kind of scary when you're bringing strangers into your house, you know, where we're with background check on anybody that we're bringing in, we are bonded insured. So it's, we do our due diligence to make sure that everybody that we're bringing into their home is safe and they should, you know, they should be confident that we do everything right to make sure that we're bringing and you have staff.

Rabbi Richard Address: [00:17:58] I mean you you have people who you work with and train them train them to to how to handle. Let me ask you a rabbi question since it's a ballpark I play in a lot, because this is so stressful and everybody, I mean, the two of you on your own, and my life, and I would venture to say many people who may be listening to this, also have walked this walk, or are walking this walk or will. This transition stuff. There are extreme spiritual issues involved with this because for many individuals who you deal with, your clients, if not stated, there is a subliminal understanding that this may be my last move. And. How do you how do you. You don't have clergy on staff but how do you handle that? Because this is really, and a lot of times the adult children do practice denial.

Bari Wachs: [00:18:58] So I think the best way to handle that is by expressing the importance of where they're going usually where they are now they're isolated. So they're in a private home. They've maybe been getting meals on wheels. They're not not able to get out to their congregation, because they're not driving, their children or are living their own lives. They're now going into a community. And oftentimes there is clergy on staff there. There is a community, a true community that's supportive there. And now there we're focusing on where they're going to live. They're going to thrive there. And there is a community there and there they really are able to now provide a support system, and that is really what our focus is to to really help them understand that you've you've the reason you're leaving this environment is you're not living. And now where you're going you're going to be able to have those those resources coming into you. And a lot of these communities have those resources.

Rabbi Richard Address: [00:20:08] I've got to follow up with one thing you alluded to, it may, you know, somebody listening to this, the antenna may have just gone up because when you said this is an unregulated industry, that's scary, that that's scary. If I'm a consumer, if I'm looking at the realities of dealing with my parents or my mom or my dad, I say, you know, sooner or later we're gonna have to do this. And so I have to begin doing my research. How in God's name do I figure out the best or the most reputable, if this is unregulated, if I can't go online and there or whatever and if it's as unregulated as you're saying how do I begin to protect myself and more importantly my loved ones?

Doug Wachs: [00:21:00] One of the places I would absolutely start is checking online reviews, see what other people's experiences have been with the company.

Bari Wachs: [00:21:09] Make sure that they're insured, make sure that, where, you know their employees are background checked. That that was one of the reasons we got involved with a franchise that does have regulations. So I know that those are the things I would certainly start with, make sure that it's a, you go onto our Web site and we're part of a national company, that, that does all of those protections.

Rabbi Richard Address: [00:21:37] Are there differences because it's a national company, are there differences, it just occurred to me, in what you are able to do or legally between let's say Arizona and New Jersey or Pennsylvania in New Jersey or whatever whatever it is? Because as you say it's unregulated, is is there any sense of what's allowed or I may not be phrasing this correctly, but between state and state?

Doug Wachs: [00:22:01] For the most part, there is there aren't too many differences. The biggest place I see differences are when it comes to doing online auctions and estate sales. So certain states have certain licenses that are required in order to do that. I know that in, I want to say, North Carolina, they're required to have an auctioneer's license, and there there's a class you have to take, a test you have to take. Most states don't have that. I think Pennsylvania might but most states do not. But for the most for the most part it's the same across the country except for that one small difference.

Rabbi Richard Address: [00:22:41] And the individual office would know those laws and be able to help out?

Doug Wachs: [00:22:45] That is correct.

[00:22:46] All right. So it's also important to understand that this is not one limited to one geographic area. This is a national organization and you're able to help people no matter where they are in the United States.

Doug Wachs: [00:23:00] I believe they're actually expanding even the Canada.

Rabbi Richard Address: [00:23:02] I was gonna ask you about Canada since it's a growth industry in Canada. So there's more and more be all Americans may be looking for their vacation home and in Nova Scotia rather than Naples, but Florida, or Naples, Italy, for all I know, the pasta is better. So Doug what are the things that I think this is important for people know you your background was in I.T. right?

Doug Wachs: [00:23:28] That is correct.

[00:23:28] So one of the things that you go in and you you work with a family and you can say OK you're moving from the 5 bedroom suburban you know colonial, whatever it is in the development, and you're going into that one and a half bathroom one bedroom at the assisted living facility. And they'll say, well, how am I going to fit this all the stuff we've decided I need into this one facility? And you you brought with you nobody can see it but your computer skills which far out stretch anything that I could even possibly imagine. You create a 3-D image of what that apartment will look like where the furniture that they're bringing and how it would be placed.

Doug Wachs: [00:24:11] Exactly and usually what I'll do is I'll start with the typical 2D floor plan when you go to move into one of these facilities, they'll give you a floor plan so here's what the place looks like. So I'll take that and I'll generate that into a 3-D floor plan and I can actually take little representations of the furniture that they have at the size of their furniture and I will put it into the into the apartment so they can see how it arranges around the windows and doors and see what their furniture will look like in it and say you can they can decide, you know, oh, I want to take I want to take this entire bedroom set with my bed wall, and my two dressers, and my armoire and then we can show them, you put that in there, there's not going to be room to walk around. So let's so let's focus on, OK, we're gonna, we're gonna, move you down to from a from a from a California king, down to a queen sized bed and we're gonna, and we're gonna take this dresser and that dresser and they're gonna fit here very nicely, and there's plenty of room for you to come through this, if you've got a walker, you need to be able to get through. You need to have this. You can't you can't have all this stuff in front of the front door because you need to be able to get through with your walker. And we think we can show them, here's what it'll look like and they can see oh you know this actually looks, it looks nice, like this I don't maybe I don't need all that furniture, if I can I can I can move down to this and make it look like the picture.

Rabbi Richard Address: [00:25:33] No the picture. I mean. So to purchase your services this comes is part of it and it really is a tremendous visual that allows a now I see what it looks like. I can see where the TV is and where might this isn't going to be that is and how to maneuver so that's a real gift.

Doug Wachs: [00:25:51] And sometimes actually it works the opposite of the way I just said sometimes you think you can't bring some of the stuff, and you go, Oh look, there there is room for all three pieces of this piece of furniture in that room without overcrowding the room.

Rabbi Richard Address: [00:26:01] So you can put that 60 inch high definition television...

[00:26:06] Exactly.

Rabbi Richard Address: [00:26:06] Right now which for when our generation moves the everything else be secondary but we need the we need the place to watch the games. Well speaking personally anyway. Once again Doug and Bari Wachs owners and operators of Caring Transitions. Contact information, Bari. How do we get a hold of you?

Bari Wachs: [00:26:28] The best way I think would be the phone at (856) 288-1476. But if you go on to our Web site at, you can put in a request for information at that location as well.

Rabbi Richard Address: [00:26:45] Now because a lot of people are not in the South Jersey area where we are happy to be sitting right now and maybe all over the country, is there a website that somebody in Iowa or Arizona can go to and get that information?

Bari Wachs: [00:27:01] At com, there is a general request for information and that will direct them to their local office.

Rabbi Richard Address: [00:27:11] Ok so before we have to let me answer that the easiest of all questions. What if somebody is listening to this, and they realize, you know I, I really have to start thinking about this, we really can't avoid this any longer. What's the best piece of advice, if they were are sitting here right now, and they asked you the same question. What do I do I don't know where to go I don't know where to start, what's what's the best piece of advice you give somebody like that?

Doug Wachs: [00:27:35] I would say pick up the phone. Give us a call. And the reason I say that is let us come in and talk to you about it. The consultation's free. We come in. We can explain to you what your options are, what it would take, how much work would it be to get, to get from where you are to where you want to be. Our goal when we come in is to start with the end point. So we say All right what's your, what's your goal. Where do you want to be. When you want to move to from where you're at to this this other house? OK how do we get you there?We need to do decluttering. We need to, we need to to organize. We need to pack you up. We need to move you, so will, we we take we're we're an objective view. That's that's the key because we're not going into this with emotion. We're outsiders looking in and we can help because once once the emotion gets involved then then everything changes.

Rabbi Richard Address: [00:28:31] It changes.

Bari Wachs: [00:28:33] And I would say this if you're if you're at any point that you're thinking about any type of change, pick up the phone to call anybody, ask for help sooner, rather than later, because usually the calls to anybody are made too late. All of these, as you said, change is hard, but the sooner you make the change, sooner you the sooner you ask for help from anybody, the better off you're going to be, because help is out there. I mean anybody is willing to offer some options that might be resources. We got a phone call just this week that came to us from an assisted living that the person wasn't even looking to move to an assisted living, but we just got the phone call, because somebody was willing to make the phone call, and just sooner you make a phone call the better.

Rabbi Richard Address: [00:29:23] You know I think what you're both saying is is absolutely essential don't wait until the last minute. Do your homework. If you think you're going to have to walk this walk even a year from now, start gathering the information because this, these moves, and these transitions are really are profoundly impactful on a whole variety of levels to the entire family system. It's just not the client as you said, it's an entire family system that has to be and becomes involved as you found out. You know Doug you, and we all. I've found that in life as everybody does. So Bari and Doug Wachs, owners and operators of Caring Transitions. Thank you very much and continued good luck on this. You probably going to be very very busy, and I hope so for your sake, but it is a wonderful thing you're doing so thank you very much. Continued success and good luck in your endeavor here.

Bari Wachs: [00:30:17] Thank you.

Doug Wachs: [00:30:18] Thank you.

Rabbi Richard Address: [00:30:18] And thank you for joining us on today's edition of Seekers of Meaning the podcasts of Jewish Sacred Aging. A reminder that we welcome comments and contact at our home page Jewish Sacred Aging dot com or to me Rabbi Address at Jewish Sacred Aging dot com. We invite you to visit our Jewish Sacred Aging Facebook page. And Seekers of Meaning, we want to remind you, is produced by Steve Lubetkin and recorded at the studios of Lubetkin Global Media here an absolutely charming and lovely Cherry Hill, New Jersey. Thanks again for joining us. And we look forward to greeting you on the next Seekers of Meaning, the podcast of Jewish Sacred Aging. I'm your host Rabbi Richard address. Thank you and shalom.

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