In Assisted Living, We’re a Family
As the executive director of the National Center for Assisted Living, I’m constantly visiting our state affiliates and member companies across the country. Touring assisted living communities is one of my favorite things while I’m out on the road. Seeing how providers are innovating senior care down to the finest details is truly inspiring. But most invigorating is the ability to talk one-on-one with direct caregivers.
You’ll hear a consistent phrase among assisted living staff, “They’re like my family.” This comes from staff at every level; from administrators to housekeeping and maintenance.
Those who work in assisted living are some of the most selfless, remarkable human beings. They spend their days caring for seniors and individuals with disabilities in need, and they do it with a smile on their face. Their dedication knows no bounds. We continue to hear countless stories of how caregivers help residents even on their days off, taking them to run errands or buying something they need with their own personal money.
Family Is Forever
So, this National Assisted Living Week, we decided to pay tribute to this idea of family. Our theme is “Family is Forever,” and it’s inspired by a wonderful quote from the famed poet Maya Angelou:
“Family isn’t always blood, it’s the people in your life who want you in theirs: the ones who accept you for who you are, the ones who would do anything to see you smile and who love you no matter what.”
This seemed to perfectly capture the essence of assisted living, where we celebrate the uniqueness of individuals through person-centered care and caregivers consistently offering their unconditional love and support.
It’s hard to find people with this passion and commitment. We know that recruitment and retention is one of the biggest issues keeping assisted living providers up at night. Staff stability is a key indicator of quality of life for our residents, which is why it’s one of our four goals of the NCAL Quality Initiative.
The Work has Just Begun
In the coming decades, workforce challenges will only increase as the tidal wave of baby boomers comes our way. We must continue to find ways to attract not just staff, but staff that will treat their residents like family.
If only we could just replicate the best employees. But addressing this challenge requires looking inward to see how our organizations are presenting ourselves to the potential employees as well as the workplace environment.
How We Can Help
The AHCA/NCAL Workforce Committee came up with some ideas to help providers. One example was partnering with local higher education programs to offer internships or trainings to get students interested in long term care early on. For current staff, offering incentives, career growth and on-the-job training was another idea, as opportunities for advancement are important to employees.
One of the best ways to strengthen our workforce is by participating in the AHCA/NCAL Quality Awards Program. Using the Baldrige criteria, a customer-focused list of criteria that promotes performance excellence and provides global leadership, we can encourage providers to have not just capable or satisfied staff, but engaged staff. This means staff have an emotional and intellectual commitment to accomplishing the organization’s work, mission and vision. Hundreds of assisted living communities have started this journey to create a culture of excellence, which empowers staff.
Solving our workforce challenges won’t happen overnight. As with traditional families, nothing is ever easy. We have to work at it—constantly.
But this week we take pause to recognize how far we’ve come. This National Assisted Living Week we celebrate the families we have chosen and the career that has become a calling. Thank you to all those who put their heart and souls into this work. You have made an indelible impression on me and all those you’ve served.