Who’s Who at Senior Living Communities

December 3, 2014

If you’re beginning the process of researching senior living communities for a parent or loved one, you’re no doubt starting to hear a lot of job titles without necessarily knowing which staff members would potentially drive the quality of care.

While it’s important to take a thorough look at the whole organization, there are certain key personnel you want to make sure to start with.  Ideally, you should begin by scheduling an in-person visit with the following staff members of any assisted living community you’re considering: the Executive Director, Resident Care Director, Activities Director, and Culinary Director.  We’ll talk next week about what questions to ask; overall, you’ll want to get a read on the strengths they bring to their position, their reasons for choosing to work in that particular community, and their ability to listen and ask questions about the particular needs your family brings to the conversation.

Here’s some introductory info on each of these positions:

1) The Executive Director is the facility’s chief administrator, managing day-to-day operations including resident care, sales, facilities, financials, and human resources.  Why they matter: You want to be sure that the community has strong, capable leadership, and that the person running the show has a holistic knowledge of what’s going on.  The financial commitment alone is reason enough for this conversation; you want to be sure the investment you or your parents are making is in a financially sound and well-run organization.

2) The Resident Care Director oversees the facility’s overall healthcare philosophy and implementation, managing medical staff, operations and programming. Why they matter: Their prior experience in eldercare and the priorities they set for their staff will no doubt affect the facility’s quality of care. And you’re going to want to see that their skill set is best-suited to meet your loved one’s particular needs- both now and down the road. This is particularly important for memory care residents.

3) An Assisted Living Activities Director is responsible for the planning and implementation of activities for residents, such as physical wellness and brain health activities, education, cultural outings, art projects and much more.  Why they matter:  The programming they design has a lot to do with the tone and feel of each community; and its quality – whether it’s varied, interesting, stimulating – will have a big effect on your parent’s quality of life. And because the AD has a fair amount of interface with residents, s/he can also provide a helpful window into how your loved one might be faring on a given day.

4) Finally, you’ll want to meet with the Culinary Director in charge of all food offerings and dining room operations. Why they matter: You’re going to want to feel confident that your parent is getting a healthy variety of nutritious and delicious food, in a relaxing, nurturing, and well-organized dining setting.

If an on-site visit isn’t possible, websites like www.care.com and www.aplaceformom.com are excellent resources for researching assisted living facilities, as well as for reading actual client testimonials and recommendations.