Posted November 20, 2007

You might think that meeting the marketing or admissions person on a tour is all you need when searching for senior housing for your loved one.  Not so.  While the marketing and admissions person is indeed important and is the person that will be able to tell you about availability, cost and show you around, there are three other people I think you should try to meet.  When scheduling a tour at a community ask if its possible to meet some of the following people.

1. Executive Director (ED) – This is the person who should have a sign on their desk that says "The Buck Stops Here."  This person sets the tone for the building and is ultimately responsible for making sure it runs smoothly on a daily basis.  Sometimes on tours we will run in the ED and shake hands.  Trust your gut.  I am sure everyone is going to seem very excited to meet you, especially if there is a chance that you may be moving your loved on in.  But gauge how that person really makes you feel.  Do they make you feel welcome?  Was their door open?  Are the approachable?  I have meet some that are all numbers and closed doors.  I have also meet some that are too caring and spend their entire lives there.  You are trying to find someone in between.  Observe the ED with some of the residents.  Does he or she know everyone by name?  Are they really stopping to talk with the residents?  If the resident is in a wheelchair does the ED get down to their eye level to talk to them?

If you are every having an issue with the care, the food, the whatever… this is the person you are going to be dealing with.  I hope their door is open.

2. Nurse
– This person is going to be ultimately responsible for your parents care and medication management.  They will be reviewing the files, and making sure meds are properly taken.  Sometimes they will be involved in routinely weighing the residents, checking blood pressure, maybe taking blood or checking insulin.  While you might think that any nurse that chooses to work in an assisted living building must be caring and good with seniors – never assume.

example: I had a situation where I took a client to a very nice assisted living building to be assessed by the nurse.  The nurse usually needs to ask a number of health related questions, review their medical history and make general observations.  The client I was working with was relatively young (73) and has what she liked to call a "touch" of dementia.  This nurse spoke to my client like she was a child.  This of course caused my client to get very paranoid and scared and caused her to start acting very defensive.  (Typical behavior for someone in this state.)  Instead of understanding the reactions, the nurse continued to stare at and talk at the client.  I would hope that a nurse would have enough experience in geriatrics to know not to speak to an elderly person like a child and not to continue to upset a person with dementia.  They should know how to work around these behaviors…  Needless to say the client and I chose not to move her there and she is now in another residence that specializes in Alzheimer’s and dementia.  This new place also worked closely with her doctor to get her medications in order so that her behaviors were more controlled.

3. Resident Service Coordinator or Director –  This person is going to have more contact with your loved one than either the nurse of the ED.  They will be the first person to contact you if your loved one is not doing well or has changed their eating habits or stopped going to activities or needs help with bill paying, etc.  You are going to want someone who is warm, and sharp and caring.  Trust your gut on this one too.  This person may look or appear a little frazzled, I have yet to see one who doesn’t.  If they look calm, cool, collected and like they haven’t a care in the world, then they aren’t doing their job.  On the other hand if they look like they are going to lose it and quit tomorrow, then they are not getting the support they need from the other staff to do their job.  This person may or may not also be in charge of hiring and managing caregiving staff, which is extremely important.

Hopefully, when you start looking into senior living options you will be able to meet some or all of these people on the tour.  It is not always possible, but maybe on your first tour you meet one and then you schedule a second tour for lunch – bring your loved one and taste their food that they claim is so great! – and see if you can meet and OBSERVE the rest of the staff in action.

The marketing director/ admissions person is good, but they can’t do it all.

Questions?  Ask me!  Comment or email me, I have been on more tours than I care to remember and have been the marketing director at an assisted living community

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