The Connection Between Leadership and Its Caregivers in Assisted Living


Leadership. Person-centered care. Relationships between staff and residents. It’s impossible to consider a senior living community for a loved one without considering the people behind the community. But what specific aspects are most important when weighing this decision? How do you evaluate the people behind a community when you’re just touring the place and don’t have an established relationship yet?

Continuity is a big one for Brendan W. Williams, M.A., J.D., President & CEO of the New Hampshire Health Care Association. “Too often, we see undercapitalized assisted living facilities open with a ‘if you build it, they will come’ philosophy,” says Williams. With such financial pressure on a community, Williams believes there will be “an inevitable imperative to shortchange care in order to balance the books,” and when it comes to entrusting the care of your loved one, shortchanging care is not an ideal operational philosophy.

“In contrast, you see a company like Benchmark that can tout real statistics of ways we’ve reduced turnover,” says Williams. Turnover is a huge challenge in the “people department” of all senior living communities, so any community that has reduced it is worth noticing. 

Another way to measure the people that comprise a community? Talk to them. Engaging with those who have had residential experiences in a facility — whether for themselves or a loved one — is a great way to acquire information to make a decision, Williams says. “There are so many options, and yet there is no way to truly compare ‘quality’ of facilities as there is with nursing homes (albeit through arbitrary, imprecise star ratings),” he says. “As one writer notes, ‘A personal recommendation is always better than not.’” 

Finally, ownership matters. “Optimally the licensee owns the building, as ownership by a REIT (a real estate investment trust) which can create rent pressures that don’t operate in the best interests of care,” says Williams. “Benchmark stands out because it doesn’t have the shareholder pressure a for-profit community does, yet has the scale that many independent facilities lack.”

Takeaways: Best “People” Practices from Brendan Williams

A community that cares about its people will be focused on creating a homelike atmosphere and avoiding an institutional feel, says Williams. “If you asked me whether I would prefer to go to a ‘minute clinic’ or an ER, my answer would, of course, be the former, even though an ER has its place. Likewise, assisted living works best when people feel supported, not treated as patients, Williams adds.

Stay tuned for more tips and insights at Open Conversations. 
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Content for Open Conversations was developed in partnership with Caregiving Advice.

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