Assisted Living Staff Caregivers Should Get To Know

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When a loved one moves into an assisted living community the flurry of new faces can be confusing for seniors and their family members.

Who on the staff should you get to know? Who's responsible for what aspects of a senior's care? If your loved one gets sick in the middle of the night, who should they go to for help?

Robin Maibach, Admissions and Social Services Director at Lourdes-Noreen McKeen, a retirement community in West Palm, FL, highlights the staff members that residents of assisted living communities and their family members are most likely to interact with:

Wellness nurse

  • Other names: nurse practitioner, staff nurse
  • What they do: The wellness nurse in an assisted living community is there to help senior residents with various health issues that may come up. These health care professionals generally work in eight-hour shifts to ensure that a senior has round-the-clock access to medical care. This means that, in any given 24-hour period, there may be three different people who take turns performing the role.
  • When to go to them: An elderly resident should visit the wellness nurse when they have a health concern that they wish to seek treatment for. A senior who is not feeling well, or who has a cut, blister, or pain that needs treatment and they don't know what to do, should seek out the wellness nurse on duty.

Activities director

  • Other names: recreation director, lifestyle coordinator, social director, life enrichment director, activity program coordinator
  • What they do: Generally a full-time employee who is responsible for developing and implementing plans for various engagement activities and outings for senior residents.
  • When to go to them: A senior (or family member) who has questions regarding a particular activity or program offered by the community should consult the activities director or an assistant activities director if the community has one. Sometimes these individuals are also available if a resident wishes to suggest ideas for future outings or programs.

Medical director

  • Other names: N/A
  • What they do: The medical director is responsible for reviewing the care that a resident is currently receiving from their personal doctor and make sure that their medical needs are being met by the medical professionals in the assisted living community. They are constantly in contact with the community's nursing staff as well as an individual resident's primary care physician.
  • When to go to them: According to Maibach, medical directors don't often interact directly with seniors and their caregivers. Questions regarding an elder's health are generally fielded by either the community's nursing staff or their personal doctor, not the medical director.

Social worker

  • Other names: case manager, gerontological social worker
  • What they do: Social workers can help ensure that a senior resident's mental, physical and social needs are being attended to. They can also sometimes help with certain legal issues such as Powers of Attorney.
  • When to go to them: If a senior is experiencing issues with unmet needs, they should seek the help of their social worker to resolve the problem.

Resident care coordinator

  • Other names: care coordinator
  • What they do: A resident care coordinator is typically responsible for handling the financial, staff and facility operations aspects of resident care in an assisted living community. Their main goal is to make sure that things in the community are running smoothly and efficiently. Along with other medical professionals, they may be called upon to assist in the development of personalized care plans for individual residents.
  • When to go to them: If a senior or their caregiver has questions about billing, or the status of any financial aid (Medicaid, veteran's benefits, etc.) they should ask the resident care coordinator.

Dietary coordinator

  • Other names: dietary assistant, food service coordinator, clinical nutrition manager
  • What they do: Depending on the community, a dietary professional may or may not be involved in the day-to-day preparation and serving of food to senior residents. Sometimes they will act in a strictly advisory capacity, helping design menus and meals to fit a senior resident's specific requirements. In other cases, they may be directly involved in serving and dining with an elder.
  • When to go to them: If a senior has particular dietary restrictions or questions regarding the preparation or serving of food in an assisted living community, they should solicit the help of the dietary coordinator and/or their assistants.

Housekeeper

  • Other names: custodial service, maintenance staff
  • What they do: Depending on the community, senior residents may or may not have to clean their own rooms and do their own laundry. When an elder needs someone else to help them with housekeeping tasks, or has an accident that needs to be cleaned up (i.e. incontinence-related accidents), it's the housekeeping staff that will help them.
  • When to go to them: A senior who requires assistance with anything involving the cleaning or maintenance of their room should contact the housekeeping staff to help them.

Universal worker

  • Other names: nursing aide, care manager, certified nursing assistant, licensed practical nurse
  • What they do: Universal workers are generally Certified Nursing Assistants that can help a senior with help performing certain activities of daily living, including: bathing, grooming, etc. They generally do not deal with issues regarding injury or illness—those situations are handled by the wellness nurse.
  • When to go to them: A senior should go see a universal worker if they require assistance with tasks relating to personal hygiene, grooming or incontinence.

Administrative assistant

  • Other names: operator, secretary
  • What they do: Administrative assistants are often responsible for handling calls from senior residents and their family members.
  • When to go to them: A senior or their caregiver should call the administrative assistant when they have questions about the day-to-day operation of the community, or the programs and events offered (i.e. When is dinner? What are the visiting hours during the holiday season? When is the bus going to the grocery store?).
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