Senior Living Providers Turn Attention to Staff Training as Resident Needs Rise

Recent negative news headlines have brought senior living staff training deficiencies to light. But many providers say they are working with staff on an ongoing basis specifically to provide the level of care their residents need in an environment where those needs are rising.

The recent headlines have been abundant: The past couple of months have seen several high-profile stories highlighting what can happen when staff in senior living communities aren’t prepared to care for higher-acuity residents.

Earlier this month, a Sacramento superior court judge upheld a jury’s March 8 verdict against Emeritus Senior Living, finding the company responsible for a resident’s death at one of its California communities in 2008.


The plaintiffs accused Emeritus of systemic understaffing and a lack of caregiver training after an 81-year-old Alzheimer’s resident under the company’s care passed away due to sustained bed sores, according to a report from the Sacramento Bee. The case resulted in a $23 million award to the resident’s family.

In May, CRL Senior Living’s staff training concerns came to light after an article by The Northwestern revealed that several of the Chicago-based provider’s communities in Illinois and Wisconsin faced potential license revocations for serious care violations.

An investigation into the death of an 86-year-old resident at CRL’s Lakeshore Manor in Oshkosh, Wisc. revealed that caregivers mixed up the resident’s medications, didn’t notify her doctor or family members about worsening health conditions and failed to follow basic procedures when staff found her unresponsive in her bed in January 2012.


“We didn’t get training for these types of situations,” a caregiver told an investigator at the time.

CRL properties were fined nearly $100,000 between 2011 and 2012 for 120 different care violations, The Northwestern found, citing state documents.

The troubled company ultimately agreed to divest management duties of 13 properties, effective this summer, to Chicago-based Senior Lifestyle Corp. and Silverado Senior Living, based in Irvine, Calif.

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Silverado already has on-site presence at the three memory care communities where it will be taking over operations to help facilitate the transition, according to CEO and president Loren Shook.

“The assurance of proper training is a company-wide commitment and one that we all take very seriously,” he says.

The memory care provider views staff training in a “big picture way.”

“Silverado maintains a culture that emphasizes the need for ongoing training of all departments—not just those providing direct care—because the community as a whole is responsible for ensuring quality of care and sensitivity to changing needs,” says Shook.

Following all new acquisitions, Silverado’s management team coordinates a company-wide effort to comprehensively screen, train and orient new associates. This includes conducting behavior and integrity assessments with all workers to identify alignment with Silverado’s culture, as well as requiring all staff to undergo fingerprinting and screening for substance abuse and criminal background checks.

Continuous training also means taking advantage of all learning opportunities, Shook adds. For example, Silverado has a change-of-shift period that provides a 30-minute overlap for staff to transition knowledge and observances from one shift to another. This overlap period also allows Silverado to conduct spot training of its staff each day.

The company’s focus on continuous staff training at all times—including round-the-clock licensed nurses and a physician medical director onsite—empowers its staff with the tools needed to better respond in the event any problems arise.

While it is important to have a well-trained staff, providers agree it is equally important to have a strong nursing expertise and supervision to meet a resident’s increasing needs, and know when a certain care environment may no longer be the best choice for a resident.

“As resident’s needs become more acute, the personal character of employees and their level of specialized training are crucial to providing compassionate quality care,” says Julie McKowen, marketing communications manager with Senior Star, a management company headquartered in Tulsa, Oklahoma. “This is very important not only to residents, but to their families because it provides comfort that their loved one will receive the quality care they need.”

Each Senior Star direct-care staff member must pass a set of skill competencies prior to providing care. These competencies include skills related to medication administration as well as the basic delivery of care. After hire, skill competencies are tested on an annual basis.

“Staff training begins upon hire and is continuous thereafter,” says McKowen.

Though sensitive to recent headlines in the senior care industry, Senior Star says it has not made any specific changes to its staff training program since it is routinely reviewed and improved.

“Routine quality assurance audits are performed to monitor training compliance with state regulations, company policy and the changing, higher acuity needs of assisted living residents,” says McKowen.

Written by Jason Oliva

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