The Many Hats of Eldercare Management Which one are you wearing?
As an executive director in a senior care facility, you are required to wear many different hats.
In one day, you may be everything from teacher, judge and banker, to dietician, architect and cheerleader.
Managing all these roles, and the many others, can be a constant and daily challenge.
Establishing visibility on a day-to-day basis is an ongoing challenge for any executive director, and it is critical that all levels of staff in every corner of the facility see you regularly. ‘Managing by walking around’ is therefore crucial to being able to solve problems and address concerns of both staff and residents.
Both visibility and interaction are great confidence builders in health care organizations.
Getting to know operational responsibilities and developing a cohesive leadership team gives a feeling of ‘esprit de corps,’ and helps convey the organization’s philosophy.
However, the most effective way to run a long-term care facility is to direct daily operations through senior managers, and delegate responsibilities and authority to senior managers.
Effective leaders in senior care often find themselves being a friend, a substitute for children and immediate family, and as residents eventually deteriorate the personification of their parents. One highly significant role of an executive director is developing and maintaining good relationships with residents.
This could mean having lunch or coffee with a family member or resident council chair on a regular basis. Occasionally inviting them to visit your office for a brief chat is another way to do this.
Attending Resident Council meetings and any family or friend councils are also great ways to enhance these relationships. Developing a volunteer program that properly utilizes various skills, contributions and age groups from within and outside the facility will also help to build relationships among the greater community. The executive director is the catalyst for all these sources of interest and action. They stimulate the development of programs and services and must have a sense of timing by measuring appropriate developments, knowing when to act, when to watch and when to wait.
An executive director must also possess patience and understanding in order to create an environment in which families and friends feel they are participating meaningfully in the care of their loved one.
Terminal illness and death require an even higher degree of personal tact and understanding from the executive director, but these situations are rewarding both personally and spiritually.
An executive director must individualize, maintain dignity and privacy, yet co-ordinate an effective home-like living environment at the same time. The fine balance between personal contact and involvement is sometimes complicated by an executive director’s other job functions.
Staffing is the backbone of an eldercare organization. Since the facility’s spirit, philosophy of care and work ethic are influenced by the executive director, your ‘walking the talk’ and ‘talking the walk’ is essential.
An executive director must be a good personnel manager and maintain staff respect while fostering a team approach. The executive director must also keep them aware of the training and education possibilities, and of the potential for acquiring new skills as they grow in their positions.
The executive director in turn interprets the needs of staff members to the Board, and serves as a link between them.
Health in the workplace
Physical and mental health influences an employee’s ability to do their job. As the head of the facility, you take a lead role in creating a workplace that is both healthy and safe for staff members.
Promoting these aspects frequently occurs through workplace health programs in conjunction with the Occupational Health and Safety Committee. As an active participant in these programs, you can positively influence the workplace.
Workplace health programs result in improved productivity, reduced sick leave and staff turnover and the retention of valued staff. These in turn lead to reduced recruitment, training and orientation costs, improved staff attitudes towards the organization and higher staff morale, a more receptive climate for – and ability to cope with – workplace changes, and a decrease in workplace injuries.
Although these programs are a fiscally good idea, the residents are the ones who ultimately benefit from a strong workplace health and safety program.
This key function of the executive director requires a keen business sense, and an understanding of management principles, as well as accounting and purchasing.
With cost saving incentives in mind, meetings with industry salespeople are also an important job function for the executive director. Maintaining strong, positive relations with them is important since they also contribute to the eldercare organization.
Support services expert
The executive director of an eldercare organization must be a generalist and knowledgeable about environmental, housekeeping, leisure and dietary services, as well as maintenance, therapeutic recreation and program development.
Developing good working relationships and establishing meaningful partnerships throughout the community and within the health care system benefits the organization and client care.
At any level, from the Minister of Health, to the business across the street, it is important to develop relationships with others that could benefit the organization at some level.
Ideally, an eldercare organization has solid relationships with referral agencies, funding bodies, home support agencies, local hospitals and local politicians and businesses.
As the long-term care facility’s ambassador to the community, you are considered an expert in caring for the aged.
As the executive director, you are also the initiator of social action on the organization’s behalf, with local, provincial and national organizations or associations. Keeping up-to-date on all legislation and regulations and the resultant impact on services and finance will only help to make your job more efficient.
Successful executive directors resolve conflicts effectively and negotiate artfully and skillfully. You bring effective tools for understanding conflict, negotiating differences and creating a workable balance among those who work in long-term care facilities; all indispensable tools in any situation.
Work, work, work
The executive director’s work is never finished; the role requires a leader who is a good teacher, and a good student who constantly reads and studies. Above all, remember your job is to serve as a buffer between groups by co-ordinating their relationships, and helping others grow.
Fulfilling these many roles means your job is always challenging, always demanding, often frustrating, and never monotonous.