These three young professionals are impacting aging care through their roles with Masonic Homes of Kentucky (MHKY). We spoke with Nick Cooper, executive director and administrator; Casey Adams, vice president of independent living; and Nicole Candler, senior vice president of marketing and communications, about about advances in aging care and why they enjoy working with the elderly.
How long have you been working with seniors? At MHKY?
Nick Cooper: My personal journey into the aging services field is not the typical story. Throughout my entire adolescence I was under the assumption that I would grow up to help people through healthcare. In a million years, I wouldn’t have thought it would have been through aging services. Upon my graduation from college I found myself with a degree in astrophysics and a continued desire to learn. After much soul searching, I had come to the decision that the long-term care profession was where I wanted to be. The next several weeks were spent cold-calling local post-acute care communities in search of an administrator-in-training (AIT) position. I was met with an adversary that seemed to be the end of every conversation: industry experience. However, one person was willing to bring me into this profession as an AIT and guide me through the beginning of my career. As they say, “the rest is history”—in a short amount of time I was able to obtain my license to be a nursing home administrator and have held various positions with Masonic Homes of Kentucky ever since. My pilgrimage to this point has been one of the most fulfilling and humbling experiences I could ever have asked for and I wait for each new destination in this journey with excitement and anticipation!
Casey Adams: My foray into senior living was one of chance. Prior to 2012, I had never worked with older adults. Growing up, I had always loved older adults and as a child, I often felt a stronger connection with my grandparents’ friends than I did with kids my age. In February 2012, I decided that I needed a career change, but I didn’t know what industry to explore. I discovered that Masonic Homes of Kentucky was looking for an executive director to open their new, upscale independent living community. Three interviews later, I was offered the position and it was the defining juncture of my professional career and my proudest moment. The past five and a half years have been the best of my life.
Nicole Candler: I joined MHKY in 2011, almost 6 years ago bringing with me, 10 years of public relations and marketing experience in the non-profit, corporate consulting and government sectors. Prior to joining MHKY, I was the owner of a strategic communications consulting firm which provided marketing materials, media relations and communication strategy to regional hospitals, local and national nonprofit and national health insurance companies. I was appointed by Kentucky’s Governor to the Commission on Women in 2011 and now serve on its Executive Committee.
How do you, as a younger professional, approach aging care differently?
Nick Cooper: With a burgeoning senior population that is about to experience exponential growth, the need for transformational leaders becomes more paramount. The fact is that talented and well-trained leaders are needed right now, let alone in the future. High-quality, high-caliber professionals are needed in various roles to manage the challenges that lie ahead. These leaders of tomorrow will be required to successfully work with a diverse workforce, foster and sustain improvement and accelerate progress in providing the highest quality of life for residents. Working at Masonic Homes has forced me to grow in my thinking of what it means to age and how we provide care. It is so much more than is more than being an effective manager.
I am forced to go beyond handling the day-to-day duties and use critical thinking to create an environment that fosters innovation, communication and personal growth.
I am forced to go beyond handling the day-to-day duties and use critical thinking to create an environment that fosters innovation, communication and personal growth. I make every attempt to establish a way for people to contribute to making something extraordinary happen. I try to spend more time with people from different backgrounds, education levels, professional experiences, personal interests, etc. By spending more time with people who approach challenges in different ways, I find myself to be more likely to challenge the status quo and break new ground.
Casey Adams: Not that this is a revolutionary approach but I always try to meet our residents on their level. Whether I’m discussing the residents’ transition to a higher level of care or we’re talking about their pork tenderloin being too salty, I try to see each issue from their perspective. Working with older adults isn’t difficult. Often times, we overcomplicate the process of taking care of our residents. Some people want to treat them differently because they’re older but that is, “peddling in the wrong direction”. Very early into my tenure, I realized that our residents want the same thing that I do; to be heard and to be treated with respect. It really is that simple and yet, that difficult.
Nicole Candler: In corporate communications and marketing, my role is a little different than those of our community leaders like Nick and Casey. My team works to understand our residents and their families, their needs and their emotions. Making the choice to move to a senior living community or to use assisted living or skilled nursing services can be emotional, even scary, for some people. We seek ways to carefully explain our services, define why we are unique and help ease the transition to our care. We ask, “how can we use communication to make this process and this time easier on the resident and family?”
How do you measure success with these programs?
Nick Cooper: There are so many different ways to measure success in this industry and we work hard to ensure that all of our bases are covered. From a governing standpoint there is an old adage we like to use and that is that we are more regulated than nuclear power. Everything we do and everything we don’t do comes from regulation. Clinically speaking, we measure the success of our programs from our quality outcomes. There are a myriad of outcomes that are tracked by our main governing body, CMS, and many more that we track as a best practice. Every single one of our partners and clients use these outcomes to compare our communities to others. Now obviously there is another measure of success that, perhaps more than anything else, acts as a compass of our people and their work: customer service. In addition to achieving quality outcomes, customer satisfaction and their recommendation to others remains a top priority. Their experience from beginning to end will ultimately decide whether or not they recommend us to others or if they utilize our services again in the future. It is a difficult dance between regulatory compliance and customer satisfaction, but it is one that we have mastered and will continue to perfect as we continue expand the possibilities for ourselves and for those that we serve.
Casey Adams: I measure in success two ways: 1. Resident engagement. Are the residents using the program(s)? 2. Does the program lead to resident satisfaction?
Our residents are quite vocal, so we always know where we stand and whether or not these programs are working.
Our residents are quite vocal, so we always know where we stand and whether or not these programs are working. We focus on programming that our residents want, not what we think they want. It’s easy to throw on the blinders and ignore the resident because you want to have the latest and greatest. But if the latest and greatest doesn’t work in your community, your resident satisfaction surveys will reflect that.