I used to be
a "foodie" in my former life - a restaurant manager
working 16+ hours a day, schlepping sustenance to the elite
of a swanky resort-town in Colorado. It was a "not
so fun" life - for me....to put it mildly. Never a weekend
or holiday off, and some days, not even a break for lunch or
a meal. 16 hours on your feet, to go home and not sleep well,
or at all, just to come in and do it all over again the next
day, arriving usually before the sun is up. My clothes always
smelled of the sauce du jour and burned something-or-another.
On the bright side -
I did learn a few things in my time in the hospitality industry
- things that I believe are very relevant, if not more, to the
assisted living & long-term-care industry. Really, both
are "hospitality" - and both have a customer, or client.
However, in the assisted living, or long-term care environment,
there is little room for mistakes. In a restaurant, if the pasta
is cold, we can simply make a new one, or heat up the plate
without too much trouble or fuss (usually). In an assisted living
facility, if you give a resident the wrong medication, it can
cost much more than a negative word in the comments/suggestion
box - it can be a matter of life and death.
What I learned, mostly,
in my days working for some very highly regarded hotels and
restaurants, is that the small things count, and give a glimpse
into the bigger picture.
in the front of the house is almost certainly happening behind
the scenes...and then some
There's a light
bulb missing! My last stint as a restaurant/banquets
manager is really what made me re-evaluate my career path. The
hotel that I was working in was very highly regarded..from a
guest point of view. From an employee point of view, maybe not
so much. This hotel had extraordinarily high standards, but
was consistently short staffed.
My boss was not one
to overlook any detail. We would have to put on several banquets,
plated dinners and dessert parties, all at
once. The plated dinners would be sometimes for upwards of 1000
people, and sometimes black-tie affairs. I would be in charge
of dozens of staff - waiters, busboys, set-up crews and the
like. At any point in the day, I was already on overtime, tired,
and hungry, with no time for a break. For the most part, in
my view, we usually pulled this off night after night...pretty
well. We'd make sure every piece of silverware was polished,
every lemon-wedge cut perfectly, and nothing was missed...or
so we thought.
I'd get a call on the
radio - right at crunch time - from my persnickety, retentive
boss to meet him across the property so he could show me something.
I knew exactly what that meant. I'd arrive, sweat running down
my forehead, anxious about the Prime Rib station not being manned
at the party up in the convention hall - and my boss would show
me a light bulb that was out. That's it. Sometimes, he'd almost
yell at me for it. Who knows - the bulb could have gone out
in the past five minutes, right as he was walking by. Or, he
could have put a dead one in there, just so he could make a
point with me - he was a bit sinister in that way.
I really despised him
(at the time) - but, now, years later, I realized that he had
a point - perception is everything, and even the smallest of
things count. If the perception is that things are being forgotten
in plain view of the public eye, it can only be imagined what
is being forgotten in the back where more important things are
happening - food handling, bill paying, and the like.
This time in my life
has forced my perception of every business to be a little more
calculated, and I believe when it comes to businesses like healthcare,
and long-term care - the small things are ever-so-much more
relevant. Anything forgotten or neglected in a facility should
be considered a red-flag warning to investigate further. Imagine
visiting an assisted living facility to check it out as a possible
place for your mother, who is ailing from Alzheimer's, and has
severe food allergies - to witness the public area a mess, the
staff smoking outside in plain view of the public eye, and...heaven
forbid - light bulbs missing everywhere? What you should be
thinking is "What is happening that I can't see?"
Are there light bulbs missing in resident rooms, where a trip
or a fall could be catastrophic to someone using a walker? Is
the food being handled properly, or is the staff smoking in
the kitchen? Is the resident who is severely allergic to nuts
getting a piece of cake made with almonds?
Take note of the
small stuff. It's important!
Some of the
small things to look for when considering a facility
(This is not to minimize, or exclude the biggies, like care
provided, proper licensing, health violations, etc!):
1) How does the facility
exterior look? Is there a yard, and if so, is it taken care
of, or is it overrun with weeds and unkempt?
2) My favorite - light
bulbs! Are they missing, especially in common areas? Are the
walkways to the facility well-lit?
3) Are there any staff-members
smoking in plain view of the public eye?
4) Are the walkways
free of clutter and obstacles, inside and out?
5) Are the staff friendly
6) Are the staff well
dressed and clean shaven?
7) Are the staff easily
identified as "staff" - with a proper uniform, and
8) Are your phone calls
and other correspondences with the facility returned promptly
9) Are the main entryways
secured and monitored?
10) How is the temperature
in the facility - too hot or too cold?
11) Are the carpets
in good shape, or are there snags and tears that might cause
12) Do the staff look
happy or miserable?
My experiences in the
hospitality industry did lead me to re-evaluate my career path.
I obviously didn't have it "in me" to work the long
hours, work holidays and weekends, and at the same time tend
to every detail down to the last salt shaker - day in and day
Some people do have
it in them, though - and those are the people you really need
working in an assisted living facility - They have to love what
they do - by living, breathing and dreaming about it most days
of the week, and often-times, most nights. Their co-workers
are their family, the facility is their home, and the residents
are their children - their babies that need constant care, attention
If you have these extraordinary,
and rare individuals working in a facility, the details...or
'small stuff' will most certainly be taken care of.
- by the staff at
Assisted Living Directory