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Finding Joyful Moments This National Assisted Living Week

September 13, 2022 | Peter Corless


Happy National Assisted Living Week! This year, the National Center for Assisted Living (NCAL) chose the theme “Joyful Moments” for their weeklong celebration of the role of assisted living in caring for America’s seniors and individuals with disabilities. After some of the hardest years in our industry, it’s great to get back to remembering and creating special moments that keep us committed to senior care.

Through my own work in assisted living, I’ve gotten to experience many of these joyful moments. One that stands out to me was when I was touring an assisted living facility and met a resident who was dressed in the brightly colored clothing of her native South Pacific homeland. I talked to her about how joyful and uplifting her clothing was and how beautiful she looked in it. I’ll never forget the smile on her face and how she beamed at receiving the compliment from a stranger. It was uplifting to see how little things can make a big difference.

I’m far from alone in these types of encounters. Allison Gilgenbach, a senior industry consultant at OnShift, had many impactful experiences while working at assisted living communities.

“When opening a new community, we had a really difficult time finding staff but knew we had to open our memory care unit. Since I was actually in the ED role at the time, I switched my hours so I could spend the night with a couple of our memory care residents since we didn’t have anyone to work overnight. I will never forget the moments I had that week over coffee in the morning! One of the residents was a survivor of the Holocaust and the stories she told made me realize how fortunate I was and gave me so much gratitude for my life. I learned so much about the residents and I continue to talk to their families to this day!”

Tarryn Reddy, a regional account executive with OnShift, also spent many years of her career managing senior living facilities and found joy in weeklong celebrations like National Assisted Living Week.

“We would consider these types of recognition weeks as spirit weeks and come up with different themes for each day like 80s day, sports day, or country day and offer prizes for the best dressed. Even though these celebration weeks were about the employees, the residents loved seeing everyone dressed up so it benefitted the whole community. We would even have a daily parade where residents lined the hallways so staff could show off their outfits.”

Lori Presser, OnShift’s customer success enablement coordinator, is a licensed Assisted Living Administrator and has more than 20 years of experience in senior living. She knows firsthand the importance of creating joyful moments in resident life, and strategies to achieve that.

“Over the last two years, we discovered the real importance of resident and staff engagement. This year’s NALW theme is so timely to all of those living and working within senior living as we continue to navigate the new normal every day. Engaging and empowering our residents and staff to continue to have a great quality of life with joyful moments is a top strategy for most senior living communities. A great way to do this is by planning events that incorporate residents, families, and staff, such as a community carnival, outdoor concerts, or even a group exercise class! Be sure to continue creating joyful moments to get those positive stories about senior living out there for potential families and residents!”

We had plenty of examples of joyful moments in our OnShift Applause Award nominations. One nomination praised a pair of CNAs who regularly come in on their days off to deliver flowers to residents and brighten their day. Another nomination detailed a Life Enrichment Director’s efforts to spread joy through new activities like cardio drumming, herb gardening, and live music concerts. Several nominations talked about the joy the residents and staff find in small acts of kindness, like a staff member helping residents get dressed in their favorite outfits or asking about their family members by name.

Once you start looking, joyful moments are not hard to find in senior living, especially when you have caregivers who are passionate about what they do. I'm proud to serve on the NCAL board and help advocate for these outstanding providers. Thank you to all the assisted living staff and volunteers who work so hard to make these joyful moments possible for America’s seniors! 

If you’re looking for ways to celebrate your staff, check out our 2022 Biggest Book of Perks For Senior Care.

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About Peter Corless

Peter Corless is Executive Vice President of Enterprise Development for OnShift. Peter is a recognized HR leader in post-acute care and is well-known for his achievements at some of the country’s largest post-acute care organizations, including Kindred Healthcare and Genesis HealthCare. As an experienced, chief administrative and human resources officer within these organizations, he developed strategies that reduced turnover, improved recruiting and hiring strategies, and reduced labor costs.

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