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Working in a Senior Life Facility

Guest Bio: Deana Wilson, BHA, CDAL, CMP
Deana Wilson, BHA, CDAL, CMP,  is the Executive Director of Riverside Senior Life Communities.   Deana provides oversight to the Kankakee and Bourbonnais Senior Life locations.  She is a Certified Director of Assisted Living, holds a Memory Support Unit Director Certification and is a Certified Marketing Professional.   Deana holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Health Administration and is currently enrolled in Graduate School at Concordia University – Chicago earning her Master’s Degree in Gerontology.   Deana is active with Leading Age Illinois and has held many cabinet positions with Leading Age throughout the years.  She is also a Fellow of the Leading Age Leadership Academy.   She has worked in the field of aging services for nearly 30 years and has a passion for helping folks in their later years live their best lives!
    Working in a Senior Life Facility
    Deana Wilson BHA, CDAL, CMP explains what it's like working in a senior living facility.

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    Liz Healy: Hello, listeners and thanks for tuning into Well Within Reach podcast brought to you by Riverside Healthcare. I'm your host, Liz Healy. And joining me today is Deana Wilson, who is the Executive Director for Riverside Senior Life Communities. Thanks for joining me today, Deana.

    Deana Wilson: Thank you for having me.

    Liz Healy: So Deana, something that is probably near and dear to your heart as the Executive Director of our Riverside Senior life communities, what is it like to work in a senior life community? I understand you have a fair amount of experience with it. Can you maybe start with that? Where does your experience come from?

    Deana Wilson: Sure. I have about 30 years of experience in senior life and senior living communities. I've been at Riverside for two of those nearly 30 years. And I have worked in areas of sales and marketing. Years ago, I worked in activities and now in operations for the last 10 years or so. I've had a few different roles and I think they've all led up to being an executive director and the knowledge of the entire operation and how that flows is always helpful when you're in the executive director seat.

    Liz Healy: So how did you land here at Riverside? What drew you to Riverside?

    Deana Wilson: Well, I live in Beecher actually. So not too far. So I've always been aware of Riverside. My son was actually born at Riverside many years ago. And what brought me to Riverside two years ago is a friend of mine and a previous coworker had shared with me that the Executive Director of Senior Life at the time was retiring and asked if I would be interested in applying. And that's how I got here.

    Liz Healy: Okay. So can you tell us a little bit about the senior life communities that we have here at Riverside?

    Deana Wilson: Sure. We have two locations. The original campus is Kankakee, right across the street from the hospital. And there, we have assisted living and memory care, and we also have independent living apartments and estate homes. All of this is on one property. The estate homes are just independent homes that we do all of the maintaining of the house, their lawn care, snow removal, all of those things. And the independent living apartments are in the building that's connected to the assisted living and memory care. And then in Bourbonnais, we have assisted living and memory care at that campus as well.

    Liz Healy: Okay. So then we have a full spectrum of the senior living, so you could start in independent and kind of move your way through the system.

    Deana Wilson: Yes. And connected to senior life, and not under my responsibility, is Miller Rehab. And so we truly have the full continuum of services for seniors.

    Liz Healy: That's really, really good to know. How would you describe the culture of the senior life communities at Riverside working there? You know, do you have good relationships with the residents that live there?

    Deana Wilson: Sure. Absolutely, the culture as a team member Is supportive. We are always interested in helping our team members grow. We have a lot of fun at work. Even during the past year, we've still have been able to have fun at work. But just the supportive nature of our community, of each other and of our residents. And being a resident in our community, also the residents are heard, we listen, we have resident councils that have the residents on them that provide feedback in all areas of their life as a resident living there, that then we take to the team and improve if we can. If we can't do something right away, we explain that and why, and then when we will be able to do that. So it's very collaborative. We're very connected to our residents and their wishes.

    Liz Healy: Oh, that's excellent. It's always good to have that positive back and forth and collaboration. Is Riverside different than other senior life communities you've worked in?

    Deana Wilson: It is in a lot of ways. I've worked for other senior living communities that were hospital-based or a part of a hospital system, but they've not been like Riverside in this past year, especially it shined a light on all that Riverside brings to senior life and through the pandemic. And when we started needing to test residents and get those results back quickly because of course a positive test changes our entire protocol and being able to have our residents test it in the lab and resulted right here at Riverside was a huge advantage. If we weren't connected to a hospital, I was in connection with a lot of those communities and they really struggled through this past year. But non-pandemic related, it's great because all the doctors that are available to our residents at Riverside and all this support that they offer to our staff and our residents from a health system aspect.

    Liz Healy: Okay. Are there certain things that keep you working here at Riverside? And I know the connectedness to the hospital and the medical groups definitely are something that you touched on, but is there anything else that you just love about working at Riverside?

    Deana Wilson: For me, I would say I've spent 30 years of my life doing this work and I do love it. I love being able to help aging folks. People later in their life live their best life. That's the primary thing that keeps me here, honestly. But as important as that is the team that I work with, my coworkers, the support that, again, just having been here two years, but 15 or 16 months of that being spent in very unusual times, we just came together as a team and I'm not sure what I would have done without them. So they’re who keeps me here.

    Liz Healy: Yeah. And I know Senior Life's always looking to add to the team. Are there certain roles that are very popular and in high demand in our senior life communities?

    Deana Wilson: Yes. The workforce is very challenging right now in all industries, especially in healthcare. Our clinical roles, we have nurses, LPN, CNAs, and we've just expanded our offerings in the clinical department to include nurse assistants. They don't necessarily have to be certified like a CNA. We will handle their training and there's just slight variances to what they would be allowed to do versus a CNA. But we're anxious to roll out that position and welcome those folks that aren't CNAs, but do want to be a caregiver. They have a heart to serve and We want to welcome them.

    As well as support techs also in the clinical department. That's a new role that can help support the clinical team so they can focus on care and nursing, but all the other things that are very important to get done as well can be done by the support tech.

    Clinical, we have culinary positions, we have cooks, chefs, servers, dishwashers, everything that makes a dining department and a restaurant-style dining program Go. We have house keepers and maintenance staff. We also have sales and marketing staff. And we actually have an opening for a sales director right now in our community. And Experience is kind of the fun department, we also have those staff members. But the biggest focus I would say right now is on our clinical team and trying to make sure we have qualified people who really have a heart to serve, people who are later in their life, and make sure that we have our residents well-taken care of.

    Liz Healy: Yeah, that definitely makes sense. You want to make sure that those residents are happy and healthy and they have their activities to go to. So when you're looking at these different roles, are there certain types of skills that you look for a clinical role, that maybe someone might not think, "Oh, I want to work in senior life. Oh, I have those skills. Maybe I could try it."

    Deana Wilson: Sure. Like I said, this CNA role again, Senior Life is different than other healthcare opportunities to be a CNA. And senior living, it's really more than just a caregiver. It's a relationship that they have with the residents. There's a different focus on building that relationship and serving that resident that isn't just swooping in to provide ADL's and then back out the door. We really are looking for team members that want to have that relationship with those that they're serving and our environment can offer that.

    Liz Healy: Okay. I know. previously you touched on this a little bit with the nurse aids, but are there opportunities for growth if you come in as a CNA to go up?

    Deana Wilson: Absolutely. Riverside offers a continuing education program. And there are specific programs for CNAs who would like to go to nursing school. We always encourage that growth and for them to continue their education. Whether they are going from a CNA to an LPN or an LPN to an RN, there are continuing education programs that support that.

    In addition, we have a partnership with KCC for training staff members who may be working in other departments that want to be a CNA. Riverside has a partnership with KCC to offer that program. That is something that Riverside would fund for the candidates that are doing that, the employees that want to do that.

    In addition to Riverside programs and continuing education, in Senior Life, we also belong to an organization called LeadingAge and they offer annual conferences, various webinars throughout the year and opportunities for our staff to hop on whether it's a webinar or once the conferences are back in person again, to go to the conference really get new ideas and continue their education. through that. It's not a formal college class or something like that, but it's knowledge and education and great ideas that are shared that we want our staff to be exposed to that as well.

    Liz Healy: Yes. I think bringing new ideas from outside places is always great, trying new things. If someone wanted what they've heard so far and wanted to apply to a job at Riverside, whether it be senior life or any other job, how would they go about that?

    Deana Wilson: Okay. Our positions are all posted on our website at riversideseniorlife.net. And if that is not convenient to hop online and check that out, you can always call me. I will definitely be able to direct. I know what positions we have open in all of our departments. And I would love to take that phone call and steer you in the right direction. And I can be reached at (815) 935-3273.

    Liz Healy: Perfect. We'll definitely make sure to give you a call if we need a job. Is there anything else you'd like to add?

    Deana Wilson: I appreciate the opportunity to speak about senior life. We have great communities. Actually, Kankakee is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. We're excited about that. We'll have events coming up that we encourage everybody to participate in now that things are getting back to normal a little bit. And then, Bourbonnais has been open about six years as well. So we're established, obviously Riverside is established. We're a great option for employment. And we're a business, but we're a business of heart, which is the best. And so we're looking for like-minded people who want to serve people later in their lives.

    Liz Healy: Okay. Well, thank you for joining us today and thank you for tuning into Well Within Reach podcast with Deana Wilson, who's the Executive Director of Riverside Senior Life Communities and your hosts, Liz Healy. To learn more about careers at Riverside, visit riversidehealthcare.org/careers.