By JOAN PATTERSON

When Diana Mott, executive director of Atria Sunlake assisted living facility, stops to think about the qualities she finds in her ideal employees, she talks about their skills and their expertise, but points out that it doesn’t mean anything without a “huge heart.”

Joe Ann Cole, administrator at Manor Health Care Center skilled nursing facility, mentions the dedication and empathy her employees need to have.

And then there’s that word again: “heart.”

“This is a people business and 90 percent of what we do is dealing with people. … You have to care for that person and be dedicated to that person. So what I’m saying is, basically it comes from the heart.”

There are facilities around the Las Vegas Valley offering various levels of care and permanent accommodations for older residents depending on their needs. The services they offer can include everything from temporary rehabilitation after an illness or injury, assisted living or long-term care that can require varying levels of custodial and medical assistance.

And the need for these services is growing.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook for 2008-2018, health care is expected to bring in 3.2 million new jobs which is more than any industry. This is large because of the growth of the elderly population.

Employment specifically in nursing and residential care facilities, according to the bureau, is expected to rise by 21 percent during the 10-year period.

And, as Mott and Cole point out, the employees providing these services will have to possess both the skills and the “heart” to service this growing elderly population.

Kerry Laviolette, administrator at Silver Hills Health Care Center, agrees.

Silver Hills is a skilled-nursing and rehabilitation facility that offers services such as occupational, physical and speech therapy, as well as some long-term care. While Silver Hills serves patients of all ages, most of them are elderly, Laviolette notes.

What he looks for in his employees is the understanding that they will be working hard, no matter what their job title. They also need to work as part of a team and have the desire to make a difference in patients’ lives, he said.

“Families serving families is part of our corporate motto, and I’ve been here with the facility for 13 years and that’s what we’ve done, we’ve built a family,” Laviolette said.

One of the advantages of working in a skilled-nursing setting is the ability to get to know the patients, he added.

“It’s that individual you’re working with. You do get to establish a longer relationship than in a hospital setting. … They have all these wild and great stories of their lives. And it’s how you feel about taking care of people,” he said.

In terms of the greatest need right now for employees in long-term care facilities, Cole points to certified nursing assistants who provide personal care such as assistance with bathing, feeding and dressing. She notes that prospective employees also should remember there are opportunities in areas such as administration, social services, housekeeping, food services and maintenance.

“It’s a great field and there’s so many opportunities in so many areas, and people just don’t really realize the opportunities in long-term care,” she said.

Atria is not a medical facility, so employees provide assistance with residents’ day-to-day tasks such as showering, dressing, transportation and receiving medication, or what Mott calls “discreet help in the background.”

Atria provides training to all of its new employees, Mott said. Medication technicians, who have the job of administering medicine to residents, not only have to be certified by the state, but Atria also provides additional training and administers a competency test, Mott added.

But no matter the training, it takes a unique person to understand the needs of the residents.

“Their job is to keep them upbeat and happy, and basically to let them know this isn’t the end of the road for them, this is a beginning,” Mott said.

“We get attached to our seniors and our seniors get attached to us. (Employees) need to know to smile. They need to know that taking care of our seniors is the most important thing, how to be kind, and how to be gracious to our seniors.”

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