'American Idol' meets assisted living

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You can call them assisted living's “idols.” About a dozen employees of assisted living facilities auditioned and won spots to sing a song commissioned by the Assisted Living Federation of America.

The YouTube song, which was unveiled at the ALFA conference this week, showcases the vocal talents of various workers, including an administrator, dining room manager and maintenance coordinator.

“It is sort of the senior living version of ‘We Are the World' or an assisted living version of ‘American Idol,'” noted Chris Black, an ALFA spokeswoman for the organization.

The organization put out a call to its members facilities telling them about the competition. At least 100 employees responded. A few weeks ago, the winners were flown out to Washington, D.C.

None of the singers are professionals, Black said. (After hearing the song, though, you may agree with me that some may want to reconsider that.)

PCI Communications of Alexandria, VA, wrote and produced the song. It is called “Every Day” and the refrain is “Every day we make a difference,” which underscores the impact that workers have on the lives of their residents.

“It was commissioned to mark the 20th anniversary and to highlight the people who truly do make this industry a success—its compassionate, competent employees,” Black said.

Singing from her heart

The song touched Suzy Pearce, activity director on the memory care unit of Morning View Assisted Living in Greensboro, NC, and one of those singing in the video. (She is featured in the photo.)

“In my heart, I am for the residents and I work in the Alzheimer's unit,” explained Pearce, who said that she had about six days to learn the song. When she arrived in Washington, a limo picked her up and took her to the studio. She then flew back home.

“The song was right on, about giving them respect and dignity,” she noted. “It was just the most perfect song for a facility.”

Pearce, who sings oldies and hymns every morning on her unit, has been singing since she was child. Growing up in Plainfield, IL, she recalls nuns pulling her aside to sing in church and at funerals.

This recent experience has made her think about making a CD of music from the ‘30s and ‘40s “so I can consider helping out the residents,” she said.

She has found that singing engages her residents and doing that even for just five minutes is important, she said.

“There are three stages [of Alzheimer's] and sometimes the last stage is the hardest, but they can always remember the music,” she said.

Long-term care's got talent

The amazing part about this video is that it showcases the vocal gifts of assisted living employees. It makes you think how multifaceted people are and how little we may know about the person working next to us!

Another recent video also shows the long-term care community's knack for show business. The American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging created a promotional video for its upcoming conference. See the last blog entry on it. Watching CEO Larry Minnix and Chairman Win Marshall ham it up is sure to give you a laugh.

Not only do these videos highlight the interesting people who work in this field, they also indicate how professional and savvy these organizations are becoming in their marketing efforts. That alone is worth two thumbs up.

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McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Emily Mongan.

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