Credentialing, standards to be new assisted living focus, ALFA exec says

Incoming ALFA President and CEO James Balda
Incoming ALFA President and CEO James Balda

The Assisted Living Federation of America has unveiled plans to implement credentialing and new standards, as well as a six-month “listening tour” nationwide, as part of its Senior Living 2025 campaign.

The campaign was officially launched Tuesday at the ALFA annual conference in Tampa, FL. The tour will start this summer in New York. Those who want to learn more can sign up at www.seniorliving2025.org.

“We will be working with state partners and doing town halls,” said ALFA President and CEO James Balda. “We think this is the right approach so that the public and operators know that residents are safe.”

As the assisted living industry receives pressure around regulations and payment, Balda told McKnight's the organization's focus is “in the self-regulatory model.” Additionally, while assisted living remains a “good, strong market,” the industry should also be examining what financing options exist for private pay.

Balda, now in his third month leading ALFA, said the organization continues to examine rebranding and a new name, and the industry is debating the terms “senior living” compared to “assisted living.”

“We are more than assisted living,” he asserted.

The annual conference is enjoying record attendance, organizers said. It has been reflected in jam-packed sessions, including several where attendees had to stand the whole time or sit on the floor. One session, on innovation and transportation in assisted living and featuring National Investment Center for Seniors Housing and Care CEO Robert Kramer, was so crowded that later arrivals were either turned away or forced to wait in a line, entering only after another attendee exited the room.

Sessions are geared around specific tracks, from growth strategies to memory care, and more. In a session on managing Parkinson's disease, in the clinical quality track Tuesday, common medication management problems were discussed.

Parkinson's patients must receive their medication at a specific time to avoid symptoms, noted Struthers Parkinson's Center's clinic supervisor Joan Gardner, RN, BSN. Even then, their medication might not always work.

“When they are ‘off,' they are often mislabeled as manipulative or attention-seeking, rather than it's a problems with their pills not working,” Gardner explained. Another problem is a prescription for a medication to manage Parkinson's side effects that blocks dopamine. One example is haldol prescribed for hallucinations, and a better choice would be clozapine. If a Parkinson's patient has a problem with nausea, look to Zofran rather than reglan or compazine, Gardner advised.

Another hot topic was growth and development in senior living. A session discussing how leaders can advance their careers touched on how often people are Googled, and their social media presence.

“A billion names are Googled everyday,” noted Shamim Wu, executive vice president of sales for Holiday Retirement. “And 94% of people only look at the first page. The first thing they see should be positive.” She recommended attendees develop personal LinkedIn profiles and to remember to “be authentic versus provocative.”

“Even private pages can be found,” she cautioned, noting case studies of employees terminated after they posted about using drugs or derogatory racial comments. “People will take a screenshot.”