LTC Long-timers: A commitment that lasts a lifetime

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Why do some providers stay for years or generations? To help

At a time when employee turnover is a constant challenge, a core group of long-term care professionals continues to give decades -- and sometimes generations -- to the field. Demonstrating a level of commitment that would make baseball ironman Cal Ripken Jr. look like a loafer, most can't imagine doing anything else.
They can be seen in every state and their stories vary. But they are united by common threads: They tend to feel connected to something vital and important. They take their roles seriously and personally.
And all will tell you they are committed to making a difference for the residents they serve.

A note, then a career
Michael Barth was 16 when his father left him a note to call the local nursing home administrator. He spent his first day stripping and waxing the facility's kitchen floor, while wondering what he'd been pulled into. At various times over the next few years, he was a dishwasher, janitor, laundry helper and aide. After college, he took an administrator's job. Since 1976, he has been in charge of a 60-bed facility, a 259-bed center, and an assortment of communities in between.
Barth currently is the administrator at St. Joseph Home on Chicago's northwest side. At the same time, he's overseeing the building of an expanded St. Joseph Village, which also will  offer assisted care, and later, independent living. "I guess it's in my blood," he said of his continuing association with eldercare.
For others, that statement has a literal meaning. Consider Mary Katherine Britton, administrator at the Sunset Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, a 120-bed facility in Boombille, NY. Britton's grandparents opened up the family's first facility, a Victorian-style house that offered maternity and eldercare services, in 1947.
Mary Lou Browning has been in the long-term care field since 1975. A nurse by training, she's the administrator at Medicenter Rehabilitation and Nursing, in Neptune City, NJ. Her father and uncle built the facility near Asbury Park in 1969. Medicenter has focused primarily on subacute services, especially for bone-care related issues.
She sees family-run facilities declining, as chains and corporations become more dominant. But she adds that there's no substitute for the personal touch a family-run business can deliver.
You won't get an argument from Trish Mazejy, vice president of business development for the Bartley Healthcare Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, Jackson, NJ. Her father, a physician, opened the facility 20 years ago. They added an assisted living center about a decade ago.
"When it's a family-owned business, you can respond to your customers' needs a lot faster. Residents and their families don't have to go very far to talk with the owners," she said.
Kelly Rice-Schild is the fourth generation in her family to be involved in eldercare. She's the owner/administrator at the Floridean (pronounced Florey Dean), in Miami, FL.
Her great-grandmother Florence "Flori" Dean founded the 60-bed facility in 1944. Grandmother Julia Rice and father Frank Rice, preceded Kelly in running the family business.

Longevity infectious
Some industry veterans have the knack for keeping others committed, too. Steve Izzo has worked in eldercare for the past 26 years, and currently is the administrator at Inglemoor Care Center of Livingston in New Jersey. But what makes the facility unusual is the tenure seen across the facility's departments. Seven employees have been with Inglemoor for at least 30 years (three for 35). Another eight people have worked at the facility for 20 years, while 22 others have been there for at least a decade.
"The key is providing a great work environment," said Izzo, adding that administrators need to work many hours. But his most vital factor for success is "effective communication between resident, family and staff."
"It establishes a circle of trust and that leads to great care and employee satisfaction," he explained.
Ethlyn Liebich and her late husband purchased their first facility, Liberty House o


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