Asbury developing future leaders in senior care to keep pace with growing need

George Washington and Georgetown University partnerships introduce graduates to new options

December 01, 2011

GERMANTOWN, Md. – In 2010, more than 4 million baby boomers turned 50, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.  Boomers today represent 28 percent of the U.S. population, or 76.1 million people.  With so many people aging, how is the senior living industry going to provide services to this group of older Americans? 

To meet this spike in demand, leaders at Asbury Communities are already planning how to service the boom of seniors and helping lead the way with creative solutions. Asbury provides management and support services for a system of continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs) for older adults.

“Healthcare and senior services is definitely going to look different in 10 years,” predicts Doug Leidig, chief operating officer, Asbury.  “With an increase in home healthcare, healthcare reform and other changes, those of us specializing in aging services need to get ready.  Senior living providers need more exposure to educate future leaders about what we do, and to continue to attract and develop quality professionals in the field.”

In addition, Leidig says that industry surveys show that 60 percent of chief executive officers of multi-site organizations are planning to retire within the next decade, leaving organizations with the challenge of filling these positions with experienced leaders.

In light of this scenario, Asbury has proactively supported development of the next generation of leaders in senior living through its administrators-in-training program.  The organization has teamed with local institutions of higher education, The George Washington University (GW) (since 2005), and Georgetown University (since 2007), to offer real-life experience for their graduate students who are learning about health care administration.  The purpose of the program is to interest them in long-term care options, such as CCRCs, which provide independent living and, as needs increase, assisted living and long-term care.

Joey Mookerjee is the administrator of skilled nursing and assisted living at Asbury~Solomons Island, an Asbury community located in Southern Maryland.  He says that the Asbury Communities training program helped him to see how satisfying a career in long-term care could be.

“I was working on getting a master’s in health services administration at George Washington, and I couldn’t decide which direction to go.  Acute care seemed impersonal, so my professor recommended an internship to get exposure to long-term care options,” says Mookerjee.

Mookerjee says that this training program allowed him to travel to the different communities managed by Asbury and learn how they were each unique in their own way.  He got to observe the various levels of care, how CCRCs work, and learned how not-for-profit organizations compared to for-profit entities. 

“For me it was really eye-opening, and helped make up my mind that this was the path for me,” he says.

Christy Kramer, administrator of the Wilson Healthcare Center at Asbury Methodist Village in Gaithersburg, Md., also went through the Asbury program when she was a George Washington student.  “The program allowed me to rotate through the various departments and really see how things work.  I was hooked after that,” says Kramer.  “What I love about my job is the relationships with our residents.  When I’m having a bad day, I go spend 15 minutes with our residents and everything is put back into perspective.”

In addition to the administrators-in-training program, Asbury is also looking at solutions that answer demand for future services for the aging.  According to Leidig, residents often enter the Asbury system between the ages of 60 and 90, and he predicts that those ages will continue to rise.  Asbury is developing options such as community-based services that extend beyond their campuses as a means to support seniors.

“We are exploring what it would take for seniors to be able to call on us to provide that help in their own homes,” explains Leidig.  “For instance, if a senior falls and breaks his hip, he will need medical care and therapy.  One of our buses can pick him up at his door and bring him to our campus for the care he needs.  When that’s completed, our bus can bring him home.  We can provide meals while he is recuperating, as well as yard service, housekeeping, someone to clean out his gutters.  While he is at our campus, he has access to lectures and activities that go on there, giving him a chance to meet other people. Our activities focus on our six pillars of wellness:   emotional, intellectual, physical, spiritual, vocational and social.  This increases his exposure to our community, so that if he considers a move to a CCRC, he already knows about us and has had a positive experience.”

To some, 2020 may seem distant, but to the leaders at Asbury, they know that the time to plan is now.

Asbury Communities, Inc. provides management and support services for a system of continuing care retirement communities that deliver services for older adults. It is ranked by LeadingAge and Ziegler Capital Markets Group’s AZ 100 as the 12th largest not-for-profit multi-site senior living organization in the country.

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