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EP 162 SCI Netcast: Erica Hart with Alcoeur Gardens Assisted Living, Toms River, NJ

EP 162 SCI Netcast: Erica Hart with Alcoeur Gardens Assisted Living, Toms River, NJ
EP 162 SCI Netcast: Erica Hart with Alcoeur Gardens Assisted Living, Toms River, NJ
EP 162 SCI Netcast: Erica Hart with Alcoeur Gardens Assisted Living, Toms River, NJ

Today on SCI Netcast: Erica Hart with Alcoeur Gardens, Toms River, NJ

Erica Hart is the director of admissions and marketing for Alcoeur Gardens. It is an assisted living facility that specializes in memory care. Erica is an experienced Director of Marketing with a demonstrated history of working in healthcare. She possesses skills in communication, sales, marketing, admissions, team building, management, client relations, time management, organization, and customer service. She also has a strong marketing and administrative professional with a BA focused in Business Administration and Communications from The University of Connecticut.

 

Alcoeur Gardens is an alternative to institutional care for loved ones suffering from Alzheimer’s and other forms of memory loss and dementia. It currently has two buildings open, one in Brick, one in Toms River, each has a maximum capacity of 19 residents.

 

Find Alcoeur Gardens at http://alcoeurgardens.com or call them at 732-290-2273

 

  • Introduction of Erica and Alcoeur Gardens
  • What is the best thing about serving adults for Erica (knowing that they are with the right person)
  • Assisted living (how families realize that assisted living helps)
  • Leaders or organizations that stand out for Erica (Jackie McIntyre of Embracing Hospice)
  • Changes in marketing strategies in the past years due to the pandemic (virtual networking events through Zoom,
  • Erica’s piece of advice to other senior care providers (put yourself in the shoes of the family members)
  • How Erica celebrates with staff and residents (employee of the month, starlight employee)

 

Erica Hart’ s Words of Wisdom/ Tweet-ables

  • “We’re living longer, our children are living longer. It’s strange how the roles change, when moving into assisted living we hear: “I didn’t think they (the new resident) would be happy here, and they’re so happy here!”
  • “I have to just give a shout out to Jackie McIntyre, she is with Embracing She’s been in the industry a very, very, very long time from assisted living memory care, now in hospice care. And to see her work so hard, because she cares so much. It’s, we all have jobs, we all need to do this to make a living, but to be really good at what we, you’re not doing this for a paycheck, you’re doing this because it’s, you want to do what’s right by the individual. And, I see Jackie practicing that every day throughout the work and it’s inspiring.”
  • “I would say the best piece of advice I ever got when I started in the industry was, you have to put yourself in the shoes of the family You have to try to be as empathetic as possible to realize just what a difficult decision this is. You have the financial aspect, there’s that guilt aspect. There’s the whole thing of, I don’t want to have to make this decision, I want my parent to be able to make this decision for themselves, but they can’t. So it’s, try to be as empathetic as possible and practice patience with everything that you do.”

Full Transcript

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

This is Valerie VanBooven with The Senior Care Industry Netcast, where leaders with three or more years of experience in the senior care market share their advice, so let’s get to it. In a few sentences, tell us who you are and what you do.

Erica Hart:

Thank you so much for having me. So my name is Erica, I am the director of admissions and marketing for Alcoeur Gardens. We are an assisted living facility that specializes in memory care. We currently have two buildings open, one in Brick, one in Toms River, each has a maximum capacity of 19 residents. So, it’s a very intimate home life setting for our residents, along with our top tier care.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Nice. Well, we’re going to put your website address and all of your information with this video, so that folks can… I’m sure you’ve got beautiful pictures and all kinds of stuff, so we’ll make sure everybody can look at where your buildings, and your community and see everything there is to offer. Tell us what is the best thing about serving aging adults?

Erica Hart:

So, I find my work extremely rewarding. My own grandmother had Alzheimer’s, so this is very dear to my heart. Just having them with us, knowing that we can love them, care for them and provide a safe environment for them. But what I get real reward from is the families that trust us, that choose us to take care of their loved ones, because they know that they’re going to get the best care and be as safe as possible with us. Can’t beat that feeling.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

That’s right. Yeah. That peace of mind for those family members, because whether you’re my age or your age, and I’m assuming you’re way younger than me, once your parents get to a certain age, being able to know that they’re in the right place is, there’s nothing that can replace that feeling.

Erica Hart:

Absolutely.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Knowing they’re being well-cared for, knowing that you can call and talk to somebody, if you are worried about an issue or something’s different about mom, those things are so nice. So, I’m glad that you recognize that about families because… And then, let’s talk about assisted living. You guys, well, here’s my experience, I know some folks are obviously more active and social than others in assisted living. But I often recall back in the days when I helped people transition to one living arrangement to another, I remember some of the ladies saying to me after a few weeks saying, “I should have done this 10 years ago, I should have done this 20 years ago, I don’t know why I waited so long.” Do you hear that a lot because [inaudible 00:02:43]-

Erica Hart:

Oh, yeah.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

People [inaudible 00:02:45]-

Erica Hart:

It’s one of those, the decision to get through the door always comes later than it should. And I understand that, it’s an emotional decision. Children, we never want to think that we’re going to be the caregivers for our parents, but the truth of the matter is that’s just how life goes these days.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yeah.

Erica Hart:

We’re living longer, our children are living longer. It’s strange how the roles change, but we do hear that a lot and it’s wonderful that I hear from the families of, “I didn’t think that they would be happy and they’re so happy here.”

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yes. I mean, they’re not secluded in their house by themselves for eight hours a day or 20 hours a day. They actually have friends and I know from my mother-in-law being in assisted living, there’s even like cliques. [crosstalk 00:03:35].

Erica Hart:

Oh yes.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

But certain little ladies have their own little grip, and so they sit together and… I mean, it’s a much kinder clique.

Erica Hart:

Yeah.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Than when you’re in high school or junior high, but it still is…

Erica Hart:

High school never ends.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

That’s right. And, they have so much fun with it. And I remember were, my mother-in-law was always amused by the whole thing. I mean, she would tell us all the gossip and it’s minor, but she was always amused and had a great time with it.

Erica Hart:

Oh, I know.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yep, and never enough gentleman for all the ladies.

Erica Hart:

I know. Yeah. And I will say I’ve been in the industry about six years now, and I’m seeing more and more men coming in over time. It’s nice to see the balance used to be 80% women, 20% men, now we’re at 45, 55. It’s nice.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Nice. Yes. Those guys need to be more social too. It’s not just [inaudible 00:04:38]. I mean, they need to be surrounded by their, their ladies all day.

Erica Hart:

Yeah.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

So, yeah. All right. I would imagine that in your career, there have been leaders or organizations out there that you really think, “Gosh, they do a great job.” Who is it that you think does a wonderful job out there?

Erica Hart:

So I have to just give a shout out to Jackie McIntyre, she is with Embracing Hospice. She’s been in the industry a very, very, very long time from assisted living memory care, now in hospice care. And to see her work so hard, because she cares so much. It’s, we all have jobs, we all need to do this to make a living, but to be really good at what we, you’re not doing this for a paycheck, you’re doing this because its, you want to do what’s right by the individual. And, I see Jackie practicing that every day throughout the work and it’s inspiring.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

That’s awesome. Well, I’m glad you pointed that out. It does take a lot of heart, and a lot of compassion and a desire. See, but I’ll tell you what, once you have your first rewarding experience, whatever that is in your healthcare career, there’s no turning back. It’s, you get addicted to making people happy.

Erica Hart:

You chase for that feeling.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yeah. [inaudible 00:05:58] so much too. Yeah. And that’s great, that’s what it’s all about is, how can I serve others, how can I help others? So thank you for pointing that out about her, because we need more people like that in the world, for sure. All right. In the last 18 to 24 months, and this is great because you come from a facility, as opposed to a home care agency, who’s trying to get into your facility. So the struggle for everyone has been marketing in-person and every state has had their… Some states are way more strict than others, and so everybody’s had a different experience. In Florida, you can do anything you want, in California, you can do nothing. So in the last 18 to 24 months, what has changed for you? What kind of marketing have you been able to do or what in… After you need to answer that, I want to know if a home care agency wants to know you all, what is their best bet? What can they do to get in the door with you? So, [inaudible 00:07:04].

Erica Hart:

So with the pandemic happening, and the amazing technology that is Zoom, and the FaceTime’s, and voice-to-voice calls, all of our networking events have gone virtual in that aspect, where members of the Geriatric Advisory Council and three of their chapters, we meet each Wednesday morning. It’s a Zoom call, you’re on it for an hour. You get to meet everybody. Everybody gets a 45 second sound bite and the connections you make through that group are immeasurable from a personal and financial aspect. But that’s so funny that you mentioned home healthcare agencies, because that’s actually been my focus more recently just to get myself more familiar with them, because through my work I’ve been with hospitals, rehabs, those sort of facilities. So we’ve been reaching out to each other and I’m taking them on virtual tours of the building, showing them around, showing them the room, showing them the residents having mealtime, where they have activities, so they have a better idea of what we do.

Erica Hart:

So they have a family that says, “We’re loving the home care, but mom really couldn’t [inaudible 00:08:08] in a 24-hour facility, where would you recommend?” They know what we have and they recommend us honestly.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yes. And, that’s awesome. And that, you have to keep networking in whatever away you’re allowed to do that right now. Hopefully, I keep saying this, I’ve said this for a long time, we can see the light at the end of the tunnel, I don’t know.

Erica Hart:

We’re almost there.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yeah. So if a home care agency wanted to drop off brochures or they wanted to drop off just a little something that explains who they are, are they allowed to that without touching anybody or coming in?

Erica Hart:

Yes.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

They are. Okay.

Erica Hart:

So with being a secure memory unit, we have passcodes on both the external doors and on our gate, outside of our fence as well. We have a call bell there. If someone wants to stop by, they just ring the bell, say who they are, where they’re from. One of us will go out, and greet them and we’re all masked. It’s outside, we’d be socially distancing.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Oh, nice.

Erica Hart:

Drop the stuff off, and we can pick it up and that way we have more literature on their services here.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Great. That’s awesome, because I think that’s what a lot of folks wonder, “What can I do or what shouldn’t I be doing?” Nobody wants to be offensive or rude, but they’re never really sure from one facility, or even state to another, what can I do without upsetting the applecart? And it’s good to know, so it’s good to hear directly from the mouth of someone who works inside, what can you do, so thank you for sharing that with us. I know that the protection of the residents is really, it’s the top priority and that’s why everything’s continues to be kind of difficult. But hopefully, eventually, people will be able to, at least walk in the door and drop stuff off.

Erica Hart:

Yes.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

That’s the next step. They can come into the desk. But yeah, so thank you for that. All right. What piece of advice would you give to other senior care providers?

Erica Hart:

I would say the best piece of advice I ever got when I started in the industry was, you have to put yourself in the shoes of the family members. You have to try to be as empathetic as possible to realize just what a difficult decision this is. You have the financial aspect, there’s that guilt aspect. There’s the whole thing of, I don’t want to have to make this decision, I want my parent to be able to make this decision for themselves, but they can’t. So it’s, try to be as empathetic as possible and practice patience with everything that you do. We’ve been in memory care, we very easily join someone where they are, [inaudible 00:10:40] be experiencing dementia, Alzheimer’s. It’s very difficult to bring them to where we are.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yeah.

Erica Hart:

A little bit more patient and understanding, it’s better for everybody.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yes. Take it slow, these decisions are not made lightly, that is for sure.

Erica Hart:

No.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

This is emotional, financial, physical. I mean, it incorporates it’s… I know that there are some big stressors in life like divorce, marriage, someone passing away, those are all big stressors. But what somebody left out was having to make care decisions for an aging family member. That is huge. You just don’t want to make the wrong decision. And unfortunately, we hope that everyone’s asked these questions before the time comes, but unfortunately, often this creeps up on us and it’s a crisis and…

Erica Hart:

Yeah. And then, it becomes a forced decision, and then everyone’s unhappy.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yes. So, it is challenging. And I always, of course, all of us who see this every day advocate, please, please, please talk about this before you can’t talk about this. It just becomes unmanageable, so. All right, thank you for that patience and time. Okay, now last questions supposed to be fun. Tell us how do you like to celebrate with your staff, your residents? I mean, it could be anything from just having a great day, having a great month, celebrating a caregiver, who’s done a great job. How do you guys celebrate?

Erica Hart:

So we all have employee of the month, every month and there’s actually a number of different ways that you can [inaudible 00:12:15], we also have a Starlight Employee. So, the Starlight Employee is we have our Facebook page and we encourage employees to sign on at a certain day at a certain time to watch the wheel spinning, it only pulls the names of those who are viewing. And if the wheel lands on you, you win an extra gift card and you’re recognized as a Starlight Employee of the week. Employees of the month, their picture was shown on the wall, they’re honored with [inaudible 00:12:38] and a gift card as well. And as far as celebrating with the residents, it’s almost every day that there’s a party going on here, whether it’s a fun hack day or oh, it’s birthday day or it’s, the oldies music day.

Erica Hart:

We always find a way to bring as much joy to them as you can because they deserve it.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yeah, they do. And it livens things up, every day doesn’t have to be the same. And, you know what? I look love the Starlight thing, so you encourage them to log onto Facebook a certain day and time and see if they’re the winner. Now, what a great idea, because that gets them to engage with your Facebook page. They probably see it more often than just that Starlight day and that was a really great idea. Thank you for mentioning that. What a great nugget for everybody.

Erica Hart:

Can’t take any credit, that is all our fearless leader, Denise Vantassell, that brainchild.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

That is a fabulous idea. Get those staff… That it goes all the way into staff retention, all these things you’re talking about for the caregivers, it’s all about retention, keeping them happy, keeping them there and honoring them for the hard work they do.

Erica Hart:

Thank you so much.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Thank you. Well, I appreciate your coming on the show, telling us all about your community and what you guys do. We’ll make sure again, everything’s, all the contact information, your websites there,-

Erica Hart:

Thank you.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

… and so folks can reach out to you in New Jersey and get to know you better.

Erica Hart:

Great. Thank you so much, Valerie. This was so nice.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Thank you.

 

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN

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