Roberto Muñiz, President and CEO of Parker Life, the newest member of the Quality Institute’s Leadership Council.
Parker Life has been a leader in high-quality, person-centered care for older adults in Central Jersey. Can you share some details about the unique aspects of your skilled nursing homes and adult day services?
Mrs. Henrietta Parker founded our organization in 1907 in memory of her husband, Francis Parker. Mrs. Parker wanted to create an environment for individuals to live their best lives in a homelike setting. That is exactly what we have created since the beginning and continue to do so as we expand our communities and our footprint in central New Jersey. What makes us unique is our continuum of care model, our dedication to person-centered living, and our small home model. The residents, patients and participants are at the center of all we do.
Today, we serve hundreds of individuals every day in various components of the long-term care continuum. Nursing homes, post-acute care, specialized memory care, assisted living and home and community-based services. These home and community-based services focus on keeping people safe and healthy while living in their own homes, where most elders prefer to live.
The past 18 months have been an extraordinary challenge for nursing homes and all long-term care facilities. What have you learned that is changing how you operate today?
We were very fortunate that we started planning well in advance, the moment we were made aware of the travel restrictions, early on in 2020. Our teams immediately began to execute our emergency infections control plans, staff training, education and the implementation of many additional infection control measures while monitoring the situation.
We learned that we need to be nimble and willing to adapt to the moment. Things were changing so fast during this pandemic that it was very hard to stay on top of everything organizationally, as well as complying with the directives and regulations from the federal, state, and local agencies.
We also learned that a crisis like this one can create new opportunities. We deployed technology innovations and solutions. As we were in the middle of a major expansion of our post-acute and skilled care center, the experience we had with this pandemic has presented opportunities to incorporate outbreak management strategies to our new buildings and operations to deal with similar situations in the future.
Parker Life’s memory programs are another innovative model. Can you tell us how your model works and share ideas for others working to help people living with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia?
One of the unique aspects of Parker is the small home model of living versus large institutional models of care. Our first small model home opened in 2001. In this model, the elder is at the center of the services provided. We have small home models which are specifically developed for individuals with Alzheimer’s at various levels of their disease process.
Our elders live in small homes with 16 other people with similar conditions. These homes look and feel like a regular home, with kitchens, living rooms and private rooms. It’s about supporting the people who live in these homes, allowing them to make choices, caring for themselves and participating in the decision-making process. It’s about maintaining their dignity and independence.
Staffing is always an issue for nursing homes. How does Parker Life work to create career ladders of advancement for your employees?
Parker has had a history of being an employer of choice in this area for many years, and that has helped us attract and retain a highly skilled and highly engaged workforce. We now find ourselves competing for talent not only with our competitors but with other industries who are in the war for talent.
At Parker, we have made it a priority to develop all our employees through differential investment through our generous tuition reimbursement program and with a focus on key talent retention. We have been fortunate to develop a strong organizational culture and have enjoyed very low turnover rates. Many of our care partners celebrate 25, 30 and even 35-year anniversaries with Parker. In these times of high competition for talent and a workforce that is much more mobile than in years past, we know that our key to success is a strong person-centered culture. That translates to our employee care partners as well as the Elders we serve.
Finally, we like to ask a question that goes beyond your work life. Where might we find you on a day off?
I just love to spend quality time with my family. We spend a lot of time at the beach, and I love playing pool. My daughter and her husband recently had a baby, and I became a grandfather for the first time. I love spending time with Nicholas Joseph!