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Only the best for residents in her care

For Dona Rickard, the key to success in the senior care field is setting a high standard and never lowering it.

“It’s very simple. The expectation is the highest quality of care, the highest quality of life for the residents, in a supportive and pleasant work environment for the associates,” said Rickard, the senior vice president for senior living services at Thompson Health. “One step further is you have to strive for a resident-centered home that’s a home-like atmosphere for the residents, the families, the staff and the volunteers.”

When Rickard arrived on the job in 2012, the M.M. Ewing Continuing Care Center, Ferris Hills and Clark Meadows were losing money; occupancy was declining. She was charged with coordinating care, increasing revenue and decreasing expenses—all while enhancing the quality of life for the hundreds of people served by Thompson’s senior living continuum of care.

Rickard said she saw a need to boost marketing and reorganize staff.

“One thing that Dona recognized is we didn’t have the right people in the right roles,” said Mark Prunoske, senior vice president of finance and CFO for Thompson Health. “So, while it’s difficult to move somebody out of a role, she recognized early on that we didn’t have the right people selling units.”

With Rickard’s help, revenue and occupancy have improved at the organization’s facilities. Occupancy at Ferris Hills increased to 71 apartments in 2014 from 66 in 2012, while at Clark Meadows occupancy rose to 42 in 2014 from 37 in 2012.

“As we’ve identified initiatives, that improves (residents’) quality of life,” Rickard said. “Every time we tick off a quality initiative it looks like we’re saving money. When we save that money what are we doing? We’re reinvesting it.”

Under Rickard’s leadership, Ferris Hills and Clark Meadows have become more desirable places to live, colleagues say. Upgraded amenities and new programming make the atmosphere at the facilities more homey.

A rarely used sun porch and art room have been converted into a breakfast cafe, a popular gathering place at Ferris Hills. The trail system on the 57-acre site has been refreshed, and new benches make the path safer and more inviting.

Rickard serves as a mentor for new associates, colleagues say, teaching them how to treat the elderly with respect and dignity and instilling a family-like atmosphere.

Specializing in caring for the most frail senior citizens of the community is an important part of the medical arena, Rickard said.

“The older population is going to grow exponentially over the next few years,” she said. “One of the most important things is that the voice of the residents is heard, that we listen and we work hard to provide individualized resident care.”

The high quality of care is a result of individuals working together toward a common goal, Rickard said.

“It’s a commitment by a large group of wonderful people on teams that work for the benefit of each individual resident,” she added. “For me it is the most wonderful feeling.”

What she enjoys most about her job is talking with residents and their families and getting feedback from staff.

“I go to breakfast twice a week with my senior living people. They tell me all they want; I learn what they need,” Rickard said. “I improve quality, improve the bottom line, and my hope is it improves the quality of life of all the residents in all the areas and their families have a contentment that they’re here with us.”

3/20/15 (c) 2015 RBJ Health Care Achievement Awards. Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email [email protected]

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