United Church Homes’ Pilgrim Manor in Grand Rapids, Michigan, has experienced a lot of growth in the past few years. In 2016, Pilgrim Manor joined UCH. Soon after, it received a $3 million facelift, completed in 2018, and a new executive director, Becky Stacy, this past fall. Throughout all the change, however, Assisted Living Director Carol Parsaca has remained a constant, and her work helped the community earn the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) Bronze — Commitment to Quality Award.
“Carol’s dedication to our residents and staff is unparalleled,” Marketing Director Elizabeth Schmidt said. “She is the very definition of a true servant leader, and we’re so proud that her hard work is being recognized and has led to our first Bronze Award win.”
Carol earned her undergraduate degree in science from Aquinas College, and joined Pilgrim Manor’s staff in 2010 after connecting with the community through her work at the Van Andel Institute, a biomedical research and science education organization in Grand Rapids. Her first position at Pilgrim Manor was as the assisted living sustainability manager, where she focused on green initiatives and waste reduction at the community. A few years later, she became the assisted living director, achieving AL certification from the Michigan Center for Assisted Living. She now serves residents in the more than 100-room AL section of Pilgrim Manor and oversees over 40 employees.
With so many people depending on her, Carol’s job can be challenging. She said trying to meet the wide range of resident and staff needs is the toughest part of her job. “They’re so very different from one end of the spectrum to the other. Finding the ability to serve and care for those people with limited resources is the biggest obstacle in my career.”
Obviously, she’s found a way to do just that. The AHCA/NCAL Quality Award Program honors association members nationwide who demonstrate commitment to improving quality of care for older adults and individuals with disabilities. The Bronze Award is the first of three distinctions, followed by Silver and Gold. The program is rigorous — only 531 communities in 50 states and the District of Columbia achieved the Bronze Award in 2018. In Michigan, only 16 entities qualified, and of those, only one earned the award as an AL community — Pilgrim Manor.
On her quest for the award, Carol and her staff closely examined Pilgrim Manor’s quality of care. “We looked back and determined what we weren’t doing well, what we could improve. Then we began setting goals. Involving staff in the process was helpful.”
One of the pitfalls staff identified was the effect of alarms on residents. “We use alarms as a regular fall intervention, but were (the alarms) helpful or detrimental to the quality of life for residents? We decided they were more of an irritant to residents, so we stopped using them. And we haven’t reinstituted alarms for any reason at Pilgrim Manor.”
What’s Next for Pilgrim Manor’s Assisted Living Program?
“We definitely want to go for the Silver Award,” Carol said. “One of the challenges is that we will have to shift our focus slightly. The average move-in age of our AL residents used to be 90, but now we’re seeing residents entering our care in their late 70s/early 80s. Therefore, some of the qualifiers we met for the 2018 Bronze Award won’t apply to care for this younger population.”
But if anyone’s up to scoring the silver, it’s Carol, who is as busy at home as at work. She and her partner, Kevin, are parents to 3-year-old twins, William and Chase. When Carol gets the chance, she loves going out to eat with her family, enjoying some down time when she’s away from Pilgrim Manor.
When asked what her favorite part of being Pilgrim Manor’s AL director is, Carol said, “It’s the ability to learn from residents and coworkers, which keeps life exciting. I’m truly blessed to learn and serve every day.”