Meet Alison Kelley, Director of Assisted Living & Memory Care

Picture It. Boonsboro 2020. You’ve just accepted a new position at Fahrney Keedy. You attend new hire orientation, the last hurdle before the official start date. Everyone in the class introduces themselves and shakes each other’s hand. You learn about the residents and how much it means to them to have a visit from their families. You hear from the Activities Director about all of the Activities her staff has planned for the coming year. You learn from the Director of Education the proper protocol in case an emergency situation occurs during communal dining. You’re taken on a tour of the building to learn where everything and everyone is. Human Resources explains the policies and procedures that are in effect each work day. You leave the session excited, willing, and ready to greet everyone you meet with a big smile on your face.

But then the unthinkable happens.

The next day the whole world shuts down due to a virus sweeping the country. No more handshakes. No more family visits. No more activities. No more communal dining. Restricted areas. Mandatory testing. Masks. How are you going to do the new job you were so excited for? How can you assist people when you can’t even touch them? How can you assist them at all?

Everyone needs assistance once in a while. Shorter people need help reaching things on the top shelf. It takes two people to carry a couch. One person in a car has to navigate while the other one drives. Cinderella needed a fairy godmother and some talking mice to make it to the ball. There are all kinds of assistance that will be required in this lifetime (maybe not the talking mice kind, but they could come in handy once in a while). But, what about those individuals who need assistance every day? Those who need help with showering or getting ready for bed. Those who need help with taking their medications at the right time every day and night. Those who need help getting up from the chair or down to the bed. In those situations, the best choice is for those individuals to live in an Assisted Living community. By definition, assisted living means housing for elderly people that provides nursing care, housekeeping, and prepared meals. The residents in Assisted Living don’t need as much skilled care as those in nursing but they still require assistance of some kind. While there are plenty of staff on the actual Assisted Living floor, there still has to be someone in charge. A point of contact for friends and family when they have concerns. A delegator who can keep all the parts moving so multiple things can be accomplished in a day. A person who can manage a team of individuals in order to insure that residents are getting the best care possible. A fairy godmother who can turn a pumpkin into a golden carriage. That person is the Director of Assisted Living. And with a flick of her wand, she can make magic happen.

Every week, we will be highlighting a member of the Fahrney Keedy Family to learn a little bit more about their life and career. They will be offering a unique perspective on their role as well as advice for those considering a career in senior living.

This week, we get a snapshot into the life and career of Alison Kelley, Director of Assisted Living.

Where did you go to school? What was your major? “I went to school at Canisius College in Buffalo, New York (GO BILLS!). I majored in Psychology with a focus on family and community studies.”

Do you have any other certifications? “I have my Assisted Living Manager’s Certification and my Emerging Leaders certification through Leading Age Maryland.”

When did you know you wanted to work in Assisted Living? What drew you to your current position? “My first job out of college was an Activities Assistant position in a nursing home. I knew I was in the correct field right off the bat! I loved working with seniors and doing the fun activities each day with them. My grandparents are what drew me to get involved in Assisted Living/Long Term Care. Both of my grandparents on my dad’s side of the family spent the last 10 years of their lives in a long term care setting. I feel like seniors are sometimes an underserved population, so I wanted to do what I could to make a difference in their lives.”

What brought you to Fahrney Keedy? “Jenna Hoffman, our MDS Director, is who brought me to Fahrney Keedy! During a weekend away with friends, she mentioned the opening for the Director of Assisted Living position and encouraged me to give it a shot. It didn’t take much convincing, I applied the next day!”

In honor of #tbt, we want to throw it back to your first day at Fahrney Keedy. What do you remember? “I remember starting my orientation on a Monday in March, 2020 and by that Friday we were wearing masks! I also remember being wowed by the Memory Care Unit. I couldn’t believe that was the unit I was going to be working in every day.”

What does a day in the life look like for you? What are your duties and responsibilities? “My duties vary day to day and some days it feels like a whirlwind. It could be anything from care plan meetings, payroll, scheduling, staff education, helping during meal time, billing, talking with and being available to families, and most importantly, making sure the residents are being taken care of! This position definitely keeps me on my toes. The residents and staff make it well worth it!”

Do you have a favorite memory from your time spent working here that you would be willing to share? “When I started at Fahrney Keedy, visitation was shut down and stayed shut down for a long time due to Covid. A great memory was hearing we were finally open for visitation. The relief and joy I remember feeling for the residents and families was overwhelming. It had been a long time coming and I couldn’t wait to put faces to the names/voices I had spoken to so many times on the phone during the outbreak.”

This pandemic has been hard on everyone but especially for those individuals working in healthcare. How did you personally get through it? “The staff have been rock stars and have endured so much working through the last year. I can’t begin to express how much I appreciate their hard work and dedication. My biggest supporter, cheerleader, and Partner in Crime, Melanie Bishoff, Delegating RN, is also how I managed to navigate the pandemic. We balance each other very well, and even on our worst days, we find something to laugh about. Without her and the support of the directors and executive teams here at Fahrney Keedy, I don’t know how we would have done it.”

Oscar Wilde once said “with age comes wisdom”. What advice would you give to your younger self? “A piece of advice I would give my younger self is to slow down and not dwell on the little things!”

What advice would you give to someone interested in working with Assisted Living patients? “To anyone wanting to work in Assisted Living, my advice would be it’s tough but rewarding work. You have to have patience and compassion, but the residents make it worth the hard work!”

And, last question, why should someone choose to join the Fahrney Keedy team? “Fahrney Keedy is a wonderful work place with support and encouragement from all. It’s a very welcoming environment that feels like home!”

Five Second Pose!

We asked Alison five rapid fire questions to get to know her a little better:

Favorite Color: Purple

Favorite Movie: Juno

Favorite Disney Character: Cinderella

Favorite Superhero: Superman

Favorite Actor, Age 65 & Over: Liam Neeson

1 Fun Fact: Alison is getting married next year! She and her fiance have been together for 10 years! Alison’s dog is not quite sure how to feel about it:

Thank you so much to Alison Kelley for sharing! Stay tuned next week when we add another photo to our Family Album!