Up the Ladder of Staff Success Starts with a Desire to Learn, Encouragement, and Opportunity for CNAs at Residences Senior Living

Bonita Landon is a self-described “life- long learner” who enjoys every day she works at Residences at Coffee Creek Senior Living.  We know, because she says so! “Some people dread going to work, but I really don’t mind.  I love it here.  The staff who were already working here welcomed me and helped me learn  from Day One. That has a big impact on someone new at the job. When I’m helping residents and talking with their families, too, I realize what an impact I’m making on lives every day,” explains Bonita. 

“She’s a perfect example of what we strive to do for our staff—provide the opportunity and encouragement to increase skills through education and certifications. We want to enable care providers like Bonita– those who have decided that service to the aging is a calling, fulfill their goals here at Residences at Coffee Creek,” noted Kaitlynn Redmon, Executive Director. “ Bonita came to us at the start of the pandemic, which says a lot about her work ethic and compassion. She began as a CNA—a certified nurse assistant supporting the daily basic needs of residents, and now she is a QMA-         contemplating furthering her career as a nurse.

Bonita had been a stay-at-home mom.  She met her husband while they were in 8th grade and they’ve been married 24 years. They are graduates of East Chicago Central High School, Class of ’95.  The family currently resides in Chesterton, having moved closer to her husband’s work. Once their three daughters were older, she felt it was a good time to consider using the skills and understanding she had gained by helping her aunt who had been diagnosed with dementia.  She decided to enroll in a course that would involve healthcare.  She studied to become a Medical Assistant, which enabled her to work in a physician office setting. While she enjoyed the experience, she saw limitations of being in an office environment, not actually caring for patients. She had helped her aunt with more personal care needs.

Soon she took training that opened another healthcare pathway. Bonita became a CNA with her first job at a local hospital, then proceeding on to a local business provider for in-home care.  She decided it would be in her interest to work closer to home, so she applied at Residences at Coffee Creek Senior Living.  “At that time I thought ‘assisted living’ provided hands –on services to all residents.  I didn’t know that Memory Care existed and that’s where people really needed assistance, but that’s where I ended up working,” Bonita recalls.

Bonita says she is a “homebody” but she is also ready to learn something new, including taking an 8-week course to obtain a relator license! She says it’s interesting and hard work. But it’s obvious that serving the aging is her most humbling and satisfying endeavor.

Before long Bonita saw yet another opportunity to learn something new—she is now certified as a QMA—Qualified Medication Aide with the necessary advanced training required to pass medicines to residents.  Becoming a QMA in the state of Indiana has more requirements in addition to CNA certification.

Qualified Medication Aide Requirements in Indiana

 A person must be age 18, and have graduated from high school or equivalent, a CNA listed in good standing on the Indiana Aide Registry, and has proof of working a minimum of 1,000 hours as a CNA within the last 24 months.  After application to a QMA training program, applicants must complete the 100 hour program and pass a QMA written competency evaluation.  For more information connect with www.in.gov.

Expertise on the Care Team benefits everyone

“We love the flexibility of having individuals on our staff with the expertise to provide more than a single level of care. Bonita is a perfect example; not only can she be depended upon to ensure our residents have safely taken their medicines, but she can support their daily needs as well.  She has the specialized training and certifications through the state and she has the compassion and caring that make her a most valued member of our care team,” emphasizes Sue  Aimone, Director of Resident Services.    

CNAs make connections with families as well as residents

Caring for residents in Memory Care is most interesting, according to Bonita, who has served there little over a year, and credits time spent with her aunt for giving her special insight.  “Every day I get a new ‘inside picture’ of their previous lives before dementia and now they’re in the beginnings of their new life stage.  Knowing you are creating an impact is so rewarding. I have that one-on-one connection with my residents and it’s comforting to them.  We’re also there to ease their family’s mind.  It’s such a difficult time for families. When they come to visit, they want to have that reassurance that ‘I did the right thing’ in bringing my loved one here.  That’s why all of us who serve in Memory Care stay so friendly and upbeat. It’s as important to the families as it is to the residents.”

Certified Nursing Assistants: Vital Members of the Care Team at Residences Senior Living

CNAs assist residents with “Activities of Daily Living” or ADLs such as bathing, dressing, or eating, and helping them as escorts to activities or other areas in the Memory Care environment. They may also help support a person with therapy exercises. A CNA must work under the direct supervision of a licensed practical nurse or registered nurse and can only perform assistance for procedures within their scope of practice.  The Training, Certification & Recertification and Registration Program through the state of Indiana ensures that both state and federal requirements are met and that CNAs are on the Indiana Nurse Aide Registry.

How does a person become a CNA?

The training program is a 105 hour state approved Nurse Aide Training Program. Both written and skills competency evaluation must be achieved. There is no age or education requirement to enter a training program.

For more details connect to www.in.gov

Residences at Coffee Creek is a partner with BrightStar Care of Valparaiso, a state-approved local CNA Training Program provider to provide the on-site clinical experience necessary for CNA certification.  For more information about the CNA Training Program at BrightStar Care contact Colleen Gallagher 219-299-2319 or colleen.gallagher@brightstarcare.com

Many CNAs begin their career ladder steps as a PSA—Personal Care Assistant

Personal Care Aides or Assistants provide services in the home or sometimes in a care facility.  In the home they provide services such as housekeeping, laundry, washing dishes, making beds, preparing meals, providing transportation, running errands/shopping, personal supervision and companionship, “stand by” assistance with hygiene and bathing.  They may remind patients to take medications. Training is not as rigorous as CNA programs.

PSAs are encouraged to step up to a CNA program to increase earning potential, be in a position for benefits, and provide a fulfilling service. For more information contact colleen.gallagher@brightstarcare.com

It’s Rewarding to Be Eyes and Ears for Family and Team

 “We spend so much time with residents every day.  We are depended on to help families understand dementia and the changes they experience with loved ones.  Staff at Residences at Coffee Creek all have specialized dementia training. I try to help families cope with negative behaviors by using the techniques I have learned, such as re-directing a train of thought to get a person’s mind off of whatever is troubling.  We know that by being happy and upbeat it is comforting, and we encourage families to do the same during visits. It’s also important during visits not to overwhelm a resident, not have everyone ‘come at them’ at once.”

“When families call, wondering how their loved one is doing on any given day, we try to give the best report, focus on a good approach. We try to focus on how the person used to be prior to dementia. So that means you have to spend time knowing your resident and their family, before as well as after dementia.”

Career advice:

Bonita has met and worked with PSAs and other students from the CNA training program. The advice she offers to them as well as her own daughters who are ages 23, 21 and 17 years, is to do what you would like to do in the medical or health field, and go all the way through with it. She admonishes all with “don’t just do it for money…” and she urges those who are just looking for higher pay to find something different than healthcare. “It’s the passion for helping others that drives outstanding care that makes a difference for residents, their families, and the teammates who work together to bring it all together every day.”

Bonita’s daughters are considering nursing school—so is Bonita, right along with them! Hopefully, their Shiz-Tu, summer, won’t miss them too much. Bonita’s husband, although retired, now drives a school bus for the city of Hammond; a busy family with a calling to service.

We are grateful for Bonita and her co-workers on our great staff at Residences at Coffee Creek!

For more information about careers in an environment that cares about staff visit our website www.ResidencesSeniorLiving.com or call 219 864-0700 and ask for Human Resources.

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