How to Become an Assisted Living Administrator

What is an Assisted Living Administrator?

An Assisted Living Administrator is a professional who helps oversee the daily running of a long term care facility specializing in elder and disability care. An Assisted Living Administrator is a management position at the facility and the administrator is an integral part of the smooth running of the facility.

The administrator is usually in charge of the daily operations of the facility. The administrator works with all the staff at the facility and may have varying duties depending on the size of the facility and the size and expertise of the staff.

What Does an Assisted Living Administrator Do?

Day to day duties will vary depending on the facility. In general, an Assisted Living Administrator must make sure that all aspects of an assisted living facility are running smoothly. Broadly speaking, this position requires skills in the medical management field, and skills in the general management of any sort of business.

The administrator interacts with medical and non-medical staff on a daily basis, putting routines into place and ensuring that those routines are followed and that everything done at the facility is done properly and is well-documented.  As a management position, an administrator delegates work according to an employee’s expertise and follows up to make sure that work is completed in a satisfactory manner.  An Assisted Living Administrator wears many hats, including administrative, medical, marketing, direct services, patient rehabilitation, and facilities manager.

An Assisted Living administrator may be in charge of scheduling staff to make sure there is adequate coverage to ensure patient health and safety. The administrator may also be in charge of managing that staff. Included in those management duties might be such things as overseeing payroll to ensure timely payment, scheduling and implements staff meetings. If certification of staff is required, the administrator must ensure that all staff are adequately certified.

Depending on staff management duties, an administrator may also oversee employee training,  billing and budgets for the facility. This may be done in-house or sent out. In either case, the administrator is responsible to ensure that billing and payroll are handled efficiently.

The administrator would also likely be in charge of ensuring that building and facility upkeep is managed to ensure patient safety. Necessary facility repairs would likely be routed through the administrator for approval and inspection.

An Assisted Living Administrator may also work closing with medically trained staff in conducting intakes for new patients to ensure that a new patient will receive the care they need. This may extend to ensuring that all protocols established for patient care by health care providers are followed by facility staff. It may also entail establishing and running social and arts programs for the residents.

Finally, the administrator is also likely to be in charge of coordinating staff adherence with federal, state and local law in addition to ensuring that agencies such as Medicare and Medicaid are properly billed.

Why Do We Need Assisted Living Administrators?

Running an assisted living facility takes quite a bit of skill and coordination. Services provided must be tiered and specialized to meet the needs of the patient. For example, one patient may need assistance with dressing, while another patient is fine dressing himself, but needs help bathing. Keeping up with patient need and matching that need to available staff is a big part of the coordination required in this position. It is imperative that someone keep abreast of patient’s needs and have enough knowledge of the staff to be able to make sure those needs are met. This allows an elder to continue to feel both vital and supported in their daily tasks.

What are the Requirements to Become an Assisted Living Administrator?

Education

There is not one set path to becoming an Assisted Living Administrator. The requirements to work as an administrator are regulated at the state level. Although most states require a bachelor’s degree, in some states an associate degree, a pre-licensure certificate, or even a High School Diploma, is considered sufficient.

Although all 50 states require administrators of long-term nursing care facilities to be licensed, not all states currently require Assisted Living Administrators to obtain a license to operate as an administrator. However, completing the educational requirements required for licensure may ensure that, in most cases, a candidate is more competitive when applying for roles whether or not licensure is required in their state. Once licensed, most healthcare administrators are required to earn continuing education credits each year to maintain their license.

For states that do require licensure, the requirements do vary slightly from state-to-state. Typically, the requirements include completion of educational requirements from an accredited university; passing an exam administered by the National Association of Long-term Care Administrator Boards (NAB) (or a similar state licensing examination); and completion of a state-approved training program including an internship at an assisted living facility. The NAB exam covers topics, such as business management, human resources and resident care.

Certification

The American College of Healthcare Administrators (ACHA) offers optional certification for Assisted Living Administrators. To obtain certification, eligible administrators must pass the Certified Assisted Living Administrator (CALA) credential exam. Eligibility requirements for ACHA Assisted Living Certification include:

  • Option-1: Completion of Assisted Living Administrator licensure exam (or completion of the NAB RC/AL Licensure Exam or valid Nursing Home Administrator license) and two years of full-time experience as an Assisted Living Administrator/Manager and 40 hours of relevant continuing education credits (during the two years prior to date of application).
  • Option-2: Bachelor’s degree and two years of full-time experience as an Assisted Living Administrator/Manager and 40 hours of relevant continuing education credits (during the two years prior to date of application).
  • Option-3: Associate degree or Registered Nurse and four years of full-time experience as an Assisted Living Administrator/Manager and 40 hours of relevant continuing education credits (during the two years prior to date of application).
  • Option-4: High School diploma, G.E.D. or Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)/Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN) and six years of full-time experience as an Assisted Living Administrator/Manager and 40 hours of relevant continuing education credits (during the two years prior to date of application).

Assisted living facilities may also set minimum requirements for the administrators they appoint over and above any state requirements for licensure. Typically, larger facilities may specify a minimum of a master’s degree in a related field and that the administrator has achieved certification via ACHA.

What is an Online Assisted Living Administrator Degree Program?

There are a variety of degree programs relevant to students on the path toward becoming an Assisted Living Administrator, and many of these programs are available in an online format. The curriculum of an online degree program is identical to the curriculum of a similar degree program provided in a traditional on-campus setting. Most such courses utilize an online content-management system designed for remote learning such as Blackboard.

Online or on-campus, both typically include business-focused courses designed to build knowledge and skills related to marketing, operations, people management, finance, policy development, legal issues, and general administration. Patient-focused courses cover topics such as gerontology, patient communication, nutrition, and diversity.

The online student receives study material in a variety of formats including video, slide presentations, webinars, podcasts, and written documents such as case studies. This is typically supplemented by textbooks you can buy from the school or from another source. The professors assign students homework and projects including case studies, essays, self-reflection, quizzes, analytical tasks, team projects and more.

Most online courses are largely asynchronous which means the student can work through the online material at their own pace at a time that suits them. Certain program elements, such as real-time discussions groups or webinars require students to log on and participate at specific dates and times.

Some pre-requisite health sciences courses that require lab work may be unable to be completed online. Undergraduate programs rarely require students to travel to campus, whereas graduate-level online students may be required to attend orientation or workshops several times a year. Most programs will also require internships, clinical practicums, or fieldwork as graduation requirements.

Some programs may require students to travel for proctored examinations.

What Skills and Qualities are Required for an Assisted Living Administrator?

There are certain skills and traits, which may increase the chances of being successful as an administrator of an assisted living facility, such as the following:

Organizations Skills

An administrator for an assisted living facility has to juggle several responsibilities at the same time. Strong organization skills are essential in order to keep everything running smoothly.

Leadership

One of the most important skills an administrator of an assisted living facility needs is the ability to lead. Although running an assisted living facility takes teamwork, the administrator guides and directs the team.

Problem-Solving Skills

Even a well-run assisted living facility may have occasional problems. The administrator needs to be able to take an honest look at the problem and use an analytical approach to solving problems.

Effective Communication Skills

In both speaking to staff and in listening to staff, it is important that an Assisted Living Administrator be able to communicate easily, clearly, and effectively.  This includes conveying information in a clear manner when delegating or checking on how things are being run. But it also includes actively listening skills. It is important to really listen attentively to others and understanding their experiences, especially when a problem is being discussed. What may seem apparent to one may not be as clear cut for another. Listening effectively includes an empathic stance.

Delegation and Monitoring

These two skills really go together. An effective manager is one who is able to delegate duties to another in order to take advantage of their expertise. Along the same line, an effective assisted living administrator is able to closely monitor work that another is performing in a way that feels comfortable for the staff member.

Empathy

This is a career based on helping the most vulnerable among us. The elderly and those with disabilities need to interact with others in a genuine and heartfelt manner in their daily lives. Understanding another person’s needs is grounding in understanding their experience. Empathy and an empathic response are bedrocks in the administrator’s personality that allow staff and patients to feel heard and understood. That leads directly to more trust, a deeper level of communication, and a more stable working and living environment.

Compassionate

Residents likely have come from all different situations. Some may have left homes they lived in for a lifetime. Others may be adjusting to a decrease in independence. Budgeting, marketing and leadership skills are important for an administrator, but compassion and empathy are equally as critical.

What are the Pros and Cons of Being an Assisted Living Administrator?

As with all careers there are pros and cons to working as an administrator of an assisted living facility. On the positive side, an administrator can play a part in helping seniors stay as independent as possible for as long as possible, which can be very rewarding. In addition, the position allows an individual to be involved in all operational aspects of the facility. The diverse responsibilities of the job can keep it interesting.

Although there are many rewards to the job, there may also be a few things, which can be seen as cons. For example, ultimately, the administrator is responsible for everything and needs to juggle many things at the same time. This can become stressful at times.

What is the Average Salary and Job Outlook for Assisted Living Administrators?

The outlook for medical and health service managers, which includes assisted living administrators is predicted to grow by about 32% during 2020-30 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This growth rate is considered to be much faster than average.

Salaries for administrators of an assisted living facility vary widely. The size of the facility, experience level and geographical area all play a role in salary. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statics, in 2020, the average yearly salary of a medical and health service manager was $104,280.

What Careers are Related to Assisted Living Administrator?

Daycare Facility Manager: Preschool and child care center managers oversee and direct staff in these early childhood development centers. They also prepare curriculums, hire and fire teachers, aides and other staff. The manager or director is also usually in charge of the budget, parent billing , and staff payroll.

Medical and Health Services Manager: A person in this position plans, directs and coordinates medical and health services for a facility, or part of a facility. The manager may work for a hospital, clinic, a medical practice or for a group of health care providers. This is a growing field and many of these management positions require a bachelor’s or master’s degree in addition to a background in health care.

Medical Social Workers: This is a direct services position, providing services directly to the patient. A medical social worker can help provide psychological help and support to individuals, families and to caregivers in dealing with such things as terminal conditions, cancer, chronic illnesses and conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease or diabetes.  Some of this work may include connecting the patient with home care services such home health nurses, meals on wheels, and the like.

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