BY DEBORAH MOON
In the best of times, the Rose Schnitzer Manor Health Services Department focuses on the health and welfare of its residents. In the worst of times, the mandate to optimize health and welfare is the same, but it takes more time, effort and commitment to get there.
The COVID-19 pandemic and a recent 20-hour power outage put RSM Health Services Manager Aaron Deister and his team to the test – and they passed with flying colors.
“Aaron is setting the tone and leading as an example,” says RSM Administrator Vivian Villegas. “He really lives ‘walk the talk’ with his countless hours and dedication to the residents.”
Aaron had the opportunity to exemplify that commitment on Nov. 13, when power went out across the Cedar Sinai Park and surrounding areas just before 5 am when he arrived to start his day.
“I helped the care staff go to all the residents and let them know power was out and find out if they needed anything,” he says.
Residents did need a lot of extra assistance that day. With visibility low, those with mobility issues needed extra help navigating their day.
Residents who use oxygen concentrators (which have batteries that charge while plugged in) needed to be checked on frequently. Aaron said the care staff used two outlets powered by a generator to rotate concentrators for charging and brought in oxygen tanks as needed. The generators also powered refrigerators storing medicine or specimens and the fax machine used to receive doctors’ instructions for resident care.
“The care staff did a great job,” says Aaron, noting the department has 35 to 40 employees. He adds the kitchen staff also did a great job during the long outage, and the care staff helped them deliver meals.
When he learned the outage would stretch past dark, they brought in pea lights (battery-operated “candles”) so residents could see as they moved around their apartments.
Aaron and two colleagues stayed at the Manor until 10 pm – after the lights were back on and they had made sure the care staff and residents were OK.
“It was a long day,” says Aaron. “The staff and residents were patient, and the whole facility got through it together – exactly like we have done with COVID, which has been good prep for a power outage,” he quips.
Additional duties in recent months have included weekly COVID tests for all 100+ staff members and tests for residents as needed. Aaron does all the scheduling and administrative work in conjunction with the tests. Vivian says Aaron has been very effective in communicating promptly and effectively about test results.
“We’ve got a real good team,” he says. “With COVID, things are constantly changing every day. Everybody – kitchen, housekeeping, caregivers – is taking on more. People are stepping up … everyone is pulling together.”
He says everyone does what is needed, even when it wasn’t part of their original job duties.
“I am very proud of Aaron, Vivian and Polina’s (Munblit, RSM assistant administrator) holistic and person-centered approach to leadership,” says CSP CEO Kimberly Fuson. “Our Health Services Team has done a magnificent job supporting one another, the greater team and our residents through this unprecedented time with heart, humor and compassion.”