Interview with Wendy McKenna, BSN, RN
VP of Sales & Marketing for Emeritus Senior Living, Mountain Division

Wendy McKenna, BSN, RN began her professional career as a nurse in an acute hospital. After 15 years she moved to the skilled nursing arena and for the past 12 years has worked for Emeritus Senior Living.

While her career path changed venues, there has always been a connecting thread to seniors and those with various forms of dementia. During her 12 years at Emeritus, she helped design their dementia program. Her clinical training and marketing skills have given her remarkable insight into the medical, psychological, social and spiritual needs of seniors and their families.

Q: What is respite care?

In senior living, respite refers to a short-term or temporary stay in an assisted living community or other care setting. This happens for a variety of reasons:

  • A loved one is not quite strong enough to go directly home from the hospital.
  • More time is needed to put all the right support systems in place before a loved one goes home from the hospital.
  • The primary caregiver needs time to recover from an illness or injury.
  • The primary caregiver needs a break from the challenges and stress of caregiving.
  • The resident and family are interested in the community and would like to “try it out.”

Q: What are the key benefits of respite services for loved ones?

Social interaction, making friends, good nutrition and hydration (I want to stress the importance of good nutrition and hydration and the critical role they play in a senior’s health), managing medications and having a reason to get up in the morning—something to look forward to.

Q: What are the key benefits to family members?

Definitely peace of mind, and the chance to take a healthy break from caregiving. A respite community can also afford a family a much needed support group or educational resources to help them deal with the challenges of caring for an aging parent.

Q: What are a few things families should look for when researching respite services?

 I think it’s wise to find out:  

  • If the community has relationships with other service providers, such as home health agencies, in case additional services may be needed.
  • Nursing hours per day. This will give an idea of the level of acuity the staff are prepared to serve. Ask about weekends, too.
  • The pricing structure and service levels. These vary from community to community, so it’s important to have the details spelled out. Memory care respite services are typically more expensive.
  • Are there a minimum number of days associated with respite care? At Emeritus, we’ve found a three-week stay allows friendships to be formed and gives the resident a sense of what life is like at the community, though a week’s stay can be as beneficial to a family and their loved one.
  • Does the staff have a plan in place for developing a strong relationship with the resident should the decision be made to become a regular member of the community? How are they interacting with the respite resident? Do they spend time getting know her; who she is and her life story?

Q: Are there tips for caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease?

At Emeritus, lending help and support for caregivers is a signature of our memory care program called “Join Their Journey.” We invite caregivers to take a look at our website that provides a host of ideas and suggestions that they can use right in their own homes. The list of tips and helpful advice is a long one. We will also send a staff member to demonstrate how to actually do the care or support.

Our website includes advice on:

  • Managing difficult behaviors. Once we understand why the loved one is behaving a certain way, we can address the need, not the behavior.
  • Tips and coaching on bathing someone with dementia.
  • Dining and hydration dos and don’ts.
  • Addressing toileting and incontinence with dignity.
  • Ideas for interacting, sharing, listening—what we call creating a “best day.” Helping the family members do something that creates a “best day” for their loved one.

Q: What makes Emeritus unique among senior living organizations?

It’s our brand promise of “our family is committed to yours.” We live this every day. It’s how we treat each other. It’s how we develop services and programs. And it is at the heart of our relationships with family members. We create an environment and atmosphere for families to enjoy every day they have together.

Find an Emeritus Senior Living Community

Whether you are looking for respite care, skilled nursing, assisted living or memory care for a loved one or seeking active retirement living for yourself, there is an Emeritus Senior Living community near you. Find an Emeritus Senior Living community or browse our directory to find other senior living communities near you.