RCFE class on online marketing

4 Key Steps to Improve Your RCFE’s Online Marketing

Today, seniors and their families are initially looking for assisted living facilities online. Therefore, it is more important than ever that your assisted living facility ranks well in Google and other places that people search for assisted living facilities.

The higher you rank and the better your online reviews, the more likely that you will attract greater interest, more visitors and qualified new residents.

We knew little about online marketing when we started but wanted to summarize the basics for you here. Even if you are new to the world of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) or already have some knowledge, the information in this blog will provide you with key insights that can be easily accomplished.

1 – How to Get More People to Your Website

If you are still in the early stages of setting up an assisted living facility, you first need to look into RCFE certification. While getting your RCFE certification and license, you can start the process of building your website. Look at how other facilities are listed online.  Do they have a website and are they in online directories such as Yelp or Google My Business?  What do you like and not like so you can inform the people building your website?

Once the site is created and is live, you can start trying to rank for keywords. In other words, you hope to find keywords that people would logically be searching for assisted living and try to get as high on the Google search results as possible, so viewers will find you.

A good search engine strategy centers on finding the keywords that people looking to find a facility in a specific town are most often searching. Essentially, you need to comprehend what terms people are likely to type into their search engine bar so your website can appear.

Most likely, the keywords would revolve around phrases like “assisted living” or “assisted living facility” or “senior assisted living” along with the city your community resides in.

For example, if your facility was in Encino, California, you’d most likely want to show up in search results when people typed in “assisted living Encino”.

The simple strategy is then to place that keyword in the text of your home page – maybe even a couple of times. That way, Google will see that keyword on your site and make the connection to the search. Thus, you’ll have a better chance of ranking higher when that phrase is searched for.

Even if you already run an established community, you can gain a lot of potential search engine ground by adding those keywords to your existing website on several of the pages that you think would best describe your facility.


2 – Claim Your Google My Business & Other Directory Listings

Many of the major search engines allow you to make a specific business listing where you can include all of your facility’s key information. Google being the largest search engine in the world is the place you want to begin.

The Google My Business listing is the most popular, most visited and simplest for you to claim. It’s easy to sign your business up and costs nothing. You simply go to Google, search “Google my business” and click on the “manage now” button.

The rest of the process will take minutes by just following the directions on each screen. Enter your business’ information along with contact details, and you will immediately have a new presence with Google My Business (GMB).

Often, these listings also automatically display a map of your location. Further enhancing your GMB presence, you can easily upload photos of your facility or your staff to personalize the listing further.

Now, when someone types in the name of your facility, this listing will be near or at the top of the results. Over time, other keywords that you have been adding to your website pages may also display this GMB page increasing your prospective clients even further.

Here is an example of Google’s local search results for “assisted living Encino”

Note how the facility with the most reviews showed up at the top of list.  More about reviews below.

While Google may be the biggest directory in the world, we’d also suggest setting up similar profiles on other directories such as:

Yelp for Business

Better Business Bureau

Assisted Living Directory


Taking the time to get your assisted living business noticed is almost as important as the RCFE licensing process if you want to be successful.

RCFE online reviews

Reading online RCFE reviews help people find the best assisted living facilities near you.

3 – Solicit Reviews From Satisfied Clients

The importance of online reviews cannot be understated.

A recent survey showed that people were 270%  more likely to purchase a good or service that had at least one five-star review as compared to a company that had no reviews at all.  Almost three times more likely to choose your facility just because of reviews.

Once you have set-up your directories, engage with your satisfied clients – both past and present – and ask them to please post a positive, five-star review on these places. (To make it simple for them to do, you may want to email them the request with a series of direct links to your Google My Business, Yelp and other business directory pages.)

You also want to manage the reviews – both favorable or unfavorable – in a timely fashion. This direct interaction with your audience shows you care about your quality of service and care what your customers think.

If you have any negative reviews, it is a good idea to address these directly. Offer an apology or explain the circumstances behind this complaint. Online reputation management is key to growing the word-of-mouth and credibility of your facility.

In addition, placing any positive reviews on your website in a testimonial section also helps enhance the selling of your service.

4 – Engage Visitors on Your Website

So you’ve started getting potential new clients to come to your website after seeing you rank high in search results and reading all your positive reviews. Now the goal is converting them from visitors into customers.

You want to make your site easy to comprehend with a very clear “call to action”. In other words, you should quickly and clearly make the case why your facility is the best one for mom or dad. Then get the web user to call your business or fill out a contact form.

The phone number and contact form should be present at all times on the page. Your web developer should recognize that the forms and phone should be at the top of the page in a stationary spot that doesn’t move out of the reader’s eye even if he or she scrolls down the page.

The other key to closing new leads is a lightning quick response. If a call is made after hours and a message is left, that lead should be the top priority for a recall first thing in the morning.

Similarly, when the contact form is filled out, there should be a follow-up action (preferably a phone call to the person) within minutes, even seconds. With so many search results out there for assisted living facilities, chances are the same family that reached out to you also did so to several other facilities.

In this case, it’s often a race as the first facility to contact that potential client will more often than not win the client’s business.

It is optimal to have a member of your RCFE administrator staff who can be tasked with managing and following up with interested parties right away.


These are just some of the basics that can seriously help improve your online marketing. It may seem intimidating at first but it gets easier once you start.  If you would like to know more than I recommend you reach out to great people and the company we use for digital online marketing.

Please let us know if you found this blog helpful.


About Assisted Living Education

Assisted Living Education is the premier provider of RCFE certification, RCFE classes, licensing, products and services for assisted living. Our teachers are industry professionals with many years of experience that are engaging, entertaining and highly informative. They offer RCFE consulting services and share real RCFE experience that will help you be successful in this fast growing career industry.

Good luck!


RCFE certification required for Assisted Living

The 5 Key Strategies for Operating a Top Rated RCFE 

In 2020, the average life expectancy in the United States was nearly 79 years, as compared to the life expectancy in 2000 of 77 years. 

The good news is Americans are living longer, the bad news is our nation is not fully prepared for the challenge of meeting the increased needs of an aging population that will be almost 25% of the U.S. population by 2030. 

This is why more Residential Care Facility for the Elderly (RCFE) will be needed. 

About RCFEs 

The core services that an RCFE provides to people who are 60 years or older includes: safe and healthful living accommodations; personal assistance and care; observation and supervision; planned activities; food service; and arrangements for obtaining incidental medical and dental care. 

Most facilities also assist with storing and distributing medications that a resident can self-administer. 

This type of facility is for a person who is no longer able to live alone but does not require 24 hour skilled nursing care. RCFEs are considered a social model and skilled nursing facilities (SNF) are medical models. A RCFE is not required to have a licensed nurse on staff. 

Another difference between the two different levels of care is which licensing entity they report to. RCFE’s report to the Department of Social Services (CDSS) and SNF’s report to the Department of Health Care Services (DHCS).

So what does it take to become a RCFE owner? Find a building to own or rent and submit an RCFE License Application to CDSS. You should also take the 80 hour RCFE Administrator certification course to become the administrator who will oversee the day to day operations. If you do not want to do hands on oversight, you can hire an administrator. 

So what are the 5 strategies to operate a successful RCFE?

1 – Location, Location, Location. 

Do you know the area you are thinking about opening a building in? How saturated is the area with RCFE’s? Does the city have a significant senior population to support your facility? 

The CDSS website, www.cdss.ca.gov, has all facilities listed by address, city or zipcode. The Census Bureau can help to identify the makeup of a given age population in a particular area. You should “secret shop” the competition. What are they doing right? How does the facility look and smell? What are the residents and staff doing while you are touring? 

Families are looking for a clean, safe and engaging place to move their loved one. Is the facility close to a hospital and physician offices? How far from a freeway is the building? Have you selected a neighborhood that also has well maintained homes? Is the building clean and well lit? First impressions are everything.

2 – So What Is Your Plan? 

Finding a building in the right neighborhood is really the easy part (you may not think so as you go through the process). Your lender will want to see your business plan. How much experience do you and your employees have in the area of senior care? Are you hiring an administrator with experience? What is your budget? 

You will need a corporate entity, such as a Limited Liability Corporation (LLC) at the time you submit the license application to CDSS and a budget is included. Do you have three months of operating costs plus funds for repairs while you get started. This is a business that can not operate on a “shoestring budget”. Creating a business plan will help you to execute a successful business model.

3 – Hire the Right Staff 

Hiring great employees is going to be the most problematic and stress inducing process you will experience. You will find employees, but are they Great employees? 

Finding residents will not be your main problem. You may purchase a facility in which staff are already in place. Interview them, do not assume they are staying or that you want to retain them. Staff will make or break your business! 

Are you going to hire an assisted living administrator? Is an administrator in place if you buy an existing RCFE? Does the staff respect the administrator? This person sets the tone of the building. 

Once you own the building, speak to families and see what their concerns are. They often do not want to see the staff leave, as the staff “knows” what the residents’ needs are. Communication is the key to happy relations with the families. Family members are often your second biggest challenge.

4 – Know Your Licensing Entity 

Once you submit the license application, you will get a notification that the Licensing Program Analyst (LPA) assigned to your area is going to interview you and tour the facility before the license is approved. You do not want to get on the bad side of the LPA. How do you stay in her/his good graces? You follow the regulations. It is that simple. 

Provide safe and healthful care. 

Train the staff properly. 

Communicate when something goes wrong (you learn what those forms are in the Administrator course). All the LPA wants is that the residents are safe, eating well, have meaningful activities and they are not being abused. 

Those should be the same reasons you decided to enter the Elder Care field. 

5 – Market Your Services 

How are you going to get a resident to move in now that you own the RCFE? The facility may have been operating for a long time and may already have a reputation in the community. Referral agents, discharge planners and social workers need to know there is a change in ownership, which might be a good thing. 

Reach out to your competitors and let them know that you are the new owner and you can help each other fill those empty beds. Do not underestimate the power of networking. 

Join a local assisted living association, attend conferences, and network with hospitals and doctors who provide referrals to your services. 

The need for elderly care is expected to increase in the years to come. This need will require RCFEs operating under capable leadership and providing quality care at an affordable cost. If you have been considering opening an RCFE, now is a good time to execute your vision. You can begin by understanding the qualifications and receiving the appropriate training to become a certified administrator. 

When you’re ready to provide the necessary care for the need that exists, learn how Assisted Living Education can prepare you for operating a successful RCFE. The satisfaction of caring for seniors in need makes the life of an RCFE owner one that will prove both rewarding and life affirming.

6 Steps for a Successful RCFE (Updated for 2021)

Starting your first Resident Care Facility or RCFE can be exciting, fulfilling and daunting all at the same time. Between securing a location and getting your RCFE administrator certifications it can be easy to overlook some of the important basic ideas that will help ensure your first RCFE is a success.

Over the years, we have worked with hundreds of newly minted RCFE administrators to make sure their facilities, policies and business strategies are setting them, and their residents up for the best possible experience. In that time, we’ve learned a thing or two (or six) on some of the foundational elements of what makes a successful RCFE. Here is what we would say our 6 most important tips for building a successful RCFE facility are…

1. Spend Time Creating Your Team

More than just a team, you are creating a professional business culture. And where that culture starts is you and your employees. Those first several hires are vital to any new venture, regardless of the industry, and especially in a care-oriented industry like this one. The people you choose and personalities they bring set the tone and precedent for all that is to come.

With everything in flux, you might be tempted to “fire drill” the hiring process in a rush to hit the ground running. This is never a good idea. We’ve all heard the phrase beggars can’t be choosers. In hiring, no matter the circumstances, that should never apply. Give yourself permission to spend time creating your team. Yes, your team. You have a vision, and it is okay to be selective on who will join you on your path to seeing it through.

2. Choose Your Residents Wisely

Just as you are creating a culture with your first employees, so are you building a RCFE community. Your first resident is your benchmark and will set the tone for your facility in ways you might not expect. For example, if your first resident has Alzheimer’s and has repetition tendencies, then it might be difficult to admit residents who are cognitively with it.

Remember, just as you have a choice, so do your residents — and there’s a lot of factors that go into their decision to go with your RCFE facility. As facilities grow in size, culture and community are becoming increasingly important. If a resident-to-be doesn’t see a community they can engage with (even if one exists), they might very well pass. Whether it’s bound in fact or not, perception is reality.

3. Know All of Your State’s Regulations, Codes, and Policies — And Comply with Them

These laws exist for a reason, both for the protection of your residents and for yours. The quickest way to have your facility shuttered is to be out of compliance with your state’s RCFE regulations. That also means current administrators need to stay on top of continuing RCFE education classes. You went into caregiving to do just that:  give care. How can you adequately do that if you’re out of compliance, or don’t even know what codes and policies your facility is supposed to be complying with?

Moreover, having a firm grasp of your state’s regulations could very well be crucial down the line. Don’t be afraid to wield them like a shield — the first line of defense towards any future liability claims.

Need to brush up on your policy? You can always turn to experts like Assisted Living Education to help make sure you are up to date.

4. Communicate Regularly

Not only is communication vital so that everyone on your team can always be on the same page, but it’s also a regulatory requirement. The law mandates that any change of condition in the resident — say, they have a urinary tract infection or they’re more confused than usual — must be communicated to their physician and responsible party (i.e. a family member), if any.

This makes sense, of course. A change in an individual’s condition can have life or death consequences, and a lapse in communication could prevent a resident from receiving critical treatment. Shift changes present a particular challenge in this regard. There’s a potential for information to get lost in the mix in the transition between your facility’s day and night teams. Certain symptoms, such as insomnia — a potential indicator and risk factor of depression — might only present themselves at late in the evening, so it’s imperative everyone is kept in the loop, and that changes are noted in writing.

And let’s not forget your duty as a licensed RCFE Administrator to maintain communication with your State Regulators. Any time a resident experiences an unusual incident — such as a fall, an injury, or a medical emergency requiring a 911 out to the hospital — a report must be made to your Licensing Program Analyst at the Department of Social Services with within 1 business day via telephone, and within 7 days via a written report. This takes us into our next tip.

5. Document, Document, Document

Any time there is a resident incident, such as a fall, it must be documented — either internally, if it isn’t that serious, or on a State-provided form to be submitted to the DSS if it triggers a 911 call or something similar. Like the above, incidents need to be reported to the resident’s physician and responsible party, and it’s best to do this in writing so you have a paper trail.

Liability, though you might not want to think about it, should always be a concern. Thus, it’s wise to perform internal audits and random record reviews on a routine basis. You always want to be able to certify compliance if the need arises. This is where the term “defensive documentation” comes into play. When you document incidents, or anything really, specificity, precision, and descriptive detail are all musts.

Resident records (appointments included), personnel records, administrative records, dementia records — these are all things you are required to keep, keeping in mind that certain records must be secured in a HIPAA compliant fashion. As a guideline, take a look at the list of documents and records that must be kept at residential care facilities in California. Remember that every state is different, so unless your facility is located in California, what you are required to retain might be different.

6. Don’t Be Afraid to Say No

The words “this is my island” spring to mind. This facility is yours, and as an RCFE Administrator, you cannot be afraid to say no. We covered this in part in Tips #1 and #2, what to do in the beginning, but there’s a corollary on the other end of the spectrum:  what to do when an end is inevitable.

If an employee misbehaves, routinely underperforms, or puts your residents or facility in any modicum of risk (health, liability, or otherwise), then it is your duty to fire them promptly. With the safety and wellbeing of those in your care on the line, they must be your first primary concern.

But what if an individual’s medical needs exceed your facilities abilities?

It’s sad to say, but this is a quandary you will likely face dealing with residents suffering from advanced Alzheimer’s and dementia. Much as you might want to keep them in your care, your licenses might not permit it. The care they require might go beyond the scope of what you can supply. In these situations, or in cases of residents who exhibit violent behaviors or a flagrant disregard for community rules, letting go of a resident might be a necessary course of action as well.

The Essential Component of Success

Looking back on the six tips we just shared, you might notice that at their core they are all about the same thing:  Care. Caring enough to do things right. Providing the best care. Taking time to assure your level of care by maintaining compliance, and by communicating. Although there is a lot more to running a successful RCFE facility than just these 6 things, mastery of these will give you a great foundation to build your business on. And in the event that you need additional support or training, the experts here at Assisted Living Education is always here to lend a hand.

Assisted Living Education is the premier provider of RCFE certification, RCFE classes, licensing, products and services for assisted living. Our teachers are industry professionals with many years of experience that are engaging, entertaining and highly informative. They offer RCFE consulting services and share real RCFE experience that will help you be successful in this fast growing career industry.

RCFE administrator conference, RCFE associations

The Benefits of Joining an Assisted Living Association

If you are considering opening a Residential Care Facility for the Elderly (RCFE), you may benefit from joining an assisted living association. Your first step to effectively own and operate an RCFE is to become an RCFE administrator, which requires an administration certification.

You also must obtain an RCFE license. You can take advantage of all the resources assisted living associations provide to RCFE administrators while also getting support as you navigate the RCFE certification process. Here are five benefits of joining an assisted living association.

 1. Resources

If you’re new to the industry, there are many resources available to you as an assisted living administrator. Even if you are a seasoned professional, assisted living associations provide fantastic resources for all things industry-related.

For instance, they are often the go-to source for keeping up with regulations and laws. They also keep up with industry trends and share relevant information on everything from resident care to health care. Resources are always important, but they are especially so now in the midst of the global Covid-19 pandemic and RCFE’s efforts to keep residents healthy and safe.

2. Advocacy

There is strength in numbers. When you join an assisted living association, you gain a representative and an advocate. RCFE administrators and residents benefit from advocacy because it allows their voice to be heard by people making decisions that impact the industry and RCFE operations.

Assisted living association leaders must stay current on pending legislation and policy efforts. They represent you, your RCFE, and your residents to ensure any changes are as smooth and unencumbered as possible. They also communicate relevant information you need to know and act as an intermediary between RCFEs, state legislatures, and social services.

3. Professional Development

Assisted living associations are in the perfect position to coordinate and facilitate professional and workforce development. As an assisted living administrator, you require trained, skilled staff to provide the right care and services for your residents.

Assisted living associations can support you in your recruiting efforts, onboarding, and ongoing skills development. No matter whether you’re in the first year of your RCFE career or your 20th, ongoing professional development is necessary. Your membership in an association allows you to engage in numerous training and ongoing education opportunities.

4. Events

Assisted living associations commonly host annual conferences and other sessions that allow you to immerse yourself in educational events, industry news, and trends. When you attend events, you can hear from industry leaders, guest speakers, and others in the field.

Leave the event and return to your RCFE refreshed and full of new ideas and insights. Conferences and other events allow you to take the information you receive and practically apply them immediately. Events can also include trade shows, opportunities for recognition and awards, and the option to gain continuing education credits.

5. Networking 

When you join an assisted living association, you get to network with others in the industry. Networking is vital; it allows you to be seen, connect with people in your field, share and learn best practices, trouble-shoot, recruit and seek new job opportunities. In a world where things change rapidly, it is nice to have access to industry peers where you can bounce ideas, learn, mentor, and connect over common ground. 

If you’re an RCFE administrator, you will benefit from joining an assisted living association. Associations offer many benefits, including resources, advocacy, professional development opportunities, events, education, and networking.

As an association member, you join a community of like-minded individuals and industry leaders dedicated to supporting one another, sharing ideas, answering questions, and performing at a high-level. Stay informed on industry trends, ahead of the curve on regulations and pending legislation, and operating at optimal performance.

As an assisted living administrator, you are responsible for ensuring your RCFE maximizes its operations and services. The best way to achieve this goal is to become a member of an assisted living association. The leading California association is the California Assisted Living Association (CALA). 

Assisted Living Education is the leading provider of RCFE certification classes, licensing, products and services for assisted living. Our teachers are industry professionals with many years of experience that are engaging, entertaining and highly informative.

We always welcome your feedback, and if you have other important terms you would like added to the list, please let us know. Assisted Living Education is a recognized leader in the industry, and our instructors have years of professional RCFE experience that will help ensure your success in this burgeoning industry.

RCFE Staffing Requirements Overview

In California, one option for seniors 60 years or older requiring long term care is a “social model” that provides room, meals, personal care assistance, supervision, observation, housekeeping and planned activities. A Residential Care Facility for the Elderly (RCFE) can care for one or more persons and must be licensed by the State of California to provide care services.

RCFEs operate as a bridge for those who require some level of assistance that prevents them from living on their own but who do not require 24-hour medical care, service, or supervision.

RCFE’s vary in size but there are basically two models: 16+ residents or 1-15 residents. The 16+ are owned or operated by Sunrise, Brookdale and Atria to name a few. The 1-15 model is typically a home in a residential area and often called a “board and care”. Unlike nursing homes, RCFEs may have licensed professionals as personnel, but it is not required to do so.

RCFE Administrator Certification and Licensing

The administrator is responsible for the care and supervision of residents, staff management, and adhering to regulations, policies and procedures. Regulations require the administrator to complete an 80-hour certification course and pass a 100 question state examination with a score of 70% or better to receive a certificate. 

The administrator must complete 40 hours of continuing education units (CEUs) every two years. Fortunately, Assisted Living Education (ALE) is one of 15 vendors that provide RCFE administrator certification classes. Additionally, the RCFE itself must be licensed. The process involves completing an RCFE license application, which ALE offers assistance with your RCFE application and licensing. A facility license is renewed annually and must be inspected by DSS yearly.

RCFE Staff Requirements

California laws require RCFE’s to ensure that the community has “sufficient staff at all times and competent to provide the services necessary to meet resident needs.” There is no detailed requirement of how a community is to interpret this regulation. 

The resident care needs indicate how many staff are required to render care. The communities with 1-15 residents usually have two to three caregivers during the day and one caregiver at night. There are no resident ratios. The administrator or a qualified designated substitute must be on-site 24 hours a day.

California regulations require the following:

  • Employees who provide direct care to the residents and employees who supervise employees must be 18 years or older. 
  • The administrator must be 21 years or older.
  • The administrator must have a high school diploma or GED for 1-15 residents; 15 college units and one year of experience for 16-49 residents; 2 years of college and three years experience for a community with 50 or more residents. 
  • At least one staff member must be CPR certified and on the premises 24 hours per day. 
  • Any personnel who provide care to the residents must have first-aid certification.  
  • All personnel and some volunteers must have a Criminal Record Clearance before employment approval. 
  • All personnel must have a health screen and negative TB test.
  • Additional staff shall be employed as necessary to perform office work, cooking, house cleaning, laundering, and maintenance of buildings, equipment and grounds. 

RCFE Staff Training Requirements

All personnel assisting residents with ADL’s must complete 20 hours of initial training prior to assisting a resident and an additional 20 hours of training within the first four weeks of employment. 

The topics include: the aging process; personal care; physical limitation; ADL’s; resident rights; medication policies and procedures; psychosocial needs of the elderly; recognizing signs and symptoms of dementia; 12 hours of dementia training; postural supports; hospice care; restricted health conditions; LGBT; elder and dependent adult abuse reporting; theft and loss; disaster training; food service and safety; and care of a bedridden resident.

Staff are also taught required subjects by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) that includes universal precautions, Hepatitis B, bloodborne pathogens, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and Safety Data Sheets (MDS).

All staff assisting residents with self-administration of medications must receive 10 hours of training for 1-15 residents and 24 hours for 16 or more residents and all communities must provide an additional 8 hours training each year.

ALE provides online training for employees that allows the employee to progress at his/her pace. The following link will provide information about ALE’s training products for staff training

RCFE Policies and Procedures

Once the facility is licensed, RCFEs are required to have a Plan of Operation that includes: policies and procedures for admissions; staffing plan, qualifications and duties; plan for training staff; organizational chart; sketches of the floorplan and the yard; policy for family visits and communication. ALE has created an assisted living policies and procedures manual

The topics covered here provide you a high-level overview of RCFE staffing requirements in California along with links to helpful resources. Thank you for the essential care RCFE’s deliver to the aging community, and we hope the information here will help you continue to achieve that goal. 


The Benefits of Senior Living During the Covid-19 Crisis

Senior living will always play an important role in the healthcare process of aging adults and despite some unflattering media attention, most Residential Care Facilities for the Elderly (RCFE) are actually doing well with the Covid-19 crisis. Many have been able to keep their facilities COVID-19 free, providing their residents with a safe and secure home, while the country works hard towards long term solutions to this pandemic.

Even with a COVID-19 free environment, this does not change the fact that the conversation in regard to bringing on new residents has started to evolve. To help ensure that your facility is ready for this change and some of the questions that will follow, we at Assisted Living Education (ALE) have put together some information that can help guide your teams as society begins to move forward.

National Voice For A Change of Narrative

While it is true that some Assisted Living Facilities across the country have been impacted, most facilities have quickly adapted to the safety guidelines and have continued to provide excellent care with very low risk to their residents. Communities with a negative COVID-19 population are often overlooked because this fact is not as newsworthy. To illustrate this, Seniors Better Together, a Seattle-based cooperative, has launched a national marketing campaign. Their intention is to communicate the safety and benefits of elderly care and assisted living facilities during this time. Here at ALE we are supportive of these industry voices and feel that a proper communication strategy is important to the success of any well managed RCFE.

Utilizing a Positive Messaging Strategy

Like many RCFE administrators, you are probably in the process of updating your marketing materials to address the current reality of things. Through this process of communicating the safety, efficacy, and benefits of senior living during the pandemic is more crucial than ever, so we’ve put together some high level takeaways for you here.

1. Senior Living Communities Are Safe

Safety is the most important message to communicate effectively and compellingly right now. Let the public know that you follow the Centers for Disease Control’s guidance and incorporate best practices into your procedures related to COVID-19. Another safety aspect to include is visitor limitation, sanitization, virus specific training and specific protocols you have in place to ensure the safety of your residents. Finally, assure prospective clients that you have ample long-term supplies of PPE and other supplies that may be reduced in quantity to the regular public.

2. Elderly Care Facilities Promote Safe Socialization

Seniors sometimes battle loneliness and feelings of isolation, especially during periods of quarantine that come along with a pandemic. In residential living, there are opportunities for safe socializing and community living. Teams take all the necessary precautions to sanitize and effectively mitigate the risk that comes with community living, while also allowing opportunities to be active and engaged. Since isolation is linked to adverse mental health outcomes, especially for the elderly, sharing your strategies on interpersonal communication and engagement help both new and existing residents feel more comfortable.

3. Trained Medical Professionals Oversee Medical Safety

There is always some level of risk for COVID-19, but with the proper precautions and oversight, that risk can be mitigated. When using on-site medical professionals, residents can be seen, diagnosed, and treated more quickly and with less exposure than when traveling to see a primary care physician. This results in more active monitoring and faster treatment. Medical teams and residential staff are also better equipped to sanitize and execute CDC policies that protect the most vulnerable population. The end result is improved quality of care with less risk to exposure.

4. Care Facilities Allow for Exercise and Physical Activities

Physical activity among the elderly is directly related to mental and emotional health. In assisted living communities, clients can choose to participate in a variety of exercise programs such as stretch daily, walks, virtual and non-virtual activities. A senior living at home may not feel a need to exercise or does not have someone to motivate them to get up and move.  It is important to explain to prospective residents the importance of staying active even while faced with the obstacles of social distancing and how important that is to their wellbeing.

5. Families Can Focus on Relationships as Opposed to Care

When an aging family member moves into an assisted living community, the adult children are often relieved that there is now a partner to assist their loved one. Many families experience a loss or reversal of their roles within the family unit. Relationships might be strained, as many adults do not want their children telling them what to do.  Many families find that by letting go of the care aspect of providing for their loved one, they can shift and realign themselves with their loved one’s  Providing care, supervision and observation gives many families peace of mind, making residential facilities one of the best options for their relationship that need full time care. As an added benefit these communities provide an environment for parents and children to interact in a more meaningful way that may reduce family tensions.

Senior Living Is Still a Safe and Viable Option

Information about COVID-19 changes  rapidly, and all senior living communities should be dedicated to staying informed. Understanding and taking ownership of the information being used in your marketing and communications is key in this process. The process ensures that prospective residents and their families have the most relevant information available to them so they can make the best decisions possible. When managed correctly with proper safety precautions, RCFEs are still among the best solutions for providing a high level of care, comfort, and most importantly safety to those that need it the most.

If you or your RCFE is looking for guidance during this difficult time please don’t hesitate to reach out to Assisted Living Education. We are here to help and support our clients and their businesses.

15 Terms All RCFE Administrators Should Know

Just a cursory scroll through the RCFE Manual of Policies and Procedures from the California Department of Social Services illustrates just how many different terms you should be familiar with as an RCFE Administrator. In fact, they number in the hundreds. Wouldn’t that be a long blog post! In the interest of brevity, we wanted to share with you some of the most important. Here are the top 15 terms that you need to know if you are an RCFE Administrator or are pursuing RCFE certification. 

  1. Dementia Plan of Operation:  An amendment to a Plan of Operation that details a facility’s dementia care intentions, policies, and procedures. The California Department of Social Services requires that you have in place a Dementia Plan of Operation before you can serve this fast and growing demand market.
  2. Hospice Waiver RequestThe written request a licensee must submit to the DSS and be approved for in order to be permitted to retain terminally ill patients.
  3. RCFE Admissions Agreement:  The contract that includes all applicable documents that a resident or their responsible guardian must sign as a condition of their admission to an RCFE.
  4. RCFE Admission Package:  The full packet of documents, rules, policies, releases, and agreements, etc., that a prospective resident or their conservator must read through, sign (where applicable), and return. This package includes the aforementioned Admission Agreement.
  5. RCFE Emergency Disaster Plan:  A plan, including emergency contacts and procedures, that is required by the DSS to prepare your facility staff and residents in the event of a disaster or emergency.
  6. OSHA Manual for RCFE:  A manual for Residential Care Facilities to help guide compliance with OSHA safety regulations.
  7. RCFE Employee Handbook:  The company policy and information manual provided to an employee by an RCFE.
  8. Plan of Operation for RCFE:  The definitive operational plan and its related materials that a facility must maintain on facility and submit to a licensing agency with the license application.
  9. RCFE Operations Manual:  The document of approved standard procedures that a Residential Care Facility for the Elderly must provide to its employees to ensure job functions are performed accurately, efficiently, and uniformly.
  10. RCFE Staff Training Classes:  The vital training classes that all prospective and current employees must take as a condition of employment, continued or otherwise. 
  11. RCFE Test Preparation:  An educational tool designed to help your study for your California Initial RCFE Administrator Certification exam.
  12. RCFE Administrator:  The person designated by the licensee to oversee and manage a Residential Care Facility for the Elderly. (May also be the licensee themselves.
  13. RCFE License:  The basic permit to operate a residential care facility for the elderly issued to you by the California Department of Social ServicesRCFE Live CEUs:  The in-person, in-room continuing education classes (or units) that may be used to renew your RCFE and/or ARF certificate. The DSS requires that at least 20 of the 40 hours necessary for recertification be live.
  14. RCFE Online CEUs:  Online continuing education classes that may be used in conjunction with the 20 required Live CEUs to fulfill the 40 hour training requirement for certificate renewal
  15. Department of Social Services (DSS): the governing body in California that provides program oversite for the most vulnerable of California’s population. Part of the DSS is the Community Care Licensing Division which is in charge of licensing and regulations for RCFE’s. Due to COVID-19, there have been changes to guidelines for every RCFE administrator and staff member to follow.

Earning your RCFE Certification is so much more than understanding a few words in a blog post. It’s a life-changing undertaking, and we’re here to guide you along the way. Enroll with Assisted Living Education today.

If you are interested in learning more about important terms, concepts, and informational resources related to running an RCFE, please check out our RCFE comprehensive glossary page.  This comprehensive list will point you in the right direction for getting up to speed with the latest industry terms and knowledge needed for RCFE certification and licensure.

We always welcome your feedback, and if you have other important terms you would like added to the list, please let us know.  Assisted Living Education is a recognized leader in the industry, and our instructors have years of professional RCFE experience that will help ensure your success in this burgeoning industry.

What Is a RCFE (Residential Care Facility for the Elderly)?

California is unique in many ways. We have the best weather in the entire country, we are cultural trendsetters, and we are the only state to host the residential care facilities for the elderly (RCFEs) model. You may wonder what RCFEs are and how they differ from other senior housing models. We will answer that question and more in this article.

RCFEs, commonly referred to as Care Homes or Residential Care, include Assisted Living, Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs), and Memory Care to seniors who are age 60 and over. Aside from housing, RCFEs deliver care to senior residents along with assistance with daily living, activities, and general supervision as needed. Plans are custom-tailored to meet the needs of each individual and folded into the medical services provision of special care plans.

How Is the RCFE Environment?

A good Residential Care Facilities has an atmosphere that is warm and inviting, just like home, and  promotes maximum possible independence and dignity. RCFEs encourage the involvement and support of family and community members to maintain or improve the quality of life for their residents. Residents have access to a host of supportive services, such as housekeeping, personal care, dressing, bathing, and the safekeeping and distribution of medications to its residents for self-administration.

One of the benefits of an RCFE is that it acts as an intermediary between independent living and 24-hour nursing care. RCFEs can act as a bridge for the person who is no longer able to live independently but does not require round-the-clock assistance and supervision. They are not medical facilities, which means they don’t necessarily have nurses or doctors on staff (or at least there’s no requirement to have them staffed). Think of them more as assisted living and less as nursing homes.

RCFEs provide safe and healthy living accommodations and services. Some of the ancillary services include but are not limited to:

  •         Consistent monitoring of the resident’s mental and physical state of being
  •         Regular, healthy meals and snacks with diet modifications
  •         Recreational activities and social engagement in a fun environment
  •         Transportation and outings

Comparatively, Skilled Nursing Facilities provide 24/7 skilled professional medical services. This includes more specialized care that can only be treated by qualified, credentialed health care workers. Skilled Nursing Facilities are medical facilities as opposed to a housing option that includes services.

What Regulations Are in Place for RCFEs?

RCFEs are designed to promote independence and self-direction to the greatest extent possible in a residential setting. An RCFE license is issued by the Department of Social Services in California. They are governed by robust regulations and must meet quality, care, and safety standards as defined by the State. They also require an inspection by the Department of Social Services and the local Fire Inspector.

To open and operate an RCFE, one must submit a license application to the Community Care Licensing Division. Applicants must provide evidence that demonstrates they are of upstanding, reputable, and responsible character in addition to all the other application requirements with which they must comply. Additional items in the application include medication policies and procedures, sample menus, how and when their staff will be trained and a sample budget. Assisted Living Education can prepare your RCFE license application for you. We also offer RCFE classes and RCFE continuing education.

Should I Be Concerned About Covid-19 and RCFEs?

Many of the deaths that have occurred in the U.S. due to Covid-19 have occurred in the elderly population and nursing homes are a part of that equation. Like hospitals, Skilled Nursing Facilities are medical environments where viruses and other illnesses can spread especially among the elderly. RCFEs are not medical facilities and have not experienced the outbreak of SARS-CoV-2 to the extent that medical facilities have. Still, it is always important for the elderly and those with underlying health issues to take every precaution necessary to protect against the virus. A well-run RCFE that has opened properly will have the right protocols in place to protect both the residents and themselves to the greatest extent possible.

Hopefully, this answers some of the questions you have about RCFEs. If you are worried about sending a loved one to this type of facility, don’t worry. They are a great first and gradual step back from full independent living with qualified staff that will serve your loved one well.

10 Steps to Open an RCFE in California

2020 Update

By the year 2035 it’s projected that there will be more than 78 million person ages 65 and older living in the United States, up almost 60% from the 46 million in 2016, according to population data. Every state is expected to see massive growth as baby boomers age into retirement, but none will see an increase quite like California:  by 2036 the state will see more 10,000,000, and comprise 23% of our population.

Planning for an aging population is no longer conjecture. It is an absolute necessity. Doing so requires that we have the infrastructure in place to care for those who will need it, which means more licensed care facilities, more available beds, and more trained and certified RCFE administrators.

Getting there will not be easy, and setting out to open your own RCFE is not for the faint of heart. It’s a significant business decision, but one that carries with it one of the most rewarding acts of service one can provide:  caring for those who came before us. Here’s how you go about opening and RCFE in the state of California.

1. Find a qualified, certified Administrator.  

The first and most important step. Without having a qualified, certified administrator on your team, none of the rest can follow. In all likelihood, you’re probably intent to become certified yourself, but how do you go about doing that?

To become certified you must first take the DSS-required 80 hour Certification Course, and then take and pass the DSS-administered 100 question test with a minimum passing score of 70%. This test must be taken within 60 days of you completing the 80-hour course, after which you must submit the required paperwork and fee within 30 days of passing the test.

Not everyone is qualified to be an administrator of your facility. The general requirements call for a high school diploma or equivalent and being at least 21 years of age. For a 16-49 bed facility, you must have passed at least 15 college units and have at least 1 year of experience working in an RCFE or equivalent. To be an administrator of a 50+ bed facility, you’ll need to have a minimum of 2 years of college under your belt, and have at least 3 years of experience working in an RCFE or equivalent.

Are you qualified, and ready to take the DSS-required RCFE initial certification course for administrators?

2.  Secure the physical plant.

It will sound obvious in hindsight, but you can’t be the administrator of a residential facility for the elderly if you don’t have the actual facility part locked down. In order to submit a license application for your facility, you must show “control of property” — that is, proof that you either own the property outright, that you are either in the process of buying the property or that you will be leasing/renting the property.

3. Contact your local fire marshal for a pre-inspection.

The sooner you do this, the better! It’s possible that the fire marshal will charge you a nominal fee, but this inspection will let you know early on if you will need to make costly modifications to your home/facility in order to be compliant with local fire codes and state regulations. Money well spent! If you don’t make these modifications, you won’t be able to get the maximum number of non-ambulatory rooms or apartments out of your facility. You’ve already come this far! Maximize your investment by making these modifications, or find another location!

4. Take the online Orientation course with DSS.

You must take the DSS RCFE course.  You only need to take this course once. This is done through the DSS website, and then submit a copy of your orientation certificate.

5. Submit a license application to DSS.

Now we’re getting to the fun stuff. The next step in this process is to prepare and submit an RCFE license application for DSS, including parts A and B, along with the applicable fee. We won’t sugarcoat it:  this is not like filling out an application for a driver’s license. The Applications Instructions alone are 22 pages in length, and all told you’re looking at hundreds of pages to gather information for, prepare, and fill out. Attempting this on your own is a recipe for disaster — just one error could delay your facility’s opening by months! Instead, it’s smart to consider having yours completed by a professional. Our team has licensed hundreds of small and large RCFE’s, and worked with DSS licensing personnel for over 15 years. We have never had an application rejected due to error!

Do you have the required 3 months’ of operating costs in the bank? You must open a bank account in your facility name and deposit at least 3 months’ operating costs into it. The DSS will verify this in the process of reviewing your application.

Be patient. This process may take 4-5 months.

6. Market your Facility.

Congratulations, you’ve submitted your application! Now it is time to start meeting with the potential residents who fill your facility once you are licensed. You are NOT allowed to move residents into your facility until you secure the license from DSS. But DO start looking for residents. Don’t wait until you secure the license, because that will just be time lost! In our post detailing 6 Steps for a Successful RCFE we talked about the importance of choosing your residents wisely. Remember, your first resident is your benchmark and will set the tone for your facility in ways you might not expect.

7. DSS will schedule a Component II (face to face) meeting at their office.

This is step two in a three-part component process that must be completed by all new licensees. Once your application has been reviewed, you will be contacted by the DSS for a one-on-one with the the reviewing analyst.

Component I was the orientation course you took in #4 on this list, and Component III involves  “category specific training and discussion in areas not often understood by new licensees intended to promote successful facility operation.” Both components II and III will be done once DSS accepts your license application, but prior to actual licensure. These are all essential aspects of the license application process.

8. DSS will schedule a pre-licensing visit to inspect your facility.

You’re so close! You’re almost there! A pre-licensing inspection is by the DSS as the last step in the RCFE license application review process. DSS will send you a checklist for you to complete prior to this visit. Make sure you complete this checklist fully, and have it available for their review when they come to visit.  Note: the DSS will NOT conduct a pre-licensing until your fire marshal grants their approval.

9. Hire staff and train them accordingly.

Putting together your team and training them accordingly is arguably the most important step in this entire process. We’ve discussed before the perils of fire-drilling the hiring process in our post about The 10 Biggest Mistakes RCFE’s Make. You aren’t just looking for warm bodies to fill these important caretaking positions. You want a passionate team of people who want to come in every single day intent one making the lives of your residents better. Remember, you don’t want to wait until you are licensed to build your team, because you will not be able to move in and care for residents without staff! Once you’ve found the right people, make sure that they are properly trained and meet all the state requirements. And don’t forget the importance of ongoing CEU training for RCFE administrators and staff as well!

10. DSS issues you a facility license.

You did it! Yes, you! Let that feeling of pride wash over you. You are now the proud administrator of a fully licensed RCFE. This is everything you’ve worked so hard toward, and it’s time to open your doors. Now you can move in your residents that are on your waiting list!

The process to opening an RCFE facility in California may be long, but it’s rewarding. It’s okay if it takes you a year or more to get your facility off the ground — it’s not a race, and in the end it will all be worth it. The senior care industry is among the fastest growing industries in the country, and California is no different. We must be prepared to meet the needs of seniors with the best care possible. More growth, means more new facilities.

Update for 2020 RCFE Regulations & Operations During COVID-19

Given the population’s nature of an RCFE facility, the threat of contracting and spreading the coronavirus proves a tremendous challenge. Beyond the “new normal” operating procedures of enforced social distancing, mask and glove wearing, and ongoing temperature checks to better protect the residents, the staff must also take even greater precautions for their own protection. 

At the end of May, 2020, the Center for Disease Control released enhanced guidelines for every RCFE administrator and staff member to follow in the face of the pandemic. These include:

  • New regulations about visitor restrictions and updated outlines on group activities, especially as some facilities start to relax their previously mandated restrictions.
  • In addition, new information was released regarding the best practices for tracking infections and preventing infection of others in a systematic way.

This current contagion of COVID-19 presents unprecedented challenges both for aspiring RCFE administrators and long-standing ones. But never has the need for dedicated RCFE workers been more urgent. Getting your RCFE license now will go a long way to helping our senior population today and tomorrow.

The need is there. Are you ready to provide it?

Assisted Living Education is the leading provider of RCFE certification classes, licensing, products and services for assisted living. Our teachers are industry professionals with many years of experience that are engaging, entertaining and highly informative.

Coronavirus Management for Residential Care Facilities

The close-quarters spread of the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) in residential care facilities poses a significant health threat to the vulnerable senior population, and the time to take action is now. RCFE Administrators and licensees in California and beyond are being encouraged by the CDC and Departments of Social Services to have a plan in place in the event of an outbreak in their community.  Assisted Living Education is here to assist you in managing  your RCFE and staying informed. 

Thus far there have been 22 deaths from coronavirus in the United States, with a total of 154 cases confirmed nationwide. California reported its first death recently following a growing outbreak in the Bay Area, but it’s Washington state that has been hit the hardest, with the ten remaining U.S. deaths all happening in and around Seattle.

By now, you’ve no doubt heard about the ongoing emergency at Life Care Center in Kirkland, WA, the nursing home that now serves as an example of what we should all be trying to prevent:  an unchecked outbreak on its premises is to blame for five deaths seen thus far.

While the global mortality rate is 3.4% (WHO, March 2), among seniors and those with underlying medical conditions the fatality rate appears quite a bit higher — about 14%. Comparatively, the mortality rate of the seasonal flu is typically about 0.1% in the U.S. The reality is that it’s difficult to fully ascertain the morbidity and mortality of coronavirus. Experts suspect that the actual number of cases in the U.S. could be in the thousands, but since many people who contract the virus experience milder symptoms similar to those of other respiratory illnesses (e.g. the common cold) — they don’t isolate themselves and continue on with their daily lives. As a result, transmission rates could be much, much higher.

Per a CDC fact-sheet about how coronavirus is spread, here’s what you should know:

  • The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person [and] between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
  • [It is spread] through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
  • These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.
  • People are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic (the sickest), [but] some spread might be possible before people show symptoms.
  • It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes. 

Considering these facts, the danger of COVID-19 spreading unnoticed through our communities is something we should all be concerned about, but for residential care facilities it presents a clear and present danger. The tragic situation in that Washington nursing home should serve as a wake-up call for every RCFE Administrator and licensee. There is no time to delay.

So what should senior care facilities be doing to manage the spread of coronavirus among their residents? Here’s what the California Department of Social Services and the Centers for Disease Control suggest:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Follow CDC’s recommendations for using a facemask.
    • CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.
    • Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to  others. The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a healthcare facility).
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
    • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if your hands are visibly dirty.

For more specific information on how a long term care facility (LTCF) can minimize it’s risk of a coronavirus outbreak, the CDC has resources for healthcare facilities to help licensees build a more specific action plan. Pages we recommend reading include:    

There is a lot we do not yet know about COVID-19, and every day brings new details about the virus, it’s spread, and the risk we might face going forward. It’s not a situation that calls for an alarmist reponse — few situations do — but it is a reality that we need to prepare for. As it stands, a vaccine for the novel coronavirus is still at least a year out, and just this week China announced that it had isolated two different strains of the virus. Meaning, it’s likely going to be a while until we are all out of the woods.

For Residential Care Facilities for the Eldery, that means taking preventative measures now to ensure they can safely manage a potential outbreak among their residents. We have a long road ahead of us, and lives are at stake.

If your facility needs assistance with formulating an action plan please do not hesitate to reach out to us for help. We offer an online infection control course as well. Here at Assisted Living Education it is our core value to empower our students to care for the elderly in the most responsible and compassionate ways possible. This includes protecting them from threats like the coronavirus to the best of our ability. Together we can make a difference and help prevent further tragedy. 

Assisted Living Education is the premier provider of RCFE classes, licensing, products and services for assisted living. Our teachers are industry professionals with many years of experience that are engaging, entertaining and highly informative. They offer RCFE consulting services and share real RCFE experience that will help you be successful in this fast growing career industry.