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.

About Assisted Living Education
Assisted Living Education has been operating in and improving the growing senior care industry for over 15 years. Founded by certified RCFE administrators, Jane Van Dyke-Perez and Bill Perez, we have licensed more than 1,100 assisted living facilities and built close relationships with the California Department of Social Services, assisted living managers, owners and industry professionals. As senior living care educators ourselves, we strive to contribute our knowledge and skills to continually improve senior care and the satisfaction of those working in the industry.