Top 7 Traits the Best Assisted Living Facilities and Caregivers Have in Common

Choosing a residential care facility for a loved one is a significant decision, especially in California, where there are many residential care facilities for the elderly (RCFEs) to choose from. Families seek comfort in knowing their loved ones receive the best care possible in their golden years. 

But what distinguishes the best RCFEs and their caregivers from the rest? 

This article delves into seven key traits the top facilities and their caregivers in California share, which enable high-quality care and a nurturing environment for residents. Understanding these differences will help you better prepare for your RCFE administrator certification.


What is an RCFE?

RCFEs are long-term care facilities providing housing, supervision, and assistance for elderly individuals. They offer a home-like environment and fall between independent living and skilled nursing care. 

In California, RCFEs are regulated by the Department of Social Services (CDSS). They vary in size and services offered, catering to residents’ needs, such as memory care for those with dementia. RCFEs aim to promote independence, dignity, and quality of life for elderly residents while ensuring their safety and well-being.

But once you’ve passed your RCFE administrator classes there are  many intangibles that make a good assisted living administrator which can be read here.


1. Compassionate and Empathetic Staff

At the heart of every exceptional RCFE are caregivers who possess genuine compassion and empathy. These caregivers understand the numerous challenges the elderly face and approach their roles with warmth and understanding. 

Such a disposition toward caregiving is underpinned by empathetic communication. Caregivers take the time to listen to residents, validate their feelings, and provide comfort when appropriate. Whether assisting with daily tasks or simply lending a listening ear, good caregivers help create a sense of belonging and security for residents.

Importantly, while some caregivers and staff possess this empathic outlook without training, top RCFEs provide training in empathic communication. Sometimes, residents experience challenging and painful life circumstances and may become abrasive toward others or difficult to work with. 

These situations can lead to well-intentioned but unprepared staff interacting with residents in a conflictual manner. 

Facilities should provide  specific instruction and guidance to prepare staff to handle difficult situations with residents in a caring and thoughtful manner. Compassionate care goes beyond meeting physical needs; it encompasses emotional support and understanding. 

Staff members in top-notch facilities undergo training to develop their empathy skills, learning to understand and respond to each resident’s unique circumstances. 

They recognize that transitioning to assisted living can be a challenging experience for seniors, and they strive to make this transition as smooth and comforting as possible and know how to avoid becoming reactive in difficult situations.


2. Prioritizing Individualized Care Plans

No two residents are alike, and the best RCFEs recognize this fact by offering individualized care plans tailored to each resident’s unique needs and preferences. 

These care plans are developed in collaboration with the resident, their family members, and appropriate healthcare professionals to ensure that all aspects of the resident’s needs are addressed. It’s vital in this environment to support the emotional well-being of the senior residents. 

From assistance with medication management to specialized memory care programs, these facilities prioritize personalized attention to ensure that residents receive the appropriate level of support while maintaining their independence and dignity. 

Care plans are regularly reviewed and updated to accommodate changes in the resident’s health status or preferences, ensuring they continue receiving the best possible care as their needs evolve.

senior living exercise

Good RCFE staff members create health and exercise programs for their senior residents

3. Focusing on Wellness and Activities

Maintaining physical, mental, and emotional wellness is paramount for elderly residents. A top RCFE facility in California goes beyond just meeting basic needs; they prioritize wellness by emphasizing key wellness factors:

  • Exercise programs
  • Engaging activities and mental stimulation
  • Social events designed to promote overall well-being

Regular exercise is essential for seniors to maintain mobility, strength, and balance. It is important to offer fitness activities tailored to the needs and abilities of residents, ranging from gentle yoga and tai chi to group walks and chair exercises.

These activities support physical health and provide opportunities for socialization and connection with fellow residents. Furthermore, exercise serves as perhaps the most effective treatment for symptoms of depression and other psychological maladies.

In addition to physical activities, mental stimulation is also crucial for cognitive health. Many facilities offer brain games, puzzles, and educational workshops to keep residents’ minds sharp and engaged. Art therapy, music therapy, and pet therapy are also popular options that promote emotional well-being and self-expression.

Socialization is another key component of wellness. Loneliness and isolation can have a negative impact on seniors’ mental and physical health, so residents need to have opportunities to connect with others and build meaningful relationships. 

The best facilities organize regular social events, outings, community events, and other group activities that foster community and belonging among residents.


4. Commitment to Safety and Security

Safety is non-negotiable in any RCFE facility, and the best ones prioritize the well-being of their residents by implementing rigorous safety protocols and security measures. 

From secure building layouts to emergency response systems and trained staff, these facilities create a safe environment where residents can live with peace of mind. Having a clear understanding of safety and security requirements will help you learn how to open a California RCFE.

Physical safety measures include features such as handrails, non-slip flooring, and well-lit hallways to prevent falls and accidents. Emergency preparedness is also a priority, with staff trained to respond quickly and effectively to medical emergencies, natural disasters, and other unexpected events.

In addition to physical safety, top facilities prioritize emotional and psychological safety. Staff members are trained to recognize signs of abuse, neglect, or exploitation and to provide support and intervention as needed. 

Residents are encouraged to speak up if they have any concerns or grievances, and there are established protocols in place for addressing and resolving issues in a timely and compassionate manner.

Regular safety audits and inspections are conducted to identify and address potential hazards or security vulnerabilities. By maintaining a proactive approach to safety and security, these facilities create an environment where residents feel safe, comfortable, and well cared for.


5. Transparent Communication and Family Involvement

Effective communication fosters trust and transparency between staff, residents, and their families. High-performing RCFEs in California maintain open lines of communication, keeping families informed about their loved one’s care plan, health status, and any significant developments.

Family members are encouraged to participate in care planning meetings, resident assessments, and other decision-making processes related to their loved one’s care. Regular updates are provided through phone calls, emails, newsletters, and in-person meetings, ensuring that families are informed and involved at every step.

Another important goal is fostering informal interactions between staff and families, creating opportunities for casual conversations and relationship-building. Families are welcomed into the facility as valued members of the care team, and their input and feedback are respected and valued.


6. Continuous Staff Training and Development

The field of elderly care is constantly evolving, and the best facilities and caregivers stay ahead of the curve by investing in continuous training and professional development. 

Whether learning about the latest advancements in dementia care or honing interpersonal skills, ongoing training ensures that caregivers are equipped with the knowledge and skills needed to provide the highest quality of care.

Staff training programs cover a wide range of topics, including:

  • Communication techniques 
  • Dementia care best practices 
  • Medication management 
  • Emergency preparedness 

Training sessions may be conducted by internal staff members or external experts, and they often include a combination of classroom instruction, hands-on exercises, and role-playing scenarios. Gaining a better understanding of training requirements for your RCFE will be part of the education you receive when preparing to earn your assisted living license.

In addition to formal training programs, it is essential to provide opportunities for staff members to pursue further education and professional certifications in their areas of interest or specialization. 

By supporting staff development and career advancement, these facilities demonstrate a commitment to excellence and innovation in elder care. Also, such programs for advancement will help keep staff members working at your facility in the future.


7. Cultivation of a Home-like Environment

Above all, the best RCFEs and staff strive to create a warm, homelike environment where residents feel valued, respected, and supported. From cozy common areas to personalized living spaces, these facilities prioritize comfort and familiarity, allowing residents to age gracefully in a setting that feels like home.

Caregivers and staff members become like extended family, fostering meaningful connections and creating a sense of belonging that enriches the lives of residents. Staff turnover is kept to a minimum, allowing residents to build trusting relationships with familiar faces over time.



Choosing the right RCFE facility for a loved one is a decision that requires careful consideration. In California’s vast landscape of RCFEs, certain traits set the best facilities and caregivers apart from the rest. 

By prioritizing compassion, individualized care, wellness, safety, communication, staff development, and a home-like environment, families can find peace of mind knowing that their loved ones are in good hands in the best RCFE California has to offer.


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.