A fledgling program at Elder Care Alliance creates a culture of wellness for employees.

Elder Care Alliance, an organization committed to holistic wellness, believes that healthy and happy staff contributes to healthy and happy residents. To reinforce this commitment, Elder Care Alliance implemented an innovative employee wellness program in 2014 through a partnership with LIFT-Levántate.

LIFT-Levántate, a Bay Area-based nonprofit, is focused on community wellness. The program developed for Elder Care Alliance is a holistic wellness program centered on nutrition, physical activity, life skills development and chronic disease reduction with a goal of creating a culture of wellness that supports a healthy lifestyle and healthy choices. The multi-lingual, multi-cultural nature of LIFT allows the program to meet the unique needs of Elder Care Alliance’s diverse population of employees.

Caregivers, housekeepers, culinary staff and other Elder Care Alliance employees are able to participate in classes in nutrition (healthy recipes, cooking demonstrations), physical activity (Zumba, yoga, walking and gardening clubs), and life skills (art therapy, stress reduction). Health coaches are available to talk privately about individual challenges. The community members also receive benefits from LIFT-Levántate’s partnerships with other local organizations, such as access to fresh fruits and vegetables.

The program began with a pilot at AlmaVia of San Rafael in September 2013. Rachel Main, Elder Care Alliance’s Director of Life Enrichment and Memory Care says the program proved so successful the organization chose to extend it to all four Elder Care Alliance communities.

Because many Elder Care Alliance employees are on a shift-based schedule, class timing flexibility is key. “We wanted to be very flexible and adapt to the needs of each community,” Main says. “If the particular community says, ‘We want Zumba or meditation,’ we offer them at times that work for the employees.”

In addition, the health educators at each community try to meet employees where it is most convenient. “They may have a hard time getting employees into classes about healthy topics, such as stress management,” Main says. “So health educators go around the community with a cart and hand out educational materials to employees. That’s proved to be very successful. Then the employees can spend five minutes chatting one-on-one with the health educator.”

Although the program has been in place less than a year organization-wide, Elder Care Alliance is already seeing positive results. For example, Main says, according to health metrics provided by Kaiser, the percentages of employees who smoke or who have elevated blood pressure or glucose levels have all started to decrease. Additionally, the organization has seen an upward trend in employee engagement and satisfaction. Participation at all Elder Care Alliance communities is well above industry averages and continues to grow.