FHCA recently interviewed Lonnie Steckler, administrator/owner of The Pointe of North Gables in Miami and active member of the Florida Center for Assisted Living Committee (FCAL). Lonnie has worked on both the skilled nursing and assisted living side of long term care and has spent more than a decade as a member of FHCA. Today he’s actively involved in helping FHCA expand its assisted living services through the Florida Center for Assisted Living.
How did you make the decision to work in long term care? Specifically, an assisted living facility?
I decided to work in long term care over 20 years while I was in graduate school. I was studying for my Masters in Social Work and was assigned to a nursing home for my practicum. While there, I very much enjoyed working with the team and, mostly, with the residents. I really loved hearing about their life stories. There was an instant connection! After graduate school, I started work as a social worker in skilled nursing facility (SNF) and quickly worked my way up to nursing home administrator (NHA). After operating SNFs for 10 years, I had an opportunity to purchase an assisted living facility (ALF). I thought it would be so easy – less regulations and surveys every other year – this is going to be fantastic. I was right! It was not because of the fewer regulations and surveys (I learned that they’re just as difficult), but because there’s a greater opportunity to really get to know the residents and their families. t was like going back to my social work roots. I was able to, once again, hear about their wonderful life experiences
As the administrator/owner of The Pointe of North Gables, please describe to us about the uniqueness of your community, staff, and the residents.
The Pointe of North Gables is in the heart of Miami on a famous street called “Calle Ocho.” Our community is predominantly Cuban, and so our activities, food and events are unique to the Cuban culture. I have learned that this culture is very special. The staff treats every resident like their own grandmother (Abuela) or grandfather (Abuelo), and the residents love to have fun. They listen to music and dance every single day. They love life and are very family oriented. It’s been fun for me too! I’ve learned so much about this amazing culture and I’m grateful that they’ve embraced me as their honorary Cubano.
How long have you been a member of Florida Health Care Association (FHCA)? What made you choose FHCA over other state long term care organizations?
I’ve been involved with FHCA on and off for the last 15 years. I started going to the annual conferences about 10 years ago, and that’s when I learned that this is the best association in Florida. I have the unique experience of first being an NHA and then becoming an ALF Administrator. As an NHA, I always enjoyed the comradery among administrators and the resources that FHCA had to offer. When I became an ALF administrator, I went to another association because that’s what I thought I was supposed to do. I quickly learned that this association didn’t offer half the resources that FHCA offers. As a result, I went back to FHCA and never looked back.
As a FHCA leader, what are some of the projects that you have supported or worked on that have made you proud?
I’m very proud of our most recent project to improve and expand the Florida Center for Assisted Living (FCAL) Committee. In February, I had the pleasure of being a part of a statewide think tank to develop strategies to improve FCAL. I’m really excited about those ideas turning into action, and for all the benefits that will come about for FHCA’s assisted living facility members!
In your opinion, please describe how FHCA has changed over the past years?
Simply, it has become stronger and stronger. There’s no better example than how FHCA handled the COVID-19 pandemic. Who did the Governor turn to for leadership? Who did AHCA turn to for leadership? Hands down, it was FHCA. FHCA led the charge to fight for the SNFs and ALFs and served as a communication springboard for all the different agencies and facilities.
Do you believe that FHCA is able to meet the needs of other assisted living facilities in Florida?
Yes. As stated before, FHCA is the strongest health care association in Florida. With their vast knowledge and resources, they’re already meeting the needs of participating ALFs.
What are some of the “added benefits” that makes membership in FHCA attractive to your organization as an assisted living facility?
The other ALF associations limit you to just people in the ALF world. FHCA gives you access to ALF operators, nursing home operators, etc.
With the challenges that assisted living facilities face with increasing needs and workforce issues, what do you think FHCA can focus on to help you overcome these challenges?
I would like to see FHCA partner with reputable staffing agencies and perhaps assist in finding overseas help with regard to nurses and nursing assistants. We are experiencing a shortage in skilled workers, so it’s time to start looking outside the box.
As an assisted living member, how do you think FHCA can support other assisted living members as we move forward in the long-term care continuum?
I love that FHCA expanded their conference to include two full days of ALF classes. This is a great start. The next step is to recruit more operators into FCAL. Eventually, as participation grows, we can branch out into regional support systems.