After running a nursing home for 11 years, Dave Zientarski, an RN, decided to look for something new. Nothing surprised me anymore, he said. At the same time, Lynne Giacobbe, executive director of Kendal at Home, was having a hard time finding a nurse who had geriatric experience. Once the two spoke, Dave was intrigued. I took care of so many people in the nursing home that it was easy to see who didn't need to be there or who could have avoided being in a nursing home altogether, he said. To be part of something like Kendal at Home from the ground up sounded like an amazing opportunity. Dave became the first care coordinator of Kendal at Home in 2004.
Why did you want to become a nurse?
Dave Zientarski: I went into nursing school because I wanted to help people. I originally wanted to be a pediatric nurse, but I discovered that I disliked it after my first clinical rotation--not the children, but the reality that not every child comes back home. So during the next quarter I did my geriatric rotation and loved it. From there I got a full-time job in geriatrics and never looked back.
What is your favorite part of being a care coordinator?
DZ: The relationship I have developed with the members is my favorite thing. The members are amazing people and I have learned so much from them. I would also say that when a plan comes together and I am able to help someone keep or regain their independence, it is a very rewarding experience.
What is the biggest challenge of being a care coordinator?
DZ: Noncompliance. Members have the right to make their own decisions but, when it is harmful to their health and well being, it can be very frustrating. Another of the most frustrating aspects of my work is hearing about a physician who writes symptoms off as someone is just getting old and are told to just live with it. It is age-ism to assume so many acute conditions are the result of getting older. Another challenge can be adult children of members. Often they have a different perspective from their parents. Sometimes they call me suggesting what they feel should be done even though their parents are clear about what they want. I sometimes have to remind them that their parents make the decisions.
What are you most proud of?
DZ: I am most proud of our care coordination team. I am thankful for Katie Tipton and Terri Lanham; they are a gift. They have compassion and great skill for working with older adults, in addition to a can-do attitude. I am also proud of what we stand for at Kendal at Home. Our Quaker values (that begin with respecting every individual and their choices) frame so much of what we do. Finally, I am proud of the quality of care we provide that has resulted in the elimination of the high re-hospitalization rates seen in the general community, as well as the fact that we have never had a member permanently placed in a nursing home.
What are you looking forward to?
DZ: The Browns winning the Super Bowl and catching a record-breaking fish. But seriously, I am looking forward to all of the coming challenges and seeing where Kendal at Home will be in 10 years. Lynne Giacobbe, our Executive Director, is a profound thinker and very forward-looking. Most importantly, she is not afraid of change. I am also looking forward to seeing how health care reform will affect us and, right now, I am looking forward to lunch.
Give us a fun fact about yourself.
DZ: I am a bit of a clown. You probably couldn't have guessed that. I like to make people laugh. I love when people smile and I am happy when I can make that happen.
What do you do with your time off?
DZ: I go fishing as often as I can. My kids are 7, 8 and 9 so they keep my wife and I very busy. I also love to vegetable garden, visit Kellys Island, and cook.
What should everyone know about Kendal at Home?
DZ: The degree of support they will receive. There are things that we do and respond to or take care of that a pamphlet cannot capture. What is not mentioned on paper is the depth of the relationship and the sincerity and the compassion we have for members of Kendal at Home. We show them all the time that, as one becomes an older adult, one can still live an abundant, active life.
Get the care coordination team's best advice by downloading our free guide, 11 Ways to Age Successfully at Home.