As the Executive Director of Pacifica Senior Living Escondido in California, Jackie Ayala’s main focus is in building happy teams in order to ensure that the residents in her community are content and well cared for. We interviewed Jackie to learn more about her and what makes he such a special part of our team at Pacifica Escondido.
Could you tell us a bit about your professional and personal background?
I have been working with seniors since I was 21 years old. I love being able to both help and learn about them. After 16 years of working with seniors, I decided to take a different role as a Home Health Representative, but I found that I couldn’t do it for too long, as my heart wasn’t in it. I’ve always been passionate about working with and for seniors and being able to deliver on what I promise. Now, as the Executive Director of Pacifica Senior Living Escondido, I get to see my residents every day and know that they are being taken care of. As far as my personal background goes, I have three amazing sons—Edgar, Oscar, and Cesar, and two grandbabies, Ronin and Alanna! Most recently, I celebrated my first wedding anniversary to my husband Dustin Banks, who is a fantastic and loving man, and he makes my life whole.
Could you give us some insight on the role you play at your community?
As the ED, my role is to supervise our community overall. I ensure that every department is working according to their job description and according to Pacifica’s standards. Ultimately though, my job is to make sure our residents feel cared for, as if they were in their own home.
What about senior care made you choose it as a career?
When I started working as a caregiver many years ago, I came across many residents whose families never would come to visit them, not even on holidays. I realized that we as caregivers, and the rest of the staff, were the only familiar faces some of the residents got to see daily. I wanted to make a difference and love them as if they were my own grandparents. I often pray that when a resident who was getting to the end of his or her life didn’t have family around that I would be there to hold his or her hand.
What are the changes you’ve made after you joined our community? Why?
My main goal has been team-building because without a good team, things don’t run well. Happy teams lead to happy residents!
What do you love the most about your job, and what’s the most challenging?
My job gives me great satisfaction knowing that I make a difference in the lives of our residents. If I can do something nice for one resident each day, it is enough to make me happy. Therein also lies the most challenging part—wanting to make everyone happy!
Your advice for those hoping to start a career in senior care?
You have to be in it for the right reasons. It’s not enough to “just like” working with seniors. You need to absolutely LOVE it! It takes a lot of patience, understanding, caring, and love to help residents navigate their lives.
How is Pacifica different from the rest?
Pacifica is a great place to work at. There are many opportunities to grow within the company itself. Another plus is that you are given the chance to work with corporate management, which in turn helps ensuring that the residents have what they need!
Could you list down a couple of activities that are unique to your community?
We make it a point to take our residents in our Legacies Memory Care on a ride along every day and they love it! Assisted Living residents enjoy casino days and of course, if they could, they would have us set up BINGO daily. We also play word games. They get competitive and also want to know the meaning of some of the words. The Friday Happy Hours with entertainment is a favorite for all of the residents. Some really enjoy getting up and dancing. Independent Living residents love playing cards in the evening. Weekends are all about Arts and Crafts. We usually do crafts according to the holiday coming up. Also, I do a jewelry making class! A big fun activity is when I have a resident auction every three months, where I buy items they can use and snacks for them to bid on. This way, they make money for coming to this activity, and the more they come the more money they get to spend at the auction!
Lastly, how do you unwind?
I use my daily drive to Temecula after work to release the day’s stress and enjoy hiking on the weekends. However, when you’re at 24/7 position like mine, I must admit it’s hard to find time off.