Nichole McCaughey is the new executive director of Deupree House and Deupree Cottages. In accepting the position, McCaughey returned to one of the places where she started her career.
Nichole, whose last name is pronounced mah-KY (the KY part is pronounced like the first syllable of the word Kayak), has been a Licensed Nursing Home Administrator for about 20 years. She joined ERS in 2022.
Q: In 2022, you became executive director of Deupree House and Deupree Cottages. What does that role entail?
Nichole: I lead health services. Health services for Deupree House and Deupree Cottages, including life enrichment. It includes wellness. It includes the nursing division, which is the largest division at both locations. It also includes service coordination, which is our licensed social worker. As far as my day-to-day work, I oversee the daily operation in each one of those departments and then help, coordinate, or act as a liaison between residents and the staff.
Q: So what does it not include?
Nichole: Great question. Emerson Stambaugh is the Executive Director of Hospitality Services. That includes dining, grounds, maintenance, housekeeping, laundry, and transportation.
The Club Room and Library at Deupree House.
Q: You’ve been a Licensed Nursing Home Administrator for about 20 years, and we’ll get to that in a bit, but you had prior experience working at Deupree House early in your career. Tell us about that.
Nichole: I did my internship through Londa Knollman, who was the acting administrator at Deupree Health Center during the time of my Licensed Nursing Home Administrator internship. The internship lasted nine months. Deupree Health Center has been sold, but it was under the umbrella of ERS when I did my internship. I spent nine months there. I worked primarily in admissions, but I did spend a week over here at Deupree House with Ginny Uehlin, who was the executive director and eventually became the Vice President of Residential Healthcare here up until November of 2021, when she retired.
Q: What drew you to the career of caring for seniors?
Nichole: I worked at Procter & Gamble. My undergraduate degree is in biology with a minor in chemistry from the University of Cincinnati. So I was working at P&G doing toothpaste research, and my neighbor was the director of nursing at Deupree Health Center and asked me if I’d like to go to work with her sometime, just to see what she does. So she invited me to lunch at the health center, and we sat around, and I helped assist – or cue – residents to eat. And she fed some residents, and we were sitting there talking, and it was just comedy hour. It was a very lighthearted lunch. Everyone was positive and interacting with the residents, and it just instantly drew me. I believe that’s why she brought me there, to influence me. But she didn’t tell me in advance, so it was something that happened organically. It was a desire I had on my own to learn more. To come back and see another lunch, and then maybe see what she did as director of nursing, and then find out what the administrator at the time did in her daily role. And it just kind of evolved from there.
Q: So, being at P&G, how did you enter the senior healthcare field? What was your job title when you made the switch?
Nichole: I didn’t make the switch. What I did was I decided to completely change careers and go into health care administration. So the switch was I had to do research at the board level and find out what it takes to become a nursing home administrator. I had to do an internship where I did not get paid, so I worked as an STNA (State Tested Nurse Aide) on the weekends. That’s how I paid my bills while I was working almost 40 hours a week, not getting paid, as an intern. So that clearly took commitment. It was something I was devoted to once I learned what it entailed.
Q: How long did it take to transition from being a toothpaste researcher?
Nichole: I would say the entire process, from beginning to end, probably took about two years because you have to get the nursing home’s board to accept your internship, then you perform a nine-month internship, then you study for the state and federal Licensed Nursing Home Administrator test. Then you have to wait for the board to approve you. I’ve heard the process is much quicker now because it’s all online. But I would say from start to finish it was close to two years.
Q: What toothpaste were you researching? Was it Crest?
Nichole: Crest, absolutely. But in the process of researching Crest, you had your competitors’ kinds of toothpaste there as well. So we would give P&G store credits for people who gave us saliva at night because we had to use the actual enzymes and proteins in your saliva, so you could see how it was going to react to the different kinds of toothpaste. I did that for less than two years. I thought I wanted to be in a lab and not interact with people, and just do my research, and write in my book, and do what I needed to do, and I realized I needed human interaction to be fulfilled.
The gazebo is on the walking path at Deupree House and Cottages.
Q: What did you learn from your previous experiences as an administrator that you bring here?
Nichole: The first community I was at, I was there for 14 years, and I think what I bring from there is I helped develop a person-centered care model. It wasn’t as robust as the Deupree Cottage model for person-centered care, but it was something that was a labor of love. So it was something I completely bought into before coming here, and I think it’s something I can help continue. It’s always going back and refreshing yourself and reminding yourself, ‘Are we doing this for the resident, or are we doing this for our own convenience?’ So having 14 years of going through that and being the champion of that program, I think that helps me help keep that same culture here at Deupree Cottages, but also at Deupree House. And the second facility I was with – I was there for about 2½ years – I believe had a lot more corporate structure, so I had the ability to learn more about budgeting, not only financially, but getting an overall big-picture of company finances along with big-picture of a large corporation. Coming here to ERS, we have three CCRCs (Continuing Care Retirement Communities), but we also have our middle-market (senior housing) and affordable living (for seniors), so being able to understand the overall big picture, I think that’s what I bring from the second facility. (Editor's note: The ERS CCRCs are Deupree House and Marjorie P. Lee in Cincinnati and Episcopal Church Home in Louisville, Ky. Here's information about the benefits of a CCRC.)
Q: What do you think are the most important thing Deupree House and Deupree Cottages bring to their residents, and will you explain the difference between Deupree House and the Cottages?
Nichole: I think because we are a non-profit organization, we’re able to focus on the wants and the needs of the residents. The difference between Deupree House and Deupree Cottages: Deupree House is operating as an independent living. They are licensed for Deupree II as assisted living, but we operate as independent living. So there’s a higher level of activity between the residents and staff, which is wonderful for me, coming from a nursing home setting. I get to interact with residents on a daily basis who are more independent. On the other hand, Deupree Cottages is an SNF (skilled nursing facility) or a nursing home, so they require a higher level of care. The majority of them need support, both physically and mentally. But it is equally rewarding to serve this group of people. The staff follows a robust person-centered care model that is just amazing.
Q: You’ve said you were impressed by the way versatile workers support residents at Deupree Cottages. Talk about that.
Nichole: The versatile worker is a staffing model set up through person-centered care that removes different departments and creates one worker who performs all tasks for the residents. Those tasks include activities of daily living, their daily care, housekeeping, and dietary activities. It all falls under the umbrella of versatile workers. They’re able to staff at a higher resident-to-worker ratio because you have one person performing all those duties. So our staffing model, for instance, is six versatile workers during the day for 24 residents. It’s a very high staffing model, and I think that shows in the care that we’re able to provide.
Q: And what’s the benefit of that to the residents?
Nichole: It’s continuity of care. So the same person is delivering that care throughout their shift, whether it’s an eight-hour or a 12-hour shift. Let’s say the resident says, ‘Oh, I spilled a drink on the floor.’ Instead of saying, ‘Can you get housekeeping to come and clean it up?’ and then they have to communicate with housekeeping, and maybe an hour later, somebody comes in, that versatile worker is the housekeeper. They’re able to provide that service for the resident at the time the resident asks for the service to be provided. There’s also more bonding between team members and residents.
Q: Why do you think planning for senior care is important for older adults and their families?
Nichole: Planning for senior care is important because if you wait for an emergency situation, you’re not going to receive all the services not only that you’re entitled to but that you may need. So planning in advance gives you the option to make choices. I think oftentimes, planning for aging seems taboo. It’s a subject we don’t want to investigate further because of our own invincibility or immortality, but by doing that in advance, you’re setting yourself up to have the most successful outcome, should you need it in case of an emergency. It also gives you the luxury of time that you don’t have in an emergency.
Q: Any advice for adults who are starting to think about moving into a continuing care retirement community or their adult children whose parents could be ready for a move into a CCRC like Deupree House?
Nichole: I would say the most important thing is to do your research, not only online. Not only looking at ratings, looking at feedback, and google reviews, but going and touring facilities, talking with the marketing team, and seeing if you can set up meetings with the rest of the care team, or at least some of the care team. Ask questions. But I think touring and doing your research are important. Because what is good for one person – a type of community that maybe focuses on music and the arts – maybe there’s a facility that focuses more on outdoor activities. And I feel like at Deupree House, especially, we take a holistic approach, so we try to incorporate all those things, so we have everyone’s interests in mind.
Q: Anything you’d like to add?
Nichole: Just that I’m so honored to be part of this team. It’s just a great company to work for, but the people I’m surrounded by daily, they’re just amazing. The residents I’m privileged to serve are just wonderful.
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