LIVINGSTON, NJ – If there was ever a man who loves his job, it’s Michael Daichman, the new executive director at CareOne in Livingston.
“I treat every one of these residents like they’re my own grandparents,” Daichman said, in a rare moment of downtime in his office. “On any given day, I’m out giving and getting hugs.”
It’s been just over a month since he came to CareOne, where an assisted living building is across from a skilled nursing facility. The whole campus looks more like a small resort, with manicured lawns, landscaping and gently rolling hills. Although his office is in the assisted living building, you won’t often find him behind his desk. You’ll more likely find him talking to residents in the common areas, or walking through the dining room and being asked by a dozen grandmas if he has eaten dinner yet, or in the small kitchen, whipping up a batch of chicken wings for everyone.
He makes daily visits to the Alzheimer’s/memory care community, which he said is so important.
“The last time I was in there, I hugged a woman who I know has no family around, and her face just lit up like a Christmas tree,” he said. “She told me she didn’t remember the last time she had a hug.”
With an undergraduate degree in human development, a master’s in public administration and health services, and a long-time affinity for senior citizens and their particular needs, Daichman has found his calling at CareOne. He loves his work and it shows.
“I’m not an office person,” Daichman said. “I need to be up, walking around, talking to people. I spend as much time with our residents as I can.”
It’s not surprising, particularly after hearing Daichman talk about his own grandparents, with whom he was close. When his grandfather passed away some years back, he moved his grandmother – still healthy and active – into the assisted living community where he was working at the time. It was more for the social life than anything else, he said, and she loved it. He liked having her close by, although once when he and the facility’s maintenance man were on the roof removing snow, they were called back down by his grandmother and some of her friends, who scolded them for making too much noise and for being out on the roof in the first place – too dangerous.
He has the same kind of repertoire with the residents and staff at CareOne. As he strolls through the hallways, people call out greetings to him, tease him about always smiling, stop for brief chats. It’s all part of the one big happy family vibe that CareOne has, made even more so by the fact that Daichman unhesitatingly gives his cell phone number to residents and family members and tells them they can call any time, day or night.
Some nights he’s a little closer, since a few evenings a week he stays in a room at the facility. He primarily lives with his parents in Edison since relocating from Alexandria, Virginia, where his wife still is for the time being. On the nights he sticks around, he can quickly get where he’s needed, although distance doesn’t seem to matter. He once dropped everything and drove in from Alexandria when he was called.
“I do everything I can for our residents, not because they pay for it, but because they deserve it,” Daichman said.