In many ways, Yvette Duarte’s life of service began when she was 4 years old, performing as a flamenco dancer at Santa Barbara’s many retirement communities during Old Spanish Days Fiesta.
After bringing smiles to so many faces in her childhood, she took a job as a waitress at the Valle Verde Senior Living Community in Hidden Valley during high school. She steadily rose through the ranks, serving as director of residential care services for 12 years, and is now the health services administrator.
More than a quarter century since starting, Duarte reflects on a rewarding career in elder care, hoping to inspire others to follow in her footsteps.
How have the needs of elder care evolved over the years? There have been changes in care models, increased regulatory environments, higher costs, need for more staff, and an increase in care being provided in a private residence. We continue to see higher acuity assisted living and memory care and less of the need for long-term skilled nursing. Nursing homes are moving in the direction of providing short-term rehabilitation or post-acute care or closing due to this change. In addition, the amount of home care private duty that is provided to individuals residing in the private residence continues to increase significantly. There continues to be high demand in care needs and not enough people in the industry to fill the needs of the employer.
What should people look for when seeking a residential care facility? The advice I provide to families and friends is to look for a warm and comforting environment. It is important to have a feeling of comfort and to be greeted by friendly staff. The building does not necessarily represent the right place if the culture is not warm, friendly, person-centered, and inviting. I am passionate about creating home and believe this is best achieved by having a team that truly cares about the people they care for in the home. How does the community or home honor the person’s personal preferences and how do they get to know his or her life as they experience in the past and the present?
Tell us about one of your memorable clients. There is one resident who I’ve had the honor of knowing for 25 years and supported the transition through the continuum of care. The resident now resides in Valle Verde’s Nursing Home, the Village. In one of my recent meetings, the resident shared how much he loves living in the Village and that it’s his home. He continued to express how much he appreciates me and thanked me for taking the time out of my busy day to spend time with him and his neighbors. When his neighbors ask how long he’s known me, he responds with “100 years.” Through my journey, I’ve had the opportunity to touch so many lives and to make a difference.
Why is a career in this field so rewarding? It’s the people I get to serve every day, the amazing team I am privileged to lead, the families I get to support, and the many partnerships that exist in the Valle Verde and Santa Barbara community. I am so blessed to be in my dream job serving a community that I love so much. In our world, there are so many barriers and challenges, which I view as opportunities to grow our team.
What sets Valle Verde apart? We’re passionate about honoring the person first. The community is resident-driven with team member support and encouragement. The team members are passionate about serving the community and creating the feeling of home throughout all levels of living. I am so blessed to be part of such an amazing place.