For the first time in its history, the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) will host its annual Convention & Expo virtually. This decision did not come easily, but nothing about 2020 has been easy so far.

The challenges of COVID-19 to the long term and post-acute care sector have meant problem solving on every front, from personal protective equipment and staffing shortages to finding ways for residents and their families to stay connected. Some have experienced heartbreaking losses of staff and residents.

Time for Providers to Unite

Yet the tireless work seen in centers across the country has been extraordinary and inspiring. It’s evidence of how much and why providers care, and it’s at the heart of AHCA/NCAL’s efforts to have an exceptional gathering in 2020.

Mark Parkinson, CEO“There was never any doubt that some form of convention would happen this year,” says AHCA/NCAL President and Chief Executive Officer Mark Parkinson. “Now more than ever we need all levels of our profession to come together to discuss and share best practices, hear and learn from experts, and recognize the heroic work that many have done during this unprecedented time.”

The 71st Virtual Convention & Expo will offer unique opportunities that would not normally be possible. The platform allows registered participants to access content on demand for 24 full days, at their convenience and without the hassle and risk of traveling. From Oct. 8 to Oct. 31, each registered attendee can earn up to 50 CEs, watch and re-watch sessions with exciting and knowledgeable speakers, and network with peers from across the country (see Education Highlights below).

In addition, Get-Together Thursdays, happening on October 8, 15, and 22, will have 20 live sessions and real-time Q&As with speakers, moderated conversations on key topics, and scheduled peer group sessions for different constituency groups like independent owners, providers of homes for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and not-for-profits, as well as administrators, clinicians, and other staff cohorts.

Debbie MeadeLeaders Support Effort

“This year’s theme, ‘Why We Care,’ reinforces why providers do what we do, and why we all must come together as a profession to reflect and support one another,” says AHCA Chair Debbie Meade, owner of Health Management. “Together we are better!”

Glenn Van Ekeren, president of Vetter Health Services, is curious to see what it takes to pull off a virtual convention, and he plans to participate. “People need an opportunity to step back, get rejuvenated, fill their energy tanks with meaningful education, and recommit to our pursuit of quality regardless of the circumstances,” he says.

NCAL Chair Helen Crunk of Pemberly Place agrees. “This year’s NCAL Day may not be what we originally planned, but going virtual will allow even more professionals from around the country to learn, share, and grow,” she says.

The 14th Annual NCAL Day will include four exclusive sessions, a national update from NCAL leadership, and a special networking lounge that will allow assisted living professionals to connect. And this year, it is available at no additional cost, making it even more accessible to assisted living professionals from around the country.

Special Sessions and an Expo Hall

One challenge of the online format is how best to provide the Expo Hall, but convention registrants can rest assured. The Expo Hall will be full of industry-specific business partners with product demonstrations, downloadable brochures, and the ability to chat live with company representatives. 

Helen CrunkIn addition, the Pledge Partners, companies that have committed to fund and support AHCA/NCAL even as the association has had to cancel events and programs, will offer special sessions that will provide more in-depth understanding of product solutions and strategies available. These companies have been invaluable during the COVID-19 crisis. 

“I’m excited for everyone to experience our first virtual convention,” says Parkinson. “We have a fantastic event planned.”
Danielle Levitan is senior director of marketing for the American Health Care Association.

Convention Education Highlights

The education sessions at convention are designed to give attendees exactly what they need to be able to meet the specific challenges of today while still raising the quality of care. Seventeen tracks of learning will be available. Here are some highlights:


Road to Recovery©
Over the next two years, the skilled nursing facility (SNF) profession will be responding to the effects of COVID-19. This response will occur over multiple phases and require a strategic plan at the operator and industry level. During this session, AHCA/NCAL will offer a preview of its Road to Recovery© initiative.

CARES Act Fund Management: Best Practices in Compliance and Grant Accounting
With the acceptance of grants from the Provider Relief Fund resulting from the CARES Act, SNFs and other long term care providers will need to demonstrate that they have lost revenue and incurred expenses attributable to COVID-19 in order to retain the funding.

This session will cover best practices for compliance with requirements and accounting for grant funds. It will also focus on the interactions between the Provider Relief Fund, the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans, and any additional state Medicaid payments relating to COVID-19.

Infection Prevention and Control

All Clean Hands on Deck: Back to Basics of Infection Prevention and Control
The COVID-19 pandemic has heightened the awareness and importance of basic infection prevention and control practices. This session focuses on infection prevention measures such as hand hygiene, respiratory hygiene/cough etiquette, and standard precautions that prevent the spread of infection and the cross-contamination of equipment.

Discussion will also focus on infection control practices that can halt the spread of drug-resistant organisms within a facility.
Infection Control COVID-19 Focused Surveys: Is Your Facility Prepared?
As facilities work diligently to keep residents safe, they continue to struggle to obtain necessary supplies and navigate the continually changing guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) regarding COVID-19 prevention and care.

CMS has also greatly enhanced oversight on the prevention and management of COVID-19 through Infection Control (IC) focused surveys, which began June 1, 2020. This session will focus on the main IC issues identified during the surveys and what facilities can do to prepare for the surveys and prevent deficiencies.

It will also address the enhanced enforcement implemented for IC surveys and how this may have a lasting effect on the facility’s CMS Five-Star rating, even after this crisis has ended.

Quality Initiative

Five-Star in the Time of COVID-19
Five-Star has been in existence for more than 10 years; however, it’s an ever-moving target, and even more so since COVID-19.

Five-Star is undeniably a driving force in the industry. COVID-19 has changed the rules, but not the implications of this rating system. This interactive session will provide insights into Five-Star that is appropriate for both “newbies” and experts. Strategies on how to improve Five-Star ratings in the time of COVID-19 will be presented in an “easy-to-operationalize” manner.

Workforce Solutions

The Impact of COVID-19 on Nurses: Compassion Fatigue and Moral Distress
The COVID-19 pandemic has created stress and anxiety for staff who fear they may become infected or take the virus home to their families. Additionally, restrictions were put in place that differ from normal day-to-day operations, putting staff in new situations that challenge their values, ethics, and morals.

Over a prolonged period of time, the continued exposure to these situations can take a toll on staff’s emotional and physical well-being. The key to recovery centers on resilience and the staff’s ability to heal. This 60-minute session will discuss how to foster resilience and why it is important. It will also look at how compassion fatigue, moral distress, and burnout impact a person’s ability to effectively deliver safe care.
Engage and Empower the Employee in the Tide of Change
In this session, long term and post-acute care leaders will learn the critical importance of advancing engagement among employees, teams, vendors, and care providers across the continuum of care.
A hallmark in the advancement of the sector has been the realization that it is in the quality and compassionate care business. To effectively navigate the marketplace going forward means realizing that it is also in the engagement business.

Technology and Innovation

Engagement, Isolation, and the Power of Technology—Now More Than Ever
The COVID-19 crisis has brought to the forefront of senior living the importance of staying connected and the consequences of being isolated. This session will show attendees how technology can help keep residents and families connected in the midst of the crisis, and beyond. 

The session offers myriad resources, many of them free, that will help providers use technology to keep their connections alive and blossoming. Designed for nontechnical individuals, they will walk away with multiple ideas and solutions along with a new set of resources to utilize and stories of inspiration to emulate.

Assisted Living

Resident-Led Emergency Response in Senior Living
Nobody wants a disaster to strike their community, but disasters do happen.
In this session, attendees will be challenged to develop and train their residents to respond to large-scale emergencies in their communities. They will be provided with a model of Resident-Led Emergency Response that won the 2019 Oregon Health Care Resident Group Enrichment of Life Award.
Customer Service and Communications During COVID (part of NCAL Day)
A facility has a killer marketing plan and good customer satisfaction scores. Attracting residents to the facility is easy! But what happens after the customers come? Learn how positive customer experience should drive a business and naturally mitigate risk.

Not For Profit and ID/DD

Ethics and COVID-19: Dealing with the Aftermath
This session will review ethical issues that are likely to arise as society gradually emerges from the current pandemic experience. Topics under consideration will include:
• Responsible plans for re-opening and normalizing programs.
• How changing attitudes about telemedicine have been impacted by a prolonged reliance on remote interactions during the COVID-19 pandemic and the opportunities that this creates for the future.
• Dealing with varying comfort levels of social interaction among providers and individuals served.
• Potential impacts on person-centered planning and individuals’ liberty rights.
For a complete list of tracks, session descriptions, and speakers, please visit the convention website: or