Adult Day Health: It’s a tough job, and they love it

Bingky Rodrigo

Full Life Care Nurse’s Aide Joyce O’Malley laughs with clients Todd and Tim.When you ask those who work at Full Life Care’s adult day health locations what they do all day, they talk about their clients, and note the program’s tight schedules and busy days.

“I greet clients when they arrive in the morning.”

“At lunch, I make sure everyone gets the right plate. Some have to have their food cut up really small, others have allergies.”

“I lead the day’s activities.”

“I make sure clients get on the right bus when they go home.”

These staff are program assistants, activity coordinators, certified nursing assistants, case managers and others. Their days often feel long and challenging, with some unknowns and frequent stress. They work with individuals who may lack the ability to clearly communicate. They help people go to the bathroom. They feed people who can’t lift a spoon for themselves. All this effort for modest pay.

So why take a job like this?

“Not all days are glamorous and fun, but it’s so rewarding,” said Olivia Jokumsen, a health and wellness case manager at South King County Adult Day Health Center. “I create wonderful memories and I get to be the best or funniest part of someone’s day.”

“My favorite thing is talking to people. I learn how they lived and what they’ve done,” said Joyce O’Malley, a nurse’s aide at North Seattle Adult Day Health Center. “Some days I come here and it doesn’t feel like work.”

Clients come to Full Life for a range of services, including exercise, cognitive activities and occupational therapy. In return, they provide the staff with a bevy of benefits. Their smiles and their stories. Their desire to participate in the adult day health program. They need help, and deserve respect and companionship.

“People come here, have fun and then go home,” Joyce said. “While they’re here, they tease me, they joke with me.”

“My favorite thing is to make them smile,” said Beth Rullian, program assistant at South Seattle Adult Day Health Center. “When you talk to them and they tell you stories, there is a connection.”

Some people behind the programs

The monthly schedules at Full Life’s adult day health programs don’t change much, but the days are never the same. It’s never boring, and that’s how most program staff like it.


“Each person is different,” Joyce said. “I’ve learned a lot working here that I didn’t know before. This place is a learning experience for me.”

Joyce came to Full Life in March 2018. She became interested in this line of work after helping care for her parents, including her step-mother, who had Alzheimer’s disease. Her sister suggested she enroll in a certified nursing assistant program.

As a nurse’s aide, Joyce does a bit of everything. She helps the nurse and occupational therapists. She helps clients get around, go to the bathroom and helps them eat.


Beth worked at Full Life’s South King County location for seven years before retiring in 2012. In September 2018, she returned as a program assistant in Full Life’s South Seattle location. Beth provides personal care for clients and facilitates group activities.

“I was looking for a place to volunteer,” Beth said. “But then I came here and started to work part-time. It’s fun. Some of them call me Auntie!”


They call Bingky Rodrigo “Mother Goose.” She’s worked at Full Life’s South Seattle location for 19 years.

“It can be challenging,” she said. “It’s never the same. Before I felt I wouldn’t be here long. The first five years, I’m like, ‘This is so wrong for me.’”

In addition to helping clients with lunch and personal care, Bingky helps clients get on and off buses. She arranges transportation for clients attending the North and South Seattle locations. As the day progresses, some clients will look for a quiet spot and stroll out to the front lobby to sit near Bingky’s desk. She makes sure they’re OK and keeps a close watch on them.


Natasha Crum started as a program assistant in January 2019, and hopes to gain experience beyond nursing school. Natasha’s grandparents helped raise her, and that molded a deep appreciation for the people she works with now.

“I’ve only been here a little while, but I’m already getting attached to everyone,” Natasha said. “I wanted to work at a non-profit. When I interviewed, it was so cozy. I felt like I needed to be here. There were good vibes.”

A Strong Team

The support network within Full Life Care is another important factor, program staff said.

“To be perfectly honest, I work here because I have the greatest boss in the world,” Marie Savoie, admin assistant at Snohomish County Adult Day Health says of her manager.

Olivia noted that her work brings her more experience and knowledge with case management and this population.

“I stay because I’ve grown such a strong bond with my fellow coworkers and with the clients,” Olivia said. “I can honestly say I love my job.”