Nick D’Aquila – Assisted Living Services Inc.
- Written by: David Harry
- Produced by: Zachary Brann
- Estimated reading time: 5 mins
For someone who accepted the job with no experience, Nick D’Aquila sure knows how to make tech work for Assisted Living Services Inc. But then, it’s not just any company he joined—it was founded by his parents in a room above the garage at their home in Connecticut.
Now the CIO, D’Aquila is modernizing the company and helping it work through the COVID-19 pandemic without disrupting the senior care services it provides. And he’s loving the challenge.
“The background and education you have, or what age you are, does not determine where your future will be,” D’Aquila says. “It’s the work you do that determines who you are and what you will become.”
Born of need
Assisted Living Services and its sister company, Assisted Living Technologies, came about by demand more than design. In the mid-1990s, his mother, Sharon D’Aquila, began taking care of her grandfather after Alzheimer’s disease prevented him from caring for himself, D’Aquila recalls.
She took things into her own hands by hiring a private caregiver for her grandfather, but she and her husband Ron (as well as their friends), were dismayed at how difficult it could be to get help for seniors who needed assistance with activities of daily living—especially those with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. In 1996, the room above the garage became the new headquarters for Assisted Living Services.
The company has since grown to offices in three Connecticut locations with a staff of more than 300 caregivers. Its services are contracted with the state of Connecticut and can be used by the general consumer. About 50 percent of the care provided is live-in, and per diem caregivers work for six or eight hours daily with clients.
The services are non-medical but essential—tasks clients can no longer do themselves and that family members are hard-pressed to provide.
“Letting someone come into your home or live with you and help you with bathing, dressing, cooking or cleaning can go far for a person,” D’Aquila says.
Systemizing the systems
D’Aquila knows the ins and outs of the premium quality of care the company provides, but the technology is his focus.
Sometimes it’s been about where to let go to make operations more efficient—a big goal for 2020 was to outsource some daily work to support companies. But he doesn’t shy away from taking the initiative, either.
Even before the coronavirus pandemic, D’Aquila was implementing conferencing tools such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams for training sessions with staff and Assisted Living Services executives.
“I want to teach them new tips and tricks on how to use tech effectively and for an advantage in the workplace over other companies,” he explains.
Those weekly, biweekly and monthly sessions paid off in training and ensured staff was prepared for the pivot to remote work and communication as offices closed in spring 2020.
The conferencing tools made it easier to meet with families looking for assistance because it was not an option to meet in person, D’Aquila notes. It also saved staff a lot of time because they no longer commuted to meetings.
By implementing a Salesforce customer relationship management platform, D’Aquila has been able to shift away from a paper-based intake process for clients while also providing the data to measure the success rate Assisted Living Service’s sales staff has achieved. The CRM is also used to track inventory and manage clients for Assisted Living Technologies, he adds.
D’Aquila is also preparing to digitize the company payroll services on a Kronos platform, though it must also conform with the Sandata scheduling platform used by the state of Connecticut. In July, D’Aquila began parallel runs of the Kronos platform to ensure it matched the Sandata reporting as well as the other payroll details.
Equipped to help
D’Aquila is more than just the Assisted Living Services CIO—he’s also the vice president of Assisted Living Technologies, which offers an array of devices and services for the same customer base.
Included are home-based and mobile medical alert systems using GPS—suited for both sedentary and active lifestyles; monitoring systems that let an in-home caregiver know when someone has gotten out of bed; and locking medication management systems where dispensers flash when it’s time to take prescriptions.
These assistive devices are frequently combined with services, he adds—the CarePlus program offers one type of technology that best supplements care for people receiving live-in services or 40 hours or more of in-home care each week.
While familiar with the business his parents started when he was about 4 years old, D’Aquila did not set out to join it. And though he was familiar with technology because Meriden, Connecticut, schools had a 1:1 device program by the time he got to middle school, IT was not a career path.
Instead, he was more interested in building things and earned a bachelor’s in construction management from Central Connecticut State University in 2015 followed by an MBA from the same school in 2018.
But because the construction industry is also embracing digital planning and drafting programs, D’ Aquila got a healthy dose of technical learning and worked as a field engineer and project engineer for two construction companies.
He was invited to join Assisted Living Technologies in 2016 as an assistive technologies specialist and project manager. In 2018, he also became director of information systems for Assisted Living Services. When he became chief information officer in January 2020, he knew he wanted to better leverage tech for all operations.
Still, he won’t claim to be self-taught.
“I’m a guy who looks to the experts for the best ways to do things,” he says. “I made an online search for a CIO mentor and found Joe Topinka. He’s taught me a great deal and helps me understand the context for adding technology and keeping my data infrastructure protected.”
The context for improvements and team building, while being a part of a family business that helps so many, has been hugely rewarding to D’Aquila even as new challenges arise.
“I’ve done some of this by trial and error,” he says. “But I’ve been able to operationalize IT, save us 16 percent in costs and help make lives better for our customers.”
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