Loretta Kaes Named Recipient of NCAL Jan Thayer Pioneer Award

New Jersey nurse champions ongoing education, mentorship in assisted living

Awards and Recognition

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Loretta Kaes, RN, BSN, the director of quality improvement, clinical services and regulatory affairs for the Health Care Association of New Jersey (HCANJ), was today named the 2018 recipient of the Jan Thayer Pioneer Award by the National Center for Assisted Living (NCAL). With more than 30 years of experience in the profession, Kaes is known as a mentor who promotes ongoing staff education to ensure positive resident outcomes. 

“Loretta is a true pioneer as someone who charts new paths for the senior care profession, and then makes certain to bring others with her,” said Ashley Blankenship, NCAL Board Chair. “She doesn’t just promote best practices for person-centered care and aging in place; she develops them. Her work to improve the quality of care in assisted living has left an indelible mark, and NCAL is honored to bestow her with this award.”

“I am very blessed to work in the service of our aged and disabled and to help others enhance the quality of care and services they provide to our long term care population,” said Kaes. “To be honored for doing what I love is truly humbling, and I am very grateful to NCAL for selecting me to receive this very prestigious award.”

At HCANJ, Kaes is responsible for the direction and implementation of all programs and initiatives the state association develops to impact clinical, quality and regulatory issues, including training, public policy, education and consumer information related to care of the elderly. HCANJ is the New Jersey affiliate of the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL), serving long term and post-acute care providers in the state. She serves as a regulatory resource for the caregivers of the geriatric population residing in assisted living communities and skilled nursing care centers.

Prior to her current position, Kaes was the vice president of health services for Chelsea Senior Living, an assisted living operator in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. For 20 years, she helped the company achieve quality assurance of safe nursing practices and high quality of care to meet state and federal regulatory guidelines and resident satisfaction, as well as develop optimal staffing for the organization.

At the national level, Kaes is a member of the Quality, Clinical Practice and Workforce Committees of AHCA/NCAL. Additionally, she is a board member for the Center for Excellence in Assisted Living (CEAL) and the American Assisted Living Nurses Assocation (AALNA). She is the founder and first president of the New Jersey chapter of AALNA. Kaes speaks frequently at national and local conferences on best practices for person-centered care and aging in place.

Her commitment to mentorship and ongoing education is evident through her relationship with Rutgers University’s School of Nursing. She partnered with the school to encourage new nurse graduates to work in long term care and developed geriatric curriculum for the BSN program. Meanwhile, Kaes developed curriculum for a leadership, management and professional development course through HCANJ for skilled nursing and assisted living nurses and nurse educators, dubbed “HCANJ’s Top Gun School.”

Kaes earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing at New Jersey City State University. She is a certified assisted living administrator and nursing home administrator in the State of New Jersey, as well as a certified gerontological nurse. Kaes also served her local community as a former mayor of East Hanover, N.J. and was the founder of the East Hanover Drug Awareness Council.

The Jan Thayer Pioneer Award recognizes individuals who have moved the senior care profession forward, positively affecting the lives of those served and those who serve. Recipients must demonstrate dedication, leadership, and considerable contributions to the profession. Kaes will be presented the Pioneer Award during a formal ceremony at the 69th Annual AHCA/NCAL Convention & Expo in San Diego, California this October.


The American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) represent more than 13,000 non-profit and proprietary skilled nursing centers, assisted living communities, sub-acute centers and homes for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. By delivering solutions for quality care, AHCA/NCAL aims to improve the lives of the millions of frail, elderly and individuals with disabilities who receive long term or post-acute care in our member facilities each day. For more information, please visit www.ahca.org or www.ncal.org.