The best way to make sure we, as assisted living facility operators, provide the best resident care involves a comprehensive approach that focuses on meeting the physical, emotional, social, and mental health needs of residents. This happens by putting residents first to deliver a high-quality and compassionate care experience. Treating each resident with respect and dignity builds the foundation of the entire resident experience. This simple yet important piece of the puzzle goes a long way to set the stage for quality care and satisfaction. We, at ACHS Management Group, follow a tried and true way of treating our residents with respect and dignity. From leadership to staff, we treat each resident as if they were our own family member. By doing this, we have set the bar high over decades in the industry and this has led to continued growth and prosperity. Your facility can experience the same level of success with a simple, yet important approach of putting residents first. It boils down to quality of care. It is a buzz word in the industry, demonstrating this on a daily basis is a different story. Let’s go over 6 ways you can do this starting now in your assisted living facilities.
1. DON’T IGNORE YOUR RESIDENT.
Realize that only speaking to family members alienates them. Address the resident by their name. It makes a difference!
This sounds so simple. Yet, the reality is that in many facilities out there, you will observe staff speaking to residents’ daughters, sons, and other family members on a variety of topics. At the same time, the resident is being ignored completely as if they were invisible. It may not be intentional, however, we need to flip the script and be intentional about speaking with residents in addition to family members or loved ones who represent them. Making eye contact and asking for resident input is crucial. When we address our residents by their preferred name, it is such a straightforward and effective way to acknowledge their individuality. The stories we hear about residents being called by their resident numbers are just one too many. We have to remember that they are humans, just like us, and we would want to be treated like a person of value. Losing some of their independence is hard enough and any effort to give residents the attention they deserve adds up in the short and long term.
2. LISTEN TO THE NEEDS and WANTS of YOUR RESIDENTS.
Listen. Listen. Listen. They may have lost some of their independence, but they still have important things to say.
Listen to what residents have to say whether it’s their opinions, concerns, or preferences. Take their input seriously. Involving seniors in decisions that affect their daily lives is key to putting them first. When we take the time to make sure residents are part of the process, amazing things will start to happen. They will begin to feel a sense of control again, with their wants and needs being heard and considered throughout the entire process. With empathy, we can all understand how someone could feel when they are forced to leave their home to move into an assisted living community. Even though these decisions are made in the best interest of the resident, it’s never an easy scenario to leave your home due to unfortunate circumstances resulting in the need for daily living assistance.
3. GIVE YOUR RESIDENTS CHOICES.
Yes, the right to make decisions becomes even more important as you age especially where some independence is lost.
Personalized care? Can it even be done in an 100+ bed community? Absolutely. This alone can largely impact your ability to prioritize resident needs. Whether it is what they want to eat for dinner to where they want to spend their leisure time, assisted living facilities have the power to infuse different options for everyday senior living. For example, at our Angels Senior Living brand assisted living facilities, we offer a resort-style restaurant on-site that features all day dining with a variety of choices. Choosing what you want to eat sounds small but it makes an impact on the residents’ quality of life. When the activities director decides to take a vote for the next outing – museum, outlet mall, or park – it can mean the world to a resident to have a voice in the decision. All of these small things add up and empower residents to have choices to make in their daily lives. It is all in the little things!
4. PRIORITIZE INDEPENDENCE & PRIVACY.
This equals a life of respect and dignity.
Promoting a culture of independence in your facility cannot be overstated. Encourage residents to engage in daily activities at their full potential such as dressing themselves or performing light housekeeping chores, with our support. It makes for an empowered resident who has pride in their daily accomplishments. With this, respect for privacy and confidentiality are key. Something like knocking before you walk in the room goes a long way. Shutting the door or curtains when necessary and just giving the resident the space they need are just a couple of other examples. Whether it is giving the resident a private space for personal conversations and activities to just treating their personal life with confidentiality, it ALL matters. For the personal care that they do need greater support in such as bathing, dressing, and grooming; maintaining privacy and dignity needs to be front and center at all times. Some seniors may have lived alone prior and it isn’t easy to have so many around all of the time. Recognizing that living in a facility is a huge adjustment for any senior creates the best mindset when working with residents.
5. FIND WAYS TO COMMUNICATE BETTER.
Communicate. And don’t stop. We can all do better.
Effective communication includes verbal, non-verbal, and written. When we think about our daily interaction with residents, it’s important that we pay special attention to our non-verbal language. Sometimes, we don’t realize how our non-verbal communication can come across. Yet, it’s just as significant as the other forms of communication. Examples would be body language, tone of voice, and eye contact. They impact our communication with residents whether we intend it to or not.
Are all levels of staff making an effort to be friendly to residents even in the midst of a chaotic day? This is just one small act we can do daily and practice makes perfect. Are the words we speak thoughtful? Again, when we verbalize our thoughts, it’s important to remember who we are talking with and the delivery of the message. For instance, in the aging population, we know that hearing impairment is common and @geri_doc Ken Covinsky says it best…”When talking to a person with hearing impairment, talking slower usually much more effective than talking louder. When you shout, your voice becomes high pitched – the range of sound most difficult for those with hearing impairment.” He goes on to say, “ Do not Shout. Slow Down.”
That brings us to written communication which can range from a hand-written thank you card to a weekly email that outlines the community happenings. Another idea that is proven to be popular with residents and families is the idea of social media communication. Whether it is a business page or group page on any given platform, it works incredibly well! This really assists in sharing information about their loved ones activities in a way that can allow photo sharing as well. There are also companies that offer a private portal with a “Facebook” feel so that office staff can easily and quickly communicate with residents and their families. Something like this can provide an opportunity to share more private details with families making the communication highly customized to each resident. Whether it is something special that happened that day with an accompanying photo to just sharing one of the many community events like latest holiday bash.
Thinking outside of the box can pay dividends in the way of resident satisfaction. Getting creative with our delivery of information can not only help provide an inclusive environment but offer some fun at the same time. At one of our Angels Senior Living communities, a “Donuts with Dave” event was implemented once a month to give residents and families an open forum for questions/answers. Direct lines of communication, transparency and an “open book” feeling can make all the difference in the world.
Back when I launched and led a new community as an executive director, I remember that there were times due to resident confidentiality that my office door needed to be closed. I noticed that the door was solid wood and decided to replace it with a glass door to provide a sense of openness. I still could maintain the privacy I needed for those sensitive conversations but at the same time, provide a signal that we have an open door policy in an non-direct way.
6. HIRE & TRAIN STAFF WISELY.
Everyone needs to be on the same page.
Making sure that your staff member is properly trained, licensed, and certified is a requirement but beyond this, staff needs to be trained in communications, customer service, and sensitivity to residents’ needs. This is going to make your assisted living facility stand apart from the rest. Making sure your staff, from its leaders to the front lines, follow the one set of guidelines on how to accomplish this goal is mission critical. Properly trained staff serve as the bedrock of putting residents first. As they say, it starts from the top. The assisted living facility leader such as an executive director should always lead by example. Leadership can demonstrate how residents should be treated and this will cause a domino effect.
“The better trained staff are, the more likely they are to provide high-quality care to residents and the less likely they are to feel frustrated and burned out,” said Dr. Helen Kales, chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at UC Davis Health. Click here for full article.
Administrators usually wear many hats such as maintaining a clean and safe environment to decreasing the chances of accidents and/or injuries which are also part of putting residents first. The exceptional leaders go beyond measure to ensure they are always looking for ways to evaluate their assisted living community by asking for the feedback and input of their residents and families. By taking this valuable information and making decisions to improve the resident experience, executives now enter a new level of quality care. Additional educational and training opportunities for staff could be one result of such feedback. Some new ideas can come from the residents and families themselves, ones that have never crossed our minds.
Put Residents First. The Rest is Easy.
As they say, once your foundation is strong, your house can withstand more than you can imagine. Putting residents first is the secret sauce to your assisted living facility. We think this is common sense but there is likely so much more we can do other than attending to their basic needs. Quality of life includes many facets. Treating individuals with dignity and respect can take many forms. We hope that you implement some of these tips at your assisted living facility.