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Help Residents Activate Best Days

Senior Living September 3, 2021

By Kim Rosengren 

This blog is part of the Resident Journey Series. It explores the first step of the Resident Journey process: Capturing information about residents to help personalize their journeys within your community. 

It can be hard to tell one senior living community from another. Many look and feel the same, and have similar offerings. Residents are often treated the same and are generally viewed as a generic group. 

This traditional one-size-fits-all approach makes it hard to differentiate your community and attract new residents. Taking a more individualistic approach, which makes the resident’s journey the core of its offering, will help create a more satisfying resident experience and give family members confidence that engagement and wellbeing are top of mind. Creating a tailored or personalized approach based on individual resident data allows operators to understand their communities better, differentiate them, and ultimately set them apart, which should help increase occupancy rates. 

What tools and data do you have? 

To tailor your approach to individual residents, communities must learn everything they can about each resident. The first step requires communities to evaluate existing information, the tools used to collect that data, the information sharing processes, and whether or not that information is ever used by staff.

Unfortunately, most communities gather minimal information when a resident checks in, and store paper-based answers in a file cabinet and update it – maybe – annually. A separate health record may be kept in a locked office or stored in logbooks and housed somewhere else. Team members rarely review this resident information, if at all. Even if they try to find the information, it’s hard to get a complete picture of residents’ wants, needs and desires when the data exists in so many places.

When taking a more individualized approach, resident information needs to live in one place for easy accessibility. Storing this information digitally makes it viewable from anywhere at any time. Rather than creating paper forms or spreadsheets, communities can use a technology-based solution tailored to their environment and the resident journey. With data and details easily accessible, staff can connect and address care and interactions based on the individual.

Capture the Voice of the Resident

For years, communities have used annual surveys and aggregated the information to guide the senior activities and events activity directors create to generate the most participation. A full calendar of events doesn’t offer a tailored approach or necessarily reflect the greatest needs and desires of the residents. Instead, look beyond the traditional, generalized approach and use individual resident knowledge to define your programs and services to enhance resident experience and wellbeing.

The success of this new approach hinges on your ability to capture the voice of the resident to understand their individual needs more completely and respond to them. What is your current process for gathering information? What tools do you need? What questions do you ask?  Where does this information “live”?

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Ask Better Questions

Most likely, you will need to ask different questions. In addition to gathering basic living status, family member names and health data upon move-in, you’ll need to add questions around settling in, positive and even negative life experiences, the development of new relationships with neighbors and staff, acclimating to a new living environment in an independent fashion, and personal growth and development. Learning about someone on a deeper level allows you to support and act upon needs quickly and tailor your response. 

Make the questions consistent, so you can trend answers over time; this helps you detect minute changes early. Rather than asking questions that help you on an operating level, ask questions about the residents themselves. By asking these deeper questions more frequently, you can gain insights that help a community implement the following in a more personalized manner:   

  • Supportive content
  • Recommendation tools
  • Group activities
  • Supportive services

Frequent Check-ins Drive Better Results

The individualized approach requires data to be collected frequently, not just at check-in or annually. As people grow and change, their needs do too. Increasing the frequency of resident touchpoints allows your staff to see and adjust to changing needs. With 30, 60, and 90-day check-ins, you can see how residents are settling in, if they feel like this is “home now,” or how they are responding to a life-changing event.

Beyond 90-days, regular touchpoints can be tailored to specific communities, level of care and demographics. Residents in more independent functioning communities may receive questions that support their desire to be on their own and explore their own activities. Residents in assisted living communities might focus more on the strength of their relationships, their feelings about needing more help and even growth goals within the community. 

Make Sure Data is Readily Available 

Now that you’ve acquired significantly more detailed information about your residents, the information must be easy to access for all staff positions. Digital systems make it easy for staff to view all resident information from any location in a community.

Redefine and Tailor Offerings

Armed with the voice of your residents, you can redefine your offerings and programs. There will always be a need for group programming such as a holiday music concert; to activate a resident’s best life, you also need to create offerings that marry generalized programming while making room for individualized or tailored approaches for each resident.

Some individual needs will continue to be served by legacy programming. Your challenge will be to think beyond group programming and accept a hybrid approach that celebrates individuals and their growth goals, help them maintain independence and build or maintain relationships at the same time.

For example: Rather than setting aside a specific two hours where people who like art can use the activity space, which may just offer large tables, maximize the space to meet a variety of the artists’ needs. Consider creating a dedicated art studio – available at all times – that could be used by potters, painters and quilters.

Another goal of Resident Journey is to enable residents to make their own way. Rather than creating an in-person book club, maybe encourage shy residents to share a talent, like teaching a foreign language, to peers. 

Rebuild Trust, Attract New Residents, Activate Their Best Days

This new and individualized approach can help senior living communities rebuild trust and confidence that residents will be safe, secure and able to activate their best days possible, which will help regrow occupancy. It provides a tool to measure progress and change a resident’s experience, which gives you concrete data upon which to drive a more personalized approach. When the data is stored digitally and shared, everyone has a chance to help residents obtain an increased quality of life.

Life doesn’t stop just because someone moves to a senior living community. The key to helping residents continue to find new ways to grow and new passions to enjoy, is understanding their likes and dislikes and getting to know them as individuals. Only then can you help them activate their best days possible.

Sentrics has a new Resident Journey app in its Engage360 platform. Find out how to activate your residents’ best days here

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