January 13, 2020
By Jodi Guffee
Resident engagement is a critical part of any community. Not only does it bring residents together socially, spark happiness, and promote mental health – but it can also become a culture-driver and differentiator that helps rally staff, attract families, and keep communities at capacity.
Here are four ways engagement technology can help communities sell the resident experience and thrive:
It demonstrates to families that residents are receiving personalized attention and experience. Families want to see that their loved ones are getting a person-centered experience, and communities need to stay ahead of the continued emphasis from regulatory agencies on resident-specific activities. The digital nature of engagement technology should give you the ability to create personalized digital profiles for residents as a repository for personal files like family photos and videos, and digital content libraries can make it possible to add preferred games, trivia, spiritual programs, and music to that profile. This level of customization enables staff members to quickly access a resident’s personal preferences when they need to.
It’s a marketing differentiator. It’s amazing to see things click into place when a family understands that a community is going to take care of their loved one as a unique individual. This is why it can be so powerful to operationalize the use of engagement technology during the sales process. Before a family comes in for a tour, the community outreach team can perform an initial discovery screening to ask questions such as: What music does your father like? What hobbies did your mother have? Where did they grow up and what did they do for a living? Once the family comes in for a walk-through, the team can then be ready with a selection of relevant engagement content that will be part of their personalized tour.
They are then able to show the family the uniquely prepared engagement plan created with their loved one in mind. In addition, they can demonstrate how different types of engagement technology can be used for things like bedtime video calls and photo sharing. There is nothing more powerful than being able to sit with a family member and say, “This is how we are going to engage your Mom.” Staff can suggest, “Why don’t we do a video chat tonight, so you can check in with Mom and wrap up the day just as you always would.” That’s when you see a light come on for the family, when they realize, ‘I don’t have to feel guilty about this, and I don’t have to be there every single day in order to fulfill my duty as a child.’ Engagement technology gives us the ability to give them permission to feel relief.
It gives residents a sense of purpose and pleasure in life. It’s amazing to see the difference engagement technology makes with a resident. For example, we know there’s a need to personalize activities for each individual in memory care in order for the engagement to work and be meaningful – but this can be challenging with limited staff and resources. With engagement technology, team members are empowered to address individuals’ unique needs and interests, leading to calmer, happier residents and less strain on the care team. That’s what truly brings these residents to life, and that’s really what communities should be all about. For residents in independent living, engagement technology can be a key social tool used to drive activities that bring people together in common areas, facilitating camaraderie and community.
It improves culture and the quality of relationships between staff, residents, and families. The quality of these relationships is important to communities because they create social and emotional wellbeing for residents, a greater sense of work fulfillment for staff, and an overall positive culture that families and prospective families can feel. I see time and again how a family warms to the staff when they see the staff member helping their loved one place a video call or playing a favorite game. Residents who were once shut-ins venture out into common areas and play trivia with a larger group of people. Staff members feel empowered and satisfied with their work when they have an effective and easy-to-use tool to do their job well.
Engagement technology isn’t just a “nice-to-have.” It’s what communities should be all about. I am personally using it to engage a completely different demographic – young professionals. As the senior care industry struggles with a talent shortage, I see engagement technology as a way to show young people that technology has a role in senior care. Our senior population in the U.S. is going to continue to grow, and we need to make sure we’ll be there to take care of them when that time comes. I’m passionate about championing engagement technology at job fairs, high schools, and colleges, talking about how senior care is a growing and socially essential field that young professionals should build a career in. In the meantime, I encourage other communities to use it as an amplifier for their culture and to further their goals of delivering person-centered, hands-on care.
About the Author: Jodi Guffee is co-founder and COO at Radiant Senior Living, a second generation, family-owned group of 19 senior living communities headquartered in Portland, Oregon. Radiant has partnered with iN2L (It’s Never 2 Late) as its engagement technology of choice, using the iN2L solution with its 1,200 residents at all levels of care.