Family Engagement has always been an issue in senior living. A University of Chicago survey of residents’ families found that 54% only hear from providers in emergencies, and 65% of family members wanted updates on their loved one’s care weekly or daily.

Families often fear their loved one has been left alone in their room all day but lack access to community resources to calm their nerves. Instead providers like Royal Oaks share that families often call the only staff member they know for updates because they are unaware of the entire team caring for their loved one.

Family engagement is the bridge that builds relationships, trust, satisfaction and increases the likelihood for referrals. We put together three easy steps communities can take to enhance communication and family engagement  to banish the guilt and worry so many families experience after moving in their loved one.

Transparent, Frequent Communication

Keep them in the know on community activities. Doing so will dispel feelings of disconnect, guilt, and fear associated with mom and dad living in a senior living community. Be sure to extend the invitation for dialogue. Let them know that they’re free to call, text, ask questions digitally, send smoke signals, or whatever form of HIPAA-compliant communication your community has in place. This is especially helpful if their loved ones are in memory care. The resident may not remember what they did that day, depending on the severity of their condition. Track how/what the resident was involved in, how active they were, what they ate, who they hung out with, etc. This will, without a shadow of a doubt, put families at ease and give them the peace of mind they need.

Remember, families are a part of your community too.

So don’t leave them out of community functions. Open your wonderful doors to their presence at activities, town hall meetings, and field trips. If you don’t already, host at least one family open house per year as well as creating fun, family-friendly activities throughout the year that allows staff, residents, and family members to interact and strengthen relationships.

Give families a place to find resources

Create and establish a webpage families can visit that gives them general community information and resources. This lessens phones calls for minor questions that could be easily answered. Reducing the amount of phone calls and emails – that we mentioned in step one – will save both staff and the family members time. Receiving phone calls every other hour to discuss the happenings of just one resident can take away the time that could be spent to care for and engage many others.

Families play a vital role in senior living communities. Their community participation can make a huge positive impact on residents. Communities like WESTLiving and Royal Oaks are now enjoying the benefits of implementing an effective policy that keeps families involved at all times. Even the largest provider in the industry is getting their feet wet, jumping into the PICAL pilot with Cornell University to enhance communication, collaboration, and engagement with families.

Most residents have strong family connections that they value and want to nurture and vice versa. Frequent and positive communication with family members is critical to having an effective approach to family engagement. Bring everyone together by following the above steps, because the closer families feel to their loved one, regardless of physical distance, the more at ease the entire community will be.

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