Every senior living community wants their residents to feel at home. That’s why the early days of a resident’s tenure are so important.
Those days are a community’s first impression. During this phase, residents and family members are particularly watchful, waiting to see if the community will live up to the promises of its marketing materials.
Crucial as these early moments are, they’re also easy to mishandle. Small mistakes, ones that community staff might not even notice, can jeopardize the fragile trust that’s developed between residents, family members, and the community.
In a webinar last week titled “How to Enhance Family Engagement in the Sales Process,” LifeLoop CEO Amy Johnson explained what some of these mistakes look like — and how community administrators can prevent them.
“When there’s a gap between what marketing promises and what the community delivers, that can lead to serious problems,” Amy says.
Here are three potential gaps communities should pay special attention to.
(The webinar had way too much to be captured in one post — if you missed it, be sure to check out the recording!)
One: A disconnect between marketing and operations
Marketing a senior living experience isn’t like marketing a car. Residents are more than customers. A community isn’t just a product. The senior living sales process is the beginning of a long relationship. It should feel that way.
It’s disheartening, then, when a resident enters their new home for the first time — and feels like a stranger.
This is what happens when a community’s sales team doesn’t communicate enough with operations. Important information about the resident slips through the cracks. Residents have to re-introduce themselves, families have to re-tell their stories to unfamiliar faces.
It’s an unnecessary strain, and certainly not the welcome any community wants to give to a new resident.
Solution: constant communication between sales / marketing and operations.
This kind of estrangement is totally avoidable, as long as communities have a concrete process in place for transferring knowledge from marketing to operations. Circulate knowledge from sales and marketing to the frontline staff. Develop an information pipeline, have that infrastructure in place, and residents will start to feel more at home, right away.
Two: not enough communication for family members
As hard as the transition can be for new residents, sometimes it can be even harder for family members. No matter how calming and pristine a community’s environment might be, family members may still feel anxious about leaving their loved one in someone else’s care.
A lack of communication makes that anxiety much, much worse.
Especially in the first few weeks of the resident’s admission, it’s only natural for family members to want to check in. They’ll feel intense frustration if they encounter any barriers to getting the information they want.
If that frustration goes on too long, it could develop into a chronic mistrust that will not be easy to correct. Communities should do everything they can to prevent it.
Solution: a proactive communication plan.
Family members should have simple steps to follow when they want to find out how their loved one is doing. A single point of contact is one method. An intuitive communication platform is another. Either way, simplicity should be the priority. The less confusion, the better.
Three: staff aren’t alert to resident preferences
The basics of senior care are universal; excellent senior care is highly personalized.
Every resident brings their own preferences to the community. The better a community caters to those preferences, the happier a resident will be, and the more comfortable their family members will feel.
However, getting a large and varied care staff to remember — let alone observe — those preferences can be a major challenge.
Residents don’t want to repeat their desires to every staff member who cares for them. Neither do their families. Who would?
Nor is it realistic to expect staff to circulate the knowledge of these preferences among themselves. They may not have the time or the opportunity to tell each other what each resident wants.
This presents the risk of repeated frustration for the resident and for their families. Staff can inadvertently violate a resident’s preferences, over and over again, leaving the resident feeling ignored, and family members increasingly frustrated.
Solution: a persistent preference documentation process.
Having a knowledge base of every resident’s preferences is invaluable for communities. But without the right support, building that knowledge base can be painstaking, tedious work. Communities should ensure they have a robust, reliable, and seamless documentation process in place. This will ensure that resident preferences are preserved across the entire community’s workforce.
Much more to learn
Meeting the needs of residents and family members is an endlessly complex field. There’s much more to say on the issue, and this is just a small sampling of the issues explored in Amy’s webinar.
If you missed the chance to see the webinar live, you’re in luck. You can still catch a recording here.
More webinars will be coming soon, though. You won’t want to miss them. Not only will you get important industry insights, you’ll also get to participate in the discussion.