Link to original article by Jordan Scott: LeadingAge 2022: How Engagement Tools Create Connections in Senior Care
Pandemic lockdowns left many older adults feeling isolated, but engagement tools have enabled senior care organizations to improve relationships with residents.
As people age, it’s important for them to find meaning and purpose in their lives, especially if aging in place isn’t an option. Lockdowns during the early part of the pandemic made this difficult for older adults in senior care centers, many of whom were already struggling with loneliness and isolation.
The situation led many senior care leaders to search for engagement technology solutions. Like in many healthcare spaces, there is patient and resident demand for personalization and a digital-first approach.
Senior care and digital health leaders at the 2022 LeadingAge Annual Meeting + EXPO discussed how they have addressed the increased need for engagement and enrichment in aging services.
Personalizing Senior Care Through Engagement Platforms
Presbyterian Homes of Georgia turned to Wellzesta’s engagement platform for senior care as it opened a new community in Athens, Ga., during the pandemic. The platform allowed residents to connect with the organization and other residents, even prior to the community’s opening in February 2021.
“The big lesson learned is that we should have launched the platform much sooner than we did, so we could have communicated with residents more,” said Gwen Hardy, COO of Presbyterian Homes of Georgia.
She explained that having an engagement solution helped the residents as well as staff, enhancing the care experience and helping to attract new employees.
Kyle Robinson, co-founder and business development director at Wellzesta, said that engagement software should be compelling, inspiring, easy to use, and supported with training and IT help. She said engagement platforms should be personalized by users to make it easier for residents to find community information.
“It’s created a way for us to be more transparent and to create a positive culture in our community,” said Hardy.
Bi-directional communication is another useful tool, added Robinson, who pointed out this approach allows residents to be involved more than a top-down approach would.
It’s also important that senior care organizations collect data from the program to help guide their engagement programming to better match resident demand.
Engagement Tools Help Build Relationships in Senior Care
Methodist Senior Services in Mississippi was also looking for a way to foster connection for older adults during the pandemic. The organization implemented iN2L tablets across its communities after receiving a grant. The organization also turned to Vertis Therapy’s services.
The tablets, which allow personalization, include features to reduce anxiety, including photos, worship programming, games and puzzles, movies, music, and call capabilities.
The organization worked with Lydia Nguyen, lead researcher at iN2L, to measure the impact of the tablets. According to a survey by the organizations, 64 percent of residents reported that the tablets helped staff learn what they are interested in, while 61 percent reported that the tablets add enjoyment to their day. Fifty-six percent reported that the tablets have strengthened their relationship with staff.
According to the staff survey results, 85 percent of staff reported that they felt they had learned more about residents, while 81 percent reported that the tablets seemed to help residents connect with family and friends. Seventy-nine percent of staff agreed that the tablets provided residents with meaning and purpose.
Many staff members even reported feeling more satisfied with their jobs and less stressed due to the engagement platform, as the tablets could be used to keep residents engaged when transitioning between activities. They also reduced the amount of time staff needed to spend planning activities.
Jack York, co-founder and president of TaleGate and iN2L, shared examples of how tablets with engagement technology could be used to create moments of joy in residents’ lives, whether used to motivate and assist in therapy or to connect residents to activities they love.
“The technology is just a tool. The staff is what makes it come to life,” he said. “Find joy, tie it to the technology and find out how to best deliver it.”