When you begin thinking about senior living options, there are lots of things to consider—from simple pleasures like cookies being offered to more complex such as services tailored to your loved one’s care. Obviously, comfort and aesthetics play a role in loving where you live, but there are several other factors that are important when finding the right place to thrive! You can exhale now because we’re going to take you through five key aspects of senior living with older adults’ best interests in mind that will ensure you get the most out of your experience, especially during these uncertain times.
Spills and slips and a hospital trip—oh my, oh no! Safety is at the top of the list when it comes to senior living communities now more than ever, as COVID-19 has created a wave of safety concerns and put it top of mind when choosing the right senior living community. Given this, it’s important to find a community that has done everything to ensure safety standards are maintained during the pandemic and beyond. Some of these standards can include keeping the community clean and properly disinfected and following state guidelines for testing and quarantine, as well as working closely with regulatory agencies so that all parameters are constantly met. In addition, having proper safety training and vetting partners to make sure they align with all safety protocols will ensure that residents and team members stay healthy and happy at all times.
Technology can be pretty amazing—when it works. In today’s senior living community, it not only works, but it also makes life way easier! These days, technology can be used in a variety of ways to help residents stay connected to their friends, families, and each other (have you seen those savvy seniors dancing on TikTok?), as well as allow team members of senior living communities to engage with residents and help keep track of their health and well-being—bonus!
For example, one great tool that Thrive Senior Living uses for resident engagement is Sagely. This platform offers calendars to assist with organization, apps that empower residents to engage with others and enrich their day-to-day lives, and easy ways to share details with their loved ones about what they’re doing in the community (like sharing a photo of mom singing her heart out to Frank Sinatra—what daughter wouldn’t love to see that?). It also allows team members to keep track of resident engagement and moods (like happy, sad, or just meh—we always opt for happy!) so that they can do more to enhance each and every experience they have. Another important way to maintain the safety and health of a community with technology is through the use of a quality assessment and risk management tool like QA Reader. QA Reader will notify team members whenever a critical event or activity occurs. It helps by tracking, managing, and mitigating adverse events. This is a great platform for managing risks and keeping everyone connected when it is needed most. Of course, there are a host of technologies and tools available like Sagely and QA Reader; these are just a couple of examples!
From everything we’ve just talked about to the administration and documenting of medications, utilizing new technology encourages quality, detail, and continuity of care while reducing errors. In short, technology is extremely useful in providing the best senior living experience in today’s world and beyond (as Buzz Lightyear would say).
Would you go to a dentist who couldn’t clean your teeth? Then why live in a community that doesn’t offer top-notch care? When it comes to senior living, clinical capabilities can be best thought of as care. In order for residents to remain in good health physically, emotionally, and mentally, a high standard of care is essential. And for it to work best, care should be built on the foundation of meaningful relationships. Think about it…if you have a great relationship with someone, you always want the best for them. Senior living communities that prioritize relationships succeed at offering great care. When looking at senior living communities, ask about how they build relationships. Do they dig in and find out the nitty-gritty on your dad? Do they prioritize training? Are their team members always available to provide consistent care? What are the family resources that are available? And more.
One thing is for certain; you should look for a community that offers care support 24/7 and makes sure that all team members are receiving up-to-date training in care, including how to care for someone with dementia or memory impairment. And because we are all still dealing with COVID-19, it is important that the community follows through with vaccines as they become available and continues to provide education about the vaccine as well as monitor recipients after they have been vaccinated. Knowledge is power, after all!
It’s also important to ensure the community has a quality management program that oversees quality-of-care indicators like fall management and medication safety. Family resources that connect families to residents and keep them up to date on how their loved ones are doing are also essential, as is a team that is responsive and respectful of the residents and recognizes the true value of a purposeful life—meaningful relationships are key! The final thing to be on the lookout for is a community that has great state survey results as well as great customer satisfaction results with residents, families, and the team.
Check-check, one-two-one-two! Honest and transparent communication is crucial in creating trusting relationships between a community, its residents, and families. Some things to consider when searching for the best in senior living are:
- Will you have the opportunity to give feedback about the community and care provided?
- Can residents and family members communicate easily, even though they may not be able to see each other in person, whether it’s because the family lives out of town or due to COVID-19?
- How does the community communicate with family members regarding their loved ones?
Whether through technological means or simply old-fashioned letter writing (we love a good letter!), residents and their families always feel more fulfilled when they have an open line of communication. Communication became even more critical during the pandemic. Constant, transparent communication is key from the community when families are unable to be with their loved one face-to-face. Many communities provide monthly newsletters or send weekly emails with updates, and some hold one-on-one calls to discuss with the family how their loved one is doing. In addition, creative ways for families to stay in touch such as Amazon Echo Show and FaceTime are always useful—we love to see grandma’s smiling face when she gets to see her grandkids who live out of town on FaceTime (tear-jerker!). Now more than ever, these open lines of communication are imperative.
When you’re exploring different communities, asking questions about the types of communication available that are important to you will go a long way toward your peace of mind.
You really should find a community that doesn’t have the word “boring” in its vocabulary. Creating memorable resident experiences and encouraging a healthy lifestyle to keep both the mind and body happy. It’s important to raise everyone’s quality of life by promoting independence and social engagement.
For example, The Pairing of Passions is an initiative within Thrive Communities that takes into account that people don’t always enjoy the same activities as their neighbors. By finding out what each resident likes and dislikes, an engagement or activities coordinator, or a Social Network Director here at Thrive, is more clearly able to provide specific activities that will engage individuals and put them together with others who enjoy the same things (for instance, Betty and Sue love to knit, while Bill and Mary love to drink wine). Everything is more fun with a friend!
Another example is the Thrive Resident Ambassador program, which offers residents a role in leading projects and helps to motivate their neighbors to get involved and find their people. Of course, different communities will have different initiatives in place, but programs such as these can serve as great benchmarks to keep in mind.
Just as important as finding people with shared passions is community involvement. Through various community service initiatives, residents can get out and connect with the city and people who also call it home. A win-win for all!
These are just some of the things that can help residents feel more socially and cognitively engaged.
Finding Your Place to Thrive
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, just remember that there are senior living communities across the country that strive to do all of these things and more. Making sure that every resident is healthy, happy, and safe is what they live to do every single day. Whether you’re looking for independent living, assisted living, or memory care, take time to learn, research, and ask questions in order to find out who provides the best in senior living according to your expectations and desires—because you deserve it!