We are at a crossroads in senior care, and it’s time for the forward thinkers to join together and create a future they want to live into as they age. The status quo – siloed systems, reduced census, undervalued staff – must change.
Let me be clear. This is not the fault of providers or care staff. This is a system problem. The senior care system was designed 40 years ago, and is no longer optimized for today’s way of life. It is analog, siloed and complex.
What’s the answer? There is no magic solution for all, but open, collaborative communication is an ideal place to start.
For too long, communication with families in senior care has been seen as one more item on the never-ending to-do list. Indeed, it was time consuming given the outdated or mass communication methods. And many say that transparent communication with family members, where they have an inside look at what’s happening with their loved ones, “opens up liability issues.” This simply is not the case!
It’s time to flip the script.
Bringing the family into the fold doesn’t mean ten-paragraph emails or 45-minute phone calls that take up precious staff time.
Bringing the family into the fold means bite-sized, 5 second snippets of how their Mom or Dad is doing. Research shows that only half of all families feel they are getting enough information about their loved one, and 92% say they just need to hear a short story or anecdote about their loved one to feel at ease.
This could be a photo of Mom eating lunch with a note about how she asked for extra peanut butter so she could lick the spoon, or a short video of Dad taking his morning walk. Having a real-time view of care at their fingertips can be the difference between a family member quietly simmering and upset, and a family member posting a 5-star review online and referring that provider to their friends.
As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words!
The marketing concept of perceived value is highly applicable here. Without information, people assume the worst. It’s called negativity bias, and it is real. In the absence of personalized information about their own loved one, not the mass communication via email or sifting through pictures on a social media group, families are in the dark about the amount or quality of care being provided. With just a few tidbits each week, however, their perception of the quality of care rises significantly.
And we aren’t the only ones recognizing the importance of communication. Kerin Zuger, Chief Strategy Officer at Right at Home LLC, recently made this statement in a LinkedIn post on the future of communication in senior care.
Caregiving truly is personal. From home care to senior living, care teams become an extension of the care recipient’s family. So why shouldn’t they be sharing updates with the family? We wouldn’t put up with not knowing what’s happening with our kids in daycare, or our dogs when they are walked by a pet service. Why would we not expect the same for our older adults?
Don’t misunderstand. I am not comparing our elderly parents to children or to pets. I am suggesting that we’ve figured this out in other areas of our lives, and we can figure it out in senior care.
Having an open channel of communication between care teams and family members can spur new ideas for staff while providing much-needed peace of mind for families. Not to mention, it can increase staff efficiency. Instead of having to make numerous phone calls, digital communication easily puts everyone on the same page. Memory care, assisted living, skilled nursing, hospice care, home care, home health – there are many people providing care for loved ones. It only makes sense to break down the silos and open up communication.
2022 is the year of open communication in senior care. Communication must be seen as a way to grow business, strengthen the ability to provide the highest person-centered care, and reduce liability. This type of forward-thinking will have enormous ripple effects on the industry.
Be a forward thinker. The possibilities are endless!