With those words, iN2L + LifeLoop Chief Executive Officer Navin Gupta kicked off a recent webinar offering key insights into meeting changing expectations in the senior care experience. To best explore these latest trends in senior living, he was joined by a trio of industry veterans, each bringing their own unique perspective to the topic:
- Diana “Dee” Engle, Vice President of Health & Wellness at MBK Senior Living
- Kelly Ornberg, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Ivy Living and Oakmont Senior Living and 2020 Women of Distinction Rising Star honoree from McKnight’s Senior Living
- Heather Tussing, President of The Aspenwood Company
The resulting webinar, “Beyond Activities: Creating a Rewarding Resident Experience,” was an informative, wide-ranging discussion of what’s changing in senior care and why, along with the steps being taken by some of the industry’s leading figures to accommodate these latest trends in senior living. You can listen to the entire webinar here, or read on for a few key highlights.
Trends in Senior Living: What’s Changed, and Why
Navin’s discussion on trends in senior living began with an introduction to the nature of the changes. Beyond factors like the rising cost of labor and the expanded use of agencies, the participants honed in on rising expectations for engagement and opportunities that go beyond traditional activities to include a full range of services encompassing wellness and healthy, active living.
“The future is here,” said Dee, explaining that residents are already arriving with heightened expectations. “They’re asking for therapy, they believe in psychology, they want to know about mindfulness. It’s a really different group than 27 years ago when I started in assisted living.”
“The days of cookie-cutter services are over,” agreed Navin, describing a “fundamental shift in expectations” from seniors as well as their families. Understanding and accommodating this shift means including senior care as an integral part of the healthcare journey, the participants noted—not siloed off and separate but integrated into the larger continuum.
However, accomplishing that may be easier said than done. The key is to formulate experiences that focus not just on typical end-of-life concerns, but on life itself, as the panel agreed. “It’s not just what’s healthy for seniors, but what’s healthy—what makes people happy, not just what makes seniors happy,” as Dee put it.
But how can organizations actually meet this demand? The panel focused on a few key areas: collaboration among team members, better engaging residents and their families, and the integrated use of technology. Let’s take a closer look at each.
Communication and Collaboration
“Our goal is for the resident to have a bigger life with us than they had before they came to us. And it all needs to tie together,” as Heather summarized the priorities arising from today’s trends in senior living.
“When I see a successful life enrichment department, I see teams working together regardless of their title and regardless of what department they work within,” she added. “That’s when you see success.”
In other words, this new approach for senior care requires teams to work together to offer an experience that’s fully integrated—to understand “that life enrichment isn’t just for one department,” as Navin put it, but rather a holistic goal that requires the active participation of the entire organization.
And one way for leaders to realize this goal is by encouraging departments to communicate and share their work—their frustrations and challenges as well as their success stories. “I think that if they hear those success stories and they hear how those different departments play a part in it, then that’s when it makes a difference,” Heather added.
“Resident experience is everything, but we have to tell that story,” Kelly agreed, emphasizing the importance of inter-team communication. “And sometimes we forget that [amid] the hustle and bustle of our jobs. And so, I think it’s really important … to make sure that we are sharing those stories.”
Better Engaging Residents and Families
As important as it is to emphasize teamwork and sharing, creating a truly holistic senior living experience also means rethinking other parts of the process. After all, the resident experience “is all about them; it’s not about fulfilling a quota,” as Navin suggested.
Dee agreed, adding that the active gathering of feedback from residents and their families should actually set the agenda. She went on to describe an initiative her team took to do just that, redesigning their resident interview process to remove a traditional, “eight-page checklist that often would get sent home and then maybe filled out or not,” and replacing it with a more engaging “interpersonal interview.”
Admitting that getting everyone to adapt to the new process has had its challenges, Dee went on to point out its advantages.
“We’ve gleaned all of this wonderful, personalized data about what people need and included it in their service plan,” she said. The result is a shift in how they look at the entire experience, “not just in terms of, how do we manage their falls and how do we manage their disease process or their diets, but more about, how do we get them to thrive.”
Getting it right means that “it’s the residents that are designing the programming, not us,” she added. “Because it isn’t really about the boxes that are being checked, it’s about who that person is. And you can really only get those data by having the conversation and following up.”
The Smarter Use of Technology
Thanks to advancements in technology, those efforts at engagement can be realized at an earlier stage than ever before. With the help of widely available video tools, for instance, facilities can provide residents and their families with previews and help set expectations before onboarding begins.
“There are so many ways to connect them, for them to have a better feel of what’s going on in the community prior to move-in. And it’s also possible to share that information with families upon move-in,” Heather explained.
“And I think that’s sometimes important for somebody when they’re going through a lot of change,” she added. “We have to put ourselves in their shoes … we need to do everything in our power to help them with that adjustment. And technology is a huge way to do that. And also a way for us to connect them with their families, even if their families are across the world.”
“The consumer has changed so much,” agreed Kelly. “The families are even way different, and tech-savvy and very easy to have two-way communication with.”
“Whereas technology used to be like a good thing to add in, now it’s an expectation because we all live with so much technology in our lives every day that if you don’t have it, you’re way behind the curve,” Heather added.
As Navin acknowledged, it’s up to technology providers to help operators successfully meet these expectations. By expanding beyond a traditional focus on “point-to-point solutions” into a more integrated solution, technology has the power to do just that—and iN2L + LifeLoop is proud to be one of the providers tackling this challenge head-on, and helping lead the way into an exciting new future.