Balancing Safety and Independence in an Assisted Living Facility

Many residents of assisted living facilities need help with mobility and other physical aspects of their lives, but they retain their mental faculties. However, many assisted living facilities tend to focus more on schedules, efficiency, safety concerns and State compliance instead of ways to promote resident independence. You want to provide the best care possible for your elderly residents, and studies show that balancing safety and independence in an assisted living facility increases the happiness of residents and improves the overall quality of life. But how can you implement programs and strategies that foster independence?

The Path to Autonomy

The ability to make decisions for oneself is a cornerstone of medical ethics and is perhaps even more important for elderly residents. As the body and mind decline, it is all too easy for a resident to feel like they are losing control of their life. That is why it is important to give your residents as many choices as possible in their daily lives. They may not have control over the medications they take, but they can choose what they want for dinner or whether they’d like to play Bingo, for example. Multiple chances to make choices for themselves throughout the day makes it easier for a resident to accept and even enjoy the parts of life they no longer have control over, such as their living arrangement.

The Role of Staff Members

It is likely that your staff are already balancing safety and independence in an assisted living facility without realizing it, but extra training can be beneficial. It’s important for staff to understand that independence starts with respect, so they should be instructed to treat each resident as an equal individual. Additionally, autonomy is centered on choice, so clear, concise and jargon-free information should be given so a resident can have a complete picture of what their choices are. Each resident should be as involved as possible involved in any decision that affects their care.

Open Lines of Communication

There are many key players on a resident’s care team. From the resident and their family members to the CNAs, nurses and doctor, everyone has a duty to help improve the quality of care wherever possible. This is best accomplished through open lines of communication. For example, if your resident tells a family member that they no longer want chicken for dinner, the family member can pass that information on to the dietary staff. The family member feels like an important part of their loved one’s care team, and the resident feels validated because their needs are better met.

Balancing safety and independence in an assisted living facility is relatively easy for residents without any cognitive disabilities, but can take some finesse for others. So long as your staff is fully committed to providing clear information and as many choices as possible, your residents will be cared for safely while retaining as much autonomy as possible.


Attract New Residents to Your Senior Assisted Living Facility – Share How Your Senior Home Embraces Each Individual’s Abilities

Use inbound marketing to reach more potential senior residents and their adult children and let them know your facility’s unique, caring philosophy.

Not sure how to get started? Request a free consultation with UmeWorks on inbound marketing for your Senior Living Facility and receive a copy of Dr. Gawande’s book Being Mortal while supplies last. Include “Being Mortal” in your comments.

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Dr. Gawande proposes that that “quality of life is the desired goal for patients and families. Medicine has triumphed in modern times, but in the inevitable condition of aging and death, the goals of medicine seem too frequently to run counter to the interest of the human spirit. He offers examples of freer, more socially fulfilling models for assisting the infirm and dependent elderly, and demonstrates that an aging person’s life may be rich and dignified.”

Serving Cultural Needs in Senior Living Centers

As the face of America is equally becoming more culturally diverse, senior car facilities are finding it challenging to become not only culturally sensitive but culturally attractive to the growing diverse elder population. The U.S. Census Bureau predicts that within the next three years 25% of adults age 65 and over will be non-Caucasians.


Senior Living Centers must keep up with the changes in demographics, and how do they appeal to a multitude of cultures — all at the same time.


Some senior living facilities have turned to cultural niches with emphasis on certain particular cultures such as Asian Americans or Hispanic Americans. You don’t have to generalize your senior living facility and steal appeal to a diverse population by incorporating as many cultural traditions as possible. Here are some tips on serving cultural needs in senior living centers.

Ethnically Diverse Foods

Asian grandma eating with girl

Serving a wide array of food will be attractive to anyone. Train your kitchen staff on cultural dietary restrictions and be sure to always have an alternative option for those that are unable to eat certain meal options, such as a Kosher alternative. Switching up the menu on a weekly or daily basis to serve different styles of foods is a great way to include many cultural groups but to also help your residents to not become tiresome of the same meal every day. Offering culturally diverse cooking classes in another great choice if you have a facility with active seniors that would like to participate in learning new dishes or want to show others their own traditional meals.

Staff

Hiring care providers and other personnel that can speak multiple languages is a major plus to residents who would like to be able to speak to others in their native tongue. This can be difficult as there is a multitude of different languages or dialects, however just having translators available would be a huge plus as well.

Respecting and celebrating traditions and holidays

Training your staff and personnel on the differences among cultural holidays and traditions is extremely important as you will reduce possibilities of offending anyone or leaving groups out. Staff must also be aware of behavioral and emotional differences in cultures such as avoiding eye contact as a sign of respect to some.

Be sure to celebrate the holidays of your resident’s cultures as well as the traditional American holidays. Residents will appreciate the ability to experience new traditions and to teach others about their own.

Access to diverse cultural entertainment

Provide your residents with access to foreign films, literature, and music so they can feel the comforts of home. If you bring in entertainment to your facility look not dancers, musicians, and speakers, etc who deliver cultural experiences similar to those of your residents. If there are museums or cultural centers close by providing transportation to and from these places will be a huge attraction to residents that crave cultural experiences.

Providing a Sense of Community

The most important thing to keep in mind when serving cultural needs in senior living centers is to keep everyone included and to create a sense of community among diversity. Residents play an important role in making other residents feel welcome so try to always include everyone together to eliminate the potential of cliques forming among different groups. When serving cultural needs in senior living centers always be culturally sensitive to those around you and open-minded to the needs of others.


Attract Residents of Diverse Backgrounds by Highlighting How Your Senior Living Facility Attunes to the Cultural Needs of Various Ethnicities

Use inbound marketing to do this. Need help? UmeWorks can help you create an inbound marketing strategy to those you are targeting, and help you manage your plan. Contact us for a free initial consultation.

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Ways Assisted Living Facilities Can Prevent Senior Social Isolation

You want to provide the highest possible quality of life for your senior residents. You provide them with nutritious food, access to quality health care and clean facilities. But what about their mental wellbeing?

The AARP cites a Brigham Young University study that states feelings of loneliness can increase premature senior mortality by as much as 26 percent. Obviously, a lot is at stake when it comes to feelings of isolation and loneliness. Read on to learn how to prevent senior social isolation.

How To Prevent Senior Social Isolation

Intergenerational Living Facilities

The National Institute on Aging finds that intergenerational relationships are beneficial to the elderly and can even help combat age-related diseases like Alzheimer’s. It’s becoming increasingly more common for nursing homes and assisted living facilities to partner with local colleges to offer residencies to students. The students not only pitch in and help the seniors with daily tasks, but the senior residents have access to courses, functions and other aspects of university life to enrich their social lives. This helps to connect seniors to their community and combat feelings of isolation.

Bring the Community In

Your facility may not be set up for having college students living alongside the seniors, or there may not be a close enough college, but that doesn’t mean you can’t invite the community into your senior community. Contact your local school district, boys and girls clubs, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and other community groups to find a way that they can come in to interact with your seniors. This could be a local recital for the High School Choir, a fun puppet show put on by the kids, or crafting activities for the children and seniors. Your assisted living facility could host the community with games nights and multigenerational talent shows for both residents and visitors.

You may even want to consider creating an opportunity where the younger generations come in to teach seniors how to use technology. This opportunity gives seniors an opportunity to connect with family and friends that aren’t local through social media and email as well gives the students a chance to interact with the seniors.

Provide Entertainment Opportunities

There are many ways that senior care facilities can combat social isolation, but the easiest way is to provide plenty of opportunities for seniors to socialize, both within the facility and within the local community. Some facilities have a dedicated recreation program to schedule bingo night, movie night, senior yoga or out-loud readings. All of these programs help seniors get together to converse, learn new skills and meet people, which combats the effects of senior isolation and loneliness

Communal Dining

Everyone needs to eat, so dinner is a perfect time to provide opportunities for socialization. Since eating is such a social activity, anyway – we eat meals together, we celebrate special occasions with food, we gift food items in times of need – it makes sense for residents to use mealtime as a social tool whenever possible. If your facility has the space for a communal dining room: great! If not, encourage your residents to visit the local senior center, invite a friend for a picnic or check out a local diner.

Give Residents Something to Care For

Studies show that pet therapy can have a lasting positive impact on senior emotional health, so it’s a great program to review for how to prevent senior social isolation. Consider allowing your residents to care for a dog, cat or preferred animal because having something to take care of makes a senior feel needed, and when people feel needed, they feel more fulfilled and less socially isolated. If your facility can’t support individual pet relationships, maybe you can have a facility mascot, like a cat or bird, that staff members can bring around for residents to bond with, or partner with a local animal shelter for visit days to offer your seniors the benefits of pet therapy. Even having plants to care for can make a difference.

Dr. Gawande’s book Being Mortal described an experiment of the then-new medical director of Chase Memorial Nursing Home, Dr. Bill Thomas. Noticing the stark contrast of the home to his life-abundant rural farm, Dr. Thomas brought in dogs, cats, birds and plants. After two years, research showed the number of prescriptions required by Chase Home residents fell by half. “I believe that the difference in death rates can be traced to the fundamental human need for a reason to live, ” stated Dr. Thomas.

Religious Activities

Participating is religious activities is not only good for the spiritual well-being of seniors, but a place of worship is the perfect place to foster friendships and interaction. Attending church services, events and volunteering plays a critical role in the life of a senior. It provides a sense of purpose, comfort, and fosters a social network of like-minded people. Studies have shown the lives of those involved with a religious community have more longevity on average than those who are not.

Provide Transportation

Many seniors do not drive, and lack of a mode of transportation is one of the main causes of senior social isolation. Anything that can promote the mobility of seniors and help them get around enables them to make independent choices, therefore, promoting social health.

In Conclusion

There are many factors to consider when thinking about how to prevent senior social isolation and there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, so it’s important to observe the physical, mental and emotional health of your residents before drawing up a game plan. Above all else, it’s important to implement a system of social isolation identification. Often times, relatives are the first to notice that their loved ones are lonely, but some residents don’t have close family to depend on. It then becomes important to seek the help of a mental health professional to identify those residents at risk of – or suffering from – social isolation.


 

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