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Look for the Resident Experience When Choosing a Long-Term Care Home

Posted Feb 03 2009 1:08am

I had the opportunity to write an article for Health Leaders entitled The Chief Experience Officer that looked at having someone in a hospital or long term care facility responsible for how the health care experience is delivered, spiritually, physically, clinically. As a marketer, I wrote it simply to support the notion that if you provide a great experience for people, they will talk about it. Simple, no brainer, word of mouth marketing is the cheapest and best marketing of all. As a result of that article the Cleveland Clinic created just such a position.

I contend that not all nursing homes can afford to be or will be one of The Eden Alternative’s Green Houses where residents are truly residents in a home and the care is a secondary but vital part of that environment. But I do believe that nursing homes need (and some are) to change their approach to residents so that it is about their needs, on their time, at their convenience.

Sunny Hill Nursing Home in Joliet, IL is one example of a facility that is changing and was written about in The Chicago Tribune January 28.

Schedules once rigid are now flexible. Residents decide when to wake, eat, bathe and exercise. Residents have one assigned nurse and residents and their families can have input about who they want as caretakers. Residents also can have a say as to who is hired.

“No duh” you might say, isn’t that the way things are supposed to be? Well sorta. Nursing homes are perceived as too much like being a hospital for the long term and not a place to live another chapter in your life in quality.

The Commonwealth Fund reported last year that a third of the country's roughly 16,000 nursing homes have adopted cultural-change practices and that another quarter are moving in that direction. The federal government has now included a segment on cultural change in Guide to Choosing a Nursing Home.

The physical additions are all contributing to the experience as well, creating a soothing environment and one that encourages socialization. And because of these additions the facility has actually reduced their capacity to 238 beds from 300.

So when you are evaluating nursing and assisted living facilities, consider the experience.

· Are specific care-givers assigned to residents?

· Can residents and families choose their care-givers?

· Can residents do things on their schedule?

· Do residents have a say in hiring, even interviewing or meeting candidates?

· Does the physical environment support the resident experience?

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