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 Assisted Living Solutions For the Baby Boomer Challenge Ahead

MARCH 2015

Rob Gotto

 

A real crisis is looming on the horizon: to meet the needs of the some 78 million baby boomers as they age and begin needing senior care services. Assisted living providers can face this challenge, however, given their unique position within the senior care industry. Today about 1 million people receive services in thousands of assisted living centers nationwide in a homelike environment—at a lower cost than their nursing home counterparts. Continuing this trend will be instrumental to meeting the needs of baby boomers.
 

One Service Does Not Fit All

Providing quality care to this group begins with having the staff to perform the daily tasks necessary for quality care. One way for centers to attract staff to  is to focus on the care they provide to the tenants.  A “tenant-centered” approach—seeking input and allowing residents to drive care choices—appeals to both tenants and staff.
Assisted living centers provide more to tenants than the obvious assistance with their daily living activities. These centers are a community unto themselves, where tenants interact socially, enjoy activities, care for each other, and promote independence. All aspects of care and life within assisted living must not only center on what  tenants need and want but also on when they want to receive it. Allowing tenants choices bestows upon them the dignity and the control over their own care they deserve. This whole process creates a happy  tenant who is easier to care for than one who is not—and a happy staff, thereby reducing staff turnover.
 

Happy Staff, Happy (Work) Life

Another approach to hiring and retaining qualified staff is best achieved through building a culture in which having relationships with tenants is encouraged. Facilities must become  a good place to live and  a great place to work.
Providers must promote the concept that spending quality time with tenants is as important to the overall health and well-being of a tenant as is assisting with their daily living activities. This can be a hard step for some providers to take if they look at this time as being “nonproductive.”
Just as important as the relationship with the tenants, providers must also develop caring relationships with their employees. Building sound  relationships with the staff they hire is vital to an assisted living facility’s ability to find and retain staff. Many employees value a nontoxic working environment over salary. When employees know their employer cares about them as individuals, they are more apt to not only stay on but also do good work.
 

Core Values

A necessary part of building this relationship with employees is for providers to develop a set of core values, as   Orange City Area Health System (OCAHS) in Orange City, Iowa, exemplifies.
OCAHS creates an environment that encourages positive relationships between employees, customers, and administration. The organization’s core values comprise of:
 
  • Integrity: Exhibit honest, ethical behavior and “Do the Right Thing.”
  • Commitment to Excellence: Strive to be the best at what we do.
  • Dedicated Colleagues: Commit to an environment of respect, pride, and joy.
  • Extraordinary Customer Experience: Provide a healing environment for our patients and their families.
By developing and committing to a set of core values, interested parties know what is expected, miscommunication is minimized,, and care is centered on the tenant.
 

Business And Tech Savvy

The goal of any tenant-centered facility should be to provide care the tenants need in an environment as similar as possible to the home they left . Activities and care must be provided with the flexibility to meet individuals’ needs and desires. To this end, any tenant-centered program needs new technology. Technology should be introduced into existing facilities and built into new ones for access not only by the tenants that live within the facility, but for access by all who visit. If it is possible in a private home, it must be possible in an assisted living facility.
Employees want to work in an exciting, innovative, and caring environment. It is essential that facilities be designed and remodeled to not only provide for the care and social needs of the elderly today, but also for the future.
 

Challenge Accepted

Meeting the challenge baby boomers pose to senior care providers will be demanding, but there is hope. All levels of the senior care spectrum will need to be fully involved to provide not only the best care to baby boomers, but also to do so in a fiscally responsible manner. Assisted living providers need to maximize their potential to relieve the financial and service burden placed on the nation’s long term care facilities.
Assisted living providers are uniquely positioned to meet what the market demands of them. Assisted living remains a service-driven industry that is not completely handcuffed by local, state, and federal regulations that can limit how providers meet the desires of their customers. Customers within each individual community are unique with their own set of expectations. Assisted living facilities offer a flexible environment to meet individual market demands at the level baby boomers expect. By taking advantage of diverse financing sources and providing cost-effective care, by retaining staff, by placing staff in positions best suited to their strengths, and by effecting customer volume through health management and preventive programs, assisted living providers will meet the challenge of baby boomers of today and the challenges of tomorrow.
 
Rob Gotto is assisted living manager at Landsmeer Ridge Retirement Community in Orange City, Iowa. Gotto can be reached at GOTTOR@ochealthsystem.org.
 
 
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