November 1, 2021
Occupancy is trending up in all sectors of senior living—from assisted living to independent living and skilled nursing—but so are staffing challenges. Communities that continue to wrestle with staff turnover may not fare well as occupancy rates recover. Low staffing levels can impact the overall community experience, making it harder to attract move-ins, retain existing census, and recruit more workers.
Senior living staff are integral to community culture and the overall resident experience. With a right-sized, motivated team, communities can offer consistent resident experiences that satisfy every senior and give families peace of mind that their loved ones are in a great place.
However, the reality is that most communities face severe labor shortages and must do more with less. Helping residents with activities of daily living (ADLs) and keeping them safe is the baseline. But communities must also ensure that resident engagement, one of senior living’s core offerings, remains consistent and robust. To that end, organizations can leverage technology as a workforce multiplier that not only compensates for limited staff but also enhances resident life and workforce engagement.
Staff turnover has always been high in senior living, but the pandemic has exacerbated this condition. Many workers have had to wear many hats, follow complicated infection control protocols, and endure heavy workloads that don’t give them quality time with residents. Working longer shifts and sometimes covering for team members to ensure residents had the support they needed for ADLs can lead to burnout. Inevitably, when burnout sets in, employee morale plummets, valuable workers depart, and the quality of resident experience declines.
By default, many senior living communities turn to temporary staffing to tackle labor shortages—especially to provide coverage for evenings and weekends. Temporary staff members, however, are often difficult to integrate into community workflows so that teamwork among community personnel happens organically. Plus, they do not have familiar relationships with the residents, and these are often difficult to establish if they lack access to resident preference data. In these circumstances, person-centered approaches are not likely to happen. Plus, the revolving door of care workers makes the community feel less friendly, stable, and secure—less like home. As a result, seniors are more likely to feel lonely or isolated.
Why Consistency in Resident Engagement Matters
Enriching engagement and social connections can be an enduring safeguard against loneliness and social isolation. Residents don’t respond well when their care team is inconsistent and enrichment programming is interrupted and not comprehensive or tailored to their interests. They need a full schedule of activities as well as opportunities to pursue their interests independently. They also need ways to connect with family and friends outside the community via video calling, messaging, or phone to have uplifting moments during their day. Often, staff are too busy to facilitate these connections.
Typically, the Activities Team works on a Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. schedule. However, seniors’ daily needs for enriching, personalized engagement extends throughout the week and well into evenings and weekends. In fact, many executive directors have indicated that after-hours engagement is their community’s biggest challenge. It is during these times that resident behaviors tend to become challenging. Residents might get bored or depressed and become aggressive as they act out their frustrations. Seniors living with dementia are more likely to become agitated at these times, as many of them experience sundowning and may require redirection.
Labor shortages have made communities more focused on the standard tasks surrounding caregiving (such as ADLs), which means consistent, meaningful engagement is often on the backburner until conditions improve. However, seniors’ overall well-being can’t be adequately supported without consistent and engaging life enrichment programming.
How iN2L Helps
iN2L helps your community make the most of the staff resources you do have to make resident engagement as dynamic and pervasive as possible. The intuitively designed touch screen systems feature more than 5,000 content applications and are the ideal tool to help any staff member—even brand new, non-activity, or agency staff—easily create person-centered, meaningful, and fulfilling engagement experiences for residents and themselves.
Digital profiles that streamline connections
Resident and staff profiles can quickly help users become familiar with who’s who in the community and understand individual interests and preferences. That means staff and volunteers, whether they’re new to the community or have been there for years, will be able to call each resident by their name and understand their background, interests, what motivates them, and which activities they enjoy most. With these detailed profiles, staff members have easy access to the information they need to provide individualized, person-centered experiences to each resident. These digital profiles also include contact information for family and friends outside the community, so staff can easily facilitate video calling, messaging, and photo sharing. With senior-friendly iN2L tablets, residents can reach out to their contacts independently.
Flexibility to engage anywhere
iN2L systems come in several configurations—from wall-mounted units, which can be used for large group activities in a dedicated activity room, to mobile systems and tablets, which can be used throughout the community for individual and small group engagement. Communities with multiple types of systems can run engagement activities with multiple groups concurrently.
Easy access to the right content
iN2L content on all systems is also searchable, so staff can easily find the content residents like and get them started on an activity. They can then spend more time interacting with seniors or completing other tasks while seniors have fun together. Plus, it’s easy to configure Quick Start scenario buttons for specific situations—for example, Sundowning, After Dinner Music, Holidays, Volunteers—so that new staff, agency staff, and non-activities team members can seamlessly get the appropriate activities started.
Create Greater Success for Your Community
Families are once again turning to the senior living industry to care for their elders. Make sure your community gets a piece of the action.
For long-term business success, it’s essential that residents and families are satisfied with your community. Engagement technology like iN2L makes this possible, while also empowering your staff with tools that make their jobs easier and more fulfilling. When you consider that communities with happier employees can charge a 5% premium and have a 2% higher occupancy rate, it makes sense to immediately start leveraging this solution throughout your community. To learn more about current trends and market intelligence that can help you transform resident engagement, read The New Business Case for Engagement Technology in Senior Living.