One goal that Linked Senior has had since it began is to find ways to collaborate with residents and caregiving staff so that purposeful engagement can happen each day. As Linked Senior grew as a company it became increasingly clear that this kind of engagement was only possible when providers came to understand the true value of measuring engagement. Management consultant Peter Drucker said it best: “What gets measured, gets improved.” The question for providers is, what should be measured? And what is the difference between authentic engagement compared to time-filling activities? Providers know that engagement needs to be person-centered, promote well-being, be easily implemented and purposeful. To know how well we are doing in each of those areas, it is helpful to use the three steps outlined below.
Sometimes there is pushback when we talk to providers about the value of data, especially when it comes to tracking attendance and program participation. Some providers say that counting participants entering a room is no way to measure engagement. The truth is though, counting attendance is the first step toward truly providing the most meaningful type of care for older adults. If this step is skipped, some residents could be missing out on meaningful engagement which could lead to isolation and other negative health outcomes. Assisted living, memory care and skilled nursing facility providers must measure engagement, because family members, caregivers and regulators now expect it.
The second step is about being authentic and that means being trustworthy as well as factual. As always, this is where quantity and quality comes into play, and in our discipline it starts by actually knowing the residents and providing our staff with adequate tools, training and time, so they can provide authentic engagement opportunities. Measurement should include carefully assessing resident needs, planning individualized engagement activities, implementing that plan and evaluating success. Providers should measure their success, for every single resident, in real-time and make adjustments as needed without delay. At the end of the day, what is measured can then be improved, and every provider should commit to consistently improving and optimizing the care they offer.
Focusing on authenticity helps us understand the quality of engagement and that can be done by measuring satisfaction of residents when they can express themselves. The challenge often comes though, when they cannot. When this is the case, we then need to train our staff to better understand how well they are doing when it comes to meaningfully engaging the resident. They could do this by tracking eye movement, witnessing the calming impact of engagement on a resident’s behavior expression or observing a change in a resident’s body movements. To do this effectively providers must make time for training frontline staff and providing them with adequate support. Fortunately, most providers are taking this approach and have drastically improved in the past years.
The recipe for person-centered, meaningful resident engagement contains two essential ingredients. First, engagement opportunities a provider offers must be based on a comprehensive understanding of the needs and preferences of each resident in their care. Second, a data-driven approach must be used to assess the success of engagement activities on positively impacting the health and well-being of each resident. Ultimately, the success of products and services that address well-being depends on how well a provider collaborated with residents to understand what exactly they need to live purposefully each day.
The third and final step in achieving authentic resident engagement is measuring how well we collaborate with the older adults we serve. By taking a data driven approach to engagement, tracking attendance and training staff to measure the quality of engagement, providers are able to complete this step. We could even think of a scoring system that can determine how well a community is meeting the preferences of the residents they serve and how a higher score would certainly correlate with higher quality of life and better clinical and financial outcomes.