Why Senior Living Communities Should Have Committed & Innovative Leadership
Senior living has many aspects; the care, the rooms, the food, the activities and more. While all of these components are important for residents to evaluate, there’s one component that has gained new attention in recent years — the facility’s leadership team.
Quality Care Starts with People
It’s impossible to assess a senior living community for a loved one without considering its people, particularly how the leadership relates to the facility’s staff and caregivers. But how do you assess these folks during your tours, especially when they occur on a virtual basis? How can you trust your feelings without an established relationship yet?
Assessment 1: Turnover
Continuity of staff is an important way to answer these questions, says Brendan W. Williams, M.A., J.D., President & CEO of the New Hampshire Health Care Association. “Too often, we see undercapitalized assisted living facilities open with a ‘if you build it, they will come’ philosophy toward staffing,” Williams explains. With such financial pressure on a community, Williams believes there will always be, “an inevitable imperative to shortchange care in order to balance the books,” and when it comes to entrusting the care of your loved one, shortchanging care is not an ideal operational philosophy.
“In contrast,” Williams continues, “you see a company like Benchmark that can tout real statistics of ways we’ve reduced employee turnover.” Turnover is a huge challenge in the “people department” of all senior living communities, so any community that has reduced it is worth noticing.
Assessment 2: Open a Conversation
Another way to measure the people that comprise a community? Talk to them.
Engaging with those who have had residential experiences in a facility — whether for themselves or a loved one — is a great way to acquire information to make a decision, Williams says. “There are so many options, and yet there is no way to truly compare ‘quality’ of facilities (aside from arbitrary, imprecise star ratings),” he says. “As one writer notes, ‘A personal recommendation is always better than not.’”
Leadership Must Cater to the Residents of Today
Nowadays, prospective residents and their families are more inclined to do research on senior living communities before visiting, examining factors like reviews, amenities and the backgrounds of the company and key personnel. Much of this information is only a Google search away, empowering families to make more educated choices about where their loved one lives.
When families meet with the personnel of the senior living communities virtually or in person, they’ll likely come prepared with a list of questions — some of which will pertain to the background of senior managers as well as the composition of the board of directors.
The Facility’s Leaders Should Share Your Values
Even if residents do not ask questions about organizational leadership and stability, senior living providers should have answers to these questions readily available. For undecided residents, it could be a good selling point to describe the scope and sophistication of the organization. For instance, Benchmark Senior Living puts a lot of focus on having quality leadership, professional Executive Directors, a board of directors that gives genuine oversight, and a business structure that is stable. Having this information readily available to share with potential residents is one distinguishing factor that can help them decide that a Benchmark community is right for them.
Takeaways: Best “People” Practices from Brendan Williams
A community that cares about its people will be focused on creating a homelike atmosphere and avoiding an institutional feel, says Williams. “If you asked me whether I would prefer to go to a ‘minute clinic’ or an ER, my answer would, of course, be the former, even though an ER has its place. Likewise, assisted living works best when people feel supported, not treated as patients, Williams adds. In order to connect with a facility’s people, Williams suggests:
- Looking for the community’s efforts to attract and retain high-quality staff
- Seeking personal recommendations from friends, family and current residents
- Building close relationships with your points of contact throughout the process
Expert leadership is critical to ensuring senior living facilities are structured in a way that is beneficial to both residents and employees. Boards of directors must prioritize quality of care and have a strong interest in having a positive impact on the senior living space. Similarly, senior management must be committed to the industry, having accumulated strong relevant experience that will enable them to understand the key issues impacting the senior living and eldercare industries today.