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A caregiver spends time with several residents in a senior living organization.

How to Improve Engagement for Residents Living with Dementia

Each day I talk to providers across the country about the obstacles they face each day that prevent them from creating enough 1:1 engagement. For me, it is an indication that we have a long way to go if we want to fully support our residents, especially the ones living with cognitive change or dementia. Barriers that these communities are confronted with include staffing issues, residents needing increased attention, and time-consuming documentation or administrative work. These challenges are real, but we must persevere to ensure that every resident finds purpose each day through  meaningful engagement opportunities matched to their personal interests.

For one person, meaningful interaction might be  the chance to join a large group of their peers in a game of jeopardy in a shared space of the community. On the other hand, another resident may want to have an in-depth, one-on-one conversation with a staff member. Neither one of these examples is better than the other, they are simply two ways of engaging an individual based on their unique needs and preferences.

Since every resident has their own interests and needs, their reasons for needing 1:1 engagement will vary. For some, being in a social setting all the time isn’t ideal and they would rather engage with just one or two others in a private setting. This is especially true for residents who may be living with cognitive change where a quiet 1:1 setting with the opportunity to engage with just one person at a time can be calming. 

If you are ready to improve resident engagement, especially for those living with dementia, here are three steps for creating a successful 1:1 strategy.

1. Prioritize the Person

Resident engagement should focus on a holistic approach that uses person-centered strategies and tools to advance individual wellness as a priority. More and more providers are beginning to pay close attention to the importance of a multidimensional approach to wellness for a resident’s quality of life. 

2. Measure What Matters

The optimization of resident engagement can lead to a number of benefits for a community, but it is dependent on whether a provider is collecting actionable data that can help them increase the quality of life for residents. Data can help a provider explain how they are engaging the older adults they serve and if they have been successful. A good example of the power of data collection can be seen in a Linked Senior case study published in partnership with Juniper Village at Brookline in State College, Pennsylvania. The community was able to increase the number of engagement programs offered by 145% in one year thanks to real-time analysis and measurement made possible with digital technology. 

3. Invest in Teamwork

For an activity or life enrichment department to be successful it needs the support of team members across all departments. Providing authentic resident engagement must be an organization-wide strategy in which programming staff collaborate with other teams. Linked Senior is proud to offer a Champions for Change webinar series that provides free education on how to provide meaningful engagement no matter what department you work in. 

Success is possible when providers support staff members in finding ways to provide meaningful one-on-one activities for residents at the highest risk of loneliness and isolation. To deliver on the promise of a person-centered care experience, communities first need to admit that one of their common struggles is providing this type of engagement. Once they acknowledge this they can begin to develop a comprehensive plan for optimizing individual programming. A new decade of resident engagement is beginning and the goal should be to offer authentic engagement for every resident, especially activities that are one-on-one in nature.

Check out Linked Senior’s latest white paper, A New Decade of Authentic Resident Engagement, to learn more.

March 5, 2020