Several years ago, I published an article addressing the long-term care industry’s need to focus on developing relationships to enhance care. The impetus of the article was that employers must be relational in their leadership approach to sustain a positive workplace culture. When frontline staff members are satisfied and engaged, they, in turn, are more likely to provide even better care to aging residents on senior living campuses.
Fast forward to present day, and this still remains true. We also now are attempting to sustain loyal resident and family relationships amid the larger challenge of a shrinking workforce caused by the swell of baby boomers and severely reduced numbers of next-generation workers.
Select labor markets have managed to rebound post pandemic, whereas others remain challenged by an environment of increasing wage costs, inflationary expenses that outpace reimbursement and a shortage of uniquely qualified workers, particularly caregivers.
Those challenges are driving many senior living and care providers to implement innovative ideas to bridge the gap. Choosing between the competing demands on our staff members’ time while also promoting the personal touches necessary to sustain relationships between residents and families can be daunting, to say the least.
In search of a solution, CHI Living Communities has embraced innovation to meet the needs of a growing segment of savvy older adults, connecting them with their families and our care team through the use of smart home devices.
In partnership with Amazon Alexa for Senior Living and Serenity Connect, for instance, we have piloted Engage devices for approximately 20% of our senior living residents, with plans to expand because of popular demand and satisfied users. We see a world where aging service providers, older adults and their loved ones collaboratively provide care together. Why?
With a 91% utilization rate among residents at our Gardens at St. Elizabeth independent living, assisted living and memory care campus in Denver, we have seen numerous benefits, such as:
- A 40% reduction in staff turnover, minimally equivalent to a $54,000 savings annually;
- Improved care, with three providers per communication channel;
- A savings of three to five work hours per week per employee, including freeing up clinical leaders by five to 10 hours weekly; and
- Increased communication among 565 family members with their residents and our staff members.
Thanks in part to the interoperability of a variety of new smart home devices such as Serenity Connect, current trends suggest that older adults increasingly will seek to age in place. Moreover, those technologic advances will enable them to work with any number of community-based organizations for remote patient-monitoring and virtual care provided in their own homes.
Although some individuals still may have the misperception that technology impedes interpersonal relationships, CHI Living Communities leaders and frontline staff have witnessed the opposite, firsthand. Based on the successful use of telehealth medicine during the pandemic and beyond, some of our residents have remarked that this technology is reminiscent of physician house calls!
My current duties include implementing the American Hospital Association’s Age-Friendly framework across CHI Living Communities’ parent company, CommonSpirit Health. As a co-leader of this massive undertaking and someone who has been a long-term care leader for nearly 30 years, I realize the crucial importance of its “4 M’s” when providing evidence-based healthcare to aging adults: what matters, medication, mentation and mobility.
What matters most to older adults is staying connected to family, friends and caregivers, because socialization has such significant psychosocial benefits while maintaining health, as well as throughout the healing process.
We are quite pleased to offer Serenity Connect to our Gardens of St. Elizabeth residents, their families and our caregivers, and we look forward to implementing it at our other senior living campuses throughout the United States. Not only does this technology give us marketplace advantage, but — much more importantly — it positions us to provide even better care to seniors.
Prentice O. Lipsey is president and CEO of CHI Living Communities.
The opinions expressed in each McKnight’s Senior Living guest column are those of the author and are not necessarily those of McKnight’s Senior Living.
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