Resident walking with caregiver
(Credit: Ridofranz / Getty Images)

A program designed to ease the transition between home and senior living community life is providing new residents with a sense of comfort while building relationships.

Angie Frantz, Expressions memory care product manager at Vancouver, WA-based Prestige Care, presented on the Prestige Ambassador Liaison Services, or PALS, program at the recent International Council on Active Aging 20th Annual Conference, Leadership Summit and Expo.

New memory care, assisted living and independent living residents in Prestige Senior Living’s 42 communities are assigned a staff Prestige ambassador to act as a partner. Frantz told McKnight’s Senior Living that ambassadors build relationships with residents, act as trusted resources and provide extra attention to those who might need additional focus or follow up.

The program, she said, was created to take a proactive approach to providing a positive experience to new residents by understanding and addressing their initial concerns. It also allows the community to learn more about a resident’s unique needs and give that resident a sense of purpose.

“The PALS program has proven to be extremely successful in ensuring the care, comfort and well-being of our new residents as they navigate through the transition between home and community,” Frantz said.

PALs program hits pandemic refresh

woman holding welcome rose
A new Prestige Senior Living resident receives a welcome rose through the Prestige PALS program (Image credit: Prestige Senior Living)

The program actually launched in a small group of communities in 2015 but was given a refresh this year as the industry began emerging from lockdowns and move-ins began to pick up. As part of that refresh, Frantz said, the company made the process more personalized and person-centered.

“The pandemic has been a difficult time for senior living in general and growing census,” she said. “We want to make sure they feel that warm, welcoming feeling when they come into our communities.”

PALS are assigned by executive directors or community relations directors from a community’s enrichment team — life enrichment directors, maintenance directors, dining services managers, health services directors, etc. 

Those ambassadors work with new residents over their first six to eight weeks, providing a welcome basket and arranging a “welcome home” party each month for the newest residents. 

The program now also includes residents as assistant PALS, joining staff ambassadors as part of the welcoming team.

“We found one of the areas that we really want to help residents when they move in is to make new friends. It’s part of our wellness outlook,” Frantz said. “Residents want to feel purposeful. This is a way to express themselves and share some of their own needs and feelings as they move from their homes into a new community setting.”

Putting the welcome in welcome home

During the first week of residence for an older adult, ambassadors work from a deck of question cards to gauge how things are going. Questions can be about whether a resident is sleeping, whether he or she is comfortable, whether he or she feels safe and whether he or she believes he or she is receiving appropriate attention from the care and medication staff. PALS also offer tours to expose new residents to their new spaces.

“Those kinds of questions, when you have the answers, you can immediately address if there is a concern and get those taken care of right away so the resident feels safe during the transition from home to their new home,” Frantz said. “We’re always looking to give more personalized care. Our mission is to personally touch lives everyday, and the PALS program is part of that.”

Frantz said the program also has resulted in “closing the back door” with move-outs.

“It helps residents feel acclimated to a community — this is their new home and they feel comfortable there and feel comfortable aging and living in place there,” she said. 

Closing the loop on employee turnover

Another new aspect of the program Prestige rolled out this year targets managing employee turnover.

PALS are now assigned to new staff members who follow a similar question pattern over a new employee’s first 100 days. Frantz said that the provider created a deck of cards with questions and information to share with new employees to help them feel comfortable and thriving in their new roles.

“If you can keep a new staff member for 100 days, they’ll probably stay with you,” Frantz said.

PALS mentors, in most cases, are lead medical technicians or caregivers who can work alongside new employees “to make them feel safe in the job they are doing and understand what it entails.” New staff members working in memory care units, she added, are provided additional training by their PALS mentors.