Who decides what you have for lunch? You do. Who decides when you make a phone call? You do. What about what kind of sheets you sleep on? You guessed it—that’s you, too. These questions may seem silly, probably because you take it for granted that you have control over every aspect of your life. And that’s how it should always be, even as you age.
Autonomy, choice and decision-making are things that we may take for granted as adults. For older adults who need some extra support, complete autonomy isn’t always possible. Senior living communities relieve their residents of some decisions in order to create an environment that is safe and optimal for their health. For example, bedrooms and bathrooms may have some extra bells and whistles that you wouldn’t necessarily choose for yourself, but they help keep senior living residents safe. And meals may happen at specific times to encourage socialization and help the home operate more efficiently. That being said, there is a lot that can and should be done to ensure that residents maintain as much independence as possible.
Make the most of your Resident Council.
Federal law requires that senior living communities allow residents to form and hold regular private meetings of an organized group, called a Resident Council. Above and beyond what’s required by law, fully utilizing your resident representatives can both empower them with some of the independence and decision rights that they may have lost physically, and provide a source for ideas that management may not think of. This group should be encouraged to discuss everything from dining options to recreational activities, group outings and other services. And whenever possible, their wishes should be made a reality.
Put their faces front and center.
On the website, in brochures, on social media and in blog content. Not only does this show authenticity for the senior living provider, but it shows your residents and their families that you’re proud to have them.
Help them connect.
By getting to know the people living in your senior living community—their histories, families and interests—you can help them connect with other people who may have experiences or interests in common. When someone new moves in, they might be overwhelmed and intimidated. In addition to the admissions crew, it can help to select several resident ambassadors who welcome newbies and helping them find their fellow history buffs, walking enthusiasts, or maybe even someone from their hometown. Making connections can help ease the transition for new residents, and further empower those that already live there.
As we age, many of us require extra support and care to make up what we lose physically and cognitively. There is an incredible opportunity for senior living providers to seize their role, not only as caregivers, but as a true support system for resident independence, allowing residents to feel like they have as much choice and control as possible.