Guest Columns

Music a vital element in enhancing resident experience

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Anthony Cirillo
Anthony Cirillo

Some readers may be aware that I entered my mission for elders through an interesting path — entertainment. While a hospital executive by day in Philadelphia I was also a full- time entertainer at night in resorts and casinos. When I left that scene, I one day found myself in a nursing home singing for residents. Some 2,000 performances later, it remains one of the most fulfilling things I do.

It has occurred to me that hospitals' interest in this area is a business opportunity for you. 

As you look to partner with hospitals, perhaps you might consider the expertise you have in activities as another value-added service that would make you attractive to them.

Here are some key points from a Beryl Institute white paper called “Enhancing the patient experience through live entertainment.” They may sound familiar to you veterans of activities.

  • Complete a needs assessment and make a decision that the inclusion of live entertainment is an important objective for the organization.

  • Start small. It's important to slowly ramp up this program as you learn what works and doesn't work.
  • There might be a tendency to tuck this responsibility under volunteer services, but it should be under the Patient Experience Leader.  P.S. I actually believe that the activities director position should be renamed Chief Experience Officer.

  • The next issue to tackle is whether the organization will administer this entertainment program internally or whether it will partner with an outside arts group. 

  • Senior citizens like music that helps them remember good times. They like to hear popular music from when they were younger. Seniors also like music their children like. For example, music from the Beatles catalog goes over well. (I perform everything from Sinatra to Bruno Mars if the theme calls for it!)

  • Bright colors and action work well in a senior setting.
  • People in assisted living and nursing homes do not get enough credit for discerning tastes. They know good entertainment when they see and hear it.  I may have put my two cents worth of advice to this point, as I believe it passionately. Respect your residents' tastes and hire good entertainers.
  • Prep your entertainers well so they understand the kind of reactions they might get from your patient population. A smile by an elderly patient, rather than applause, may mean the show has been a smashing success for that individual. Interacting with the audience before and after the show is an essential component of the experience.

What do you think? You know most of this, right? The important part to realize is how activities are not an afterthought but a vital part of the care experience, and thereby the marketing and branding of the organization. People talk to others about great experiences.

Anthony Cirillo, FACHE, ABC, president of Fast Forward Consulting, is a speaker, healthcare expert, elder advocate and blogger. He works with long-term care facilities in the area of resident experience and strategic marketing.

Guest Columns

Guest columns are written by long-term care industry experts, ranging from academics and thought leaders to administrators and CEOs.