In senior care, activity directors are often underpaid, overworked, lacking respect from colleagues and asked to document their work each day using cumbersome paper-based strategies. A national Linked Senior survey of more than 300 activity directors uncovered that more than half of survey participants indicated that documentation is the most challenging part of their work and frequently prevents them from spending time getting to know residents and engaging them in a meaningful way.
The need for a Chief Engagement Officer (CEO) in senior care is clear. When a community selects their CEO, they show that they are committed to upholding person-centered engagement by optimizing all personal interactions a resident may experience throughout their day. The CEO’s true potential cannot be unlocked without the development of a comprehensive network of ongoing education opportunities, training support and valuing the work of those who engage residents each day. According to the Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute’s recent report, “Growing a Strong Direct Care Workforce,” a company with a “recognition-rich culture” experience 31% lower turnover rates than their peers and 80% of employees overall report that recognition is an important component of their performance on the job.
Activity directors face a daily struggle and often find themselves buried in paper-based documentation that severely limits their ability to concentrate on individualized and therapeutic engagement strategies that could decrease the need for antipsychotic prescriptions. According to the 2017 AARP Long-Term Services and Supports State Scorecard Report, more than one out of every six nursing home residents is still being prescribed potentially harmful antipsychotic medications. When activity directors are elevated to the ‘CEO’ level they will have access to ongoing education, financial resources and respect from colleagues that will support the training they conduct across departments about evidence-based, technology-supported engagement tools.
Some of the most high quality tools available today for these professionals include:
- Rob Winningham offers continuing education courses, webinars and community presentations to support the professional advancement of staff in senior living communities so that they can increase quality of life for their residents;
- Activity Connection offers NCCAP/NAAPCC continuing education credits for courses created as a resource to Activity professionals;
- The National Certification Council for Activity Professionals (NCCAP) is committed to supporting quality of care and quality of life and has trained over 150,000 individuals.
The benefits of elevating this position are numerous: from achieving better person-centered care to enabling the provider to easily see measurable results in terms of occupancy, length of stay and satisfaction. These types of outcomes are currently being highlighted in a clinical study. Linked Senior has partnered with Responsive Health Management, Inc. and Western Oregon University on a year-long clinical research project funded by the Centre for Aging and Brain Health Innovation and the Baycrest Foundation. Updates on this exciting study can be found here.
Ultimately, the goal in senior care is to respect all older adults and in so doing, build a better society. We have launched the Old People Are Cool project to confront the harmful ageism we believe prevents our communities from reaching their maximum potential. The project aims to support intergenerational collaboration and encourage person-centered life enrichment for older adults and their care partners.
Charles de Vilmorin is the CEO and co-founder of Linked Senior.