Budgets in facilities are tight, and priorities are often set so that funding supports sales-driving departments like marketing.

Since the activities department is not necessarily considered a revenue generating entity in the organization, a budget may not be allocated in a way that addresses the most pressing needs of the staff. Activities staff will receive funding to support optimization of tools like their engagement calendar, but may not have the monetary assistance needed to help them address core resident engagement needs.

Fortunately, activity directors are not shy about discussing the types of tools and funding they believe are necessary to truly optimize resident engagement in their communities. Linked Senior uncovered in a 2018 national survey of more than 300 activity directors, that more than half of survey participants across all care settings indicated that the most challenging part of their job is documentation. Paper-based documentation processes can prevent them from having the time they need to get to know residents and engage them in a meaningful way.

According to activity directors, the top three priorities for resident engagement funding are:

1. Planning – When it comes to developing an activity calendar, hosting themed group events and identifying residents who are most in need of one-on-one engagement, life enrichment professionals are facing daily obstacles.

When there is on average one engagement staff person for every 60 residents in a community, activity professionals are hard pressed to deliver the quality one-on-one engagement they want to for residents in their care. If funding was directed toward supportive digital technology, staff would be able to more efficiently and accurately channel engagement opportunities to those who are most at risk, saving time and maximizing resources available.

2. Leading Programs –  An important part of an activity director’s work is guiding and participating with residents in planned engagement activities each day. Creating the most meaningful types of programs can be difficult as each resident has different needs, interests and levels of physical and/or cognitive ability. The only way to truly optimize and individualize engagement for residents is to have funding allocated  to specifically support the tools staff need to succeed in their work. It’s no secret that quality engagement correlates with better quality of life for all residents, longer lengths of stay, a lower cost of providing care, and higher satisfaction for all stakeholders. It is a smart investment for any community to provide funding to the life enrichment department so that person-centered engagement opportunities can flourish.

3. Documentation –  One ongoing frustration for activity professionals is the time it takes to complete care plans, take notes, and monitor participation, especially when these tasks are paper-based. Linked Senior found that staff members who used primarily paper-based methods of documentation also struggled to have time to optimize their assessment, planning, implementation, and evaluation of engagement activities for each resident in their care. A funding priority in this area should be that a community allows staff to have digital technology support that allows for ready-to-use engagement activities that can also simultaneously track attendance and participation so that the unique needs and preferences of each resident are respected.

It is time to prioritize resident engagement funding. Not only will this mean that every resident in a community is receiving the most meaningful and helpful type of care based on their unique needs and preferences, but it also improves a company’s bottom line by increasing satisfaction and maintaining occupancy. Communities can intentionally set aside funding that supports a dynamic toolbox of engagement activities, supported with digital technology, that allows staff members to track resident engagement in real-time and make adjustments based on their changing needs and preferences each day. This type of tool provides a roadmap for the staff member to follow as they craft their resident engagement care plans. Just as a school teacher needs a curriculum to structure their time and ensure students are receiving the attention they need, so does an activity director need tools to optimize their engagement strategy so each resident in the community can live each day with meaning and purpose.

Charles de Vilmorin is the CEO and co-founder of Linked Senior.