Engagement in long-term care and senior living is a team sport: everyone collaborates with residents to honor their preferences so they live each day with purpose. 

There has been much progress in this regard, and we are seeing many promising innovations. 

Community websites often promise the best, personalized and therapeutic engagement. But despite best efforts, there are often gaps between what is promised and what is delivered. 

And sometimes, working in activities can feel a bit chaotic. It can be difficult to access data and the tools we need. The demographics themselves add to the challenge, as 80% or more of residents are living with some form of cognitive change, 45% or more struggle with depression, and 14% are taking unnecessary antipsychotic drugs. 

Our data, based on surveys of more than 300 activity professionals between October and December of 2023, has been able to track engagement that shows some promising progress. 

In 2023, we saw an average engagement of 29 minutes per day per resident compared to 2022. This isn’t enough, but it’s dramatically better. Elsewhere, there was a 33% increase in the number of contacts per day from 2022 to 2023. This is a significant increase, and we expect to see this trend continue in 2024. 

Decline ratios, which measure the percentage of programs offered versus the percentage of residents who decline to participate, jumped a whopping 55% from 2022 to 2023. 

Additional results from our surveys show both progress and opportunities:

  • When asked how frequently they collaborate with their sales and marketing department, 34% said weekly, 27% said monthly, and 19% said never. We really should be meeting weekly or at least having quick check-ins. Smart marketing teams know the value of activities. The more collaboration, the better.
  • When asked how frequently they discuss resident and family satisfaction with their administrator or executive director, 30% said weekly, 25% said daily, and 10% said never. Again, weekly is a good goal.
  • When asked if they get help from their clinical/care department with managing behaviors, 77% said yes, 11% said no, and 12% reported N/A. Activities need to be elevated to the level of clinical, and it is important to drive true collaboration. It’s great that we’ve seen such progress in this regard.
  • When asked what they are using to track attendance, 34% said paper, 55% said technology and 11% said they aren’t tracking it. While it is promising that over half are using some technology to track engagement since there are so many good – and often inexpensive – tools out there, these numbers should go up moving forward.

Going forward, what we see for the future is the concept of social prescription. This is part of person-directed living and means collaboration between clinical and activities professionals. Social prescriptions involve things such as physicians prescribing time spent with pets or nature. These are sometimes as good as medications. Everyone wins when we make engagement a primary modality. This is where we are headed — to a place where we truly enable person-directed living.

Your path toward progress

There are a few other trends on our radar. Among them, while staffing will continue to present challenges, we will see ongoing efforts to optimize staffing in ways that support residents and promote resident engagement. We also will continue to see a growing role of technology, and we need to understand the many tech solutions out there. 

Key performance indicators (KPIs), a type of performance measurement that helps evaluate the success of an organization’s activities and efforts, are important to establish benchmarks and track progress. KPIs show how to direct your efforts.

In the end, there are three resident engagement questions that can help organizations identify challenges, successes and ways to enable improvements:

  1. Are you engaging everyone, and how do you know that?
  2. Are we engaging everyone?
  3. Are we promoting well-being and positive outcomes?

These questions can also be used to help organizations operationalize well-being and make sure their processes are delivering effective engagement.  

There are many opportunities in 2024 and beyond. If everything you’re doing today is driven by clarity, you will be better able to deliver person-directed care.

Read our full report on our survey findings here.

Charles de Vilmorin is the CEO and co-founder of Linked Senior, creators of the Life Story product.

The opinions expressed in McKnight’s Long-Term Care News guest submissions are the author’s and are not necessarily those of McKnight’s Long-Term Care News or its editors.

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