Protecting the health of residents is the primary focus of long-term care communities. Nursing staff are carefully trained to attend to all aspects of residents’ physical well-being, and the hiring process generally focuses on the candidate’s specific caregiving skills and experience. One element of residents’ health that needs to be kept in mind during the hiring process, however, is their need for social companionship. New research studies confirm that older people’s well-being depends on their sense of connectedness. Research published by the National Institutes of Health several years ago notes that “[elderly] individuals who lack social connections or report frequent feelings of loneliness tend to suffer higher rates of morbidity and mortality.” Now this risk factor has been confirmed by a recent British study. This study of 6,500 elderly people found that, “Social isolation may cause dire health effects for the elderly.”
Staff need specific skills to engage proactively with residents
Nursing staff at long-term care communities have many duties, and it would be natural for them to assume that if a resident appears quietly content no extra socializing is needed. An interesting aspect of both research studies mentioned above, however, is that social isolation has dangerous consequences even if the elderly person is not consciously aware of feeling lonely. This suggests that it’s crucial for nursing staff to initiate socializing with all residents, regardless of whether or not such interaction is solicited. Time Magazine reports that even the simple act of having someone’s hand to hold is associated with lower blood pressure and less subjective experience of pain.
Scientific methods for screening job candidates
Behavioral assessment software allows long-term care organizations to make predictive hiring decisions and hire compassionate people. With this type of tool, recruiters are able to look beyond the contents of a resume and evaluate whether a candidate truly possesses the fundamental personality traits necessary for socially engaging with residents. Compassion is a necessary quality, as is a strong customer-service focus, and these inherent behavioral competencies are not always easy to evaluate without using a scientifically sound assessment tool. Administering a behavioral assessment survey specifically designed to reveal the necessary levels of compassion and commitment needed for long-term care is one way to make sure residents’ needs will be met.
Encouraging higher levels of socialization among existing staff
Clearly, the continuing research regarding elderly residents’ urgent need for socialization means that this behavior must be encouraged among all staff members. There are several good ways to promote socialization between staff and residents:
- Setting Goals
Setting clearly defined goals is an important first step toward eliciting specific behaviors in employees. Performance management software with goal functionality enables healthcare organizations to more clearly define desired outcomes and create benchmarks for success. When socializing with residents is set as a clearly defined goal and resident engagement is recognized as an organizational goal, employees will be more motivated to prioritize this behavior.
- Providing Positive Feedback
Just as residents need cheerful interaction and recognition, the staff who take care of them need it as well. A toolkit published by the Oregon Health Care Association points out that when long-term care staff receive recognition and praise from their employer, they are more motivated to meet residents’ needs. This toolkit presents research demonstrating that positive feedback also decreases employee turnover, leading to stronger relationships between residents and staff. Healthcare organizations must ensure that their managers are constantly coaching their employees to keep them motivated. Managers should utilize positive feedback practices to reinforce positive employee behaviors. Managers can track these positive instances within the feedback feature of a performance management system and recognize them accordingly to reinforce the behavior.
Automated performance management allows for manager check-ins, goal reminders, mentoring, and overall improved communication. By hiring staff who are compassionate and customer-driven, setting employee goals, and providing positive feedback, long-term care organizations will be able to help engage residents and reduce the possibility of social isolation.
Do you want to learn how performance goals relate to resident satisfaction and how Performance Manager can help you improve the resident experience through your staff? Download our eBooklet : 3 Steps to Successful Employee Goal Management to learn more about setting goals for your long-term care employees and to find examples of how to set goals using performance management software.