In an effort to transition to a hospitality culture, our most recent blog encouraged you to consider the physical environment: assess your plant facilities, correct delayed maintenance issues, completely renovate, or consider expansion projects. There are many factors to consider when rolling out a new hospitality image for your community. Today’s blog tackles the more subtle, perhaps less tangible, factor — the service delivery program. The way in which services are delivered becomes as much a part of your community as the physical environment, and it may adversely affect the transition to true hospitality if you’re not careful.
The Passive Resident is Passé
In the past, senior living facilities and communities were somewhat driven by the delivery of services or care TO the resident. The resident was deemed as the passive recipient of whatever administration chose as its service delivery package. And the rigidity of that structure seemed to increase exponentially once a resident moved into higher levels of care.
To illustrate this concept, let’s consider the culinary experience. In the more paternalistic model of service delivery, an independent living resident could choose from a limited number of menu options (that often had a set rotation to mimic health care) served within certain hours of the day. Also, administration chose whether or not certain foods would be served based on their caloric and nutritional value.
If I were a resident of one of these independent living communities, I would be frustrated at the lack of choice and freedom. What if I were to choose to go on a late morning shopping trip, have lunch at 2:00 PM, and eat those yummy fried foods Southerners enjoy? That would not be possible. At this community of the past, that would not have been possible — lunch hours were 11:30 AM to 1:30 PM, and fatty, fried foods were eliminated from the menu since management deemed those foods “bad for my health.” This situation would become more pronounced once I moved to a higher level of care, where food (of a limited variety) was served from a tray (much like that of hospital service) at a certain time, whether I was napping or entertaining visitors.
Independent Lifestyle, Made to Order
A community may offer multiple dining venues for a welcome change of place and opportunity for pick-up or delivery. None of us chooses to eat at the same location every day without growing tired of it, so multiple options often leads to less complaints about food and a more enjoyable experience. This flexibility should continue through the levels of care. Health care residents should be able to order preferred foods with some flexibility on timing, and on-site country kitchens can complement this flexibility.
The culinary experience serves as a convenient example of restoring control to the residents. To move to a true hospitality model, residents must be the driver, where they are no longer a passive recipient but rather an active, engaged part of the process. They decide what excursions they would enjoy. They may choose and even facilitate art classes, book clubs, or pool tournaments. Life enrichment staff members often find themselves as facilitators and schedulers when residents engage in and “run” evening events without them. This is a welcome change.
Serving Up a Better Experience
The environment and services that create an engaging lifestyle is what residents are paying for at the front end. As providers, we should look toward the hotel, resort, and cruise ship arenas for ideas on how to accomplish true hospitality. Like hotels and resorts, there should be multiple services or leisure activities available. Few people, whether older or younger, enjoy being dependent or a passive recipient of services. Service is a cornerstone of the hospitality culture and the customer experience is king. The hospitality model in a senior living community should facilitate and increase ACTIVE engagement that maintains or restores independent choice for those who live with us.
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