For any long term care facility, looking to attract potential residents and boost census numbers, making a good first impression is critical. Leaders must be capable of viewing their facility from the perspective of potential residents, noticing what will be seen at first glance. Below you will find tips for demonstrating to visitors that your building is a lively and clean environment that will help them improve their mobility and overall wellness.
It’s important to remember that potential residents are generally looking for a comfortable, home-like environment. No one wants to move into an institution with strobe lights and a hospital atmosphere. Therefore, long term care facilities should strive for a pleasant and serene atmosphere with warm lighting and soft furnishings. Decorating walls with tasteful artwork will help create a more aesthetically-engaging experience that may leave a good first impression.
Part of your job will be to help potential residents and their families resolve the doubts they have in their minds. Unfortunately, a common misconception of long term care facilities is that they are a place where seniors go to die. So staff should strive to emphasize that they are, rather, a safe haven in a comfortable environment where seniors can spend the best years of their lives with like-minded and similar-aged companions.
Why First Impressions Matter for Census Numbers
There are well over 15,000 nursing homes in America. So seniors do have their choice. If visitors do not like what they see initially, it is highly probable that they will choose another facility. Furthermore, if families are referred to a facility by a discharge planner but are not impressed and unhappy with the physical environment, they will speak to the hospital discharge planner informing them of the facility’s condition. In such cases, this can have dire consequences on the facility’s census levels, especially if the discharge planner receives similar news on multiple occasions that the facility is below par. If this happens too often, then hospital discharge planners will simply stop referring seniors to that particular facility, which will impact census levels.
Physical Tours and Walkthroughs
Before moving into a facility, many seniors and their families will schedule a visit to the facility in order to decide whether or not it can meet their needs. Such tours, usually lasting about thirty minutes, give potential residents a chance to inspect the facility and get a real feel of whether it can offer them their desired lifestyle.
During a physical tour or walkthrough at the facility, visitors will typically be shown the different amenities, activities, and living quarters. Facilities may also provide brochures with some basic information for the seniors and their families to take home. For the facility, a walkthrough gives them the opportunity to impress and highlight the best services they offer, what resources they have, what level of care they provide, how seniors can enjoy life in the facility.
The Role of Tour Guides
In most facilities, there will be several people—the facility’s admissions administrator, resident administrator, or business office manager—trained to give tours. They should be prepared to answer commonly asked questions and make sure that clear expectations are set for both the seniors and their families. The facility needs to convince them that the facility is the right one for them. So it is imperative the tour guide is knowledgeable enough about your culture that he or she can answer all important questions.
Tours give the facility the opportunity to set expectations and answer any questions visitors may have. Families dealing with seniors who refuse to eat at home or struggling with behavioral issues may expect drastic changes after moving them to your facility. To avoid future complaints, make clear that it is likely that these issues continue at the facility. The tour guide should emphasize and discuss patients’ rights, explaining that a facility cannot force a resident to eat or take a shower. This will help the family understand that problematic behavior and traits will not magically disappear upon the senior being moved.
By establishing reasonable expectations, the facility and family can begin to build a partnership by working together to provide the best care possible. When family members know that the facility is, in some ways, at least as limited as they were at home, they will be more willing to get involved and help your team find a solution that works for everyone.
Some facilities will strategically place fresh flowers in the reception area or employ a receptionist who meets and greets visitors. Having both of these elements at the entrance will impress visitors and put the facility in a positive light. It is important to give the impression that your facility is a friendly and pleasant atmosphere early, as this will impact how the rest of the tour is received.
Immediately upon entering a facility, prospective residents and their families will notice its cleanliness. Dust and grime on the floors or along the walls set a bad tone for the rest of the tour and building. A visibly clean facility conveys the good hygiene of the facility as a whole.
Bad odors can indicate that the facility is not very clean or that there are other underlying problems creating these smells. Freshen the air with cleaning products that have zesty fragrances and can help to mask any unfavorable odors. This will not only make the experience more pleasant but also convey that the facility is kept clean. Opening windows to let fresh air into the building will also improve ventilation and reduce bad odors. Lastly, use air fresheners and flowers around the facility to further mask unpleasant smells.
The purpose of a “showroom” is to highlight the facility’s best features by showing potential residents and family members an unoccupied resident room in pristine condition. A showroom often has more appeal than other rooms. It may have the best view or be closer to amenities like the garden or dining area.
Showrooms may also be more spacious and have better or newer furniture. In some cases, the showroom will be a private room with a dining table and large television. However, in most cases, shared rooms are used to give a more realistic look at what residents can expect. Showrooms should be strategically placed in the front of the building so that visitors do not need to walk past other resident rooms.
Of course, while it is smart to present your facility in its best possible light, you still want to set realistic expectations. Should a facility fail to live up to the expectations set during the tour, this can create animosity and result in seniors and their families pursuing other options.
During a tour, visitors should be shown the interior courtyard or garden area, as residents enjoy getting sunlight and fresh air. In the warmer, summer months, outdoor areas will be particularly effective in selling your facility to potential residents. Larger facilities that organize outdoor events, like picnics or yoga classes, should mention these during the tour, on the facility website, or even in the facility’s activities calendar.
Interactions With Residents
It is not uncommon for visitors to pass residents in the facility and decide to ask them for their honest opinions about life in the facility. There is not much that can be done about that other than trying to keep your residents as content as possible overall. Still, there will be some residents that tour guides will want to avoid during the tour, whether it is on account of their abnormal behavior, loud voices, or offputting traits and habits. It is wise to arrange the tour such that you bypass these particular residents.
Naturally, everyone wants a private room. However, this may not be possible due to availability and cost. That is why most potential residents will ask about occupancy per room. This is particularly the case for Baby Boomers. Not being able to have a private room may be a dealbreaker for some. They may look for pricier options that give them their own personal space.
Of course, another reason why occupancy levels are so important is that they impact the quality of care. The ratio of nurses to residents directly impacts the time the former can dedicate to the latter. During the current staffing crisis, it is reasonable for potential residents to raise this concern. If the ratio levels are too large, seniors and their families may choose another facility with lower ratios. If you are looking to get more referrals, you may need to find a way to lower that ratio at least somewhat.
Highlight the interesting activities at your facility—from putt-putt golf to Nerf gun duck hunting to bingo sessions to church choir visits. You may want to show potential residents your active social calendar with all planned events to help them visualize the fun they can have with their peers. Also, share with visitors the sort of collaboration your organization does with other people in the community.
Some families are primarily looking to send their elderly family members into a facility for access to rehabilitative services with the ultimate goal of bringing them home shortly after. So make sure to arrange for visitors to interact and speak with the therapists they would be working closely with during rehab. This gives the therapist the opportunity to speak about rehab services, success stories, and the equipment available, like steps, bike machines, stairs, and grab bars.
Visitors should also be encouraged to ask specific questions about their goals and what rehabilitative services can help them achieve them. For example, if a senior wants to walk up and down fifteen stairs at home, a therapist will be able to explain the path to achieving this and thus put the family’s mind at ease.
These have become a popular option during the pandemic. In most cases, a team will share a prerecorded video of the different amenities, the showroom, and the dining area in order to demonstrate the facility’s best features. You will also want to convey your culture as best as possible, so it makes sense to add snippets of smiling staff in the video. Once the virtual tour is recorded, it can be published on your facility’s website or social media profiles to engage and attract potential residents.
The Most Common Questions Visitors Ask During a Tour
During a tour, the tour guide must be prepared to answer a string of questions with precision. Some of the most common questions visitors ask include:
What amenities are included?
It never hurts to go into detail about things like your laundry and dining services. Help them imagine living there and convince them that it is not nearly as bad as the negative images of nursing homes in most people’s minds. Let them know about their options. You may offer added laundry services for a fee. And you can tell them that, if they do not like a particular meal, there are always certain substitutes on hand. You should also arrange for potential residents to speak to the dietitian in order to discuss any allergies or food preferences.
What spiritual practices are available?
Know the hours of your non-denominational chaplain on staff as well as the times and days of services. If you have organized volunteer services as well, that is worth a mention. Make clear that, for those of different religions, you will note the contact details of their priest, rabbi, or other religious leader and arrange for them to visit when requested.
Are there any beauty services available?
Tell potential residents about the work your beautician does and how often he or she visits. Include examples of some of the more interesting hairstyles or nail care that residents have received. If they ask for prices, give them an idea of what to expect.
What is the proximity to the hospital or nearest VA?
It is helpful for the tour guide to know the local proximity to other nearby services like the hospital, VA, bank, or even local shops. On occasion, residents may need to leave the facility, so it is important that they know they can safely travel to these local services when necessary.
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