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Long term care is greatly enhanced by way of community involvement, or, engaging with surrounding human resources to better provide the services needed by the people in your care. Community partnerships can help residents develop meaningful connections with their local surroundings. Further, they help residents live more fulfilling and healthier lives. 

Here we will provide ideas for community partnerships and outreach programs that help you partner up with your community to provide better services and opportunities for your residents. “It’s always good to develop relationships with the leaders and organizations right here in our actual town, because we are an impactful organization,” said Michelle Gramoglia, CEO of Woodland Pond at New Paltz, of her facility. 

Gramoglia’s goal was to develop a “symbiotic relationship between Woodland Ponds and the community as a whole.” And she was able to do so by thinking of innovative ideas, like setting up an on-site bank branch, a local pharmacy, adult learning classes, or even simple activities such as luncheons and group walks. She joined the LTC Heroes podcast to discuss her approach:

Ideas for Successful Community Partnerships in Nursing Homes

Successful community partnerships develop a community beyond just the care of residents in nursing homes. They create win-win relationships that enhance the life of elders in long term care facilities as well as the broader community. Here we will provide some of the ideas that worked for Gramoglia at Woodland Pond and demonstrate how they benefited both residents and the facility’s partners in the community. 

1. Develop an On-Site Bank Branch 

person using atm
Community partnership can mean opening a branch of a bank at your facility.

Gramoglia noticed that many of her residents spent a great deal of time traveling to town to do their banking. So she put in a request with five different banks to come and open a branch in her nursing home. The branch that accepted the proposal now offers banking services to residents and staff. It is a win for the nursing home because it is more convenient for the residents and staff as well as the neighboring community. It is also a win for the bank, because as Gramgolia explained, it was an “opportunity for the bank to expand its footprint” into an area in which they do not have a presence. Although the project was slightly delayed due to the fact there is a lot of regulatory oversight, residents are already excited about the branch and are waiting for its opening. 

2. Form a Partnership with a Local Pharmacy

Gramoglia noticed that many of her residents were filling in their prescriptions at the pharmacy in town. The pharmacy would then courier the medication to the nursing home, but would leave them in an unsecured delivery site. Given that some of the perceptions would contain narcotics, she was worried about the safety of the medication at this site. 

By partnering with the owner of the pharmacy to open a satellite branch, Gramoglia was able to increase security and safety measures for her residents. The satellite branch is a full drug store but does not have a pharmacist. Prescriptions arrive with the store operator and are held in a secure area. She stated that the pharmacy “took the risk on the inventory and the staff, and we set up the space.” This shared risk ended up in a win for the residents, as they now have more convenient and secure access to medication, and as a win for the pharmacy, as it can provide a wider selection of goods and services to customers. 

3. Connect with Institutes of Learning

Community partnerships also include ways in which residents contribute to and benefit from their communities. Gramoglia, for instance, partnered with a local state university that has a well-established Lifetime Learning Institute. They offer non-credit classes designed for adult learners. Not only does the university provide classes for residents at the senior living community, but residents also teach some of these courses. 

Of course, not all community outreach services have to be as elaborate as setting up a bank or pharmacy in your nursing home. Rather, there are a number of smaller steps you can take toward community outreach that will still help your residents feel better connected with their surroundings. 

4. Set Up a Newsletter or Establish a Social Media Presence

This will provide a medium for the community to keep up to date with the developments at the facility. Newsletters can generate awareness and provide information about your nursing home. It takes time to establish relationships, and newsletters and social media help establish connections with members of the community that allow relationships to flourish. 

5. Start Monthly Themed Luncheons

laughing seniors
Walking groups are a great way to increase resident engagement.

A 2015 study by the Centre of Ageing Better has shown that social connections are just as important as wealth and health in later life.  Meanwhile, a 2017 study by Stanford and Harvard researchers found that social isolation, or a lack of meaningful contact with others, costs the U.S. federal government an estimated $6.7 billion annually. One way to battle feelings of isolation is to organize opportunities to break bread together. Clark-Lindsey, a Life Plan Community in Urbana, Illinois, has established a monthly lunch meeting at their local mall. It provides a great opportunity for residents to meet up with friends, and to make use of facilities available at the mall.

6. Create Walking Groups

“Walk and talks” and indoor walking groups are great ways to promote exercise and social engagement. A meta-analysis of 42 studies involving 1843 participants showed that walking groups have a wide range of health benefits. The inability to walk while talking has been shown to be a valid predictor of falls. Simple, low cost “walk and talks” are great to not only help residents get more exercise but to also engage in essential task switching activities while building strong social connections.

The Role of Resident Engagement in Community Collaboration

Community collaboration, of course, is not just about arranging for residents to interact with the broader community.  Rather, it also means communicating with residents to better understand and fulfill their needs. Resident engagement, a critical component of long term care, is about helping residents identify the changes they want to see and then supporting them in pursuing their goals. But resident engagement can also help unearth ways in which the care home can develop community collaboration. Care providers can better develop activities that are authentic and individualized by communicating and engaging with residents. 

Clearly, though, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done to ensure resident engagement. A study of 135 long term care residents found that residents were generally dissatisfied with the amount of control and choice that they had over everyday issues. Fortunately, the Institute for Patient and Family Centred Care has created a four-step plan for developing a resident engagement approach:

  • Assess: This means understanding the needs and interests of residents.
  • Plan: Create individualized strategies.
  • Implement: Install person-centered and thereapeutic programs.
  • Evaluate: Reflect upon the effectiveness of your program with an eye toward optimizing resident experience.
two pretty young women nurses talking
Nursing homes must be more creative in creating community partnerships.

The Future of Nursing Home Outreach After Covid-19

The future of nursing home outreach is still unclear, due to the current pandemic. Unfortunately, a few of the activities mentioned here, such as luncheons and walking groups,  had to be canceled due to the threat of COVID. Many centers, such as Woodland Pond, have worked with their community to successfully roll out vaccinations. However, until the pandemic is successfully brought under control, a sensitive balance is required that ensures the safety of residents while also providing them opportunities for the social engagement that is vital for their well-being. 

Summary

We presented a number of potential collaborative programs and activities that can greatly enhance the life and stay of residents. These include working with the broader community in order to expand facilities available at your nursing home as well as creating activities in which residents can give back to their community. Engaging the residents to help them identify challenges and opportunities may help unlock great opportunities in a post-COVID future.