Empowering Nursing Home Residents

So often, when one enters a nursing home or is assigned to a nursing home,  it is like going to jail.  The person is given no choices and is basically “dropped off” to spend the rest of his/her life in an environment where he/she has absolutely no input on any of the decisions that affect their day by day existence.

One of the groups that I am part of on LinkedIn is called ChangingAging.  Leslie Pedke, Administrator to Aviston Countryside Manor shared with us that they have empowered their residents by creating an eight board hiring committee solely made up of the residents.  Administration does the initial screening.  However, Leslie explained that the residents are the ones who actually work and live with the employees.   In their own homes, they would be the ones to make a final decision of who took care of them.  So why not in this situation?

Personally I think this is a brilliant concept and could be a first step in changing the environment of nursing homes.  As Leslie points out, “I think the employees now are looking at the residents and realizing, ‘I’m actually working for you.’”

They go even further at Aviston.  Last November, the nursing home implemented a resident shadowing program which is required of all new employees. The new employee has to spend his or her first three shifts living with a resident — with one shift during the day, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.; one shift during the evening 3 to 11 p.m. and one through the night from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m.  Again, a brilliant way to allow the employee to “know” their charge in every iteration of a 24 hour period and good steps for allowing a tangible relationship to develop between the two individuals.

Two years ago, in another move to close the gap between residents and employees, Leslie introduced her employees to a contest called “Through the Looking Glass.” The contest is open to all employees and the participants are required to stay at the nursing home as residents. They sleep in the same rooms, eat the same foods and endure simulated physical and mental challenges similar to what nursing home residents endure. A $500 prize goes to the contestant who lasts the longest.

Another implementation that permits residents to feel empowered is that they are not required to be anywhere before lunch time.

Serving as administrator at Aviston Countryside Manor since 1994, Leslie Pedtke is a board member of the Illinois Pioneer Coalition, a group that was organized to provide long-term care facilities with the education and tools needed to effect deep culture change. The idea is to transform these facilities into real homes; thereby, improving the quality of life for individuals and staff.

These are excellent steps toward that end.

So what sort of questions do residents ask their prospective employee?

1.  Describe your work ethic;

2.  Do you have dependable transportation?

3.  Do you have patience to listen to my requests?

4.  If you are not sure what is expected of you, what would you do?

5.  Describe to us what you know about resident-centered care?

6.  What path led you to work with the elderly in long-term care?

7.  What would you like to share with us that would influence our decision of whether to hire you or not?

© Yvonne Behrens  2012




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  1. Leslie says:

    Thank you Yvonne for sharing our story! One of our new employees said to me that she felt a bond between herself and the residents in the moment they began to interview her. That bond was deepend after she was hired and she completed her resident shadowing program. We believe that working in a long term care community is an honor. It is not just a job. It is our mission to hire those that want to be part of our community instead of those that just need to collect a paycheck.

  2. yvonne says:

    Thank you. I am glad you enjoy my blog. I am sorry, but I do not know how to get to Yahoo News. Have you tried going into their website and seeing if they have a bookmark bar.

  3. yvonne says:

    I am sorry but I don’t. By now you probably have found out how, thought! (-:

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