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SHC Blog

Customer Service

When is the Perfect Time to Recharge Your LTC Volunteer Program?

When is the perfect time to recharge your nursing facility’s volunteer program?  Right now!   

All facilities can benefit from an outstanding volunteer program.  It can –   

  1. assist with improved quality of life for your residents by offering more people to socialize with them,
  2. decrease stress for your staff by having others around to respond to non-care needs, 
  3. and, when implemented correctly, can supplement your marketing efforts to increase census by     expanding the number of visitors in your building on a regular basis, observing the great care you’re providing.    

Start by establishing goals for each month this year and an overall goal to be achieved after twelve months.  Make the goals simple, realistic, and achievable.  Involve your entire team in the process, including any long-term volunteers that you currently have, and residents who have shown an interest.    

Your first goal should be to increase the number of volunteers or volunteer hours.  Establish a ‘campaign’ to achieve record-setting numbers for your program each month.  Ensure that your campaign is not just ‘dumped’ on the Activity Director.  Encourage your team to spread the message to groups that they are members of outside of work.    

Community engagement is the key.  Your marketing staff can assist with PR.  In smaller communities, inform your local chamber of commerce of the program and offer to speak at the next meeting.  Create a buzz in your community by contacting neighboring businesses, youth groups, schools, churches, and sororities.  Use your volunteer campaign and goals to drive your social media presence.    

Outline the potential benefits that volunteering can bring to your residents and request an interview with the local newspaper.  Contribute letters to the editor with the benefits of volunteering, updates to your goals, and calls to action for participation.  Offer to submit a monthly “Ways to Volunteer” column.   

Most importantly when beginning a volunteer program have resources available for the volunteers.  Utilize lists that can be reviewed with first-time volunteers to match their interests with your facility’s needs.  Assign each volunteer to a specific task and follow-up to ensure that they feel comfortable with it.  And always remember to follow your building’s policies and procedures regarding volunteers.   

What steps are you going to make this month to improve your volunteer program?  Is your ultimate goal to have one volunteer for every resident?  Have a great idea that has either worked for your facility or that you are planning to implement?  Share it here!   

Need ideas to improve your volunteer program?  Does your Social Service or Activities department need assistance with documentation?  Is your Indiana nursing facility in compliance with QMRP regulations?  Contact Julie at Simmons Healthcare Consulting, LLC (260-894-1417, to start improving Quality of Life services for your residents.

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What 20+ Items Caught SHC's Attention for the Week?

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Even during a busy holiday week, our world was filled with information, news, and inspiration as we wind-down 2012.

Simmons Healthcare Consulting, LLC Blog Posts - 

Other news, information, inspiration, and groups - 

As we close out 2012 and move into 2013, this is the perfect time to look at customer service trends. Customers are better educated about what good service looks like and their expectations are higher than ever. --Shep Hyken via Take a SmileRICK PHELP’S (Memory People) New Book Available Now! “While I Still Can” "The afternoon knows what the morning never suspected" by Robert FrostCute Elderly Couple
Choices, Chances, Changes You must make a Choice to take a Chance. Our your life will never Change.Hospice is one of those words that people say quietly, afraid that by saying it too loud, we might call forth its need. Yet hospice is nothing to be afraid of in the world of caregiving. In fact, hospice is an underutilized service that can bring comfort and compassion to your loved one and your whole family. It can be a source of emotional support during a very difficult time. via Senior Care SocietyDon't forget to contact Simmons Healthcare Consulting, LLC for your Social Service, Activities, QMRP nursing facility consulting needs in 2013!  www.simmonshc.comChristmas Eve Greetings from Simmons Healthcare Consulting, LLC

Need assistance with your Social Service or Activity department?  Is your nursing facility in compliance with QMRP visits?  Contact Simmons Healthcare Consulting, LLC at (260) 894-1417 or, and we'll schedule a visit to help continue improving Quality of Life services for your residents.

Have a great week everyone!

Customer Service - How Long-Term Care Can Learn from Hotels

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Came across an interesting article this morning (thanks to Shep Hyken and his Facebook page) from Huffington Post - "2012's Great Moments in Hotel Customer Service" by Kristen McKenzie,  Worth a quick read.  Many might be wondering why we are posting an article about hotels on a blog devoted to long-term care...

The reason is simple, customer service.  

A comment made by a dietary aide to me in 1994 has always stuck with me and I was reminded of it when I read the above article - referring to a resident, "Where does she think she is?  This isn't the Ritz".  I would challenge that maybe it should be.  The daily rate, pharmacy charges, and supplies/treatments for most residents are higher than the nightly rate at many hotels.  We are in an industry where budgets are becoming tighter, reimbursement rates are shrinking, and people are choosing to "age-in-place" as long as they can do so. Maybe it's time to capitalize on cost-effective actions that everyone on the team can perform and produce effective outcomes.  

Because of the Quality of Life (Social Service, Activities, QMRP) consulting that SHC does, I have had the wonderful opportunity to visit dozens and dozens of nursing facilities and hotels across the country.  I've witnessed some fantastic demonstrations of homes that know how to do it right and I'm loyal to the hotels that provide me with nice customer service.  Facilities that make a person smile when they visit, feel good about what's happening, and want to come back.  Isn't that what we want from our customers? 

Without our direct customers (aka Residents and families), we have no business.  Many long-term care companies and nursing facilities 'talk' about giving great customer service and some succeed in an amazing way.  Others still should keep it as a focused area of opportunity.  Many will state that they don't have the time because they are focused on census.  I would suggest that focusing on customer service will assist greatly with census.  Except for the small facilities in very rural communities, families have multiple nursing facilities to choose from in most markets.  Potential residents and families' experiences when they visit friends or volunteer at your building, talk to neighbors, and simple word-of-mouth can go further than any advertising Marketing Directors do.  

  • Saying "Welcome" when visitors enter, "Hello" when we pass them in the hall, "Thanks for coming" as they leave.
  • Being on-time for Care Conference meetings.
  • Returning phone calls and messages in a timely manner.
  • Responding to grievances and concerns.
  • Taking a few minutes to really listen to residents' and families' feelings about adjustment / issues.
  • Intervening when staff are showing signs of 'burn-out'
  • Residents, families, visitors, volunteers, vendors, suppliers, physicians, employees, hospitals, specialty providers - the list goes on - all can be a potential referral source, all should have a 'great' customer service experience.

Your team works hard, don't forget to let the public see it; we all are in this field because we truly love what we do, don't forget to let the public know it!

What are some of the outstanding ways you or your facility provide 'great' customer service?  Share them with us!

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A Bond Between Marketing and Activities in LTC, Strange Concept or Smart Decision?

I came across this blog post and am quite interested in your thoughts - "A Different Kind of Activity Program" by Steve Moran on Senior Housing Forum (@SeniorForum).  The post is part two of a 2-part series, the first was "Let Us Entertain You to Death".  Administrators, long-term care Marketers, and Activity Directors, if you happen to find a free 5-minute break during this busy weekend, take a moment to read both of these blog posts.

  • What are we doing right with our LTC activity programs?
  • Is Bingo your facility's most attended activity?  Was Bingo the resident's most attended activity prior to admission?  If it wasn't, then why is it now?
  • Where are there areas of opportunity for improvement?
  • Is your activity department adequately staffed?  Really?  
  • Do corporations and boards of directors understand the potential benefits of the department?
  • As we begin the next 5-10 years and expect to see an even bigger increase in baby boomers, will the current structure of activities be tolerated?
  • Have you recently changed your programming?  And if so, are you seeing positive results?
  • How often are we asking for feedback from our residents and families?  Not simply the standard activity assessment, but open-ended questions about how they would like to spend their day now.
  • Activity Directors - if you had an unlimited budget (lol), how would you change your programming?  
  • Are there ways to think outside-the-box and still implement your wishlist of programming without bankrupting the facility?
  • What is the relationship between your activity program and admissions? (Possibly one of the most overlooked aspects of marketing by many facilities.)

As for the educational requirements of an Activity Director - Although I understand the author's rationale, I would strongly caution the industry not to hastily jump on board.  I know that there are many in long-term care that would disagree with me on this (including NASW), but I have witnessed what happened when arbitrary educational requirements were placed on Social Service staff.  The industry lost outstanding, caring, dedicated people.  There are ways to 'raise-the-bar' without alienating current activities staff (i.e. grandfather clauses). 

Your thoughts on activity programming, educational requirements, the referred to blog post?  Feel free to comment, I am truly interested in feedback.

Need assistance with your Quality of Life (Social Service, Activities, QMRP) services?  Contact SHC and we'll schedule a visit to help your nursing facility continue improving care.  Have a fabulous weekend!

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Helping Your New Residents / Families Cope at the End of the Year

A suggested project for nursing facilities this coming week, particularly Social Service and Activities staff, but every department can help –   

  • Make a quick list of current residents who are ‘new’ to your facility in 2012.  
  • Meet with those residents to discuss remaining holiday activities (include New Year’s) and any special meals that are planned.  
  • Observe their mood state and psychosocial adjustment.  
  • Listen to any feelings that they are expressing verbally.      

  • Touch-base with those same residents’ families to inquire about any holiday plans that might include the resident.  
  • Offer ideas of how the family can ‘include’ the resident, either at home, in the facility, or via phone. 
  • Remind the families of any remaining special events at the facility and any community rooms you might have that are available for family gatherings.  
  • Explain the LOA process and the procedure for purchasing guest meals or bringing in outside food.  
  • Give a reminder of the importance of adding any ‘gifts’ to the resident’s inventory list. 
  • If your facility has Skype abilities (and kudos if you do!), offer the option to help coordinate scheduling a Skype ‘visit’.      
  • If a family member will be transporting a resident for the first time, have they had training in order to do so safely?

Although this coming week or two tends to be extremely busy, taking the time to proactively help those who are attempting to cope for the first time with either residing or having a loved one in a facility over Christmas, can be crucial.  If the entire management team gets involved, it’ll be much quicker ;-)   

Could your Social Service or Activity department benefit from a review of their needs?  Indiana facilities, are you in compliance with your QMRP visits?  Contact Simmons Healthcare Consulting, LLC, and we’ll schedule a visit to help your facility continue improving Quality of Life services for your residents.   

A quick 'Must-Read' re: Dignity via @ADVANCEforLTC

Administrators and long-term care staff - please take a moment and read "The View from the Other Side of the Bed" by Tony DeWitt on  Think about the statements regarding dignity and even communication when you enter your facility tomorrow.  And from a risk management perspective, to quote the author, "people do not sue people they like".  

Woo Hoo, It's Time for #LTC Care Conferences!

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Has anyone in long-term care ever heard the title phrase being shouted?  I know, I know, everyone on the Interdisciplinary Team looks forward to Care Conference meetings..NOT.  This is not a shocking statement to most in the industry, but Care Conferences are typically dreaded by most IDT members.  Maybe 'dreaded' is too strong, but some staff come close to feeling that way.  They anticipate a family's arrival with "the list" full of concerns spanning 3 months that hasn't been shared before, the resident who will spend the meeting complaining about the food, the family that doesn't get along with each other, the family that has questions about their pharmacy bill, the resident who has "lost" all their clothing, and the family that doesn't understand why their resident isn't receiving therapy 7 days/week for the rest of their lives.  And unfortunately, in too many facilities, the Interdisciplinary "Team" has been reduced to a single person (often Social Service) because other departments were pulled out for another situation or "too busy" to attend.  By the end of the Care Conference meeting, the staff member has listened to concerns that they aren't able to resolve themselves and heard questions that they don't have the answers to.  And they tell the resident/family that the concerns/questions will be passed along to the appropriate department and someone will get in touch.  Sound familiar?

It doesn't have to be like that!  Concerns need to be shared with the proper departments directly and in a timely manner, not saved up for a quarterly meeting.  Help those with concerns realize it.  Remind residents and families of the potential benefits of timely communication and why it's so crucial.  If you know your population well, identify those who would benefit from weekly contact with the Business Office, Maintenance, Dietary, Laundry, etc.  For someone focused on a particular department, a 15-minute visit/phone call once per week can be a valuable asset.  When a legitimate system-wide problem is identified, consider enlisting an appropriate resident or family member to help with resolution.  People need to have a purpose and feel useful - offer a project.  The residents and families are living in the facility every day, observing what works and what doesn't.  A win-win situation can happen when they are involved.  

Why can't the Care Conferences be used as a tool to continue learning more about who the resident is now and who they have been throughout their lives?  It can, and from my viewpoint, it should be.  Set the tone, educate your residents and families, and establish open/timely communication at admission.  If your facility experiences any of the examples in the first paragraph, make your Care Conference process an area of opportunity for 2013.  Demonstrate to the families/residents that you consider Care Conference information important by committing to the entire IDT's attendance at the meetings.  Utilize the time during the meetings to really listen to your residents and families while they share history about what has been important to them.  What has made them who they are?  What is their favorite memory?  What are their preferences for a daily routine?  Using those bits of information to establish their plans of care will improve their quality of life.  Ensuring that the direct caregivers have that information will improve quality of care.  Make Care Conferences a meeting that IDT members look forward to attending.  Need assistance moving forward with your Care Conference process?  Contact SHC and we'll schedule a visit to help your facility continue improving Quality of Life services.

The Holiday Season is Here...Is Your #LTC Facility and Team Ready?

For my experienced long-term care folks, you know what to expect during the next 4-6 weeks.  But does the rest of your staff?  And are they prepared?  The holiday season is here and that means a significant increase in visitors to your facility.  Not simply residents’ family members, but vendors, local organizations and agencies, volunteers, children’s groups and more.  This can be an opportunity to shine and dispel many of the myths about nursing facilities.  You know how hard your team works and the amazing compassion that your direct caregivers have for their residents.  Make sure your visitors witness it!  

Ask yourself these questions – 
  • Have you held recent customer service training?  If not, start reminding all staff today on its importance.  Each department can assist with ensuring a positive experience.   
  • Are there group activities occurring in the evening and on the weekends?  
  • Has the Activity Director confirmed scheduled events?  
  • Is the maintenance department aware of when extra chairs/tables are needed? 
  • Is there a readily-accessible contact person to direct the inevitable pop-in carolers?  
  • Are evening and weekend nursing staff given daily reminders of their shift’s planned activities?  (And yes, Activity Directors, I know the calendar is posted and that the nurses can look, but do yourself a favor and remind them anyway.)  
  • Are the Social Service staff attempting to ‘catch’ out-of-town family members and conducting impromptu care conferences with the family and team?  
  • Is all staff being vigilant to observe for new personal belongings, reminding and assisting visitors to add personal items to the residents’ inventory lists, and marking new items?  
  • Are staff aware of what gratuities cannot be accepted from visitors? 
  • Are you taking advantage of the increase in visitors to promote your volunteer program?  
  • Are your LOA policies/procedures and residents’ LOA orders up-to-date?  
  • Is someone keeping a list of which residents are going out and when?  Is this information being passed on to the dietary department? 
  • What is your system for holiday guest meals and is your staff aware of it? 
  • Does the Admissions department have an easy to process system for admitting residents from home?  
  • Have you reminded your staff of the importance of the first 24-hours of a new resident’s stay? 
  • Is every staff member observing (and intervening) for visitors who are having difficulty coping with their loved one's placement? 
  • Is Social Service paying close attention to residents’ mood indicators and observing for signs/symptoms of depression? 
  • Are ALL of your staff aware of your facility’s grievance and missing item process, where the forms are located, and when to notify the Administrator?  If not, give them a refresher now! 
  • And finally, have you thanked your staff today?

Need assistance with your facility's customer service program?  Contact SHC and we'll schedule a visit to help you continue improving Quality of Life services for your residents.