I moved my mother from Pittsburgh to Florida (to be near me) a couple of years ago when her series of playing bumper cars, falls and obvious memory problems went from bad to worse.
Mom has dementia, and it was very clear she could not be alone. Sadly dad passed away a couple of years earlier. Mom & Dad were like peanut butter and jelly. A beautiful, loving life that came to an end quickly when dad never woke up from a nap. Without dad by her side and her illness rapidly worsening, it was time to make a move.
Me and my mom on her relocation flight April 2014
I took Mom out of her home filled with 63 years of love and happiness. Although she did not fight the move, it became very confusing for her quickly. My mother is not a complainer, but it was very obviously a difficult journey. Of course, that made it very stressful for me. I was very blessed to have wonderful parents who I love dearly. Her hurt is my hurt.
What she NEEDED was one piece of the puzzle, what I want for her (the little things) is even more!
Of course, we needed a place that would care for her and keep her safe, clean, well fed and comfortable. But there are little things that are surely not (but maybe should be) included in a job description for assisted living /nursing home staff. Below are just 2 of many examples.
Example 1: Mom can’t do much more than a baby. She can’t ask for things; she can’t remember how to walk or even keep her feet on the footrests of her wheelchair. She can’t straighten her sheets or pull them up if she is cold. She can’t sit up long (back pain) so after her lunch, she is taken back to bed where she spends the rest of her day comfortably. Her dinner is served in her room. For some reason that I can’t understand, she can’t swallow a pill without it being crushed in applesauce.
Every day that my schedule allows I feed her lunch and dinner. Typically right before dinner, she gets her pill crushed in applesauce. The taste is very bitter, so I make sure that I give her juice or a small piece of candy if her meal is not yet delivered so we can get the nasty bitter taste out of her mouth.
What made me want to write about them? One day last week I was unable to be there, and when I arrived the next day the nurse thought I was still out of town. She (the nurse) was with mom administering her medicine when I arrived and guess what she also had for her? A little piece of candy. That little thing — her empathy shown by caring enough to help my mom not have that nasty taste in her mouth —was BIG to me. Made my heart smile. (Extra time? Probably 1 minute or less. Need? Nope! Want YES)
Another example. After almost a year of not talking, Mom began saying a few words. I actually believe it is in large because of the caring activities woman, Maxine.
Maxine (and MJ) do not just take her to the activities room. While there, they talk to mom during these events. They even give her little prizes. They treat her so special, even though she probably does not understand any of the conversation. Can you sense me smiling? I am! ( Extra time? I don’t know maybe a little more than a couple of minutes. Need? Nope. WANT? YES)
And now hospice (Vitas) is involved with mom and Vitas also has some amazing people working for them! As important as the nurses are, the aides are the ones that really keep her comfortable.
Before I moved my mother into this location (Margate Manor in Margate Florida) I visited probably 30 or so places. I not only talked to the staff and toured the sites, but I also sat in the waiting area so I could approach other residents as well as family members entering. Why? I wanted to ask questions of people that had nothing to lose. It was a great screening tool!
Do you consider (or even know) the desires of your customers? Many don’t even know the needs.
If you want to stand out in this most competitive world, it’s important to know both! And then, find the right matched employees to execute the plan.
Before my mom became ill, I would have never even thought about this stuff. Not because I didn’t care, but rather because I didn’t understand from a patient perspective or the love and concern of a family member.
Talk to your customers. If you are running an assisted living, nursing home or other such facilities also talk to and survey the family members. There ARE little things that make a big difference at no additional cost to your overhead. And these little acts only take seconds (of time) for your staff. They can make YOU, and YOUR COMPANY, as well as those employees, stand out. As a family member who is there a lot, I can share a lot of the little BIG things being done, and who is doing them.
“People do the best with what they know, and when they know more, they do better” – Maya Angelo
Ask questions, conduct surveys, learn more about ‘wants and needs’ – and then get ‘caught’ as the staff at Margate Manor and Vitas often do, providing that unique service.
Thank you, Margate Manor/Vitas, for hiring right and doing the little things that make a big difference. They mean more than you can ever imagine.
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