Spiritual Programming Reaps Long-Term ROI

Many seniors want to their care to address the physical, emotional and spiritual when they move into senior living, but not all memory care providers make a mark on all three aspects of care.

One relatively new Tennessee-based senior living operator has made spiritual care a cornerstone of its memory care program. Dominion Senior Living, an independent living, assisted living and memory care operator with two communities in Tennessee and five more under construction, has rolled out its spiritual program, dubbed Tapestry, in its new and upcoming communities. With a relatively low investment, the focus has had big returns for the business, including an influence on recruitment and retention and recognition for the relatively young company.

“The simplest way to put it is that it’s designed to be a very engaging program that brings together the physical, emotional and spiritual aspects of resident care,”Josh Crisp, vice president of Dominion Senior Living said. “It involves every aspect of the senior living community, from the activities, through the life enrichment program, the dining experience, the care services.”

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Tapestry is currently rolled out at Dominion’s two operating communities, with future plans to expand into the company’s new communities as they open. However, the newer communities may not see the same exact programming, according to Crisp, who says there is some leeway for staff to help build up some of the elements.

“When Dominion was formed two years ago, we basically had a clean slate to really do some new and exciting things from the ground up,” Crisp said. “It’s an evolving program. It outlines the culture and the big picture concepts and ives a tool kit that still allows for creativity.”

The approach begins with hiring the right staff, says Crisp.

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“The backbone of everything, where it all begins, is how we recruit, hire and train our teams to be able to carry out the program,” Crisp said. “From there, the whole purpose is to create a very resident-centric, person-centric care programing that provides purpose for our residents that focuses on what they are capable of doing rather than their deficits.”

The company finds that its hiring approach, called Hiring for the Heart, allows it to find caregivers who are less likely to have lots of experience in the industry, and more experience with spirituality.

“While it’s great to have years of experience caring in the industry, we’re really more focused on the personality type and finding folks that feel like their calling is to get into senior care,” Crisp said. “They have the compassion and the basic personality and skill set needed to be able to care for the residents with Alzheimer’s and dementia. That’s the fundamental difference in how we go about hiring these folks.”

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Dominion, which is a faith-based organization, typically recruits from other spiritual epicenters, including non-denominational churches and other organizations. Not only has the programming helped the company more easily find recruits, the company reports lower-than-average turnover for the industry.

Despite being a relatively new company, the spirituality aspect also has helped Dominion develop a reputation for its culture among the memory care space for prospective residents, according to Crisp. As a result, Dominion says it spends less on marketing expenses and more energy and effort on telling the story of its residents.

Overall, the Tapestry program has been an investment cost of roughly $25,000 for the company, according to Crisp. These investment expenses include creating a tool kit, such as a manual, written tools and assessment and evaluations.

“This program is our culture, it’s part of us,” Crisp said. “It’s very easy when you have the right people already in place. You’re essentially giving them some tools to do what they do really well. In all, it’s not been that much of an investment. …It’s mainly been time equity, energy and effort communicating to the team the mission.”

While the return on investment for implementing a spiritual program is difficult to measure, Crisp believes the intangible returns will become cost savers in the long run and help Dominion continue to develop its brand as more communities come on line.

“Spiritual programming needs to be more widespread,” Crisp said. “I firmly believe that with more spiritual care and more purpose-driven and activity programing, we improve the quality of life for our residents. That has long-term return on investment, not only in terms of better life quality but in longer average length of stay, better satisfaction. This are the kinds of things you have to invest in to see the long-term returns.”

Written by Amy Baxter

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