Assisted living communities that foster a sense of camaraderie are viewed by residents as offering a greater quality of life. High marks on camaraderie also correspond to how likely a resident would be to make the same decision to move in, if given the opportunity again.
That’s the main finding of People, Place, Programming: Quality of Life in Assisted Living, a 100-page report released by the American Seniors Housing Association (ASHA) in conjunction with ProMatura Group.
The study, authored by ProMatura CEO and founder, Dr. Margaret Wylde along with Director of Market Research and Academic Engagements Dr. Kristen Paris, surveyed 2,322 assisted living customers from 106 communities and was launched to determine how assisted living communities can provide a more satisfying environment, a greater sense of feeling at home and a better quality of life.
Using data provided by assisted living residents and their families, the report measured 20 operational attributes and their impacts on eight key quality indicators (KQI): overall satisfaction, sense of feeling at home, sense of safety and security, sense of control, perception of how the community runs, willingness to recommend the community, sense of value, and willingness to move to the community if they were to do it again.
“KQI is about the overall feeling and perception the resident has regarding where they live,” Wylde told Senior Housing News. The study also shows how communities that address what Wylde calls “unwelcome behaviors” can improve residents’ perception of where they live.
The study determined that camaraderie within a community had the greatest impact, while quality of food had the greatest impact among family members whose loved ones reside in assisted living.
Building on previous research
The new study was born from a previous study on what makes independent living communities feel like home, ASHA President David Schless told SHN. That study opened up additional lines of research ASHA and ProMatura did not anticipate.
One such line was collecting data from family members. Otherwise, it would have been an incomplete study.
“It was a natural next step to review assisted living,” Schless said.
The complete report asked residents and family members about their physical and emotional health, limitations in activities, assisted living residency including length of stay and occupants, feeling at home in assisted living, and strategies to manage and prevent bullying in assisted living.
The results suggest that improvement is warranted in the capabilities of employees to create an environment of camaraderie. This had the highest impact on the residents’ perceptions of three KQIs: feeling at home, willingness to recommend, and value for the money spent.
If a community were to focus on improving the sense of camaraderie within the community, many perceptions about the community will be improved, and the atmosphere of the community will likely be more comfortable and supportive. It is likely that residents, family, and staff would enjoy a friendlier environment.
When staff are attuned to connecting people with common interests, it fosters an atmosphere with high levels of satisfaction and future resident referrals, and has a mushroom effect on a positive community culture, Schless said.
“[Residents] crave connection,” he said. “It is the lifeblood of successful senior living.”
Good food is important
The quality of the food in assisted living had the greatest impact among family members of residents. Good food prepared well can result in a better quality of life and health, and it can assist in the social component of meal times, Schless told SHN.
“Food can be social,” he said. “We know it is a crucial aspect of life for all ages.”
Residents surveyed also expressed a desire for more choice in how and where they eat, Wylde told SHN. Almost half indicated they would like the ability to eat in their own residences.
“Not everyone wants to eat in the dining room all the time,” she said.
ASHA and ProMatura believe the research will be beneficial for all assisted living providers, regardless of scale. It lays a foundation for providers to audit their own operations for areas of improvement, and focusing on only the most pressing issues can increase residents’ perception they are receiving the best care, in the best environments.
“There are many different paths to contemplate and improve on,” Schless said. “It’s a roadmap for improvement.”