Engaging families of residents is a top priority for senior living operators yet often remains an elusive goal.

By Meg LaPorte

Engaging families of residents is a top priority for senior living operators yet often remains an elusive goal. Since families today are more geographically dispersed than ever before, connecting them with residents in more effective—and meaningful—ways can be even more challenging.

CarexTech, a Senior Housing Forum partner, is a company with a mission to solve this problem. Specifically, the company’s Smile™ solution is a web-based software platform for end-to-end communications management that includes activities, documentation, and analytics aimed at enhancing family engagement in a purposeful manner.

Effective Family and Staff Interaction

“Based on our research and implementation, effective family engagement offers benefits to families, staff, and residents in an integrated communications platform,” says CarexTech Co-Founder and Notre Dame Professor, Sarv Devaraj, PhD. “The result is a solution that not only enables residents and staff to have more time with each other, but also gives family members the opportunity to more effectively interact with the staff caring for their loved one.”

According to CarexTech customer Commonwealth Senior Living, Smile has been an extremely worthwhile investment. “It has certainly been beneficial to us and it has by far surpassed our expectations,” says Bernadette Cavis, vice president of resident life for Commonwealth. Improving both resident and family engagement has been a “huge bonus for us,” she says.

Data Back It Up

The proof is in the data: Cavis’ team had set an initial benchmark of resident engagement in activities at 60 percent and they are now at almost 80 percent, companywide.

Tracking upward along with resident involvement is family engagement, according to Cavis. Between January and May of this year, 21 of Commonwealth’s 22 communities had jumps in family engagement, following implementation of the Smile solution. In addition, at press time, the company was just three communities away from meeting its standard of 60 percent of having resident families on the Smile platform.  

“As an average, all regions are above the 60 percent standard,” says Cavis. “Many communities are well above the standard and are finding that Smile has greatly improved communicating with their families.”

How it Works

So how does it work? Smile has a built in Activity Tracker that generates data and reports. Staff can quickly log resident participation in activities with a few clicks. Another feature of Smile is that it enables staff to use it on PCs and tablets so they can take attendance right there on site, and take photos and email them directly to families.

A key aspect of getting families onboard is that it gives family members an opportunity to look at the programs their loved one has participated in, says Cavis. “I also believe that family members have used this to encourage their love one to go to activities.”

The entire process has been very easy, according to Cavis. She is impressed with the Smile team’s ability to respond quickly to any issues and questions. “Their responsiveness is unbelievable,” she says.

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