By MaryLee Herrmann

Your residents and employees are all scared to talk to you. Hearing that truth should, in turn, scare you.

Sure, you have an open-door policy — “They can come talk to me about anything.” 

No, they can’t. They’re still scared. Know why? Backlash. Fear of backlash prevents people in positions of dependence from being open and honest. 

Keep Your Mouth Shut

When my father was in assisted living with mild dementia, there were issues I wanted to mention to management. But my family insisted I keep my mouth shut. 

They were as concerned as I was about his quality of life, but with a different perspective. “We aren’t there 24/7 to protect him. What if there are repercussions?” The thought hadn’t occurred to me, and  I felt as if my hands were tied. So, I stayed quiet. Neither Dad nor I felt we had a voice in his matters.

If everyone is afraid to speak about something wrong, even a drip in a sink, that drip soon becomes a major leak. And the next thing you know, you are moving residents around and shelling out funds to restore an entire flooded wing of your community.

All because no one was honest. No one trusted.

So now you say, “That’s what those annual surveys we distribute are good for.”

Are they though? Are you really getting timely information that allows you to pinpoint and prioritize problems? Are you sure there isn’t a potential catastrophe waiting to happen?

“I’m Drowning and You’re Describing the Water!”

Results from standard questionnaires only ‘describe the water.’ Yes, another water reference. Stay with me.

In the movie As Good As It Gets, Jack Nicholson’s character is grasping at straws trying to figure out how to fix his relationship with a woman. So he asks his neighbor for actionable advice, and all he gets from him are romantic ramblings. Nicholson exasperates, “I’m drowning here, and you’re describing the water!”

All that impersonal survey data tells you nothing about the very real things that your staff and residents need. What are the priorities? Who needs immediate attention?

How are people feeling? Where is the drip? 

Do you know what would help? If you could receive real-time feedback to empower your problem-solving process. 

How do you get such invaluable information? By dumping impersonal, antiquated paper and email surveys and replacing them with — get this, are you ready? — an actual conversation with a real, live person.

Enter Nick Waslien and Savant

Nick Waslien is the President and CEO of Savant (formerly CareQuality), a Foresight partner, an innovative and effective communications company that provides just that–conversations for residents, potential residents, and employees with real people where they can go into details.

The good, the bad, and the ugly.

From his unique perspective as the former owner of a resident referral company, Nick saw that one of the biggest challenges among assisted living communities is “connectivity.” In that previous position, his clients—the residents—were constantly approaching his team to resolve issues or mediate on their behalf, instead of taking them directly to the management of the living community. There was no productive communication, no trust between provider and resident.

They’re scared, remember?

When it comes to traditional survey results, Nick realized, data without context is meaningless. Senior living providers are in a people-centered business. And the only way to strengthen the community is to empower all levels of management with feedback that can guide actionable steps. 

The desire to put timely, detailed input into the hands of directors inspired Nick to create Savant. Instead of cold, impersonal annual paper surveys, Savant conducts interviews regularly with various residents, recent move-ins, and employees. The people at Savant are able to listen and ask follow-up questions to get to the root of any issues. It is a conversation that gets to the heart of the matter. 

Real-Time Data You Can Actually Use

As Nick puts it, “It’s real-time data that they can actually use, because there’s a lot of context-rich feedback that tells them the story.”

Talking to someone on the other end of the phone, and feeling “heard,” also makes all the difference for employees. Particularly in this current climate where they are often overworked and feeling under-appreciated. So management can pinpoint where they should make improvements — from major concerns to something as simple as a pizza party, which can raise spirits and encourage team-building.

Savant promotes connections between management, their residents and employees — supports caring for them as people — so you can use their feedback to make changes for a better senior living environment.

People can even choose to remain anonymous. Because you need to hear the truth, not the glossed-over version that pretends all is fine.

With a continuous pulse of comment-rich feedback, everyone has a voice, and you are empowered to make your best decisions.

And when people are heard, everyone wins.

To learn more about Savant, please visit their website.