By Susan Saldibar

Talk to a teacher, and they’ll probably tell you that their biggest challenge isn’t the kids, it’s the lunatic parents.

When my daughter (now wrapping up her first year as an elementary school teacher) heard that, she decided to go on the offensive by reaching out, on day one, and building relationships with these so-called “crazy” parents.

She found out that:

  1. They were not crazy. 
  2. They were good people.
  3. They were just worried about their kids and wanted to be included.

I won’t lie, it took her time on the front end (regular email updates, Zoom sessions, and lots of listening), but many of those parents became her greatest allies. And, in a big part due to them, she’s having a knockout first year teaching. (How often do you hear that?)

What’s That Got to Do With Senior Living?

Why should you even care about this?

Because, whether it’s parents worried about their kids or adult kids worried about their parents, they’re family. And they want to be included.

Michelle Wright, director of marketing for Caavo (a Foresight partner), is a big believer in family involvement in senior living communities.

Families are a huge part of why Caavo does what they do.

In fact, one of my favorite features of Caavo is how it allows families to interact with loved ones, not just through the TV, but with the TV itself! They can communicate day in, day out, right through the TV screen. (I wish my mom had had something like this.)

Engaged Families

Michelle tells me that the Caavo team has really noticed how communities with truly engaged families are more vibrant and more successful. 

So what is it that communities “don’t get” about building these relationships? 

  • Families crave involvement. Instead of looking to senior living to relieve them of a burden, more and more, they want to be part of the experience. Are you making them part of it?
  • Give them an “inch,” they won’t take a “mile.” Community management worries that family members will try to take over if you give them more involvement. Michelle tells me that the opposite happens. When you invite them in, they become more collaborative. They build up more trust.
  • They’ll achieve things you cannot. They know your resident better than anyone else. When things get tough, they can be real allies, helping you navigate through issues.
  • Do right by them, and they’ll do right by you. Families are the best referrals you can get. Full stop.

Cultivating Relationships

Nobody is saying that cultivating these relationships is easy. In fact, it’s probably harder up front. Especially if your culture isn’t there yet, because you have to change the way you communicate with the family and take it all the way back to the prospect stage.

  1. Encourage regular visits from family. Even if they must be done virtually (for those who don’t live close).
  2. Be 100% transparent. This is where technology like Caavo can help. Families should be given access to everything residents have. That includes activity calendars, dining menus, etc. Let them see when Mom has made a request for someone to fix her sink. Let her know when the repair has been made. Give family members their own window on all the activities so that they can remind Mom to sign up for bowling or the bus trip.
  3. Give them tools to allow them to contribute. Give them smartphone apps, like Caavo’s, that let them schedule reminders to make life easier. Give them remote control of the TV so that they can help Mom put on the morning news. Give them visibility so that they know if Mom hasn’t responded to her daily welcome check.

All these things are great steps to start bringing families closer to your community. You may find them ready and eager to help you make the experience for their loved one better. 

They just want to be included. Wouldn’t you?

The best way to check out Caavo is to get a demo. You can (and should!) request one here.