Most often, the decision to enter a nursing home is made at a point of crisis for a family that has been discussing it for some time, but has put the decision off out of fear. Marketing departments tend to avoid difficult conversations, but sometimes, speaking directly about family concerns indicates that you understand their worries and are willing to address them. What are these fears, and how can we address them directly to encourage potential residents to choose our facilities over others available?
Ask. When a family comes in to see the facility, you can simply say, “A lot of our families are in crisis when they come here for this discussion. Do you have any immediate needs or concerns?” The industry often feels a need to talk around the issues of aging and death, but that is why people enter nursing facilities. Though they may remain in denial about fatal outcomes, families are certainly aware that their loved ones are significantly altered by age or illness, and even physicians struggle with direct speech about needs and expected outcomes. Families are reassured to discover that their fears are founded, and that someone is interested in providing for their needs at a difficult time.
Listen. In the aftermath of a fall, sudden illness, or decline of a love done, families may be rushed through the medical system, and their concerns dismissed. They may have been told that a parent needs to go into a nursing home, with very little time to discuss specific issues, and may have received only a short, dismissive speech from a busy hospitalist. Allow the family to speak, to tell you about their loved one, and even to share their own feelings. You can gain useful information about a potential client and family in this way, and it assures them that you are interested in the well being of the whole person involved, and not just filling an empty bed.
Provide. Having heard the specific fears, address them. If they are concerned about a fussy eater or dietary restrictions, show them the week’s menu options. If staffing is the issue, show them busy, cheerful hallways. A small volunteer resident welcoming committee, for each unit where it is possible, is a great selling point, indicating that there can still be an active social life, and meaningful friendships to be made after admission for long term care. If it is practical, keep a furnished room or suite for display, to show how personal and home-like facility life will be.
Families may enter facilities in fear, but they can leave in comfort if time is taken to truly hear them. Active listening may be the difference between choosing your facility and another. Each family harbors its own collection of concerns, and the successful facility uses simple terminology to approach them with honesty and respect.