May 22, 2019
By Linda Silveira, CDAL
Greenwich Farms at Warwick
Recently, I sat down with a group of our residents who happen to be veterans. As an extension of the Benchmark mission to elevate human connection and connect our residents to what matters most in their lives, I wanted to get to know them better. These particular residents aren’t always the most forthcoming, so I wanted to dive deeper below the surface. During this conversation, one of the residents mentioned he always wanted to fly in a helicopter, something he had never mentioned in three years with us. He was a fighter pilot during World War II who had completed 64 missions, but, surprisingly, he had never flown in a helicopter. We immediately got to work finding companies in our area offering helicopter rides and facilitated a flight to make his lifelong dream come true.
As executive directors and senior living leaders, I believe it is our responsibility not only to provide good care and ensure our residents are safe but also to know our residents’ essences, keep them active and help them write the next chapter in their lives.
I am consistently amazed by how many seniors I meet who feel that, because their families are raised and their careers are over, it’s the end. But that’s far from the truth! There is much more to discover and learn in life, especially when armed with years of knowledge, wisdom and experience. It’s our responsibility to act as guides. In over 20 years in senior care, I have learned a number of strategies to help my residents continue to grow.
Find associates who are committed to helping your residents write their next chapter.
Look for individuals for whom senior care isn’t a job but rather a true calling and passion. Those who had close relationships with their grandparents or were around older people at a young age will often be the most committed. Also, identify key team members within your community who will support and assist in efforts to get to know residents on a deeper level.
Get to know what makes your residents tick.
Sometimes this is easier said than done and is often a gradual process, especially with some personalities. Seniors, especially, can be surprisingly honest and open under the right circumstances. By getting to know them intrinsically and keeping them active, you can have a meaningful impact on their lives. This can be accomplished by asking the right questions during an activity, group setting, or one-on-one chat.
Learn from family members but consider their potential biases.
Family members can be an invaluable resource to get to know your residents, especially in the beginning; however, the parent-child relationship, in particular, is complex. Parents might not necessarily be comfortable sharing their hopes and dreams with their children. So, while gathering information from the family is important, it can’t be a substitute for gaining it first-hand.
Don’t be afraid to weather the tough times together. It’s often through the most difficult times in life that we are the most open and can get to know one another on a deeper level. Mutual trust can be gained through supporting someone when the chips are down and can give individuals perspective on their own goals and dreams.
Seeing the joy of helping our residents write their next chapter is one of the reasons why I got into senior living. I hope you will use these tips to join me in redefining aging while experiencing the joys that come with helping seniors derive the most fulfillment from their final years.