Here’s my latest article on McKnight’s Long-Term Care News:
“I hope Santa brings me a Sony DS,” my 7-year-old told me the other day. I can tell you right now that Santa is not bringing her a video game player, but I didn’t want to tell her that or spill the beans about Santa. So I did what I imagine most parents would do in that situation: I asked her what else she hoped Santa would bring.
There are many benefits of hope, according to an article in October’sAmerican Psychological Association Monitor. Researchers report that, “Hopeful people have a greater sense that life is meaningful.” In addition, “Hope is a strong predictor of positive emotions … and a necessary step on the path to contentment.”
Psychologists differentiate hope from optimism, saying that optimism is a feeling that generally good things will happen, while hope tends to be focused on more specific goals. Researchers state that social connections are an important part of being hopeful, counteracting the feeling of being invisible and alone.
Hope in LTC
So what does this have to do with long-term care? As it turns out, a lot.
The article referred to a 2001 study that examined the level of hopefulness of nearly 800 people aged 64-79. Several years later, 29% of those classified as hopeless had died, compared to 11% of those who were hopeful. Researchers note that hopeful people tend to make better health choices.
If hopeful residents are making better health choices, chances are they’re more likely to comply with medical recommendations and dietary guidelines. They’re more likely to get up and go to rehab, increasing your reimbursement rates. Residents who are hopeful, happy, and satisfied are more likely to refer people to your facility.
Helping residents feel hopeful
Residents often enter our facilities after a demoralizing health problem. They may be cut off from their usual support system and worried or fearful about the future. We can help our residents feel more hopeful by implementing the following ideas:
1. A warm welcome from staff: First impressions really are important. Make sure their initial welcome feels personal and reassuring, reducing their feelings of being invisible and alone. I’ve watched new residents being pushed through the doors in stretchers or wheelchairs. The “pusher,” usually an ambulette driver, consults with the security desk for a room number while the resident is ignored.
Instead, train your staff, especially those at the front desk and those who will greet admissions on the floors, to make eye contact with each new person, smile and say, “Mr. Johnson, welcome to My Better Nursing Home.”
2. A friendly greeting from peers: While staff members can provide important information and reassurance for residents, hearing it from others who have been through the same thing is invaluable. A resident welcoming committee shows newbies that there are people who are happy in your facility, leading them to believe that they can be happy too. Residents also can give the lowdown on things staff can’t say, such as which staff members are grumpy and how to work around them.
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