How to Solve Resident’s Greatest Need

How to Solve Resident’s Greatest Need

Someone waiting on you hand and foot. Doing everything for you. You never have to lift a finger.

Sounds pretty good doesn’t it?

Perhaps for the short term. If I’m on vacation. But long term? For the rest of my life?

It’s certainly not what I want. And I don’t think its what most of our residents want.

But what happens now in senior living? Residents move into our community and we do the cooking, cleaning, driving, and even plan how they have fun! They simply are on the receiving end.

We’ve taken from them what makes life exciting: doing something that matters! We all want to feel that we make a difference in this world. It’s probably why you do the work that you do.

Think about it. What makes you want to get out of bed in the morning?

Chances are you are probably dedicated to helping somebody else. Somebody other than yourself. You are dedicated to making a difference in someone’s life, workplace or future. That’s a opportunity that the residents don’t get too often.

We all want a reason to live. A purpose for our existence. Personally, I want to know that when I plant my two feet on the ground each morning that I’m going to make a difference in the world.

But we’re doing all the work for residents and they are sitting around. Bored.

Think about the last time you were bored. Truly bored. Chances are it was when you were waiting for something. Maybe you were in line at the grocery store or waiting at the doctors.

I get bored waiting for ten minutes without something to do. Think about the people that live in our communities. They are waiting all day long. Waiting for the next meal, waiting for the next scheduled event.

What’s the opposite? Engagement. Excitement. Involvement! That’s what we need to be seeing. People that are excited to be alive.

And what excites people? A chance to use their wisdom, their life experience, their talents Their potential.

When we don’t get to do these things we feel useless. And who wants to feel useless?

Let me give you an example of the opposite. A resident in my former organization that was always involved in local politics leading a daily meeting in the nursing home in which he lived.…basically the politician of his new home.

At the time of his death, his daughter shared with me that that meeting added years to his life. Why? Because he was sharing what he was good at with other people.

He was doing something that matters. He was challenged to create an agenda each day for the meeting. He was challenged to recruit other residents and staff to be part of the meeting.

Our “politician” recruited a resident that was very spiritual to lead a prayer circle for sick residents and staff member’s children who were in Iraq and Afghanistan. (One visited the group to thank them for their prayers when he was back in the US for a visit!)

Both of these people had a challenge in their life that they were excited in the morning to get up and meet.

An organization that I worked with last week is planning a job fair….for residents! Together they are creating a list of jobs and opportunities so the residents can look at all the options that exist and choose how they want to give back.

How many residents in your community feel challenged? How many have a goal that they are excited about achieving? I think if you look around you’ll see most people with no challenges, beyond the physical ones.

We are robbing residents of the ability to give back to others by having the staff do everything for them.

It’s a human need to give back. What if someone told you that you could never do anything to benefit anyone ever again? For the rest of your life. “We are going to do everything for you and you are going to do nothing for anyone else.”

Right now we expect residents to do nothing, and truth be told, often discourage it. What about if we flipped it and contribution was required?


If residents were committed to figuring out how they can help? If organizations were committed to helping them figure it out?

Imagine if contributing to the community in which you live was mandatory. It would have to get done. It’s your home, and your expected to contribute. We’ll help you to figure it out, but you need to do something that matters.

What gets people out of the bed in the morning is doing something that matters. And residents aren’t doing enough of it.

It’s an easy fix, they have a lot to give and we have a lot get from them.

Need some ideas to get started? Try these out:

  1. Meet with residents one-on-one to learn about their life long interests and hobbies. What do you offer that connects with these? What else can you offer? For example, a resident in an assisted living shared her history as an actress and the community created an theatre group. Just a handful of residents came together to write and perform short plays.
  2. Ask residents to share a dream that they want to pursuit. Perhaps learning a language, an instrument, or finally getting that college diploma. What interests do your residents have?
  3. Determine with residents if they would like to volunteer and in what capacity. Have staff share ideas on how they could benefit from a volunteer helping them. Residents can act as greeters at the front door, volunteer at the nursing home or memory care area (paint nails or offer hand massages), do office work, set tables, chop food, set out food displays, etc

It’s up to us to figure this out. Not only for the good of our residents, but for the greater good of our organizations!


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