Having a Voice

By John Kelly


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We’ve all had those dreams where we open our mouths and nothing comes out – only silence. Maybe you wake up in a panic before you realize, relieved, it was only a dream. For some though, this anxiety is very real. Imagine a situation where your input was disregarded, your wishes ignored. This is the fear that many face when they move to a senior residence. Some seniors believe they are no longer relevant. Often they feel society has left them behind, pushed them to the periphery of the community. In the best senior residences, however, steps are taken to ensure all voices are heard.

At Amica Mature Lifestyle Residences a robust system of communication facilitates feedback from residents in the form of comments, criticism, and compliments that are promptly acted upon by management and staff.
General Manager of Amica’s Thornhill, ON residence, Lisa Tracz explains, “We have an active Resident Council comprised of resident members. The senior leadership and I attend upon invitation; however, residents are encouraged to provide direct feedback more, as needed, in a number of ways. We provide both an online and paper comment card that is directed to me where a response is always provided.”

At Amica, monthly “town hall” meetings are held led by the general manager with other managers, team members, and residents contributing. Even more informal, “well-being checks” are carried out over mealtimes by Tracz and her dining room manager. The objective is to give residents a chance to respond casually, in the moment, eliciting concerns that might not come to mind later.

With locations across Ontario, Alberta, and BC, Amica strives to provide a consistent level of quality service to its residents by tracking and analysing patterns of satisfaction and dissatisfaction.

“Residents can also provide feedback directly to our Residence Experience team on the Contact section of our company website. They can choose to identify themselves or provide feedback anonymously. All feedback is reviewed and acted on by community leadership. Trends in compliments and complaints are reviewed across the organization as part of Amica’s culture of continuous quality improvement,” says Tracz.

Denise Tidman is the Executive Director of Norgarden and The Peninsula, retirement residences located just north of Victoria, BC.

“I am fortunate to be the director of a family-owned community. So, the buck stops here! My door is always open for residents to voice their opinions or pass on suggestions on how we can do better and be better, so that every resident has the best experience possible,” says Tidman. A short chain of command has been instrumental, boasts Tidman, in the quick turnaround of ideas and their implementation.

No one knows the trials that accompany entering a senior residence better than those who have already done it. While family, friends, and staff make every effort to affect a smooth and painless transition into a residence, sometimes the seasoned wisdom of one who has “been there” can provide the best insight and the most reassuring counsel.

“We pair new residents with existing residents to show them the ropes and help ease their way into a lifestyle they may not be familiar with. So many of our residents have very similar backgrounds and life experiences, especially in the later years. It is very comforting to know that others have travelled this same path and are thriving,” says Tidman.

A similar system of peer support and counselling is in place at Amica.

“We have an active welcoming committee with both management and resident participation. Sometimes, hearing it from a fellow senior makes things better and easier to understand. We have a sunshine committee that welcomes residents back from hospital or supports a grieving resident,” explains Tracz.
 
There’s an old saying that “children should be seen and not heard.” That’s not right; not for mine, anyway! As little as they’ve experienced, their voices are unique and valid. Now, think for a moment how a lifetime of experience strengthens and enriches the voice of a senior, how that voice deserves an audience and has earned the right to advocate for its owner. Professional and caring senior residences listen to those voices and the best learn from them every day.

 

february 2017 INSPIRED senior living

 

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