The staffing crisis in senior living is bad and getting worse, raising a key question for operators: What can we do, beyond raising wages, to make it better?
“The pandemic was a reckoning for health care workers in many ways, especially in senior living,” says Michelle Wright, Director of Marketing at Caavo, a platform for TV-based communication and remote TV control with a successful track record in the consumer electronics industry. “Surge after grueling surge, they stepped up to care for vulnerable residents and keep them safe amid constant uncertainty. At some point, it all became too much.”
Feeling frustrated, exhausted and burned out, workers started considering other options, Wright says, searching for better opportunities with fewer marathon shifts, lower stress and less intense workloads.
“The pandemic shone a light on a long-standing issue of health care workers feeling underpaid and underappreciated, so no one is expecting a sudden influx of people returning post-COVID, ” Wright says.
One answer, of course, is to raise wages. But setting that aside, there is another avenue that operators can take to attract and retain employees: improving the work environment. TV-based technology, the type Caavo offers, can provide a big boost there.
Here are four ways TV-connected technology can help senior living staff members.
Automate mundane staff tasks
A recent senior care survey revealed a sobering truth: 80% of respondents working in senior care believe that burnout is a significant problem for staff. One way that operators can reduce staff burnout is to automate routine and mundane tasks — the jobs that pull caregivers away from their purpose and passion: providing care and attention to residents.
- Wellness checks, which Caavo sends to resident TVs
- Compliance reporting, which Caavo automates
- Automatically displaying dining menus and activity calendars
Help staff serve residents directly
Just because you automate a task does not mean in-person interaction disappears. When wellness checks are automated, for instance, staff have the opportunity to spend face-to-face time with residents who need it most.
“Technology should always be additive,” Wright says. “It should free up staff to focus on high-value hands-on tasks that support residents.”
The Caavo system is successful in part because residents are already familiar with the core technology: their television. That makes for a minimal learning curve, as the technology is intuitive and easy to use for both residents and staff, Wright says.
As such, staff members can use Caavo to personalize the resident experience in simple yet delightful ways. In one community, staff used Caavo to automatically turn on the TV and tune to the Cubs game for a resident to make sure she wouldn’t miss her favorite team. In another, the resident would often forget to come down for meals, so staff set a reminder to show on their TV five minutes before breakfast and lunch.
Rather than technology creating a social barrier, Caavo breaks those barriers down.
Improve staff-resident relationships
Senior living staff members are mission-driven: they work to serve residents. While residents want to maintain as much physical independence as possible, socially, they want a strong relationship with staff members. The more dependent they are on staff physically the less they can feel as if they are equals, which erodes the staff-resident bond and diminishes the quality of the work environment.
TV-connected technology can help strengthen that bond. With Caavo’s voice remote, residents can use the TV without assistance. They can request callbacks from staff and use their Caavo-connected TV to communicate with family members.They don’t feel as dependent upon staff.
In turn, staff members have a richer, more fulfilling experience with residents. You can’t put a price on that happiness.
“The right technology will make communication between staff and residents more efficient and effective,” Wright says. “It also helps residents feel more informed and involved at the same time. Imagine being able to turn on everyone’s TV to display an important announcement. This is obviously a huge time saver, and it brings comfort to residents, assuring them that they’re not going to miss important information.”
Improve staff-family relationships
Personal relationships are a major component of a senior living work environment. Staff members need to feel connected to not just each other and residents, but to resident loved ones too. And not just connected, but comfortable. TV-based technology builds that comfort and connection by creating transparency for family members.
“This is huge because family members are not left wondering what’s happening, and when,” Wright says. “That means fewer frantic calls to staff, asking, ‘Is Mom okay?’”
Instead, family members can use Caavo to see, for example, that Mom turned on her TV as usual at 10 a.m. to watch Jeopardy. They can see maintenance requests and responses. They can set a reminder for her to take a movement break, and then automatically turn her TV to a stretching video on YouTube. They can even remotely change the channel so she can watch her favorite show.
“Not only do family members feel more engaged, but they’re contributing to caretaking in a meaningful way that relieves some of the pressure on staff by reducing their workload,” Wright says. “No place else can you get that level of visibility and interaction.”
When not covering senior news, Jack Silverstein is a sports historian and staff writer for SB Nation’s Windy City Gridiron, making regular guest spots on WGN and 670-AM, The Score. His work has appeared in Chicago Tribune, RedEye Chicago, ChicagoNow, Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, Chicago Magazine, and others.