As CCRCs work towards a more social model instead of the medical model, we see the need for changing the mindset of employees and residents. The concept of a universal worker or a what ever your community might call the position, leaves those just entering this new world wondering how it will work out.
The community where I work is taking big steps towards creating neighborhoods and staff being crossed trained, especially in the medical/health center and assisted living section of our community. I work in the independent living section of the CCRC and these concepts are slowly coming to my part of town.
One of the best things that I have done so far towards this initiative is to have a Getting to Know You Reception for staff and residents. The hardest part of the event was to encourage the staff to stay for the party. Once the executive director told the department heads that they should schedule their staff to be there and to keep them on the clock for it, it seemed to help a lot.
I set the event for Friday at 4:30 p.m. because I thought that during the week, staff might have family obligations to attend to with their children and because 4:30 p.m. is like our "happy hour" before the residents go into the dining room. Next time, I will ask the managers what their staff would prefer instead of making that assumption.
I promoted it strongly as a chance to get to know the staff when they were not rushing off to work. Even during the event, I found myself encouraging the residents to go to the staff members because I knew that due to language barriers and the nature of our particular set of staff members, they were not going to take the lead to mix.
The hour event went like this: I had 2 tables with 2 staff members at each. They provided name tags for those who came to the event and provided each person with their own question for the party. They were told to ask their question to as many people as they could by saying, "Hello, Jim, my name is Martha, and my question is...." We explained that after they asked their question and heard the answer that they should ask the person for their question if it is not offered right away. There were about 30 different questions, copied multiple times, available to be used as conversation starters.
I found the questions in a book called Getting to Know You. It did take time to read through them and select questions that would 1) inspire conversation 2) be something that both staff and residents could relate to and 3) feel comfortable answering. There are other books for mixers that would be helpful for this kind of event also that can be found in my Resources for Activities Directors section of my blog.
If you rather not take the time to read and select appropriate questions, feel free to take a look at the ones that I typed up. They can be found on-line.
This was so fun and interesting. It did require a lot of repetition as the directions were retold over and over, but that was alright. It also did require our staff to come out of their comfort zones a little bit, but that too was alright. Giving them permission to be the guests at the party was hard for some and at times they were reminded to mingle with the residents, not just stand with each other.
This event, I believe, lays a good foundation for the success of our home-like, community, neighborhood community that we are striving to be. In order for this social model to work, we must know the residents who we serve, and they must know us, the employee - as people! Not as workers or as residents, but as humans, with strengths, weaknesses, talents, interests, etc. It was not a hard event to do, but I believe it
will have big rewards in the future. Get your management on board, and then go for it.