Chief Engagement Officers: Why It's Time to Hire a New 'CEO'

two women hugging | chief engagement officer
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The buzzword in senior care today is engagement. Unfortunately, the focus of this engagement is all too often on members of the workforce and community business partners, rather than the residents we serve. Resident engagement itself does not rank high on the list of priorities for most communities.

There’s a seeming lack of respect for people who lead activities like Recreational Therapists and Activity Directors, evidenced by the paltry budgets they’re asked to work with. Furthermore, a 2016 CDC report indicates that residents are typically receiving only 11 minutes of engagement each day outside of assistance with activities of daily living. The most successful senior living communities understand that purposeful living through quality engagement begins with a deep understanding of the needs and preferences of each resident.

Engagement in the framework of aging and supportive living is defined as, “…the act of being occupied or involved with an external stimulus.” Today, engagement efforts are frequently limited to “activities” or “life enrichment” when in fact person-centered engagement is about optimizing all personal interactions a resident experiences throughout the day. Engagement is the job of any staff person who encounters the resident, from maintenance to dining to nursing — not only the activities department.

When a community commits to investing in leadership and education around quality engagement, it’s time for the Chief Engagement Officer (CEO) to step in. Providing a personalized experience beyond the typical three Bs — playing bingo, reading the bible, and celebrating birthdays — is a start, but nominating a CEO is truly how providers will achieve person-centered care. A CEO will be given the time, tools, and budget they need to succeed in optimizing engagement across the board. This represents a unique opportunity for senior care communities. Quality engagement is correlated with better quality of life for all residents, longer lengths of stay, a lower cost of providing care, higher satisfaction for all stakeholders, and better referrals.

The first step is to define who’s in charge of engagement and nominate them as CEO. They will lead the entire community in learning about and providing quality engagement. This work can be supported by management when they:

• Announce the CEO as the community spokesperson for matters of quality and purposeful engagement. Things now expected by residents and families alike.

• Provide the CEO with unlimited access to a comprehensive database of educational materials to support the training they’ll do across departments around evidence-based strategies for optimizing engagement.

• Give the CEO the time they need to support their team in learning about and providing person-centered engagement through coaching and education.

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