Your staff is overwhelmed tending to residents’ needs, scheduling caregivers, coordinating dietary services and helping with daily operations. A new resident inquiry in the midst of it all may feel to them like one more thing to do.
Arm your team members with 2 simple questions to focus the conversation, engage the prospect and family and more likely turn the inquiry into a happy resident.
Question #1 What is your understanding of your mother’s situation?
Does this image depict a young woman or an older adult?
In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey wrote, “Two people can see the exact same thing, disagree and yet both be right.” A physician might describe your prospect’s mother as, “Early onset dementia with some cardiovascular risk factors.” Your care coordinator might refer to that as, “A need for memory care.” But when you ask your prospect what their understanding of the situation is, they open up and describe life with this condition. He might reply, “Mom is pretty good on her own. Dad died back in 2006, and she’s been living alone ever since. But recently she left her checkbook on the windowsill with the window open overnight, which really scared me…”
This is your staff’s opportunity to speak directly about how your organization can make life better. After all, that is the heart of the matter.
To take this concept even further, the staff might ask the same question of the prospective resident. Mom herself might respond, “Oh, I’m fine, really. It was just a small oversight. But I read an article recently about the eight activities of daily living, and I can do all of those. I don’t need help.” This is the golden opportunity to ask more of the right questions: How often does she grocery shop? What is her daily routine for food preparation and consumption, meal by meal? What is her process, start to finish for paying bills? The answers to these questions may help her to draw some new conclusions for herself.
The goal here is to explore fully what each person involved in the decision sees about the situation, ask open-ended questions to get them talking, help table topics they don’t agree upon, and assisting them in seeing commonalities in other viewpoints, which may lead to action and eventually a signed lease.
Question #2 Why is that important to you?
As your prospect shares thoughts and insights, listen closely for what motivates them. Independence is a big motivator for older adults. They want to be sure that they will be able to preserve the autonomy that is at the core of being human. As for family, motivators can range from children to career to time to a sense of control to a sense of release from control and far beyond. As your prospect shares the situation with you, it is critical to ask at several points during the conversation, “Why is that important to you?” Watch carefully what happens. Typically, people let down their guard and get vulnerable. This is the soft, lovely place where relationships are built.
Let’s revisit the example above.
The son says,
“Mom is pretty good on her own. Dad died back in 2006, and she’s been living alone ever since. But recently she left her checkbook on the windowsill with the window open overnight, which really scared me…”
Your team member replies, “What I hear from you is that your mother’s financial security and personal safety are important to you, is that right?”
“Yes,” he replies, a bit surprised that he has actually been heard.
Your staff would continue, “I think I already know the answer to this, but why are her financial security and personal safety important to you?”
This is where the magic happens. The son now feels that he is being heard, understood and even empathized with. “Well,” he opens up, “we went through this with Dad… after his stroke, he was like a different person. I had never seen him take a drink of alcohol, and after his rehabilitation, he started keeping liquor in the house. Next thing we knew, he was found wandering the neighborhood alone. And then, the financial wreckage began. Without my mother knowing it, he was spending uncontrollably.”
The first concern voiced by your prospect is almost never the core fear. When you ask, “Why is that important,” they dig deeper and share more humbly. Your team member thereby learns much more about who this person really is, why they make the choices they do and how to guide them to make the right choice with their loved one.
Which brings us to Mom. She started off by saying, “Oh, I’m fine, really. It was just a small oversight. But I read an article recently about the eight activities of daily living, and I can do all of those. I don’t need help.”
This might prompt your staff to reply, “Your independence is really important to you, isn’t it?”
“It is!” exclaims Mom, relieved that she’s been heard.
“Why is that so important to you?” comes the question to get at the heart of the matter.
“After Jim’s stroke, we became very isolated. Friends came around less… I think they were unsure of how to react to his condition, so they just stayed away. Slowly, my life became smaller and smaller because it centered around caring for him and managing all that wreckage… It was a very hard time. And since his passing, I have worked very hard to be involved in my community, to forge good friendships, to regularly see my family. I’m not giving that up again.”
This stuff is gold in getting Mom to make the right choice for herself. Your team now has the insight they need to truly demonstrate that they can help her maintain that sense of independence and belonging while also putting her son’s fears at ease.
Simply by asking the right questions, you open up all of the possibilities for all of the involved parties.