Resident and Family Engagement Defines Minnesota Nursing Home’s Approach to Care

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Patient involvement is a priority at Lakewood Health System Care Center in Staples, Minnesota. Instead of using data from surveys and reports to determine what residents want, Lakewood works directly with residents and families.

The nursing home has a resident council, which meets monthly to allow residents to discuss issues that are important to them. Quarterly, there is a larger meeting attended by nursing home management, which serves as a forum for residents to offer feedback directly to decision-makers. It lets residents advocate for themselves and on behalf of others who are unable to or uncomfortable with speaking directly to management.

Iris, a Lakewood resident and active member of the resident council, is grateful for the nursing homes personalized attention.

I like that they involve us in everything,” says Iris. We know what’s going on. We have meetings and can share how we feel about the home. I feel that this is my home.”

By facilitating conversations with residents, Lakewood has opened communication channels that make it easier to identify and correct problems.

In some cases, the solution is action for change: for example, ensuring fresh drinking water is available in the morning and guaranteeing consistent delivery of mail and newspapers on weekends. Another part of the solution involves educating residents on the rationale behind specific practices. Shifting resident perceptions often resolves dissatisfactions that couldn’t previously be addressed, ultimately reducing residents’ lists of grievances.

Phrasing can affect how residents respond to certain questions. It is important to use key words that are clearly defined and familiar to patients.”

Lakewood also works closely with families. When a resident is admitted, the staff develops care plans based on a combination of resident and family input on medical history, personal preferences and needs. The facility also hosts family council meetings, providing relatives with a forum for regular feedback.

Stacy Line, director of nursing at Lakewood, said that semantics and language can correlate with satisfaction results. Phrasing can affect how residents respond to certain questions,” she said. It is important to use key words that are clearly defined and familiar to patients.”

For instance, when residents report on their satisfaction with activities,” they might not understand what is really meant by the term. A family visit is considered an activity, but so is a game of checkers – so it is important that residents truly understand the question.

Clarity and consistency are also vital to issues such as pain management. Residents need to understand the different values related to varying levels of pain so that they can accurately communicate what they are experiencing.

It’s important to make sure we’re using the same language every time and keeping the language descriptive so they really understand the difference between a seven and a 10 [on the pain scale],” Line explained.

Resident education has helped in the measurement of pain management. Recently, Lakewood received a perfect score for its pain program, based partially on patient education about communicating pain experiences, in addition to improvements to the nursing homes charting system and reporting methods. 

The Lake Superior Quality Innovation Network, the Quality Innovation Network-Quality Improvement Organization (QIN-QIO) for Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin, originally published Lakewood’s success story in February 2015.