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How to Create a Family Communication Plan to Foster Connectedness

Family Engagement

Senior care organizations including assisted living, independent living, skilled nursing, and home care agencies need to frequently communicate with residents’ families, but that’s not always easy. Fortunately, there are many simple and efficient ways to create effective communications that promote family connections.

There are more than an estimated 6 million people over the age of 65 in long-term care facilities, most of whom have adult children who have grappled with the realization that aging parents need the services provided by experienced caregivers. For many families, the decision to move family members into long-term care carry the psychological equivalent of abandoning aging parents, often resulting in anxiety and guilt.

Logically, we all know this is not the case. Long-term care facilities provide a safe and secure environment and support from professional, caring staff who have the experience and expertise that family members just don’t have. However, sometimes emotion rules over logic, and family members are stuck feeling disconnected and out-of-the loop.

One way to alleviate this is to implement a well-thought-out family communication plan. Transparent communication keeps families informed, boosts confidence and trust in your organization, and can even help you improve satisfaction and engagement.

But communicating with families can be time-consuming. Manual phone calls, inaccurate email lists, limited texting capabilities, and a lack of process can result in massive inefficiency. Read on to uncover simple strategies you can use to effectively communicate with families, without requiring too much time from staff.

Set Communication Expectations
Set communication expectations right up front. Talk with family members about what information you will communicate and when. Find out which family members would like to receive messages to maximize relationships with the family as a whole. This simple discussion can go a long way in developing trust and peace of mind for family members.

Uncover Communication Preferences
Find out the communication preferences for each family member. Some may want to receive messages via texts while others may prefer email or phone. When you share information via the method that family members prefer, you demonstrate respect for family members and increase the likelihood that messages will be read.

Segment Audiences 
Segment families into distinct groups so you can easily provide specialized communications to only those recipients who need that information. For example, you might sort your groups into family contacts for residents in your memory care unit, or family contacts of new residents who came to your organization during a certain month. Segmentation makes your communications more precise and allows you to personalize communications for a more impactful, meaningful connection.

Determine What You Want to Communicate
Share the information that family members are interested in. For example, you can send messages about menus, activities, appointment reminders, weather alerts, emergency messages or general updates. Make sure your messages are brief, well-written, and to the point. Family members will appreciate the information!

Develop a Communication Schedule
With so many potential communication outlets, it’s important to develop a schedule to keep communications organized. The frequency of each type of communication will depend on your organization, your audience, the staff you have available to support these communications, as well as events or changes that are occurring at your organization.

Create a communication cadence that is strikes a good balance. Don’t send too many messages, as family members may tune them out. Send only relevant and timely information that ensures family members feel well informed. And make sure the staff who are responsible for executing your communication plan have the time and resources they need to do execute it correctly.

Use VoiceFriend
VoiceFriend is a HIPAA-compliant communication platform that helps to streamline your communication efforts. The platform is full of features that automate communications when possible, and that save staff time when updating and contacting families:

  • Send messages to families by phone, text, email, and on-demand dial-in. You can connect with family members using the communication method they prefer, which can make them feel appreciated and valued.
  • Create a communication schedule using the VoiceFriend calendar, so you can see which messages are scheduled for which audiences. This calendar is ideal when you have multiple staff working together to create and release communications.
  • Send family members appointment reminders via phone, email, or text to minimize missed appointments.
  • Create surveys to gather data on family and resident satisfaction and more. Surveys can show that you care about a family and resident’s experience and that you value their feedback.
  • Automate emergency communications to ensure families receive timely updates during emergencies.
  • Use the VoiceFriend mobile app. Staff can use the platform on their phones, so they don’t need to wait until they’re near a computer to send updates and communicate with.

All of your staff can use the VoiceFriend platform, which helps to keep your communications centralized and consistent. VoiceFriend helps to eliminate many of the tedious and repetitive tasks that often come with communication, and its automation capabilities can save your staff valuable time and allow for more frequent and faster communication with families.

Adding Value with Communications
Quality family communication is an essential priority for any senior care organizations. When you provide quality communication, you’re keeping families involved in their loved one’s care, and you’re building trust in your organization.

As you develop your communication strategies and implement some of these tips, don’t forget to keep communications positive whenever possible. The more you can personalize messages the better. Send a personal note or add a family member’s first name in the message to ensure messages are read. Taking the time to build out a comprehensive communications strategy will help to ensure that family members stay connected and engaged.

Interested in learning more about VoiceFriend? Visit our website today. Interested in learning more about engaging families? Download our white paper: Optimizing Family Engagement - Five Ways Senior Living Communities Can Build Trusting Relationships with Families.