St. Benedict’s Senior Community continues moves beyond basic state requirements for engagement and is discovering value and success along the way. St. Benedict’s Senior Community is owned and operated by CentraCare Health based in St. Cloud, MN. The facility is licensed for 197 nursing home beds spread over three campuses with a mix of skilled nursing and long-term care. They provide a full continuum of care (retirement apartments, assisted living, memory care, skilled nursing and rehabilitation) that covers emotional, intellectual, social, spiritual & physical wellness.

St. Benedict’s Senior Community continues to evolve and advance resident and family engagement across their settings of care.  As required by Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) through the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), St. Benedict’s efforts begin with their Resident Council. The Resident Council holds a full council meeting every other month. This meeting usually has 20-30 residents in attendance. All residents are welcome to attend.

Additionally, the facility hosts “Floor Meetings” every month. All residents on each floor are invited to come.  The topics of this meeting range from activities on the floor to the food that is served, and any ideas on the delivery of care or relationships with caregivers.   

A similar challenge faced by many long-term care facilities, attendance of the Family Council has been a bit more of a struggle. St. Benedict’s has offered this meeting in a variety of ways in hopes of improving participation. Christine Bakke, Administrator, stated, “We tried a variety of tactics including alternating the times of day or days of the week that meetings were held and providing food and treats to encourage interest.”  If meetings were held about 4 times per year, an average attendance was about 3-5 people. Leadership noted a higher interest for families with loved ones in the memory care facilities; Bakke states, “we saw this interest and turned some additional focus there to help these families become more engaged in the care of their loved ones. We now host these meetings every other month, and average a much higher number of families attending.”

For a more recent construction project in housing, St. Benedict’s held numerous focus groups for the design and service development process.  “I’ve been so impressed watching that process unfold over time, and continuing to see how essential it is to have our residents and families guide the process,” states Bakke.

As part of this process, CentraCare Health is creating a set of Service Standards across all settings related to continuing to improve the patient experience. This common set of Service Standards will be the same regardless of the setting of care. Part of this work will be forming a council comprised of three distinct groups (Clinics, Hospital, and Senior Services) to bring the voice of the patient to the planning. It is important to CentraCare that this group carries forth opinions and ideas from both an Experience and Quality of Care perspective. Recruitment for this group will be by invite at first, possibly transitioning to volunteer over time.

Bakke ends by reminding others, “Partnering with residents and families is essential to ensure our communities are strong and our care is the best it can be. We continue to learn from our past experiences, from others in the region, and try new tactics to ensure all voices around the table are heard and part of the conversation.”

Caution, look out ahead! Challenges faced by CentraCare’s St. Benedict Senior Community:

  • How to measure success in these engagement areas; defining the best metrics for understanding the success and effectiveness of councils and committees
  • Educating staff, particularly in the nursing home, how to interact with the residents and families within a council/committee structure to make everyone feel comfortable and safe to bring ideas and opinions forward; relationships between staff and residents can create a complex dynamic as they may know each other for many years and have a different bond that a shorter-stay care setting (like a hospital or clinic).
  • Techniques for recruiting and interviewing patients or family members to serve on long-term committees and councils to ensure the right fit based on the objectives of the council or committee.