Asking the Right Questions, the Right Way

The process of searching for the most appropriate supportive living provider for an aging parent should always include an on-site visit and an interview. You want to see firsthand what the community looks like, how caregivers interact with their residents, and what options are available for your parent’s specific needs. The interview portion of your visit is critical, as it provides a more in-depth assessment of the community.

But you need to know the right questions to ask. Prepare a list ahead of time that addresses all of your concerns that may directly affect your parent and their experience in a new community residential setting.

More importantly, you should phrase your questions in a manner that will provide a more open and honest glimpse into the capabilities and attitude of the people to whom you will entrust the care of your loved one.

Ask The Right Questions

We use (and coach our clients on the use of) “behavioral interviewing” to gain a more complete sense of what to expect from a particular community or program. Behavioral interviewing is based on the belief that past performance is the best predictor of future behavior. By asking questions in a more open-ended manner you can elicit a more detailed and revealing response.

For example, a family member investigating an assisted living community may sit down with the marketing representative and ask about how the staff will help a parent assimilate into the facility’s population. The response will most often be reassuring, as marketing representatives are well versed in providing safe and comforting answers.

But if you phrase the same question in a different way, you’ll get a more telling response. Try asking, “What steps have your staff members taken in the past to introduce a new resident into the rhythm of daily life here?” This more open ended line of questioning will require a more thoughtful answer that is based on actual experience, not a practiced response. We strongly recommend these types of questions be asked not just of the marketing representative but also of the Executive Director and/or Wellness Nurse since these are the people who will be directly involved in the care of your loved one after they have moved into the community.

This method can be applied to a wide range of questions addressing many areas of concern:

• Tell me about a time in the recent past when you had a resident who was prone to having falls at night. What was your staff able to do to help minimize those falls?
• Which group activity have you found to be most popular with people my father’s age and what techniques have you found to be successful in getting people who are more reclusive to participate?
• What has proven to be the most effective technique used by your dining service team to encourage a resident who has been losing weight due to refusing food at mealtimes?

Behavioral interviewing, which is widely used in the employment industry, has been shown to be more than five times as effective in predicting future success than a more traditional approach. Getting more complete answers to your questions that are based on actual experience is a much more effective way of judging the capabilities of a community.

For more information on behavioral interviewing please feel free to contact us by phone (508-564-0192) or by email (info@2sisters-sla.com). We’d be happy to provide more insight into this helpful technique.

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