Skilled nursing professionals experience significant marketing challenges. Physical plant limitations, poor online reputations, tight budgets, and stiff competition are all significant hurdles that SNFS constantly strive to overcome. But these challenges pale in comparison to the barrier of negative patient perception.

“We’re a need-based service industry,” said one CEO I spoke with recently. “Nobody wants to be in a nursing home unless they have to be.”

This perception is largely true — most people want to  stay in their homes as long as they can. Stories of unclean living conditions, loneliness, and neglect perpetuate a myth that nursing homes should be avoided at all costs. However, in many cases, being at home — even with a caregiver — isn’t the right choice. Today’s nursing homes are patient-centric with numerous benefits that prospective patients and their families simply don’t know about.

So, marketing directors, when prospective patients and their family members come to tour your facility, here are three things that you must communicate about the advantages of living in a nursing home.

    1. You get care from the pros — which can be better care than family members or in-home caregivers.

    “As people get older, their medical needs become more complex,” said Scott Hansen, executive director of Lake Ridge Senior Living. “Nursing homes have a staff of qualified caregivers who are trained to deal with orthopedic rehab, stroke, CHF, COPD, and many other conditions. In many cases, in-home aides do not have the training or ability to care for patients in the same way a skilled nursing facility can.”

    And this care extends to family members. Because of the variety of needs for older adults, family members and other caregivers often feel overwhelmed and overworked. A 2015 study by AARP (Caregiving in the U.S., 2015) showed that caregivers’ health declined when they provided long-term care for a loved one. A skilled nursing facility can provide needed relief for family members while also giving patients the best care possible from staff on shifts. You’ll never need to worry about emergencies in the middle of the night or how to treat complications.

    2. You can do lunch every day—with good food and a date.

    As people get older, it’s not uncommon for social circles to dwindle and for aging individuals to have fewer opportunities to spend with friends, including at meal times. This can have a negative impact on health. A study (Annual Meeting of the American College of Nutrition in Washington, D.C., 1999) found that eating alone, in particular, may lead to malnutrition in elderly individuals. At a skilled nursing facility, residents are given the opportunity to form lasting friendships with each other. A very important side benefit is that they eat healthier.

    But, it’s not just about nutrition. Everyone worries about how the food will taste at a skilled nursing facility, so many SNFs are moving to restaurant-style food service to give a level of customization you won’t find at home. So, one strong argument for potential patients is that they will be able to enjoy delicious, healthy meals with friends every day.

    3. You can go to the gym—with structured therapy that will help you rehabilitate faster.

    For patients suffering from a chronic illness, such as diabetes or hypertension, diet is only half the battle. Skilled nursing facilities offer physical, occupational, and speech therapy that have been shown to improve patient outcomes in nursing home settings. Chiodo et al, for example, found that the intensity of physical therapy was positively correlated with improvement in patient outcomes (Physical Therapy, 72/3: 168-75).

    An in-house therapy gym not only offers improved patient outcomes with individualized therapy, but many facilities also offer group classes such as yoga and pilates. All of these programs improve strength, endurance, flexibility and mobility, which, in turn, adds to quality of life.

    “If I could do one thing for skilled nursing administrators,” said Hansen, “I would give them confidence that their facilities have much to be proud of. I am convinced that if patients actually knew the extent of the benefits of skilled nursing, they would be clamoring for a bed.”

With 24-7 care, good food, companionship, and therapy programs, paid for mostly by Medicare, what’s not to love?

About The Author: Amy Osmond Cook

Amy Osmond CookDr. Amy Osmond Cook is executive director of the Association of Skilled Nursing Providers (ASNP). She received her Ph.D. from the University of Utah in Communication, and is a regular health and wellness contributor to the Orange County Register, Daily Herald, Senior Scene, Senior Housing Forum, and more. She’s also currently the host of Good Day Orange County, a local television program for Laguna Woods, a senior community with more than 18,000 residents. Her full profile is available on LinkedIn.

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