Who are These People?
Connecting with the Staff of the Assisted Living
By: Colleen Kavanaugh, CCC
If your caree has recently moved into an assisted living home, in addition to all
the overwhelming feelings you may be experiencing, trying to figure out who’s
who in this new land can be a reason to scream.
The staff is an extension of the care you have provided at home. It’s as if you
have become dozens of highly trained individuals; an activity coordinator, nurse,
aide, financial director, housekeeper, dietician, chef.
Remember, even your best friend was once a stranger before you meet them.
The staff at an assisted living home is there because they care. The sooner you
can become comfortable with the staff the sooner your caree will follow your
New environments are often emotionally charged. You and your caree are
adjusting to many changes; it is easy for nerves to fray and cause us to be less
than our best selves. Here are a few communication tips to help reduce some
Learn who’s who (and write it down!)
Take a moment with the admissions coordinator and ask who’s who. Make a list
so you know whom to ask for when you need them. Before you know it, everyone
will become familiar.
Learn and use names
Taking your list, make the effort to learn everyone’s name. If you know the staff
by name, you will feel more comfortable approaching Sally for help, rather than
needing to find “Whatshername” for help.
Write them down to make good use of everyone’s time. If you walk into a
surprising situation, the agenda you arrived with can fly out of your mind in an
After you ask the questions on your list, actually listen to the answers.
Summarize what they said and determine next steps.
Avoid confrontational statements
Don’t blame. Use phrases like, “It concerns me that…”, “I understand what you’re
saying…”, “What if we tried a new approach…”
Let staff know your parent as a person
Share stories about your caree with staff. You can assemble a bulletin board with
telling artifacts from their life. This board will create conversation starters. The
information can also help distract your caree to happier thoughts during moments
Recognize the work of the staff. Drop off a just-because tray of snacks to the
nurse’s station. Give a thank you note to the aide after your parent caused them
a challenging day.
If you don’t understand something, ask. And ask until you are clear on what you
are looking to learn. This is a new world for you and your parent. What’s new hat
to you is old hat to the staff. There are no bad questions. Don’t be shy.
When something is wrong
Always trust your instincts. Occasionally situations could arise that will not be
resolved the first time. If you’ve worked directly with a staff member or aide on an
issue and the problem persists, go to the director of that department and learn
why there may be a disconnect on this matter. Just remember the rule above:
avoid confrontational statements. Still unresolved? Schedule a meeting with the
director. Arrive prepared and be open to working together to create a viable