Putting the Science in Senior Engagement

Sarv and Kalli Devaraj have a lot in common. They’re both gifted and highly-educated–with a penchant for exacting research. Husband and wife, they both share a deeply personal passion for serving seniors inspired by some difficult aging situations they both had to navigate for their parents. Maybe all of that explains why they are co-founders and partners in CarexTech, a firm that is revolutionizing–perhaps even defining–the science of engagement that connects seniors, families and caregivers. Their passionate pursuit has yielded a technology platform that has been adopted by hundreds of senior living communities across the nation. Their innovative solution — SMILE™ — is a hybrid of technology, business and social science–wrapped in layers of personal experience and dedication to improving senior lifestyles. Here’s why all of that will matter to you in years to come.

By Bill Pemberton, Editor

AS BIG DATA rolls on to touch every part of our lives as the logical outcome of the Internet of Things (IoT), it’s vital that the data mountains go through a certain kind of metamorphosis: data must be put in context to become useful information, and information must be mixed with human insights to become wisdom. Wisdom is what ultimately transforms lives.

Big Data was bound to make a grand entrance into senior living, just like it has done in every other avenue of life. But who knew data capture and analysis would revolutionize the most personal and highest touch province for senior care: how residents in a senior living community socialize to lead lives with purpose?

Now, data-driven technology is making sure we get it right about seniors and engagement–on an infinitely individual basis. Perhaps it took the combination of a PhD and a MBA–Sarv and Kalli Devaraj–to think so far outside the box. Let’s begin with a bit of context as a starting point to provide some overall perspective.

I have long observed that it’s an article of faith in the senior care industry that socialization and active engagement, within an ambient environment, is at the core of wellness. This is precisely when most folks have the incident that triggers a move to an assisted or memory care community. They often leave their circle of family and friends and enter a new world, largely populated by strangers. In memory care, those strangers may include their own family members. So, grounding them in strong, personalized social programs that support every care provider’s goal of feeding the resident’s mind, body, and spirit is essential. As Sarv put it, “Socialization is a primary expression of engagement with life”–making it vital to senior care.

Yet many senior communities still play hit or miss with selecting social activities and programs that, overall, are successfully attended and enjoyed–and never quite finding the right fit for every resident. Their adult children often guess at how well their parents were being socialized–bringing high pressure to bear on activity or life enrichment directors to “get it right” for them–whatever “right” means. Truthfully, some residents tell their adult children they hate their new home and have nothing to do. But real evidence, if it can be demonstrated, tells the opposite story. Results also can fluctuate from week to week, so it can seem impossible to set a gold standard for individual engagement. Now all of that kind of chaos is moving into the rear- view mirror.

Residents at one of the communities using Smile and enjoying the pictures, music, and videos sent by their families.

Sarv and Kalli designed a platform to address these issues and more. Their program, called SMILE™, seems to solve them all at once. SMILE™ is a web-based software platform for end-to-end communications management including activities, documentation, and analytics for enhanced engagement between resident, caregiver and family. SMILE™ helps a senior living company set forth a set of activities across the country that are widely successful yet empowers a community’s activity director to also supplement other activities that resonate best within an individual community. Then it uses an activity tracker to confirm types of programs selected and level of engagement by each resident. SMILE™ offers users the ability to customize metrics and develop exactly the analytics they need to use–for  each resident. So, the senior living company and each individual community all have total visibility of how well their activities programming is working, what needs attention, and perhaps, what needs to be scrapped.

Logging resident participation generates a wealth of information in SMILE™ that is helpful with care plans and in meeting state and national compliance requirements. And it can kick out compliance reports quickly and easily. It also lets both community staff communicate–and document–to resident family members exactly which activities their senior parents have used. The program allows staff to calendar programming for everyone that reflects their areas of highest interest and participation. This process enables staff to establish a cycle of understanding and focused care to optimize the experience of each resident, based on who he or she is and the journey they’ve traveled in the life behind them.

The SMILE™ program clearly has many ways it can bring value to the senior living providers. For example, large multi-location companies can be sure they have continuity of quality social programming across the board–and even pool results across the organization. Smaller companies can take advantage of advanced programming calendars to offer more competitive “big company” social programming within their markets. And it brings everyone together as part of the care team–staff, residents and adult children.

Ironically, making data serve the needs of the human dimensions of mind, body and spirit presents a proven path to best clinical outcomes–since socialization improves better clinical results. Creating a collaborative information environment, which puts staff, residents and adult children all on the same side of the caregiving equation is clearly the best approach for mutual satisfaction with the entire process.

Providers and communities who can market such innovation as part of their culture of care will command a major advantage in the marketplace. Who wouldn’t want to be certain that their elderly parents are engaging with life through programming and activities as individual as they are?

In my view, part of winning “the long game” will be harnessing data and analytics developing technology that supports a warmer touch, a more personalized approach, and more engaged adult children as part of the solution. This may well be the harbinger of a more collaborative approach predicated on shared information–and how it translates into verifably better outcomes. Allowing adult children to make a real and intelligent impact on the care of their aging parents might just be the ultimate glue in attracting and retaining loyal customers for the long term. That’s a value proposition that serves everyone’s long game.

See:  www.carextech.com


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To contact me directly: bpemberton@thepointgroup.com, or 214-261-1126