Quality of Life and Healthcare: “Is Everybody Happy?”


Leading a successful healthcare organization in today’s climate is difficult, at best. As the nation navigates the yet unsettled healthcare finance landscape, long term care facilities face more challenges than ever before in meeting not only regulatory expectations, but those of their customers. In today’s world of long term care, customer service and satisfaction is the key to sustaining a healthy organization.

Every day, in every long term care facility, you will find people who are unhappy. It could be a resident, a staff member, a family member – anyone. What are they unhappy about? Many things, but primarily what they perceive as a lack of good customer service.

What is good service? Some of the people I ask say that it is everything – but, what is everything? Others will say it’s the way someone greets you or how the host anticipated things you might need or want when you arrived. Still others will say it’s difficult to explain – that it’s a feeling.

In the end, it comes down to a simple concept: receiving the service you requested, in a manner you consider to be respectful and courteous, and in a timeframe you consider reasonable. I will add one more point specific to long term care: good customer service includes being able to go to the bathroom when you need to – and not in a diaper.

Interviews with residents reveal common complaints about lack of timely and courteous response to requests for assistance or information. Other common complaints include caregivers who are rough or verbally abusive, poor medical care, or food that is not to their liking. Grievances and reports of missing property are often poorly investigated and left unresolved, leaving the facility vulnerable to additional complaints and potential deficiencies.

Interviews with unhappy staff – your other customers – reveal a workforce that feels overworked, underappreciated and poorly compensated. Office politics abound. Personality conflicts, jealousy, and labor/ management issues complicate the work environment and shift priorities, leaving the facility again vulnerable to acts of vengeance.

Why should you care if everyone is unhappy? You should care because your success as a business relies on their happiness. Unhappy customers bring stress, discord, and tension to the environment. Moreover, left unchecked, they bring scrutiny and consequences that prove exhausting emotionally and financially for all concerned. Soon, that lack of satisfaction will impact a facility’s bottom line in a big way.

Over the many years that I’ve provided consultation in quality of life and behavioral health to community, residential and healthcare facilities, I’ve helped many caregivers to understand what true culture change is all about. Person-centered care is a way of thinking. Improving customer relations requires the caregiver to put him or herself in the customer’s shoes at every opportunity.

The quality of life education and training projects I’ve designed for a number of facilities have helped staff to look differently at the people they serve. More than inservice, these projects involve staff at every level in the evaluation and enhancement of the environment of care. Once the staff begins to recognize the simple, common annoyances that often trigger changes in mood and behavior, the path to minimizing the potential for such annoyances becomes clearer.

The most important outcome of these projects is the equalizing of responsibility among the staff at every level to maintain an environment of care that is accommodating and satisfying to the residents. Challenging staff to consider the long, tedious days some residents spend in hallways and doorways, or being intimately cared for by someone who obviously doesn’t like their job, helps them to realize they would react in similar fashion if they found themselves in the same circumstance.

When that light bulb comes on, the world begins to change. Getting to that place will be the foundation of true culture change – a way of thinking everyday about everything you do for another person. Once achieved, happy customers abound and the challenges in behavioral health begin to diminish.

This education spans all disciplines and services, but focuses on two key elements: improved sensitivity to the customer service issues that trigger dissatisfaction; and cultivation of a daily structure rooted in individualized, therapeutic activity that brings purpose and personal satisfaction to every day. Moreover, implementation of some simple concepts will positively impact care on a broad scale, helping to overcome the more common reasons for care refusals and complaints about care and treatment.

If you would like to know more about these quality of life education and training initiatives, please visit www.innovationsforqualityliving.com or contact Barbara Speedling, Quality of Life Specialist, by email at bspeedling@aol.com.


Barbara Speedling is a New York based quality management consultant to long term care facilities specializing in areas concerned with quality of life and behavioral health. As an educator on meeting the psychosocial and behavioral challenges of individuals with dementia, mental illness and other special needs, she has earned a reputation for helping caregivers to think differently about the people they serve. Her programs and services are all designed to both enlighten and sensitize caregivers to the complicated process of understanding and meeting the needs of every individual – person-centered care in the purest sense.

Over time, Barbara has applied this understanding of human behavior to education and training programs designed to support leadership and organizational development, cultural intelligence and empathetic approaches to care and treatment. She advocates for equality in the classroom, helping caregiver teams to develop a greater understanding and appreciation for each other and overcome the office politics that often complicate the organization’s ability to reach its goals for quality care and quality of life.

In keeping with the core values of person-centered care, Barbara works closely with providers to evaluate and develop individualized approaches to the behavioral and psychosocial needs of their clients. Built on the belief that quality of life will be defined differently for each individual, this approach offers a fresh perspective on assessment and care planning for those with special needs and challenging behavior.

In conjunction with her clinical work, Barbara assists clients in achieving and maintaining regulatory compliance in all areas relative to quality of life and behavioral health. This involves the development of policy and procedure, the provision of staff education and training and quality monitoring. Guidance and assistance is also provided in responding to regulatory citations, including development and implementation of survey plans of correction and quality monitoring to sustain compliance.

Barbara began her career in long-term care in recreation therapy, later specializing in the development of environments and programs for people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, mental illness, and those with complex psychosocial needs. She has worked in various capacities in adult and pediatric residential and long-term care environments. Her experience spans admissions, marketing and public relations, patient transportation, patient advocacy, quality management and community outreach. She has helped many facilities develop specialized programs and environments designed to overcome a broad range of psychosocial challenges.

In addition to her professional involvement, Barbara is a resource to families in her community, volunteering her time and talents to caregiver education and support. Through her affiliation with many talented musicians and artists in her native Flushing, NY, Barbara assists in arranging therapeutic music, dance and wellness programming for seniors in her local community to enhance their quality of life.

04. December 2013 by Barbara Speedling
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