A RESIDENT SATISFACTION SURVEY FUNDED by the National Institutes of Health and backed by the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging is expected to he ready for the commercial arena this fall.
"We were getting a strong message from our members that they were interested in measuring residents' quality of life." says Evvie Munlev, AAHSA health policy analyst.
The survey, one of the first tools to be created for use in nursing homes, is being developed by the Los Angeles-based research consulting firm Vital Research with funding from a two-year $750,000 NIH grant. AAHSA is a sponsor of the tool--the Resident Experience and Assessment of Life (REAL)--and has helped Vital Research recruit facilities for the study that currently involves 55 nursing homes nationwide.
REAL uses independent interviewers to ask residents questions about their day-to-day life such as whether staff members smile at them and whether their call button is answered right away.
Results from the initial survey are then put into action when facility staff focus on improving key areas of resident satisfaction, says Gwen Uman of Vital Research. Nine months later, the same questions are asked again to measure improvement.
Some say the study is an answer to the industry's need to quantify an intangible: Just how satisfied are nursing home consumers? It goes beyond the laundry list of quality indicators that are somewhat secondary in nature, says AAHSA spokesperson Robert Greenwood, asking not "What is the temperature of the bath water?" but "Do residents enjoy their baths?"
Another key factor is that residents with cognitive impairments caused by illnesses such as Alzheimer's and strokes are able to participate because of the REAL methodology, says Uman. "It works because we are using concrete behavioral questions."
The simple, yes-or-no questions avoid abstract notions such as kindness or gentleness. Instead, residents are asked such things as "Do the people who work here smile at you?" and "Do they ever put their arm around you or hold your hand to show you they care?"
Greenwood says a tool like this helps differentiate between excellent care, which is measured through REAL, and adequate care, which the federally mandated survey process shows.
Furthermore, because interviewers come back several times during the survey process, the tool can be used for continuous quality improvement by helping facilities identify areas where they need to do better, he says. In theory, it could help create a database that could be used to develop industry standards.
Vital Research has been working on the survey since 1995, prior to the 1997 NIH grant.