This weekend, couples across the nation celebrated on Valentine’s Day. Are you feeling the love? What a perfect time, then, to bring you this story about relationship-building between Assisted Living communities and their local emergency personnel:
Building Strong Relationships with Local Emergency Departments
The importance of the relationship between an Assisted Living community and its local fire department and first responders cannot be underestimated. Assisted Living is committed to preserving a resident’s well-being, and that commitment is crucial in times of crisis. “It is important to have a strong and positive relationship with our first responders because we need their assistance…most often, we need them in negative situations,” explains Cheryl Martin, Executive Director of Lakeside Park. “Having a positive relationship helps in these difficult moments.”
Bonnie Christie, Executive Director of Huntington Terrace, says that this relationship is already off to a good start for providers who are prepared for emergencies. “When they come on a call,” she says, “they see a clean community, well-trained staff, and have the emergency paperwork they need upon arrival.” Christie explains that simply being professional and prepared can go a long way in cultivating strong relationships, but there are other proactive steps you can take.
While providers throughout the state have exceptional relationships with their local emergency personnel, location can be a factor. According to Martin, this type of relationship-building in a large, active city like Oakland can be a challenge. Tracy Freudendahl, Executive Director of Oak Tree Villa, says the experience in a small town may be a little different. “Because of the small size of the town and these departments, we often see the same faces, and I believe this has played a significant part in how these relationships have developed,” she says. But regardless of where your Assisted Living community is located, there are still steps you can take to build and grow these relationships.
“The Lakeside Park relationship with our first responders has been built over time,” says Martin. Communities looking to strengthen their relationships with local emergency personnel should keep in mind that it takes time and dedication, but can begin with a simple “Hello.” Martin suggests, “Go introduce yourself. Invite them to tour… Take time to get to know them and let them know who you are.” Christie says to be aware that “some fire stations are locked and they can come to the door, but they cannot let you in.” Therefore, be prepared with something you can drop off—a community brochure or business card—as a way of introducing yourself.
The next step, says Freudendahl, is to “Make an effort to reach out to emergency personnel both inside and outside of your building.” If you have a special event coming up, consider inviting your local fire department or first responders to attend. Huntington Terrace, Lakeside Park, and Oak Tree Villa host breakfasts and other events for emergency responders.
You can also take advantage of a holiday to connect with departments. For instance, Huntington Terrace invites the local fire department to the annual 4th of July barbeque. Both Lakeside Park and Oak Tree Villa prepare and deliver Thanksgiving meals to their local fire and police departments. Martin suggests that residents can even help with the delivery; this allows the departments and the residents to get to know each other better.
Even if there are no special events planned, communities can still express their appreciation and build relationships in more informal ways. Martin shares, “We find small ways throughout the year to interact with all of our first responders. For instance, we have freshly baked cookies in our lobby every day, all day long” which have been gratefully accepted by police officers, fire, and emergency personnel. Christie also highlights the importance of expressing your appreciation. “Every year in December, we drop off a basket of goodies to each fire department in the area as well, with a note thanking them for all they do.” She says simple gestures like this can go a long way in expressing appreciation for their important work.
This post was excerpted from an article originally published in CALA News & Views Winter 2015.