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5 Tips to Creating a Better Living Environment for Long-Term Patients

When it comes to providing elderly health care, creating a home-like environment in a facility designed for long-term care patients is the ideal situation for improving the patients’ and staff’s quality of life.

The focus is shifting toward patient-centered care, an approach that puts the needs and wishes of long-term care patients ahead of the facility’s schedules and procedures.

While patient-centered care may seem intuitive, there are as many definitions for it as there are people providing elderly health care. We take a look here at fiveways to make the shift toward patient-centered care.  Quality Patient Care

Know your Residents

Use the admission process to gain as much information as possible about long-term care patients prior lifestyle, habits, interests, likes and dislikes so they can be respected and accommodated.

Having an understanding of who your long-term care patients are from the beginning creates an opportunity to pair them with other residents with similar interests for meals and activities. This will not only make the transition easier, it creates an opportunity for a friendship to develop.


New resident’s sleeping habits should be respected. If a person was a night owl before they moved in, forcing them to live on the facility’s schedule can be very unsettling. Facilities are staffed around the clock so there is no reason residents can’t be on a sleep schedule they prefer.


The typical practice of staff trying to get all residents to the dining room at the same time to eat identical meals served on hospital trays has proven to be unsuccessful and wasteful.

In patient-centered care, a resident is permitted to eat when and what they’d like. There are many ways to provide a variety of food options to long-term care patients – on their schedule. Options should be made available at every meal to ensure everyone can choose what they would prefer to eat. Introduce a procedure for residents or their families can make food or snack requests.

Buffet: A variety of hot and cold dishes can be set up buffet style at mealtimes for residents to choose when and what they want to eat. Guidelines for food safety should be strictly adhered to, and a staff member should always be available to assist with filling and carrying plates.

Family-Style Meals: Serving dishes are set in the center of a dining table so residents can serve themselves. Long-term care patients with similar dietary needs might be seated together so they can also have a variety of appropriate foods to choose from.

Snacking: There is no telling when someone may get a little hungry or have a craving for something sweet. A variety of snacks should be readily available for residents who would like one.

Kitchens:  Having an open kitchen available for meals to be prepared by residents and CNA’s means favorite recipes can be prepared and shared. It also means that a continental-style breakfast can be available for residents to eat when they are ready.

Seating: Residents should be allowed to choose where they would like to sit at each meal time. If they would prefer to eat in their room, that should be accommodated.


Bathing patients in an efficient manor in an efficient setting often turns what could be a relaxing experience into a stressful one. Patient-centered care calls for the bathing experience to provide long-term care patients with a bathing experience they will enjoy rather than dread.

Create a spa-like environment by painting the room tranquil colors, adding soft lighting and keeping it warm enough to prevent chills. Offering candles and a variety of soothing music for residents to choose from can turn a routine bath into a spa experience.

Long-term care patients should be allowed to choose when they would like to bathe. They should also be allowed to decline if they choose, according to Bathing Without a Battle, an educational program for providers of elderly health care.

Facilitate Friendships

The first days in an elderly health care facility are often difficult for residents as they adjust to their new surroundings. In patient-centered care, the early days are seen as critical for preventing long-term care patients them from isolating themselves — a habit that can lead to depression.

Use the information you gained about your long-term care patients during the admission process to assess who they have the most in common with. Seat them together during the first meal and make introductions that include their shared interests or backgrounds.

Activities directors should develop flexible programming that allows individuals or small groups to participate in activities that interest them at times they are interested in doing them.

Although it should be sufficient motivation, these changes are about more than improving the quality of life for long-term care patients. According to a recent Ted Talk by long-term care patients expert Anna Miller of the Monitor on Psychology, these changes are “linked with such benefits as a greater pain tolerance, a stronger immune system, and a lower risk of depression and early death … [Loneliness causes] physiological processes to activate that are directly bad for your health.”

Learn how General Medicine, The Post Hospitalist Company, can help with all of your long-term patient care needs.


Tom Prose