What Goes Missing in Your Facility’s Activity Binders?

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Most arenas of healthcare are working to phase out paper records. It’s not hard to see why. 

Paper records come with a host of problems (aside from wrist-strain). They’re prone to errors in recording and interpretation; they’re fragile and easily misplaced; and they’re far from the most effective way to secure patient privacy. 

And yet, in life-enrichment offices around the country, life-enrichment directors (LEDs) are still ‘pushing paper.’ 

This may be because, unlike clinical health records, activity and life-enrichment documentation rarely entails life-or-death decisions. For many organizations, it’s just not a priority to upgrade. 

But they should probably reconsider. Important things get lost in the paper-documentation process. Here are three of them. 

1) Staff Time & Enthusiasm

Most healthcare workers will tell you that documentation is the worst part of their jobs. It’s a major aggravator of burnout for both physicians and nurses, and it’s gobbling up more and more of their work days all the time.  

Life-enrichment directors face similar issues. Care plans, activity calendars, participation rates, assessments, and project notes are taking up an increasing share of their workloads — with many of them reporting spending up to five hours every day on paperwork. 

And that’s just the time spent recording information. That doesn’t include other tasks like creating and printing new forms, organizing and managing the information acquired, retrieving the information when it’s needed, or communicating any important findings.

Add it all up, and it’s no wonder that documentation can take up most of a life-enrichment director’s day. That can be a serious drain on their morale. It also raises questions about opportunity cost. 

What might life-enrichment directors be able to accomplish, if they didn’t have to spend so much time scribbling on forms? Could activities become more meaningful? Could they spend more one-on-one time with residents? 

Digitizing documentation can streamline multiple parts of the process. It smooths out recording resident activities by making it simple and systematic; it eliminates recurring production tasks, like printing or re-arranging Word documents; it centralizes repositories of information; and it makes communication much faster and easier. 

2) Documentation & Proof-of-Work

As grueling as documentation demands may be, there’s no escaping them. Life-enrichment directors are legally mandated to maintain certain records, depending on the State where they work. Illinois, for example, requires documentation of activity assessments, plans of care, quarterly progress notes, activity types, and daily plans. That’s a lot to get down on paper! 

Housing all of that information in binders also increases the risk that it will be difficult to recover, or still worse, destroyed. How many LEDs want to face a State inspector with incomplete documentation? 

But documentation is not just about avoiding penalties. LEDs can also use their records to demonstrate value to the broader organization. 

For long term care, this is an era of slim revenues and tightening budgets. Administrators will find any way they can to trim their operating costs. For life-enrichment offices, that can mean a shrinking pool of resources to conduct resident activities. Unless, that is, they can show how much value they bring to their communities. 

By having a digital record of which residents participate, and how much that participation helps them make meaningful progress toward their goals, life-enrichment directors can prove that their departments are worth funding. And when it comes time to allocate resources, a little proof will go a long way.

3) Intelligence and Analysis

In any field, the best performers track their efforts. Sprinters watch their quarter-mile times, investors watch their quarterly returns. But how do life-enrichment directors know if they’re doing a good job?

Of course, they want to know how they’re doing. They want to know if the activities they’ve planned are engaging residents and helping them meet their goals. But these benchmarks can be difficult to assess. 

They require a detailed look at participation rates, therapeutic progress, and resident feedback — and paper records aren’t easy to analyze. No matter how well organized, paper records will always be at least a little scattered. Collecting, sorting, and assembling all that information can be a serious hassle. More often than not, the job’s not done at all. 

This leads to two problems for life-enrichment directors. First, scarce information means that they have to function without a ‘big picture’ grasp of trends in their facility. More serious, they’re also unable to reliably identify which activities resonate with individual residents. That makes it much harder for them to analyze and improve their own performance. 

But when paper records get digitized, they transform into data. Data can be parsed and plotted. It can give life-enrichment directors the quantitative information that answers urgent questions about their work. 

With that data in hand, they can correct their missteps and plan more effective activities in the future. 
 

The Cost of Falling Behind

Life-enrichment directors do important work in long-term care facilities. When the job’s done right, resident lives are enriched. At their best, LEDs keep seniors active and socializing, and can even help with therapy. 

But paper documentation makes the work harder, more time-consuming, more stressful, and less effective. All that time spent scribbling leaves life-enrichment staff with less time and less energy to support their residents.

That’s the real cost of keeping activity records on paper. If you ask us, far too high a price to pay. 

Megan King