Our deep dives into designated supportive living

Charlene McBrien-Morrison is the Acting Chief Executive Officer of the HQCA

More than 10,000 Albertans live in designated supportive living sites across the province. These sites provide accommodation, healthcare, and personal services to help residents remain as independent as possible and live their best lives.

Is that aim being met? What’s going well? And, how can the designated supportive living experience be improved?

In 2020 and 2021, the Health Quality Council of Alberta (HQCA) took a closer look at these questions in two separate deep dives:

Two common themes stood out for us.

A home-like environment
Interview after interview with residents, operators, and staff revealed the most positive experiences occur when residents feel seen and heard. Their experiences are honoured and understood. They have personal relationships with staff. And their new home, in designated supportive living, feels like their home.

Easy, right? Not at all.

We learned the transition into their new home in designated supportive living can be difficult, even at the best of times, as this move is often a sudden and major life event. It requires a period of adjustment for both residents and families.

During this transition, staff who are welcoming to the resident and their family can help. And personal relationships with staff matter. Residents appreciate friendly, patient, and cheerful staff who socialize, listen, and respect their choices and interests. For example, when staff at one site put a bird feeder on the window-sill of a bird-loving resident, her smiles spoke volumes. That was enough to feel like home for this long-time birdwatcher.

Similar stories bubbled to the surface frequently during our interviews as we set out to understand what drives a positive experience at these designated supportive living sites.

We also heard that listening is essential. Residents want input on decisions that affect them – from choosing their mattress to selecting meaningful social and recreational activities, and weighing in on the daily food menus. Importantly, it is not enough to just collect feedback. The real value is when designated supportive living sites act on feedback in conversation with residents and families.

Check out our work
To learn more about our findings in designated supportive living, I encourage you to review our work in this important area. As you’ll see, there is growing evidence of what constitutes the path to improved experiences for residents and families in designated supportive living.

Finally, we’d like to thank all of those who shared their experiences and thoughts with us. Your voices provided invaluable insights about how to keep improving designated supportive living across Alberta.

HQCA Matters is published intermittently and presents HQCA representative perspectives on topics or issues relevant to healthcare in Alberta.