August – Know Your Resident

Getting to know your residents and how you can safely care for them creates a community that not only looks at the safety of the people you care for but also our own...

How do you keep residents active and involved?  How do you know if a resident has undergone changes that may alter how you provide care?  How do you ensure that you are engaging with the residents and their families? CCSA has put together resources to help you! It is important to get to know the people we take care of in order to work safely and purposefully.

Know Your Resident

Who are your residents?

The relationship between seniors and caregivers is unique; it relies on mutual trust and respect. It is not simply about providing assistance, but about building relationships.

Caring for your residents means you are following the four principles of Patient and Family Centered Care (PFCC). Alberta Health Services has a Knowledge Resource Service that houses PFCC practice resources to support you in providing PFCC to your residents and getting to know them in person. 

Recent analyses suggest about one in five (20%) Canadian seniors who receive continuing care services (including home care) have dementia, as do a majority (57%) of those living in a residential care setting (supportive living or long-term care) (Canadian Institute for Health Information [CIHI], 2010). Dementia can have a profound effect on residents and their communication abilities.  The Alzheimer Society has lots of great information including this day-to-day series on what you need to know about dementia and communication. 

Getting to know the resident means you know their life story. The Legacy Project has created “fill-in-the-blanks” life story sheets to help you get to know more about the residents you care for and help them tell and share their stories with caregivers and loved ones. They also have a more detailed list of life interview questions that would be very helpful for the frontline staff or care home workers to use to get to know their residents.

Knowing your resident can save you from an injury or a violent incident.

As resident’s needs and state can change day to day or even hour to hour.  Asking questions to determine how they feel when you are providing assistance is not only important for the safety of the caregiver but also the resident.  As a caregiver, you deal with residents families, it’s your responsibility to provide peace of mind for the family, building a positive relationship with families will help you understand how to communicate with their loved one. 

Remember there is a significant correlation between caregiver safety and resident safety.  When preparing to help your residents with mobility, remember the acronym S.A.F.E. – Scan, Adjust, Follow-Through, and Evaluate

Use this Point of Care Risk Assessment Guide

Consider these questions when assessing your resident’s state or abilities:

  • Was my resident happy to see me? Or did they tell me to go away?
  • How is my resident feeling right now?
  • Does my resident verbalize pain or are there non-verbal cues my resident is in pain (moaning, crying, constant shifting, grimaces, winces, clenched jaw or clenched grip on an object)?
  • Is my resident able to assist like they did yesterday or earlier?
  • Is my resident cooperating with following instructions?
  • Is my resident confused about what I am asking?
  • Is my resident being resistive (pushing back against the caregiver, trying to grab the caregiver’s hands)?
  • Is my resident verbalizing?
  • Is my resident self-talking (mumbling or talking to things not present)?
  • Is my resident hallucinating or seeing things that are not there?
  • Is my resident pacing or otherwise occupied in any stemming activities (rocking, hand twirling, hand waving)?


Gerontological Society of America has great publications on communicating with older adults and you may find the CCSA resident mobility assessment form and flowchart useful tools when working with residents and coordinate with nursing professionals regarding your resident’s updated mobility status.

How to engage your residents and their families?

Resident and family engagement is an important component of person-centered care. It involves the entire team working together to create an environment in which every team member, including the resident and their family, can work as partners to improve health care quality and safety. By engaging residents and family members as partners, a facility is able to leverage the skills and knowledge of all team members.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality created a module on Resident and Family Engagement which could help health care teams learn more on how to apply it in their facilities.


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