The Importance of an
Orientation Program for New Residents
By Myrtle A. Klauer, AP-BC, ADC, CAP

Facilities have orientation programs for new staff and volunteers
to acquaint them with the physical layout of the facility, key staff members, policies and
procedures they must adhere to, job duties, etc. However, few facilities dedicate time to
providing a formal orientation program for new residents that could benefit from such a
program. By having such a program in place, the facility can ease the resident's
transition to the facility, answer questions about and encourage participation in facility
life, and help develop trusting relationships within the small group of participants.

The admission process should not serve as the resident's only introduction to his or
her rights and obligations while living in the facility. An orientation program consisting of
several new residents can begin to build their first friendships because of the common
bond they share. Inviting their family members to participate adds another dimension –
many have the same questions and needs as their loved ones.

To be successful, the interdisciplinary team must support the New Resident Orientation
Program and take responsibility for a group on a rotating basis. Since residents are
admitted on a daily basis, new groups must be formed each week. The quicker a new
resident is incorporated into the group, the easier his or her transition from life in the
community to life in the facility will become.

The best way to begin developing a resident orientation program is to involve the
residents in the facility. Ask for their input about what life was like for them during the
first few weeks living in the facility. Determine what common questions and frustrations
surface and how best to address these during the orientation program. Ask the
residents for ideas about what they feel are the most important to share with new
residents and when this should be shared. Encourage the residents’ involvement in the
orientation program as mentors to the new residents. Prioritize the dissemination of
information and incorporate this into a four-week program.

Expect to spend at least one hour per week with a small group of new residents. If
possible, limit the group to members from the same floor or unit. This will help the
residents form friendships within their "neighborhood." Invite at least one established
resident from the residents’ floor or unit to serve as a mentor to the group. Resident
participation is an essential part of this program because he or she can provide
firsthand insights, which staff cannot.

The first session should take place within a few days after admission. If possible, have
the first meeting in a quiet place on the floor or unit so the residents are in somewhat
familiar surroundings. Introduce the residents to each other as they begin to gather.
Once all are present, have everyone introduce himself or herself and share one of his
or her favorite things to do – knitting, going out to eat, visiting with grandchildren, playing
the piano, writing poetry, etc.

Begin with a short tour of the facility. Include activity areas, the dining area(s), the
beauty/barber shop, administration, garden, snack shop, rehabilitation center, etc. Make
sure to have enough volunteers on hand to provide "rides" for the residents and family
members needing assistance. Be careful not to tire the residents and others taking the

When you return, answer any questions about what everyone observed during the tour.
Provide the activity calendar and highlight important upcoming events. Provide a list of
hours when the beauty/barber shop, snack shop, dining room, etc. are open. Explain
how the suggestion boxes work and review the locations of these boxes.
Invite the officers and staff designee of the Resident and Family Councils to participate
in the second session. Ask a delegate from each to share the importance of
participating in these forums as well as where and when the meetings are held.
Provide information about the regulations governing these entities and the confidential
provisions surrounding what is shared during these meetings. This is also an excellent
time to distribute the Residents Rights booklet and highlight the contents. Answer any
questions that arise or make sure to get the answers before the next meeting.

During the third session introduce the key members of the interdisciplinary team to the
participants. Schedule a specific time slot for each key staff member and stress the
importance of being on time. Ask each person to introduce him or herself and explain
what his or her role is within the facility. Provide the participants with a list of these key
people, where their offices are, and how to get in touch with them.

The closing session should include required information about abuse and neglect, the
care plan process, resident trust fund information, support groups, making use of the
rehabilitation services, right to privacy information, and other important facility specific
information. Invite the social worker, care plan coordinator, privacy officer, etc. to
participate in these presentations.

Helpful Hints for a Successful Resident Orientation Program
•        Utilize resident and/or outside volunteers to help with session preparation,
nametags, lists, invitations, agendas, protocols, etc.
•        Send an invitation reminding the participants of the next meeting date and time.
Other residents or volunteers can do this on the computer.
•        Have nametags available for each participant, including the session leader(s).
Make sure all names are printed in bold lettering to make them easy to read.
•        Encourage the participants to write down questions that arise between sessions.
Establish a question and answer period during each session.
•        Before the close of each meeting, set the date and time for the next meeting. Put
this in writing for each participant.
•        Provide simple refreshments after each meeting. This encourages the residents
and families to socialize with each other and the staff who are present. The leader
should make him or herself available to answer questions during this time and to join
in the conversations as appropriate.
•        Ask the department heads to distribute their business cards as a handy reference
for the participants.
•        When possible, the participants should sit in a circle. This set up allows everyone
can see each other and encourages comments from all participants.
The Ten Commandments for New Residents:
1.        Look for positive things to celebrate each day.
2.        Focus on making new friends with other residents, volunteers, and staff.
3.        Push aside the "small stuff" and try to make decisions that will help reduce
4.        Remain open to new experiences and activities.
5.        Recognize the limitations of others and accept them.
6.        Create a "circle of friends" whose company you enjoy – even if it's only during
meals or an activity.
7.        Remain active and participate to the best of your ability.
8.        Accept that there may be times when an element of compromise is needed and
identify these areas.
9.        Speak up for yourself and make your needs and wishes known.
10.        Serve as an ambassador of good will.

In Conclusion
The time of transition to a nursing home can be a bewildering, confusing, lonely, and
even fearful experience for new residents. Studies have shown the importance of a
positive outlook for residents and families. Each resident's frame of mind is critical to
his or her health and life satisfaction. The more the staff can help promote self-esteem,
self-satisfaction, and a "sense of family" for the new residents, the easier the transition
and grieving process will be. A New Resident Orientation Program is an important step
in promoting quality of life for new residents and their families.

Myrtle Klauer is the Director of Resident Services for the Illinois Council on Long Term
Care with more than 40 years of experience as an Activity Professional. Klauer also
serves as NAAP’s Secretary/Treasurer.
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