The DreamCatcher Program: A Common Goal for Staff, Residents, and Families

Are your residents complaining that there is nothing to do?  Is your employee morale at an all-time low?  Do you feel the need to grab a couple pairs of boxing gloves and let your CNAs and LPNs just go at it?  Do you have family members with nothing better to do than to count how many times your CNA checked the other resident across the hall and then tell that family the result?

If not addressed, rest assured, this will not go away.  This ever-growing negative environment will greet you as soon as you walk through the door Monday morning…and usually before that on the phone calls you get on Saturday night at 10:30 pm.

The problem is that there is a division among everyone.  They don’t share a common goal that everyone is working on.  Sure, we all want what’s best for the resident, but can we really even all agree on what that is most of the time?  No, they need something else.  Something that is big, something fun, and something that is challenging.  Something that doesn’t create a direct confrontation between everyone.  Something that produces results.  And, of course, it has to be something that doesn’t cost the facility very much to maintain.

To offer a suggestion, I would like to introduce to you a program you might want to launch in your facility – it’s called the DreamCatcher.  I started this program several years ago and have run it in multiple facilities with success.  (Note:  I have seen similar programs online at several other places, so this is not exclusive).  However, the DreamCatcher program is designed to accomplish a few things including:  Enhance the lives of our residents, promote teamwork among staff members, residents, and families toward a common goal, allow us opportunities to partner with local businesses and organizations in the community, and produce positive media coverage.

A dream come true, right?  Well, it IS called the DreamCatcher!

The types of dreams listed below are modeled after the Second Winds Dreams program.  Here are the nuts & bolts.

  1. We interview our residents to determine what their dreams are.  A dream may be in one of the following categories:
    1. Relationship-based. i.e. – a resident may wish to see a long-lost relative or friend.
    2. Lifelong dreams.  i.e. – a resident may have always wanted to learn to play the piano or ride in a race car.
    3. Relive past experiences. i.e. – a resident who is a former truck driver may want to ride in an 18-wheeler again or a retired schoolteacher may enjoy spending some time back in the classroom with our local elementary students.
    4. Dreams for fun.  i.e. – a resident may wish to go to a sports game or a rodeo.
    5. Needs-based.  i.e. – a resident with a specific impairment may need a special piece of equipment in order to communicate or interact with others.
  2. We select a resident’s dream and, with the consent of the responsible party, partner with a local business or organization that may have the resources or would be a good match in order to help fulfill it.  It usually doesn’t cost any money.  It does, however, take persistence in calling one business after another until you reach someone who will help.
  3. We take pictures and submit a press release to the media in which we give thanks to the specific business or organization that assisted us with bringing the dream to reality.
  4. Some dreams will require more planning and will take more time to develop while others take less; however, as a standard, we will shoot for completing a DreamCatcher every 1-2 months.
  5. Staff members, families, or residents may suggest a dream to be fulfilled.

Even though this program should usually cost nothing but time and effort, I believe it is something that everyone will have a great experience with and benefit from.  You should definitely hold a family and staff meeting to introduce the program.  I have found that many of your “active” family members really take to it and actually contribute something positive to the facility.  Even staff members who usually can’t wait to tell on one another can find something to work together on here.

Residents love it!  It’s a great feeling to create such a memorable experience for them.  I have had professional wrestlers buy lunch for a facility.  I have seen an auto sales dealership supply a brand new suv and driver to pick a resident up and take her to a fine-dining restaurant that supplied her with a complimentary meal.  I have seen residents get to ride in race cars and on motorcycles. I have even seen a resident’s family flown in to see him after years of being apart.  And every one of them talked about their experience for weeks afterward.  It was something they never forgot.

It’s also a great marketing tool.  Putting something positive about your facility in the local newspaper month-after month can create a strong positive perception in the community for you.  Along with this, you are building business relationships in your local community.

There’s no downside!  Give it a shot and send me your success stories!

P.S.  Here are a few resources that may give you some ideas for future wishes to grant for the DreamCatcher program.

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