How Dining Room Chair Choice Can Reduce Administrative and Maintenance Burdens in Senior Care Settings

Dining rooms are the heart of senior care communities. They are where residents, friends, and family members gather and connect, and meals provide valuable socialization opportunities.

But the traditional dining room chairs used in so many communities today pose numerous problems. Something as simple as chair choice has the potential to reduce administrative and maintenance burdens, but it’s an often-overlooked element that causes unnecessary expenses and challenges.

How Chair Choice May Extend Floor Life

Randy Schellenberg

Randy Schellenberg, president of ComforTek

Randy Schellenberg, president of ComforTek, explains that typical dining room chairs don’t pair well with the flooring present in senior care communities. “At a trade show in November, I visited flooring manufacturer booths and asked them what causes floors to wear out prematurely,” he says. “Chairs being pushed across the surface was the number one answer.”

This issue is exacerbated by senior care communities choosing softer, “grippier” flooring to help prevent slips and falls, including in the dining room. However, when residents with limited mobility are seated, staff must push, pull, and twist the seated residents up to the table. The process is repeated after a meal. This repetitive pushing and pulling of chairs across the floor wears it out prematurely.

Evidence of this issue can be seen in several ways. Flooring in dining rooms can develop a worn and scuffed appearance, and holes can form. In an effort to prevent damage, some communities resort to putting tennis balls on the ends of chair legs.

A product such as the Chair Caddie offers a potential solution. The Chair Caddie is an after-market device that simply attaches to the base of the existing dining room chairs. It transforms the chair into a chair that caregivers can easily roll across the floor. The Chair Caddie has built-in brakes to prevent rolling or movement when a caregiver isn’t moving the chair. As a result, caregivers can easily bring the chair right to the resident, rather than bringing residents up to a chair and pushing it up to the table. It also ends the issue of scraping chair legs across a dining room floor.

“If your maintenance budget is tight and you don’t have the money for new chairs, the Chair Caddie is retrofittable,” explains Schellenberg. “You can buy the Caddie and attach it to the base of your existing chair.”

ComforTek also offers a T2 Series of chairs that can be tailored to the mobility limitations of each resident. Available features include a swivel and lock function, the ability to roll, and brakes to ensure safety, giving the chair enhanced maneuverability without pushing or shoving.

Preventing unnecessary floor damage can not only save money on maintenance, but staff often appreciate management’s proactive approach to addressing the issue.

How Chair Choice May Reduce Injuries

Pushing, pulling, and shoving chairs up to the table takes a toll on caregivers and risks their safety. Both caregiver and resident injuries can occur, and the repeated physical demands on caregivers can leave them tired and less able to perform at their best during the rest of their shift.

But using a product like the Chair Caddie makes for a smoother and easier transition for caregivers and residents, helping to reduce the chance of injuries. Reduced injuries mean better quality of care and resident safety and less paperwork for administrators to complete.

Reducing caregiver injuries can contribute to lower burnout rates and absenteeism. “With high absenteeism, you’re bringing in someone else to cover the shift,” says Schellenberg. Sourcing caregivers to cover shifts is not only time-consuming for administration, but can negatively impact family perceptions of the community. “The Director of Nursing and administration are going to feel the effects of that on the family,” Schellenberg explains. Family members will ask why an unfamiliar caregiver is caring for their parent, leaving staff to explain that the regular caregiver is injured and won’t be at work.

How Chair Choice May Contribute to Occupancy

With the Chair Caddie, staff can easily and smoothly move residents up to and away from the dining room tables. Sitting in a chair as it’s pushed and pulled to the table is emotionally and physically uncomfortable for the resident. Strategically choosing a chair designed for the job allows staff to care for residents in a way that maintains their dignity and comfort.

“When the care staff have the ability to demonstrate appreciation and dignity to their clients, families see it and families like the effort that’s being put in,” notes Schellenberg. That also makes for powerful marketing. “There is so much of senior living that’s personal, private, and intimate,” he says. During a tour, a staff member can tell a potential client and their family about how staff will care for and treat that person, it’s difficult to demonstrate during a tour.

“The dining room is one space in senior living that’s public,” Schellenberg explains. “It’s used by all and is the heart of the care community. If staff are able to clearly demonstrate how they would accommodate a person with a rollator at mealtime, showing the graciousness of how we can move you up to the table, it’s the family members that note the difference.”

Investing in chairs that help facilitate a smooth transition up to and away from dining room tables is one way that a senior care community can demonstrate its dedication to providing quality care, and to prioritizing not only resident safety, but resident dignity and quality of care. Since tours almost always involve a visit to the dining room while lunch is in progress, seeing such dedication to residents can be compelling to families and can potentially lead to increased occupancy. As a result, administrative staff can focus less on strategies to build occupancy, and more on other matters that require their attention.

Why Dining Room Chair Choice Matters

By strategically choosing dining room chairs or upgrading chairs with the Chair Caddie, senior care communities can enhance caregiver and resident safety and reduce administrative and maintenance burdens. In the next article in this series, we will examine how dining room chair choice impacts the human resources department.

Topics: Executive Leadership , Facility management , Featured Articles , Leadership , Operations , Risk Management