05.06.2020 – Senior Living Foresight conducted a constructive virtual summit recently which provided excellent insight on a variety of topics. Active Living International had some valuable takeaways for those in the senior living space. If you are interested in the full line up of webinars go to Senior Living Foresight Virtual Summit.
COVID-19 Operational Survival Kit
Speaker: Deanna Ziemba
Summary: Madelyn Rudy
“There is no doubt this coronavirus / COVID-19 pandemic is a scary time charged with ‘unknowns’ for the senior living industry.
We are responsible for the care of a population that is one of the largest at-risk groups in the world.While there was no way to expect a pandemic was around the corner, we are, as operators, in control of how we handle it,” said Deanna Ziemba, Senior Consultant at Sage Age Strategies who led a webinar at the Senior Living Foresight Virtual Summit outlining important categories to focus on regarding Covid-19 responses at the community level.
Safety is the top priority. States have differing regulations for what PPE’s (Personal Protective Equipment) employees in senior living communities should be using and COVID-19 testing availability varies from state to state. At the very least, every community should be encouraging and enforcing social distancing between residents, increasing hand-washing protocols, minimalizing outings, and restricting visitation. In addition, the frequency of cleaning protocols of common area surfaces needs to be increased substantially.
Operators may want to closely monitor employee cross-contamination, avoiding cross-departmental scheduling, as well as keeping a weekly log of employee symptoms and temperatures. Many communities have switched to “room service only” dining, with a simplified menu, consisting of two to three choices for each course at every meal. Most communities across the U.S. have enforced 14 day quarantines for any resident that leaves the property. A way to avoid this challenge is to take advantage of telehealth visits and assist residents with FaceTime or Zoom-type video conferencing services to talk with family and friends.
Another large community-level concern is resident mental health. Without normal activities and shared dining, what can be done to support residents who do not have contact with family and friends? Operators need to be creative. This can be accomplished by a multitude of methods, such as, door-to-door happy hour delivery, socially distant activities, live-streaming of religious and spiritual services and other events.
A community Zoom, Skype chatroom or Facebook group where residents can check-in with one another is also a safe alternative for socializing. Organizing a schedule so that less tech-savvy residents can make an appointment for a member of the wellness or life enrichment team to assist them with a video chat with a friend or family member will be helpful. This is a time when operations teams should brainstorm ways to bring social connection to their unique residents.
One particular issue stressed by Ziemba was the importance of internal and external communication. Clear communication between community staff, residents, their doctors and families, and corporate/upper level management is critical. Sometimes even communication with media outlets helps maintain transparency. Transparency is key, whether the information is positive or negative. In the event a care conference is needed, or an incident has occurred, face-to-face video conferencing is the best option for communication at this time.
Telehealth and other secure outlets have been widely adopted for the majority of residents’ healthcare appointments. Many communities are releasing updates via social media platforms such as mass text messages, e-mail blasts, and video messages attached to Facebook posts or Facebook Live. Regularly releasing status reports on how things are going in the community will often reduce the influx of family members’ calls and quell their already tattered nerves.
Covid-19 is a crisis the industry did not expect. Still, the heroes on the front lines of our senior living communities’ operations have addressed it with courage, creativity, and compassion. The experience will strengthen operations and our teams for whenever “normal” returns.