How One Senior Living Facility is Learning From COVID-19 and Moving Forward in 2021
While the pandemic has been one of the greatest challenges that the senior care industry has seen, it’s also provided us with many important lessons.
Mark Lawrence, owner of the Oakmont Assisted Living Facility in Scottsdale, AZ, is using all that he’s learned from the experience to move forward with increased awareness and improved planning to provide better-quality care.
Prioritizing Resident Wellness
COVID-19 threatened resident physical wellness, but implementing social distancing took a toll on resident mental health, too. Lawrence is considering both aspects as he moves forward.
“Getting back to our normal way of life and operating as an inclusive, open, and inviting environment is an improvement,” he says. Lawrence explains that he plans to continue some of the COVID-19 mitigation strategies to also protect residents and staff from flu and other respiratory diseases. “If someone is sick, we will quickly implement social distancing, face coverings, and temperature checks.”
Lawrence explains that while telemedicine was initially “a miracle,” allowing facilities to get help for residents during the pandemic, “it is no substitute for face-to-face hands-on treatment.” He notes there are limits to what telemedicine can provide and hopes that medical experts will see patients face-to-face this year.
Similarly, Lawrence explains that his facility’s efforts to keep residents engaged and connected were only a substitute for the valuable in-person interactions and visits that had previously been a part of daily life. “By far our biggest challenge was our patients’ mental health due to lack of socialization,” says Lawrence.
“We tried to keep them connected to the outside world as much as possible but it was still a tough year for connecting with friends and family. There were fewer smiles and less engagement last year, and that was hard to see.” Lawrence notes that the facility offered solutions like allowing family members to visit at the front door, and playing music on the back patio so residents could hear it through their windows.
Communication: The Key to Moving Forward
Lawrence credits strong communication as being key both during and in moving forward from the pandemic. “We didn’t see a high number of vacancies like some care homes,” he says. “I think that is because we were always communicating with residents that their families. We were talking to families every day, letting them know what was going on. We were there for our residents and their families, letting them know they were in a safe environment,” he says.
Lawrence notes that communication is also essential as senior care facilities work to regain public trust. He encourages facilities to communicate with residents and their families, keeping them updated about just what’s going on. “No one was happy with the situation last year, but residents and families were understanding because we did not shut them out,” he explains.
That communication is the first step in encouraging families and residents to explore senior living again. Paired with vaccinating staff and residents, Lawrence poses that communication can help the industry to rebuild. “Keep communicating with your customers and keep walking down the path back to normalcy,” he says.
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