How Senior Care Facilities Can Improve Family Communication and Connections During the Pandemic

nursing home staffer with residentAmong the changes brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic is adapting to a new necessity of communicating effectively with families. With strained budgets and few resources, senior care facilities are searching for innovative ways to create meaningful connections between residents and their families separated by coronavirus restrictions. Family communication is no longer a nice-to-have, but a need-to-have for the industry.

Time-Saving Communication Solutions

Apps, e-newsletters, and video conferencing can all help keep families connected to residents, but can be cumbersome to manage individually. The result is a “tech stack” of multiple tools with separate sign-ins that causes staff more work because it isn’t integrated into the platform that they live in day-in and day-out – their electronic health record system.

Senior care centers usually seek out a centralized, integrated solution to avoid managing a decentralized tech stack. By gathering multiple communication tools, insights, and data analytics in one platform, staff won’t have to sign into and access multiple apps and programs, and will save time to better focus on providing quality resident care.

One senior-care focused solution rapidly gaining traction is SafeKeeping, a family communication management software that meets several needs in the post-COVID senior care world. Founders Matt Prasek and Doug Wilcox created the SafeKeeping platform based on their own experiences with loved ones in long-term care.

Prasek and Wilcox recognized that senior care facilities needed better family communications solutions well before the pandemic brought focus to family communications. Since the pandemic’s outset, they have adapted new functionalities to directly address the challenges that senior care facilities are now experiencing.

“We’ve built a platform that communicates relevant, meaningful information that’s directly related to the health and care of residents, and we’re continually adding more functionalities,” explains Wilcox, SafeKeeping CEO.

Rather than finding multiple apps, facility staff can use SafeKeeping for a wide variety of functions:

  • Securely share health data with authorized family members
  • Broadcast mass notifications to quickly share COVID-19 updates with families
  • Schedule family visits as they re-open to in-person visits
  • Collect and monitor real-time family feedback
  • Send out family satisfaction surveys

The platform also integrates with PointClickCare and MatrixCare to automatically update family contact lists as staff update resident records.

Wilcox notes he is seeing senior care providers adapt to the pandemic with a new wave of innovation. He has taken client feedback to create functionalities that can add value to facility staff. “Our Visit Planner is a great example of that,” he explains. “As facilities are thinking about reopening, family members want to visit, yet great care is needed to do that safely. How do we manage that better? That’s where the idea for the Visit Planner came from.”

Don Feige, SafeKeeping CRO, also sees how the pandemic is shaping the technologies family members need and expect from their care facilities. “Change is happening in real time, and everyone is living in the new normal. Wherever this pandemic takes us as an industry, that’s our focus – how do we create those additional family connections going forward?”

Automated Family Updates

Wilcox knows firsthand how difficult it can be to worry about a loved one when you can’t visit. “My mom was in a long-term care facility for 18 months,” he explains. “You wake up at 2 am and wonder what’s going on, but you can’t find out. So we created an app called “How’s Mom” that lets you do that. Anytime a family wants to know “How’s Mom,” they can get on our app and quickly find out instead of waiting to hear back from care staff. The How’s Mom app not only streamlines the process of getting updates for families, but also reduces the burden of staff from making time-consuming communications and follow up. “They [staff] can focus more on providing care to residents and then have more meaningful, care-driven discussions with families,” Wilcox said.

“We hear stories every day from families who say this app is the only way they can keep in touch with my loved ones,” explains Wilcox. How’s Mom creates efficiency for the facility while also providing family members with peace of mind.

Real-Time Family Feedback

Many families feel unsettled by changes in their loved ones’ care, and their frustration can emerge as poor reviews of the facility and anger toward caregivers. Facilities strive to stay connected to families to identify and address emerging issues.

SafeKeeping’s Family Feedback function allows families to rate facilities at any time. Families can also expand on their feedback, which can help facilities to identify issues before they become major problems.

The Anytime Surveys function, which is in development, will allow facilities to send out more traditional-type survey questions to families. A multi-facility organization will be able to see how each of its facilities is performing and gain other valuable insights, all through the single SafeKeeping platform.

“It will feel like what people are used to doing,” says Feige. “If I walk out of a restaurant, my phone prompts me to rate it. In our industry, the year-end survey after Mom was discharged four months ago doesn’t give the info a facility needs to improve itself. Our app puts the facility on the family’s devices and allows for an interaction level that doesn’t currently exist.”

Implementing Solutions

Communicating with families and keeping them connected is an ongoing challenge for senior care facilities, but it’s even more challenging in light of the pandemic. Facilities may need to evaluate their technology stack, and consolidate it to the most effective and important communication programs.

SafeKeeping is a solution focused on streamlining communication and updates into a single platform. Facilities interested in SafeKeeping can sign up for a demo right on the website. EHR providers like PointClickCare and MatrixCare can also provide expedited processes to activate SafeKeeping subscriptions for their customers.

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