Why You Should Move to a Senior Living Community Now More Than Ever
The senior living industry and nursing homes, in particular, have received an enormous amount of bad press during the COVID-19 pandemic. The picture painted does not accurately portray the reality of life within a community and the benefits afforded to those who live there. There have been cases of nursing homes ill-equipped to care for residents with coronavirus. Whether that is due to lack of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) or clinical capability, I cannot speculate as I’m neither a clinician nor am I willing to venture a guess of how other senior living organizations have handled a new virus that nobody expected or knew how to effectively treat. I can, with confidence, point to the efforts of Presbyterian Senior Living and the steps taken to protect the health and well-being of all residents and staff. You may wonder why now, in the midst of a pandemic, and while the reputation of the nursing home industry hangs in the balance, anyone would write about actually moving to a community at this time. I’d like to share with you thoughts to ponder as you either begin to consider a community in the future, OR, begin to wonder why you’ve ever looked at one.
Every morning, key leaders in our organization meet virtually to discuss the organization’s pandemic preparedness plan. A checklist of action items is carefully reviewed, ensuring there are no gaps in our plan. We approach the pandemic with our eyes wide open and plan for not the IF we get a positive case, or an outbreak of an entire building, or a death of a beloved resident, but WHEN that happens. We unfortunately know we will not be immune. We prepare for the worst, and hope for the best knowing COVID-19 can be silent and deadly as many carriers are asymptomatic.
We review the progress made securing additional PPE for our communities. The strategic delivery and storage locations are mapped out, ensuring supplies are accessible to our communities in need. Our Vice President of Plant Operations reviews the previous days’ leads on where PPE can be obtained and whether we were successful in placing orders. PSL has several corporate staff members spending the vast majority of each day tracking down viable leads. Some days they’re successful, other days not so much. The ability to maintain an adequate supply of PPE is always at the forefront of the conversation. Sadly, while we do have PPE, it is limited in supply.
We also discuss all the possible ways COVID can enter our buildings. We know the most likely way it will get into one of our buildings is through an asymptomatic staff member who has been exposed, despite their personal best effort to do everything they are instructed to do to stay safe. Self-attestation forms require staff to verify they have not knowingly been exposed to COVID-19, nor do they live with someone who has or is under investigation for COVID-19. We screen every staff member, including taking their temperature both before and after their shift. Staff that cannot pass the attestation or screening are sent home.
Our meetings then review the clinical staff preparedness. Multiple highly experienced clinicians on the call review how to safely handle PPE. They also review the specific steps to take to isolate residents with the disease as well as those caring for COVID-19 positive residents.
All of this is done each morning in preparation to care for those people who have trusted us with their lives. This trust was given to us long before anyone ever heard of COVID-19. It is a responsibility that is not taken lightly and is definitely not taken for granted. When you or your loved one chooses to live in one of our communities, you don’t just choose a place to live. When selecting a PSL community, you are also choosing to partner with our organization in your years to come. This is true whether you come to us independently, or need a higher level of living such as personal care, assisted living, skilled nursing, short-term rehab, respite care, or hospice. This even includes all the people who live in our affordable housing apartments. Some may think that just because there isn’t a clinical component to those communities that they’re an afterthought. They aren’t. We care just as much about the health and well-being of those we serve in senior apartment rentals as we do the ones in our skilled nursing communities.
Supply of Services
While the majority of Americans quite literally worry whether they will be able to secure life-sustaining food and other essential items, the residents in our continuing care retirement communities do not have to worry. The dining services teams at all of our communities have created plans that include home delivery of food and toiletries. Instead of residents having to worry about leaving a campus that has been closed to visitors, and somewhat sheltered from the rampant spread of the virus in the outside community, they can have community staff fill a grocery order for them.
I have had residents specifically tell me they are grateful for the restrictions and precautions put into place, despite the fact they’ve had to miss seeing family and friends. They feel safe and secure. There is a level of reassurance that basic human needs are met, and that knowledge removes a high level of stress that those of us living in our homes in the community at large have to deal with.
While group activities have been postponed for the time being, our community life, fitness directors, chaplains, and resident service managers have been busy providing virtual programming for residents. Videos are recorded and sent to be uploaded to the PSL YouTube channel for all residents to access. I’ve seen chaplains provide solace through ministry, fitness directors who keep residents healthy through workout videos, and our marketing team provide a whole host of resources for residents and staff on our website.
Someone to Check on You
Living in your own home may present its own set of unique challenges. Maybe your home is in a more rural area, and you don’t have a great deal of neighbors. Perhaps you live in a city and don’t know many people. In either case, with everyone following stay at home orders, it may not be top of mind to check on a neighbor to see how they’re doing through the pandemic. At our communities, our staff is making calls to independent living residents each week. It may be as simple as seeing how they’re doing with the isolation, or if they need any supplies. It gives our residents a chance to speak with someone and know that they’re being thought of. We are aware of those who live alone and check with them often to ensure they’re doing okay.
One of the most glaring criticisms of nursing homes has been a lack of transparency. I’ve witnessed in the local and national news different organizations hiding behind HIPPA and privacy laws to keep from reporting on COVID-19 cases in their communities. At PSL, we are keeping everyone informed and are being as transparent as we possibly can. We are indeed bound by HIPPA and privacy laws. But rest assured, we will tell you what we can, when we can. In the spirit of keeping residents and families informed, PSL has chosen to keep a daily update on the status of coronavirus in our communities on our website.
Someone to Be There to Care About You, Not Just for You
The most important thing for you to remember as you consider whether or not you would move to a community, or have your mother or father move to a community right now, is that you or your loved one is truly being cared for. The residents of PSL communities aren’t hospital patients. They are people we get to know personally. We get to know their families. They become part of our family and are cared for just as we would care for our own family members.
While every precaution is being exercised, if they end up with COVID-19, they will receive the best possible care we can provide. We will follow EVERY bit of guidance and procedure to protect them and ourselves. We will fight for them. And if the worst happens, someone they know will be there to hold their hand, just as they would even if COVID-19 never existed.
For more information on the preventive measures in place at PSL communities amidst COVID-19 outbreaks, as well as useful resources for residents and family members, please visit www.psl.org/updates.
About Kristin Hambleton
As Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Presbyterian Senior Living, Kristin Hambleton is responsible for the oversight, direction, and management of marketing, communications, and census development to ensure organizational goals are achieved. In this capacity she provides direction to the marketing and sales staff for all service levels in all Presbyterian Senior Living communities. In addition, she oversees lead management systems and establishes education and training programs for marketing/admissions personnel.