Obviously, if you manage a senior living community, you are serious about safety every day. But today, you face unprecedented challenges for your operational staff, caregivers, leadership and marketing team. Sadly, every day will bring news of senior living communities with residents or staff infected with COVID-19. Like this Florida community, this Michigan community, this one in Vermont, and this one in Colorado. Just today, we’ve heard from clients that residents have been tested, and results are pending.
Are you ready to face this test?
This 10-point checklist will help you respond if a resident tests positive:
- Communicate now. Because visitation at most facilities is currently limited to end-of-life situations and emergency personnel and staff, families are wondering what’s going on. Many will have questions about your sanitation practices and more. Tell them now so their concerns are alleviated.
- Create a home base for ongoing communications. Add a page to your website for FAQs, current policies on visitation and so on. This will help reduce calls and emails that are occurring daily.
- Map out your audiences now and gather emails and phone numbers, if possible. Communicating via email is super easy, cheap and quick. Segment your lists: families, residents, staff, volunteers, vendors, etc. By doing so, you can tailor updates accordingly, if necessary.
- If you do not have an email template, create one. It doesn’t need to be fancy, but it should reflect your brand by including your logo and banner. Consider using a common email platform like Mailchimp or Constant Contact. This allows you to manage your lists easily, schedule when you want info to go out and receive automated reports.
- Create a flow of smart communication. Decide what you want to say and how often. Is it a daily video post to your Facebook page? An email update daily or several times weekly? Both? Tell families what you plan to do, and then do it. Families want to know what’s going on with mom or dad, so alleviate their concerns by telling them about the creative ways you are keeping residents engaged, active and safe.
- Create an internal communications team, and if you work with a PR firm, engage them now. Get organized by drafting what we call “holding” documents and materials that might include:
- Safety and sanitation practices
- Community fact sheet
- Bios for who will speak to the media
- Community images
- Press release or media statement template
- Draft key messages now that are simple, concise and accurate. Use as few words as possible to make your points and stick to them. Don’t be all over the map on responses and do weave in your key messages early and often.
- Share contact information among the communications team and determine how often you will meet. This team must be in touch regularly and efficiently, so you actually have time to implement what you discuss.
- Tell staff your expectations on communication. If the media calls, what should the front desk say and do? If calls roll over to caregivers after hours, what should they say or do? We recommend providing a simple script for handling calls that includes the caller’s name, media outlet, phone and email. Then that person should immediately relay the information to the communications team.
- Consider how you will respond to media inquiries. Who will research the media person’s work/background/outlet before returning their call? Who will talk to or email them? What questions will you respond to, and which will you refrain from answering due to privacy or operational concerns? By preparing these “holding” documents we discussed above, you should be able to follow up in an organized, professional and accurate manner.
No senior living community wants this. But preparing for a potential incident will make your organization more resilient and reduce stress levels because you will be confident you have done what you needed to do. Call us at 303-499-9291 if you have questions or need support. We’ve helped senior living organizations for more than 20 years.