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Senior Living Success After COVID-19

Above the news headlines and public panic stand the heroes that protect lives every day: senior living workers. Skilled nurses, housekeeping, dining, and other staff shielded the nation’s most vulnerable population from a pandemic that was unfair, unknown, and scary. Yet, as most of the nation reopens, senior living and nursing home workers face their newest mission: rebuilding. Here are 4 Triad tips that will help your organization rebuild stronger than ever before.

1. Assemble the Crew

At the front and center of your rebuilding efforts will be your staff. The pandemic transformed your team from healthcare workers to the Agents of Face Shields, Masks, Gloves, and Protecting the Vulnerable. They are heroes, and they need to be recognized. 

Which one would you be?

The importance of positioning people as heroes stems from WWII. Superheroes, such as Captain America, gave the American people hope when the world was in turmoil. Having someone to believe in gives your messaging the cape it needs to fly: the hope and trust from your stakeholders. One of our clients, The Village at Duxbury, honors their healthcare heroes by having everyone applaud their staff at 4pm each Friday. 

Other ways to recognize employees:

  • Gift boxes
  • Social media features or spotlights
  • Videos on your website

Senior living facilities and nursing homes, despite their diverse services and different levels of care, have faced the stigma of being places where people go to die. Of course, this is not true for either case. However, with news headlines centering around the impact of COVID-19, the stigma has only increased in power. According to Dwayne Clark, CEO of Aegis Living, senior living is fighting a three-sided battle: COVID-19 itself, financials, and the media. Having heroes ready to protect residents can help position your facility as safer than the outside world, rather than being a source of danger.

Not all heroes wear capes.

Recruiting new workers can also bolster your team’s fight against the villainous virus. Initiating employee referral programs can help narrow the search, since your current employees know what it takes to work at your organization. In addition, onboarding solutions can help attract outside talent who bring new perspectives and insights, preparing you for the uncertain road ahead. Contact Triad to get started on a recruitment strategy.

2. Find the Foreman

While your crew may be in place, electing specific individuals to reinforce your organization’s mission and teach it to others will keep your team strong. All senior living communities and nursing homes will release rebuilding efforts over the next few months, making it pivotal to set your organization apart. Identifying influencers and mentors within your team will elevate your rebuilding campaign from a crisis communication template to an evolution in senior living. 

Many senior living organizations will focus on improving their management. However, leadership is also an essential component in rebuilding. And, they are not the same. Management refers to the planning involved in everyday functions. Managers keep everyone on task, everything flowing, and everything on schedule. Yet, leaders inspire. They keep the emotions and mindsets of their followers in-check, and motivate the collective towards the organization’s goals. When rebuilding after a global pandemic, incorporating leadership and management will fuel your rebuild strategy.

You will get through this together, as a team.

The National Center for Assisted Living’s Guiding Principles of Leadership suggests electing mentors for workplace functionality and safety. Working in a senior living facility post-pandemic is unpredictable, especially for new employees. Hence, finding mentors with experience and pandemic training will pave the path for the entire team’s efficiency and growth. One great training certification is becoming a COVID-19 certified caregiver, and it’s free for long-term caregivers in Massachusetts with this code.

While mentors can improve internal functionality, influencers can direct external communications. According to leadership expert John C. Maxwell, ensuring influencers agree and support your rebuilding steps will help you handle future crisis situations by acting as a spokesperson for your organization. Internally, influencers could be mentors or people who work closely with residents. Externally, influencers could be referral sources or family members. Identifying mentors and influencers will keep your strategy alive, and morale high inside and outside of the company.

3. Get to Work

With the essential materials and crew, you’re ready to start rebuilding. The foundation of a rebuilding effort starts with targeted and effective communication.

For effective communication, pinpoint the key stakeholders you want to target. For many, this will be current staff, current residents, prospective residents, and families. Although these audiences will have different points of emphasis, one factor needs to stay consistent: transparency.

Virtual communication keeps everyone safe and informed.

The importance of transparency appears in stress coping mechanisms. The National Institute of Mental Health states an important factor of treating stress is connecting with people who can provide emotional and practical help. In senior living, this is accomplished through transparency. Clearly stating the challenges, protocols, and perceptions associated with rebuilding will allow stakeholders to find their footing, so they can take the steps with you. Without transparency, your strategy falls apart. 

In addition, messages should be sent daily and across numerous channels throughout the rebuilding period. Stakeholders will feel more comfortable having a daily plan, and will want updates as things change. You can also initiate a hotline where anyone can voice their concerns.

Assisted living occupancy declined to 85.2% across the nation’s 31 largest metropolitan areas in May.

Another component of rebuilding communications is inviting new residents into your facility. Just as you target key stakeholders, you should also consider the specific services certain prospects may be interested in. For instance, prospective independent living residents might want to learn about how they can keep their independence under heavy restrictions, while prospective memory care residents and families might want to learn about how they can stay connected. Positioning your place as loving, caring, fun, and safer than the outside world will help attract those in need of care to come to your facility. Remember, you’re selling a lifestyle, not merely a service.

For more information about rebuilding communications, visit our Reopening Readiness webpage.

4. One Last Coat of Paint…

While what you say is important, how you say it makes your message last in the minds of your audience. Finding your perfect tone and telling positive stories humanizes your organization and reaches the hearts of your stakeholders.

Home is where the heart of your communications is.

There is no single, perfect tone. Rather, it’s how you as an organization feel about the future. If you’ve struggled immensely during the pandemic, you may want a grateful attitude toward the community’s support and work. This allows you to stay hopeful, while also being sensitive to your audience’s emotions. On the other hand, if your organization made it through successfully and with little damage, an inspiring message about your facilities’ strengths and dedication may be the right tone to encourage your audience to stay with you. 

This is a new beginning for you, your staff, and your residents.

In light of the stigma surrounding senior living facilities, residents and families may not trust the claims from your organization alone. Yet, they may trust another human in their position. That’s where testimonials and stories come into play. Crowdsourcing from Facebook, Twitter, and Google Reviews lets your work speak through those it has benefitted the most. Consider keeping track of handwritten notes and online reviews, so you can identify people who could provide a quote about your services and level of care.

It is the small moments that count.

In addition to crowdsourcing, social media can also be used as a communication channel. It’s important to use numerous social media channels in order to achieve maximum impact. Here are some ways to make your social media stand out:

  • Use pictures and videos to capture the efforts of your staff and the happiness of your residents.
  • Live stream events, so loved ones can see their family member joyful and safe.
  • Feature testimonials from staff members and residents to enhance your credibility.
  • Select a member from your leadership team to become a point of contact for COVID-19-related questions and concerns. This holds you accountable and makes it easy for your audience to attach a face to your name.

With a strong foundation in communication, a crew of superheroes, and tools to rebuild, your company will stand as a beacon of hope, rising above the challenges and stresses of COVID-19.

Want to get started on rebuilding? Call Triad today.

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