Last week, many people watched the PBS Frontline investigation of the tragedies at the Emeritus communities and the unfolding press coverage. For those of us who have spent years working in senior care, it was understandable to be torn between two very different, emotional reactions: Overwhelming sadness and grief for the families – outrage that something like this could happen – and the frustration of knowing that all assisted living communities across the United States might be viewed through a veil of fear.
The fact is many seniors simply do not have the option to stay in their homes due to the medical conditions and other circumstances described during Frontline’s investigation. They also may not be qualified for skilled nursing or simply cannot afford the monthly $10,000+ bill that comes with the skilled nursing level of care. Our growing senior population and their families deserve a quality understanding and education about their options, and as senior living providers, we must constantly be aware of the long term vision for success in this industry.
There is much we can learn from this crisis to promote the innovation and improvements that will move our industry ahead and earn trust with the public. Even the best businesses out there, those who do everything in their power to provide exceptional care, can take this crisis as a reason to look for ways to improve processes and communication. Strong communication of our commitment to innovations in safety, training, and quality of life will eventually rebuild trust. The fact is that no one wants to hear excuses or see a list of our safety features in place today- they want empathy and to know what improvements we are willing to commit to for the future.
What steps can providers take TODAY to create the vision they want for tomorrow?
– Employee satisfaction, ongoing training – a path of growth that ensures coworker longevity
– Strong communication channels in place- to better tell your quality of life story
– Blogs and videos to showcase joyful living, photo galleries, etc.
– Operations and sales teams working toward the same goal
– Customer experience – measure satisfaction and be proactive about gathering feedback
– Partnership with state regulatory officials – be proactive, not reactive
– Leadership- set the standard for quality of care
– Develop innovative ways to engage family members with their loved one’s healthcare
– Make the investment in the latest safety technologies and showcase how they work
Trust has been eroded. The only way to build it back is to be completely open and transparent, discuss the innovations in place in your communities that keep you in the forefront of safety and quality of life. Is your hiring process one that truly finds the best people for resident care? If not, challenge yourselves to make that change. Discuss the rigorous training that your teams complete, and avoid falling victim to going down the easy road that makes us want to bury our heads in the sand and wait for it to blow over. Instead, look at the crisis as an opportunity to evaluate how we communicate to our residents and their families. Are we actively seeking reviews and feedback? Are we taking the time to publish videos and photos of our community? This industry helps millions of families every day, and we can overcome any crisis and grow stronger than ever by embracing changes and communicating them effectively.
The Bild & Company Team